Gospel Doctrine lesson #12, Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction
My previous post on this lesson can be found here.
Promised Lands/Promised Peoples
The Book of Genesis is all about a promised people. Adam, Eve and their righteous children (Abel, Seth) were a promised people, while Cain was cast out. Enoch and Zion were chosen, while the giants and wicked were rejected of God. Noah was chosen to escape the destruction of the Flood, and his tiny ark became the promised land of safety.
Abraham was chosen to become the beginnings of the Promised People. His new land of promise was filled with Canaanites and others, who worshiped other gods. His son (Isaac), and son's son (Jacob) would get wives out of the former familial lands of Haran.
For Joseph, Egypt was the land of his affliction, but a fruitful place that would care for Israel and many others during a time when they were cut off from the Promised Land. Egypt would frequently become the temporary oasis for the Chosen People. Once removed from the land of Canaan for drought, famine or other reason, Egypt usually becomes the place of worldly safety. Two millennia later, Joseph and Mary would escape into the land of Egypt and sojourn there for a time with their fugitive child, Jesus.
The concepts of Promised Lands and Promised Peoples are important for Latter-day Saints. We believe that we are building a modern Zion people. The center of Zion will one day be in Missouri, with thousands of Stakes to strengthen it.
Interestingly, Joseph Smith moved the Saints to Missouri, but they were driven out. First Nauvoo, and then later, Utah, became the "temporary" Egyptian desert sanctuary for modern Israel. As the children of Israel would spend centuries in Egypt, so Mormons would spend the last century and a half waiting to return to build a new Zion. During that time, Mormons have excelled in business, politics, and many other ventures of American modern society. Some continue walking the path that God set for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; while today there are many others who have become cultural Mormons, who no longer believe in the spiritual, but solely enjoy the social aspects.
As the tribes of Israel would deal with changes in Egyptian politics (a pharaoh arose that knew not Joseph - Exodus 1), some would leave the teachings of Abraham in order to gain power and wealth within Egyptian life. Why did it seem normal for Egyptians to slay all the male children in Israel, yet allow one of those boys to grow up in Pharaoh's household? Was Moses the first/only one to be adopted? Or was there a long line of Israelite children who had been taken in by Egyptian women seeking children of their own, but wishing to retain their slim figures? While Moses would lead Israel out of Egypt and back to the Promised Land of his fathers, what about those Israelites that remained behind? Surely there were some that did not follow Moses, but preferred the fleshpots of Egypt? Again, there would be others that would follow Moses, only to later wish to return to Egypt, its gods, and the annual crops grown along the Nile River.
In a world of constant pressure to worship the gods of Egypt (who provide fleshpots of food) or to worship the gods of Hollywood (who provide us sex, drugs and rock n roll), we will find that we cannot always stand with one foot in Zion and the other in the World. Eventually, each of us must choose. Will we be true followers of a modern day Moses, or a cultural Israel, who are happy while water pours out of rocks, manna falls from the sky, and the prophet is willing to share priesthood authority and power with them (Numbers 16)? Will we make popular demands, and have golden calves built, because we do not believe the prophets (or God) are watching?
We already hear the clarion call to leave the corruption of the World/Babylon/Egypt behind and to "Come to Zion" ("Israel, Israel God is Calling", Hymn #7). Today we are building a spiritual Zion in the midst of 3000 stakes and 170 temples. Eighty-thousand missionaries seek out the lost of Israel, inviting them to spiritually become part of the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Soon, the call will come to build up the center of Zion, and a final call will be made to those who refuse to leave the fleshpots of Egypt, prior to the great and coming day of the Lord.
Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; (Isaiah 54:2)Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. (Isaiah 33:20)
These are important issues that will be a key focus for most of the Old Testament lessons throughout the rest of 2014.