Thursday, October 28, 2021

Knowing The God In Whom You Should Trust: Preparing for the Old Testament (The TaNaKh)

"And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. 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)

The purpose of the scriptures is to know the God whom we should trust.  In Hebrew, the word for "know" is the word yada, which means not only learning about something or someone but experiencing something or someone. It is not a superficial experience of God but a profoundly intimate experience. In the Israelite worldview, The Old Testament is the foundation of this experience. 

The Book of Mormon as a Jewish/Israelite record heavily depends on the language, customs, and the scriptures of the Jews for correct interpretation.  The heart of all Israelite scripture is the Torah, often called the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Without the Torah and the Heart of the Covenant, people approach the Book of Mormon with their Christian/Pagan Eyeglasses rather than Messiah/Hebrew glasses.  As a result, the covenant message of the Book of Mormon becomes twisted into a pseudo-born again Christian document with weird names and a nice message about Jesus. However, when viewed through an Israelite paradigm and covenant lenses, the message of the Book of Mormon is unveiled as a message to the descendants of the House of Israel, the promises made to them, and their role in bringing forth Zion and the Restoration of All Things.

The Plates of Laban – The TaNaKh

The Torah contains God’s laws and instructions given to all Israel as a roadmap for a Zion (a marked or set apart) people.  As a result of Israel disregarding the commandments of God, the people continually fell into a state of iniquity (lawlessness).   The importance of the Torah cannot be overstated to an Israelite because it contains the Heart of the Covenant Relationship between God and his people Israel.  Without this Heart, the life-giving blood of the Spirit of God cannot flow to the body of his people. 

When God commanded Lehi to send his sons to obtain the Plates of Laban, he did so knowing that the plates of Laban contained the Torah (Five Books of Moses), the writings of the Prophets (Neviim), and other historical writings such as the Psalm, Proverbs, etc. (Ketuvim):

“And after they had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning. And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents; And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah;  And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.” (1 Nephi 5:10-13)


"Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil; For verily I say unto you, one jot nor one tittle hath not passed away from the law, but in me it hath all been fulfilled." (3 Nephi 12: 17-18)

We often hear the phrase "The Law and The Prophets) quoted throughout the scriptures.  In Hebrew, The Law is called The Torah, which is composed of the 5 Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).  While the word Torah is translated as "THE LAW" throughout the scriptures, it is more accurately translated a Instructions- as in a Father's instructions to his Children and often likened to the decrees of the King. As a body of scripture, The Torah is the foundational document that established The House of Israel in a similar way that The Constitution established The United States of America.

The term Prophets (Nevi'im) is referring to to the records of varying prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc. The words of the prophets contain divine messages and instructions to teach God's people how to "fulfill" (a Hebrew Idiomatic expression meaning to correctly interpret and carry out) God's instructions. The writings of the Prophets also give prophetic warnings and contain sealed (or encrypted) teachings intended for those who diligently seek after the greater things of God.

In Israel, the Plates of Laban would then fall under a Hebrew called Tanakh. This acronym breaks down as follows:

T = Torah – First Five Books of Moses

N = Neviim – The Prophets/Writings of the Prophets

K= Ketuvim- Historical Records such as Kings, Chronicles, and writings like Psalms, Proverbs, etc.

The importance of these brass plates cannot be overemphasized.  The Torah and the writings of the prophets contained on these plates allowed them to preserve their language, history, and laws. But, more importantly, it maintained the foundation upon which God established his covenant and the principles that enabled the Nephites to obtain the blessings of God’s covenant.

The Old Testament As A Multi-Dimensional Record

The language of Hebrew captures and embodies multi-dimensional aspects of the word of God.  As a functional language, it is designed to be uttered by our physical tongue but embedded in this language are principles of astronomy, mathematics, geometry, chemistry, physics, grammar, etc. This knowledge was passed down from Adam through the hands of the patriarchs such as Enoch, Noah, and Melchizedek. From there, it was transmitted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) down to the tribes of Israel and their descendants.

The scriptures from the House of Israel are like a winding staircase or a divine helix of DNA that contains the essential building blocks of creation.  Our ascent through the four worlds or dimensions of scripture is taught to this day in Israel through a system of interpretation called PaRDeS.  PaRDeS is an acronym formed from the initials of the four levels or approaches to understanding the revelations of God:

1. Peshat – The simple, literal meaning of the word or account.

2. Remez – The allegorical or symbolic meaning of the word or account.

3. Deresh – A comparative meaning as compared to similar occurrences, accounts, or teachings.

4. Sod (pronounced with a long O sound)– The secret, esoteric, or mystical meaning


To demonstrate and apply this science of ancient Israel, let us examine the following scripture: “And my father dwelt in a tent” (1 Nephi 2:15).  As we discussed earlier, sometimes, the greatest of truths are hidden in plain sight.  How many times have you as a reader read through the Book of Mormon and simply passed over this one sentence verse, “And my father dwelt in a tent.”  The verse looks pretty straightforward, simple, and literal.  Reading this verse may draw images of desert Bedouins living in their tents in a desert wilderness surrounded by camels and stock.  This verse's simple and literal (Peshat) reading is that Lehi literally dwelt in a tent. Yet, to the initiated mind of an Israelite, this verse reveals so much more about the man Lehi and lends itself to a great truth of this hidden science.


This dimension comprises allusion using allegorical, metaphoric, and symbolic words and imagery.  In this dimension, an Israelite begins to ask, “Where has God revealed these things in the covenant God made with the Fathers”: (The TaNaKh – The Torah –Five Books of Moses, The Neviim –the Prophets, or the Ketuvim – the Writings). The verse, “And my father dwelt in a tent,” directs the Israelite mind to the Mishkan or “tent of dwelling,” often called the “tabernacle in the wilderness” or the “tabernacle of Moses.”


Derash is the dimension of understanding the comprises the interpretive meaning of the text. These interpretive teachings can often be found in the teachings of prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, wherein the mind of an Israelite is drawn to examine similar occurrences and teachings.  These occurrences and teachings have historical precedent, legal precedent, and instructional precedent passed down by inspired teachers. In some ways, it is like a sermon or teaching- Jacob's Sermon at the Temple or, say, King Benjamin's Sermon at the Temple. 


The sod level of interpretation pertains to the mysteries or hidden things of God.  They pertain to those things of the divine throne or council of heaven.  They are the teachings regarding the journey of the Soul and its ascent from Earth to Heaven. It is what is called the Great and Marvelous teachings.  “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing and the glory of kings to search out a matter!” (Proverb 25:2) As all Israel was called to be a nation of kings and priests to God, then it was the glory of kings to search out the concealed things of God.

Copyright October 28, 2021 - Robert Kay

Sunday, October 10, 2021

What Does It Mean To Pray Always?


"Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him." (3 Nephi 18:15)

For years we have heard the admonition to "watch and pray always".  At first glance, it would seem that we are being told to "be on the lookout and pray always" so that you enter not into temptation.  On the surface level, the admonition sounds simple enough, but then arises the question, "How do I watch and pray always?"  I mean, I have to go to work.  Life is busy, and I have things to do. I have children to take care of etc., etc. 

To better understand the admonition and how to "watch and pray always," it is helpful to understand what the words mean from an Israelite perspective.  The word 'watch' is often translated from the Hebrew word shamar .  In context, the word shamar means to guard or observe something and is the same word wherein we get the admonition of "Keep (shamar-guard/observe my commandments).   In the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, we find that this is the word used by the Messiah in his admonition as found in Matthew 26:41, "Watch (shamar-guard/observe) and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

So the question then comes, "How do I Guard/Observe and Pray Always"?  In a cultural context, not only is the phrase connected with the concept of the respective "watches" when guards were placed around strategic areas of the city or temple to alert the city should an enemy approach, but it also became culturally connected with practices of walking with God and "how" we are to pray always:

Practicing The Presence:

One of the first principles of "the watch" was the idea that we are practicing our duties as a "watcher" in the presence of God.  The responsibilities of a watcher entailed not only being physically and mentally prepared but also ever vigilant in their duties to guard the people of God and to be ever ready to carry out the commands of the King. Thus, one of the disciplines taught came to be known in later Jewish circles as "practicing the presence." The Prophets of Israel walked in the discipline of living/practicing the presence of God.  This discipline was taught to their students. 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 an essential discipline by which they lived. It governed their lives and, in doing so, unleashed a real power of transformation and the utter destruction of doubt/unbelief.

The idea is that God is in all things and through all things-both good and bad. Therefore, 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 in 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, clean toilets, nurse our babies, take out the garbage, etc., etc., all as if we are continually as if God is present 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)