Faith is faith on a word about Christ


I was rereading Moroni 7 today, and verses 20-34 seemed to have such a clear logic and flow that I wonder why I hadn’t seen this so clearly before! I guess that’s why we keep reading over and over and over again! So many things yet to be noticed that are right in front of us.

Mormon says his speech is going to be about faith, but he has some groundwork to lay down first. Mormon says that without Christ, none of us could have any good thing. “Otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them” (verse 24). But how do we lay hold upon good things then? “Thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing” (verse 25). Faith is also what gives us power to do good things: “If ye have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (verse 33). And most importantly, along with repenting and being baptized, Christ says, “have faith in me, that ye may be saved” (verse 34).

So we see know that faith is necessary to lay hold upon good things, to do good things, and even to be saved. But how does faith come about? What is faith? Does God have a plan to make all of this possible?

Well, of course, he does. “For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to…make manifest concerning the coming of Christ (verse 22). “And God also declared unto prophets, by his own mouth, that Christ should come” (verse 23). “Wherefore…men began to exercise faith in Christ” (verse 25). We get a little more detail on angels in verses 31-32:

“And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfill and to do the work of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him. 

“And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth a way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men.”

This is all so remarkably clear to me today. God creates the possibility of faith by sending messengers (either by calling prophets or by sending angels to chosen men, women, and children who then bear testimony). The possibility of faith is conditioned on God sending words and messages about Christ into the world. That is faith. Faith is believing on a word, and that faith creates a place for the Holy Ghost to empower, teach, sanctify, etc. It all seems to start with faith, and faith seems to start with a message, and that message seems to start when God speaks or sends angels.

—————————-

I was very impressed with the idea laid out here that the work of the covenants (the Abrahamic Covenant being the big example) is accomplished through speaking! I knew that angels ministered and that they did the work of fulfilling covenants, but for some reason I had separated those as two different jobs. But I think verses 31-32, quoted above, are clear that ministering messages is how they fulfill the covenants. They teach, which brings the Holy Ghost, which changes people, and that gathers Israel or whatever other promise is given through a particular covenant. Teaching. Teaching. Teaching. Wow. I’m again shocked at the value and power of teaching.


Abraham in Egypt


I was reading through the book of Abraham yesterday and enjoying chapter 1, as usual. As I reviewed the italicized information at the top of the page, it struck me that I’ve never thought to read the book of Abraham as it would sound to someone in Egypt (the italicized information says this was written by Abraham while in Egypt). How would the history of Egypt parts sound? How does this part about them claiming history sound? It’s written for his descendants, so may be that’s not the right question. How would Abraham’s location be influencing what he’s choosing to write about? It would seem rather important for him to differentiate his priesthood from theirs when he’s immersed in their culture, for example. Anyway, a slight twist on the context of the book.

Another thing I thought about was how this fits in with Abraham’s own history. When he goes into Egypt, he has not had any children yet. He and Sarah have to pretend to not be married so that they can have the possibility of having children in the future! As he relates his appointment to the priesthood, and to be a father of many nations, etc., he hasn’t had any children yet. Fascinating! But what’s more, the story of the creation ends with Adam and Eve being together in the garden. I assume there was much more that could have been translated, but in the form we have it that’s rather appropriate. Adam hadn’t had kids yet, and neither had Abraham. Both Eve and Sarah were being created or preserved as a help or partner to their husbands.

Anyway, just a few thoughts that struck me after I reread that introduction.


Alma 7:10 (Mary in the Book of Mormon)


Note: I woke up rather tired and my thinking feels rather clouded this morning. But here are some notes nonetheless:

Last night for Study Group, we looked at places in the Book of Mormon that talk about Mary. We started with Alma 7 and that became our center point as we talked about various passages.

Mary’s name

  • Why does the Book of Mormon give us Mary’s name?
  • We noticed that it was only given in two places: here and to King Benjamin’s people. Both people were especially righteous and prepared.
  • In both cases, the name of Mary was given within a quotation. King Benjamin quotes an angel, and Alma quotes the Spirit.

Origin of her name?

  • We wondered about the name Mary.
  • Does it mean “exalted”? Is it a proper name at all? His mother shall be called exalted?
  • Is it the same as Miriam? (Jesus is the same as Joshua.)
  • If so, what interesting connections might there be between the two women? Miriam watched over the vessel (basket) when Moses was in the river. Mary is the vessel which carries the child?
  • No consensus on the Hebrew meaning of Miriam. Might even be Egyptian! (We noticed that Alma in verse 1 says he is going to “attempt to address you in my language.” But we don’t know what language that is :) )

How is Mary symbolically a temple?

  • “at Jerusalem”
  • precious “vessels” in temple
  • Ark holds word of God, she holds God
  • temple overshadowed by cloud by day, she is overshadowed
  • temple shadowed by smoke from incense
  • also, overshadowed idea comes up on Mount of Transfiguration, Mary, and 3 Nephi before Christ visits Nephites,

Alma 19/women in general:

  • When Lamoni wakes up, he says to his wife “blessed art thou … he shall come forth, and be born of a woman.”
  • Perhaps talking about a woman, a mother, and especially a name of a mother, makes Christ’s birth literal. They can comprehend that he actually will come to earth when we get a name of a literal mother
  • Mosiah 3:5-8, Christ comes in tabernacle of clay (in Alma 7, simply mortal tabernacle), but Mary is a “precious and chosen vessel.”
  • She was already precious before Christ came to her? It sounds like it.
  • Nephi sees she is fair and beautiful – before the Holy Ghost comes (1 Nephi 11:18-20)
  • This isn’t a sense of condescending to come into a broken, corruptible, mortal woman, but coming to something holy and beautiful
  • Mary was already chosen and precious before Christ came – that’s a beautiful thought

Mothering:

  • womb = bowels = womb in Hebrew (verse 12)
  • Chapter 19, when Lamoni wakes up he says “Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou. For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name.” When his wife (“the woman” and later “the queen”) wakes up, she says, “O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!” She has a very motherly reaction

Ether 12 notes from Joe’s class: The Book of Mormon is a gift


  • Moroni planned to end the Book of Mormon with Ether 15:29-30
    • Then it would end with the destruction of the Gentiles 
    • Gentiles were to be first readers of Book of Mormon! What a clear warning!
  • 12:4 What can’t Ether’s people see?
    • Abrahamic covenant — Abrahamic people are coming
    • Ether’s people, who descend from a pre-Abraham time, could be adopted into the Abrahamic covenant (but instead, they war and destroy themselves)
    • 13:1-14 is where Ether tries to explain this further
  • Ether 12:25 – see weakness
    • Do they worry, then stumble? Or is stumbling with words what reveals their weakness?
  • they = meek? or fools?
  • writing in less-familiar language (prefers Hebrew)
    • What if you had to write something so important, but in a second language?
  • 12:27 – how is grace “sufficient”?
    • grace “added” to Moroni’s words?
    • God translated = grace?
    • we also have a weak translator and a weak writer – when does grace come in?
  • Is weakness taken away?
    • No, it says they will “take no advantage of your weakness.” That means the weakness actually remains.
    • Grace is sufficient such that no one takes advantage
  • What would it mean to “take advantage”?
    • discount the book?
    • use it to teach false, screwy things?
    • attack leaders/person who translated it?
  • So, people do do that, so what does it mean that weakness won’t be taken advantage of?
  • Apparently meek don’t take advantage, but fools will mock
  • Weakness divides readers into 2 groups
    • (kind of like the hearers of the parables)
    • perhaps a mercy that some don’t accept it, b/c they would have greater condemnation?
  • So this book is supposed to be weak.
    • As if God says, “I want fools mocking and I want meek receiving”
    • Often we as Latter-day Saints want to prove that the Book of Mormon is true — STOP! That’s the problem Moroni had
  • v.27 now this idea of weakness is a general principle:
    • Not just Book of Mormon — you too
    • give weakness = humble
    • then gives grace = sufficient
  • Grace is being weak — it’s a gift!
  • Coming to God is not how we fix our weakness, it’s how we see it
  • with gift of grace and weakness, we can bring to pass great things (Benjamin)
  • Moroni says later “Deny not the gifts of God” – does he mean including weakness?
    • (I give unto men weakness)
  • Debt in connection with atonement, is only mentioned in King Benjamin’s speech
    • he says GRACE puts you in debt, not sin
    • are you ever out of debt? No, never
    • try to repay Him, and you are blessed again!
  • Perhaps sin is trying to get out from being God’s servant/slave/in an indebted relationship with Him
    • Either ignore the relationship of servant/slave entirely and go off doing bad stuff
    • Or, we try to be such a perfect servant that we look like we deserve everything we’ve been given
  • “Weak things” become strong
    • But they aren’t lost/changed/replaced
    • sounds like Paul — when I am weak, then I am strong
  • v.28 – Back to Gentiles
    • They will be tempted to mock weakness of Book of Mormon
    • What about your weakness, Gentiles?
    • What about my weakness?
    • Fools can’t see their own weakness (or admit) so they mock others’ weakness
  • Gentiles will see weakness via Faith, Hope, Charity
    • You can see why, when Moroni does add more to the Book of Mormon, he adds his father’s letters on faith, hope, and charity!
    • Moroni tries to find a way to make sure the Gentiles don’t mock by assuring they’ll have charity — But God cuts it short
  • Tells Moroni it doesn’t matter to him
  • Then Moroni bids farewell to Gentiles. “Farewell Gentiles. Good luck!” :)
  • Can the Gentiles see the book for what is is? or will they demand it be perfect? Question for all of us
  • Do we read the Book of Mormon in such a way that we take advantage of its weakness?
    • do we use it as an excuse not to get serious about figuring it out?
    • grammar is weird, sentences don’t flow, not well-written, oh well.
    • words were used differently than today so it sounds foreign, oh well
  • Joseph Smith reads v.37-38 before he dies.
    • Farewell Gentiles. Good luck!
  • Its weakness is a gift.
    • with its millions of “it came to pass”es, it’s a gift
    • words you have to look up, it’s a gift
    • God doesn’t give us a list of doctrines, He gives us this.
    • It’s a gift

Receiving the Blessings of the Oath and Covenant


More many years I’ve heard and thought about the idea of enjoying the blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood. At first it seemed so general, something like “enjoying the blessings of the priesthood” like blessings when you’re sick, etc. Then I took it to mean something a little stronger, such as ordinances that have been restored because of the restoration of the priesthood through Joseph Smith. When I went to the temple, I thought about temple ordinances. But what about the oath and covenant of the priesthood? How do you enjoy that? So I’ve spent years and years studying what the oath and covenant might be. Sometimes it’s led me back to the beginning: the oath and covenant is just another way of saying priesthood generally, so the blessings of it are the same as the blessings of the priesthood. My recent studies in Hebrews, D&C 84, and D&C 132 lead me in a somewhat opposite direction: the oath and covenant has something to do with those who receive the highest priesthood, the keys of the priesthood, who are prophets and exalted on earth. But of course, that seems to have little to do with me, except for the idea or promise that potentially anyone could build a Zion and have it translated up to heaven and/or have their calling and election made sure while here on earth, etc. etc. But those are things you wait for. You don’t seek after appointments to higher ordinances.

And yet, there’s a sense in our discourse at least (and I think in the scriptures?) that the blessings of the oath and the covenant are meant to be felt now, and by  many. So I’ve been thinking about that. And I think I’ve finally hit on something that makes sense to me. The “oath and covenant of the priesthood” may very well be something grand and attached to the highest forms of priesthood, such as the keys held by the president of the high priesthood (President Monson, currently). But the fact that those keys are on the earth has ripple effects that do bless me and millions of others.

It’s something like the distance that D&C 84:39 uses in its wording. Our blessings are “according to” the oath and covenant, which “belongeth to” the priesthood. It doesn’t belong to me, nor does it need to, in order for the blessings to be poured out and reach to my home. The blessings aren’t just for those who receive the oath and covenant themselves; the blessings are “according to” or “in accordance with” or “follow from” or “exist because” someone holds the keys of the priesthood.

Perhaps this is actually exactly what the verses in D&C 84 leading up to verse 39 are trying to say:

36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.


Alma 12 and Psalm 95


Joe and I were looking at Hebrews 3 last night, and studying the psalm it quotes (Psalm 95). As we were studying, I cross referenced this to Alma 12:

36 And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls; therefore, according to his word, unto the last death, as well as the first.

37 And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word.

But Alma doesn’t directly cite the Psalms here, or even note that it comes from scripture at all. I think the word “provocation” is supposed to be clear enough to point to the Israelites, whether he has in mind Psalms 95 or Numbers 14 or somewhere else.

It would seem that the application, in verse 37, is justified on the experience referenced in verse 36.

What strikes me as interesting today though is that within Alma’s speech, both verse 36 and 37 seem to be justified on something God declared, outlined in verses 33-35:

33 But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;

 34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.

 35 And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.

I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into Alma’s speech, but as Alma is telling the story of human history, it sounds like this declaration is supposed to have happened way before the children of Israel provoke God, and this declaration is what justified God’s response. It also means that the declaration can be applied to Alma’s people. (The story of the Israelites serves to prove that God will not back down from the declaration.)


John 17 and D&C 84


It was noted during study group last Friday that D&C 84:36-38 sounds a lot like Christ’s intercessory prayer as recorded in John 17. It appears to me as I read it this morning that there isn’t one particular verse or part of John 17 that sounds exactly like D&C 84, but that the general language is similar. What’s different in D&C 84 is the several-step progression from servants to Christ to the Father to eternal life. (Also, D&C 132 quotes John 17:3, but changes “eternal life” to “eternal lives.”)

 

The verses that sound the most similar to me are:

8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

 


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