Monday, August 9, 2010

Further Observations on “commend” and “recommend” in the Scriptures

The double meaning of commend as “deliver over to someone’s care” or as an endorsement and recommendation can be detected in several scriptures.

Acts speaks of Paul and Barnabas as they pass through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in this way: “And when they [Paul and Barnabas] had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” (Acts 14:23) This could be read as both delivering them to the Lord and endorsing them to the Lord. I suspect that the sense of delivering them to the Lord is the stronger meaning though. If you’re about to leave someone and you know you won’t be around to help if things go terribly wrong, the only thing you can do is leave it all in God’s hands. Still, the sense of endorsing and vouching makes sense there too.

The New Testament also uses recommend.
26 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.
27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. (Acts 14:26-27)
Here we get the idea that Paul and Barnabas had themselves been assigned a mission at Antioch, since verse 26 tells us they came back to where they were recommended to the grace of God for the work. The recommendation has been made good through grace and they are in a sense handed back to the brethren.

(I have to make a quick digression and point out that verse 27 tells us that Paul and Barnabas then gave a report on their mission. This is very similar to what happens in the church today. Missionaries, when they return from their missions, are expected to report on their mission immediately to the stake presidency. It is no different with the apostles. Ezra Taft Benson’s biography tells of a number of missions he was assigned and every time he returned, he always reported to the quorum of the twelve. )

In the Book of Moroni from the Book of Mormon, we find hints that recommending someone to God was no empty formality, but an act of spiritual significance.
21 Behold, my son, I cannot recommend them unto God lest he should smite me.
22 But behold, my son, I recommend thee unto God, and I trust in Christ that thou wilt be saved… (Moroni 9:21-22)
Here, Moroni quotes a letter from his father in which his father points out that he can’t recommend the Nephites to God lest God smite him. This has some significant implications. It suggests that part of Mormon’s work as a disciple was recommending people to God, or vouching to God that their spiritual status was acceptable. Mormon speaks as one who knows that there are grave responsibilities attached to this role and that if he failed in them by recommending someone who was unworthy, not only would God know about it, but God would “smite” him for it. That he brings up this issue after a recital of the Nephites’ barbaric behavior seems to indicate that he had had to deny a number of the Nephites requests for recommendation. (This may have been at the very door of the temple, which seems to be supported by Joey Green’s post “Gates and the Divine Counsel in the Book of Mormon.” [http://literarybookofmormon.blogspot.com/2010/07/gates-and-divine-council-in-book-of.html]. ) Mormon seems relieved that even if he can’t recommend the Nephites to God, he can recommend Moroni to God.
And again, let my servants Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge take with them a recommend from the church. And let there be one obtained for my servant Oliver Cowdery also. (D&C 52:41)
And again, I say unto you, that whosoever ye shall send in my name, by the voice of your brethren, the Twelve, duly recommended and authorized by you, shall have power to open the door of my kingdom unto any nation whithersoever ye shall send them— (D&C 112:21)
This shows that in our day, the act of recommendation and authorization go hand-in-hand and that the blessing that comes from it is power from God. In the case of missionaries, they are given power to open the doors of the kingdom of God to individuals. I suppose that recommended and authorized apostles are given power to open the doors of the kingdom of God to whole nations.
And now, verily I say unto you, let every elder who shall give an account unto the bishop of the church in this part of the vineyard be recommended by the church or churches, in which he labors, that he may render himself and his accounts approved in all things. (D&C 72:19)
This suggests that not only does an elder need to be recommended to God by those who send him on his mission, but the elder also has to be recommended to God by those he works among in order to return approved when he gives the account of his mission at the end. This makes perfect sense in the same way that the law of common consent makes sense. Maybe this could be termed “the law of common recommendation.” It also suggests the importance of personal priesthood interviews.

These scriptures show us that being properly recommended has great spiritual significance and that those doing the recommending take upon themselves a heavy responsibility.