Sunday, November 7, 2010

Isaiah and Nephi testify of the future redemptive work for the dead


In my last post “1 Nephi 21 (Isaiah 49) The Lord can gather Israel with both hands tied behind His back,” I discussed how 1 Nephi 21 shows us all the different ways the Lord can gather Israel. Yet that is not all this chapter teaches us about. If we read it keeping in mind the great work of redemption for the dead that occurs in temples, we find that theme vibrating with barely suppressed excitement throughout the chapter and explored with much greater depth than in the verses we usually quote in Isaiah 2:2-3

Would it make sense for such a great seer as Isaiah to see the modern temples in vision and then not mention that great redemptive work for the dead in his writings at all? Granted, he was living among an apostate people who could not handle the mysteries of godliness, since they rejected the foundational principles of the gospel, but there was nothing stopping Isaiah from writing about redemption for the dead using his masterly style that both concealed and revealed the truth.

So now let us read and notice how it is all laid out in Isaiah 49, which Nephi quotes in 1 Nephi 21!

It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel….thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth. (v6) Saving ordinances can be done for all the souls of the dead.

That thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth; to them that sit in darkness: Show yourselves. (v9) When temple work is done for souls in spirit prison, they are allowed to leave.

And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. (v11) Once again, the temples are the highway to exaltation for the living as well as the dead.

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth…; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. (v13) The whole of creation (those in heaven, those on the earth, and those in the temples) rejoices over the work for the dead. This is how the Lord comforts His righteous people who have died without a chance of accepting the gospel in the flesh.

But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not. (v14) This shows us that there are converted souls of the dead who belong in Zion but who are not yet numbered among the covenant people and who feel the Lord has forgotten their faithfulness. Temple work for the dead is how the Lord shows these souls He remembers them.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands (v16) The ordinances of the temple symbolically remind us of this. These tokens also are a constant reminder to the Lord of those souls of the dead who He has redeemed.

Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers (v17) The work for the dead will go faster and faster to save souls from spirit prison. We’ve seen this happen as more temples have been built and genealogical software has streamlined the process of finding records, organizing records, preparing names, and recording ordinances.

The children whom thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the first, shall again in thine ears say: The place is too strait for me…Then shalt thou say in thine heart: Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive…?...Behold, I was left alone; these, where have they been? (v20- 21) The souls of those who have been sealed to their children will be able to be with them again and the children will start to feel crowded. The parents will be surprised and wonder where the children had been all this time.

I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. (v22) Remember all those little slips of names that you take with you to the temple, stuck in the pocket of your temple tote that you have slung over your shoulder? Those are someone’s sons and daughters that you are carrying in your arms and on your shoulders.

And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers (v23) Since every endowed member is a prospective king or queen, these will be the people who will be preaching to the souls in spirit prison, feeding them doctrine.

kings… and their queens… shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet (v23) If we in any way neglect our duty to do temple work, we’ll have a lot of apologizing to do on the other side.

thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me (v23) Those who accept the gospel on the other side of the veil will gain testimonies too and they will not be ashamed of waiting for their temple work.

For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captives delivered? But thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered (v24-25) The dead souls who are not of the house of Israel are lawful captives of death and hell, but temple work will deliver them because of the atonement of Christ.

I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. (v25) It is Satan who contends with us. Christ makes it so that the gates of hell do not prevail against the house of Israel whose temple work is done.

all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. (v26) Since all are subject to death, all nations will gain a testimony and know that Christ saves the dead as well as the living. In this way, the covenant will be fulfilled that was made to Abraham that in his seed all kindreds of the earth would be blessed.

From this perspective we see that Christ was absolutely right when he said that Isaiah’s words were great and that he spoke concerning all things pertaining to the house of Israel. We see that Isaiah spoke of temple work for the dead.

I believe that Nephi saw this as well and he spoke of it too, although just as carefully as Isaiah did, so that those with ears to hear and eyes to see would notice it while all others would miss it. Look beyond the usual interpretation of “missionary work” in these verses and look for temple work:

8 And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.
9 And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles; and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel, unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
10 And I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations.
11 Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel.
12 Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel. (1 Nephi 22:8-9, emphasis added)

After finding all this stuff, I feel like I’ve been completely blind before. I never knew this was in here! It is wonderful to know that the ancient prophets looked forward to the great redemptive work in temples and wrote about it in such a way that we would someday notice it when it was being fulfilled. How great the Lord’s wisdom is to prepare these things for us!

Image: Fanpop, http://www.fanpop.com/spots/mormonism/images/330130/title/salt-lake-temple-photo

2 comments:

RGG said...

Thank you
This so deep,so indepth. I will be feasting on this for some time.
My husband and I have been doing temple work for some of our family members. My testimony is this; that when we were first taught about this,when I was investigating, and my husband had recently come back to church,we could not apply it to ourselves. We thought that since we were so estranged from our families, we could not possibly succeed in this work. But slowly,the Lord softened not only our hearts, but the hearts of some of our family members,sisters and brothers who haven't spoken to us in years. I testify of "the hearts of the children turning to their fatherss". Now almost 3 years later,we have done temple work for parents,grandparents,cousins,siblings,aunts and uncles. Each time I feel the door opening wider. I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Everyone should enjoy this opportunity to keep families together.
Thank you Michaela

Michaela Stephens said...

I'm so happy for you, Ramona! That's awesome! Thanks for sharing your experience.