Monday, August 7, 2017

Thinking about the info we get from D&C 77


D&C 77 is a series of answers Joseph Smith received to questions asked about the meaning of various symbols in the Book of Revelation. From time to time I have wondered why he stopped only at those questions and wished he’d asked more. However, one BYU religion teacher explained that D&C 77 gives “a key” to understanding Revelation, and that just like a key unlocks a door, while D&C 77 doesn’t explain everything, it helps orient us in a way that helps us understand the rest of Revelation better.

Recently my husband and I read D&C 77 together, and I started to wonder what it was that caused Joseph Smith to select those things to ask about.  I suppose I’ll have to ponder those things at length, but one small answer seemed pretty obvious.

Joseph Smith asked about the meaning of the book with seven seals because the book is a very important focus of the narrative. As seals are opened, significant things happen, important changes occur in conditions, both good and bad. The narrative of Revelation revolves around the book for a good part of the time, so it would be important to ask what the book represents.

Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?
A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence. (D&C 77:6)

This tells us the book contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God, the hidden things of His economy during the seven thousand years. So everything that happens revolves around the will of God, His works, and His mysteries. Thus, the openings of the seals bring new works and new mysteries and new things of His economy out, and then begins the struggle between those who want to adhere to the will of God, and those who prefer to rebel.  This suggests that we look at the opening of each seal and try to discern what the will of God has revealed and orient the human responses observed in the text according to that.

This answer gives us a view of God as one who is thinking ahead, who is at work not just in one place in the world, but in many different places, revealing mysteries, persuading those who listen to do good. What’s to come has been written; there’s a plan in place. It doesn’t come out of chance.  He’s ahead of the game, He’s the prime mover, He’s behind every inch of real progress humanity makes, and the rest of the world must follow or be left behind.

I think it might also be a fruitful course of inquiry to examine the other symbols Joseph asked about to try to understand how he decided to ask about them. We often think Joseph Smith asked questions according to curiosity, but what if there was more behind it?  Can we understand his thought process or see it?  I recognize this might be considered attempting to mind-read, but might there be an underlying logic behind the questions?