Hugh Nibley writings that changed the church

Hugh Nibley writings that changed the church

By Michael De Groote, Deseret News

Published: Thursday, March 11 2010 12:18 a.m. MST
Hugh Nibley was an editor’s dream. He was an editor’s nightmare as well.

PROVO, Utah — Hugh Nibley was an editor’s dream.”He worked incredibly

rapidly and spoke spontaneously and elegantly on timely issues,” John

W. Welch said.

Hugh Nibley was an editor’s nightmare as well.”Using unusual sources

and dozens of languages, his footnotes were amazingly correct — but

very difficult to source check,” Welch said.

Around 1985, Nibley told Welch that LDS Church President Spencer W.

Kimball had promised Nibley that he would not die until his work here

on this earth was finished. “I decided that I wasn’t going to push Hugh

to finish this book (‘One Eternal Round’) any sooner than he wanted.

Because then his work on Earth would have been finished,” Welch said,

tongue in cheek, “and I didn’t want to contribute to a premature


Welch, the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at BYU and the current

editor in chief of BYU Studies, spoke on Wednesday, March 10, at the

opening session of the BYU Studies Jubilee Symposium which continues

March 12-13 at BYU.

“I see Nibley’s works as a great river of ideas constantly flowing into

the fountain of all righteousness, to which I hope we all

may become tributaries,” Welch said.

For 26 years Welch was the general editor of “The Collected Works of

Hugh Nibley,” a series of volumes that ended this month with the

publication of volume 19, “One Eternal Round,”

considered Nibley’s masterwork. It arrives just in time for what would

have been the late Nibley’s 100th birthday on March 27.

“I see his influence as being more needed today than ever before,”

Welch said. That influence is found to a great extent in the writings

of Nibley. At the BYU Studies Symposium, it isn’t surprising that Welch

would recommend exploring Nibley through that publication.

“If you want a good point of entry — to get into Hugh Nibley — the

mass of his works can be very daunting,” Welch said. “But the articles

in BYU Studies are a good place to start. They are accessible,

readable, interesting and cover the whole range of most of the things

he was interested in.”

1965 — The Expanding Gospel

Nibley’s first article to appear in BYU Studies. “Here in

1965 he spoke about the big picture of the plan of salvation,” Welch said.

1968 — Prolegomena to Any Study of the Book of Abraham

Getting Ready to Begin, an editorial

As Things Stand at the Moment

The 1967 discovery of some of the Joseph Smith papyri “jumpstarted

Nibley’s career-changing track moving off the Book of Mormon and onto

the Book of Abraham,” Welch said. “Nibley had begun studying Egyptian

almost a decade early, wondering, himself, ‘Why?’ Now he knew why.”

1969 — How to Have a Quiet Campus, Antique Style

Spiro T. Agnew spoke at BYU while vice president of the United States under President Richard M.

Nixon. Nibley responded with what Welch called a “bluntly truthful

satirical masterpiece.” Using coded language, Nibley criticized the ancient Greek practice of focusing education

pursuits on careers and using dress and grooming codes to reign in

student dissent. “Only Hugh could entertain us so well, while being so

deadly serious,” Welch said.

1970 — Educating the Saints — A Brigham Young Mosaic

Welch said this “should be required reading for all LDS scholars,

students and educators.” Nibley warns against ulterior motives in

seeking an education.

1971 — What is “The Book of Breathings?”

The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

Nibley saw a pattern of education in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. “A

pattern that we must all follow in seeking greater light and

knowledge,” Welch said.

1973 — Review Essay of “Bar-Kochba” by Yigael Yadin

Nibley points out in this essay how the Book of Mormon name Alma is

found in ancient Israel — proving that it was a Jewish name from

ancient times.

1974 — Beyond Politics

This article was not included in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley at

Nibley’s request, according to Welch. It wasn’t polished enough for

Nibley’s tastes. But in it, Welch sees a “harbinger of things to come”

in later Nibley essays.

1975 — The Passing of the Church: Forty Variations on an Unpopular Theme

This was a reprint of an early article Nibley had written for a non-Mormon audience about the Great Apostacy.

1978 — The Early Christian Prayer Circle

“This brilliant piece, showing that in the obscure texts the apostles

and their wives indeed gathered in circles to pray together with

Jesus,” Welch said. It shows the ideas of Joseph Smith about temples

was not strange to the early Christians.

1985 — Scriptural Perspectives on How to Survive the Calamities of the Last Days

“Could there be any subject still more relevant?” Welch asked.

“In all of this we have been changed,” Welch said. “Since Hugh Nibley,

we as a people are not the same. We are fed, but we must still plough.”


Michael De Groote




Understanding the Book of Revelation

Understanding the Book of Revelation

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

One of our most fascinating exercises in scriptural interpretation is to study the book of Revelation, to ponder its truths, and to discover—to our surprise and amazementwhat this commonly misunderstood work is all about.

If you have already fallen in love with John’s presentation of the plan of salvation as it is set out in the Apocalypse, you are one of the favored few in the Church. If this choice experience is yet ahead for you, the day and hour is here to launch one of the most intriguing and rewarding studies in gospel scholarship in which any of us ever engage.

Our purpose in this article is to lay a foundation and generate an interest in what is probably the most unique of all our books of scripture. The real joys of gospel learning will come to us when we begin to drink from the fountain of truth as here recorded by the ancient Revelator.

In my judgment the Gospel of John ranks far ahead of those of Matthew, Mark, or Luke; at least John’s record of the life of our Lord is directed to the saints, it deals more fully with those things that interest people who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, and who have the hope of eternal life. But even ahead of his gospel account stands this wondrous work, the book of Revelation; or at least so it seems to those who,are prepared to build on the foundations of the gospels and epistles and to go forward forever in perfecting their knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom.

For our purposes now, let us use the question and answer method to give an overview of what this unknown book, Revelation, is all about.

What is the book of Revelation?

Before we can understand this book we must have one thing clearly lodged in our minds—it is a book of holy scripture. It is the mind and will and voice of the Lord. It came by revelation. The Lord spoke, his servant heard, the word was written, and we now have the written record for our profit and blessing.

In our study of the book of Revelation, we must start out with the clear understanding that—aside from changes and errors of translation—it is as though the same words were written in the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants. That is, they are true and are the very words the Lord wants us to have on the matters with which they deal. Such is the view of the Latter-day Saints relative to this most misunderstood of all scriptural accounts.

How is this book viewed by other Christians?

There is no uniformity of belief whatever, except that none of those outside the Church envision it for what it truly is. It is commonly classed with a great mass of apocalyptic writings, by which is meant that it is considered to be a symbolical presentation designed to encourage the early Christians in their days of spiritual depression, by setting forth the ultimate triumph of God and his cause over the manifest evils of the day.

Many theologians doubt its canonicity. Some even consider it to be apocryphal in nature. All concede insurmountable difficulties in its interpretation. As Dummelow says: “Its reception in modern times has not been so unqualified as that of the rest of the New Testament. Luther was at first strongly averse from the book, though, later, he printed it with Hebrews, James, and Jude in an appendix to his New Testament. Zwingli regarded it as non-biblical, and Calvin did not comment upon it.” (J. R. Dummelow, The One Volume Bible Commentaty, p. 1069.)

Who is the author of the book of Revelation?

To this there is an unqualified answer. It was John—John the Beloved, he who wrote the Gospel of John and the three epistles that bear his name. This runs counter to the conclusions of most Christian intellectuals, but it is a verity which has been confirmed to us by latter-day revelation.

More than six centuries before John was born, the Lord revealed to Nephi many of the things in the book of Revelation. Nephi saw John in vision, and an angel identified him as “one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Nephi heard and bore record “that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John,” and that he was the one appointed and foreordained to write the very visions now found in the book of Revelation. (See 1 Ne. 14:19—29.)

Have other prophets seen and written what John saw and wrote?

Yes! And their accounts shall be revealed to us in due course. When Nephi saw many of the same things, he was commanded not to write them, and was told by an angel:

“The Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.

“And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel.” (1 Ne. 14:25—26.)

We suppose that many of these things are preserved on the brass plates, and we know that when the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon comes forth, “all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth.” (2 Ne. 27:11.)

How was the book of Revelation given?

John was on the island of Patmos. It was Sunday, The promised hour had come. The heavens opened, angelic ministrants attended, voices were heard, and visions were seen. John was overshadowed by the power of the Holy Ghost. Under that holy influence he wrote:

“The Revelation of John, a servant of God, which was given unto him of Jesus Christ…

“Who hath sent forth his angel from before his throne, to testify unto those who are the seven servants over the seven churches.

“Therefore, I, John, the faithful witness, bear record of the things which were delivered me of the angel.” (Rev. 1:1—5, Inspired Version.)

Was the account clear and plain when it was first written?

Yes, as much so as any scripture. As the angel said to Nephi:

“The things which he [John] shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.” (1 Ne. 14:23.)

In this connection, however, we must always remember that prophecy, visions, and revelations come by the power of the Holy Ghost and can only be understood in their fullness and perfection by the power of that same Spirit.

Are we expected to understand the book of Revelation?

Certainly. Why else did the Lord reveal it? The common notion that it deals with beasts and plagues and mysterious symbolisms that cannot be understood is just not true. It is so far overstated that it gives an entirely erroneous feeling about this portion of revealed truth. Most of the book—and it is no problem to count the verses so included—is clear and plain and should be understood by the Lord’s people. Certain parts are not clear and are not understood by us—which, however, does not mean that we could not understand them if we would grow in faith as we should.

The Lord expects us to seek wisdom, to ponder his revealed truths, and to gain a knowledge of them by the power of his Spirit. Otherwise he would not have revealed them to us. He has withheld the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon from us because it is beyond our present ability to comprehend. We have not made that spiritual progression which qualifies us to understand its doctrines. But he has not withheld the book of Revelation, because it is not beyond our capacity to comprehend; if we apply ourselves with full purpose of heart, we can catch the vision of what the ancient Revelator recorded. The apostles in Palestine did not know about the Nephites because they did not seek such knowledge. (See 3 Ne. 15:11—24.) We would have many additional revelations and know many added truths if we used the faith that is in our power to exercise.

What, then, of the beasts and plagues and hard portions of the book?

An answer to this question gives rise to an interesting point. It is our observation that those who concern themselves about these hidden and mysterious things, generally speaking, are the ones who have not yet come to an understanding of the many plain and clear doctrines found in this and in all other books of scripture.

As to these difficult portions of the book of Revelation, Joseph Smith said: “I make this broad declaration, that whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof, otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don’t be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 291.)

Also: “it is not very essential for the elders to have knowledge in relation to the meaning of beasts, and heads and horns, and other figures made use of in the revelations; still, it may be necessary, to prevent contention and division and do away with suspense. If we get puffed up by thinking that we have much knowledge, we are apt to get a contentious spirit, and correct knowledge is necessary to cast out that spirit.

“The evil of being puffed up with correct (though useless) knowledge is not so great as the evil of contention. Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt, for these cannot exist where knowledge is.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 287—288.)

As a matter of fact, the Prophet, acting by the spirit of inspiration, did give some rather extensive interpretations of many of these difficult passages. An examination of these interpretations is far beyond the purview of this article, but they are set out in extenso in my Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 3, pp. 429—595.

In this connection we may well note the Prophet’s declaration, to those properly endowed and enlightened, that the book of Revelation “is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 290.)

How can we understand the book of Revelation?

Our position in this respect is strong. The path of understanding is clearly marked. Here are seven basic guidelines:

1. Know that the book of Revelation deals with things that are to occur after New Testament times, particularly in the last days.

John is not writing of events of his time. He is not concerned with ancient history. The initial pronouncement in the book is that it concerns things that must shortly come to pass, things that are to happen after New Testament times, things that shall transpire in the last days. To give an overall perspective, some past events are mentioned, but all such presentations are clearly labeled. In discussing the war on earth between good and evil, it is mentioned that there was also a war in heaven of a similar kind. In opening the successive seals of a book, to set forth what is to be, brief mention is of necessity made of what has transpired in past days. But the whole thrust of the book pertains to future events.

Joseph Smith said: “The things which John saw had no allusion to the scenes of the days of Adam, Enoch, Abraham or Jesus, only so far as is plainly represented by John, and clearly set forth by him. John saw that only which was lying in futurity and which was shortly to come to pass.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 289.) Also: “John had the curtains of heaven withdrawn, and by vision looked through the dark vista of future ages, and contemplated events that should transpire throughout every subsequent period of time, until the final winding up scene.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 247.)

2. Have an overall knowledge of the plan of salvation and of the nature of God’s dealings with men on earth.

We find in the book either passing allusions, brief commentary, or fairly extended consideration of such doctrines as: preexistence and the war in heaven, the creation of the earth, the Lord’s dealings with men in successive dispensations, our Lord’s atonement and glorious resurrection, what is required to overcome the world and gain exaltation, the gross darkness of the apostasy which followed New Testament times, the setting up of the church of the devil and the reign of the anti-Christs, the restoration of the gospel and the latter-day gathering of Israel, concourses of plagues and desolations to be poured out in the last days, final destruction of the great and abominable church, the Second Coming and Millennial reign, resurrection and eternal judgment, and final celestialization of the earth.

These are but part of the great events described and of the doctrines taught. Manifestly, those who already know the prophetic mind relative to such things will be able to focus the added light found in the book of Revelation on them and thus perfect their understanding of the Lord’s doings.

3. Use various latter-day revelations which expand upon the same subjects in similar language.

For instance:

Section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants contains comparable truths relative to latter-day plagues and the Second Coming.

Section 76 expands upon the doctrines relative to salvation and exaltation.

Section 77 contains revealed answers to specific questions raised in otherwise incomprehensible portions of John’s writings.

Section 88 speaks of some of the same angels and sounding trumpets of which John wrote.

Section 101 has considerable data relative to the Second Coming and Millennium.

Ether 13 sets forth analogous truths relative to the New Jerusalem and the new heaven and new earth.

4. Study the sermons of Joseph Smith relative to the book of Revelation.

As already noted, the Prophet preached rather extensively about this book, giving inspired commentary and interpretation as led by the Spirit.

5. Use the Inspired Version of the Bible.

Acting by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, Joseph Smith corrected portions, but not all, of what is amiss in the King James Version of the Bible. In the book of Revelation corrections, for instance, the angels of the various earthly churches become the servants (presiding officers) of those units. The lamb with seven horns and seven eyes becomes a lamb with 12 eyes and 12 horns, thus perfecting the symbolism to identify Christ and his apostles. Chapter 12 is so revised as to identify the woman as the church of God and the child that she brought forth as the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. And so forth.

6. Reserve judgment on those things for which no interpretation is given.

An example of this is the so-called number of the beast, which is stated to be the number of a man, which, if it could be identified, would show who was involved in the great deceptions imposed upon mankind. This is an answer that we do not know. The wise course is to avoid being entangled in the specious speculation of an uninspired world.

7. Seek the Spirit.

This is the crowning counsel. The things of God are known only by the power of his Spirit. Prophecy and revelation come by the power of the Holy Ghost. Only those endowed by that same power are able to understand the full meaning of the inspired accounts.

What is the chief message of the book of Revelation?

There can be no question about the answer to this query. It has the same purpose as all the scriptures, though the approach is different and the setting original. The message is that Jesus is Lord of all; that he descended from his Father’s throne to dwell among men; that he worked out the infinite and eternal, atonement and has now returned in glory to that throne from whence he came; and that he will raise all men to a kindred glory and a like dominion if they will overcome the world and walk as he walked.

But why this particular book? What does it add to the reservoir of revealed truth which is not found elsewhere?

In the answer to these queries we find the real genius of John’s apocalyptic writing. Gospel truths are and should be variously worded, variously described, and variously adorned with literary attraction—all to the end that they will appeal, in one form or another, to every heart that can be touched. The book of Revelation takes an approach to the plan of salvation that is found nowhere else in all of our inspired writings. The language and imagery is so chosen as to appeal to the maturing gospel scholar, to those who already love the Lord and have some knowledge of his goodness and grace.

After the baptism of water, after being born of the Spirit, after charting a course of conformity and obedience, the true saint is still faced with the need to overcome the world. Nowhere in any scripture now had among men are there such pointed and persuasive explanations as to why we must overcome the world, and the attendant blessings that flow therefrom, as in this work of the Beloved John.

As the Saints pursue the course of progression and perfection, they look for a better world. Amid the evils and downdrafts of this life they have a need to look upward and ahead, to look at the overall course ordained by their Creator; they need to think in terms of millennial and celestial rewards. Where is all this set forth so effectively as in the latter part of these writings of John?

Nowhere else do we find the detailed data relative to the plagues and scourges of a sick and dying world. Nowhere is the overthrow of satanic power so pitilessly described. Truly the teachings of this inspired work are some of the greatest incentives to personal righteousness now found in holy writ.

Has not the day come when the maturing gospel scholar can dip into this great treasury of revealed truth and come up with a knowledge of those things that will assure him of peace and joy in this life and eternal life in the world to come?

Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

Updates to Marlena’s Publications

A CD is available with the 48 handouts related to the 2014 LDS Sunday School lessons on the Old Testament, and numerous other related articles. To order, contact Marlena at: The CD can be mailed for $7 with a $3 handling charge. You may purchase them through Marlena’s website:  Please visit her blog: to see the published handouts.

Events Affecting Early Jewish Thought and Movements

Events Affecting Early Jewish Thought and Movements

(Dates are approximate)

4000-3500 B.C.       Sumerians in Babylon.

3000 B.C.–                Semitic tribes occupy Assyria, Phoenicians on Syrian coast

2500 B.C.–                Settlement of Aramean nomads from Euphrates, Semitic Canaanites in Palestine

2000 B.C.-                Hittites become kingdom, attack Syria

2100 B.C.–                Avraham leaves Ur in Chaldees (Babylon)

1500-1000-              Jews leave Egypt with Moses. He receives 10 commandments

1400 B.C.-                Founding of Rome

1100 B.C. –               Founding of London by Brutus of Troy

1002-B.C.–                Saul-king of Israel

1000-960 B.C.–        David, king of Israel and Judah

800-701 B.C.–          Celts move into England

753 B.C.                    Foundation of Rome

700 B.C.                    Isaiah’s teachings, Celt settlement in Austria

705-68 B.C.–            King Sennacherib of Assyria defeats Egypt and Judah

722-586 B.C.           Jewish Dispersions following Assyrian, Babylonian conquests            

700-500 B.C.-          Start of Babylonian Captivity. Zoroaster founds Persian religion

629 B.C.                    King Josiah revives Judaism, renovates temple, finds first written ms of Deuteronomy

600-500 B.C.–          Nebuchadnezzar burns Jerusalem, Buddha is founder of Buddhism


600 B.C.A.D. 421            Book of Mormon timeline- Early American civilizations, visit of the risen Christ

500-451 B.C.–          Start of Greek civilization in Rome

450-401 B.C.–          Torah becomes law of Jewish state

400-350 B.C.–          Pentateuch codified

336-323 B.C.           Alexander the Great conquests enabled Hellenization of Asiatic, Semitic peoples

300 B.C.A.D. 200   Thriving North African Jewish communities-trade, agriculture

301 B.C.–                  Palestine reverts to Egyptian rule

285 B.C.–                  Old Testament translated into Greek at Alexandria

168 B.C.–                  Desecration of temple at Jerusalem, persecution of Jews by Antiochus IV

165 B.C.–                  Temple rededicated by Judas Macabeus-expels Syrians. Hasmonean siege

100 B.C.–                  Writings portion of Torah completed by Gamaliel III. New synagogue practices installed

33-62 B.C.–               Paul’s missionary travels and death. Thousands of Jewish conversions to Christianity

5 B.C.                        Greek translation-Septuagint-Old Covenant. Compiled by 70 Jews

7 B.C.                        (approximate) Birth of Joshua (Yeshua), Jesus in Nazareth

4 B.C.                        Herod the Great died

27 30–                        Baptism, mission, death and resurrection of Jesus. Died in 22nd year of reign of Tiberius

36                               Most followers of The Way had left Judea

66-73                         Revolt of Zealots against Romans under Vespasian

70                               Titus, son of Vespasian ruled -Fall of Jerusalem, start of Christian expulsions

70-132                      Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, canonization of Jewish literature

72                               Fall of Masada to Roman forces. Defenders committed mass suicide

79-81–                       Titus became emperor

170-219                    Rabbi Judah Hanasi Ordered Mishneh of Talmud written

325-                           Council of Nicea

350–                           Roman Catholicism

383–                           Roman legions start to evacuate Britain

400                            Palestinian (Jerusalem) Talmud finalized

500                            Babylonian Talmud compiled for Diaspora Jewry

600–                           Modern Hebrew formulated


Major Changes in History of Israel

Avram’s migration to Canaan from Ur (Gen 11:31.)  Change begins with prophesying
1280 B.C. Freed from Egypt and Moses taught.
722 B.C. Assyrians – under King Hezekiah destroyed kingdom of Israel, later Judah
598-586 B.C. Babylonians conquered Judah
444 to 397 B.C. Babylonians destroyed Temple from time of Ezra
336-323 B.C. Alexander – Greece –
312-364 B.C. Seleucids, part of Greek dynasty
37-4 B.C. Hasmonean domination through Roman conquerors, Pompey, Herod, Florus
64 -70 Christian persecutions, Vespasian
A.D. 70 Fall of Jerusalem to Rome
73 A.D. Massacre at Masada – 967 Jews committed suicide
570-632 A..D. Arabs, Islam, Persian influences.
5th century Spanish Visigoth invasion. Massacre of Sephardic Jews
12th century British persecution of Jews relating to “blood libel” deaths
14th + 15th century Spanish inquisition: baptism or death
15th century Moors expelled, then rest of Spanish Jews – expelled from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
WW1 Ottoman empire – Turks overruled Islamic Jews, destroying their culture
1920 British mandate in Jerusalem
1940-44 German 3rd Reich – Hitler
1939-45 Russian purges in Poland, Russia
1970s Arab-Palestinian wars
1948 State of Israel
1948 – present Palestinian uprisings and land grabbing
1966 6 day war

(See Timeline of Seminal Events in Modern Israel below.) Jews through history have endured pogroms, purges, slavery, famine, death and conquering, rebuke of their rituals and the hatred of their conquerors, war and subjugation, disgrace, murder, fear, hopelessness, every horror known to mankind. Why? Read Romans 11. Yet the Jewish people continue to be the covenant people of God who remembers them and will fulfill his prophesies of restoration to them in these latter days.


Timeline of Seminal Events in Modern Israel


1918  British General Edmund Allenby defeats the Ottoman Turks and occupies all of Palestine

1920  Britain receives League of Nations mandate over Palestine at San Remo Conference and is told to facilitate creation of a Jewish homeland there.

1922  Church White Paper reduces British commitment to the Jewish people and gives 77 percent of area designated for them to Abdullah and the Arabs (Transjordan).

1929  Arabs riot in Jerusalem and massacre Jews in Hebron and Safed. Second White Paper further reneges on Britain’s Jewish commitment and limits Jewish immigration.

1934  To flee Hitler, Jews try to immigrate. Britain refuses them entry. During following two years, 65,000 Jews immigrate to Israel.

1937  Peel Commission recommends partitioning remaining 23 percent of land designated for Jews, into two countries: one Jewish, one Arab.

Between 1948 and 1951 almost 700,000 Jews migrated to Israel.

From 1955 to 1957 two-thirds of the almost 250,000 migrant Jews went to Israel (from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Poland and Hungary). Half of a further 450,000 migrant Jews went to Israel between 1961 and 1964. (Virtually all Jews left Algeria for France during 1961–62). In the 1980s in two campaigns, Operation Moses and Operation Solomon, virtually the entire Jewish community of Ethiopia was airlifted to Israel. From the area of the former Soviet Union, some 400,000 Jews went to Israel in 1989/91, and many others went elsewhere in the West. In 1992/93 most of the remnant of the Jews in Yemen left the country, many eventually reaching Israel. (From collected statistics of various sources)

1947  UN partitions Palestine into two states: Arab and Jewish. Arabs reject plan; Jews accept.

1948  Ben-Gurion declares independence. US President Harry Truman recognizes the new State of Israel. A year-long war of independence ensues when five Arab nations attack Israel.

Yom Ha-Atzmaut is the celebration of Israeli Independence Day, marking the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. It is observed on the 5th of Iyar. Click the speaker to hear the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah. According to some views, the restrictions of the Omer period are lifted for this day. A few anti-Zionist Jews observe this day as a day of mourning for the sin of proclaiming the state of Israel without the Messiah.

1964  Fatah forms, with Yasser Arafat as its leader.

1967  Six Day War (June 5-10). Israel captures Sinai and Gaza Strip from Egypt, Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. Israel reunites Jerusalem and assumes control of the Temple Mount. UN adopts Resolution 242.

1973  On Yom Kippur Soviet-backed Egypt and Syria attack Israel. US airlifts supplies. UN passes Resolution 338.

1977  Menachim Begin becomes Israeli Prime Minister and supports keeping disputed territories.

1979  Camp David Accords signed between Egypt and Israel.

1988  PLO recognizes Israel, renouncing terrorism. Yitzhak Shamir elected Israel’s Prime Minister.

1991  Gulf War. Iraqui Scud missiles attack Israel. US deploys Patriot missiles to help Israel.

1992  Yitzhak Rabin becomes Israel’s Prime Minister.

1995  Rabin assassinated. Shimon Peres becomes acting Prime Minister. Expansion of Palestinian rule in West Bank.

1996  Palestinians elect Arafat president.  Netanyahu elected Israeli Prime Minister. Hamas detonates bus bomb killing 19.

1999  Israel elects former General Ehud Barak as Prime Minister.

2000  Barak, Clinton and Arafat meet. Palestinians initiate riots after Ariel Sharon legally visits Temple Mount. Violence and terrorism mount and continue. Called the Oslo War after the Oslo water rights agreements.

2001  Ariel Sharon elected Prime Minister. Suicide bombers and Islamic Jihad bombs kill many.

2002  More suicide bombings. Israel mounts Operation Defensive Wall. Arafat signs PA transitional constitution to guarantee Palestinian rights. It contradicts Arafat’s “democratic, secular state” UN speech.

2003  Mahmoud Abbas elected Palestinian Prime Minister. Arafat maneuvers to maintain control. Violence continues. US releases Road Map peace plan.


Marlena Tanya Muchnick’s New Stories

Visit my new blog: New stories about a Jewish detective who finds the dead, brings their stories alive, solves mysteries revealed through genealogy.  Shamus Chai Levene is the only Jewish detective in the world who is a genealogist!  Check it out.




Abraham’s Temple Drama

Hugh W. Nibley

Provo, Utah: Maxwell InstituteThe views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Pearl of Great Price is rightly named. It contains enormous value in a very small scope. Also, it has long been lying with “purest ray serene” in the dark caves of the ocean, or in a shabby back lot where the merchant discovered it (see Matthew 13:45—46). Like no other book, it contains in its sixty-five pages the answers to the ultimate questions of philosophy, religion, and science. Even more wonderful, it fills those enormous gaps in our records of the past for which science must give an accounting. What was going on during all those lost millennia that the Egyptologist Jan Assmann calls “the great forgetting”?1 We should know, and this book is good enough to tell us.

The Pearl of Great Price is a book of dispensations. Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young said we do not know how many dispensations there have been, but the classic number in most ancient records is seven. A dispensation is a time when the heavens are open and truth is dispensed or handed out to men. It happened with Adam, Enoch, and Noah “before Abraham was,” and after Abraham with Moses, Christ, and Joseph Smith. Each one of these contributed his own story to this small handbook. Abraham’s story is the only apocryphon written in the first person—an oddity not overlooked in the Pearl of Great Price. The key passages to all of these books appear at length in our wonderful Pearl of Great Price. Notice that Abraham is squarely in the middle; all things seem to zero in on him. He has been called the most pivotal and strategic man in the course of world history. In his position he binds all things together and gives meaning and purpose to everything that happened. The whole world was rent by strife and rancor, and Abraham was like a man who sews together a badly rent garment. It was said that “charity . . . was asleep [in the world], and [Abraham] roused it.”2 He joined man to God when he and his wife won souls to God. “Were it not for men like Abraham,” said the Lord, “I would not have bothered to create heaven and earth, sun and moon.”3 Converting them was as if he had created them anew. He was the perfect one who brought man nearer to God. He entered into the covenant the world is based on, as if the world were firmly established for his sake, as if he were the Messiah come to establish the kingdom of God on earth. “My name was not known among My creatures, and thou hast made it known among them,” said God to Abraham. “I will regard thee as if thou wast associated with Me in the creation of the world.”4 “As many as receive this Gospel,” said the Lord, “shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed” (Abraham 2:10). “God said to Abraham: As I put Adam and then Noah in charge of all my creatures, I now put you in charge of them, and order you to give my blessing to them.”5

Before we get any further we must see the rest of the picture, for this superman is simply Everyman. What office did he hold? We know of none. What miracles did he perform? What dazzling appearances? He lived in the heroic age, a time of great migrations, of epic literature, but we read of no mighty combats, blow-by-blow, or challenges boasting heroic genealogy. His ten trials were Everyman’s trials. He was in trouble in business. The grass, water, and grazing rights on which he depended were often withheld from him. He never drove a hard bargain (the first rule of success according to Mr. Marriott), not even with the king of Sodom, or the generous Ephron the Hittite, who would have given him the burial cave for nothing. He yielded to Lot’s greedy cattlemen and gracefully withdrew. We never hear of him punishing anyone, though when the time came to get back his nephew’s property, he struck the marauding chieftains with brilliant strategy and knockout force. He forbade his children to marry into alien races, but they promptly went ahead and did so.

He seemed to be generous to the point of lacking common sense. He first sent out his servant Eliezer to look for lost wanderers, but he found none. Then Abraham on his one hundredth birthday, old and very sick, went out alone on the hottest day of the year because he thought he might find some wanderer lost in the desert. He found no one, but when he got home three men dropped in to visit him;6 “Lord of the Universe,” he cried, recognizing one of them, “is it the order of the Cosmos that I sit while you remain standing?”7 The scene, as the archaeologist Andr Parrot, the discoverer of Mari, a city of Abraham, remarks, “is as magnificent as it is strange.”8

Abraham was the essential Everyman, but never was there a less-ordinary individual. A recent issue of Time Magazine (29 March 1999) is devoted entirely to the study of this century’s twenty most influential scientists, thinkers, and inventors. The short biographies that accompany the accomplishments of each of these people point up the particular and peculiar idiosyncrasies of their creative genius. Interestingly, Albert Einstein and Philo Farnsworth are both on that list. But in a list of the twenty greatest minds of the last forty centuries, Abraham must surely make a strong bid for number one. Brief sketches given in the magazine describe the special traits and qualifications of the hundred geniuses of this century;9 those traits give an almost perfect character profile of Abraham. The first quality of all is precocious curiosity, which means a hunger for knowledge; as children these people were always disturbing their elders with searching questions about everything. To this weakness Abraham frankly confessed in that revealing second verse that lays out his goals in life: “desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, . . . and to possess a greater knowledge” (Abraham 1:2). A goodly portion of Abraham’s legendary biographical record tells how his question-asking as a child got him and his family into no end of trouble. From infancy he was asking searching questions about God, the cosmos, and the ways of men—embarrassing questions.10 When he emerged from the cave (at the age of ten days, or according to some reports, ten years, or according to others, thirteen years)11 in which his parents had been hiding him from the jealous king, he saw the sun and decided it was God; then the sun set and the moon and stars came up, and he thought that must be God and his attendants. When they set, he started asking questions.12 In one version he decided that the clouds must be the creative power because they darkened the sun; when the wind blew the clouds away, it was the wind. Then he asked whether the king, Pharaoh Nimrod, was God, and his parents got very nervous. When he refused to believe that Nimrod was God and started pointing out logical inconsistencies in such a claim, his parents saw trouble. But he went on asking questions. He was especially good at making fun of the worship of idols, a practice in which his own family indulged.13

As he grew older the questions grew more dangerous—he debunked the idols by clever arguments which, worst of all, he applied to the king. This threatened the high social position of the family at court, and they finally volunteered him for sacrifice. If you think this sounds fantastic, you should read the Instructions of Pharoah Amenemhet I (1991—1962 BC), who tells how a conspiracy of ambitious courtiers and members of his own family attempted to murder him as he was napping after supper one night—Abraham’s story is thoroughly typical of real conditions at the perilous court of Egypt.14 The title of Abraham’s biography in the great Midrash is lech lecha,“keep moving!”15 Perpetual migration was one of the ten trials of Abraham, for the famine “wax[ed] sore in the land” (Abraham 2:1; see Genesis 12:10). In his suffering he knew how to feel for others.

The extreme independence of thought and action of our geniuses makes them all appear eccentric and willful to the rest of us, but that originality fostered their great inventiveness. At age fifteen Abraham had a job frightening the birds away from the fields at sowing time because they ate up all the seed in a time of great food shortage; he invented a sowing machine that covered the seeds with soil as it dropped them, thus protecting them from the birds—to whom, however, he apologized handsomely for cutting their rations—but gaining renown for his public service. This great zeal for the common good led him to plant trees and dig wells wherever his wanderings in the drought-ridden land led him—with no expectation of personal benefit—for the enjoyment of those who would come after. At Hebron he ran a school for outcasts where he received all comers. He always played fair: “Charity was dead and Abraham revived it” was a proverb. In our obsession with crime and Western scenarios, the Hauptthema(central theme) is always the pleasure of revenge, watching the bad guys suffer, afflicting exquisite tortures, if possible far surpassing those administered by the villain. Such vengeance was not for Abraham; Josephus tells us that Abraham stubbornly pleaded with God to spare the wickedest people in the world because he felt sorry for them, “because they were his friends and neighbors.”16 That is almost inconceivable to us in our modern Sodom and Gomorrah. “It is compassion and forgiveness alone that are the unfailing traits of the true descendants of Abraham.”17

He was eager to exchange ideas with the greatest thinkers of his time and in his continual travels he visited the courts and schools of Egypt and the Near East, where he made an enormous impression on the wisest and most learned men of the time. One of the best-known stories about him is how, when he was studying the stars on his own, the Lord himself came down and instructed him personally in astronomy. In receiving such blessings, Abraham always made the first move: “Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee” (Abraham 2:12).

We are told that that is the only case in which God appeared to man and talked with him person to person.18Today we can add another one; the youth of Joseph Smith shows astonishing parallels to that of Abraham. Both were curious about everything, especially the stars, and asked searching questions that got their families into trouble and made them seek “another place of residence” (Abraham 1:1).

Still delving deeply into popular science, we turn to the current Astronomy Magazine (April 1999), where we learn that the questions that absorb the most advanced branches of science today are the same ones that have always done so, namely: Where did we come from? How does it all begin? Is this all there is? Where are we going? As Karl Popper tells us, all the answers to the questions of science remain forever tentative ones.19 And so it is that Abraham scores again. He, and if we look around, he alone has given us the answers to those very questions—in the temple.

Abraham and the Temple

The altar where Abraham and Isaac met the supreme test was on Mount Zion, the cosmic rock uniting heaven and earth, “whereon Adam had brought the first sacrifice”; it was the altar of Cain and Abel and Noah; “Abraham . . . knew that it was the place appointed for the Temple.”20 Maimonides says that Abraham chose Mount Moriah and dedicated it as the place of the future temple.21 As the great intercessor, Abraham joined Michael and Abel in a project of work for the dead, established in the temple.22 It was he who introduced prayers for the dead.23Another link between God and man—every follower of Abraham must receive certain signs and tokens relating to sacrifice; Abraham and Isaac were both tested as offerings on the altar, and both arose unharmed in similitude of the Only Begotten and the resurrection.24

Today Jews are claiming Abraham rather than Moses as the founder of their religion, arguing that the covenant with Moses on Sinai was “but the fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham.” All the great sacrifices of the past, “lost at the time of the Tower,” were restored by Abraham. God summoned Abraham to the site of the altar where Adam and Noah “offered the first sacrifice to me,” with the commandment, “It is now your duty, Abraham, to build it up again!”25 Again, according to Maimonides, God showed the future temple to Adam, who had received all of its ordinances. Everything Abraham does Adam did before him: Abraham restored what Adam had lost.26

It was Abraham who restored the temple after locating the site of Adam’s altar, which he rebuilt, renewing the covenants and ordinances.27 When the world turned to idolatry, Abraham alone was faithful, and so we get such sayings of the Lord: “If it were not for Abraham, I would not have created the world.”28 He carries on the work of Adam, Seth, and Noah at the altar, uniting heaven and earth in the ordinances and covenants between God and man.29 With Michael and Abel he inaugurated and still supervises the work for the dead with special permission, so now the righteous go to “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). God gave Abraham the law—the ordinances and covenants—and declared to him the complete plan of salvation.30 Indeed, we are told that Abraham was associated with God in the creation of the world.31 We are even told that the marks on the garment which Joseph brought to Jacob showed it to be the original garment of Abraham which he received from Adam.32 He and Sarah were the greatest of missionaries, preaching wherever they went, their converts receiving the signs and tokens of the covenant and becoming the true seed of Abraham. This made him “the father of many nations” (Abraham 1:2) in whom “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 18:18).

In ancient times the world was covered with temples. What was done in them? Surprisingly, all followed the same general pattern. Over sixty years ago I wrote a paper on the subject, comparing a score of temple rites at the great ceremonial centers throughout the world from the remotest times to the present.33 They were astonishingly alike; many scholars had to check over the lists of their common traits again and again to realize that we may be dealing with one single worldwide institution. Thus Samuel Hooke listed five main elements that “constitute the underlying skeleton . . . not only of such seasonal rituals as the great New Year Festivals, but also of coronation rituals, [and] initiation ceremonies.”34 “In extremely diverse cultural contexts we always find the same cosmological pattern and the same ritual scenario,” writes Eliade, and as “man progressively occupies increasingly vast areas of the planet, . . . all he seems to do is to repeat indefinitely the same archetypal gesture.”35 He pointedly observes that “man would not know these tales if they were not revealed to him. Consequently, a myth is the story of what happened . . . at the beginning of time.”36

Carl Jung accounted for these resemblances by what he called the primal images, though he confesses that he hasn’t the vaguest idea how they began and that we don’t even know where to begin to research the subject.37On the other hand, Lord Raglan and the diffusionists38 say it all went forth from a single planting on the earth by aliens from somewhere.

The Temple Drama

The ancient state or nation was hierocentric, focused on one sacred place of power and authority; such places were sometimes referred to as “places of emergence,” that is, of contact between the Upper and the Lower Worlds, where at the New Year all the people met to rehearse the creation. Regarding this practice, Mircea Eliade writes, “It was the . . . sacred place, . . . the celestial prototype, . . . the act of creation which . . . brought the ordered cosmos out of chaos, . . . the sacred marriage, . . . the ritual confrontation with evil as the dragon and the victory of the King, whose triumphant coronation inaugurates the new age of the world and the cosmos.” There is an “atoning sacrifice” to “restore the primal unity between God and man and enable the latter to regain the Divine presence.” In this, “Reality is conferred through participation in the ‘symbolism of the Center’: cities, temples, houses become real by the fact of being assimilated to the ‘center of the world.’ . . . The temple in particular—preeminently the sacred place—had a celestial prototype,”39 the holy mountain, “the mountain of the Lord’s house” (Isaiah 2:2).

Donald Redford begins the most recent comprehensive history of Egypt by noting that that nation first “bounced overnight, as it were, out of the Stone Age and into urban culture ” and also that for “this quantum leap . . . no satisfying answer has been given.”40 Yet he unconsciously provides the explanation when he tells us about the great popular assembly going back in Egypt to prehistoric times: “All the community, high and low, the ancestral ‘souls’ and town gods and local numina, all convened to lend their approbation to the incarnate god-king.”41 There is no need to ask why they went to all that trouble, for they realized that the only hope of continuing life indefinitely was to be born again from time to time, following the example of the sun, which, of course, represented the king, himself having to overcome the powers of darkness in a ritual contest, celebrate a brilliant new coronation and marriage, and get on with the usual affairs.

Since World War II, Egyptologists have displayed a sudden and lively interest in that vast Egyptian funerary literature which the older generation of scholars despised and deplored, and they have come to the agreement that the abiding goal of the people was nothing less than resurrection and eternal life. It was that which made Egyptian civilization what it was. And in a hundred other places in the world people went through the same routine at the same time. Every year in a hundred ancient capitals the creation was dramatized with joyful celebration at the prospect of a new life; singing, dancing, feasting, and drinking were the order of the day, as the angel chorus sings at the beginning of Goethe’s Faust: Everything was herrlich wie am ersten Tag, as glorious as on the day of creation.42

But does all this singing, dancing, dramatizing, and preaching really make it happen? The performance at the temple was a preparation, a training, a school, and a theater, teaching by precept and example. They knew it was not the real thing. Shakespeare apologizes repeatedly in his great superspectacular Henry V, begging the pardon of the audience, “Can this cockpit hold / The vasty fields of France? Or may we cram / Within this wooden O the very casques / That did affright the air at Agincourt? / O, pardon!”43 He excuses himself for the sheer gall of daring to stage a great battle with “four or five most vile and ragged foils / (Right ill dispos’d, in brawl ridiculous).”44 Still, he is performing a service as he concludes, “Yet sit and see, / Minding true things by what their mock’ries be.”45 The whole thing is just a mockup, as a stage is, a make-believe, frankly, a mockery. But still it will give you an idea of the “true things” it is supposed to represent.

So it is with the temple. Anyone who has ever taken a guided tour through an LDS temple before its dedication or seen the extensive guide to temples published by the Improvement Era46 may recognize the situation. Outside, the temple is boxed to the compass, oriented to the whole universe; we are often told today that the ancient temple was nothing but a scale model of the universe, a place where we take our bearings in eternity. But what about the Provo Temple? While it was being built, I was shocked to notice that it was not so oriented. I was upset, since Brigham Young laid such stress on that arrangement, and I wrote to the Brethren about it. Then it occurred to me that Brigham Young also reminded the Saints that they should not be scandalized if one temple had two towers and another only one.47 In Provo, the architect, while displaying the building itself as an arresting spectacle seen from the valley, took advantage of the phenomenal view of the lake and the valley from the temple—strictly following the directions of the compass would have spoiled all that (see fig. 1). I readily accepted the margin allowed by taste and practicality. While temples are still in the planning stage to suit various climes and settings throughout the world, we need not be alarmed at sundry shifts and alterations. For this is not the final real temple, the ideal future temple of the Temple Scroll. This is a training center, a school for precepts and a showplace for examples (see D&C 109). Here we do not receive crowns of glory but only the promise that if we are true and faithful the day will come when we shall be eligible for such.

To resume the temple tour, the first room is the creation room, where we are introduced to the reality with which we have only recently become accustomed of a world waiting to be born, “empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth” (Abraham 4:2). And then cloud-covered darkness, from which we escape into the infinite expanse of the starry heavens to learn that this earth is made of the same materials and on the same pattern and following the same physical laws as other worlds that have already been formed. This teaches us a basic principle of Mormonism, that we are living in the physical universe. Though medieval and modern theologians vigorously condemn “cosmism,” that is, the inclusion of the visible universe in the plan of eternal life,48 there is, to quote the Egyptologist G. van der Leeuw, “a human inclination (in general as well as in Christianity) . . . to base trust on one’s salvation in the cosmos. . . . [O]nly when the human passion of a divine Savior has a cosmic background does salvation seem sufficiently assured.”49 Hence, Arthur Lovejoy can conclude that in religious writings of any period “the language of acosmism . . . is never to be taken too literally.”50 So Origen, first and best informed of all theologians, declares triumphantly, “When finally, by the grace of God, the Saints shall reach the celestial place, then they shall comprehend all the secrets of the stars. God will reveal to them the nature of the universe.”51 This is the teaching of the early brethren of which Origen is an authority, but his own Alexandrian training breaks through at the end of the passage when he appeals for “perfect knowledge, purged of all that is physical and corporeal.” And since the scriptures tell us nothing about the heavens, he recommends consulting another Alexandrian, Philo the great allegorizer, on the subject.52

The next room is the Garden of Eden, the scene of the greatest primal drama of them all. Now it becomes even plainer that the whole thing is a stage set; everything has been properly set up and we are ready for the play to begin. Where is the stage? The room itself is the stage; it is an auditorium filled with seats for everybody, but the audience is part of the play. They are all actors, each in the imaginary role of Adam or Eve. Each individual, in fact, who is not visiting the temple for the first time, has taken the name and is playing the part of another person; he speaks for him, thinks for him (it is all by proxy), and that makes us all actors, role-playing. But this is no “insubstantial pageant faded,” which “leave[s] not a rack behind.”53 The Lord left his peace and blessing when he departed after the drama of the last supper. For it was a drama too: He explained to the apostles that they were to think thereafter of the wine and the bread as something far more than wine and bread, and to think of him as if he were present. He was teaching them as Jeremiah taught the people when he went around armed with a lamp like Diogenes, staging a like “mystery,” for the Bible calls it a mystery. The “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” are things understood only by those who have been initiated and taught (Matthew 13:11). One of the oldest Egyptian ritual plays, the so-called Ramesseum Drama (see fig. 2), is careful to explain to the audience that each of the properties represents something else—the carnelian stones are blood, the green stones are bread, etc.

Why do we call the temple a school? The initiatory ordinances make that clear. We begin there with the first requirement, that our brain and intellect be clear and active—we are there to learn and to understand. Bring your brain with you and prepare to stay awake, to be alert and pay attention; also come often for frequent reviews repeating the lessons to refresh our memory, for you cannot leave without an examination—you have to show you have learned some things.

A famous saying of Aesculapius is that “All Egypt is a temple.” Indeed, everywhere you look in Egypt, you are faced with teaching devices boldly displayed on the outside as well as the inside of the many sacred edifices. That is why even the most hard-headed Egyptologist of the Old School felt he was being haunted, “bugged” by somebody trying to tell him that wherever he went in Egypt, the place had a sense of uneasiness and “ennui”—one seems to be living in two worlds at once. The temple, like the medieval cathedral, presents us on every hand with symbols to remind and instruct the worshiper.

Leaving the garden room, we go into the dismal world in which we are now living to take care of certain matters that have to be expedited in this world. Then we pass on to a better world. Thus we progress by going higher and higher for each new chamber. It was exactly so in the Egyptian temples. The final ascent takes us to the place of transition, where we take the step into the next world. In the wonderful temple at Denderah, the devotee makes his departure from the roof into the world above. The recently discovered Temple Scroll calls the large assembly room at the top of the temple at Jerusalem (the model temple of the future) the room of the golden veil because the veil was hung from one side to the other. One reaches it in Manti by a spiral ascent, a freestanding stairway that defies gravity, supported only by its own weight—the neat expression of an idea.

Today the various steps of creation are made vivid to us by superb cinematographic and sound recordings, showing the astral, geological, and biological wonders described by the actors and the vast reaches of time that the gods called days before time was measured unto man. Along with that, we are regaled by haunting background music that touches the feelings without intruding on the attention of the audience. Yes, the temple is a theater, and no one directs it so well as Abraham. He gives us the creation story and the plan of salvation in a privileged personal showing. He did not have the visual and sound effects that we do, but he had the common resources of all the ancients—the song, dance, and recitation. It was long debated among Egyptologists whether the Pyramid Texts were recited by a priest or acted out, following instructions held in the hand or written on the walls.

The Sacred Dance

The Greeks called the great yearly celebration the panegyris, meaning everyone gathered. Singing and dancing are the natural modes of expression among archaic peoples throughout the world, and the ring dance is universal.

Philo, in his work on the creation, says the true initiate during the rites moves “in the circuit of heaven, and is borne around in a circle with the dance of the planets and stars in accordance with the laws of perfect music”54—the music of the spheres. Lehi in vision “thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God” (1 Nephi 1:8). From that meeting he saw twelve appointed agents descending to earth (“their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament,” 1 Nephi 1:10), transferring the glories of heaven to earth with the preaching of the gospel.

Lucian, a clever Syrian who wrote in Greek and spoke for the whole Near East, reports that “You cannot have a single ancient teleten (high religious celebration, a mystery) without an orchesis or pantomime dance.”55 Plato says dancing is mandatory at every public offering,56 and Athenaeus says no respectable dinner party could be without song and dance.57 The Old Testament is rich in dancing situations. Israel came out of Egypt dancing, and the victory dances that followed were by choruses of maidens (see Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6). We read of a company of prophets carrying instruments (see Psalm 149:3); they danced as they prophesied. There was a daily procession, with song and dance around the altar in the temple; David and Solomon both participated in it. In the dance of the water drawers, “Pious men and men of affairs danced with torches in their hands, singing songs of joy and praise, with a full orchestra of Levites.”58 Rabbi Simeon ben Gamal juggled eight torches in the dance. The Song of Solomon was an antiphonal between two choirs of maidens. Rival maiden choruses got David into big trouble when one sang “Saul hath slain his thousands,” while the others topped with “But David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:6—7). Just such competitions took place in Greece, preserved in the “Maiden Songs” of Alcman.

So we should not be shocked when we find Abraham composing a ballet on the creation. The Greek name for it was chorus. Aeschylus, the first and greatest writer of sacred plays, choreographed his own dramas. In fact, the chorus was the play; it was the chorus that was awarded the prize; the author’s first step in celebrating the sacred rites was to “ask for a chorus.” Plato says in the Laws that “The chorus was nothing more nor less than theeducating (paideia) of the people.”59 It was the chorus that sang and danced the creation song. We all know the challenge to Job when he was moping and wailing: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? . . . When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 7; see fig. 3). We consistently ignore the words: “Answer thou me” (Job 38:3) and “declare if thou knowest it all” (Job 38:18). Job was there, and the Lord is reminding him that his sufferings and the defects of this world are for a purpose. In theWar Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the same speech is addressed to the army of Israel when they are downcast after a defeat, saying in effect, “Remember how glad we were to come down here? Bad times were to be part of the picture.”60

I have shown elsewhere that the round dance of the creation drama takes the form of the prayer circle in the temple.61 The Testament of Job brings it vividly to mind. Job himself is not committed to any tribe or nation; like Abraham he was just one of the “men of the East.” Job’s story is indeterminate in time and place but is still full of ancient reminiscences and familiar undertones. The valuable apocryphal Testament of Job, discovered at the beginning of the century, lays special emphasis on temple ordinances. It has long been generally accepted that the book of Job is authentic theater. The texts go back to the fifth century.62

In the opening lines of his Testament, Job tells his three virgin daughters and seven sons (see Job 1:2) to form a circle around him (the second son’s name is Choros): “Make a circle around me, and I will demonstrate to you the things which the Lord expounded to me, for I am your father Job who is faithful in all things.”63 Job next tells the circle how the Lord, after healing him of his awful ailments, said, “Arise, gird up thy loins like a man!”64 “And the Lord spoke to me in power, showing me things past and future.”65 He tells his daughters that they will have nothing to fear in this life from the adversary (see fig. 4) because the garments they wear are “a power and a protection from the Lord.”66 Then he tells them to arise and gird themselves to prepare for heavenly visitors.67“Thus it was that when one of the three daughters . . . arose and clothed herself . . . she began to utter words of wisdom in the angelic language, and sent a hymn up to God, using the manner of praising of the angels. And as she recited the hymns, she let the Spirit make marks [charagmata, cuts or rents] on her garment.”68

The next daughter girded herself likewise and recited “The Hymn of the Creation of the Heavens,” speaking “in the dialect of the archons [cf. the council in heaven].”69 The third daughter “chanted verses in the dialect of those on high . . . and she spoke in the tongue of the cherubim,” her words being preserved as “the prayers of Amaltheias-Keras.”70 Amaltheias-Keras as Amitla was the mother of the infant Abraham when she concealed him from the murderous Nimrod and fed him from her milk in a cave: she was also the horned Amaltheia, the she-goat whose milk fed the infant Zeus when his mother was hiding him in the Dyktaeian Cave from the bloodthirsty Saturn, even as the infant Horus was concealed in the marshes of Chemmis from Seth by his mother Isis. What can all this be leading to, all these strange parallels? This is the most striking aspect of the histories of Abraham, including the longest biography in the Bible (see Genesis 11—25). It would seem that parallel instances cling to Abraham as to few other figures, including his rivals Nimrod and Alexander the Great.

After this artistic treat—and no one will deny that the temple makes no apologies for appealing to our gentler senses and our delight in the Good, the True, and the Beautiful—we now turn to another medium. Just as it is impossible to present the vast panorama of the creation in its enormous stretches of time without the aid of Steven Spielberg and our modern techniques, we find ourselves obliged to fall back on the age-old procedures of voices offstage, describing the scene and the situation by solo voices or various combinations. We still do this in the temple teachings. In the Book of Abraham we also have both the descriptive recitation and the spectacular choral dance themes.

The Terrible Questions

Of the former, the factual recitation, Abraham gives us the most marvelous text of all, the miraculous third chapter of the book that answers with astonishing economy the most fundamental and baffling questions of our existence. Various individuals have struggled with those questions. For example, I like to recall the case of Clement of Rome, the precocious boy in the first century who tells us the story of how in his school days he started asking himself the baffling questions of existence, which almost drove him out of his mind. The young Clement’s main problem was to find someone who could answer his questions—he tried every famous teacher in Rome and found no satisfaction; a friend advised him to go to Egypt, the only place where they had answers to such questions. Instead of going to Egypt, Clement had a chance meeting with the missionary Barnabas that sent him to Caesarea, where he met Peter at a general conference. At last his questions were answered.71

And here is an interesting coincidence: I know of two other boys who had exactly the same problems with exactly the same questions and received exactly the same answers. They were Abraham and Joseph Smith. We do not need to attribute their inspiration to the schools of Alexandria or Athens.

So the Prophet Joseph recalled:

At about the age of twelve years my mind became seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul. . . . [T]hus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wickedness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind my mind become excedingly distressed . . . for I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty . . . even in the likeness of him who created them and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed . . . all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth [sic] and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when I considered all these things . . . I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go.72

And how about Abraham? An important part of his biography, mentioned in all the principle sources, is his precocity as a boy. It began with his asking the usual questions, the same elementary questions that Clement and Joseph asked at the same age and, like the other two, Abraham was answered only by the highest source: Clement by Peter, Joseph by the Lord himself, and Abraham likewise: “Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee” (Abraham 2:12). That was when the Lord appeared to him in the nighttime as he was studying the stars, giving him lessons on the nature and structure of the universe, which Abraham has handed on to us in convenient notation of Facsimile 2.

The knowledge is handed on to us in chapter 3 of the Book of Abraham, a statement of principles and doctrines that answer the ultimate mysteries of our existence. I consider this a miraculous chapter because of its brevity and the astonishing expanse of knowledge it covers. Here are some of the “Terrible Questions” and their answers:

1. The inevitable Where do I come from? The spirits “have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end . . . for they are gnolaum, or eternal” (Abraham 3:18). “And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them. . . . Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born” (Abraham 3:23). It is strange that the doctrine of premortal existence should be so hard for the world to accept. The Sefer Yetzirah, the oldest Hebrew book, usually attributed by the rabbis to Abraham, ends with a resounding declaration of his greatness in the premortal existence. If it is possible for us to be here now, it is just as possible for us to have been there then. Neither proposition, as Roger Penrose has shown, can be proved by algorithm or allegory, yet we have to accept their reality.73

2. Why am I here? “We will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; . . . and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:24, 26). The oldest Egyptian creation drama, portrayed on the Shabako Stone, says that when the earth was adorned and ready to receive its inhabitants, a law was given by which every action of every creature would be judged: “To him who does what is agreeable (lovable, mr.wt) shall be given a life of eternal rest or happiness (nh n hr-htp, rest, peace, happiness), while to him who does what is hateful (detestable, msdi) shall be given death and condemnation (disfavor, mtnhr hbn.t).”74 Note that it is not necessary to categorize what is good and bad: everyone knows it; it is the Golden Rule. There is no need for centuries of probabilistic head-splitting to define and assign precise numerical values to degrees of good and evil.

3. How did it all begin? It is the Egyptian sia, “intelligence,” awareness, that comes first. But it is lost without hu,“authoritative utterance,”75 “communication” (see fig. 5). As the Lord made clear to Moses, “there is no end to myworks, neither to my words” (Moses 1:38). The one is incomplete without the other, and this is made very clear in the oldest Egyptian creation drama, where God “conceives in his mind” and then “utters with his mouth,” communicating his intention to the council of the gods at each step of the creation. This is the very modern doctrine of anthropism. Without sia—intelligence, awareness—what would exist? And if it were confined to one mind only, what would be accomplished? The Creator must communicate that others may share his “most glorious and beautiful” works of creation, to bring about “the immortality and eternal life of man.”

4. How does the real universe figure in the gospel? Ever since Alexandria all the clergy have condemned “cosmism.” But Abraham puts us into the real universe forever: “He said unto me: My son, my son. . . . And he put his hand upon mine eyes, and I saw those things which his hands had made . . . and I could not see the end thereof” (Abraham 3:12). It was all real and visible; this is the latest definition of universe—everything.

5. The question of the Big Bang: How did it all begin and how will it all end? Intelligent beings “existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal” (Abraham 3:18). It is the Hebrew en sof(“without end”) principle of the rabbis and Penrose—an idea beyond definition but not beyond our conception.

This brings up a theological question to which only the Book of Abraham offers a clear solution, namely the problem of hierarchy. This was the secret of Egypt’s strength and stability, a strict hierarchical order of everything, which everyone respected. If it was hard for Satan to subject himself to any other being, it is still hard for the individual human to recognize his inferiority to another. Again and again we are reminded of the strangely obvious principle that one thing can be above another. According to Miriam Lichtheim, who supplies us with over seven hundred gems of Egyptian wisdom, every man’s ego is constantly threatened by other egos, and none is secure—the weakest can damage the strongest.76 Again and again Abraham takes the trouble to remind us of what should be obvious: “Now, Abraham, these two facts exist, behold thine eyes see it. . . . And where these two facts exist, there shall be another fact above them” (Abraham 3:6, 8). “If two things exist, and there be one above another, there shall be greater things above them” (Abraham 3:16). Why is he so insistent on anything so obvious? And so society throughout history has been locked in a paralyzing round of Thorstein Veblen’s “invidious comparison.” We have to live with it; why can’t we admit it cheerfully? I have children who can run circles around me brainwise—should that depress me?

In our competitive society every ego aspires to assert itself, and it does that by comparison. Thus the deadly Christological controversy in which the Athanasians accused the Arians of belittling the Son of God by making him inferior to the Father, while the Arians accused the Athanasians of insulting God by making the Son equal to him. Does the Son envy the Father, or is the Father jealous of him? Christians were willing to shed blood over the issue. Joseph Smith gives us four follies that must be avoided at any cost. One should never, he says, (1) aspire, for that is what Satan did to bring about his fall; (2) accuse—Satan is the devil, and diabolos means “accuser of his brethren”—never mind that the brethren are as guilty as he is; (3) contend—the first rule the Lord gave to the Nephites was, “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29); and (4) coerce, or use force to persuade.

Abraham removes the mean, invidious element and makes the order of things accessible to all: “If there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, . . . they shall exist after. . . . And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all” (Abraham 3:18—19). One cannot plead that he is a latecomer, that others came early and got the jump on him: “Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth” (D&C 93:23). Opportunity is not a matter of early arrival, for “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be” (D&C 93:29). This nullifies the whining excuse of Omar Khayyam that God created us that way, and there is nothing that we can do about it: “He who did man of baser metal make.”77 Who is responsible then? It is all in my own hands. Intelligence was not created—it unfolds; no matter how backward I may be I can rejoice in my ignorance, knowing that wonderful things are awaiting my discovery. When I am honest, that is, intelligent enough to search out and dwell upon the things I do not know or in which I have been mistaken, rather than preening myself on the little I do know, surveying such latent discoveries is like a child waiting to open packages on Christmas morning.

6. What is man’s position relative to the universe? Five times in our remarkable third chapter we are reminded that everything that he sees is to be understood only as viewed from the place “upon which thou standest” (Abraham 3:5, 6, 7, 9; see Abraham 3:4). Like Einstein’s man on the boat who thinks that the dock is moving away from him, so Abraham must remember his real position relative to the universe. In all that the Lord showed him, Abraham has still only a limited view. When Moses asked to see more than the scope and range of mission assigned him, he was sharply rebuked: “Worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose” (Moses 1:33). “But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you” (Moses 1:35). In the next verse Moses apologizes: “Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth . . . and then thy servant will be content” (Moses 1:36).

Our temple drama began like the book of Job, the Gospel of John, and Goethe’s Faust, with the “Prologue in Heaven.” In the temple today the prologue is spoken offstage, that is, in another world far removed from our present one. We hear the council in heaven discussing the plan to organize a world like other worlds that have been formed. They will “take of these materials, and . . . will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (Abraham 3:24). The definite pronoun these plainly points to or indicates something, showing that the drama is in progress. Then they appoint two others from among those who stood “among those that were spirits” (Abraham 3:23). Again the definite pronoun that calls our attention to parties who are not mentioned but are obviously indicated by gesture—these are stage directions.

Things being thus decided, the Lord said “Whom should I send?” Here we should note that thirty-three of the forty-two verses in Moses 1 begin with the word and. This in our narrative is the so-called waw-conversive in Hebrew, which converts the past to a future tense, giving it the sense of stage direction: “The Lord shall say.” To his question, “one answered [or one shall answer] like unto the Son of Man,” obviously stepping forward: “Here I am, send me” (Abraham 3:27). The action is clearly indicated, but why “one like unto the Son of Man?” Why not simply the Son of Man? Because plainly this is not the real character but an impersonation of him, one taking his part: “like the Son of Man.”

“And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him” (Abraham 3:27—28). Here we have a drama that was played out at the new year in the temples of Egypt. Dozens of texts still exist, recounting the rivalry of the two leaders, sometimes taking the form of a litigation before the court of the council in heaven, sometimes the form of a knock-down-and-drag-out duel. But it always ends with the expulsion of the aspiring party. (These dramas include that on the Shabako Stone, the Ramesseum Drama, the Celestial Cow, the Contendings of Horus and Seth, etc.) At this point the chorus divides into two, the usual half-choruses that engage in an antiphonal contest. The losers follow the leader off the stage. End of first act.

The Second Act

We now get to the ballets. They start with all useful vegetation, the first step in making the earth—formed, divided, and beautified—habitable for man. The Gods said: “Let us prepare the earth to bring forth grass; the herb yielding seed; the fruit tree yielding fruit, after his kind . . . and it was so, even as they ordered” (Abraham 4:11). This script was made to order for a ballet. The oldest dances in the world have to do with planting and harvesting (in Egypt the haker dance); their significance as fertility rites was the subject of much study in the 1920s and 1930s. This episode of the plants ends a period: from “morning until the evening they called day; and it was the third time” (Abraham 4:13). End of ballet.

Now a quite different dance. “And the Gods organized the lights in the expanse of the heaven” (Abraham 4:14). We have already mentioned the torch dances in Israel, and many of us fondly recall the lively fire dances at the LDS Polynesian Cultural Center. The key word is “organized.” That means everything arranged from subatomic particles to molecules, to organizing the family, an army, a church, or a galaxy. Here we see the mazy motion of the dancers’ chorus and semichorus, as they divide the day from the night and organize themselves into groups to take position, “To be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years” (Abraham 4:14). Again it says not “to be signs,” but to be for signs, and for days, and for seasons and for years; they are taking their places for the benefit of man. “And the Gods organized the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; with the lesser light they set the stars also; And the Gods set them in the expanse of the heavens, to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to cause to divide the light from the darkness” (Abraham 4:16—17). Is all that repetition necessary? This is not a laborious tale for the simpleminded, but the unfolding of a splendid pageant, the Dance of Life, the ever-popular torch dance. Not long ago we used to laugh our heads off at the idea that God created the stars and their motions for the benefit of puny man. Today the shoe is on the other foot. Now we are asked to believe how the unimaginable raging forces of the universe, completely uncontrolled and undirected, should zero in on this little planet with nothing but the most benevolent results, adjusting a score of fine-tuned constants to each other with unerring accuracy in defiance of entropy. Not long ago it was believed that such a coincidence was so rare that it could have happened only once in the universe, that is, that this could be the only possible habitable world. But today it seems that the main concern of astronomers is life on other worlds. Carl Sagan resented the suggestion of any mind equal to his own elsewhere in the universe, and yet he designed a missive to be sent into outer space with a message directed to whom it may concern.78

It was all for an appreciative audience, for “the Gods watched [these] things which they had ordered until they [were] obeyed” (Abraham 4:18). The thing was done properly, and then the lights go down: “It was from evening until morning that it was night; and . . . from morning until evening that it was day; and it was the fourth time” (Abraham 4:19).

Next the Dance of the Waters, always a favorite. In the oldest Greek play the chorus is made up of water maidens, the Oceanids; they sail above the stage weeping for poor Prometheus and shedding their tears over the Caucasus.79 The episode is reflected in the Enoch drama of the Pearl of Great Price, where the hero asks, “How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as rain upon the mountains?” (Moses 7:28). It is an equally poetic and dramatic passage from the same antediluvian milieu—for both tales are an immediate preparation for the flood. There is a stunning bas-relief from the Theban tomb of Kheruef depicting the water maidens imitating the waves of the Nile, though quite unaware of the parallel with the Rhine Daughters.

This prepares us for the waters to “bring forth great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters were to bring forth abundantly after their kind; and every winged fowl after their kind” (Abraham 4:21). The impression is that all life began in the waters and that there was an element of the experimental in the undertaking, with the Creators watching the developments until they “saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good” (Abraham 4:21).

Next comes the great animal show. Everyone’s favorite. It is the circus-parade, of course, splendidly displayed on the walls of Paleolithic caves of Lascaux, etc.; it meets us on the prehistoric standards and palettes of Egypt and Mesopotamia from the First Dynasty right through the cosmic chorus of Aristophanes, the bestiaries and mummings of the Middle Ages, and the fancy-dress Fasching celebrations along the Rhine. It takes us back to the earliest drama of Adam and the animals. He lives with them on intimate terms. He must have because he called them all by name, and they were all around him in overwhelming force. He was living in another world then, and we don’t know how long it lasted since “as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning” (Abraham 5:13). This was before he entered with Eve into the garden and the covenant of marriage. It was the earth’s turn to bring forth new types of “beasts after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind; and the Gods saw they would obey” (Abraham 4:25). Again the moment of testing; it is as if new ideas were being tried out in the new world.

Before the wonderful photographic images of today, the creation drama was conveyed by dialogue offstage. After Satan’s dismissal, “the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning . . . and formed the heavens and the earth. And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but earth; and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep” (Abraham 4:1—2). These are the two pictures we get of lifeless worlds, painted on the walls of the creation room: “the earth . . . empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth.” This we see in Mercury and Venus. This corresponds to dense cloud coverings on other planets, soon to explode into torrential rains. Both conditions are clearly displayed in our older creation rooms. Then “darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters” (Abraham 4:2). “Brooding” implies a long time of preparation for life as we know it. In the fifth chapter we learn that no plants were growing on the earth because it had not yet rained (see Abraham 5:5). Up to this point we are still in the council and planning stage. This raises an interesting question which at present is the object of debate among quantum-mechanics scientists, namely, which world is the real world? According to one school of thought, we cannot say a thing exists until we are aware of it. Recently the eminent French Egyptologist Philippe Derchain has noted that the Egyptians were convinced that if they ever stopped thinking about the universe it would cease to exist.80 This is the Copenhagen doctrine, also called “the anthropic principle,” that light does not exist until we see it.81

The Significance of Temples

There are two parts to the temple ceremony, the dramatic and the pragmatic. So far we have only mentioned the first. The play is ended by the appearance of heavenly messengers who now bid farewell to the artifice of the antique theater and engage us in a new type of learning. Everything up to this point has been by way of explaining our position in this world. The dramatic motifs of the temple and its ordinances are found throughout the world from the very earliest times. President Joseph F. Smith pointed this out when he noted that we find everywhere broken remnants of teachings familiar to Latter-day Saints, going back to a time before world apostasy.82 Where does the gospel differ from all the rest? There is no difference at all where their teachings are true. An old maxim of Mormonism states that all religions have some truth that we share with them. The first part of the endowment, the drama, is found throughout the world. Shakespeare sees the point when he says, “All the world’s a stage / Andall the men and women merely players.”83 We are all actors in this world, “merely players,” and nothing else. This was also Abraham’s predicament; according to Martin Buber his life was “an ever-new separation for him and his progeny”; his “entire history . . . is a consequence of choices and partings.”84 He no sooner settled down to living in a place than he had to leave (lech lecha). If all the men and women “have their exits and their entrances, / And one man in his time plays many parts, / His acts being seven ages,” and if each part is completely different—the baby, the schoolboy, the lover, the soldier, the magistrate, the senior citizen, and then, “last scene of all, . . . / Is second childishness and mere oblivion, / Sans eyes, sans teeth, sans taste, sans everything”—if all that is so, which is the real you?85 Shakespeare got this from Solon, the wisest of the Greeks, who wrote on the seven ages of man and concluded that “all are miserable upon whom the sun shines down.”86

But now comes the serious business of our temple. The antique temple drama ends in nothing. The stage lights go out and the house lights go up. Now we must be introduced to the rites and principles that will carry us far beyond this world. We are introduced to special messengers, teachers, and guides and told to pay heed to their counsel, which will continue to lead us on the path of life and salvation. Significantly, those instructions are all in the nature of restrictions and limitations to be set on what could be the exercise of unlimited power through unlimited time. Satan wanted power all for himself: “because that Satan . . . sought . . . that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down” (Moses 4:3). And so like the Ten Commandments the promises and covenants of the temple seem strangely negative to the vanity and arrogance of men. The first is obedience, the restraint on the individual’s power. The second is restraint on possession of things; the eternal spirit cannot be attached to them—one must be willing to sacrifice. The third puts restraints on personal behavior, it mandates deportment, self-control to make oneself agreeable to all. The fourth is restraint on uncontrolled appetites, desires, and passions, for what could be more crippling on the path of eternal progression than those carnal obsessions which completely take over the mind and body? Finally, the fifth covenant is a limitation on the innate selfishness of the other four—everything you have must be set apart to the everlasting benefit of all.

But we cannot leave it here. Everything about the temple calls for conclusion and a decision; we cannot remain in limbo suspended between the two worlds. Whether we catch a glimpse of the inside of the temple as we approach it from without, or of the outside world once we are inside, they are worlds apart. Latter-day Saint temples have always provided a soothing transition to soften the culture shock, the passing from one existence to another. Gardens of almost unearthly beauty offer an easy and credible passage by sharing the essential qualities of both worlds, “most glorious and beautiful.”

But the wonder is that everything about this experience is real. For seventy-two years I have gone to the temple and listened carefully to everything, and at no time could I say, “There is something wrong here; this is not the way it is!” On the contrary, the lesson is brought home with irresistible force that we do not know everything. There is wonder upon wonder awaiting. What the temple teaches is as real as the temple itself.


This chapter is based on a presentation given on 6 April 1999 as part of the Book of Abraham Lecture Series sponsored by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies at Brigham Young University.

  1. See Jan Assmann, Ma’at (Munich: Beck, 1990), 24—25, 42.
  2. Midrash on Psalm 110:1, in The Midrash on Psalms, trans. William G. Braude (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), 2:205.
  3. Micha J. bin Gorion, Die Sagen der Juden (Frankfurt am Main: Rütten & Loening, 1914), 2:203.
  4. Midrash Rabbah Genesis 43:7.
  5. Bin Gorion, Die Sagen der Juden, 2:137.
  6. This tradition is discussed by J. Perlès, “Ahron ben Gerson Aboulrabi,” Revue des études juives 21 (1890): 247.
  7. The stories, based on Genesis 18, are told with the sources in bin Gorion, Sagen der Juden, 2:201—3, and Bernhard Beer, Leben Abraham’s nach Auffassung der jüdischen Sage (Leipzig: Leiner, 1859), 37.
  8. Compare André Parrot, Abraham et son temps (Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Delachaux and Niestl , 1962), 42.
  9. Other issues of Time Magazine covered leaders and revolutionaries, artists and entertainers, builders and Titans, and heroes and icons; see Time Magazine, 13 April 1998, 8 June 1998, 7 December 1998, and 14 June 1999, respectively.
  10. See Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, trans. Henrietta Szold (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909), 1:210—11.
  11. See Geza Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism (Leiden: Brill, 1973), 78; and Beer, Leben Abraham’s, 3.
  12. See Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 70—71.
  13. See ibid., 70—72; Beer, Leben Abraham’s, 9—14.
  14. See Adolf Erman, The Ancient Egyptians: A Sourcebook of Their Writings, trans. Aylward M. Blackman (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 72—73. Some scholars think the plot succeeded and the account was delivered by the king’s ghost!
  15. See Midrash Rabbah Genesis 39:7—9.
  16. See Josephus, Antiquities 1.176.
  17. Josef S. Bloch, Israel und die Völker (Berlin: Harz, 1922), 513, emphasis added.
  18. See Harry Torcszyner, “The Riddle in the Bible,” Hebrew Union College Annual 1 (1924): 140.
  19. See Karl R. Popper, “Science: Problems, Aims, Responsibilities,” Federation Proceedings of the American Societies for Experimental Biology 22 (1963): 964, 970.
  20. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 1:285.
  21. See Maimonides, Dalalat 3.45.
  22. See K. Kohler, “The Pre-Talmudic Haggada,” Jewish Quarterly Review 7 (July 1895): 587.
  23. See J. G. Wiess, “The Kavvanoth of Prayer in Early Hasidism,” Journal of Jewish Studies 9/3—4 (1958): 170—71.
  24. See Hugh W. Nibley, “The Sacrifice of Isaac,” Improvement Era, March 1970, 88—89.
  25. Pseudo Jonathan, cited in Beer, Leben Abraham’s, 66.
  26. See Sofia Cavalletti, “Abramo come messia e ‘ricapitolatore’ del suo popolo,” Studi e Materiali 35 (1964): 251—52.
  27. See Hugh W. Nibley, “Setting the Stage: The World of Abraham,” Improvement Era, January 1970, 63.
  28. Bin Gorion, Die Sagen der Juden, 2:203.
  29. See Nibley, “World of Abraham,” 61—62.
  30. See M. H. Segal, “The Religion of Israel before Sinai,” Jewish Quarterly Review 52 (1961—62): 41.
  31. See Midrash Rabbah Genesis 43:7.
  32. See Nibley, “World of Abraham,” 64.
  33. See Hugh W. Nibley, “The Roman Games” (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1938), introduction; “The Expanding Gospel,” BYU Studies 7/1 (1965): 3—27, given as the Second Annual BYU Faculty Lecture on 17 March 1965; compare “The Hierocentric State,” in The Ancient State (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1991), 99—147.
  34. Samuel H. Hooke, ed., Myth and Ritual (London: Oxford University Press, 1933), 8.
  35. Mircea Eliade, “The Prestige of the Cosmogonic Myth,” Diogenes 23 (1958): 9.
  36. Ibid., 1.
  37. Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols (New York: Doubleday, 1979), 21, 73.
  38. See Lord Raglan, The Origins of Religion (London: Watts, 1949), 35—38. Lord Raglan makes several statements about the diffusionist theory on pp. 51, 55, and 58.
  39. Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959) 5, 7.
  40. Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 3.
  41. Ibid., 25.
  42. On new year’s celebrations, see Nibley, “The Hierocentric State,” 99—147.
  43. William Shakespeare, Henry V, act 4, prologue, lines 11—15.
  44. Ibid., lines 50—51.
  45. Ibid., lines 52—53, emphasis added.
  46. See, for example, Temples and the Latter-day Saints, Improvement Era Temple Issue (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1967); see also a section on temples in the Improvement Era, November 1963, 941—84, and Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Ensign, 1988).
  47. See Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 1:133: “[The Salt Lake Temple] will have six towers, to begin with, instead of one. Now do not any of you apostatize because it will have six towers, and Joseph only built one. It is easier for us to build sixteen, than it was for him to build one.”
  48. See Hugh W. Nibley, “The Terrible Questions,” in Temple and Cosmos (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 356—78.
  49. G. van der Leeuw, “Zum Mythus und zur Gestalt des Osiris,” Archiv für Orientforschung 3 (1926): 11.
  50. Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964), 92—93.
  51. Origen, Liber Secundus, 2.11.7, in Patrologiae Cursus Completus . . . Series Graeca (hereafter PG), ed. Jacque-Paul Migne (Paris: Garnier, 1857—66), 11:246.
  52. Origen, Contra Celsum, 6.21, in PG, 11:1321—25.
  53. William Shakespeare, The Tempest, act 4, scene 1, lines 154—55.
  54. Philo, De Opificio Mundi 70.
  55. Lucian, De Saltatione (On the Dance) 15.
  56. Plato, Laws 7.
  57. See Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 14.627—68.
  58. TB Sukkah 51a—51b.
  59. Plato, Laws 2.672e, emphasis added.
  60. War Scroll, frg. 11, lines 11—16.
  61. See Hugh Nibley, “The Early Christian Prayer Circle,” in Mormonism and Early Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1987), 45—99.
  62. See Robert A. Kraft, ed., The Testament of Job according to the SV Text (Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1974), on the various texts. For the Greek versions, see F. C. Conybeare, “The Testament of Job and the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs,” Jewish Quarterly Review 13 (October 1900): 111—13.
  63. Testament of Job 1:2.
  64. Ibid., 47:5.
  65. Ibid., 47:10.
  66. Ibid., 47:11—12.
  67. See ibid., 47:12.
  68. Ibid., 48:1—4.
  69. Ibid., 49:1—3.
  70. Ibid., 50:1—3.
  71. See Clement of Rome, Recognitions 1.106, in PG, 1:1207—10.
  72. An 1831—32 account of the first vision, dictated to Frederick G. Williams, reproduced in BYU Studies 9/3 (1969): 279—82, spelling retained.
  73. See Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Law of Physics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
  74. Author’s translation. See also Kurt Sethe, Das “Denkmal Memphitischer Theologie” der Schabakostein des Britischen Museums (London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1930), 1:64—65.
  75. Alan H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3rd ed. (1927; reprint, London: Oxford University Press, 1966), 588, 580.
  76. See Miriam Lichtheim, Late Egyptian Wisdom Literature in the International Context (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), 16—18.
  77. Compare the translation in The Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám, trans. Edward Fitzgerald (Roslyn, N.Y.: Black, 1942), 38.
  78. This message was a 6×9-inch gold-anodized aluminum plate that was sent to outer space in Pioneer 10; see Carl Sagan, The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective (New York: Dell, 1973), 16—20.
  79. See Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, lines 140—49, 161—71.
  80. See Philippe Derchain, Le Papyrus Salt 825 (British Museum 10051), rituel pour la conservation de la vie en Égypte(Brussels: Academy Royale, 1965), 10—11, 14, 82.
  81. See Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind, 354, 433—34.
  82. See Journal of Discourses, 15:325—26.
  83. William Shakespeare, As You Like It, act 2, scene 7, lines 139—40, emphasis added.
  84. Martin Buber, “Abraham the Seer,” Judaism 5/4 (1956): 295, 296.
  85. Shakespeare, As You Like It, act 2, scene 7, lines 141—43, 163—66.
  86. Solon, Elegiacs 13.


B’nai Shalom, Children of Peace, Org.

Since I am the owner of this blogsite, I want to tell you about my organization, B’nai Shalom. We are a Utah non-profit corporation now in Seattle, our first chapter.  We seek membership from all over Washington.

B’nai Shalom was started in 1967 by Jewish converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who desired to occasionally enjoy the music, dance, culture, food and genealogy specific to Judaism.

B’nai Shalom is a valuable resource for Jewish converts who seek to bridge the differences between religions and cultures through semi-annual gatherings of membership to participate in events particular to Jewish and Mormon ideals.

If you are interested, please click on

Read the website and sign up!

B’nai Shalom gatherings feature ethnic Jewish/Yiddish food and dance as well as speakers which have included LDS Church personalities, scholars and authorities on subjects of interest to both Jewish and Mormon members.

There are generally three phases of the evening, as follows:

  1. Noshing! A pot luck dinner of Ashkenazic and Sephardic dishes. Great food, great visiting with new and old friends.
  2. An interesting keynote speech/fireside, on a subject relevant to Jewish-Mormon culture or religion. Informative and inspiring speakers are sought after.
  3. Dessert and entertainment, which often includes instruction on Hebrew dances.

Seattle chapter gathering is on the 4th Thursdays of April and October at the Mercer Island LDS building: 4001 Island Crest Way, in Mercer Island. 

The Salt Lake group gathering is  on the Thursdays just before General Conference at the same time at the Salt Lake Stake Center. No dues, bring a potluck for two or more. Come and enjoy. for more info.

Marlena Tanya Muchnick-Baker


Getting It Right—Isaiah’s Checks and Balances

by Avraham Gileadi Ph.D.

Because Isaiah has permeated his entire prophecy with check and balances, one rarely needs to second guess his meaning. Seldom does Isaiah mention an event or idea just once, never to return to it. Rather, he frequently reiterates things in different contexts to ensure that readers get his message. Isaiah’s repeating events in different combinations with other events, for example, creates an entire web of interconnected events, which, together, define what he means by the end-time or end of the world. Such synchronized phenomena define the Book of Isaiah itself as a literary work of extraordinary complexity that is at once simple when its literary keys are revealed.

Linking ideas establish definitions of terms and entire scenarios. In one place, Isaiah may predict a new exodus of God’s people out of Babylon (Isaiah 48:20–21). In another, he identifies “Babylon” as the world and its wicked inhabitants whom God destroys in his Day of Judgment (Isaiah 13:1, 9, 11, 19). Elsewhere, he predicts that God’s people will return from throughout the earth at the time of a worldwide destruction (Isaiah 27:12–13). Further, God’s people’s exodus is from the four directions of the earth to Zion (Isaiah 43:5–6). Finally, he depicts remnants of all nations streaming to Zion in the “end-time,” giving us a time frame (Isaiah 2:2–3). And so forth.

12. 20. 2012

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Joseph Smith’s Receipt of the Plates and the Israelite Feast of Trumpets

Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume – 2, Issue – 2, Pages: 110-20
Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 1993The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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Joseph Smith’s Receipt of the Plates and the Israelite Feast of Trumpets
Lenet Hadley Read

Abstract: Joseph Smith received the golden plates on the Israelite Day of Remembrance (or Rosh ha-Shanah). Biblical references and interpretation by Jewish sages through the centuries set this day as the day God would remember his covenants with Israel to bring them back from exile. Also called the Feast of Trumpets, on this day ritual trumpet blasts signify the issuance of revelation and a call for Israel to gather for God’s word of redemption. Set at the time of Israel’s final agricultural harvest, the day also symbolizes the Lord’s final harvest of souls. Furthermore, it initiates the completion of the Lord’s time periods, the Days of Awe, and signifies the last time to prepare for final judgment and the Messianic Age. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is literally fulfilling such prophecies of the day.

In addition to the Sabbath, six biblical holy days hold prominent importance in Israel as times of worship with prophetic implication. They began at God’s command (Leviticus 23). The first three observances—Passover, the barley sheaf offering, the Feast of Weeks—coincide with Israel’s first yearly harvest and hold prophetic witness of Christ’s mortal ministry,1 which his death, resurrection, and initial harvest of souls fulfilled, on the very days those festivals were observed.2 The final three holy times—Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles—fall at Israel’s final harvest and also hold prophetic meaning for the Lord’s work among his people.3 These last three worship times, taken together, are called Israel’s High Holy Days, or Days of Awe.

Joseph Smith’s history dates the reception of the golden plates: “On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven” (Joseph Smith–History 1:59). Interestingly, 22 September 1827 was the day Jews throughout the world celebrated the Feast of Trumpets,4 which initiates the Days of Awe. Because of the prophetic pattern in Israel’s holy days, the question arises, how much significance is there to the correlation between these two events?

While scholars do not completely agree on everything concerning the Feast of Trumpets, various methods can be used to ascertain its purpose and significance, i.e., its origins as a biblical commandment; its timing; its names; its history; its ritual, including prayers offered and scriptures read; its role according to tradition; its relationship to other holy days; and its significance as seen by rabbis and scholars.

An examination of the Feast of Trumpets from these perspectives reveals four major meanings, which work together as a unity. The Feast of Trumpets signifies the time of Israel’s final harvest; the Day of Remembrance of God’s covenants with Israel; the announcement of revelation or truth; and preparation for God’s holiest times, including the Messianic Age. These four purposes bear strong corollaries

The Feast of Trumpets Signifies Israel’s Final Harvest
The Lord commanded Israel, “In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets” (Leviticus 23:24). By setting the festival in the seventh month of the Judaic calendar, (usually falling in our September), the day, like other Israelite holy days God commanded, was timed to coincide with an agricultural harvest (Exodus 34:22), in this case the harvest of fruits and grapes, the final harvest of the year.5 In fact, this festival was also anciently called the Feast of Ingathering [of the harvest].6 The Feast of Tabernacles, which follows a short time later, celebrates the completion of all of Israel’s harvests.

The correlation of Israel’s holy days with harvest periods has been shown to be important typologically. According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, the harvest which the High Holy Days celebrate is symbolic of Christ’s final harvest of souls. In speaking of the symbolism of the final festival as a completed harvest, he states, “The fact that [The Feast of Tabernacles] celebrated the completion of the full harvest symbolizes the gospel reality that it is the mission of the house of Israel to gather all nations to Jehovah, a process that is now going forward, but will not be completed until that millennial day when “the Lord shall be king over all the earth’ and shall reign personally thereon.”7 In other words, the Feast of Tabernacles is a “type” of Christ’s Messianic reign after the completed harvest of souls (see also Zechariah 14:16).

Certainly, the Lord’s word to Latter-day Saints is replete with “harvest” imagery. “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not” (D&C 4:4).

The Book of Mormon has been a major instrument in initiating and perpetuating the Lord’s final harvest. Therefore, it appears highly meaningful that the golden plates were received on the Feast of Ingathering, a holy day which coincided with Israel’s final harvest and symbolized Israel’s final harvest of souls.8

The Feast of Trumpets Signifies God’s Remembrance of His Covenants with Israel
One of the original names given to the day is Yom ha-Zikkaron (“Day of Remembrance”).9 This name originates from the Lord’s commandment to blow trumpets for remembrance on that day. The term zikhron means “memorial” or “remembrance,” and, according to one authority, “The significance of zikhron is inherent in its definition, a sound which will arouse God’s remembrance (or judgment) of his people.”10

Tradition and biblical history show a connection between this holy day and God’s remembrance of his covenants with Israel. First, like other holy days, it is a memorial of Israel’s deliverance by God from their exile in Egypt,11 which is understood by many to be a pattern for Israel’s future exiles and exoduses (Jeremiah 16:14–15).12 In addition, according to Jewish tradition the Israelites returned to freedom from slavery on this date, prior to the completed Exodus.13

Furthermore, the Lord remembered Israel on this day after their return from exile in Babylon—when they were granted spiritual renewal. On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra read again from the book of the law, and the people rejoiced greatly because he “gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:1–12). Through the exile, they had lost God’s truths, which were now restored in clarity. Hearing the Lord’s truths again brought them repentance and joy.

On the very day, then, when they were observing the Day of Remembrance, they were actively engaged in hearing again the true law after its loss while in exile. The full importance of this situation can only be grasped when we realize that the return from Babylonian exile is a “type” of the latter-day return from spiritual Babylon.14 As the return from Babylon would have its latter-day counterpart, the Day of Remembrance would have its latter-day counterpart.

Many scholars agree that the major theme of the day is “Remembrance,” God’s remembrance of his covenants with Israel, and the need of Israel’s remembrance of their God.15 The prayers of the day contain many pleadings and high expectations toward these ends. Such pleadings include, “Remember us unto life” and “May our remembrance . . . come before Thee.”16 Specific hope is uttered that God will even remember them “for deliverance and well-being on this Day of Remembrance.”17

The prayers “invoke the merit of the patriarchs and the covenant made with them.”18 And the blessings expected from God in return are phrased, “I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 26:45).19

In addition to the prayers, many readings of the service concentrate on the Lord’s promises to remember his covenants—with implications for Israel’s restoration and return from exile.20 Some of these readings date from very early times. One scholar states, “Beyond any shadow of doubt the leading motif in the choice of the readings for Rosh ha-Shanah during the two centuries or so before Christ was Remembrance.”21 Among readings still used today are scriptures prophesying the restoration of Ephraim. One, Jeremiah 31:1–20, calls Ephraim “a darling son unto me” and states that “I do earnestly remember him.” One sage cites the words, zakhor ezkerenu (“I shall remember him”) as especially meaningful for the Day of Remembrance.22 Also read are scriptures dealing with the ending of Sarah’s and Hannah’s barrenness (Genesis 21; 1 Samuel 1–2:10). According to tradition, Rachel, Hannah and Sarah were remembered on this day, their fruitfulness restored.23 The implication of such “remembrances” is the final fulfillment of covenanted blessings previously promised but seemingly forgotten. After barren Rachel was remembered, she was blessed with Joseph from whom came Ephraim and Manasseh. Through Hannah’s ended barrenness came the return to a righteous priesthood.

Throughout the centuries, various Jewish scholars, in explaining the purpose of the trumpet sound on the Feast of Trumpets, have seen it as signal of Israel’s redemption from world-wide exile.24 That concept comes from scriptural references in the prophets and the psalms, such as Isaiah 27:13. “And it shall come to pass in that day [the time of regathering], that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt.”25

Zechariah 9:14 and the surrounding prophecies are used to confirm the relationship.26 Zechariah’s statement, “And the Lord God shall blow the trumpet,” accompanies pronouncements that Ephraim would help raise up God’s covenanted people (Zechariah 9:13), and that those of Israel’s blood would again become his flock (Zechariah 9:16.).

The name most often used today for the feast is Rosh ha-Shanah, which means the New Year. But this was not the original name, and the day’s significance is really as a “new beginning.” It is understood to be the day when the Lord moves from his seat of judgment and sits instead upon the seat of mercy.27 Layer upon layer, this holy day symbolizes that new beginning Israel would experience as God has mercy upon them in exile, remembers his covenants with their fathers, and restores them as his people. This new beginning for Israel was to be initiated with the sounding of the trumpet. A commentator on Rosh ha-Shanah’s liturgy explains, “Expectantly, we await the sounding of the Shofar of Liberation, when Zion will be free to receive its exiled children from all parts of the earth.”28

The Trumpet Signifies the Proclaiming of Truth
The blowing of the trumpet (a shofar or ram’s horn is used in modern practice) is the major ritual of the Feast of Trumpets. These instruments are seen as a symbol of revelation as well as redemption.29 The trumpet sound is associated with revelation because the first mention of it was at Mount Sinai. It is understood, therefore, to be a memorial of Sinai. “The celebration of Passover was to be an annual reminder of the exodus. The ritual blast of the shofar would similarly recall by association the revelation on Mount Sinai.”30

However, the sound of the shofar is seen not only as a memorial of Sinai’s revelation, but as having importance for the future as well. Because the trumpet preceded God’s revealing of his law at Sinai (Exodus 19:16), some interpreters declare that the trumpet on Rosh ha-Shanah signifies a further gift of revelation, in particular, the granting of the true law,31 resulting in redemption. “The smaller horn was sounded at Sinai, but the great shofar will initiate redemption.”32 We can see why “Trumpets,” a prayer regarding revelation, is recited on Rosh ha-Shanah.33

The scriptures, both ancient and modern, speak of the trumpet as preceding proclamations of truth which lead to redemption (Isaiah 58:1; Alma 29:1; D&C 33:2). The imagery of proclaiming the gospel like a trumpet remains a part of our heritage. “And at all times, and in all places, he shall open his mouth and declare my gospel as with the voice of a trump” (D&C 24:12).

Furthermore, one of the most common symbols of the restored gospel is that of the angel Moroni portrayed in the act of blowing the trumpet. We know this image symbolizes proclaiming the gospel to the world, particularly to the house of Israel. Indeed, much of the fullness of the Lord’s truth began with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

In the scriptures, the sound of the trumpet is also used as a call for God’s people to assemble or gather (Numbers 10:2–3), as a warning (Numbers 10:9; Joel 2:1), as a signal of something important to come (Revelation 8–9). The sound of the trumpet on the one festival day set aside by God for the blowing of the trumpet seems to carry all of these meanings, and therefore does signify something important in the destiny of Israel. The truth which came out of the golden plates is still causing a gathering, is still offering its warnings, and is still acting as harbinger of great things to come.

The Festival Signifies Preparation for the Messianic Age
It would be a great mistake to see the Feast of Trumpets as a festival without relationship to any other. Part of its significance is in its juxtaposition to the Lord’s other holy days, particularly as preparation for those days considered most holy of all days.

The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh ha-Shanah), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) are together called the High Holy Days, and the Days of Awe. To begin with, these days fall in the seventh month of the Judaic calendar, which gives them special status—as seventh periods of days, weeks, months, years, are generally considered particularly holy and significant, and as times of completion.

The trumpet sound of Rosh ha-Shanah includes the need for repentance in preparation for the days ahead.34 One scholar enunciates its message as, “Awake from your slumbers, you who have fallen asleep in life, and reflect on your deeds. Remember your Creator.”35 The way the ram’s horn is blown portrays that theme. First comes a long lengthy note promising hope. Sets of short notes follow to symbolize weeping for one’s transgressions and the desire to forsake them. A last long note promises God’s forgiveness to the truly repentant.36

The day’s prayers of repentance are said to prepare one for the coming Messianic Age.37 It is believed the Lord makes a prejudgment on Rosh Hashanah as to “who shall live and who shall die; . . . who shall be cast down and who elevated.”38 However, those judgments can be changed through repentance, prayer, and charity since the final judgments are not “sealed” until the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur therefore signify the only time left to repent, and are thus called the Ten Days of Penitence. The intervening time period is a crucial period for returning to God and to righteousness, with the trumpet sound representing God’s final warning before the rapidly approaching judgment.39

The Day of Atonement is considered the day when the unrepentant are doomed, but the repentant are forgiven and reconciled with God. Worshippers on Yom Kippur believe they spiritually enter the Holy of Holies, symbolic of entering God’s presence, and that this sacred time permits them their “highest and deepest communion with God.”40

The relationship between these holy days may bear witness of what will occur in the last days. While Christ performed the acts of atonement through his suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection, the work is not yet complete. Christ’s return will actually complete the reconciliation between him and mankind, serving as the great time of At-one-ment, when repentant individuals can physically enter his presence.41

Because Israel’s last three holy days signify something momentous to come, the period between Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur are called The Days of Awe, with the Day of Atonement considered most “awesome” and most holy of all days. The Feast of Tabernacles follows. We have already learned it signifies the completed harvest and the Messiah’s reign.

The Reception of the Golden Plates Fulfilled the
Prophecies Associated with the Feast of Trumpets

Was the coming forth of the Book of Mormon on Rosh ha-Shanah coincidental? Truth is often manifest through fulfillment.

The golden plates were delivered to Joseph Smith early in the morning of 22 September 1827. The Feast of Trumpets, with prayers pleading for God’s remembrance of his still exiled people, had begun at sundown the previous evening. The services continued that morning, with the sound of trumpets. All that those trumpets symbolized was now to be fulfilled. That day, God remembered his people. That day, new revelation was granted, which would bring a return to the true law. That day Israel’s final harvest began. From then on, Israel would be called to repentance in preparation for the time of judgment ahead.

The Book of Mormon continues to reawaken exiled Israel, bringing them back to true worship and renewed covenants. It is the means of helping Israel prepare for the coming Day of At-one-ment, when the Christ will reappear and reconcile all repentant unto himself. The days are approaching when the harvest will be completed and Christ will come and dwell with his people, therefore keeping the ultimate Feast of the Tabernacles. It was Moroni who delivered the golden plates on 22 September 1827—the Feast of Trumpets. Now his image trumpets from temple spires the final warning to awaken, gather, repent, and prepare.

The Lord has used many ways to prophesy of what would come to pass in the future. We have long been familiar with prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, who spoke of the restoration of Israel and the gospel in the latter-days. However, the Lord has also told us that his ways are often difficult to find out. When we do discover them, we shall feel awe (D&C 76:114–19).

In addition to other prophecies, the Lord also foretold his future works through the holy days he established in Israel. Through the first of these holy days he witnessed of his crucifixion (Passover), his resurrection (offering of the first sheaf of barley), and of the beginning of his first harvest (fulfilled on Pentecost). His early disciples were aware of these connections and used them to bear testimony of Christ as the Messiah (1 Corinthians 5:7; 15:20).

Through the last three holy days, the Lord has witnessed of his latter-day remembrance of Israel’s covenants (Feast of Trumpets), his reunification with the repentant who return to his presence (Day of At-one-ment), and of his millennial reign when the harvest is complete (Feast of Tabernacles). These works are a witness for our day. Every witness strengthens our testimony, providing new energy to obey and endure.

Knowing that this is indeed the final harvest with an ever shortening time to labor should create greater motivation to thrust in our sickle with all our might. While working in that harvest, we are called to make known every wonderful work the Lord has performed among the people (D&C 65:4).



1. Bruce R. McConkie, Promised Messiah (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978), 428–32.

2. John P. Pratt, “The Restoration of Priesthood Keys on Easter 1836,” Ensign 15 (June 1985): 59–68 and 15 (July 1985): 55–64; Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985), 48–50, 84–85; Lenet Hadley Read, “Symbols of the Harvest,” Ensign 5 (January 1975): 32–36; McConkie, Promised Messiah, 428–32.

3. McConkie, Promised Messiah, 432–37; Read, “Symbols of the Harvest,” 35–36.

4. Eduard Mahler, Handbuch der jüdischen Chronologie (Leipzig: Fock, 1916), 588. Verification can also be obtained from Jewish community libraries. The date can be recalculated from Jewish calendars.

5. Norman H. Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival: Its Origins and Development (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1947), 24; Abraham P. Bloch, The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days (New York: KTAV, 1978), 18–19; Abraham P. Bloch, The Biblical and Historical Background of Jewish Customs and Ceremonies (New York: KTAV, 1980), 182; Hayyim Schauss, The Jewish Festivals from Their Beginning to Our Own Day, tr. Samuel Jaffe (Cincinnati: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1938), 113, 116.

6. Apparently, because they both celebrated the same harvest, the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Tabernacles were referred to as a feast of Ingathering. Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival, 17, 23–28; Bloch, Jewish Holy Days, 18–19; Bloch, Jewish Customs and Ceremonies, 181–83; Schauss, The Jewish Festivals from Their Beginning to Our Own Day, 113.

7. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 433.

8. Bloch, The Jewish Holy Days, 21, states the persistent belief, “The ingathering of the Jewish people and its ultimate return to God will be announced by a prolonged blast of the shofar.”

9. Louis Jacobs, “Rosh Ha-shanah and Yom Kippur,” in Mircea Eliade, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religion, 12 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 12:474; Max Arzt, Justice and Mercy: Commentary on the Liturgy of the New Year and the Day of Atonement (San Francisco: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963), 36, 146.

10. Bloch, Jewish Customs and Ceremonies, 142.

11. Rabbi Nosson Scherman and Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, eds., Rosh Hashanah: Its Significance, Laws, and Prayers (Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah, 1983), 60, 99.

12. Nehama Liebowitz, Studies in Shemot (Exodus) (Jerusalem: The World Zionist Organization, 1981), 8.

13. Scherman and Zlotowitz, Rosh Hashanah, 99.

14. Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 289–93.

15. Arzt, Justice and Mercy, 129; Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival, 162, 172.

16. Arzt, Justice and Mercy, 32; Other examples of this theme are shown on 108, 112–13.

17. Ibid., 32.

18. Ibid., 164.

19. Ibid., 185.

20. Ibid., 121–48.

21. Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival, 172.

22. Arzt, Justice and Mercy, 146–48.

23. Ibid., 129; Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival, 168. One source of this tradition is The Talmud (b.RH 11a), which says, “On New Year Sarah, Rachel and Hannah were visited [or their barrenness ended].”

24. Scherman and Zlotowitz, Rosh Hashanah, 58, 61–62, 112–13, 117–18; Arzt, Justice and Mercy, 55, 94, 154; Bloch, Jewish Holy Days, 21; Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival, 162; Leo Trepp, The Complete Book of Jewish Observance (New York: Behrman House and Summit Books, 1980), 95.

25. Scherman and Zlotowitz, Rosh Hashanah, 58, 112–13; Bloch, Jewish Holy Days, 21; Philip Goodman, ed., The Rosh Hashanah Anthology (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1970), 23.

26. Bloch, Jewish Holy Days, 21; Goodman, The Rosh Hashanah Anthology, 22.

27. Arzt, Justice and Mercy, 149.

28. Ibid., 55; see also 94.

29 Trepp, The Complete Book of Jewish Observance, 95.

30. Bloch, Jewish Customs and Ceremonies, 144.

31. Goodman, The Rosh Hashanah Anthology, 42.

32. Trepp, The Complete Book of Jewish Observance, 95.

33. Goodman, The Rosh Hashanah Anthology, 42.

34. Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival, 165.

35. Maimonides, Code of Law, Repentance 3:4.

36. Jacobs, “Rosh Ha-shanah and Yom Kippur,” in Eliade, The Encyclopedia of Religion, 12:474.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid.

39. Scherman and Zlotowitz, Rosh Hashanah, 111.

40. Trepp, The Complete Book of Jewish Observance, 92.

41. I am not necessarily saying that Christ’s return will actually occur on the Day of Atonement. While the pattern of Christ’s fulfillment of events on his holy days might indicate the wisdom to be prepared on that day, it is more wise to be prepared on every day. The point being made is that the relationship of these three holy days bears another witness of what will occur in the last days. The final harvest of Israel has begun. When Christ returns, the repentant and obedient will be fully reconciled with him, physically entering into his presence after being cut off due to sin. Afterwards, Christ will reign during the Millennium when the spiritual harvest is complete.

Clothed with Salvation: The Garden, the Veil, Tabitha, and Christ

Daniel Belnap
Studies in the Bible and Antiquity: Volume – 4, Pages: 43-69
Provo, Utah:
Maxwell Institute, 2012
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sandwiched between the account of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 and Peter’s vision of the Gentiles in Acts 10 is the story of the raising of Tabitha. While staying in the town of Lydda, Peter, the presiding disciple of Christ, is approached by two individuals from the neighboring city of Joppa with the request that he come and attend to the then-deceased Tabitha. When he gets there, he is met by widows weeping and wailing over Tabitha’s departure. We know practically nothing of Tabitha except that she is a believer and a woman “full of good works and almsdeeds” (Acts 9:36). These works are revealed as the mourners present themselves before Peter, showing him the clothes and garments made by Tabitha for them.

This account may not, at first glance (or even at a second glance), appear to be related to the fall of Adam and Eve, the veil of the tabernacle described in Exodus, or the atonement of Christ; yet all three of these are linked to the narrative of Tabitha by the symbolic nature of clothing and its attendant rite, investiture. Throughout the scriptures, the acts of investiture and divestiture are used to describe the individual and social transformations made possible in the plan of salvation. This paper will examine the four scriptural subjects mentioned above–namely, the Garden of Eden narrative, the nature and role of the veil, the brief account of Tabitha, and the very nature of Christ and the atonement through the lens of clothing and investiture–and in so doing attempt to demonstrate that these two elements are among the most powerful and effective symbols in the scriptures to answer the fundamental questions concerning what our nature is now, what we really are, and how God understands us.

Clothing in the Garden of Eden

Experience with investiture began in the Garden of Eden, where through successive states of undress and dress Adam and Eve began their mortal progression.1 We are first introduced to the symbol of clothing, or lack thereof, as we are told that Adam and Eve “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Moses 3:25). Though nakedness is often associated with nudity, there is a significant difference between the two states of undress. Whereas nudity simply defines a lack of clothing on any given individual, nakedness is determined by society and differs from culture to culture. Thus, while we may consider a native Amazonian tribe naked because of their lack of apparel, those tribes may consider themselves clothed and not naked at all by their standards. Instead, perhaps lacking a certain type of jewelry or tattoo would constitute their social understanding of nakedness.2 That nakedness is learned can best be exemplified by little children, who exhibit a complete lack of shame while nude. It is only as they are taught their culture’s values that their nudity becomes nakedness.3

In most societies, nakedness describes the social experience of shame or humiliation brought about by stepping beyond the proper social boundaries. Though we might want to view this negative consequence as a “bad” concept, the truth is that without a clear delineation between what is proper and what is not, one cannot have a functioning society. Therefore, nakedness as a cultural construct that brings about a negative consequence within that society actually allows for proper relationships to be established, further prospering the society. Thus nakedness and its attendant negative consequences are ultimately positive social constructs.

In light of this, it is not surprising to find nakedness as a legal punishment for social disharmony. In some Mesopotamian legal texts, the stripping of an individual of his or her raiment was considered punishment for offenses that went against the social order. In Middle Assyrian law codes, prostitutes who were caught wearing a veil in public were required to give up their clothing to those who turned them in. Moreover, if someone witnessed a prostitute walking while wearing a veil and did not report it, that individual would lose his or her own clothing if turned in by yet another.4 The phrase to strip the garment and to drive out naked is found in other Mesopotamian legal texts referring to the punishment given to those women who, of their own volition, disrupted the family.5 Similarly, in Ugarit, Emar, and El-Qiṭar, the loss of clothing is meant to represent a change in the social status of the individual. According to one Ugaritic text, the heir to the throne is told that he must either stay with his father or follow after his mother, who had divorced the king. If he chose the latter, the heir was to place his mantle on the throne and leave.6

Unfortunately, because clothing is used to define one’s status, forcing others to become naked and thus have no place in society has been used throughout history to control others. In the ancient Near East, the shame and humiliation of nakedness was associated with the loss of social status and was often depicted in images of captivity. Assyrian palace reliefs depict the captured inhabitants of conquered cities as naked, bound figures; Egyptian palaces do the same.7 In these cases, the captured soldiers and citizens were not originally naked but would have been divested of their clothing by the successful invaders, thereby demonstrating the captives’ complete subjugation by the conquerors.8 Voluntary nakedness reflected the same thing, demonstrating one’s subjugation to the authority of a more powerful individual. The Assyrian king Assurbanipal records in one of his annals, “They [the king of Elam and family] fled from Indabigash and came to me in Nineveh, crawling naked on their bellies.”9

The Old Testament reveals much of the same social stigma associated with nakedness. In Genesis 9, Noah’s drunkenness is emphasized by his naked state. In this case, filial duties are demonstrated as Noah’s two older sons walk backward in order not to view their father’s humiliating state while covering him in a garment. The youngest son, Ham, on the other hand, views his father’s nakedness but does nothing and is cursed. In Genesis 37, when Joseph’s brothers strip him of his robe, he is transformed from his honorable state to one of shame and slavery.10 In Isaiah 20, captivity and subjugation are associated with nakedness. Isaiah is commanded to take off his shoes, loosen his loincloth, and walk naked and barefoot for three years, symbolizing the eventual captivity of Egypt by Assyria: “Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years . . . so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt” (Isaiah 20:3–4). Similarly, Micah declares that he will “wail and howl” and “go stripped and naked” on account of the desolation that would result from the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem (Micah 1:8).11

All this takes us back to the garden; there we are confronted with a unique situation as Adam and Eve were naked yet not experiencing shame. In fact, this is the only place in the scriptures where nakedness does not bring about negative social consequences; this situation therefore demonstrates that the early social network is flawed or incomplete. That social structures exist in the Garden of Eden is evidenced by the marriage of Adam and Eve and the proto-Zion society that Adam and Eve share with God.12 Yet, as Lehi makes clear in 2 Nephi 2:22–23, until the decision to partake of the fruit, Adam and Eve remain in a state in which progression is suspended:

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

This state can be described as a liminal one, or one that lies between two other states of existence. The term liminality is taken from the Latin limen, meaning “doorway, threshold,” and is used in ritual studies to describe the temporary time and space made by ritual that allows an individual to move from one social state to another.13 Rites of passage, for instance, often incorporate liminality to facilitate the transformation of child to adult, single to married, boy to man, and so forth. What is important to recognize is that while liminal states have a useful function in social movement, they are meant to be temporary. With this perspective, we can see that prior to partaking of the fruit, Adam and Eve in the garden live a liminal, or “in-between,” existence, as if they were cocooned caterpillars awaiting the final transformation. This liminality is exemplified in their naked but not ashamed state; as long as they stay in this state the plan of salvation is halted, just as Lehi described.14

Adam and Eve remain in this liminal state until Eve partakes of the fruit. According to Moses 4, Eve only partakes of the fruit when she “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes” (Moses 4:12). Neither one of these statements describes an actual change in the fruit, suggesting that the fruit was always good to eat. What changed was Eve’s perspective in regard to the fruit, yet this change in perspective also leads to Adam and Eve’s discerning their naked state. They now experience the shame that one should experience with nakedness. Though this leads them to separate themselves from God (as noted in their hiding from him), it also moves them out of their liminal state to the state of mortality necessary for their progression. This movement is characterized by their donning of clothing, the visible, tangible evidence that Adam and Eve now define their relationship with God and each other differently than they did before. With the wisdom that comes from the fruit, they are now aware of their social separateness from God, or, to put it another way, they now define themselves as beings different from God.

Like the concept of nakedness, the function of clothing is primarily a social one used by individuals to define or establish themselves within a given community,15 a function recognized explicitly today in the church pamphlet For the Strength of Youth.16 Because clothing is used by individuals to provide information about their own self-concept, and therefore their place within a given social structure, the actual clothing act, investiture, is as significant to the creation of the identity as the clothing itself since it demonstrates that we have the ability to make these definitions.17 Thus Adam and Eve’s clothing of fig leaves is not only a representation of their understanding concerning nakedness but also a means to describe their new standing within the existing society, specifically their unworthiness to socialize with God.18 The clothing itself allows them to physically demonstrate this separation since the leaves would act as camouflage when they hid in the trees. Prior to partaking of the fruit, Adam and Eve understood themselves to be part of the same social stratum as God; now they dress themselves and in so doing demonstrate they are no longer worthy to associate with God.19 Yet this social separation that Adam and Eve now understand to exist is not necessarily negative. Again, while nakedness is associated with negative responses, the social result of nakedness is, overall, a positive one, allowing members of a society to interact in the correct manner.20

Another well-known ancient Near Eastern epic teaches the same principle using the same symbols of clothing and investiture. In the Gilgamesh epic, Enkidu, a being who had lived in the wilderness, becomes civilized by first recognizing his nakedness and then by clothing himself as he approaches the city; thus the awareness of his nakedness and his consequent act of clothing represent his transformation from a wild, animal-like state of nonawareness into a state in which he is socially aware of himself and others. Gilgamesh himself, following his adventures to the ends of the earth, notes his return to society by dressing himself in the best garments he has.21

Though different in setting than the Gilgamesh epic, investiture also marks the transformation of Aaron and his sons from normal society to the specialized status of priests.22 While wearing the priestly garb placed upon them by Moses, Aaron and his sons are transformed from ordinary men to priests of God.23 Further priestly transformation via investiture occurs as the high priest is instructed to wear only pure white linen garments into the holy of holies instead of the more colorful costume found elsewhere.24 Thus he becomes part of the divine world, wearing the same color with which divine beings are associated.25 Aaron’s transformation and new identity is vividly demonstrated in Leviticus 10 when Aaron is not allowed to mourn the death of his sons in the traditional manner, a ritualized nakedness: “Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; . . . but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail” (Leviticus 10:6). Instead he is to remain in the priestly clothing; having lost his old identity through the investiture process described above, he is no longer the same person and is in fact to be treated as an individual in a completely different state of being.26 Thus Adam and Eve’s shame of their nakedness demonstrates their maturation into intelligible beings worthy of exaltation–a net gain, not a loss.

Adam and Eve’s movement from nakedness to a clothed state is paralleled by the serpent’s going from a clothed to a naked state. The serpent is described as the most “subtle” of all the animals. In Hebrew this descriptive word is spelled exactly the same as the word translated as “naked,” though they have slightly different pronunciations. Others have noted this wordplay, and the pun suggests that while the serpent may be the most subtle it may actually be the most naked as well. Just as Adam and Eve’s nakedness can represent their ignorance, the serpent’s nakedness is represented in his lack of knowledge, for we are told that the serpent “knew not the mind of God” (Moses 4:6) and is thus naked before him. Later, when the serpent is cursed for his role in the fall, we are told that he is to experience the social effects of nakedness: “Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life” (Moses 4:20).27 In this then, Satan’s complete estrangement from the divine society is symbolized by his nakedness.

The final divine acts in the Garden of Eden are the divestiture of Adam and Eve’s aprons of leaves and their investiture in the clothing made by God. This second investiture, we are told, is performed by God and therefore represents God’s definition of Adam and Eve, while also demonstrating his power to provide them with this definition. The text does not explicitly tell us what that definition is, but because it replaces the fig-leaf clothing, we can assume that the definition contrasts with the social meaning of that first set of clothing, which represented the separation and shame that Adam and Eve believed then defined their relationship with God. In other words, the second investiture would have demonstrated that Adam and Eve were not in fact estranged from God but were still worthy of a social relationship with God. This new set of clothing would have stood as a constant reminder of his presence with them and of his power to bless them.28 This, in turn, gives us a greater appreciation for the atonement, which allows us to always have God with us even if we are away from his physical presence. Thus the investiture can be seen as an act that is symbolic and prophetic of the coming atonement. That we learn elsewhere that the investiture, while instigated by God the Father, is actually performed by Christ, only strengthens this association.29

The Veil as Clothing

According to the book of Exodus, separating the space designated as the holy of holies from the larger antechamber known as the holy place was to be a curtain, or veil:

And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made. . . . And thou shalt hang up the vail . . . that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. (Exodus 26:31, 33)

We are not told within the biblical text what the veil would have meant symbolically to the ancient Israelite, but in both the function and the design pattern mentioned above, one can discern some of the symbolic import of the veil. The primary image on the veil is the cherubim. Cherubim imagery shows up throughout both the tabernacle and the later temple built by Solomon. According to Exodus, the ark was to have two golden cherubim placed on top of the box. The curtain walls that demarcated the entire sacred precincts also incorporated cherubim imagery. Later, cherubim were carved into the wooden walls of the temple as well. Outside of sacred architecture, cherubim are found in the Garden of Eden narrative and in Ezekiel’s visions. In these texts, the cherubim are divine guardians who protect the sacred spaces (in the garden, the tree of life) from improper trespassing as well as beings of transportation who carry God from place to place. In all cases, cherubim act as intermediaries that one must approach first before entering into the presence of God and as such are associated with liminality.

Just as liminality played a role in the Garden of Eden, liminality is central to the activities associated with the temple. The cherubim that one interacts with are liminal creatures positioned in the gate between the mortal sphere and the divine one. As guardians they function both to keep out individuals from the presence of God and also to invite them in. In terms of their location within sacred space, they occupy the space between the tree of life, or the divine realm, and the rest of mortality. In both respects, the cherubim perform the same function as the veil in the temple. Like the cherubim, the veil acts both as a limitation to unlawful entry into the holy of holies and as the passage into the same.

Understood this way then, the veil’s primary function is to facilitate movement from one state or spatiality to another, either away from or toward the higher state of being. Yet the veil also had another function similar to the function of clothing. In Numbers 4:5 we are told: “And when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering vail, and cover the ark of testimony with it.” That the veil was meant to be more than mere covering is recognized by the fact that the veil was then itself covered by two other pieces of cloth: the badger skin that covered the tabernacle and finally a cloth of blue. As such, the function is similar to that of clothing in that the veil is used here more to define the space that lies beneath it as sacred and less to protect it from the elements; the veil represented the demarcation between the ark, the symbolic presence of God, and the outer layer of badger skins that covered the entire tabernacle and was open to the elements (which in our sequence may have been represented by the cloth of blue).

The association of the veil with clothing is also found in the color scheme of the veil. According to the text, the veil is to be made up of red, blue, and purple cloth. The same color scheme is found throughout the tabernacle precincts and is particularly noticeable as the color scheme for much of the priest’s clothing:

And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work. . . . And the curious girdle of the ephod . . . shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. . . . And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue , and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen. . . . Upon the hem of it [the priest’s robe] thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof. (Exodus 28:5–6, 8, 15, 33)

Thus at least four pieces of the overall seven-piece costume incorporate the same color scheme as the veil.30

Unfortunately, we are not told what the specific colors represent, though later intertestamental literature assigned them cosmic meaning.31 The scriptures state that the primary function of the clothing was “for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2), which may have meant more than simple adornment. The text does explain that some of the pieces had other functional values. The ephod, for instance, held the Urim and Thummim and served as a reminder of the veil of the temple, also made of the same material and colors as the clothing. The hem of the robe, made up of bells and pomegranates incorporating the same color scheme, was used to provide protection: “And beneath upon the hem of [the robe] thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about. . . . And his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not” (Exodus 28:33, 35).32

Yet while emphasis is placed on the protective nature of the robe, it should not be lost that its ultimate function is not to keep the priest out but to facilitate his interaction with God. In other words, the primary function of the hem of the robe was to protect the priest via the bells and keep him safe while in the presence of God, particularly while going in and out. Thus the entire set of clothing served to create liminal space, just as the veil did spatially within the tabernacle proper. Similarly, the ephod that held the Urim and Thummim functions as an intermediary between two different states, allowing them (in this case the mortal and the divine, represented by the Urim and Thummim) to interact and be in contact. In all of these cases, the items that shared the same color scheme are associated with liminality and the temporary time and space in which interaction between two inimical states can happen.33 That the priest himself functions like the veil between God and the rest of the host of Israel goes without saying, and the veil, like clothing, defines the spaces it covers or separates.34 With this in mind, it is not surprising to see that Christ, our intermediary, is symbolically associated both with the temple veil and as clothing.

Christ and Clothing

Though the association of Christ with clothing has already been noted in the Garden of Eden narrative, Isaiah 61 explicitly reveals the Messiah as one who will invest others with clothing.35 In verse 2 we are told that the anointed one will “comfort all that mourn” by engaging in a series of exchanges, most of them acts either of direct investitures or associated with the covering of an object: “to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”36 The transformation enacted through this investiture results in a new designation: “that they might be called trees of righteousness.” Later, in Isaiah 61:10, the individual rejoices, “for [God] hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”37 The significance of this passage and the saving power of Christ was not lost to the early Christians, for Luke 4 records that Christ began his public ministry by standing up, reading from Isaiah 61, and sitting down, proclaiming that “this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).

Investiture was also utilized by Christ in his later teachings and ministry. One of the more significant events is related in Luke 8:26–35 as Christ interacts with an unnamed man in Galilee who is possessed “and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs” (v. 27). The naked state expresses the young man’s lack of identity; his abode among the tombs demonstrates his lack of belonging, both of which are reemphasized by verse 30, where, when asked his name, he cannot provide it but instead gives another. According to the account, after asking his name, Christ then casts out the devils, at which point the witnesses run back into town to tell of the event. When they return they find “the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed (enduō), and in his right mind” (v. 35). In this case, it would appear that Christ literally clothed the young man, restoring his ability to interact within society.38

Later, in the parable of the prodigal son recorded in chapter 15, Christ’s transforming power through repentance is emphasized when the young man returns from his lost, deathlike state (Luke 15:24). Though the young man admits he has lost his place within the family, the father has him clothed (enduō) in the best robe, among other things, thus symbolically restoring him to his proper place within the family, including the right to be an heir. Finally, Christ tells his disciples that they were to remain in Jerusalem following Christ’s resurrection until “ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, emphasis added).

Christ’s transforming power through investiture is also attested outside of the Four Gospels. In Revelation 7:14 the martyrs killed during the fifth seal are given white robes made “white in the blood of the Lamb.”39 Similarly, the Book of Mormon mentions the cleansing of clothing through Christ’s atoning blood. For example, in 3 Nephi 27:19 Christ himself exhorts us: “No unclean thing can enter into [the Father’s] kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood.”40 In both of these references, the proper state of the clothing is made possible through the atoning process of Christ.

Immortality, one of the transcendent consequences of Christ’s act, is described as something to be put on in no fewer than five references.41 Eternal life is also described in terms of clothing and investiture. Doctrine and Covenants 29:13 records that the righteous dead would come forth “to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as [Christ is], to be with [him], that [they] may be one.” Here we are told that to be with our Father requires both the same clothing that Christ himself is dressed in and the investiture through which the clothing is put on. Thus two gospel concepts–oneness with God (i.e., Zion) and eternal life–are encapsulated in the symbolism of clothing and the significance of investiture. Similarly, in the Book of Mormon, Jacob describes judgment in which the righteous “shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness” (2 Nephi 9:14). Like the verse that precedes it, exaltation is exemplified not only in the clothing worn but also in the investiture. Moreover, Jacob associates the investiture with the acquisition of knowledge as well. In other words, being clothed in the robe of righteousness, the righteous now possess a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment. The clothing acts as communication, providing one the means of knowing “enjoyment.”

Yet Christ is depicted in the scriptures as more than one who clothes us, literally or otherwise. He is also represented as clothing. A woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years decided to touch the hem of Christ’s robe in the hope of being healed: “And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind [Jesus], and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matthew 9:20–21). That her surmise is correct is demonstrated in Mark: “And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed in that plague” (Mark 5:29). Though the physical healing is certainly representative of Christ’s ministry, this event also demonstrates his work as one who restores individuals to a place within society. A malady such as the one the woman experienced would have meant she was unclean and therefore could have transmitted the unclean state to others, from whom she was likely isolated. Christ therefore not only healed her physically but restored the opportunity to interact socially. Achieving this transformation through the medium of his clothing implies that clothing could stand in place of the individual; thus Christ’s clothing can stand in the place of Christ himself.

Later in the writings of Paul we find that those who have been baptized “put on” Christ. Similarly, Romans 13:14 exhorts the saints to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ.42 Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10, though they do not mention Christ explicitly, speak of the need for the newly converted to “put on” the new man made possible through Christ, and in Colossians 3:12–14, the spiritual attributes made possible through baptism are also to be “put on.”43 Yet perhaps one of the most intriguing confluences of images is that found in Hebrews 10:19–20, where we are exhorted to have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” As the verse suggests, at least some in early Christianity associated Christ and his mission with the temple veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies. Certainly there is affinity in function between the veil and Christ in that both must be approached if one is to enter into the presence of God.44 Thus Christ represents the veil that all must pass through to enter the holy of holies, and the veil represents Christ as the keeper of the way to exaltation.45

The poignant irony of associating Christ with clothing is that throughout the atonement that made it possible for us to be clothed in immortality and eternal life, he himself was experiencing the utter humiliation of nakedness. At least three times over the course of the atonement, Christ was stripped of his clothing. The first occurrence was prior to his scourging, as recorded in Mark 15:15, where he was stripped to be beaten with the whip. The second occurrence was when the Roman soldiers stripped Christ of his own robe and placed purple clothing on him, mocking him as king. Finally, the last stripping occurred at the cross as his clothing was taken from him and gambled away among the guards.46 Both the stripping and the resulting nakedness were meant to enhance the total humiliation experienced by those being crucified.47 Thus Christ was completely naked as he performed the exalting sacrifice for all individuals while at the same time fulfilling the supernal promise given to Adam and Eve at their investiture–that Christ would make it possible for all to be clothed, transformed into beings who know they are worthy of salvation and exaltation. This leaves only one loose thread–what does this have to do with Tabitha?

Tabitha, Discipleship, and Investiture

As we noted earlier, we know nothing of this woman’s background, family life, even livelihood, except that she was a disciple of Christ and made clothing (robes and garments) for the widows of the Christian community in Joppa. Yet these are not insignificant details, for Tabitha is the only woman in the New Testament designated as a disciple. It appears that clothing widows is how she carried out her discipleship.48 Understood in this way, like Christ’s acts of investiture, Tabitha’s acts of making and giving clothing to the widows represents her care and love for them; the clothing became tangible symbols of her recognition of the Joppan widows, letting them know that they were not forgotten or abandoned.

In this manner, then, Tabitha becomes an example of the ultimate disciple, one who not only learns but performs in the same manner as the teacher. Not surprisingly, other references describe discipleship in terms of clothing others. Perhaps one of the most powerful is found in Doctrine and Covenants 133:32, where we, having been clothed and crowned, are now responsible for crowning yet others, becoming like God with the power to invest others with the same transformation that we have experienced.49

Thus investiture becomes a sublime symbol of spiritual transformation. Like Adam and Eve, we have a need to be clothed in vestments that represent God’s definition of who we really are, the vestments acting as a bridge, like the temple veil, between the divine and mortal states, and this knowledge in turn provides us the power to become true disciples, like Tabitha, of the one who both clothes and defines us, even Jesus Christ. All of this brings us into a state whereby we can then turn around and bring others into that same exalted sociality, which, of course, is the very plan of salvation.50

Daniel Belnap is assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.

1.    Gary A. Anderson, “The Garments of Skin in Apocryphal Narrative and Biblical Commentary,” in Studies in Ancient Midrash, ed. James L. Kugel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Center for Jewish Studies, 2001), 109: “The propensity to understand ourselves in relation to others and God by virtue of our habits of dress is a deeply rooted aspect of our human condition. Hence any shift in these habits is a potential indicator of a larger ontological shift in human nature.”

2.    Terence S. Turner, “The Social Skin,” in Not Work Alone: A Cross-cultural View of Activities Superfluous to Survival, ed. Jeremy Cherfas and Roger Lewin (London: Temple Smith, 1980), 114–15: “The Kayapo are a native tribe of the southern borders of the Amazon forest. . . . The Kayapo possess a quite elaborate code of what could be called ‘dress,’ a fact which might escape notice by a casual Western observer, because it does not involve the use of clothing. . . . A closer look at Kayapo bodily adornment discloses that the apparently naked savage is as fully covered in a fabric of cultural meaning as the most elaborately draped Victorian lady or gentleman.” See also E. Adamson Hoebel, “Clothing and Ornament,” in Dress, Adornment, and the Social Order, ed. Mary E. Roach and Joanne B. Eicher (New York: Wiley & Sons, 1965), 16–17: “A favored tale among anthropologists is that of Baron von Nordenskiold, who in his Amazonian travels undertook to purchase the facial plugs of a Botocudo woman, who stood all unabashed in customary nudity before him. Only irresistible offers of trade goods at long last tempted her to remove and hand over her labrets. When thus stripped of her proper raiment, she fled in shame and confusion into the jungle.”

3.    Susan B. Kaiser, The Social Psychology of Clothing and Personal Adornment (New York: Macmillan, 1985), 32–33: “There is little evidence to support the idea that individuals are instinctively ashamed of their bodies. . . . The fact that modesty is socially learned and situated–and thus not instinctive–can be illustrated by the fact that children are not instinctively modest. . . . Cross-cultural definitions of modesty vary. That is to say, what is considered to be a shameful display of the body in one culture may be totally acceptable, or even expected, in another.”

4.    Martha T. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 168–69, Middle Assyrian Law Code A, 40-1. Similarly, a palace decree of Tiglath-Pileser states if a male responds to the attentions of a woman of the palace who “has bared her shoulders and is not covered even with a kindabašše garment” and he is reported, the one who gives the report gets the clothing of the offending individual, and in the end, the offending individual has only sackcloth tied around his waist (206).

5.    Meir Malul, Studies in Mesopotamian Legal Symbolism (Kevelaer, Germany: Butzon & Bercker, 1988), 122–38. Also, Karel van der Toorn, “The Significance of the Veil in the Ancient Near East,” in Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom, ed. David P. Wright, David Noel Freedman, and Avi Hurvitz (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 327–39.

6.    See ke Viberg, Symbols of Law: A Contextual Analysis of Legal Symbolic Acts in the Old Testament (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1992), who discusses these texts: “The act performed by Jonathan may very well be based on a legal symbolic act which is also known from Ugarit, Emar and El-Qiṭar. There are three texts from Ugarit that are relevant, PRU IV, 17.159; RS 8.145 and Ugaritica V, 83 (RS 20.146). Of these RS 8.145 and Ugaritica V, 83 are wills, describing how a son who refuses to obey his father is forced to leave the house and deposit his mantle on the stool or the door-bolt. The legal function was to expel a member from the family, thus depriving him of his legal status as a member of the family. In PRU IV, 17.159, the prince and heir to the throne of Ugarit, called Utrisharruma, is given an ultimatum, lines 22–31. Either he stays with his father Amistamru, King of Ugarit, or he follows his mother Bentesina, who has been divorced from the king, lines 8–10. As mentioned above, if the prince chooses to follow his mother, he is told to put his mantle on the throne and leave, line 26. The texts from Emar are mainly wills, containing clauses that regulate the inheritance in the case of certain changed circumstances. One of these wills states that a daughter who does not accept the mother after the death of the father, must put the mantle on a chair and leave the house. The same is applied to a child who does not accept the father, the husband in the will of the wife, and the wife in the will of the husband.” Similarly, in an Old Babylonian text (BRM IV 52), the stripping of the wife’s clothes was performed for divorce. Elsewhere in ancient Near Eastern documents, divorce was effected by the cutting off of the hem of the spouse (primarily the wife’s hem); see Wolfram von Soden, Akkadisches Handwšrterbuch (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1965–81), s.v. sissiktu, 4a, 1051. For a general discussion on the role of hems, see Jacob Milgrom, “Of Hems and Tassals: Rank, Authority and Holiness Were Expressed in Antiquity by Fringes on Garments,” Biblical Archaeology Review 9/3 (1983): 61–65; see also Paul A. Kruger, “The Hem of the Garment in Marriage: The Meaning of the Symbolic Gesture in Ruth 3:9 and Ezek 16:8,” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 12 (1984): 79–86.

7.    Robert K. Ritner, The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice (Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1993), 114–36. Rendering the captive naked is a common image; see also the Megiddo Ivory in the Israeli Museum.

8.    Similarly, in the Old Testament foreign women who are taken captive are made naked. See Saul Olyan, Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of the Cult (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 97: “The text describes the process by which a foreign woman, taken by force to the home of her captor, makes the transition from alien captive to wife or concubine of an Israelite male. A series of ritual actions are presented that are intended to begin that transition. The shaving of the hair of the head, the cutting of the nails, and the removal of the ‘garment of captivity’ move the woman into a period of liminality during which she mourns her parents, whom she will never see again. It is probable that they have become ‘socially dead’ to her, though they are not physically dead. These gestures are all to be understood as rites effecting the separation or alienation of the woman from her previous identity. . . . To shave off the hair and cut the nails in combination with discarding the ‘garment of captivity’ and mourning socially dead parents seem in this context to mean to cut off the captive from her past, erasing her old identity and making it possible for her to assume a new identity in Israel.”

9.    Maximilian Streck, Assurbanipal und die Letzten Assyrischen Kšnige bis zum Untergange Niniveh’s, vol. 2 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1916), 34, IV, 1.26. For a general study on the role of stripping as a form of subjugation and humiliation, see M. E. Vogelzang and W. J. van Bekkum, “Meaning and Symbolism of Clothing in Ancient Near Eastern Texts,” in Scripta Signa Vocis: Studies about Scripts, Scriptures, Scribes, and Languages in the Near East, Presented to J. H. Hospers, ed. H. L. J. Vanstiphout et al. (Groningen, Netherlands: Forsten, 1986), 265–84.

10.    Victor H. Matthews, “The Anthropology of Clothing in the Joseph Narrative,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 20/65 (March 1995): 31. Interestingly, the entire Joseph pericope centers around the reception and loss of clothing. When Potiphar’s wife seeks relations with Joseph, Joseph is again reduced to “nakedness”: “Again, he is stripped of his status-marker and the symbol of his role within that community” (32). Later, he is reinvested with clothing upon entering the royal court: “The radical change in appearance effected by these new robes of office, and the other gifts given to him by the pharaoh (his new name, and his Egyptian wife) transforms Joseph from a prisoner into a courtier” (34). Finally, Joseph demonstrates his acceptance of his brothers by providing them with their own sets of clothing. “This final step brings the story full circle and provides one final use of garments as a status marker. Joseph is now in a position to give clothing to his brothers” (35).

11.    Shaving was used to humiliate and shame an individual as well. Saul Olyan discusses the role of shaving in rites associated with transition in social status; see Saul M. Olyan, “What Do Shaving Rites Accomplish and What Do They Signal in Biblical Ritual Contexts?” Journal of Biblical Studies 117/4 (1998): 611–22.

12.    Both social relationships are emphasized in the recent document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

13.    Liminality is first used in the studies of Arthur Van Gennep in his seminal work The Rites of Passage, trans. Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960). Van Gennep coined the term to describe the temporary time and space created during ritual processes in which individuals were formally taken out of one social state (childhood, single status, etc.) and prepared for both entrance and participation in another social state (puberty, marriage, etc.). Because liminality exists outside of “normal” space and time, this place was symbolized as death, the womb, the outside, and was a dangerous place in terms of its being outside society but completely necessary for the smooth transitions within a society. Most important, liminality was never meant to be a permanent state but a temporary one that existed for the specific purpose only.

14.    Julie Galambush, “ʾādām from ʾadāmā, iššâ from ʾ”š: Derivation and Subordination in Genesis 2.4b–3.24,” in History and Interpretation: Essays in Honour of John H. Hayes, ed. M. P. Graham et al. (Sheffield, England: JSOT, 1993), 38: “Shame’s absence is noteworthy only in a world characterized by its presence.”

15.    Kaiser, Social Psychology of Clothing, 216–17, emphasis in original: “There are two important functions to clothes in nonverbal communication. First, they help us to negotiate identities, as we present our situated identities or roles, moods, values, and attitudes to one another. Second, they help us to define situations, that is, to socially construct the basis for our interactions.” See Malcolm Bernard, Fashion as Communication, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2002), 39: “Clothing and fashion, as communication, are cultural phenomena in that culture may itself be understood as a signifying system, as the ways in which a society’s beliefs, values, ideas and experiences are communicated through practices, artefacts and institutions. . . . Fashion, clothing and dress are the artefacts, practices and institutions that constitute a society’s beliefs, values, ideas and experiences. According to this view, fashion, dress and clothing are ways in which people communicate, not only things like feeling and mood, but also the values, hopes and beliefs of the social groups of which they are members. They are, then, the ways in which society is produced and reproduced.”

16.    “Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.” For the Strength of Youth (2011), 6.

17.    Kate Soper, “Dress Needs: Reflections on the Clothed Body, Selfhood and Consumption,” in Body Dressing, ed. Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wilson (Oxford: Berg, 2001), 20–21: “In the emphasis on the need for clothing as personal self-expression, we should not overlook the recourse to regulations on dress and the wearing of uniform as a means of excluding, oppressing and condemning. Nor should we forget the extent to which restrictions on human dress are used to distinguish and police social and sexual hierarchies.”

18.    Some suggest that this status change represents a movement from animal to human. See Soper, “Dress Needs,” 17: “In Christian mythology, we acquire our clothes in losing our ‘natural’ innocence and coming into knowledge of good and evil. Clothes are in this sense definitively cultural objects closely bound up with a sense of shame, and their primary purpose is to conceal the organs of those functions . . . which have been deemed to degrade us by tying us too closely to a bestial nature. Clothes, in short, serve us as a cardinal marker of the divide between ourselves and the rest of the animal world. . . . Clothes have been very extensively used to assert the cultural status of human beings, to police the border between humans and animals.”

19.    Rita C. Poretsky, “Clothing and Self: Biblical and Rabbinic Perspectives,” Journal of Psychology and Judaism 10/1 (1986): 53: “Nakedness is a nakedness of self in a social context, not just a nakedness of body. There is a microcosmic balancing of principle within each specific act. . . . The fear of being naked, without identity, is strong, especially when the only available clothes do not fit. The task to make new clothes and a new world in order to be whole is overwhelming, but the only other choices are a lost sense of self, from wearing no clothes; or a self that is betrayed, bound to the dead hand of custom and costume. In this context, it is not surprising that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, saw that they were naked, and Adam-humankind felt afraid before God.”

20.    Terje Stordalen, Echoes of Eden: Genesis 2–3 and the Symbolism of the Eden Garden in Biblical Hebrew Literature (Leuven: Peeters, 2000), 228–29: “If nakedness was depriving within the shame codex in which the implied reader was socialised, Gen 2:25 would not imply restrained happiness. . . . Eating from the tree has a positive function in removing human ignorance. By 3:8.10 the human couple has gained the insight that one should not appear naked before YHWH. Such an effect of the tree is conceived of as ‘regular’ within the story world. . . . All this should indicate a positive development, stretching from the ignorance in 2:25 through the eating (3:1–6) and the gained insight (3:7–11) to the clothing (3:21).”

21.    Robert A. Oden Jr., “Grace or Status? Yahweh’s Clothing of the First Humans,” in The Bible without Theology: The Theological Tradition and Alternatives to It (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 102–3: “Finally, and significantly, Utnapishtim asks that Gilgamesh return to civilization, to his city, wearing a ‘garment,’ ‘his finest garment.’ . . . The cumulative effect of all these references to clothing in the Gilgamesh Epic is impressive. The human state–and that, among many other things, is partly what Gilgamesh is all about–is a state symbolized by the donning of manufactured garments. . . . Humans are those who live most properly in cities (the social setting, par excellence), are mortal, have obligations to one another–and wear clothing.”

22.    Frank H. Gorman Jr., The Ideology of Ritual: Space, Time and Status in the Priestly Theology (Sheffield, England: JSOT, 1990), 116–17: “The change of clothes is symbolic of a ritually constituted change of status. In Lev. 16.4, 24 Aaron’s bathings mark off his marginal status, symbolized by his change of clothes, within the larger ritual process.”

23.    Ernest Crawley, “Sacred Dress,” in Dress, Adornment, and the Social Order, 141: “With the vestment the priest puts on the ‘character’ of divinity. By change of vestments he multiplies the Divine force, while showing its different aspects.”

24.    See Leviticus 16:4–24, which describes the divestiture and investiture of the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Jung Hoon Kim, The Significance of Clothing Imagery in the Pauline Corpus (London: Clark International, 2004), 20: “All these garments seem to constitute the formal apparel of Aaron the [high] priest. No doubt, whenever he entered the Holy Place for the performance of his ministry, he had to wear them. Yet, when he entered the most holy place, he might wear only the linen tunic, linen undergarments, the linen sash and the linen turban, and not the ephod and the blue robe. The author of the Pentateuch does not provide any explanation concerning this difference. But as the whiteness of the four linen items can represent divine holiness, the difference probably means that when the priest entered the most holy place, he had to endue himself with a holiness which was suited to the supreme sacredness of the place.”

25.    A similar transformation is witnessed in Zechariah 3:3–5, where the high priest Joshua is in the presence of an angel and Satan. After Satan is rebuked and sent away, God commands that Joshua be clothed and given a crown before being given his instructions. Though this article concerns the transformations through investiture and divestiture in the scriptures, it should be pointed out that this process is found throughout intertestamental and postbiblical literature; see the Testament of Levi, 2 Enoch, 3 Enoch, the Ascension of Isaiah, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. In each case, as the individual ascends into the presence of God, a change of apparel, usually performed by another member of the divine society, is required for the transformation to be made complete. For more on the role of investiture in divine ascents, see Martha Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); and William J. Hamblin, “Temple Motifs in Jewish Mysticism,” in Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, ed. Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1994), 440–76.

26.    Gorman, Ideology of Ritual, 118–19, 134–35: “Aaron is clothed in the special attire of the high priest. The concern here is not to find any particular symbolic meaning for each item of clothing; rather, the concern is to see the ritual importance of the act of clothing. As already suggested, the clothing rite serves as a marker of Aaron’s passage into his new status. It does not in and of itself effect that passage. . . . The clothes are a symbolic statement about his status. They give tangible evidence of his changed position in society and serve as a symbol of his unique status. . . . There is a consistent theme in these chapters that those who encroach upon the realm of the holy are liable to death. This is the response of Yahweh to encroachers who cross the boundaries of the sacred improperly. Aaron and his sons have been given safe passage, not only to cross these boundaries, but to stay within them. The crossing of the sacred boundaries is dangerous, but ritual structures make it possible. The priests have stood in the breach between life and death and now live to act as mediators between the sacred and non-sacred, and between life and death.” While Gorman would assign only symbolic meaning to the investiture, that the investiture can also be a ritual of transformation is demonstrated in Numbers 20:25–29. Here Moses invests Aaron’s son Eleazar with Aaron’s garments, signifying that he has become the new high priest. Aaron then dies on the mountain. It is possible that his death is brought upon by his now profane state. Whatever the reason for his dying, it is clear that the stripping of Aaron and the dressing of Eleazar is the primary ritual that denotes the transformation, not the washing.

27.    George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1955), 1:306: “‘Dust’ has several figurative and symbolic meanings in the Scriptures. To sit in the dust and to sprinkle dust on the head was a sign of deep mourning. (Job 1:12, 13; Isa. 47:1) To lick the dust of one’s feet, as it is said was customary at some Oriental courts, when subjects were admitted to the presence of sovereigns (Isa. 49:23) was, of course, a degrading humiliation. When the Serpent (Gen. 3:14; Isa. 65:25) was condemned to ‘eat dust’ all the days of his life, he was, in modern language, doomed to an existence of the most degrading nature imaginable. He who, in the Garden of Eden, was the spokesman of Satan, became, as it were, a slave of slaves of the fallen angel. (Pearl of Great Price, Mos. 4:6–7).” In the apocryphal work Discourse on Abbaton (found in Coptic Martyrdoms etc. in the Dialect of Upper Egypt, ed. and trans. E. A. Wallis Budge [London: Longmans, 1914], 483–84), we read an interesting passage concerning Satan’s loss of clothing leading to a loss of his power and authority: “And when Adam had risen up he cast himself down before [My] Father, saying, ‘My Lord and my God! Thou hast made me to come into being [from a state in which] I did not exist.’ Thereupon My Father set him upon a great throne, and He placed on his head a crown of glory, and He put a royal sceptre [in his hand], and My Father made every order [of angels] in the heavens to come and worship him, whether angel or archangel. . . . And My Father said unto him (i.e. their chief), ‘Come, thou thyself shalt worship my image and likeness.’ And he, being of great pride, drew himself up in a shameless manner, and said, ‘It is meet that this [man Adam] should come and worship me, for I existed before he came into being.’ And when My Father saw his great pride, and that his wickedness and his evil-doing were complete, He commanded all the armies of heaven, saying, ‘Remove the writing [which is] in the hand of the proud one, strip ye off his armour, and cast ye him down upon the earth, for his time hath come.’ . . . And all the angels gathered together to him, and they did not wish to remove the writing from his hand. And My Father commanded them to bring a sharp reaping-knife, and to stab him therewith on this side and that, right through his body to the vertebrae of his shoulders” (bracketed text in original). Nibley changes this translation slightly by placing “token” there instead of “writing” and “panoply” instead of “armor.” Moreover, he notes that the cutting is at breast level with a sickle-shaped instrument. For the purposes of this paper, note Satan’s humiliation and loss of social status through the symbolic loss of clothing (his armor). Hugh Nibley, “On the Sacred and the Symbolic,” in Temples of the Ancient World, 556.

28.    Kim, Significance of Clothing, 17: “Adam’s restoration to God’s image particularly denotes the restoration of his royal status. The garment of skin also connotes reconciliation with God. When Adam wore his own fig-leaves apron, he was afraid of God, but when he was clothed with a garment of skin provided by God, he did not panic before him. In short, the clothing image in Gen. 3.21 signifies that Adam’s restoration to his original life and glory, to peace with God, and to kingship over the other creatures has started.”

29.    The Hebrew word translated as “atonement” or “atone” in the Old Testament is kipper. Though its meaning has been debated somewhat, the act associated with the term describes a smearing or wiping of a substance, usually blood, on the surface of another. Thus one is “atoned” when blood from the sacrifice covers the prescribed item regardless of whether the term actually means “cleansing” or “covering.” Thus the act of covering becomes symbolic of Christ’s atonement when he was “covered” to cleanse us from sin. Interestingly, the clothing is made of skins, suggesting that Christ performed an animal sacrifice symbolic of his own atoning sacrifice, thus perhaps representing the doctrine that only Christ could perform the atonement. This, in turn, provides greater significance to the nakedness experienced by Christ in the atonement. Like Adam and Eve, Christ goes through a series of investitures and divestitures through the process, beginning clothed and ending naked. Adam and Eve go from naked to clothed. Both are defined by mortals, Adam and Eve in the beginning and Christ at the end, and defined by God, Christ in the beginning (covered in blood), Adam and Eve at the end (by Christ).

30.    The seven pieces are the underlying pure white linen shift, the breastplate, the ephod, the girdle, the robe, the bonnet or mitre, and the outer coat. Of these the breastplate, the ephod, the girdle, and the border of the robe all incorporate the blue, scarlet, and purple colors found on the veil.

31.    Philo of Alexandria and Josephus both describe the high priest’s clothing as being covered in images symbolizing the cosmos and thus standing as the universe itself. It is a long-standing tradition that the robes of the high priest are in fact the same garments given to Adam prior to the expulsion. Thus the garments themselves would have represented the cosmos (see Wisdom of Solomon 18:24; Josephus, Antiquities 3.184). It is unclear whether the descriptions found within these references represent older traditions since they are all of relatively late dating. Nothing in the Old Testament explicitly states that these clothing items carried these connotations.

32.    The role of clothing to provide protection from supernatural forces is attested elsewhere; see Linda Welters “Introduction: Folk Dress, Supernatural Beliefs, and the Body,” in Folk Dress in Europe and Anatolia: Beliefs about Protection and Fertility, ed. Linda Welters (Oxford: Berg, 1999), 10: “In many parts of the Western world, people still believe that clothing holds special powers. They still practice rituals and customs that invest cloth with the power to aid and protect the body. ‘Luck’ is a quality we all associate with certain articles of dress in our wardrobes. For decades brides have worn ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ to ensure a happy union blessed with children. Baseball players use clothing rituals as ‘magic to try to control or eliminate the change and uncertainty built into baseball.'” Other examples are explored in Patricia Williams, “Protection from Harm: The Shawl and Cap in Czech and Slovak Wedding, Birthing and Funerary Rites,” in Folk Dress in Europe and Anatolia, 146–47: “The earliest extant examples of Slavic ritual cloths have red embroidery, which represents good fortune and is a repellent of the evil eye. The idea of the color was so powerful that it did not matter if the dyes failed to achieve a deep tone. . . . During the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries simple embroidery, incorporating symbols first developed in materials other than textiles, replaced the use of three-dimensional fetishes and amulets worn on the body and attached to clothing.” See also Mary B. Kelly, “Living Textile Traditions of the Carpathians,” in Folk Dress in Europe and Anatolia, 167, 169: “Whether in the Ukraine or Romania, mountain women protected themselves and their families with sacred motifs on dress. The placement of the motifs on clothing was of particular importance. . . . The sleeves of both men’s and women’s garments were banded with designs over the pectoral muscle that emphasized strength for the arm. The openings of the neck, sleeve and hem, the areas where evil could enter and harm the body, were similarly protected. Positioning of motifs on the chest area of men’s shirts, and over women’s breasts, emphasized power for the men and good milk for the women.” See also Henry Maguire, “Garments Pleasing to God: The Significance of Domestic Textile Designs in the Early Byzantine Period,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 44 (1990): 215: “The designs on early Byzantine domestic textiles were more than mere conveyors of messages; it was not only information that they projected, such as social rank or status, but a force operating invisibly on behalf of the wearers or users of the textiles.” See also 2 Kings 2:8, where Elijah uses his cloak to split the river Jordan.

33.    The idea of clothing as liminality has been realized elsewhere; see Joanne Entwistle, “The Dressed Body,” in Body Dressing, 37: “Dress lies at the margins of the body and marks the boundary between self and other, individual and society . . . [and] is structured by social forces and subject to social and moral pressures.”

34.    Blake Ostler, “Clothed Upon: A Unique Aspect of Christian Antiquity,” BYU Studies 22/1 (1982): 35–36: “Many ancient texts confuse the garment with the veil of the temple, such as Ambrose of Milano’s Tractate of the Mysteries or the Hebrew Book of Enoch where ‘garment’ and ‘veil’ are used interchangeably. Enoch is clothed with the veil in the Hebrew Book of Enoch: ‘The Holy One . . . made me a throne similar to the throne of glory. And He spread over me a curtain [veil] of splendour and brilliant appearance of beauty, grace, and mercy, similar to the curtain [veil] of the throne of glory, and on it were fixed all kinds of lights in the universe.'”

35.    This is somewhat ironic in that the term Messiah is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew meshiach, which means the one who is anointed, or covered, in oil. Similarly, the Greek translation “Christos” describes one who has been covered in oil (which is the meaning of the word chrism). Thus the Messiah, one who was covered, has the primary responsibility to clothe and cover others.

36.    Though the KJV translates the term peēr as “beauty,” a more literal translation would reflect a piece of clothing, thus “a turban for ashes.”

37.    Other scriptures associate divine investiture of the priests with clothes of salvation: “Let thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation” (2 Chronicles 6:41), and “I will also clothe her priests with salvation” (Psalm 132:16). In both cases, this is followed by a clause recounting the joyful praise of the saints following the investiture. Interestingly, the Isaiah reference above can be construed as the type of praise the saints will have, as it is in the voice of the one invested. The same terminology is employed in Doctrine and Covenants 109:80, the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple: “And let these, thine anointed ones, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints shout aloud for joy.” Finally, the imagery allows us to grasp the full depth of Nephi’s plea, “O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness” (2 Nephi 4:33), as it emphasizes his desire to participate in the social relationship with God implied through investiture. Brigham Young associated this series of exchanges with the temple endowment: “Brethren, we verily know and bear testimony that a cloud of blessing and of endowment, and of keys of the fulness of the priesthood, and of things pertaining to eternal life, is hanging over us. . . . Therefore . . . enter steadily and regularly upon a strict observance of the law of tithing, and of freewill offerings, till Jehovah shall say it is enough; your offerings are accepted: then come up to the House of the Lord, and be taught in his ways, and walk in his paths; yea, enter his sanctuary; and receive the oil of joy for mourning, and garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (History of the Church, 7:280).

38.    His sitting at Christ’s feet would have demonstrated not only a return to society but also the recognized position between teacher and student.

39.    The primary characteristic of all the divine beings, including those who had been exalted, is the clothing or the white robe. As such their clothing represents their divine status. See Dietmar Neufeld, “Sumptuous Clothing and Ornamentation in the Apocalypse,” Hervormde teologiese studies 58/2 (2002): 684: “These astral deities, so clad in white and gold, . . . symbolize purity and righteousness and exalted status. . . . They are power wielders who are entitled to privileges not normally accorded human beings. . . . Yet, even though the scene is not part of human experience, those who are robed in white, may, however, share in the reign of God.”

40.    See 1 Nephi 12:10, 11; Alma 5:21, 27; 13:11; 34:36; 3 Nephi 27:19; Ether 13:10. Alma 5:21–29 discusses the need for clean clothing, how one becomes clean, and the necessity of becoming naked first by stripping oneself of pride and envy.

41.    The five references are 1 Corinthians 15:53–54; Enos 1:27; Mosiah 16:10; Alma 40:2; and Mormon 6:21. Throughout Leviticus to put on is used to describe the act of the priestly dressing.

42.    An intriguing study on the early Christian association of Christ with clothing can be seen in Ewa Kuryluk, Veronica and Her Cloth: History, Symbolism and Structure of a “True” Image (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1991), where she explores the role of cloth imprinted with the images of Christ in early Christian belief.

43.    “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, . . . bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another . . . and above all these things, put on charity” (Colossians 3:12–14). The association of the Holy Ghost with clothing is found elsewhere. In Judges 6:34, the Hebrew reads, “The Spirit clothed Gideon.” For more on the divine influence as clothing, see Nahum M. Waldman, “The Imagery of Clothing, Covering, and Overpowering,” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 19 (1989): 161–70. See also Yochanan Muffs, “As a Cloak Clings to Its Owner: Aspects of Divine-Human Reciprocity,” in Love and Joy: Law, Language, and Religion in Ancient Israel (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1992), 49–60.

44.    In the Book of Mormon, Jacob tells us that the gate to eternal life is narrow and that “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate” (2 Nephi 9:41).

45.    As such, Christ’s work, and even Christ himself, may be associated with liminality, as his ministry provides a time and space to work out our salvation. Alma understood the liminal nature of time-space created through the atonement when he stated in Alma 42:13 that only on conditions of repentance and this probationary state (elsewhere described as a preparatory state, a liminal description to be sure) could salvation come about. Thus Christ takes the negative liminality of the Garden of Eden and creates a new, positive liminality, our time-space, in terms of our eternal destiny.

46.    This specific stripping had another powerful connotation that would have been recognized by Jewish readers. According to Exodus 22:26–27, a person’s clothing, if taken in a pledge, is to be returned to that person by evening: “If thou at all take thy neighbor’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by [the time] the sun goeth down: for that is his covering only.” In other words, to avoid the individual’s nakedness the clothing has to be given back that day, unlike his land or other possessions, which may kept longer. Thus Christ is stripped of the only possession that a man can truly keep at all times. He is utterly bereft.

47.    Gerald G. O’Collins, “Crucifixion,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1208–9: “The victims carried the cross or at least a transverse beam (patibulum) to the place of the execution, where they were stripped and bound or nailed to the beam. . . . The Romans frequently employed the sadistically cruel and utterly shameful death by crucifixion to uphold civil authority and to preserve law. . . . In Palestine crucifixion was a public reminder of Jewish servitude to a foreign power. Hence Jesus’ cross was a sign of extreme ‘shame’ (Heb 12:2).” The same idea is found in 2 Nephi 9:18: “they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

48.    The common term used to designate a disciple in the New Testament is mathētēs; however, the only feminine form of the word (mathētria) appears in Acts 9:36. While some have questioned the exact relationship between the widows and Tabitha’s clothing, Fitzmyer points out that the verb used to describe the widows showing Peter the clothing (epideiknymenai) means “to show oneself”–in other words, they showed themselves dressed in the robes she made for them. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 445.

49.    Sebastian Brock, “Clothing Metaphors as a Means of Theological Expression in Syriac Tradition,” in Typus, Symbol, Allegorie bei den šstlichen VÅ tern und ihren Parallelen im Mittelalter, ed. Margot Schmidt (Regensburg: Pustet, 1982), 20: “We have already seen that the eschatological aspects of the ‘robe of glory’ obviate any idea of a purely cyclical process, in that the Endzeit is by no means a straight reflection of the Urzeit: the last state of Adam/mankind is to be far more glorious than his former state in the primordial Paradise, for, as Ephrem puts it, ‘The exalted One knew that Adam desired to become a God, so he sent his Son who put Adam on, to give him his desire.’ The Syriac Fathers, no less than the Greek, see the theōsis or divinization of man as the end purpose of the inhominization of God.”

50.    Jean A. Hamilton and Jana Hawley, “Sacred Dress, Public Worlds: Amish and Mormon Experiences and Commitment,” in Religion, Dress and the Body, ed. Linda B. Arthur (Oxford: Berg, 1999), 49–50: “A garment-wearing Mormon is not obvious to an observer. Hidden by street clothes, the benefits of wearing one’s garments, from the view of most members, are spiritual. However, as an unseen undergarment, they also facilitate the individual’s immersion in and influence on, the dominant social world. . . . This, in turn, facilitates their ability to influence it. . . . Their sacred dress serves to preserve their worldviews at the same [time] as it mediates being both in and of the public world” (emphasis in original).


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