Wednesday, December 20, 2017 0 comments

More treasures than one in Salem, Massachusetts

9 This place you may obtain by hire. And inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants and founders of this city;
10 For there are more treasures than one for you in this city. (D&C 111:9-10)

These verses were part of the instructions given to Joseph Smith and three other leaders as they visited Salem, Massachusetts. They had come looking for sources of money to help pay their debts, so they investigated that claim. But apparently the Lord wanted to broaden their vision of value, by telling them to look into the history of the place and its inhabitants.

It struck me that it might be instructive to also look into that stuff too. After all, it is so much easier to do today, what with the internet and Wikipedia, and various fabulous resources there.

It was interesting to find this Salem was a beginning colony of the Puritans and to find out the struggles and controversies they were involved in. Although the Puritans sought religious freedom for themselves, they did not want to extend the same privilege to others. They penalized other “unorthodox” denominations with strong, cruel penalties of banishment, physical maiming, and damaging punishments, and even execution. In the end, this was part of what got their colony charter revoked.

And of course it was also the site of the infamous Salem witch trials, with all the associated superstition, false accusations, injustice, oppression, and paranoia that all involved.

How would it help the prophet Joseph Smith in 1836 to know this history? It would give a lot of information about the kinds of practices that would make a religious community odious to the surrounding inhabitants or to those who wanted to live there but who weren’t part of their faith. It would give a measuring stick against which to gauge the accusations brought against the Saints in Missouri and elsewhere.  It would definitely help form his ideas about the importance of religious freedom.  It had examples of both statesmanship and ignominious tyranny.

Some links:

Monday, December 18, 2017 1 comments

Believe and Act

I like these words from King Benjamin’s speech:

9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them. (Mosiah 4:9-10)

I love that last part—“if you believe all these things see that ye do them.” 

We may have the tendency to mentally assent to the teachings and principles of the gospel without actually applying them as often as we should, and I think King Benjamin was aware of that tendency.

So, if we believe we can repent, see that we do it. If we believe in keeping the Sabbath, see that we do it. If prayer is efficacious, do it. If temple worship and family history does serve the dead and protect us, do it.

Saturday, December 16, 2017 0 comments

Various scriptures about “inasmuch”

I ran across a verse that had “inasmuch” in it, and it seemed to me that it expressed proportionality—the bigger one thing is, the bigger another thing is.  So I decided to search for scriptures to see how often I could find this and what I could learn from it.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt. 25:40)

To the extent we are charitable to the least of humanity, we are charitable to Christ.

…inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. (Phillippians 1:7)

This one is a little tricky to follow, but I think it is staying Paul seems to have noticed that to the extent he was confined but continued to defend and confirm the gospel, he was given grace from God to strengthen others.  That gives some encouragement about our effectiveness for when we feel like we’re hampered by persecution, doesn’t it?

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:13)

So to the extent that we suffer as Christ did, we will be joyful when His glory is revealed. That gives a good reason to be valiant, doesn’t it?

And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands. (1 Nephi 2:20)

So to the extent we keep the commandments, we will prosper. This theme is repeated throughout the Book of Mormon. (1 Nephi 4:14; 2 Ne. 1:9; 2 Ne. 1:20; 2 Ne. 4:4; Jarom 1:9; Alma 9:13; Alma 36:1; Alma 38: 1; Alma 50:20)

And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren. (1 Nephi 2:22)

This was definitely true of Nephi, and it may very well be true in general—to the extent one keeps the commandments, one is made a ruler and a teacher.

And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led. (1 Ne. 17:13)

Maybe we are not seeking out a promised land like Nephi, but it is still true that to the extent that we keep the Lord’s commandments we will be led and we will know we are led by God.

And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. (1 Nephi 2: 21)

To the extent that we rebel, we are cut off from the Lord’s presence.  Pretty simple.

And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction. (2 Ne 5:25)

So to the extent that we don’t remember God, we will be scourged to destruction. The use of “scourge” here is interesting. A scourge is a whip. It’s not meant to be an execution device, but if it keeps hitting and doesn’t stop, then it becomes one. This scourge is stopped by remembering God and listening to His words. (Oh, look!  Remembering God is part of what we promise to do in the sacrament!)

And it came to pass that they did repent, and inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper. (Helaman 4:15, see also Ether 11:8)

So to the extent that we repent, we prosper.

I’m going to end this post with a triple-packed scripture of inasmuches. 

25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent; (D&C 1:25-28)

This tells me I should expect exposure and chastening to the same extent that I err and sin.  There’s fairness in that.  The Lord doesn’t work like the world and overdo it on the chastening. And I love that the Lord tells us that we can be instructed to the extent we seek wisdom.  Doesn’t that just make you want to learn all you can and pray hard for wisdom?

Thursday, December 14, 2017 2 comments

When the Lord commands Lehi to move on

9 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord spake unto my father by night, and commanded him that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness.
10 And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.
11 And it came to pass that we did gather together whatsoever things we should carry into the wilderness, and all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us; and we did take seed of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness. (1 Nephi 16:9-11)

Up to this point, Lehi had done everything the Lord had commanded him. He’d left Jerusalem with his family, he’d sent his sons to get the plates, and he’d sent his sons to get Ishmael’s family. Now comes a new commandment to journey in the wilderness and start on the morrow.

I’d always thought it was a nice thing that the Lord also provided Lehi with the Liahona that same night to give him encouragement and direction to move on as he was told. This time I also noticed a factor that might have kept Lehi from moving. Verse 11 mentions they packed up “all the remainder” of their provisions, and when they travel four days, they start hunting animals for food by the way.  So it seems that their provisions were starting to run low at the time they were told to move.

I wonder if not having much food would make moving difficult. If I were them, I might have wondered if I was going to be journeying toward food or away from it. Depending on their perspective, the food situation might have tested their faith to journey, or it might have motivated them further.

Thinking about this seems to point to a lesson—the Lord may not wait until we are completely set with perfect conditions (like plenty of food) before He asks us to do things. He might ask at a time that seems inconvenient, or when we’re struggling with other issues. Obviously it’s going to take faith to obey in those kinds of situations.  It makes me think of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, who were called on a mission and left even though both they and their families were sick and poor. (Remember how they mustered the strength to shout "Hurrah for Israel" to put up a brave front for their wives as they left?) What examples!
Tuesday, December 12, 2017 0 comments

Waters from the temple

1 Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar….
8 Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.
9 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh….
11 But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.
12 And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.

I love the imagery of how these living waters heal make everything live and how they come from the temple. I also think it is profound how this river (moving water) has all the trees growing and fruiting on both sides of it.

Contrast this with what it says of the marshes and miry places where the water is stagnant. Those places will not be healed and are salty and dead.

To me that teaches how our conversion needs to move us to do things, to bear fruit. If we stop moving forward, we stagnate and start to die.

Keep moving forward!
Monday, November 20, 2017 1 comments

Thoughts about chiasmus

A few weeks ago I went to an institute class on the Book of Mormon that talked about literary forms in the Book of Mormon. They talked about parallelism and  chiasmus and how John Welch was made aware of chiasmus in the Bible and how he discovered it in the Book of Mormon too. 

I remember my first exposure to the form of chiasmus. A BYU professor taught about it in my Book of Mormon class back in 1998, and at the time I thought it was terribly far-fetched. The teacher pointed out how a whole chapter in Alma was one massive chiasmus, and my skeptical mind doubted this was a real thing and wondered how anyone would have figured it out.

Well, this institute class answered that. John Welch had been taught to see chiasmus in the Bible (see link for 10 minute Youtube video on the story) and had opened the Book of Mormon randomly and noticed repeated two repeated words, then similar ideas above and below that repetition.  He’d stumbled on the middle point of emphasis, and then found the parallelisms that spread outward from there.  The wording didn’t have to be identical; it was the theme that could be repeated.

That made more sense to me.

And then it struck me how fabulous it was that this form was used in scripture. If it is the idea or theme that is repeated, then the exact wording isn’t as important.  In contrast, take the poetic idea of rhyme. A poem that rhymes is very difficult to translate across languages because the same words in another language may not rhyme. You lose part of the cleverness and artistry in translation.  But parallel ideas and themes presented in chiastic form will remain unchanged, no matter the language.

I’ve run across an edition of the Book of Mormon that has actually worked at all kinds of places where parallelisms and chiasmuses appear, and uses indentation to make those forms more obvious.  It’s fascinating to run your eye along the page and see the form. (But it’s more difficult to read.)

And then something else occurred to me.  I remembered Moroni’s lament about weakness in writing and stumbling over word placement, worrying the gentiles would mock his writing.  Could it be possible that he assumed the gentiles would know parallelism and chiasmus and see where he couldn’t get it to work quite right? Could it be he worried the gentiles would dismiss his message because he couldn’t achieve the highest literary form as often as he wanted to?

He didn’t know we would be so much more interested in the flow of meaning than in the form. He didn’t know we’d know almost nothing about the literary structure they were trying to shoehorn their message into. After all, chiasmus is an optimization problem, as a writer tries to structure his message in a pattern of repeating ideas. (There is always a risk that the form will start to torture the meaning and read awkwardly.)  If the Book of Mormon writers ever do chiasmus badly, and we don’t quite see how it goes, it is probably because they departed from the form in greater service to the meaning, and we can be grateful for that.
Saturday, November 18, 2017 0 comments

Power to deliver, to light or darkness

67 When I called again there was none of you to answer; yet my arm was not shortened at all that I could not redeem, neither my power to deliver.
68 Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink, and die for thirst.
69 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and make sackcloth their covering.
70 And this shall ye have of my hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow. (D&C 133:67-70)

In this section the Lord is warning what His answer will be to those who do not repent—that they will suffer the consequences of their rebellion.

The part that tells of the natural phenomena that happens at the Lord’s rebuke I used to interpret through the lens of the story of Exodus and the children of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, as though it is a promise of all the ways the Lord can manipulate nature to bring the salvation of His people. (He parted the Red Sea, parted the Jordan river, plagued the Egyptians with darkness, along with other afflictions) I interpreted it this way because a lot of it is a quotation (or a reworking of a quote) from Isaiah 50:2-3, and so many times Isaiah makes reference to the events of the Exodus to teach.

But I’ve realized there is yet another interpretation for it that is a warning. It is a warning to the Saints about the awful consequences of losing the Spirit if they sin and have to be excommunicated. The natural phenomena are used figuratively to represent the major negative spiritual changes that will happen—your sea can be dried up. Your river can become desert. Spiritual life can die. The bright sunny sky will turn very dark for you. Happiness turns to misery. At His rebuke, all of this will happen because of His great power.

That’s pretty dire, and from time to time we are reminded of accounts of a few early church members who were pretty high up in church leadership who left the church and they had this kind of experience.

So, I think when the Lord says He has power to deliver, it is a two-sided thing. He has power to deliver us from sin, but if we don’t repent, He has power to deliver us over to darkness.

None of us want that.

I’m grateful to know of the Lord’s great mercy and long-suffering and patience to us all and how many times and all the ways He invites us to come unto Him. I love verse 67 that says even though so many times we don’t answer the Lord’s call, the Lord still has power to redeem and deliver. Whether or not we believe in Christ, He still has power to save, so why not choose to believe?  We have to keep turning to Him.

Thursday, November 16, 2017 0 comments

Satan’s attempt to further destroy Zeezrom

After the tragedies and difficulties at Ammonihah, we get this little bit:

3 And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat.
4 Now, when he heard that Alma and Amulek were in the land of Sidom, his heart began to take courage; and he sent a message immediately unto them, desiring them to come unto him. (Alma 15:3-4)

I notice that Zeezrom began to be tormented about his sins, and he thought his wickedness caused the deaths of Alma and Amulek. He had no knowledge of their true fates, but he assumed the worst. It is easy to understand that he might feel like he deserved to suffer for what he did.

But on the other hand, it could be argued that he didn’t deserve to feel this way because when we look at his actions, even though he began by attacking Alma and Amulek, his heart changed, and he began to defend them instead.  But that seemed to count for nothing with him. Something made him forget his more recent better works and only remember his wickedness.

Satan really wanted Zeezrom to be miserable, so he played upon Zeezrom’s ignorance about Alma and Amulek’s fates and put a ton of blame and torment upon him, using Zeezrom’s awakened conscience against him.

Happily, when Zeezrom heard Alma and Amulek were alive and in Sidom,, this immediately showed him his fears concerning them were false. This gave him the courage to act and call them to come. It would take courage to again face those he had feared he had so badly wronged, but he did it, and through more faith in Christ, was able to gain full relief from the rest of his suffering.

I think there’s an important lesson for us here. Satan tries to make our sins seem so awful that there is no hope. He wants us conscious of our awful state, but he also wants to catastrophize the consequences and steal our hope that we can ever escape, or repent, or improve—all to make us miserable.  (And he will try to make things seem particularly bad when we are tired, hungry, lonely, bored, stressed, or sick.) We just have to remember that Satan LIES. Things are not as bad as he makes them seem.   We have to take courage and act in faith, believing that Christ can heal us, help us, give us strength, forgive us, save us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 0 comments

Answering according to the Spirit

21 And this Zeezrom began to question Amulek, saying: Will ye answer me a few questions which I shall ask you? Now Zeezrom was a man who was expert in the devices of the devil, that he might destroy that which was good; therefore, he said unto Amulek: Will ye answer the questions which I shall put unto you?
22 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord…

I love that Amulek says he will answer questions according to the Spirit of the Lord. Shouldn’t we all go through our lives with that same determination to follow the Spirit as to whether we answer questions or not, and take our answers according to the Spirit?

Amulek’s Spirit-led answers brought out important doctrines that were under deep scrutiny, and he might have had reason to feel worried about how they would be received, but he followed the Spirit, and that made his answers powerful enough that Zeezrom was ultimately affected to the extent that he decided to change and become more honest. Amulek’s spiritual honesty inspired Zeezrom to be honest with himself about the consequences of what he was doing.

I also notice that aside from revealing Zeezrom’s little trap, Amulek spoke mostly about general principles of repentance, accountability, and judgment.
Thursday, October 26, 2017 0 comments

Work revealed by fire

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (1 Cor. 3:11-14)

I always kind of wondered about this scripture, but this time it made more sense to me. It’s saying everyone’s work is tested in a particular way to see if it can stand through trial.

Missionary work is tested through others’ indifference or persecution. Love is tested through separation, loss, common events of life, and differences of opinion. Faith is tested by seeming to be left unsupported by God. Our work is tested when it becomes difficult or thankless. Habits of scripture reading may be tested by a period when one seems to have gotten nothing from it. Good parenting is tested with difficult children or children going through difficult stages. Can it all endure the test? That is the question.

Paul says Christ is the foundation to build upon, so His way is the best way to do things. But then our motives matter as well. If we’re doing the right thing for the wrong reason, a difficult trial might stop us unless we can start doing it for the right reason. For instance, doing missionary work for praise or status would cease if one finds they lose status or are maligned, unless they can choose to do it anyway, to bring souls to God and try to help people.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 0 comments

The Urim & Thummim Principle for Internet use

Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king [Limhi], of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer. (Mosiah 8:13)

The context for this verse is Ammon telling King Limhi that there is a seer who can translate the gold plates that were found.  It is neat to think that we have prophets, seers, and revelators leading our church today, but I think there are principles here that can apply in our lives, particularly concerning our individual internet use and safety.

Note the danger that Ammon highlights—“lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish”.  We don’t know how a seer might perish from wrong use of the Urim & Thummim, but the same danger certainly applies for internet use.  There is the danger of looking at things we ought not, as well as spending so much time looking at less consequential things that one fritters away their life.

The principle implied for wise use of the Urim & Thummim is to be purposeful about use, according to commandment. It doesn’t specify whether it is God’s commandment or man’s commandment, but you get the idea that since it is a gift from God, you would use it according to God’s commandment. I think the same is true for use of the internet.

The situations seem a bit different in the frequency of use. The Urim & Thummim seems like something that would be used rarely (except we don’t have record of all the times it was used), whereas the internet is so embedded in our society now. Still, the principle of purposeful use according to God’s commandment (or following God’s commandments) is useful for keeping us out of trouble when we use the internet today.
Sunday, September 24, 2017 0 comments

Walking in the light, even if into danger

7 Then after that saith he [Jesus] to his disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.
8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.
10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. (John 11:7-10)

This little story always puzzled me. Was it saying somehow Jesus was reassured of His safety because He could see? What could He see? Did He know what would happen and that made it so He could avoid it?

I had to pray about this one. Gradually I realized Jesus was saying that because He had instructions from Heavenly Father to go to Judea again, by following those instructions (walking in the light), He would be okay, even if it looked like He was walking into danger. He trusted the revelation over the appearance of danger.

But if He hadn’t had that revelation, going there would be like walking into the dark with lots of things to trip over.

When you think about the kind of faith Jesus shows to do that, it is AMAZING. It’s a great example for us. I aspire to that kind of faith.
Friday, September 1, 2017 0 comments

Re-examining Revelation 12

1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12)

Our traditional interpretation of Revelation 12 in the church is according to the chapter heading: “John sees the imminent apostasy of the Church—He also sees the War in Heaven in the beginning when Satan was cast out—He sees the continuation of that war on earth.”

This interpretation basically reduces Revelation 12 to an interlude wherein the Lord backtracks and shares with John various bits of information that He wants the Saints to know about what has happened before the frame of the events set up in the Book of Revelation.  With our understanding of the three degrees of glory, we may interpret the sun-clothed women as the church, and the man child as Christ, who ascended to heaven, and then the fleeing of the church into the wilderness as the apostasy.

However, there are some things in the text that subtly create problems with this interpretation.  For instance, v1 speaks of the appearance of a great wonder in heaven (the woman). The location is a little odd. If the woman represents the church, why is the woman located in heaven and not on the earth? 

Or if the woman is in heaven (in the spirit realm), how do those on the earth see her to wonder over her? The text seems to suggest that this wonder will be generally visible. 

For another example, if the woman represents the church and the child represents Christ, why speak of this woman and the man child before recounting the war in heaven when Michael and his angels fought the devil and his angels and cast them out, which is something we identify with premortality? Why skip around so much in the timeline?  

Or, if the woman represents the church and the child represents the political kingdom of God, what good does the child do to anyone if it is caught up to the throne of God? That seems to put it in a place where it won’t have much influence, since there are a lot of people that prefer to ignore Jesus, who also ascended into heaven. If the political kingdom of God is formed then removed from earth by God, that would be demoralizing to those righteous who remain. (It would be like restoring the priesthood, creating the offices, and then translating all priesthood holders so they don’t remain to bless the church.)

Another question I had over this interpretation in the chapter is what function it serves to help the Saints in the last days, either with instruction or with reassurance. What does it tell us prophetically that we can’t get elsewhere?

 It tells us the church will be persecuted. Okay, we already know that.
It tells us there was a war in heaven. Okay, we already know that too, from the Pearl of Great Price. Also from Isaiah.
It tells us the Saints overcome Satan with the atonement, their testimony, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives. Okay, but how does that help us know what’s to come?

Suddenly, after considering these things, I started to ask myself, “ What if it is NOT about the past, but actually about the future? What if this chapter is actually still telling us about events to come on the earth? What if we’ve all misunderstood this chapter?

Ooo! Excitement! I read the chapter again. But then I was puzzled. If these events are in the future, what then are we to make of how it speaks of a war in heaven with Michael casting out the devil and his angels?  And if there will be war in heaven, how would we on the earth know it?

That’s when I realized heaven must be used symbolically as a term for something high up, something ruling. And in fact, it is a very good symbol for government. So if there is war in heaven, it can be telling us of a war in the government between forces of good and forces of evil.

Ooo! Definitely re-examination is needed!

(Fair warning: This interpretation is going to go into completely uncharted territory. You don’t have to believe it. It is completely unofficial, nontraditional, and possibly even kooky, but I’m going to run with it as far as it takes me and see where it goes and see we can get anything useful or helpful from it.  I reserve the right to change my mind about it at any time on it in the future and interpret it to mean something different from what follows.)

So then, when the beginning tells us of the woman that appeared as a wonder in heaven, that may tell us that there are righteous forces that appear in government at this difficult time. (The woman can’t be the church, because the church as a whole body can’t be elected to government, kids and all. But it could be a group of righteous members who are elected or appointed.)   Then the second wonder in heaven—the great red dragon—appears to oppose the woman. When the dragon draws a third part of the stars and casts them to earth, that could represent the evil forces somehow firing or impeaching or forcing resignation of part of the government that opposes them.

The woman is in labor and about to be delivered of a man child that will rule the nations with a rod of iron, and the dragon waits for the birth, wanting to devour the child as soon as it is born. This says to me that the good forces of government are trying to figure out who is the best one to rule over them. It could be an election caucus.  A woman in labor sounds like a great symbol for the messy nomination and choosing process of politics. But the dragon waits to see who comes out of it so they know who to target. The dragon wants to devour the man child, possibly meaning it wants to absorb him into the beast’s network by getting it to switch sides or making agreements that will restrict him from moving against the dragon, or by corrupting him, or whatever.

So the woman brings forth the man child who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and he is caught up to God and to his throne. 


All along, we have assumed this being caught up to God’s throne represents Christ, His ascension, and His rule from the heavens. But if this man child is supposed to be someone in the future who rules, how will he really rule if he’s literally caught up to heaven? It is as if he is taken away before he can actually do anything to help.   HOWEVER. If this is actually symbolically talking about a political situation, then a man child caught up to the throne of God has actually ascended to power on earth and has been put into office!  And if he rules all nations, then calling that political position of power “the throne of God” seems like a pretty accurate term, even if it sounds a little blasphemous to us.

But if so, then why would the woman then flee into the wilderness? It will seem as though she has won, if her man child is in power.  Hmmm.  I don’t know… I would guess that perhaps those who put the man child in power anticipate some sort of backlash, so they hide from it.  At any rate, wherever they flee to, it has been prepared as a nourishing place, even though they are on the margins, outside of the main population centers.

Then there is a war in heaven, or a war in the government between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels. The upshot is that the great dragon is cast out with his angels. We are told they deceived the whole world, so they did a lot of lying to everyone. We are also told they were an “accuser of our brethren…which accused them before our God day and night,” so that hints the forces of evil have been prosecuting attorneys who tried to swamp the government with false accusations and with frivolous, malicious lawsuits and paperwork that wasted time and persecuted the righteous who were the defendants of said lawsuits. 

(Such a battle is not without precedent in history. There is the story in the Book of Mormon of Alma and Amulek who were put on trial by Zeezrom in Ammonihah and who warned the people the unrighteousness of their judges and lawyers were bringing destruction upon them. There is also a brief story of a time before the coming of Christ when judges were unlawfully condemning the righteous and there was an attempt to try them for their crimes.)

We are told the Saints overcome the dragon with the atonement, with their testimony, and with their willingness to suffer even to death for their beliefs. So this tells us the Saints need to stand strong. (This interpretation makes religious liberty very important, doesn’t it?)

The result of the war is that the devil (or the beast) is cast down to the earth along with his followers, meaning they are removed from power. (Hooray!) No wonder the Saints celebrate. But the dragon is mad and he persecutes the woman, since that was the source of his loss of power. The woman flees to the wilderness and is nourished, and the earth helps the woman when the dragon pours floods out of his mouth after her. (The floods may represent lies.)  So it seems there are two exits into the wilderness by forces of good.

And then the dragon is still angry, so he goes to make war against the remnant of the woman’s seed who keep the commandments and the testimony of Jesus. This tells me that the dragon targets the children. How does he target the children? The next chapter Revelation 13 tells of a beast (nearly identical to the dragon) that rises out of the sea and demands worship from everyone. It is possible the war against the woman’s children consists of trying to usurp their admiration and draw their wonder so that they stop worshiping God and worship the beast instead.

So… how does this interpretation of Revelation 12 help us? It shows us a struggle in government between good and evil. It shows us the dragon can be cast out, and it shows us that for that to happen, we have to have firm testimonies and be willing to sacrifice our lives for the truth, even if it gets us in legal trouble. (This is another reason why we need to defend religious freedom.) It also tells us it is important for us to teach our children right and protect them.

Final note #1: Probably some of Trump's enthusiastic followers would like to associate this situation with Trump. I don't though, especially since he doesn't rule all nations. I think the situation is still to come.

Final note #2: On the topic of religious freedom, I think it is important for us to defend it today because we have a whole generation of children who are starting to grow up in this time of incivility. We don’t want them to get the idea that this general atmosphere of negativity and hate is normal.  We don’t want it to be all they have ever known.  If they think that kind of thing is normal, they will do it too, and worse. We don’t want that.