Monday, January 27, 2014

OT #5: If Thou Doest Well, Thou Shalt Be Accepted

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #5, "If Thou Doest Well, Thou Shalt Be Accepted"

 My 2010 lesson #5 is available for reading here.

 Adam, Eve and children as a Pattern

As Latter-day Saints, we believe Adam and Eve were literal historical beings. That said, we do not know for certain which parts of their story are historical and which parts are allegorical, a symbol for teaching. Many Church leaders have questioned the literalness of Eve being born from the rib of Adam, for instance. It makes for an important story on how the animals were not good companions for Adam, and so God created Eve from his own flesh. It also is symbolic of how mankind fell from the presence of God (and each other), and must learn how to become "one flesh" again.

Driven out of the Garden, Adam and Eve were "shut out from His (God's) presence". Physically they would die one day. Spiritually, they were already dead. They would have to learn to live by the sweat of their brow, bearing children along the way. But they were given counsel prior to being cast out:
"And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord" (Moses 5:5)
Only after years of complying, was Adam given the reason for the sacrifices he performed:

And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
 And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will. (Moses 5:7-9)
 Adam now knew that a Savior would come to redeem mankind from the Fall. In this moment, as the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam and Eve, they were brought again back into the presence of the Godhead. It was the first step in returning into the full presence of God.  Note in this verse that God promises a near universal redemption. Only those (like Satan) who would refuse the atonement of Christ will not be redeemed, which redemption is offered as a free gift to all who are fallen from God's grace: all mankind.

Once Adam and Eve knew of the future atonement, they spread it forth to their children.
And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish. (v 13)
 Note that this is how Satan introduced himself to Moses. He insisted he was the Only Begotten sent to redeem mankind and to worship him rather than God.  Moses had a difficult time casting Satan out, imagine how difficult it must have been for Adam's children: not knowing any religion, but knowing their father had been cast away from and by God. Lucifer could come among them and they could dwell in his presence!

I note that it seems that Satan only now comes among them AFTER the pronunciation of salvation by God. If God were to reclaim them on conditions of repentance, the devil would embrace them in their worldly sins.  It is only at this point that the scripture notes that men become carnal and evil, not before.

 And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent;
 And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned; and the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled. (vv 14-15)
How does the Holy Ghost work to call men to repentance?  How has he moved upon us to believe and repent?  Note that before the angel went to Adam at the sacrificial altar, Adam was to sacrifice and keep commandments.  Now there is a new focus and priority: believe and repent. Suddenly, animal sacrifices and commandments were not in the forefront, but were a corollary to faith and remission of sins. No amount of animal sacrifices (or sacrifices of any kind) or obedience to commandments could bring mankind back into the presence of God.

So, what does it mean that those who refused would be damned?  We learn in modern scripture that this is actually part of God's goodness and mercy.  Alma 36 shows us that when we sin, we remove ourselves from God's presence, and it pains us. We suffer from being out of his presence, and ironically suffer if we attempt to return to his presence while in our sins! Only when we finally choose to repent and believe, does the darkness diminish, the pain subsides, and suffering is replaced by exquisite joy. In his dream, Lehi walked in darkness until he called on God's mercy, and then was ushered to the Tree of Life and the sweetness of its fruit (1 Nephi 8).  In Moses 1, the prophet had to call upon the Lord to be rescued from the Satan's attack, and was brought back into God's presence.

Such faith and repentance, as suggested by Adam S. Miller, must be total and complete. We cannot nibble on the edges of salvation.  Faith and repentance are not like antacids to calm an upset stomach caused by some spicy sin, but is like taking old fashioned castor oil in order to vomit up food poisoning sin. 

Cain and Abel

It was Eve's hope that on bearing Cain, she had "gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his (God's) words" as many of her other children had done.  Yet, as he grew, his response was, "Who is the Lord that I should know him?"

This is similar to the response Moses gave to Satan in chapter 1. Moses had experienced the presence and glory of God, and was able to see Lucifer with his natural eyes.  There was no comparison between the two.  However, Cain was still out of God's presence. In comparing the missing God or the ever-present Satan, Cain chose to follow the devil and learn from him.

 Old Testament Scholar, Margaret Barker, noted that Satan and his fallen angels turned the sons of God into animals/mortals by giving them worldly knowledge (fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) rather than offering them the wisdom found in the fruit of the tree of life (The Tree of Life: From Eden to Eternity, The Tree of Life: The Fragrant Tree, Margaret Barker).

Taking the wisdom of God and twisting it, the world grew worse as mankind embraced secret combinations and used talents and other resources to get gain, rather than to glorify God and bless mankind.  While Cain proudly proclaimed he was free and his brother's flocks had fallen into his hands (personal wealth), after killing Abel; Lamech would later brag about killing a man for the sake of the oath. It is in this new and violent world that Enoch appeared.

Enoch the Seer

So little is said about Enoch in the Bible. Yet so much information is now available to us thanks to ancient texts that claim to be from Enoch.  These texts, including the Book of Moses, speak of Enoch's battles with the Watchers of his day: fallen men and giants (possibly men of great renown) who used the knowledge of the world to get gain.

While in Adam's case, he regained the presence of God three years before his death when Jesus appeared to him and his righteous descendants at Adam-Ondi-Ahman, Enoch regained God's presence by ascending into heaven on at least two occasions.  In his first ascension, Enoch saw the creation and state of the world he lived in. He foresaw the destruction by flood.  In some ancient texts, Enoch ascends to God's throne, puts on celestial robes, is anointed with holy oil, and sits down on God's throne as Metatron the archangel, a symbol of the Messiah to come!

For Enoch's final ascension, he took the entire city he built with him.  After centuries of preparing a righteous people and battling evil in the world, Enoch and his people were translated.  They were changed from a mortal and fallen state (tree of knowledge) to an immortal state of glory (tree of life).  His celestial city would be sought after by Melchizedek, Abraham, and seen in vision by John the Revelator (who described the city as having the tree of life growing in it).

As Enoch's city grew in love, peace, beauty and glory of God, the world sank deeper into Satan's darkness and violence. Enoch's leaving was the final act needed to prepare the world for its final destruction. Methuselah and a few others would die of old age, leaving Noah to build a tree of life, an ark, to rescue humanity from itself.


The world today offers us the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  We can have great clothing, toys and tools to make our lives not only easier, but better than others.  We can put ourselves in the middle of the universe through modern technology, showing everyone else how wonderful we are. We can take advantage of others, believing we are good and our actions are justifiable, because the ends justify the means. "I am free!" We are free to have any stuff we can take. We can even free ourselves from responsibility to God and man.

Meanwhile, Abel and Enoch symbolize the person who partakes of the fruit of the tree of life and wisdom. All God asks of us is to believe and repent. Once we do this, we are rescued from physical and spiritual death. We do not have to go to hell or spirit prison, if we do as Alma did and repent (Alma 36). Once we change inside, and vomit out the sins that are gnawing at our soul, then we are truly free to return into God's presence.  As with the Nephites in King Benjamin's day, we will no longer have desire to do evil, but to do good continually (Mosiah 5:1-5).  Obedience and sacrifice are no longer done simply because they are commanded. We do them because naturally want to do them.  We become as God is by wanting to do the things that God would do for his children.

As we go through the Old Testament, we will see this continuing battle for mankind to return into God's presence, or embrace Satan's path.


Letters to a Young Mormon, Adam S. Miller
    -         Read chapter 3 on Sin, here at Fairmormon.

The Tree of Life: From Eden to Eternity, ed John Welch and Donald Parry

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