Abrahamic Covenant **keep working**


Mormon’s yearning for his brethren captures something very important, I think. Mormon is willing to include the small plates for whatever private reasons God may have, but he hopes, he prays, that it may have something to do with restoring his brethren to their God. This yearning and this type of prayer can be found elsewhere in the Book of Mormon.

Enos….

And apparently beyond Enos, his fathers prayed for the same thing. Jacob? Nephi? Lehi? We don’t have specific record of these prayers, but we know of their own exortations and yearnings for their family members.

And their prayers were heard.

Perhaps we could add that long before Lehi, Joseph of Egypt forsaw his descendents needing a book and a seer to translate it, and that “the words which he shall write shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins.”

And Abraham himself was promised that God would remember his seed, continuing to reach out to them, and preserve remnants……

 


Changing Vision of the Purpose of the Small Plates


The first reference we have to the purpose of the small plates comes in 1 Nephi 9:5: “Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.” Nephi says nothing more about the purposes here, but in 1 Nephi 19:3, he says, “the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.” While Nephi is unsure of all of God’s purposes, he at least knows that the small plates will be used to instruct current and future Nephties.

Jacob doesn’t say much about the purposes, nor does Enos. By Jarom’s day, the purposes were understood this way: “Now behold, I, Jarom, write a few words according to the commandment of my father, Enos, that our genealogy may be kept … and … these things are written for the intent of the benefit of our brethren the Lamanites.” Note that we’ve switched from having the Nephites as the intended audience to the Lamanites. Also, genealogy has become important here, whereas Nephi only copied his genealogy onto the large plates. And Jacob, Enos, and Jarom don’t seem to have any sense of God using these plates for unknown, wise purposes.

By the time Mormon discovers these plates, he is well on his way to finishing his abridgment of the large plates. As recorded in the Words of Mormon, Mormon feels to include the small plates in their entirety alongside his abridgment. He says, “And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me…And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people.” Mormon admits that he does not know God’s purpose, but then quickly adds a prayer concerning his brethren — as if to say “I don’t why God is doing this, but I sure hope it’s to bring my brethren back.”


MSH paper on wisdom, intro


In accordance with this year’s theme, I have chosen to look at D&C 10:43. To review, D&C 10 records God’s explanation that those who possess the “lost 116 pages,” as we call them today, are planning to alter them and prove that Joseph is a fraud. As is well known, God replaces these missing pages not with a retranslation, but by repurposing the small plates. Now. Verse 43 itself reads, “I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.”

Much has been written on this verse. It gives hope to those who worry about the evil in the world. It boosts confidence in God’s foreknowledge. And it’s always pleasant to review the stories where the good guy’s intelligence is unquestionably greater than the bad guy’s. 🙂

 

However, I think this word “greater” gets us a little distracted. Surely, God’s wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil. But, what exactly do wisdom and cunning have to do with each other? That is, have we thought through what brings these two into relation? Is wisdom simply a higher form of cunning? (*Mosiah 24:7) Is wisdom superior intelligence? Is it synonymous with God’s foreknowledge? My questions would likely be answered with a simple “Yes.” Or, “Karen, it doesn’t really matter — what matters is that God is shown to be greater than the devil.”

In a sort of foil-like reversal, Latter-day saints are set on proving God’s superiority, much like the holders of the 116 pages were set on proving Joseph’s dishonesty. And this can sometimes result in a one-track interpretation, when we study verses in the Book of Mormon that talk about the “wise purposes” of the small plates. For example, one commentary says, “The Lord in His omniscience had the second record, the small plates, cover the exact time period that was covered in the stolen 116 pages… The loss of the manuscript clearly demonstrates why the Lord commanded Nephi to write the small plates and why Mormon was inspired to include them.”

While undoubtedly a crucial use of the small plates in the end, it seems like an insufficient summary of the “wise purposes” of the small plates.

In what follows, I will look at verses in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants that discuss “wisdom” or “wise purposes” in relation to the small plates. By doing so, I hope to provide robust interpretation of how God’s wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.

 


D&C 10:21 similar to Laman and Lemuel


21 And their hearts are corrupt, and full of wickedness and abominations; and they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil; therefore they will not ask of me.


D&C 10 cunning vs wisdom


God’s wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.

What the devil has is not wisdom, it is cunning. (Elsewhere in scripture we do have wisdom of the world and cunning mentioned together.) That might be a good point — the kind of wisdom that the devil can have or give is of the world, but God’s wisdom is always something greater than that. God’s wisdom is always greater than the devil’s cunning/wisdom.

There are at least four ways that wisdom is talked about in D&C 10:33-48. The first comes in verses 34-35. God says, “Here is wisdom” don’t show the translation to the world. And, don’t marvel because I said that — I’m trying to preserve your life! The second comes in verse 40. God says that the things which are on Nephi’s plates are the very things that he, in his wise view of the world, thinks should be brought to light. The third is in verse 43….and here we get to what is most commonly associated with God’s wisdom and the small plates. God is wise enough so that the devil can’t destroy his work. But if his wisdom so far has meant who Joseph shows this to, and the knowledge he wants brought forth, what does verse 43 mean now? The last of the four is in verse 45, and again has to do with knowledge he wants to bring forth. Because Nephi’s record “throws greater views” on his gospel, therefore God sees it as wise to include them.

So how do the verses around D&C 10:43 help us understand how God’s wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil? Does it mean anything more than outsmarting? Is it that God put a lesser version into Joseph’s hands on purpose so it could be lost? Is it that God had multiple copies and it’s handy that the one that remained was so great? If the small plates had been lost, would we be hearing good reasons why we had the abridgment still?


John Taylor – quote from his talk on wisdom. Have trust, and be willing to sacrifice


We have to conduct ourselves properly, and seek the assistance of the Almighty to direct us in all our affairs, and the Lord has promised if we would do that, he would show us that the wisdom of God is greater than the cunning of the devil. Well, he does keep showing that from time to time, and if we do right he will keep on doing it. But to ensure this there is something devolving upon us.
Says one, “If I could have so much money, such a farm, or this, that, and the other, I would feel satisfied.” I say, get the Spirit of God in your hearts! Let the light of revelation burn in your bosoms like living fire, then you will know something about God, something about the blessings of salvation, something about the benefits that will accrue to Zion.
“But, sometimes, I have to make a little sacrifice if I carry out the counsel given.” Well, make it then. If it is a sacrifice, it ought to be a pleasure to help build up the kingdom of God, establish righteousness, plant the standard of truth, and to be on the side of God, angels and eternal realities, to be saviors of men. To be thus situated is the most honorable position in this world or the world to come.
Now, God could not get the world to do anything towards building up his kingdom, they would not do it, they could not see it, and he had to get you baptized before you could see it; and seeing it now, will you barter it away for the follies of this world, for the smiles and promises of the ungodly? Or are you going to cleave to the truth, live by it, and, if necessary, die by it? What are you going to do?

John Taylor talk on wisdom – if God can command in great things, why can’t he help us in all things?


I came across this talk by John Taylor when I was looking for things on wisdom for my MSH paper.

….

Well, we are here, and God is going to build up his kingdom. He will do it, and we need not trouble ourselves about outsiders and their notions, or about foolish men or their thoughts, practices and calculations. It is a matter of very little difference to us. God is at the helm—he manages, he guides, he directs and controls, he influences his people, and he will continue to influence them. Well, we are here, in the capacity, say, of a kingdom, and people tell us that we are different from anybody else. Of course we are; we do not expect to be like others. It is true that smoke goes out of our chimneys, as out of the chimneys of others, because it is a law of nature. It is true that potatoes, wheat and corn grow here as elsewhere. It is true

we have to attend to the common affairs of life—eat, drink, sustain ourselves, clothe and keep ourselves warm, as others do, and we have to take care of and protect ourselves from the incursions and machinations of those who seek to destroy us. In all these respects we have to take the same course that other people do; but the difference between us is—we have an organization, a Church organization, given by revelation from God, and which does not exist anywhere else in this little world.

But what about other things relative to temporal affairs? If God can organize us as a Church, if he can unveil the heavens to us, draw aside the curtain of futurity, and enable us to penetrate the veil and gain a certain knowledge in regard to the future, certainly he can make known or reveal something about a few temporal things, such as plowing, sowing, building, planting, trading, manufacturing, making railroads, and a thousand other little things that have to be attended to in this world. If he can do the bigger things, I think he can do the less.
“Well, we are capable of doing that ourselves,” say some people, some of these philosophers I have referred to—they are all wise men, and you would think wisdom would die with them, but it will not be entirely extinguished when they are gone, not quite. God will still lead, govern and direct his people. “But,” say they, “we think we could do things so much better than somebody else.” Well then, go at it and try; there is plenty of room in the world for you to exhibit your intelligence.
We are in the hands of God. We have come here. What for? The Lord says, “I will take them one of a city, and two of a family, and bring them to Zion.” Jer. 3:14 What will you do with them? “Give them pastors

after my own heart, who shall feed them with knowledge and understanding.” Jer. 3:15 It is a fact, today, that the wise men and great men, and statesmen, and men in position in various parts of the world, as they come here to visit, us with all our failings and infirmities, tell us that we are the best and most orderly people they have ever seen. And they say we have a beautiful country, and that we are governed by wisdom, by sage counsels, and by a high order of intelligence. That is the opinion of the leading statesmen of this day who pass through our midst, and many of them come through here. The question naturally arises, Where does this wisdom come from? Why, God inspired Joseph Smith; then he inspired President Young with the same kind of spirit and feeling. Then he inspired the devil, or the devil inspired his imps—one of the two—and drove us from our former possessions, and it all worked together, the Lord inspired on the one hand, and the devil on the other, and by hook or by crook, we got here, just as we are today.

We commenced to build a temple in Kirtland, and we built it. We built another in Nauvoo, and we are building another here. We are attending to the ordinances pertaining to the Church of God, temporal and spiritual, ordinances pertaining to the body, and ordinances pertaining to the spirit. And then, as men having to do with the world on which we live, with the Territory that we possess, we have to enact laws, and we have to conduct ourselves properly, and seek the assistance of the Almighty to direct us in all our affairs, and the Lord has promised if we would do that, he would show us that the wisdom of God is greater than the cunning of the devil. D&C 10:43 Well, he does keep showing that from time

to time, and if we do right he will keep on doing it. But to ensure this there is something devolving upon us.

Says one, “If I could have so much money, such a farm, or this, that, and the other, I would feel satisfied.” I say, get the Spirit of God in your hearts! Let the light of revelation burn in your bosoms like living fire, then you will know something about God, something about the blessings of salvation, something about the benefits that will accrue to Zion. “But, sometimes, I have to make a little sacrifice if I carry out the counsel given.” Well, make it then. If it is a sacrifice, it ought to be a pleasure to help build up the kingdom of God, establish righteousness, plant the standard of truth, and to be on the side of God, angels and eternal realities, to be saviors of men. D&C 103:9 To be thus situated is the most honorable position in this world or the world to come. Now, God could not get the world to do anything towards building up his kingdom, they would not do it, they could not see it, and he had to get you baptized before you could see it; and seeing it now, will you barter it away for the follies of this world, for the smiles and promises of the ungodly? Or are you going to cleave to the truth, live by it, and, if necessary, die by it? What are you going to do?
I am glad we have come here. I am pleased that these meetings have been instituted, that the people get together, and that we have a chance to talk with them, in their assemblies, about the things of God. We are God’s people, God is our Father, and we should spend a little time in these things. This is our duty, and we should feel an interest in them. That is what we set out for, and we mean to go forward, and we will go on and

on, for our motto is eternal progress. This kingdom will advance, the purposes of God will roll forward, and no power on this side of hell, or the other either, can stop it. God will sustain his people, and Israel will rejoice and be triumphant.

Now then, we come to the management of our affairs. Talking of the wise men of the world, why we have had many of them ever since the world was. And what have they accomplished in the nations of the earth? They have built cities, and some have raised themselves to fame by trampling under foot thousands of others. They have waded through seas of blood sometimes to get upon the throne of power. What to do? That they might trample still lower poor humanity, and bring men down, as it were, to the dust of death, and make serfs of them. What else have they done? They have established every kind of government, as they have every kind of religion. Do you not think that we need revelation about government as much as anything else? I think we do. I think we need God to dictate to us as much in our national and social affairs as in church matters. Some people are willing to have their souls looked after, but they think they are smart enough to look after temporal affairs themselves. In the world they want a doctor to look after their bodies, a parson to look after their souls, and a lawyer to take care of their property. In these respects we differ from them. We begin with God. Our light comes from him, our religion is from him, and we need his guidance and instruction in all these other matters. Is not that simple, plain and reasonable?