Mysteries of the kingdom are a key to the mysteries of the kingdom?

Jenny has been doing some very sophisticated work on the Dews From Heaven blog, and I am trying to catch up to her thinking a little at a time! So once again I’m going to use my personal blogging space here to work out my thoughts before I post them there. :)


Okay, I think I’ve got it, but tell me if I don’t! :) I think what I see happening here is best visualized by a veil. Let’s say, for example, that the mysteries of the kingdom are on one side of the veil and we are on the other. God wants heaven and earth to come together, so we aren’t just going to leave the mysteries on one side and humans on the other. God brings some of the mysteries across the veil and if the humans will receive that, then they can come to receive more. By “some” here, I’m not thinking of this in a quantitative sense, but in a <i>qualitative</i> sense. I’m thinking of phrases like “first intimations” and “earnest of our inheritance.” It’s as if we receive a first layer of understanding. Then if we receive it in full faith, we can seek more. In this way, the mysteries constitute a key that allows us to seek more of the mysteries.

In D&C 128, I think Joseph is pointing out that we have a key to a mystery already. We can record priesthood ordinances. That seems like a simple thing, but he is telling us that we are not receiving that in the right way. When we come to see recording in relation to heavenly things, then it begins to serve as a key to a bigger understanding of what it means to record, bind, seal, etc.

So it isn’t that a key looks very different than the thing it unlocks. It isn’t a metal key to the Tardis, as Joe put it. :) It’s more like a condensed form or something like that. It’s given to us in a way that we can work with it by faith and prayer and then it opens up onto more mysteries. It expands, rather than unlocks?

So in the case of D&C 84:19, the idea might be that we can’t comprehend what the mysteries of the kingdom might be, so God adds the second part “even the key to the knowledge of God.” That very phrase is like a key that opens our understanding to what the mysteries in a general or bigger sense are. Is that at all what you’ve been getting at Jenny??

Trying to riddle out D&C 84:19 a bit…

From looking at “godliness” elsewhere in scripture, and also the 1828 Websters, I think the general definition is “being like God” or usually “acting like God.” Being patient, having charity, doing good, and so forth. It is part of that familiar list: “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence” (D&C 4:6).

So what does it mean to say that there is a power to being godly, and why does that need to be manifest? Why isn’t it more obvious? And why can it only be manifest through the ordinances and the priesthood?

Is it that the true nature of God is a mystery that the priesthood reveals, so “being like God” is something we can only understand after we know more about God?

D&C 110 and keys

11 After this vision closed, the heavens were againopened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

Jenny, Candice, Kim, and I are currently studying “keys” in our D&C 84 project. I’m thinking about keys lately as specific assignments. If you do a search for “key” and look through the many references, you’ll see that there are at least a dozen – maybe two dozen – different, named keys. “Key of the bottomless pit” was one that surprised me. Also “key of the house of David.” And one I’ve seen before but I always really enjoy: Moroni has the “keys of the record of the stick of Ephriam.”

So tonight I decided to look at section 110, where several angels appear to give Joseph Smith keys. Here’s what stood out to me tonight:

11 After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

I don’t think I realized before how cool this really is. I think before I had seen it as Moses opening up the way for modern day saints to get to work. Something like, Moses comes and uses the key to open the door. But rather, the keys are given to Joseph (and Oliver?). It’s now his assignment. And also he is in charge of opening and closing that work. Or so it seems! That’s very different than how I had read it before.

12 After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.

Whoa! Notice that Elias doesn’t give Joseph any keys. He “committed” something. What does that mean? A commission? And how do you commit a dispensation? And further, why is this the gospel of Abraham? First of all, there is more than one gospel? Second, why isn’t this the covenant of Abraham? (The Abrahamic Covenant?). Should I be hearing the word gospel in the sense of “good news” — the good news of Abraham is that all families will be blessed?

And finally, in Joseph and Oliver, and their seed, all the generations after them will be blessed. Fascinating! They begin the next watershed of Abrahamic blessings.

13 After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:

14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi (—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—

 15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—)

16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.

I added the italics and parenthesis to try to figure out what Elijah actually said. But I think with the “your” and “ye” in verse 16, and the “he” in the end of verse 14, that my reading is not a bad one.

Elijah does come to give a key. But what key? The keys of this dispensation. What does that mean? First I think I just say “Everything else they needed for this latter day dispensation.” But since tonight I’m reading more carefully for talk about keys, I have a different idea.

What if Elias shows up and commits the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham to them, and then Elijah comes and gives them the keys of that very dispensation so that they can do what they were committed to doing? Elijah uses the word “dispensation” just like Elias did, and if you read this as a play-by-play then as soon as Elias leaves, Elijah shows up and talks about “this dispensation.” I think rather than hearing that word as a term for a time period, I think we ought to think about what is going on in this section. I assume that we only use that word as a term for a time period because it is a time in which the gospel is dispensed. But if that’s the case, the time term is a later usage derived from the more literal or originary use of dispense. So I think it might be a really, really good reading here to see Elijah as talking about the same thing that Elias was talking about.

If that’s the case, then what I see here is that Elias comes and says that they are going to be the next step in the Abrahamic Covenant, meaning that their families are going to bless all the families after them. How is that to be accomplished? Well Elijah shows up and says it’s time to focus the fathers on the children (just what Elias committed to them) but also the children to the fathers. What are the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham? I don’t know! :) Surely, it seems, they must include the sealing ordinances of the temple, and also baptism for the dead. But I imagine a lot more, too.

Anyway, as far as keys go, I think I want to say that Moses gave him one key, and Elias and Elijah together gave him another set of keys. That’s pretty cool.

Why did Nephi copy down all those chapters of Isaiah?

Quick thought:

I used to think, “I wonder why Nephi takes the time and space to record all those chapters of Isaiah when he already saw that the future peoples would have the Bible? And his own people have the brass plates, which is where he’s getting those chapters from anyway.” I’ve answered that in the past by thinking that maybe having them right in his record meant he was able to explain them and emphasize them. Then this round through the scriptures with one of my kids, we thought, “Nephi saw the future in vision, and he saw that the Bible would be changed and covenants and plain things removed, so maybe he finds it very important to write down all these chapters of Isaiah because he doesn’t know if they’ll still be in the collection of scripture by the time the Book of Mormon is translated!” Fortunately, it was, but I guess Nephi might not have known that.

Can you imagine if it hadn’t been, and here we were getting chapter after chapter of some forgotten prophet? I’m grateful Nephi cared that much about Isaiah to record all of those chapters for us. And I’m anxious to see Joe’s book on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon finished and published and read!

Jonah & the Runaway Bunny

One Sunday we were reading the story of Jonah to the kids. With the simpler translation and a little background information, I saw more clearly than I had before that this story is meant to be comical and fanciful, so that it can teach a lesson about how Israel too-often relates to those not born in the covenant.

I couldn’t help but think of how this story would make a great kids’ book. It especially made me think of The Runaway Bunny. Can’t you just see it being made into a parody of sorts? Something like this, perhaps?

Once upon a time, God called a prophet named Jonah. He said to Jonah, “Get up and go to Nineveh. Go and preach to them because they are being so bad there.” Jonah who didn’t want to teach to Nineveh. It was a Gentile city, not in Israel, and Jonah did not want to go tell them to repent.

Jonah said to himself, “I do not want to preach to Nineveh. I am running away.”

“Hmm,” thought God. “Jonah thinks he can run away. Well, I will just run after him. For Jonah will be my prophet to Nineveh.”

“If God runs after me,” thought Jonah, “I will go far away to Tarshish. I will get on a boat and float far away.”

Jonah got on a boat, but God blew the boat with the wind.

“Well,” said Jonah, “I will hide away inside the boat where God can’t see me.”

“Jonah thinks he can hide from me!” said God. “Well, I will cause the wind to blow so hard that it scares everyone on the boat”

God made a mighty storm and the passengers were afraid. But Jonah decided to keep sleeping.

When the passengers woke up Jonah, he said, “I am running away from my God. Throw me into the sea so the storm will go away.” They did, and God stopped the storm.

“Hmm,” thought God. “If Jonah thinks he can hide in the sea, I will send a big fish to come and swallow him up.” So God sent a fish and it swallowed up Jonah.

“Well shucks,” said Jonah, “I see now that I can’t hide from you. I may as well leave this fish and be your prophet. I know you love me. I know you can save me.”

So God made the fish spit out Jonah and finally Jonah preached to Ninevah. The city was so large he walked all day and there was still more city left. But he preached to the Gentiles there. He told them they would be destroyed because they needed to repent. And the people listened.

God saw that their king fasted, the people fasted, and even their animals fasted!

He also saw that their king wore sack-cloth to show his repentance. The king commanded the people to wear sack-cloth. And he even commanded that their animals wear sackcloth!

And God didn’t destroy Ninevah. He changed his mind and spared the people.

But Jonah was not happy. “I knew you loved them before I even went there,” he told God. “I never wanted to go preach.” He was angry, and sat on a hill to watch what God would do with the people.

He made a small tent. God watched and made a plant grow to shade Jonah from the sun. “Have a gourd tree,” said God.

Jonah was glad of the gourd tree. But then the next day God took away the tree. Jonah was angry because the sun was hot and the wind was blowing off the desert.

“Why did you take away my tree?!” asked Jonah.

“Why do you care for the tree?” asked God. “Did you care for it and grow it yourself?”

Jonah didn’t answer.

“But I care for you,” said God. “I followed you when you ran away. I followed you when you were under the sea. I followed you and saved you.”

“Yes, I know,” said Jonah. “I know you love me.”

“And I care for Ninevah, where there are thousands of people, with their families, homes, and animals.”

“Yes, I know,” said Jonah. Then he said quietly, maybe hoping God would not hear, “But I didn’t want anyone else to have your love.”

Just a draft of a comment for Dews From Heaven

I’m working on a comment for Dews From Heaven and I need a place to stick my draft. :) Here it is so far:

I’ve been trying to think about “mysteries” and the “therefore” and “thereof” in verses 19-21. I think I’m inclined to read these verses a little bit differently, so let me know what you think and where I might be missing something.

What is being referred to by the words “in the ordinances thereof” in verse 20? The options seem to be: 1) the ordinances of the mysteries, 2) the ordinances of the gospel, or 3) the ordinances of the greater priesthood. I think Candice your reading favors the first of these options. I hadn’t seen that option until I read your post! I see how that follows an older meaning of the word “mystery” as a sacred right. Previously, I had been inclined towards the third option, but since verse 21 separates “ordinances” and “priesthood,” I think I want to rule that one out. So I think either option 1 or option 2 could work here. In addition, the two could be mixed: the ordinances are the ordinances of the gospel, which are the mysteries that teach us about God.

If we were to read “in the ordinances thereof” as “ordinances of the gospel,” what ordinances would be included? Verse 19 talks about the greater priesthood administering “the gospel,” while verse 27 talks about the lesser priesthood and “the preparatory gospel.” I assume we could read baptism as an ordinance of the preparatory gospel; what ordinances would be included as ordinances of “the gospel”? At the least, I assume we would include the giving of the gift of the Holy Ghost and the temple ordinances, all of which require the Melchizedek Priesthood as we understand it today.

For a minute, I’m going to think about “mysteries of the kingdom” as separate from the ordinances to see what options there might be. I find the next words helpful: “even the key of the knowledge of God.” The mysteries <i>are</i> simply that which gives knowledge of God? Or, is this a specification: of all the mysteries, the specific one given through this key is the knowledge of God?

I find it interesting that later, it says that Moses’s people could not “endure [God’s] presence,” and therefore God “swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness.” Could we read these phrases as they could not endure the “knowledge of God,” and therefore could not enter “the kingdom”? Is the knowledge of God an necessary entry into the kingdom, or a necessary first step to receiving the mysteries of the kingdom?

How could these ordinances be read in tandem with the other responsibility mentioned in verse 19, to “hold” the key of the mysteries of the kingdom?

1 Nephi, Chapter 20 “out of the waters of baptism”

 1 Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness.

I have understood for some time that Joseph clearly and unworrisomely added the words “or out of the waters of baptism.” The early documents are all there and clear that it was added in 1840. That doesn’t bother me at all that he did that — he was a prophet too! — but the question is: Why?

The original sense of the verse seems to me to be to narrow House of Jacob, name of Israel, to those specifically of Judah. But why “waters”? I did a little research and it’s possible to read this as “loins.” So the idea would be those literally descended from Judah. But since through Nephi’s eyes, Isaiah has a lot to say to the remnant of Joseph as an important redeemer of the whole house of Israel.

So that makes me rethink this idea of water and baptism. At baptism you receive a new name. In our case, we take on ourselves the name of Christ. I am wondering if it is possible to think that by the time that Isaiah is writing these words, anyone who has been baptized (not that I know even a smiggin of what that meant in the Biblical world) was then considered part of Judah. By the time that the Northern Kingdom had been scattered, was anyone still associated with the covenant, the prophets, the temple, and so forth, considered Judah? Something like those in the Book of Mormon being grouped into “Nephites” and “Lamanites” even though they weren’t all literally Nephi’s or Laman’s descendants. Whether or not Isaiah meant that, it seems to me to be the sense of what Joseph Smith is saying. There is something that has caused them to be called Judah when they weren’t all originally Judah. The entire House of Israel has been reduced to Judah, but not because that is all that remains; those that remain have been renamed, or baptized, as part of Judah. Thus we get the idea that there are only “Jews and Gentiles” and the word “Jews” remains today as the only real group the world associates with the Old Testament. The rest of Israel has been either “lost” or simply “dissolved” into Judah.

I think Nephi would have understood this verse in this sort of way, even if he didn’t need to think of it in terms of baptism. And whether or not baptism has anything to do with it, Joseph’s addition made me rethink this verse in terms of names, titles, rituals, etc. rather than literal descent.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.