"And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust." (Mormon 9:19-20)
In the Book of Mormon, the warning regarding unbelief and dwindling (or diminishing) because of unbelief is found in every sacred book that comprises this Israelite record. We as the spiritual children of God cannot progress in the manner in which our Father in Heaven desires in the presence of unbelief. In fact, in a teaching passed down among the House of Israel, it was taught that had the Children of Israel destroyed their unbelief, ascended the Mountain of Lord at Sinai, and received the greater things which God had desired to give them then the earth would have been restored to the condition of the Garden of Eden at that time.
Now whether this tradition is true or not, it should demonstrate to us the importance of the victory against doubt or unbelief. It should teach us that it is only because of our doubt or unbelief that we are kept from the great and marvelous things God desires to restore to us and through us. But the question is often asked, "How do we wage war with Unbelief?" and "How do we utterly destroy Doubt?"
The answer to this mystery is contained in the accounts of the warfare between the House of Israel and the Amalekites as recorded in the TaNaKh (Old Testament). In symbol form, great teachings from God regarding the "HOW" to destroy doubt or unbelief was couched in these ancient accounts. The same is also true in relation to the warfare accounts with the Amalickiahites in the Book of Mormon-- one key marker being that Amalikiah bearing the same root as Amalek.
In the last article, we explored the concept of doubt as it relates to God's commandment to ancient Israel to utterly destroy the Amalekites. The key to this mystery is hidden in the numeric value of the Hebrew letters that make up the name of Amalek (עמלק) or 240. 240 is also the same value of the Hebrew word for “doubt” (ספק). This same code is also couched in the Book of Mormon regarding the Amalickiahites in Hebrew poetic parallel structure:
"And it came to pass
that when Amalickiah
that the people of Moroni were more numerous
than the Amalickiahites
and he also saw that his people were Doubtful
concerning the justice of the cause
in which they had undertaken
therefore fearing that he should not gain the point
he took those of his people who would
and departed into the land of Nephi" (Alma 46:29)
Amalek = Doubt
Amalickiahites = Doubt
Drawing from the same root of the Torah, the prophet writes record an event with their Amalickiahites meant to contain an ancient plain and precious truth or teaching regarding how we are to wage warfare on our Doubt or Unbelief.
The Seeds of Unbelief:
"And now it came to pass that after Helaman and his brethren had appointed priests and teachers over the churches that there arose a dissension among them, and they would not give heed to the words of Helaman and his brethren; But they grew proud, being lifted up in their hearts, because of their exceedingly great riches; therefore they grew rich in their own eyes, and would not give heed to their words, to walk uprightly before God." (Alma 45:23-24)
This hidden teaching of the Book of Mormon regarding God's pattern of warfare against doubt or unbelief commences in Alma 45 where great disagreements developed in the assemblies of believers in the land. It is here that we find the seeds of doubt being enumerated:
1. They were lifted up in their hearts because of their riches
2. They grew rich in their own eyes- meaning they esteemed themselves higher than others
3.They stopped walking uprightly before God- (Hebraic expression-They saw themselves as above keeping God's commandments)
As a result of this a "large and strong man" named Amalickiah (Doubts/Unbelief) grew up among those who disagreed with Helaman and his brothers:
"Now the leader of those who were wroth against their brethren was a large and a strong man; and his name was Amalickiah. And Amalickiah was desirous to be a king; and those people who were wroth were also desirous that he should be their king; and they were the greater part of them the lower judges of the land, and they were seeking for power. And they had been led by the flatteries of Amalickiah, that if they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people." (Alma 46:3-5)
Here Amalickiah as doubt/unbelief is being to a large and strong man that rose up to rule over the people. Doubt/Unbelief sees for power over us and over our faculties of judgment by flattering us in one of two ways: Pride in thinking we are above others and God's commandments; and Pride in thinking we must berate and demean ourselves into thinking that we are also far below others and below fulfilling God's commandments. Either way, the end goal is that Doubt/Unbelief becomes our ruler.
While these stories are based in literal occurrences, the stories are communicated in such a manner to preserve and perpetuate great and marvelous truths. They were not meant to be taken hyper-literal, but were great truths communicated in story form revolving around historical events. The story of Amalek is a great teaching regarding the utter destruction of doubt or unbelief. Rather than God issuing a command to destroy every element of the kingdom of Amalek, in Israelite thought God is commanding the destruction of every element of doubt or unbelief.
"Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one. Yea, and we also see the great wickedness one very wicked man can cause to take place among the children of men." (Alma 46:8-9)
In entertaining the pride and flatteries of doubt/unbelief men forget God. Whether in thinking they are above it or below it, they become quick to do iniquity (lawlessness- i.e. not fulfill God's commandments"). It is because of this,that we see the great wickedness one very wicked (twisted) doubt can cause to take place among the children of men.
"Yea, we see that Amalickiah (doubt/unbelief), because he was a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land for the righteous’ sake." (Alma 46:10)
MORONI ESTABLISHES THE FOUNDATION OF BELIEF- THE K'RIAH:
In response to the emergence and presence of Amalickiah (strong doubt/unbelief), Captain Moroni engages in an ancient practice known as K'riah. The practice of tearing a garment as a demonstration of mourning was a common custom of Israel. This act of mourning is found in several places in the Torah where people tear their clothes as an outward act of sorrow. This rending of the garments is called the Kriah and is an physical act that demonstrates the sorrow and anguish one would feel at the death of a friend or loved one.
"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. And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren..." (Alma 46:12-13)
In Israelite thought the body is like a coat or garment for the spirit. The tearing of the garment represents the tearing of the body or natural man to reveal the heart. This is why the tear is made over the left side of the garment. In exposing the heart or center of thoughts and desires we see an expression of a broken heart. In other words, the symbol of the broken heart being a revelation of the spiritual child of God that resides within each of us. This very ancient metaphor is meant to demonstrate that doubt and unbelief are tied to the carnal or natural man or ego while the inner spiritual child of God is connected with faith and being connected with God without the barrier of the flesh or ego. The tearing of the coat being representative of a time of severe judgment that comes upon all those who walk in and embrace the ways of doubt/unbelief- or living without God and his commandments.
Among many Jews to this day there is a custom of tearing their clothing upon seeing the Temple mount as an outward sign of mourning and memorial at the condition of Israel in general and the condition of the Temple Mound in specific. In true Israelite fashion, Captain Moroni upon seeing the condition of his people and their potential demise rends his garment after the manner of Kriah.
The word Kriah carries the meaning "to call out" someone as when someone calls out to God with energy, emotion, and power of the heart. The act of Kriah is designed to stir within the performer and the witness their grief and to create an opening (a rending of a cloth, coat, or veil) to release the full energy of the heart. It is an act performed by the participants of a funeral prior to the burial. It is also an outward sign of love of those who mourn for the deceased.
Several teachings from ancient Israel document several reasons for the practice of Kriah. According to some of these teachings it serves to cause an person to come face to face with the sacred importance of the life granted by God. It serves as a graphic symbol of loss. It demonstrates the deep sense of sorrow and pain. It rids the heart of malice, anger, and pride causing a return to God- repentance. The tearing of the garment itself is described as a revelation of the Heart.
Captain Moroni's declaration in writing upon the remnant of his coat "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children" is meant to open the Hearts of the Reader and to call out the energy of their heart unto repentance. His act of mourning was designed to stir the hearts of those who would grieve like unto those grieving at the funeral of a loved one reminding us the sacred gift of life and liberty granted by God.
In Israelite thought to walk in memory of someone is to walk in remembrance of them which is an expression meaning that you represent them or in this case you walk in your daily life as if you are representing or being an example of God and his commandment. In doing so we represent him in our religion, our freedom, our establishment of covenant peace, and in our relationships with our wives and children.
PRACTICING THE PRESENCE
This idea of walking in the memory of a great Rabbi or remembering God is related to the ancient practice passed down from Ancient Israel known as "practicing the presence". This discipline is summed up by two key scriptures Psalm 16:8 and Isaiah 6:3.
"I have set the YHVH always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." (Psalm 16:8)
This scripture contained the teaching that cleared the heart of all the unbelief/doubt we experience and partake of in this world. It was a practice to place the holy name of God everywhere and to acknowledge his presence both in the light and the darkness, in prosperity and suffering, in the evil we experience and the good. Knowing the conflict, the chaos, and the contradiction that this earth experience produces causes us to feel the need to hide from the existence of God who sees all things, we often hide in shame. As one placed the name, prayed in the name, and took upon the name of God, they acknowledged his voice among all the trees of the Garden until they experienced the reality of Isaiah 6:3:
"And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory."
It was not sufficient that we simply believe in God. We must learn to see him and his presence in all things on this earth- both the good and the bad. In doing so we begin to come out from our hiding places. In doing so we begin to know God. This is why both in ancient Israel and even in the history of the restoration, men would mark their homes, their tools, their door frames, etc with the outward phrase, "Holiness To The Lord (YHVH)" or other instruments containing scriptures (i.e. mezuzah) because whether in life or death, sin or obedience, the acknowledgment of the presence of God in all things brought the person out from under the power and shame produced by our adversary and back into the presence of God and the path of true healing and redemption. By putting up signposts (whether physical or spiritual) we open ourselves to the divine presence- we begin both outwardly and inwardly acknowledge his living presence or eye. It was not the question of "Why bad things happen to good people" or the declaration that "Prosperity follows the Righteous", but that the presence of God fills the whole earth in the here and now. In fact we walk in it daily and with every breath we breathe.
In other words, we wake up to the presence of God each morning even as we lie down in his arms each night. We go to work or school each day as if the presence of God is with us. We administer to our loved ones and to the stranger on the street as if before the presence of God. We change diapers, we clean toilets, we nurse our babies, we take out the garbage, etc etc all as if we are continually before the presence of God in all our thoughts, words, and deeds. In doing so the spiritual heart of man is revealed even as the carnal man begins to fall away before his all searching eye.
This discipline of practicing or acknowledging that we live continually in the presence of God is also demonstrated by the teaching of the "eye" of God. The Prophet Jacob declares:
"O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood." (2 Nephi 9:44)
"But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations, in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart, and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God." (Jacob 2:10)
The Prophets of Israel walked in the discipline of living/practicing the presence of God. This discipline was taught to their students as in doing so they began to come out from their spiritual hiding places, experience their nakedness before God, and walk in the path of his presence in this world. Their acknowledgment of God's presence in their heart (thoughts) and in the world around them was a key discipline by which they lived and governed their lives and in doing so unleashed a fundamental power of transformation and the utter destruction of doubt/unbelief.
(to be continued)
Copyright Robert Kay October 19, 2019