Thursday, December 1, 2011

To never taste of death

I happened to be searching the church’s scriptures online for instances of the word “taste” and I happened upon some verses that were very curious.

51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

52 Then said the Jews unto him [Jesus], Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. (John 8:51-52, emphasis added)

17 And it was by faith that the three disciples obtained a promise that they should not taste of death; and they obtained not the promise until after their faith. (Ether 12:17, emphasis added)

25 Behold, I was about to write the names of those who were never to taste of death, but the Lord forbade; therefore I write them not, for they are hid from the world….

37 But behold, since I wrote, I have inquired of the Lord, and he hath made it manifest unto me that there must needs be a change wrought upon their bodies, or else it needs be that they must taste of death;

38 Therefore, that they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain nor sorrow save it were for the sins of the world. (3 Nephi 28:25, 37-38, emphasis added)

Is Jesus asserting that those who are obedient to His commandments can be translated like Elijah or Moses (or the three Nephites)? It seems that the Jews understand it that way. They use this as grounds to accuse him of having a devil (or lying) by pointing out that Abraham and the prophets died although they were known for their righteousness. If the Jews are to believe Jesus, then Abraham and the prophets tasted death because they did not keep Jesus’s sayings. (Pretty shocking, huh?)


Looking at this another way, it seems that Jesus asserted that if His words were always followed, death would never have power over a person and they would be translated like Enoch. This is something great to aim for.

The church has a number of things that we members can aspire to during our life:

  • Receiving the Second Comforter (being personally visited by Jesus Christ)
  • Having one’s calling and election made sure (1)
  • Being translated like Enoch (2)


As far as I can tell, these things have nothing to do what position we have in the church, but they have everything to do with our faithfulness.


I used to wonder why Mormon took such care to write about the three Nephites and the nature of the change they experienced. I considered it a peripheral concern, food for the speculating mind. But having come across these verses together, it seems that the Lord’s intent was to add a second witness to the possibility of literally never tasting death through faithfulness.


I also used to wonder why the Lord prevented Mormon from writing the names of the three Nephites who were never to taste death. Perhaps it was to leave us with the impression of possibility. Just like ANY of the listed disciples of Jesus could have been the ones received this change, perhaps this makes it easier to apply it to ourselves and have hope that ANY of us could receive it too.


A question that also came to mind as I looked at these verses was this—if Jesus did everything He said to do, and He said those who keep His sayings will never taste of death, does that mean that Jesus was worthy to be translated? I suppose so, since He is our exemplar. Yet He condescended to taste death for our sakes.


So how does one go about qualifying for this privilege?

Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. (John 8:51, emphasis added)


I was pondering this and I thought, “Oh. I should make a very careful study of all of Jesus’s words in the New Testament then, and try to live them.” And then I remembered that we have Jesus’s words in the Book of Mormon too. And then I remembered that the Doctrine & Covenants is essentially… the words of Christ

To me, this gives more reason to search the scriptures and try to live by them.


Notes

(1) see “Accepted of the Lord: Making your Calling and Election Sure”, Roy W. Doxey, Ensign, July 1976. http://lds.org/ensign/1976/07/accepted-of-the-lord-the-doctrine-of-making-your-calling-and-election-sure?lang=eng&query=calling+election

(2) The church’s “Guide to the Scriptures” has a very nice page listing different scriptures about translated beings. [http://lds.org/scriptures/gs/translated-beings?lang=eng&letter=t]

4 comments:

thatgoodpart said...

Additionally, I think that following Christ's words - and even Christ will ensure that we never taste of Spiritual death.

Perhaps the examples of those who were translated are object lessons on what the atonement of Christ coupled with our faith and obedience can do for us - we can live forever, without tasting death - spiritual death.

Michaela Stephens said...

Yes, that is easy to think too, but the point of my post was to ponder whether this promise is LITERAL as well.

Anonymous said...

Depressing, because while we wouldn't know if folks had the Second Comforter, we would know if they didn't die and just . . . vanished. So if your argument is correct, the conclusion is that the number of modern Saints who have reached that level of righteousness is vanishingly small.

Carroll Sanders said...

It is obvious to me that never tasting death is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus...

(Phil. 3:10-14) 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Also Jesus was comparing the manna in the wilderness where literal death was taking place with He being the bread of Life

One more point and a question from our Lord...

(Jn. 11:25-26) 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?