Sunday, October 28, 2018 0 comments

Isaiah 44:1-5 – As Willows by the Water Courses

1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant;
and Israel, whom I have chosen:
2          Thus saith the Lord that made thee,
and formed thee from the womb,
which will help thee;
Fear not,
O Jacob, my servant;
and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.
3                                  For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty,
and floods upon the dry ground:
I will pour my spirit upon thy seed,
and my blessing upon thine offspring:
4                                              And they shall spring up as among the grass,
as willows by the water courses.
5 One shall say, I am the Lord’s;
and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob;
and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord,
and surname himself by the name of Israel. (Isaiah 44:1-5)

I like these verses and how easy it is to see the parallelism of repeated thoughts and themes. (I indented at various levels to make it a little more easy to see what things I think go together.)

In verse 1, the Lord is trying to get covenant Israel to listen and is reminding Israel they are chosen and they are His servants. He chose them from the beginning to be His servants. We recognize this because one is not born into the house of Israel by accident, but by design.

Covenant Israel has a tendency to think the job of blessing the entire world is overwhelmingly big, but the Lord tells Israel in v2, “[I] will help thee; Fear not.”

Covenant Israel also recognizes that blessing the whole world is hard work and there are moments when we feel like it would be nice to relax and have others do the teaching for a change. And while we are being examples to the rest of the world, where will we get our examples?  In verse 3, the Lord promises to pour out water (spiritual water) upon those that are thirsty—thirsting after righteousness. “I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” It is the Spirit that teaches our children, and often they end up teaching us.

Then there is some beautiful imagery: “they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.”  To understand this, we only need to remember how grass doesn’t grow unless there is plenty of water.  Similarly, willows grow best when very near some sort of river or lake. This is teaching us that with all the spiritual water the Lord pours out through the Holy Ghost, we and our children will grow easily, just like those plants that grow best when there is plenty of water around.

With that kind of spiritual environment, covenant Israel will know for sure they are the Lord’s people. They will be so certain, they will want to take on a new name, perhaps calling themselves Jacob, or Israel, or perhaps consecrating themselves completely to God.

What do I learn from these verses? They tell us to FEAR NOT.  If we draw near to the Lord, He will draw near to us and satisfy our spiritual hunger and yearnings.

Thursday, October 25, 2018 0 comments

Mysteries of God

A question I had recently was, "What do the scriptures call mysteries? When the scriptures talk about the mysteries of God, what topics are discussed in that context?" I felt like if I did a survey of the scriptures that referred to "mysteries of God" I might get an idea of what those things are and also how to obtain them.

What follows are notes I made from investigating the scriptures. I think you'll find them illuminating.

Mysteries of the kingdom (Matt 13:11) (given to the disciples to know these)
Mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1)
Mysteries of God (1 Nephi 2:16 (in context of Nephi wanting to know his father was right or not)
Mysteries of God (1 Nephi 10:19) in context of Nephi asking about Lehi’s dream of the tree of life
Mysteries of God (Mosiah 1:3) associated with the things already written in the scriptures
Mysteries of God (Mosiah 2:9) associated with the vision Mosiah had of an angel that gave him a message about the Messiah
Mysteries of God (Alma 10:5) associated with preserving the lives of the Nephites
Mysteries of God (Alma 12:9) about the resurrection from the dead and the judgment
Mysteries of God (Alma 26:22) associated with revealing new things and bringing people to repentance
Mysteries (Alma 37:4) in the scriptures
Mysteries (Alma 37:11) about how the hardened Nephites will be brought to repentance
Mysteries (of God) and secret works of darkness (Alma 37:21) associated with the 24 Jaredite plates
Mysteries  (Alma 40:3) concerning what happens to the soul between death and resurrection
Mysteries of God (D&C 6:7) that will make rich and give eternal life
Mysteries (D&C 6:11) great and marvelous, to bring many to know the truth, to convince others of their error.
Mysteries (D&C 28:7) given to the prophet
Mysteries (D&C 42:61 peaceable things, which bring joy, which bring life eternal
Mysteries (D&C 43:13) to be given because of charitable giving
Mysteries of my kingdom (D&C 63:23) as a well of living water, spring up unto everlasting life
Mysteries out of the scriptures (D&C 71:1)
Hidden mysteries of my will (D&C 76:7-10) from days of old, for ages to come, good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. Wonders of eternity. Things to come. Things of many generations. Understanding reach to heaven. Secrets of my will. Things eye has not see, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man.
Mysteries (D&C 77:6) associated with the book sealed with 7 seals. Revealed will, mysteries, works of god. Hidden things of his economy.
Mysteries of the kingdom (D&C 84:19) key of the knowledge of God, associated with the power of godliness in the ordinances of the church.
Mysteries of the kingdom (D&C 107:19) of heaven, having the heavens opened to them. Enjoying the presence of the Father and Jesus.
God revealeth secrets (Dan 2:28) in association with Daniel telling the dream of the king and interpreting it.  What shall come to pass (v29)
Secrets (Amos 3:7) revealed to the prophets before they happen.

Fascinating, huh?
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 0 comments

7 different perspectives on sin from Isaiah

This verse caught my attention recently:

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. (Isaiah 1:4)

I count seven different perspectives on the cause and problem of sin in this verse.

1)    “sinful nation” – The nation was full of sin, like a cup full of water.
2)    “a people laden with iniquity” – No one likes to carry a load they don’t have to, but these people were loaded down with iniquity like a donkey carrying an oversized load of sticks.
3)    “a seed of evildoers” – They learned how to sin from their parents, and they hadn’t learned to be critical of those bad traditions and escape them.
4)    “children that are corrupters” – Children are supposed to be innocent, but these children weren’t. They corrupted those who came in contact with them, spreading wickedness like a disease.
5)    “they have forsaken the Lord” – This gives the sense of the runaway or the unfaithful spouse who doesn’t care anymore. They were with Him, and then all of a sudden, they left.
6)    “they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger” – This gives the sense of one who sins in spite of knowing the truth. They do it deliberately to irritate, just to thumb their nose at spiritual authority. (This type tends to glorify their rebellion.)
7)    “they are gone away backward” – This is the person who stays facing the Lord the whole time, but slowly backs away, getting farther and farther with every step and every choice they make. They claim they are faithful, but other things incessantly take higher priority.

It’s useful to think about these different types with reference to our own lives and determine if there is something we’re doing that matches this. And then repent.

We could also extrapolate from Isaiah’s words what we want to be instead.
--A nation full of righteousness
--A people buoyed up by goodness
--A seed of do-gooders
--Children that are sanctifiers
--who have come to the Lord
--who have pleased the Holy One and gained His favor
--who are pressing forward
Friday, October 19, 2018 0 comments

Looking for the Lord to Come

There’s a scripture I’ve run across that in the past I’ve interpreted as referring to the second coming of Christ, but now I see also fits into the context of missionary work

And the poor and the meek shall have the gospel preached unto them, and they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand— (D&C 35:15)

This perfectly describes those situations and stories we’ve heard about people who have had religious questions and they reach out to God, pleading for the truth, pleading for something more in their lives. And then, in a few days (or hours, or even minutes) they are visited by the missionaries and are ready to receive the gospel. These people are looking for God to come and bring them greater light, and they see the missionaries as messengers from God. They see God has answered them, and they see the coming of the gospel was so close. All those things are encapsulated in this verse.

How does it help us? It shows us that there are people who are prepared to hear the gospel, and we just need to talk to them and invite them. If they are ready, they will respond. We don’t know what is going on in their lives to prepare people, but there are people who are prepared to hear.

It also tells us that if we are going to help find them, we need to be meek as well. We need to be humble and ready to follow the impressions of the Spirit, even if they seem to not make sense. (If they made sense, why would we need the Spirit?)
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 0 comments

Verses about the Last Days

87 For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig tree.
88 And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.
89 For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.
90 And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.
91 And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.
92 And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
93 And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.
94 And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood—she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea—behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it.
95 And there shall be silence in heaven for the space of half an hour; and immediately after shall the curtain of heaven be unfolded, as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up, and the face of the Lord shall be unveiled;
96 And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him.
97 And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—
98 They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.
99 And after this another angel shall sound, which is the second trump; and then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ’s at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh.
100 And again, another trump shall sound, which is the third trump; and then come the spirits of men who are to be judged, and are found under condemnation;
101 And these are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth.
102 And another trump shall sound, which is the fourth trump, saying: There are found among those who are to remain until that great and last day, even the end, who shall remain filthy still.
103 And another trump shall sound, which is the fifth trump, which is the fifth angel who committeth the everlasting gospel—flying through the midst of heaven, unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people;
104 And this shall be the sound of his trump, saying to all people, both in heaven and in earth, and that are under the earth—for every ear shall hear it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess, while they hear the sound of the trump, saying: Fear God, and give glory to him who sitteth upon the throne, forever and ever; for the hour of his judgment is come.
105 And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the sixth angel, saying: She is fallen who made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication; she is fallen, is fallen!
106 And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the seventh angel, saying: It is finished; it is finished! The Lamb of God hath overcome and trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.
107 And then shall the angels be crowned with the glory of his might, and the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him.
108 And then shall the first angel again sound his trump in the ears of all living, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the mighty works of God in the first thousand years.
109 And then shall the second angel sound his trump, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the thoughts and intents of their hearts, and the mighty works of God in the second thousand years—
110 And so on, until the seventh angel shall sound his trump; and he shall stand forth upon the land and upon the sea, and swear in the name of him who sitteth upon the throne, that there shall be time no longer; and Satan shall be bound, that old serpent, who is called the devil, and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years.
111 And then he shall be loosed for a little season, that he may gather together his armies.
112 And Michael, the seventh angel, even the archangel, shall gather together his armies, even the hosts of heaven.
113 And the devil shall gather together his armies; even the hosts of hell, and shall come up to battle against Michael and his armies.
114 And then cometh the battle of the great God; and the devil and his armies shall be cast away into their own place, that they shall not have power over the saints any more at all.
115 For Michael shall fight their battles, and shall overcome him who seeketh the throne of him who sitteth upon the throne, even the Lamb.
116 This is the glory of God, and the sanctified; and they shall not any more see death. (D&C 88:87-116)

In these verses are a whole bunch of prophesies about the last days, about calamities to come on the earth, and then v94-106 tells of seven angels sounding their trumpets to announce the fall of Babylon and the progressive resurrection of various parties based on their level of righteousness. After that comes v108-110 telling of another seven angels sounding their trumps to tell of the secret acts of men in the various thousand-year eras of history. Then the binding of Satan and his loosing after another thousand years, with the final fight of Michael against the devil and armies.

Before I studied the Book of Revelation in depth, it seemed like these verses were a sort of translation of Revelation into a simpler form. I thought it was supposed to overlay the top of Revelation and readers were supposed to find corresponding points.

But after having studied Revelation a lot more, I now read this and I can see it is a mishmash of a bunch of different elements of Revelation, but they are all out of order. The Book of Revelation only has one sequence of angels sounding their trumpets, but these verses have two. These verses have all the dead resurrected before the final battle when Satan is bound, but Revelation has it the other way around.  Revelation has the angel warning there will be time no longer in the sixth trumpet, but these verses have him doing that in the second set of seven trumpets, in the last trumpet, just before Satan is bound (v110).

So what are we to make of this? Unbelievers might say Joseph Smith was making it up, but we who believe he was a prophet know differently. We dare not say he didn’t know what he was doing, especially since he said the Book of Revelation is the plainest of all books. And if it is plain, then he wouldn’t have then gone and “messed it up” like this, if this is supposed to be an improvement.  I am personally forced to conclude that he was using the imagery of Revelation to reveal additional things.

V92-106 tells of a sequence of different groups of people who are resurrected at different times based on their level of righteousness. We may think this is obvious now, but it would not have been so in Joseph Smith’s day. Also, the Book of Revelation only says the righteous are raised at Christ’s coming and then the rest later after the final battle against Satan. The trumpet sequence of seven here shows us the resurrection is a sequential process.

V108-110 has yet another sequence of angelic trumpets sounding to announce the secret things of the various thousand years of history that will be revealed. This is another thing that is probably obvious to us now, but again, it may not have been obvious before. The Bible is pretty clear about the doctrine that God sees all and knows our doings, our words, our thoughts, our intents, and our desires. But it is not clear on the doctrine that all these things will eventually be revealed to everyone else as well. The Book of Revelation only says the books will be opened and everyone will be judged according to what is written in the books concerning their works. But these verses tell us all will be revealed to everyone. And if so, then we need to be especially careful about everything we do, say, think, intend, and want. Sooner or later, everyone will know all the secrets of everyone on the planet who has ever lived, whether good or bad. We will be very happy if we have repented of all our sins and if all we have done, said, or thought is beyond reproach.
Monday, October 8, 2018 0 comments

The Covering of the Tabernacle Equipment

5 And when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering veil, and cover the ark of testimony with it:
6 And shall put thereon the covering of badgers’ skins, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof.
7 And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon:
8 And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.
9 And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, wherewith they minister unto it:
10 And they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put it upon a bar.
11 And upon the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue, and cover it with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put to the staves thereof:
12 And they shall take all the instruments of ministry, wherewith they minister in the sanctuary, and put them in a cloth of blue, and cover them with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put them on a bar:
13 And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon:
14 And they shall put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister about it, even the censers, the fleshhooks, and the shovels, and the basins, all the vessels of the altar; and they shall spread upon it a covering of badgers’ skins, and put to the staves of it. (Numbers 4:5-14)
In these verses as I was reading I noticed that the Tabernacle equipment was to be covered before it was moved. This emphasized its sacredness and how it was set apart for holy use.

But I also noticed that the manner of covering the objects was not always the same. Moving inward:
·      Altar of sacrifice – covered by purple cloth, then altar vessels/censers/fleshhooks/shovels/ basins, then badger skin.
·      Instruments of ministry in sanctuary – covered by blue cloth, then badger skin.
·      Golden altar of incense – covered by cloth of blue, then badger skin.
·      Candlestick, tongs, snuffers, oil vessels – covered in blue, then badger skin.
·      Shewbread table – covered by blue cloth, then table utensils & shewbread, then scarlet cloth, then badger skin.
·      Ark of the covenant – covered by veil, then badger skin, then blue cloth.

This caused me to ask more questions. Why are some things covered in blue, others by scarlet, and others in purple? Why are some things covered with badger skin on top and the ark isn’t? Is there a progression of change in color as one approaches the holy of holies? Are there any types of Christ present here? Is there a gradation of holiness represented by color or position or number of coverings?

After pondering these different things, it seems to me that there is sophisticated symbolism at work here, teaching things about the Messiah, His nature, and His mission.

First, let’s think about the colors. Blue, scarlet, and purple are used a lot in the robes of the high priest. Blue, with its easy association with the sky, makes us think of the divine and of holiness. Scarlet makes us think of blood, and therefore man in his mortal condition. Purple has several associations. It was a very expensive color at that time, so it was confined to those who had wealth, usually royalty. Also, the color happens to be a mix between blue and red, so it could be in itself a type of Christ, who had both divine and mortal parentage.

The purple cloth that covered the altar of sacrifice says something about the high price of that sacrifice, the fact that Jesus is king of Israel, and His divine-mortal nature.

Many of the things in the holy place were covered with a blue cloth, then with badger skin. The blue makes me think of divinity and badger skin of mortality as well.

The shewbread table, however, had a different kind of covering pattern. The table was first covered with blue cloth, then all the table utinsels and shewbread was placed on it, then covered by scarlet cloth, then badger skin. Why the scarlet?   I think the scarlet was in consideration of how the shewbread represented the twelve tribes of Israel, who were mortal, sinful, and who needed redemption. The shewbread was carried on the blue-covered table, which I think teaches something about how divine power and grace carries us.

The ark of the covenant was first covered with the veil (which separated the holy place from the holy of holies). This made the space under the veil a miniature holy of holies and ensured no unhallowed eyes would see it. Then badgerskin, as all the other things were, and then topped with blue out where all would see it! And the ark would be carried out front. This, I think, teaches first how Christ was a visible example to all of us. Also, I think that blue on the outside teaches that after He died, or passed through the veil, He rose from the dead and regained His glory and ascended into heaven.

That’s a lot of stuff to teach just with the preparations for getting rady to move the Tabernacle! It seems the Lord wanted the priests and Levites to ponder those things and know of His mission even in day-to-day tasks.

Saturday, October 6, 2018 0 comments

My reactions to the change in Sunday meeting time length

This has to be from the Lord, because it is not what I would have expected. In some ways, it is contrary to earthly wisdom. To anyone concerned about the quality of learning and teaching in the church, it would make sense to put more emphasis on church-centered activities or learning, not less. So, put more emphasis on home-centered teaching is counter-intuitive. It puts more weight on families to step up. This increases our personal responsibility to use our time in a way that increases our learning and worship. I’m looking forward to seeing how the curriculum and resource book helps with this.

It seems to me that this shows how much the Lord trusts us. He frees up valuable hours for us to use to strengthen our families and increase our gospel study and learning.

On a slightly different another topic…

I heard rumors about this meeting time length change through an article or two on the internet. I chose to ignore those rumors and not pass it on, even to family members. My reasoning was that if they were rumors, they were not worth listening to unless the news came straight from the prophet and apostles.

 Now that I find the rumors had some truth to them, does that mean that I decide to put faith in rumors? No. Rumors might still be false.  Even if rumors happen to be true, they don’t come with helpful context or reasoning about the purpose behind it all. They may come filtered through the view of doubtful perspectives that murmur over them, and that isn’t going to edify.

But when the news about change in the church comes from the prophet and apostles, they speak about the purposes and designs, about the historical context, about the spiritual needs that are being addressed, all designed so that we can accept it and move forward with those changes. While they have the authority to say “Thus saith the Lord” and withhold reasons, they still reason together with us so that we may understand. This allows both our minds and hearts to be touched.
Monday, October 1, 2018 0 comments

Isaiah prophesies peace among animal creation

6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
These verses speak of a future when animal creation lives peacefully together. I note that Isaiah describes how predatory animals will not take advantage of the trust and closeness of plant-eating animals to harm or eat them.

It will be cool to see this happen literally, but I think it also describes a spiritual reality that will come among humans. There are predatory types among humanity too, and I think Isaiah is telling us there will come a time when the knowledge of God will spread to the extent that those people who are predisposed to prey upon others—we’d call them sociopaths—will restrain themselves to live by the Lord’s doctrines and will refrain from harming.  “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.”