Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Heart of the Book of Mormon - The Heart of the Covenant (Part 1)

"There is in every true woman's heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity." (Washington Irving)

Within the writings of the prophet Nephi who was called by the voice of Christ from among the masses that had gathered at the Temple in the Land of Bountiful is a sacred heart.  This sacred and secret vault contains hidden within it a spark of heavenly fire taken directly from the altar that burns both night and day before the throne of our God.  Over time this spark of heavenly fire has been forgotten, but it has not grown cold-for that which comes from the realms of the eternal God can never be dimmed by time or the frail attendance of man. In the days of our prosperity we have lived in convenient forgetfulness seeking comfort from strange fire only to find that upon awakening to our awful situation we are cold and dark.  It is for this time of awakening that this spark of Heaven has been preserved. May we lay hold upon this sacred spark, counting all other counterfeits as dross and no worth, to approach the throne of Heaven and once again make an offering in righteousness-and from the fire of this offering in the Zion of our God may all Israel re-kindle their torches to stand again as lights to all the world.

3 Nephi - Opening the Sacred Vault - The Sacred Heart of God

Just as the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra - And He called) is the Heart of the Torah (Five Books of Moses) the Book of Third Nephi is the Heart of the Covenant of the Book of Mormon.  Contained within this Heart is the Express Image of God. Unlike Leviticus which contains the carnal or ritualistic pattern of God's Image, the Heart of Third Nephi is a first hand witness and testimony of a righteous branch of Israel who experienced a Day of Atonement and the presence of God restored among them- even Zion. Not recorded since the days of Sinai, had a group of people experienced the rushing of the Ruach Ha Kodesh (The Holy Spirit) filling them with life and the mind of God. It was a day when the presence of angelic holy ones was restored and the true tabernacle of God stood in the midst of a camp of Israelites being declared and marked as holy to the God of Israel.

Opening the Heart - It Begins with a Call

Holiness and Righteousness begins with a call.  As God called to Moses out of the tabernacle in the wilderness to establish a holy and upright people, Third Nephi begins with a sacred call of the voice of God out of Heaven to his people-a call that did cause their hearts to burn (sacred fire):

“And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.” (3 Nephi 11:3)

What was the Call? An Invitation to Covenant

"Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him." (3 Nephi 11:7)

The tabernacle of God descended from Heaven and stood in the midst of a camp of Israel.  The command given by Heaven that did pierce their soul-HEAR HIM.

Every Israelite who heard that voice understood the command that was being given to them.  It was the same command given to their Fathers, " Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)


"And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.

And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying: Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning."(3 Nephi 11:8-11)

The name of God was revealed.  The tabernacle of God once again walked and dwelt among man. The womb of righteousness and holiness was being established.  Eden had been remembered even as Heaven and Earth became one among them. Where ancient Israel had had fallen short at Sinai  a righteous branch of Israel had risen to partake of the blessings God had promised to the Fathers (Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph).

The Name of God Revealed-Establishing the Order of the King-

Every Kingdom has a King and the people who are called by the name of the King and who are protected under his rule must take upon the name (commandments, character, and attributes) of their King.  The Order of the King commences as he issues his royal decrees.  Those who would be called by the name of the King demonstrate their change of heart or believing loyalty to him by immersion into living waters, the living grace of the God.

"And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.

And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water. And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one. And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been." (3 Nephi 11:22-28)

Once the decree of the King of Israel had been given, now the confirmation of the decree is affirmed:

 "And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me. And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them." (3 Nephi 11:32-36)

The Foundation of Holiness had been established- all thing converging in the Son of God. It is the Key to unlocking the vault that contains the fire.  The Messiah of Israel is the covenant link between Heaven and Earth. He is the express image and tabernacle of God.  Believing loyalty (faith) to HIM, His Commandments, character, and attributes is they key to unlock the heart of the covenant that contains the spark of heavenly fire.

The King of Israel Declares the Conditions of Holiness- Our Divine Picture

What is Holiness? Holiness (kadosh) can mean not only “set apart” from something but also “set apart” to something. It is a positive concept, an inspiration and a goal associated with God’s nature and his desire for man. “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  Holiness is the pattern God established for us to create and exemplify.  In regard to being a kingdom of priests is describes the condition of being blessed. In one sense holiness is what a life of Godliness is like.  Leviticus like 3 Nephi gives us a picture of the life of Godliness and the creation of sacred space.

The use of Hebraic poetic parallelism can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) describe the condition of Holiness or the state of “Blessed”.

Blessed [are] the poor in spirit:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed [are] they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness:
for they shall be filled.
Blessed [are] the merciful:
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God.
Blessed [are] the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God.  
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake/pursue righteousness:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Poor in Spirit = Meek

The word poor as used in Luke 4:18 is a quote from Isaiah 61:1.  The Hebrew word used is 'ânâv and means meek. In Hebraic thought "poor in spirit" means having nothing to offer God, and thus meek and humble, the opposite of  self-righteousness.  Numbers 12:3 uses the first of these to describe Moses as the meekest man on earth- there is no insinuation as to Moses' financial status or state of poverty.  Humility is action or discipline. It is not an outward act or performance of self-deprecation- “I am not worthy” cry, cry, cry. Humility was an active state of mind and being where the will of the servant has been yielded to the will of the Master.

To mourn = to hunger and thirst for righteousness

"Blessed are those that mourn", but how can mourning for the dead be a blessed state?  Mourning in the Psalms ( Psalms 119:136; 42:9; 43:2; 38:6) was often associated with grieving over personal sin, national sin, oppression from an enemy, over injustice, or over lack of respect for God's commandments. In this context the corresponding parallel in the Sermon at the Temple explains it perfectly, the mourners are "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost- the presence and mind of God.

We see an example of this type of mourning with Captain Moroni as he engages in the ritual of K’riah or the rending of his garments.  The ritual of the k'riah is often performed at a funeral in traditional Judaism.  It is an outward form of mourning that is reminiscent of a deeper stirring of the heart.

Captain Moroni's rending of his garments and is an act of mourning or hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

“11 And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.
 12 And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole…
19 And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:
 20 Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

 21 And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.” (Moroni 46)

Comforted = filled/satisfied

These mourners and 'hungerers' will be 'filled'. One meaning of filled', would be 'satisfied' as when justice is seen to be done, when the wicked no longer prosper and the righteous are not oppressed. 3 Nephi 12 makes an interesting addition, “for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost- Ruach ha Kodesh.  Righteous Judgment (the balance between justice and mercy) is done when the Holy Ghost or mind of God is in the person and among the people.

Merciful = pure in heart

"Pure in heart" and "peacemakers" are both phrases that occur only here in the NT. The pure in heart according to Psalm 24:4 and Proverbs 20:9 are those without sin/rebellion or who engage in righteous or upright actions. The actual phrase "pure in heart" occurs also in Psalm 73:1, cf. Psalm 34:19, but comes primarily from Psalm 24:3-4

**In these two be-attitudes we are given to understand the condition between Justice and Mercy. See Alma 42: 19-27 for a re-statement of this eternal balance.

Peacemakers = persecuted/pursue righteousness

The “peacemakers” shall be called the “sons of God”.  Peace (Shalom) is a being at one with someone or in a covenant relationship with someone. The Hebrew underlying "son of” may also mean someone who acts according to the commandments, character, and attributes of person of which he is a son. Thus, a "son of peace" exhibits the commandments, character, and attributes of the author of the covenant.   He is a "son of God"with the image of God engraven in his countenance. Here God's character is that of a 'peacemaker' and the true disciple acts similarly and is called both a son of God and pursues peace-a condition of oneness with God/Christ.

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