Sabbath and Shabbat

Words of the week: Shabbat  שַׁבָּת (To rest)   Shabbat Shalom!

On 7 August 1831, Joseph Smith dictated a revelation now known as Doctrine and Covenants 59, describing how the Church was to observe the Sabbath, or the “Lord’s day.” The revelation was specifically addressed to those who had recently moved to Independence, Missouri, and it probably came in response to the actions of their neighbors.

Many of the people who were already living in Jackson County had a different idea about what it meant to observe the Sabbath than the early Saints. A traveler to western Missouri in 1833, for example, stated that “the only indications of its being Sunday” in the area was “the unusual Gambling & noise, & assemblies around taverns.” It was in this context that the Lord revealed that observing the Sabbath would help keep the saints “unspotted from the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:9).

 

The situation of the members of the Church in Missouri at this time was similar to another group of people who long ago also wanted to keep themselves “unspotted from the world.” In Mosiah 18, Alma was teaching people the gospel and having them leave their old homes to gather with the saints in the wilderness. Likewise, the saints in Independence had recently left their old homes to gather with the saints in a place that was, at the time, effectively wilderness. Both groups were attempting to separate themselves from the worldly practices around them. (Organization of the Relief Society by Nadine Barton)

 

Significantly, like Doctrine and Covenants 59Mosiah 18 also emphasizes the Sabbath. For example, shortly after baptizing those that had come out to him, Alma “commanded them that they should observe the Sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Mosiah 18:23). These words come from the Ten Commandments, which Alma had heard the prophet Abinadi quote to King Noah and his distinctly unholy priests. Like Alma’s instructions to his people, Doctrine and Covenants 59:10 similarly goes on to state that on the Lord’s “holy day,” the Sabbath, the saints should rest “from their labors” and pay their “devotions unto the Most High.” See Mosiah 18:25.

For Alma’s people, “there was one day in every week that was set apart that they should gather themselves together to … worship the Lord their God” (Mosiah 18:25). The Lord told the saints in this dispensation that “on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:12). This shows that in both cases, the people were told to gather together to worship one day a week. Yet both texts also emphasize that “every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God” (Mosiah 18:23), or, as the Doctrine and Covenants puts it, “thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:11).

 

In many ways, it makes sense that the Lord would emphasize the Sabbath as a way to help people create a new identity in a new place. When the people were coming out to Alma to be baptized, they were leaving their temple behind (Mosiah 11:10). This sacred space would likely have been a very important part of these people’s lives. However, Alma seems to have been reminding them that even though they left their sacred space (the temple) behind, they could still take sacred time (the Sabbath) with them wherever they went. This seems to have been an ancient Israelite idea as well. In addition, the fact that keeping the Sabbath is so unusual allows any group that keeps it to remain somewhat distinct.

 

As the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants demonstrate, the Sabbath can be a force for good in the lives of all those who observe it. It can help people to avoid worldly influences and to remain distinct from those influences.12 In addition, the Sabbath allows people to experience sacred time, even if they may live too far from a temple or chapel to experience sacred space on a regular basis.

 

As President Russell M. Nelson stated, What did the Savior mean when He said that “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath”? I believe He wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief.

 

The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants affirm that the principles behind the Lord’s distinctive commandment to His ancient covenant peoples regarding the hallowing of one day in seven are still alive and in effect in this dispensation of the Gospel. The people of God today should give to Him one day each week, dedicating their time to worshipping and serving the Lord. Modern readers can, and will, experience the many blessings promised in the scriptures if they will observe and keep this inspired guidance by lovingly dedicating His day each week to Him and His wishes, as He has gently invited and instructed His people to do.

 

Judah Observes the Sabbath

For centuries Judah’s observance of the Sabbath, which is “representative of the mystery and majesty of the divine,” has distinguished its people from pagan neighbors and preserved its identity as a covenant people. Some, such as Ahad Ha-Am (as noted below), have surmised that because of its unique formalism, keeping the Sabbath preserved the Jews more than any other tradition or practice.

 

Although there are variations in the formalism of observance, a general pattern tended to follow these guidelines: Friday was given over to preparations for the Sabbath and the Sabbath ritual commenced at sunset. In ancient times, the designated hour to begin the Sabbath was announced in Jerusalem when a priest standing atop a temple tower blew a ram’s horn or trumpet. In other Judean localities a sexton atop a synagogue roof issued similar blasts from a horn. The first blast signaled those laboring in the fields to cease work. Those who worked in town waited until the second blast to close their shops. The third blast announced the time to kindle Sabbath lights. After candles were lit, three successive blasts heralded the sacred Sabbath rest. Although the blasts have fallen out of use, observant Jews still begin the period of rest shortly before sundown.

As the day for praising and celebrating god unfolded, Jews donned fine clothes, ate delicious meals, studied the Torah, and attended lectures on religious topics. On the Sabbath, fasting, mourning, and petitioning God for release from sorrows are prohibited, for the Sabbath is a day of rejoicing. On this day even a poor man is considered rich and all men and women were considered kings and queens. On this day worldly cares are replaced with rejoicing, pleasures, and a “foretaste of paradise.”

As the Sabbath wanes and three stars appear in the sky, observers light a candle and people wish each other, “A good week, a full week, a fortunate week, on us and on all of Israel. Amen.” Songs are sung and the Sabbath ends. “Shabbat Sholom!”

The idea of Sabbath, particularly rest from daily toil, so permeated Judaism that it expanded into other time frames: from one day in seven, to one year in seven, and culminating in a jubilee year: one whole year after seven times seven years. But whether measured in days, weeks, or years, the observance of Sabbath has been and continues to be of central importance to the Jewish people. As Madsen noted,  “One could argue that the things that might well have destroyed the Jews failed to do so because, if for no other reason, they kept the Sabbath – even in a small degree.” By Susan Easton Black, The Sabbath As A Covenant in Mormonism and Judaism,

Shabbat is special because God has sanctified the day and made it unique, and Shabbat is special because we tap into that uniqueness by doing things we don’t ordinarily do, by performing rituals that make the Shabbat experience singular for us. These rituals give Shabbat an aura that sets it apart from our workweek, and bring the holiness of Shabbat into our lives.

It begins with the way in which we usher in Shabbat—we work Friday to prepare ourselves, home, and family, and then eighteen minutes before sunset, all becomes still as we light the candles, cover our eyes and recite the blessing. This Shabbat tranquility that has descended upon us carries through to the Friday night services welcoming of Shabbat, “Came my Beloved to meet the Bride; let us welcome the Shabbat,” the greetings we extend to our attendant angels upon arrival from the synagogue, the Kiddush – sanctification – and meals we hold in honor of Shabbat, and ultimately, to Shabbat’s final

Shabbat candles are traditionally a woman’s mitzvah – responsibility and blessing. The woman sets the tone of the household; it is her task and G‑d-given ability to ensure that light and harmony prevail in her home.

  • Young girls light before their mother.
  • Place the candles on or near the Shabbat dinner table.
  • Put some money in a charity box before lighting the candles.
  • Until marriage, women and girls light one candle. Post-marriage, women light two candles. Some add an additional candle for each child, so that, for example, a woman with three children lights five candles.
  • Once a woman recites the blessing, she has ushered in the Shabbat. From that point on, she may not engage in any activity that is forbidden on Shabbat.
  • The candles and candlesticks may not be moved until the conclusion of Shabbat.
  • Electric bulbs can be used as Shabbat candles where an open flame is not possible, such as in a hospital.

 

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The Book of Mysteries – Book of Secrets

 

Word of the Week: yom tov = Good day.  Combined with shalom Aleichem (may you have peace).

This email speaks of similarities between a Dead Sea Scroll which is unlike the other scrolls, and the similarity of content found in the Book of Mormon, recognizing these texts were written within a few hundred years of one another, on different continents, by those unaware of any similarity to any other wisdom literature.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain found manuscripts of most of the Torah scrolls. They also contain texts called “wisdom texts”. These are from the Qumran area where the Scrolls were found. These texts are almost non-Essene in origin. The Essenes were a sect living in Kirbet Qumran, where the DSS were discovered. Written in Aramaic, the leaders of this ancient Gospel set forth a much higher moral and spiritual understanding than other teachings of that time.

In my study of portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls I came across information on the Book of Mysteries, aka Book of Secrets. This is an ancient Essene text found in fragmentary form among the Dead Sea scrolls. It is considered by scholars to be “wisdom literature” in that its contents are defined as “a type of wisdom or knowledge that is known by God and can only be known by humans by divine revelation”.  Harrington, Daniel J. Wisdom Texts of Qumran. London: Routledge, 1996.

The book is authored by some unnamed teacher who claims to be the recipient of this revelation and is passing it along to his students.  This book is as least as old as the first century A.D.  (A.D 1 – A.D. 100). The man mentioned in the scroll seems to be a prototype of Jesus. He is the Teacher of Righteousness of the Scrolls. This book and these scrolls are valid examples of the earliest teachings of Judaism as well as the roots of Christianity.

  • “The tone of the writing reflects an elite group which believes that it alone holds the correct understanding of YHWH‘s plan for the universe and how to please him so as to be saved from the fate of the ignorant and hypocritical. Much of The Book of Mysteriesappears to be a teaching of correction against those who do not live righteously in the author’s eyes. They warn of the hypocrisy of nations, the false knowledge of magicians, and the wrath of God upon sinners. They especially warn against the fate of those who do not recognize the divine mysteries.”
  • Larson, Erik W. “Mysteries”. Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Lawrence H. Schiffman, James C. VanderKam, eds. New York: Oxford, 2000.  He is one of the sources given.

The dates of this manuscript tell us that Jesus was on the earth at that time.  that he was born about three years before the death of King Herod in 4 B.C., and that he was crucified in the year A.D. 30. See  https://sites.google.com/site/calendarstudies/bible-studies/bible_study_year_of_crucifixion for discussion. See also D&C Section 138:27 re crucifixion and resurrection.

 

In any case, the Book of Mystery text reflects an essential teaching of Christ, though he is not named therein.  We look to our Book of Mormon for similar teachings and a similar timeline of events: about 600 BC. to AD. 600.  It is another witness of Yeshua (Savior), Jesus.

In 1Ne 13:40 we read that the Book of Mormon “shall establish the truth” of the Bible. In its more than 6,000 verses, the Book of Mormon refers to Jesus Christ almost 4,000 times and by 100 different names: “Jehovah,” “Immanuel,” “Holy Messiah,” “Lamb of God,” “Redeemer of Israel,” and so on. Both volumes of scripture are a compilation of teachings as recorded by ancient prophets. While the Bible details events in the eastern hemisphere, the Book of Mormon documents the lives of the inhabitants of the ancient Americas. The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Just as there were people who knew the revealed truth of God in Qumran during the first century, the early residents on both continents of America were aware by revelation of the true nature of Deity.

Here is a treat for you: Hugh Nibley teaches us about the Dead Sea Scrolls!

https://youtu.be/muTEo3_ZPkE

Handout  #1 – Ancient Near East, Times of Moses, Yocheved, YHVH,  Josephus, Hayah, Israel   Jan 2014, 2018,

The  earliest civilizations in history were established in the region now known as the Middle East around 3500 b.c. by the Sumerians, in Mesopotamia (Iraq). The Sumerians and the Akkadians – later Babylonians-  all flourished in this region.  It begins with the rise of Sumerin the 4th millennium BC covering the Bronze Age (from 3300 b.c. – 1200 b.c.) and the Iron Age (1200 b.c. – 539 b.c.) in the region, until the conquest by the  First Persian Empire (600 b.c. by Cyrus the Great)  or Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC.

The ancient Near East is considered the cradle of civilization. It was the first to practice intensive year-round agriculture, it gave the rest of the world the first writing system, invented the potter’s wheel and then the vehicular- and millwheel, created the first centralized governments, law codes and empires, as well as introducing social stratification, slavery and organized warfare, and it laid the foundation for the fields of astronomy and mathematics.

Moses (Hebrew: Mosheh – drawn out or he who draws out, in the sense of deliverer).  Also called Moshe Rabbenu – “Moses our Teacher/Rabbi”), he is the most important prophet in Judaism; he is also an important prophet in Christianity and Islam, as well as a number of other faiths. Rabbinical Judaism calculated a lifespan of Moses corresponding to 1391–1271 BC. But possibly 1592 as his birth year, around the Middle Bronze Age that included early Babylonia and the middle period of the Egyptian Kingdom. His death at 120 is recorded Deut. 34:7. This predates the kingdoms of Israel and Judah which were important powers around 800 b.c.

In the Hebrew Bible, the narratives of Moses are in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was a son of Amram, a member of the Levite tribe of Israel descended from Jacob, and his wife, Jochebed. She  (Hebrew:  Yocheved: Yahveh is glory) was  of the royal family in Egypt and was kin to Amram’s father Kehath (Exodus 6:20). Moses had one older (by seven years) sister, Miriam, and one older (by three years) brother, Aaron. According to Genesis 46:11, Amram’s father Kehath immigrated to Egypt with 70 of Jacob’s household, making Moses part of the second generation of Israelites born during their time in Egypt. He elected to cast his lot with the people of his father and we learn that he was interested in freeing them from their captors.

 

Moses was thus the human instrument in the creation of the nation of Israel by communicating to it the Torah.  More humble than any other man (Num. 12:3), he enjoyed unique privileges, for “there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom YHWH knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10).  See also Jude 1:9 and Zechariah 3.

 

In Josephus’ (37 – c. 100 AD) Antiquities of the Jews, Moses is mentioned throughout. For example Book 8, chapter 4 describes Solomon’s Temple, also known as the First Temple, at the time the Ark of the Covenant was first moved into the newly built temple:  When King Solomon had finished these works, these large and beautiful buildings, and had laid up his donations in the temple, and all this in the interval of seven years, and had given a demonstration of his riches and alacrity therein;  he also wrote to the rulers and elders of the Hebrews, and ordered all the people to gather themselves together to Jerusalem, both to see the temple which he had built, and to remove the ark of God into it; and when this invitation of the whole body of the people to come to Jerusalem was everywhere carried abroad, … The Feast of Tabernacles happened to fall at the same time, which was kept by the Hebrews as a most holy and most eminent feast. So they carried the ark and the tabernacle which Moses had pitched, and all the vessels that were for ministration to the sacrifices of God, and removed them to the temple… Now the ark contained nothing else but those two tables of stone that preserved the ten commandments, which God spake to Moses in Mount Sinai, and which were engraved upon them…

 

Josephus  attaches particular significance to Moses’ possession of the “cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice.” He also includes piety as an added fifth virtue. In addition, he “stresses Moses’ willingness to undergo toil and his careful avoidance of bribery. Like Plato’s philosopher-king, Moses excels as an educator.”

From Moses to John the Baptist there extended an unbroken line of faithful teachers who passed the monotheistic torch of light from one generation to another while they unceasingly rebuked unscrupulous rulers and ever exhorted the people to adhere to the worship of the supreme YHVH (Hebrew name of God – the Tetragrammaton = 4 letters).  Similar to YHWH – the W was eventually absorbed into Hebrew, replaced by the V. The text derives Yahweh (יהוה) from the Hebrew word hayah (אהיה), meaning he who is he, or  I AM THAT I AM = the uncreated Creator.

Moses was an extraordinary combination of military leader, social organizer and religious teacher until the time of Jesus. Because the Hebrews had no written language at the time of the Exodus, little has been brought forward. He had a great vision of God and taught the Hebrews that if they would obey God, He will love, bless, multiply you and the fruit of your womb and your land. He forbade the making of images. There is little of the mercy of God shown in these times in scripture. The Hebrews learned of God as the Almighty, the God of battles, glorious in power, He who hardened Pharaoh’s heart and cursed the enemies of the Israelites. But the children of Israel slowly learned to trust the God who spoke to Moses from Mt. Horeb more than other tribal gods which for centuries earlier they had been taught to worship by the Egyptians, Sumerians, Persians.

Remember the First Commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. (Ex 20:3, Deut 5:7) This commandment establishes the exclusive nature of the relationship between the nation of Israel and its national god, Yahweh the god of Israel, a covenant initiated by YHVH after delivering the Israelites from slavery through the plagues of Egypt and the Exodus.

The burning bush is an object described by the Book of Exodus (Ex 3:1-22)] as being located on Mount Horeb; according to the narrative, the bush was on fire, but was not consumed by the flames, hence the name. In the narrative, the burning bush is the location at which Moses was appointed by Yahweh (God) to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan.

As a powerful religious symbol, the burning bush represents many things to Jews and Christians such as God’s miraculous energy, sacred light, illumination, and the burning heart of purity, love and clarity. From a human standpoint, it also represents Moses’ reverence and fear before the divine presence. The Hebrew word used in the narrative, that is translated into English as bush, is seneh, which refers in particular to brambles. When challenged on his identity, Yahweh replies that he is the God of the Patriarchs – Abraham,Isaac, and Jacob and that he is Yahweh.

The Jews have no conception of Holy Ghost – they are a visual people. The Burning Bush episode is accepted as a sign of God’s presence – called the Ruach ha Kodesh – the Holy One, blessed be He. The basic meaning of ruach is both ‘wind’ or ‘breath,’ but neither is understood as essence; rather it is the power encountered in the breath and the wind, whose whence and whither remains mysterious. Ruach as a designation for the wind is necessarily something found in motion with the power to set other things in motion…  Not a presence or a person, but  the carried life force of God.  Other Hebrew names for the Holy Ghost:

Comforter, Eternal Spirit, Holy Spirit of Promise, spirit of Adonai (God), Spirit of Revelation, Spirit of the Living God, Spirit of the Messiah, Spirit of the Truth, Spirit of Wisdom, Spirit of Yeshua our Messiah, Spirit of YHVH.

“Hebrews are the children of Israel; the twelve-tribe confederation – the descendants of Abraham. All Jews are Hebrews, but not all Hebrews are Jews. Initially, Jews are those tribal factions of Judah and Benjamin [and a smattering of Levitical Priests] who nationalized themselves, during the Divided Monarchy, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, as “The Yehudim” [the Jews], while the ten tribal factions of Israel which seceded from the twelve, and resided in and about Samaria, retained their Hebrew identities until their dissolution in the Syro-Ephraimite conflicts of 735-721 B.C.E. and the Assyrian Diaspora.”

 

 

By Marlena Tanya Muchnick-Baker   marlenatanya@gmail.com   206-335-9338

 

 

See diagram next page.

 

 

 

 

 

lass.

Tanakh versus Old Testament and LDS Bible arrangements

What is the Tanakh?   תַּנַ”ך       Tanakh (also known as the Hebrew Bible) was originally written in Hebrew with a few passages in Aramaic. The Tanakh is divided into three sections – Torah (Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).  There are 24 books in the Tanakh. The 12 Minor Prophets constitute one book, as do Samuel, Kings, Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah.

Torah is made up of five books that were given to Moses directly from God after the Exodus from Egypt = Mitzrayim (misery). Torah was handed down through the successive generations from the time of Moses.  Also called the Pentateuch = Greek for “five scrolls”. Torah means “teaching”.

Five books of Torah Include the creation of the earth and the first humans, the Great Flood and the covenant with the gentiles, the Hebrew enslavement and Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, giving of the Torah, renewal of Covenant given to Avraham, establishment of the festivals, wandering through the desert, the Mishkan (tabernacle), Ark, and priestly duties, and the death of Moses = Moischeh. The original covenants made between the early prophets and God originated in Torah and are traceable to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Book of Mormon and all other LDS scripture speaks of the restoration of eternal covenants between Heavenly Father and mankind.

Note: Some LDS bibles include the JST of the Old and New Testament, following the Bible Index and Dictionary.

LDS quads include Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Book of Moses selections, considered a part of the JST, The Pearl of Great Price – Abraham,  JST Matthew, Joseph Smith History – and the Articles of Faith.

  • Books: Bəreshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית‏, literally “In the beginning”) Genesis,
  • Shemot (שְׁמוֹת, literally “Names”) Exodus,
  • Vayikra (וַיִּקְרָא, literally “And He called”) Leviticus,
  • Bemidbar (בְּמִדְבַּר‎, literally “In the desert [of]”) Numbers
  • Devarim (דְּבָרִים, literally “Things” or “Words”) Deuteronomy, “Second-Law”)O.T Handout 3.doc 

The Nevi’im covers the time period from the death of Moses through the Babylonian exile and contains 19 books. Includes the time of the Hebrews entering Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel), the conquest of Jericho, the conquest of Eretz Yisrael and its division among the tribes, the judicial system, Era of Saul and David,  Solomon’s wisdom and the construction of the First (Beit HaMikdash –  house of the sanctuary) kings of Israel and Judah, prophecy, messianic prophecies, and the Babylonian exile.

The Ketuvim covers the period after the return from the Babylonian exile and contains 11 books. The Ketuvim is made up of various writings that do not have an overall theme. This section of the Tanakh includes poems and songs, the stories of Ruth, and Ester, the writings and prophecies of Daniel, and the history of the kings of Israel and Judah.

The Tanakh is also called Miqra (meaning “reading” or “that which is read”). During the Second Temple  Period”, Tanakh was not used as a word or term. Instead, the proper title was Miqra, because the biblical texts were read publicly. Miqra continues to be used in Hebrew to this day alongside Tanakh to refer to the Hebrew scriptures. In modern spoken Hebrew both are used interchangeably.

http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Heb-Xn-Bibles.htm  This link outlines the various biblical arrangements.

Handout #3       The Levant, Gan Eden,  Ish/Ishah,  Avraham, Israel,  Jewish People                          January 2014

The Levant (to rise – also “country where the sun rises”):  Light shaded areas. A geological region encompassing the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea from roughly the Isthmus of Suez to the Taurus Mountains, including present day Israel, Lebanon, western Jordan, the Sinai in Egypt and part of Syria. About 75,000 square miles. Ecologically diverse.

 

Until the time of the Israelite conquest under Joshua, the southern part of the Levant, often called Palestine, was known as the land of Canaan. The Hebrew Scriptures refer to the people occupying the land as the Canaanites. With the conquest it became, along with other conquered territories, the land of Israel (eretz Israel). From “Dan to Beersheba,” the usual the way of describing Palestine and for most periods the limits of settlement, is about 150 miles. After AD 132 the Romans renamed the region Palestina. Aware of Jewish history, the Romans chose to name the land after Israel’s most bitter enemy, the Philistines, to humiliate their vanquished Jewish subjects. The Romans made the point, after Jewish zealots rebelled twice against Roman authority, that this region was no longer eretz Israel but rather Roman turf. The word Palestine comes from the Latin Palestina meaning “land of the Philistines.” Israel and Judah were related Iron Age (1200 BC – 539 BC). The Judean kingdom ended in 63 BC in the conquest of Rome. Jewish Revolt by Israel due to civil trouble ended in destruction of Second Temple, emergence of Rabbinical Judaism and Christianity and eventual conquest by Roman and Byzantine empires, and the Arab conquest of 7th century AD. Jews and Arabs lived together with relative cordiality for several hundred years. There has been a Jewish presence in Arab-Muslim countries since before Islam was introduced in the sixth century BC. (Authoritative book: Abraham Divided by Daniel C. Petersen.)

Garden of Eden (Gan Eden) the biblical garden of God. (Genesis 2, 3 and Ezekiel, Zechariah and Psalms) According to Jewish eschatology (concerned with the end of days) in the Talmud (six orders of instruction in living, commentaries on the books of Moses) it is called “Garden of Righteousness” which will appear gloriously and celestial at end of time. The righteous will see the throne of God at that time. Each person will walk with God who will lead them in a dance. Moses 3:8 tells us God planted a garden in Eden and placed His human creations in it. Before they were mortal, they were spiritual only. There, in that perfect place He gave, not loaned, moral agency, and instructed Adam and Eve in the consequences of their choices. (2Ne 2:14-16) He let them be tempted together and let them work out their salvation through their faith in Him and their trust of one another. In His wisdom, Heavenly Father distinguished Himself from His creations, but remained spiritually bound to them as their eternal Father and spiritual Home.

Moses met the Lord in the Garden. He told Moses about the man He formed there (Moses 3:8). In Hebrew the root is “ish” (אישׁ). It has many nuances, including husband and mankind. The first theological consideration is that man is distinguished from God. The relationship between Heavenly Father and mankind and the differentiation of human nature from God is determined by God’s creation of man and by the Old  Testament belief that all human nature is in His Hand and He is the breath of all created things (Job 12:10). See:  https://www.lds.org/ensign/1988/06/the-tree-of-life-in-ancient-cultures?lang=eng:- Wilfred Griggs – Book of Mormon.

Ish – meaning husband – is in a parallel to baal – owner, lord – the man of the household and of all things earthly. In the Genesis narrative the creation of male and female emphasizes that mankind is not related to animals – man has a God-given need for a partner of his own kind.  Everything that perverts such a relationship is offensive to God.

In the Hebrew Bible (The woman/wife  = (אהשׁ)ishhah” contrasts with man – she is smooth whereas he is rough shaven. Physical and spiritual qualities are emphasized by the differences between the sexes. God has brought the woman to her husband, to establish a blood relationship signifying they are of the same nature, indicating their position in creation. Moses in Genesis emphasized the identity of the nature of and the equality of man and woman. Their relationship extends beyond sex. It extends back to the Father. It is not until after the Fall that the woman receives her name – Eve. (Gen. 3:20) after establishing that there is a fellow creature for adham – man – named Adam. Her name is inherent in his. They are symbolically the same flesh. Without the woman/wife at his elbow, Adam cannot be whole. God is responsible for establishing marriage. Before God and in the presence of the woman, the man acknowledges the equality of the partnership between ish and ishah and makes a covenant with her “berit elohim” – a covenant of God and calls her his wife (Gen 2:24 and Ezek 16:8) which indicates that monogamy is the foundation of the human race. She becomes the wife of his bosom (Deut 28:54, his esheth cheqo). She is placed under her husband’s authority. They are equal before God ( but not socially in this world).  Two souls sealed in Christ = One flesh.  See The Family: A Proclamation To The World:

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children… Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.

The great patriarch Abraham (Hebrew,  אברהמAvraham-father of a multitude). His original name was Abram, exalted father. See D&C 132:29,37. Numerous meanings in O.T.: grandfather-Gen 28:13, founding father-1Kings 15:11, others, forefather, counselor, wise teacher. Semitic language originally referred to a distinction between generations, not people. Since Israel was one of the Semitic nomadic peoples, her social life was more closely knit together than that of the city culture of the ancient Near East, and tribal fellowship was most important. The father is the center from which strength and will emanate. Remember 1Ne 8:12.

The insertion of an “h” in the name (also the addition of an “h” to Sarai = Sarah, his wife) is a marker to show the initiation of the covenant made with God and a connection with generations to come. He was the founder of the Jewish nation, the founding patriarch of the IsraelitesIshmaelitesEdomites, and the Midianites and kindred peoples. But he was neither Israelite nor Jew: The name “Jew” comes from the name “Judah” who was a great-grandson of Abraham. Israelites were the descendants of Israel and God gave that name first to Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. Also, Romans 4:11-12 tells us Abraham received circumcision later in life. All those baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are essentially Israelites, born of the tribal families and heritage of ancient Israel. We want to study the O.T. as an essential part of our understanding of and appreciation of our religious heritage.

Israel – יִשְׂרָאֵל – “ivri” – to pass over – the people across the river –Also: God contended, God Strives or El (God) Persisteth. Represents the action of struggling with God- related  to the story of Jacob wrestling with the Angel (Gen 35:1-7).Synonymous with Semitic Israelites, especially when they were nomadic.  In the Old Testament, Israel (who was formerly named Jacob – Genesis 32:28) wrestles with an angel. The ancient and modern states of Israel took their names from him, so Jacob’s

(Ya a cov) descendants are Israelites, eventually forming the kingdom of Israel! Remember the 10th Article of Faith: We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

Historian Paul Johnson writes of the Jewish people:

They were the first to create consequential, substantial and interpretive history. They knew they were a special people who had not simply evolved from an unrecorded past but had been brought into existence, for certain definite purposes, by a specific series of divine acts. They saw it as their collective business to determine, record, comment and reflect upon these acts. No other people have ever shown, particularly at that remote time, so strong a compulsion to explore their origins… The Jews wanted to know about themselves and their destiny…. about God and His intentions and wishes. (in History of the Jews)

 

 

 

 

                                                                Timeline of Ancient Near Eastern Events

                                                                       Influential to Hebrew Writings

 

 

 

  • 10000 BC

Beginnings of agriculture in the Middle East.                                       Mesopotamia – 2100 – 1900 b.c., possible exodus route for Abram’ family

  • 7700 BC Time of Abraham = around 2000 b.c. (Gen 11-25)

First domesticated wheats in the Fertile Crescent.                              Israelites in Canaan-tribal, monarchic periods-15-16th centuries b.c.

  • 7000 BC                Dates of Exodus from Egypt- began around 1370 b.c. (1Kgs 6:1, 1 Chr 6:33-37)

Domestication of goats.                                                                         Estimated birth of Moses – 1393 b.c.?  (7th of Adar. Lived 120 yrs)

  • 6500 BC                                                                                                 Settlement of Israelites in Canaan – around 1200 b.c

                                                                                                                Dead Sea Scrolls – First Temple Period – 960-586 b.c.

First pottery in the Near East.                                                                Assyrians destroy kingdom of Israel, later Judah 722 b.c.

  • 5000 BC Babylonians conquer Judah – 598-586 b.c.           

Irrigation and agriculture begin in earnest in Mesopotamia.               Babylonians destroy Temple from time of Ezra – 444 b.c. – 397 b.c.

  • 853 BC Alexander in Greece, Seleucids – 336 b.c. – 312 b.c.           

Babylonian kings depend on Assyrian military support.                        Christian persecutions – Vespasian – 60 – 64 b.c.

  • 850 BC                                                                                                 Massacre at Masada – a.d. 73

Medes migrate into Iran from Asia.                                                      Fall of Jerusalem to Rome – a.d. 70                                                                                                                                                                                      Rabbinic rule – Talmud development – 70 b.c. – a.d. 500

  • 750 BC Arabs, Islam, Persian influence – a.d. 632 – 570                  

Persians migrate into Iran from Asia.                                                    Spanish Visigoth invasion – Massacre of Sephardic Jews – 5th century

  • 750 BC – 705 BC British persecution of Jews relating to “blood libel” – 12th century

Peak of the Assyrian empire.                                                                                 Spanish Inquisition- baptism or death. Expelled from Spain – 14th-15th century

  • 734 BC Ottoman Empire-Turks overrule Islamic Jews – World War 1

Babylon is captured by Chaldeans.                                                         British Mandate in Jerusalem – 1920

  • 729 BC Russian Purges in Poland, Russia  – 1935-40

Babylon is occupied by Assyrians.                                                          German 3rd Reich – Hitler – Millions of Jews murdered -1940-44

Arab-Palestinian wars – 1970s

                                                                                                                State of Israel – May 1948 –Only country with a national religion

Prophets revealed the Tanakh over a 1000-year period.  From the books of Moses – revealed about 1400 B.C. to the book of Malachi revealed about 425 B.C.  The Hebrew Bible has been preserved and transmitted by Jewish scribes, in Babylon and Palestine; these scribes in Palestine were known as the Masorites.  The manuscript source for the King James Bible is the Masoretic Text, as copied from the St. Petersburg Manuscript dated about 916 A.D.

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, a portion of every book of the Tanakh was found, except for the book of Ester, including two complete versions of the book of Isaiah. When compared to the oldest existing Masoretic manuscripts, the much older Dead Sea scrolls, dated from 100-200 B.C., demonstrated a virtually flawless manuscript transmission over the eleven hundred-years, which separated the two copies.

These facts indicate that Heavenly Father preserved the scriptures for these latter days. Though all the events of history in that region, these books were preserved. However, many changes and omissions were made through the centuries, so the text that was finally codified is lacking in some of the essential teachings of Christ. One more reason for the LDS church to finally restore true scriptures, ordinances and temples.

By Marlena Tanya Muchnick-Baker: www. marlenatanya@gmail.com    206-335-9339   Renton Stake, WA.  May Creek ward. Please visit my blogs: https://judaicaworld.wordpress.com, http://mormonsandjews.nethttp://judaicaworld.blogspot.com for more posts and articles. Forward these posts to others to enjoy and give out at your Sunday school meetings. To request specific information on Judaism and/or research you would like done, email Marlena anytime. For firesides, classes other info: www.jewishconvert-lds.com.

 

 

 

 

Temples: Jewish and LDS

New word for the week: todah raba – thank you very much!  This is polite phraseology.
This week’s email concerns a part of the history of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem (yeru
shalom= peace of the Messiah). Hebrew for temple: Beit  (bay eet) Ha Mikdash (House of the holy place, sanctuary).
When Solomon built the First temple almost 3,000 years ago, it was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. This was a place provided by David, his father. (2 Chron 3:1, Gen 22:1-18).
 It was built in the walled in area in the southeastern corner of the Old City of Jerusalem during the first century a.d.  the shape resembled a trapezoid. It’s walls were built around Mount Moriah, the site traditionally believed to be the location where Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice, and where the two Jewish temples were located. The Ark of the Covenant containing the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments lay in that chest.
The Second Temple Period began construction in 516 b.c., during the reign of King Herod.  Jerusalem had grown enormously. It was surrounded by walls with many towers. During a.d. 70 the temple and the Upper City were destroyed by the Romans.
The O.T. (really the First Testament) book of Lamentations is a collection of anguished poetic laments for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 587 b.c. by the Babylonians.
The prophet Ezekiel told of a third temple that would be erected someday. In chapter 40 we read the description of his vision of Jerusalem restored in great detail.
 
The Jewish holiday of Chanukah celebrates the reclaiming and rededication of the  Second temple during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Emplre. It is not a national holiday in Israel but is generally celebrated there anyway, Jews do not believe they have a temple in these days, but they do expect Ezekiel’s vision to be realized when their Mashiach (Messiah) is one day recognized as their prophesied ruler.
 
Why are temples so important?  Because of the ordinances performed there. Temple ordinances lead to the greatest blessings available to Heavenly Father’s children. These ordinances prepare us to live forever with Heavenly Father and our families after this life. They bless us with spiritual power and direction during mortality. In the temple, we can also receive essential ordinances in behalf of ancestors who died without having the opportunity to receive these ordinances for themselves.
How were temples of the Jews unlike LDS temples today? Jewish temples only performed washings and anointings for the living. There were no baptisms because those are concern conversion to Christ.
 Temples were an important focus of Jewish prayer, animal sacrifice, a cultural and architectural center. Priests copied holy scriptures from the Torah, wrote psalms and histories, engaged in debate.  Women were cleansed following their menses, sins were forgiven by priests. Temples were an important symbol of national unity. They were sanctuaries for God.
 We believe as Mormons that Ezekiel’s vision will be realized when the Savior returns to earth and a temple will again be built in the Holy Land where the Lord Jesus will reign. The city will be renamed Jehovah shammah (See Is 9:6) meaning Jehovah is there. That is the symbolic title given by Ezekiel (48:35).

 

Marlena Baker
 
​www.mormonsandjews.org.​

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
Summary
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

demise.”

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.”

E-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

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

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

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.

Notes

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.

 

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