Monday, December 27, 2010

Gospel Doctrine New Testament Lesson 1 - “That Ye Might Believe That Jesus Is the Christ” Isaiah 61:1-3; John 1

Gospel Doctrine New Testament Lesson 1 - “That Ye Might Believe That Jesus Is the Christ”
Isaiah 61:1-3; John 1

The Christ

The English word “Christ” comes from the Greek Χριστός (Khristós), and means “the Anointed One”. It is equivalent to the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (Messiah). According to the Old Testament scholar, Margaret Barker, the Messiah is the “Angel of the Lord’s Presence”, or the angel that stands in Elohim’s presence as his chief messenger. Early Christians equated Jesus with the Messiah and the Great Angel who would deliver Israel.

In Luke 3, Jesus’ first discourse occurred in the synagogue. He was at least 30 years old, as that was the age when a man became a rabbi/religious leader, and was allowed to speak in the synagogue. The normal pattern was to stand, read a passage of scripture, sit, and then explain it to the people:

“16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
“17And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
“18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
“20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
“21And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
“22And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 3:16-22, see Isaiah 61:1-3).

Isaiah 61 was a key prophecy regarding the coming Messiah. Yet, for those in Nazareth who knew him, this was blasphemous. The Messiah would not be born of someone like Joseph, whom they knew. Many others at this time had proclaimed to be the Messiah, promising to free Judah from the Roman captivity. However, as we study the New Testament, we shall see that only Jesus offered a different promise. In his mortal ministry, he would not offer physical liberation from Roman captors, but spiritual liberation through faith and repentance in the atonement.

To preach the “gospel to the poor” meant preaching “good news” to them. He would heal the sad of heart, and would preach spiritual deliverance to those captive to Satan’s power. While he would literally heal the blind, he would heal even more who were spiritually blind so that they could again see with new eyes. They would be freed from the chains of death and hell, healed from the bruises brought on by sin and the struggles of this life.

The Gospels

The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) as we now have them were written decades after Christ’s death. Most scholars believe Matthew and Luke were written based upon the writings of the earliest written gospel, Mark, and perhaps from another source named Q (Quelle, German for source). John was written in the 2nd century after the Book of Revelation. Some scholars do not believe these were written by the original apostles (Matthew and John) and missionaries (Mark and Luke). It may be that they were later written by followers of those leaders, who learned from their teachings about Christ. This was a very common thing done anciently, where the disciple would write a book and name their teacher as author. Whether the books were indeed written by the original Church leaders or not, the key is that these books are inspired.

In the Beginning was the Word
John 1

“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

In a look at the Greek, we find that these verses actually describe Jesus and God as separate Gods. Russell McGregor and Kerry Shirts did a great article which explains:

“How does Jehovah appear in the Greek New Testament? As Kyrios. This gets translated as "Lord" in English.
How does Elohim appear in the Greek New Testament? As Theos - especially Ho Theos [The God]. This, of course, gets translated as "God" in English.
Of course, the same words appear in many places in the New Testament that are not merely quotes from the Old. And you will find that Lord usually refers to Jesus - especially after his resurrection - while God usually refers to the Father....
[In Isaiah] the Lord announces that he is the one and only Savior (see Isaiah 43:3, 11; 45:15). And when the angel appeared to the shepherds in he field outside Bethlehem, he said to them, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).
Now we may never really know what the angel's words were in the original Aramaic, but it seems reasonable that it would be something like, "a Savior, who is the anointed Jehovah."
But don't just take Luke's word for it. In John 1:1-2 we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." ... [T]he first and third "God" in this passage comes from Greek Ho Theos - the God - while the second occurrence was simply Theos. So this could be rendered, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with The God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with The God." (Russell C. McGregor and Kerry A. Shirts, "Letters to an Anti-Mormon," FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1999, p. 139).

So, we see that there is a distinction between The God Elohim, and his Son Jesus. Both are God, but are separate beings.

Godhead vs Trinity

The religious argument between one united Godhead of three distinct beings versus one God of one substance but three separate persons, has raged on for almost 2000 years. One of the earliest Christian teachers and defenders was Origen. Origen taught that the Father and Son were two separate beings, but both are Gods. He explained that Christ is a subordinate God to the Father, such as John 1:1 seems to tell us. This was the main belief for early Christianity regarding the Godhead until the times of Athanasius, Arius, and Eusebius of Caesarea. Over the first few centuries of the Christian era, Greek ideas trickled into the Christian church, including the idea that there is only one God, who is made of a perfect substance, while all other things are made of other impure substance. Arius belonged to the Eastern Church and taught that Father and Son were separate beings, and since there is only one God, Jesus was not God, but Lord. Athanasius, eager to defend the godhood of Christ, developed a different concept we now call the Trinity. It states that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one God, made up of three separate persons, but of one substance. The term “consubstantiation” or “homoousias” (of one substance) became key to his teaching. Followers of Athanasius sought to have Arius deposed as bishop, creating a huge rift in the Christian Church. To try and repair the damage to the Church and unity of his kingdom, Roman Emperor Constantine brought 318 bishops together in the first major ecumenical council at Nice in 325 AD.

Eusebius of Caesarea is known as a key bishop of the time, as well as the best chronicler of early Christian history. Eusebius was an ardent student of the Bible scholar Pamphilus and devout follower of Origen. In the battles between Arius and Athanasius, Eusebius sought the middle ground, agreeing that Father and Son were separate beings, yet also stating that Christ was also God. When the Council of Nice ended, the Arians were temporarily routed by the Athanasians. The Trinitarian creed, also known as the Athanasius Creed, was set in place. However, for the next century there would be continued battles over this teaching, wherein the Arians almost succeeded in establishing their own belief.

Eusebius agreed with certain tenets of the creed, such as Christ is eternal and uncreated. However, he drew the line at the term “consubstantiation” as it is not in the scriptures, and he insisted the gospel of Christ should be established on Biblical writings, and not on non-scriptural creeds. Today, while the majority of traditional Christianity follows the teachings of Athanasius on the Trinity, the Jehovah’s Witnesses tend towards an Arian view of God and Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) holds a similar belief to the Origen/Eusebius belief that Father and Son are members of the Godhead, with Christ subordinate to the Father. As we can see from the Greek translation of John 1:1, this seems to be the correct interpretation. Christ IS God who is with THE God of all, Heavenly Father.

When was Christ born?

December 25th is the traditional celebration for Christ’s birth. This date came about centuries after Jesus’ death, when early Christians sought to celebrate the date.

For about a century, Latter-day Saints have believed that Christ’s birth was actually April 6, 1 BC, based upon a reading of D&C 20:1 by Elder James Talmage in his book, Jesus the Christ. We have since found that verse one was not part of the original revelation, but was a header put in the revelation by the scribe. Also, more recent General Authorities statements and research clearly show that Jesus must have been born around 5 BC.

Why? For one thing, Herod the Great, who spoke with the wise men and ordered the death of infants in Bethlehem, died in spring of 4 BC. Jesus could not have been born in 1 BC and still have Herod in the story. This and several other clues within the Bible and Book of Mormon suggests that Christ was probably born around December 5 BC. So December 25th could actually be the right date!


Wikipedia on Christ:

“Letters to an Anti-Mormon”, McGregor and Shirts:

Eusebius of Caesarea:

Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History:

When was Jesus Born? Michael De Groote in Deseret News:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson #48 - Zechariah Malachi

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson #48 -
Zechariah Malachi


Judah fell to the Babylonians around 586 BC. Many were carried into Babylon. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were the prophets of the early exile. Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, took over the empire in 539 BC. While the Babylonians sought to intimidate its subjects, the Persians sought to please them, so they would be willing subjects of the kingdom. Cyrus returned the Jews to Jerusalem. His successor, Darius, divided his empire into divisions ruled by governors. Zerubbabel was made governor over Judah (Yehud). Haggai and Zechariah were the chief prophets in Judah during this period (about 520 BC).

A focus of both Darius and the prophets was the rebuilding of the temple. For Darius, it helped to consolidate his strength in the Persian Empire. For the Jews, it was a Godsend.
Zechariah was the son of Berechiah and a descendant of the chief high priest, Iddo. Zechariah means “God remembers.” Berechiah means “God will bless.” Iddo means “At the appointed time.” Together, their names suggest: At the appointed time, God remembers and will bless them.”

The Key Concepts of the Old Testament

With Zechariah and Malachi, we complete the year study of the Old Testament. It continues with a pattern seen frequently in the official lessons and in my blog: a pattern of Creation, Fall and Restoration.

Since the Creation of the earth, the Fall of Adam, and the future promise of the earth’s paradisiacal restoration to an Edenic state, we see in the Bible and other scriptures a pattern of creation, fall, and restoration. Adam was created in the Garden of Eden, fell from it, and was restored to Yahweh/Jehovah’s presence at Adam-Ondi-Ahman (D&C 107).
The Gospel was preached by Enoch and Noah. The righteous who believed them were translated and restored to God’s presence in the City of Enoch, while the wicked experienced the Fall of the Great Flood.

Yahweh created Israel, his people of promise, by making a special covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Over time they fell from favor and were enslaved by Egypt. God sought a new creation for Israel by rescuing them via Moses. Moses desired to restore Israel to God’s presence at Mt Sinai (D&C 84), but when Israel refused to enter into Yahweh’s presence, they were given a lesser restoration and promise. Instead of all of Israel serving God in His presence, only a select few of Israel would do so: prophets and priests. The Tabernacle, and later the temples in Jerusalem, Elephantium and in Samaria, would be holy places where the people could approach near the throne of God, located in the Holy of Holies of the temples. The Jerusalem temple’s ark of the covenant held the national treasures of Israel: the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s budding stick, manna, and other miraculous and sacred objects of God’s power. The ark was part of the Mercy Seat, seated between the two cherubim in the Holy of Holies, where God judged his people. When they were righteous, he restored them to blessings. When they rebelled, he allowed them to fall from His presence, and lose the protection of being the Promised people.

While the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were carried off, and the tribes of Israel still lost to mankind, the Lord promised to restore them. Judah would return from captivity and the temple rebuilt (known as the Second Temple). Yet in 70 AD, Judah would be destroyed again, this time by the Romans. They would live in exile for almost 2000 years, with the hope that someday Yahweh would restore them to their land, and allow them to build the third temple in Jerusalem.

With the earth fallen from God’s presence, Isaiah, Zechariah, Malachi and other prophets foresaw the day when Yahweh would return in power and glory, Restoring not only Israel, but the whole earth, back into God’s presence.

Zechariah’s Teachings and Prophecies of the Temple and Messiah

Zechariah’s teachings and prophesies of the future focus on the priesthood and temple. While Judah has a governor, greater emphasis and power is given to the chief high priest, Joshua. Joshua, as chief high priest, was directly involved in the building of the 2nd temple and the services occurring within it. For Zechariah, Joshua is viewed as a symbol of the future Messiah, who would save Israel in the long run. Joshua restored the priestly blessings of the temple to Israel, and the Messiah would restore Israel back into God’s presence in his celestial temple.

Interestingly, the name Jesus is the Greek form of Jehoshua, or Joshua. Zechariah may have been speaking regarding the great chief priest of his day, but his prophesy foreshadows the Messiah, who also would be named Yeshua. Joshua is told to remove his dirty clothes and replace them with clean and holy garments. This is a common theme for priests and prophets who are cleansed prior to entering into God’s presence. Moses removed his sandals on holy ground; Aaron and his sons were clothed in priestly temple robes; in early Jewish-Christian texts, Enoch, Isaiah and others put on celestial clothing prior to performing service at God’s throne. Joshua’s clothing change symbolized his inner cleansing and that of Judah, as the temple was readied for service.

In Wikipedia’s comments regarding the Book of Zechariah, we read:

“The purpose of this book is not strictly historical but theological and pastoral. The main emphasis is that God is at work and plans to live again with His people in Jerusalem. He will save them from their enemies and cleanse them from sin.
“Zechariah's concern for purity is apparent in the temple, priesthood and all areas of life as the prophecy gradually eliminates the influence of the governor in favour of the high priest, and the sanctuary becomes ever more clearly the centre of messianic fulfillment. The prominence of prophecy is quite apparent in Zechariah, but it is also true that Zechariah (along with Haggai) allows prophecy to yield to the priesthood; this is particularly apparent in comparing Zechariah to "Third Isaiah" (chapters 55–66 of the Book of Isaiah), whose author was active sometime after the first return from exile.
“Most Christian commentators read the series of predictions in chapters 7 to 14 as Messianic prophecies, either directly or indirectly.These chapters helped the writers of the Gospels understand Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, which they quoted as they wrote of Jesus’ final days. Much of the Book of Revelation, which narrates the denouement of history, is also colored by images in Zechariah.”

Jim Faulconer notes that the first 6 chapters may be a chiasmus, which allows the earliest portions to help explain the later, more obscure prophesies. It also demonstrates that the priesthood and temple are in the center of Zechariah’s prophesy. We learn that the priesthood represents God’s power and the temple represents God’s knowledge, secrets, and presence.

In chapter 6, Zechariah makes crowns, one of which is placed upon Joshua’s head. Zechariah sees that the Branch will also receive a crown, rebuild the temple, serving and blessing the people, even as Joshua will do for his people.

According to, we find that:

“Some of the things we know about the Branch:
(1) The Branch will be a man. (Isa 4:2; Jer 23:3-5; 33:14-26)
(2) The Branch will be from Israel. (Micah 5:2; Isa 53:2)
(3) The Branch will build the temple. (Eze 40-43; Hag 2)”

The Branch is the Messiah, even Jesus Christ. And there is a double fulfillment we can understand about the Branch. In his first coming as a mortal, Jesus was a man from Israel. The temple Jesus built in mortality was that of his resurrected body. The Lord told the Jews that the temple would be destroyed and then rebuilt in three days, meaning his physical body. We know that in his 2nd Coming in glory, Jesus will come as a man, reclaiming his position as King and High Priest over Israel, and he will turn the earth into a paradisiacal temple. The temple in Jerusalem, as well as others, will be built across the world to perform service to God throughout the millennial era.

That Zechariah was so closely connected to the 2nd Temple’s beginnings, establishing Joshua as the chief priest of the temple and as a Messianic symbol, extends to his visions of the latter-days. In conjunction with Daniel and John’s Revelation, we see the day would come when the Gentile nations would attack Jerusalem. The prophet warns the Jews of his day to escape Babylon (2:6-7) in the north. This prophecy applies today for those who engaged in modern Babylon. Babylon was a nation that mistreated and abused Israel, forcing others to engage in its industry and belief system (think on how Daniel and his friends were forced to worship the gods and king of Babylon). Zechariah’s Judah was protected by King Darius of Persia. Darius means “Lord”, and so the latter-day Israel is called to flee Babylon to modern Israel, where the Lord can be their protector.

Prophesying of the mortal Messiah, Zechariah saw that the staff of Beauty, even Jesus, would be “cut asunder” and sold for 30 pieces of silver. This was the price for purchasing a slave, and it was the 30 pieces that Judas Iscariot would cast to on the Potter’s Field (Zech 11:10-13). Zechariah foresaw the world laying siege to the holy city (12:1-2). It will be in that day that the Lord will send His grace upon them, even the Messiah to deliver them. At that time, they will see the one whom they pierced and weep. They shall weep for joy that they have been delivered, and weep for sorrow for the Christ whom they slew 2000 years before (12:8-11, 13:6).


Malachi means “my messenger.” He was the last prophet of the Old Testament and probably lived around 420 BC. The Jews had rebuilt the temple only a century before, but already were falling into apostasy and rebellion. They were not grateful that God watched over them, allowing Jacob to prosper, even while the nations of Esau (Jacob’s brother) remained in ruin. Children and servants honor parents and masters, yet Judah refused to honor God, profaning the temple worship with their greed and pride.

They refused to care for the poor, orphans, widows and needy. They no longer paid their tithes, thus “robbing” God of what was due him. They dealt treacherously with each other, forgetting the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.

The prophet foresaw the coming of forerunner to Christ, prior to his sudden appearance in the temple (Mal 3:1). All Christians will recognize the forerunner as John the Baptist, preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming in mortality. A second fulfillment of this prophecy occurred in 1836 after the Kirtland Temple was dedicated (D&C 110). In this event, Joseph Smith was the forerunner, preparing the way of the Lord by building a temple. Jesus suddenly came to this temple to restore priesthood power and keys as a preparation for His Second Coming.

On his Second Coming in glory, the only ones who would “abide the day of His coming” are those who have gone through the refiner’s fire. Intense heat was used anciently, as well as today, to remove impurities from precious metals, such as gold and silver. The residue was the dross, good for nothing, and thrown away. Only those who are purified will abide the 2nd Coming. All others will be as the dross, unable to withstand the purification process (3:2-3). The priesthood will be the first to be refined (vs 4), for they cannot serve God and prepare a sacrifice worthy of God if they are filthy.

Malachi lists those who will be judged by God and found wanting: sorcerers (false priesthood and magic), adulterers (sexual sin), false swearers (false witnesses and liars), oppressors of the poor and widows, and those who do not fear (respect and reverence) God (3:5).

In accusing Israel of not paying tithes and offerings, the Lord was showing them a concept they refused to see. Such payments had nothing to do with economics or ability to pay. Instead, it was an issue of faith. In paying tithes and offerings to God in faith, one opened up the windows of heaven to pour out blessings, which could include economic blessings. These moneys paid to maintain the temple, to help the poor, widows and orphans, and to bring about God’s great work. Neglecting these offerings meant man refused to be a partner with God in caring for the poor, and in moving his great works forward. Yet the proud thought that the wicked were blessed with wealth and all things needed, while the righteous never could get ahead. They did not understand that their material wealth was a fleeting thing that would end (ch 3).

It is in chapter four that God explains what will happen in the long run to the proud, the wealthy, and the other wicked who do not serve Him. While the righteous will go through a refiner’s fire that will purify them into God’s useful tools, the wicked and proud will burn as stubble. Stubble is what is left over in the field after the harvest, when the grain and hay has been cut and collected. After the harvest, the stubble was burnt to help prepare the land for the next growing season. A good burning would not only burn up the remains one could see above the ground, but would even burn up the roots of the stubble, leaving the ground ready for plowing and planting.

For the righteous, the Son of Righteousness will come with “healing in his wings.” He will heal those who have suffered for God’s name. He will heal the sick, wounded, widow, orphan, poor. He will heal those who have patiently waited on his name, offering righteous sacrifices and offerings in his name.

Finally, Malachi saw that prior to the Messiah’s 2nd Coming, Elijah the Prophet must return to prepare the way, turning the hearts of fathers and children to one another, otherwise there would be no one to save at the Lord’s return. This occurred when the Lord suddenly appeared at the Kirtland Temple in 1836, during the Jewish festival of Passover (D&C 110). Elijah gave to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the sealing powers. These priesthood powers allowed families to be sealed eternally, and to receive the greatest blessings of the temple. As I’ve noted before, the temple is the holy space on earth, where man prepares to see God’s face. We are sealed to God in the holy temples, and prepare and practice in those temples to be in the Lord’s presence and see his face. This return of Elijah is such an important prophecy that many Jews still reserve an empty seat at their dinner table for the Prophet during their Passover meal. What they do not know is that Elijah did return at Passover, preparing the way for the Lord’s Second Coming.


And with that Second Coming, of which both Zechariah and Malachi spoke of, will come the final restoration. As I stated, the Old Testament is a recurring story of Creation, Fall and Restoration. At the Second Coming, Israel will be restored to its true promise. All the righteous will be restored to God’s presence. The Messiah will come with healing in his wings, restoring us to a perfect joy and happiness. And the temple is the holy place where we prepare for that great day when we will see Christ face to face, and wash his feet with our tears for redeeming us.


Book of Zechariah – Wikipedia

Jim Faulconer’s Lesson 48 comments on Zechariah’s chiasmus on Zechariah

New Advent - Zechariah

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #47, “Let Us Rise Up and Build” Ezra 1-8, Nehemiah 1-8

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #47, “Let Us Rise Up and Build”
Ezra 1-8, Nehemiah 1-8


The nation of Israel was carried off into captivity by the Assyrians in 702 BC. The nation of Judah followed in a series of invasions, first by the Assyrians (who reduced Judah’s land mass to an area just around Jerusalem) and completed by the Babylonians around 586 BC.

According to tradition, many in the nation of Israel gathered while in captivity and performed a second Exodus to the north, where they have not been heard from since. Those who remained in Assyria were generally absorbed into their new community, and eventually lost their Israelite identity. Meanwhile, Jeremiah had prophesied that Judah would remain in captivity for 70 years and then return.

Isaiah also prophesied regarding Judah, saying they would remain captive until the future king Cyrus would restore them to their lands (Isa 44-45). Scholars disagree as to when this portion of Isaiah was written. Many claim that it was written not by the original Isaiah, but by a later follower of Isaiah, in the period during which Cyrus of Persia was, indeed, king. This second, or Deutero-Isaiah supposedly used current events to establish prophesies added to Isaiah (First Isaiah or Proto-Isaiah). However, several studies show that the evidence for a 2 Isaiah is not as compelling as some would think.

My good friend (now deceased), Marc Schindler explained that the name “Cyrus” probably wasn’t the original term used, but was replaced by Jews in Cyrus’ day in order to encourage him to restore them to their lands:

“If you accept the Book of Mormon as true, there is no Deutero-Isaiah "problem." However, I feel that the Book of Mormon cannot only withstand the challenge, but the issue can actually be used to illuminate the nature of Isaiah and shed light on why this is such a profound book. When the Deutero-Isaiah theory first became current, there was a lot of emphasis on the difference in vocabulary and word patterns between the various parts of Isaiah. However, as McKenzie points out above, this is no longer an issue. (Besides the study he refers to, there have been word pattern studies done by computer analysis of the Hebrew text at BYU that show no significant differences between the various parts of Isaiah.)
There are two issues: the insertion of Cyrus's name, and the totally different historical context of the latter part of Isaiah. As McKenzie points out, it's not enough of a defence simply to say, "well, you know those 'higher critics,' they don't accept prophecy anyway-they just can't swallow the reality of prophecy," but the issue is that that's not the way God works. There are plenty of examples of specific prophecy in the Old Testament (i.e., Isaiah 7:8, where Isaiah prophesies that within 65 years Ephraim will be destroyed-note that this is in "Proto-Isaiah" and its authorship is not questioned), but prophecies have to make sense to the people to whom they are addressed, and as McKenzie says, the name "Cyrus" and the concept of the Persian Empire wouldn't have made sense to Isaiah's contemporaries. Furthermore, it is the nature of apocalyptic scripture to lay things out in a vision which is symbolic in nature (cf. Daniel's vision of the idol with clay feet, and John's symbolism of angels and beasts)....
when the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, they read what Isaiah wrote, and because there were references to Babylon, assumed that he was talking about events in their day. While this might technically have been correct, they missed the point that Isaiah's prophecies were primarily concerned with the latter days. In editing the book as they passed it down, they substituted the name "Cyrus," which by that point did make sense to them, as he was an historical figure, for what was there originally. We don't know, of course, what "Cyrus" might have replaced, but from the context it appears as if it was a messianic type meant to refer to the 2nd coming of Christ.”

So, Jewish leaders show king Cyrus of Persia a copy of the Jewish scriptures (possibly translated into Persian), where a name for the future messiah was replaced with the king’s name. A spiritual last days event of the Messiah saving Israel from spiritual Babylon becomes King Cyrus saving the Jews by restoring them to their ancestral homeland.

Construction of the Temple

About 50,000 Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, but mostly to rebuild the temple. The people of Samaria offered eagerly to help. Samaria included the former lands and capitol city of the kings of the nation of Israel before being carried off by Assyria. While many Israelites remained in the land, there were also many people from other areas of the Assyrian nation that were transplanted into the location. This was done to destroy the original tribal nationalism that was inherent in any conquered people. If they were not living in and beholden to the land of their ancestors, they would eventually be absorbed into the new cultures.

The Samaritans were a mixed race, part Israelite and part everything else the Assyrians could replace them with. Because they were not “pure blooded” Israelites, the Jews in Jerusalem rejected their offer of assistance, intent in building the temple and city on their own.

Later, after Alexander the Great conquered the area, the Samaritans would ask for and be granted the right to build their own temple at Shechem. Their temple was run by Levitical priests who had a falling out with those in Jerusalem, and had settled in Samaria a few years before.

The Samaritans were incensed, to be rejected by the Jews. While many Samaritans were not literal descendants of Israel, many were at least partially descended from it. Those immigrants into the land had taken Jehovah as their God, for he was the god of the land. Their worship was different than the worship of the Jews. It was the version developed or at least influenced by apostate Israel prior to their destruction. Family lines could not be corroborated. The Samaritans were rejected, and the Jews would still hate and distrust them centuries later. However, Jesus would acknowledge that the Samaritans were indeed members of Israel, but tell a Samaritan woman, “ye worship ye know not what” (John 4:22).

The Samaritans would begin attacking the Jews and sabotaging their efforts to build the temple. Finally, the Jews gave up the endeavor. It would be another fifty years before Nehemiah would be sent to be the governor of Judah. He was king Artaxerxes’ right hand man, and asked the king permission to build a wall of protection around the temple. Given permission to build the wall, Nehemiah went with the intention to not only build the wall, but to build the temple. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah would insist that the temple needed to be rebuilt, or the Jews would never be a people of Jehovah.

Governor Nehemiah and his scribe Ezra guided the building of the temple, and of the city wall. In these we see an important concept. The city wall meant protection from Judah’s physical enemies. The temple symbolized protection from the spiritual dangers in the world. Both were needed, and both needed to be constructed at the same time.

Modern walls of protection

Later, among the first actions by modern prophets in establishing a new place of gathering would be to begin preparations for a temple. Joseph Smith built a temple in Kirtland, Ohio. Once the Saints moved to Missouri, plans were immediately established for a temple in Independence. After being chased from Jackson County, Missouri, the Mormons set up further north. One of their first acts there was to plan a temple in Far West. Again, chased from Missouri, a temple in Nauvoo became one of the first efforts among the saints. Nauvoo was successfully built because the saints had time to also establish “walls” of fortification, including their own militia. Finally, in the first week Brigham Young was in the Great Salt Lake Basin, he set a marker for the future temple.

Today, we have about 150 temples in operation or under construction worldwide. The effort to bring the walls of spiritual protection closer to the Saints is an enormous, but important, task in these last days. Brigham Young foresaw the day when hundreds of temples would be upon the earth:

"To accomplish this work there will have to be not only one temple, but thousands of them, and thousands and tens of thousands of men and women will go into those temples and officiate for people who have lived as far back as the Lord shall reveal.: -- Brigham Young, June 22, 1856 Journal of Discourses, 3:372

"I want to see the temple built in a manner that it will endure through the Millennium. This is not the only temple we shall build. There will be hundreds of them built and dedicated to the Lord. This temple will be known as the first temple built in the mountains by the Latter-day Saints. And when the Millennium is over, and all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, down to the last of their posterity, who come within the reach of the clemency of the gospel, have been redeemed in hundreds of temples through the administration of their children as proxies for them, I want that temple still to stand as a proud monument of the faith, perseverance and industry of the Saints of God in the mountains in the nineteenth century."
--Brigham Young, October 6, 1863, Journal of Discourses, 10:254

In 1990, few would have imagined the day for one hundred active temples was only ten years away. And the focus from ancient times among God’s people was that their salvation depended upon access to a temple.

But why?

Anciently, God spoke with man face to face in sacred places. The first place was in the Garden of Eden, where the Lord spoke with Adam. After being cast out of the Garden, Adam was out of God’s presence for years. He then could only discourse with angels (Moses 54-8). Only near the end of his life, was Adam brought back into God’s presence at Adam-Ondi-Ahman. There, three years before his death, Adam gathered his righteous children around him. Christ appeared and blessed Adam, as his children praised him, calling him Michael the archangel (D&C 107:53-57).

This is what sacred space is all about. At Mount Sinai, Moses tried to bring the Israelites back into the presence of God, but they refused and were left with the Levitical priesthood, which contains the ministering of angels (D&C 84:18-27). Today’s temples are sacred space established so faithful saints can prepare to see the face of God and live.

No wonder it was so important to the survival of the Jews anciently. The temple was needed so individuals could approach God’s sacred space and commune with him. The ancient temple was not just for animal sacrifice. Samuel’s mother prayed there for a son, and received her petition. John the Baptist’s father was serving in the temple when Gabriel the archangel told him he was to have a son. Even the Jerusalem temple, based upon the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood, opened the windows of heaven so people could receive revelation.

Today, righteous people can receive revelation in the temples. Many attend when they have struggles weighing on their minds and receive inspired answers in what to do. Many see angels and other wonders in the temples of God. And those who are prepared can see Christ and become a living witness of his resurrection.

Yet today, many of our temples are under-utilized. We are so busy with life and distractions, as was ancient Israel when it was destroyed, that we don’t have time. Or so we say. It is time we stop putting off the temple, as did the original Jews who returned to Jerusalem, and start building the sacred space within our own hearts by attending more often. That is one of the main ways we prepare ourselves to see Christ. What could be more important than that?


Marc Shindler’s explanation of Deutero-Isaiah:


Samaritan temple:



Thursday, December 02, 2010

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #46 Daniel 2

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #46
Daniel 2


Nebuchadnezzar (also spelled, Nebuchadrezzar, meaning “may Nebo protect the crown”) was one of the greatest kings of Babylon. He and his forebears expanded the Babylonian kingdom into Egypt. In marrying a princess of Mesopotamia, he realized she missed the fruitful hills in the flat desert lands of Babylon. He built her what is now known as one of the ten ancient wonders of the world, the Hanging Gardens. He literally built a mountain in the city of Babel, with waterfalls and gardens hanging everywhere, as a reminder of her home.

Nebuchadnezzar sought to be as great a king as the legendary Nimrod. In previous lessons discussing Nimrod, we see that he reigned from Babylon to Egypt, and was one of Abraham’s key enemies in the ancient stories. According to ancient tradition, Nimrod obtained the garment of Adam through his fathers, when Ham stole the garment from Noah. He used the garment to become rich and powerful. Animals would recognize the garment of Adam and innocently approach him, making him one of the mightiest hunters in the world. Joel foresaw the future armies of Gog and Magog in terms that also describe Nimrod:

“A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth. The land is as the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness. Yea, and nothing shall escape them” (Joel 2:3).

Nebuchadnezzar sought to be as powerful and great as Nimrod. Another project he initiated, but never completed was to rebuild the Tower of Babel upon its original foundation that Nimrod set in place about one millennium before. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to be not only the greatest king, but a god. While it does not specify, many scholars believe that the golden image Nebuchadnezzar set up and required all to worship (see Daniel 3), was his own image. He sought to make himself a god, but ended up finding out that Jehovah, the God of the exiled Jews, was more powerful than he and his furnace ever could be. Later in Daniel, we’ll see how this intense desire to make himself a god led to Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
Daniel 2

In his second year as king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar had an intense dream that seemed to have no meaning. He called for all of the counselors in the kingdom. These included the magicians (diviners), the astrologers (conjurer or necromancer), the sorcerers (those who practice witchcraft), and the Chaldeans (the wise men). The king demanded to know the interpretation of the dream, but insisted that he could not even remember the dream, so they would not only have to interpret the dream, but also tell him what the dream was.

Several times the counselors begged the king tell the dream to them, but he insisted he no longer remembered it. He tested them, and they knew it. They came ready to interpret the dream according to whatever their imaginations could create. Yet, they knew that if they pretended to know the actual dream, he would tell them they were wrong, and they would be punished by death for their trickery and falsehoods. As far as they were concerned, “there is not a man on earth that can shew the king’s matter” (Dan 2:10), and so no previous ruler or king had ever asked such an impossible task of his counselors in the past. Nebuchadnezzar was being unreasonable to them. Yet Nebuchadnezzar knew the dream was important enough to demand the correct answer.

Upon hearing the problem and that all the counselors were to be put to death, Daniel spoke up and asked to see the king. The Hebrew God could reveal both the dream and its interpretation through the prophet.

The king saw in vision a great warrior statue. Its head was made of gold, with lower parts made of silver, brass, iron, and a mixture of iron and clay. Then Nebuchadnezzar saw a stone cut out without hands, which went forth growing until it became a great mountain, destroying the image in its path.
“36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
37Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.
39And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
40And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
41And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.
42And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
43And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”

Daniel explained that the statue was of successive world powers. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was the portion of gold, the best one could hope for. According to historic tradition, the following nations followed: Silver = Persia, Brass = Greece, Iron = Rome, and finally the feet of iron and clay represented the nations of the last days.

These final nations, some strong as iron, others weak as clay, combined to form a conglomeration of allies and powers that occasionally held together, but often fell apart. We see such occurring in the ever changing powers and alliances of England, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, the United States, and others. At times each has been strong as iron, while they also have been weak as clay.

It is in such an environment that the stone is cut out without men’s hands. It is a supernatural stone, representing a hardness that is greater than gold, silver, brass or iron. While it will begin small, the stone grows, becoming more powerful until it becomes a mountain that completely overshadows the image or nations of the world. They cannot fight against it, as they break in attacking the stone. This stone is the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, brought forth AFTER the rein of the Romans – so it is not the mortal ministry of Christ and his apostles that the stone references. It comes later, much later, when the world is not united under one national rule, and when the clay in its feet makes it dangerous, unpredictable and chaotic.

This is the preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, when the gospel in its fullness is restored through God’s power, and not by the political or philosophical ways of man. Kingdoms rise and fall, but only the kingdom of God will go forever; replacing all the world’s kingdoms when Christ comes again in power and glory.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gospel Doctrine Old Testament Lesson 45 - “If I Perish, I Perish” Daniel 1; 3; 6, Esther 3-5, 7-8

Gospel Doctrine Old Testament Lesson 45 - “If I Perish, I Perish”
Daniel 1; 3; 6, Esther 3-5, 7-8

Esther, Daniel and his friends are all in exile. Daniel finds himself a talented foreigner being raised up to give counsel to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Esther appears later, during the time of Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes I). Maintaining their culture in a world of political intrigue, and where there are always others seeking power and prestige, becomes a strong lesson in faith for all in these stories.

The Word of Wisdom

Daniel 1

Daniel refuses the king’s food

Under the Mosaic Law, there were specific provisions and rules made regarding food. Eating animals that had both a cloven hoof and chewed cud (cattle, sheep, goats) was authorized, but others were not. In Babylon, one of the main food sources was pork, considered an abomination for the Jews. One of the ways modern archaeologists can determine whether an ancient town in Palestine was Canaanite or Israelite, was by the number of pig bones found in their ancient garbage pits.

Daniel and his friends had a choice before them: follow God, or please the Babylonian king. Fortunately, he was able to put his faith to the test, by offering a deal to the Babylonian officer in charge of fattening up and preparing the young Israelite scholars. Instead of eating pork and other meats that were not prepared properly, Daniel and his friends would eat pulse, a vegetable soup. If in ten days they looked worse off than the others, they would obey the command of the king. Trusting in the Lord, they appeared more robust than those who ate fully from the king’s table.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

Daniel 3

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego with the Son of God

Ancient kings loved the concept of being divine. It was no different for Nebuchadnezzar, when an idol in his likeness was created, and those politicians wanting to make an impression on him, encouraged him to require all people to worship at his idol.

Again, we see a clear challenge to the Mosaic Law, this time to the 10 Commandments, where the chosen people of God were not to worship idols, nor bow down to them, putting these before God.

The three young men refused to worship the king’s idol, and were judged guilty of treason. The furnace prepared for them, so hot that it killed several men taking them to their execution, was obviously made as an example to all others. Yet again when the children of Israel stood for what was right, God brought forth a miracle and saved them from the fires. Nebuchadnezzar noted that while they tossed three into the fire, he could see them plus another that seemed to be like unto the Son of God.

Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abenego, we find in ancient tradition that Nimrod (who traditionally was both king of Babylon and Pharaoh of Egypt) attempted to slay Abraham in the same manner. Kerry Shirts notes:

It is Nimrod as Pharaoh who tries to kill or sacrifice Abraham by fire according to most ancient sources, entirely unavailable and unknown to Joseph Smith.[8] Here is the Book of Abraham and Covenant of Abraham sacrifice theme par excellence. Abraham refuses to give into the Pharaoh and Pharaoh will not give into Abraham. Nimrod in his councils decides Abraham must die, so the people followed Pharaoh's decree, everyone bringing wood for the heating of the kiln. The height of the wood was five ells, as well as five ells in diameter, and for three days and nights the fire was kept up. We are told "the flames licked the heavens, so that the oven was at a white heat."[9] Abraham is thrown in and is unharmed. The accounts vary as to what happens, but in every case Abraham wins, God shows He is on Abraham's side because Abraham does not follow other Gods. In Pseudo-Philo the fire was so great it caused 83,500 to be burned as God caused an earthquake to save Abraham, "and Abraham came up out of the furnace, and the fiery furnace collapsed."[10] Interestingly, scholars are aware that "the words Ur Kasdim in Genesis 15:7 ("I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur Kasdim") were taken to mean 'the fire of the Chaldeans' since Ur was read as 'or, 'flame, fire.'"

Kerry continues to explain that this was a battle of true priesthood between Abraham and Nimrod. So it is for the men of Israel and the Babylonian religious/political leaders. They cannot defeat Daniel and his friends with wisdom and understanding, so they seek to destroy them by implementing religious rules that will directly conflict with their religion. However, only those with the true power and authority of God are upheld by God and saved from the fires.

Daniel and the Lion’s Den
Daniel 6

Because of Nebuchadnezzar’s personal pride and desire to be king and god, he is dethroned. After a few more overthrows, the Persian King Darius becomes king. By this time, Daniel has established himself as a wise counselor to the various kings that preceded Darius (including interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, as we’ll study in the next lesson). Daniel is made Darius’ top adviser, and the first of three presidents over the people.

“Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.
Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God” (6:4-5).

Again, political power was sought by many, and they attempted to gain it by using Daniel’s faith in Jehovah against him. If Daniel could be toppled, then there was room for them at the top. The others convinced Darius to require no prayers or petitions to any god or man for 30 days would be cast into the lion’s den.

Daniel was placed in a position to choose. He chose to secretly pray, so as not to provide problems for Darius and his kingdom. However, his enemies seeking his downfall, spied on him as he prayed secretly in his own chambers. Darius was beside himself, as he cherished Daniel’s friendship and counsel, however he had no choice but to fulfill his decree as was required of the kings of Persia.

Daniel was cast into the lion’s den overnight, and when Darius arose early to check on him in the morning, found Daniel well. The Angel of the Lord had stopped the lions’ mouths.

It is very likely that the Angel of the Lord that delivered Daniel was the same one who delivered Abraham from sacrifice. The Angel of the Lord’s Presence is the Messiah, and Savior of mankind. Not only is the Son of God able to protect men in the intensity of fire, but he can also stop the mouths of lions.

In each of these stories, we find that God stepped in and miraculously preserved his people, because they were faithful to God’s commandments, and did not waiver in trying times. Compare this to the majority of Israel in the same period. At the time of Daniel and his friends, Jeremiah and Lehi were being rejected by the people in Jerusalem, and their lives were endangered. It took the Lord to preserve them both. Yet the unfaithful people, who gave lip service to Jehovah, keeping his commandments only when it was convenient, and following the world’s ways as they desired, eventually were destroyed.

In modern days, we see that those who follow ancient and modern prophets receive heavenly blessings that the rest of society do not receive. According to today’s medicine, the modern Word of Wisdom causes the average Mormon to live ten years longer than others in American society. They have less cancer, fewer heart attacks, and improved health over most in society who smoke, drink alcohol, use dangerous drugs, etc.

In 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley warned of upcoming financial trials, quoting the story of Joseph in Egypt interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams of years of plenty and famine. He stated he did not prophesy of a Great Depression, but did speak of the trials all people had because of that economic crash. He directed everyone to get out of debt, pay off their homes, and live within their means. Ten years after his directive and intense counsel, the global economy collapsed due to these specific issues. For those who purchased modest homes, saved money for a trying time, and prepared for tough economic times, they are in a much better circumstance than those who ignored the modern prophet’s counsel.

Today’s youth, just like Daniel and his friends, are faced with many conflicting societal expectations. There are gods of materialism, philosophy, and temptation that demand them to walk away from their faith, and serve new gods. Regardless of how these gods destroy society’s strengths, they are enticing: money, sex, drugs, gangs, violence, and technologies that can encourage all of these are very available to youth today. Each one must decide for him/herself who they shall worship. While many were successful in living on a Babylonian diet, only Daniel and his loyal friends were supported fully by God and placed at the front of the king’s advisers.


Queen Esther

Esther is the only book of the Old Testament not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some believe that it is not among the scrolls because the text does not say God’s name. As it is written, the salvation of the Israelites was due more to the sacrifice by Esther than a miracle at God’s hands.

The Persian king Ahasuerus/Xerxes I, has been stood up by his principle wife. He wished to display her beauty by having her appear at a festival without a veil. She refused to humiliate herself in such a way. To ensure women everywhere did not disobey their husbands, Xerxes deposed her, and sought a beautiful replacement. The story of Esther definitely began as a somewhat sexist story.

However, through the story, we find that Esther is not only beautiful, but also is a strong character. She is definitely a role model for women to follow. The Jewish people were endangered, because one of Xerxes’ chief advisers and military men, Haman, sought to destroy them. He was angry because of Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, and sought to wipe out all the Jews because of it. He wanted power and praise of the world, and was prepared to destroy anyone who got in his way.

Once again, politicians used religion to try and get their way. Haman convinced Xerxes that the Jews were his enemies, and was told that on a certain day, Haman and his followers could arm themselves and slay the Jews. The only way to save the Jews was for Esther to step in and get an audience with the king, yet he had not asked for her in a long time. To enter into the king’s throne room without being invited was risky. Those the king rejected, were put to death. Haman also built a huge gallows, from which to hang Mordecai.

To this grave risk, Esther responded, “if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Approaching the king, he welcomed her in. She asked to provide a dinner for both Xerxes and Haman, which was granted. Haman thought this was a great honor, and would put him even higher upon the king’s list. However, Esther turned the tables on Haman, revealing her Jewish ancestry and her relationship to Mordecai. Haman hanged on the gallows he built, and the Jews were allowed to arm themselves and attack their enemies, thus winning the day and preserving the Jews in exile.

As we approach more closely to the Second Coming of Christ, the delineation between good and evil will become more clear. There will be no sitting on the fence, which was Esther’s initial desire. But as the days approach where the wicked force us to follow their program, or be destroyed, we have another option: be faithful and allow God to save us from the evils of the world.


Kerry Shirts, Abraham and the Fire (Ur) of Sacrifice:

Daniel in wikipedia:

Word of Wisdom:

Pres Gordon B. Hinckley’s 1998 warning on the economy:

Esther in wikipedia:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ben Bernanke and the National Debt

Ben Bernanke and the National Debt

Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke is preparing to print up $600 Billion of new money out of thin air to buy up American bonds. A lot of people hate this idea, because they think it will cause inflation and take us deeper into debt. However, I think he may be onto something.

So, I am now promoting a new idea: ALL Americans should now begin printing up money to pay their taxes, and their portion of the national debt (about $47K for every man, woman, and child). To make it easier, I've done some research, and found the perfect product to use to pay off not only my portion, but also that of my kids and grandchildren:

Let's start a new movement here!

Deficits and Inflation? What, me worry?

Monday, November 15, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine lesson 44 - “Every Thing Shall Live Whither the River Cometh” Ezekiel 43-44; 47

OT Gospel Doctrine lesson 44 - “Every Thing Shall Live Whither the River Cometh”
Ezekiel 43-44; 47

The First Temple

As explained in the previous lesson (43) on Ezekiel, his vision in chapter 1 described the temple of Solomon as a mobile temple that could reach to Babylon where the exiles lived. Jehovah was not only the God of Jerusalem, but had power anywhere his people dwelt upon the face of the earth. Ezekiel will now end his vision by describing the rebuilt temple in the last days.

This temple, as with all temples, is implicitly tied to all holy places ever used by God: the Garden of Eden, Mount Sinai, Noah’s ark, the Tabernacle, the Temples of Jehovah have all been a place of refuge from the storms and evils of the world. They are paradise.

In the recent Temple Studies Group Symposium IV in England, Old Testament scholar Margaret Barker explained that when Ezekiel saw the Garden of Eden as the “mountain garden of the ‘elohim (Gods, sons of God).” This is where God walked and spoke to the man, Adam. This is where Adam learned he was made in similitude of Jehovah, and was the first Adam. Jesus Christ would later be the second Adam, bringing mankind back to the Garden of Eden through the rites of the temple of God. The temple is described as the “mountain of the Lord’s house” by Isaiah (2:2), and therefore represents Ezekiel’s mountain garden paradise.

In the current lesson, Ezekiel sees the future temple. Because of his vision, partially fulfilled in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and Ezra the scribe, exiled Israel would look forward in hope to restoring the temple after their Babylonian exile, and again look forward to building what is known as the Third Temple.

The key to the temple is to bring people back into the glory of God. After the Fall, ancient tradition says that Adam longed for the return to the Garden and God’s presence. He had been placed at the Cave of Treasures, which was below the Garden, yet higher than the wicked who would later dwell in the valley below. Eventually God would give Adam 3 tokens from the Garden to place in the Cave of Treasures: gold, frankincense and myrrh. These treasures would later go from the first Adam, and be given to the second Adam, Jesus Christ, at his birth in Bethlehem. Jesus is the rightful owner of the gifts and tokens given to Adam from the Garden/Temple of God.

According to LDS theology, Moses’ key purpose in bringing the children of Israel to Sinai was not to receive the 10 Commandments, but to bring them a higher law and purpose: to actually take them up the mountain and into God’s presence. He wanted to restore them to the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve talked and walked with God. He sought for them to have the experience he had had with God, seeing him face to face. Yet, they refused to climb the mountain, and insisted that Moses be their eyes and ears before God. In his wrath, God took away from them the higher law and priesthood power, and gave them a lesser law and priesthood authority (Levitical priesthood), which would stay in place until the mortal calling of Christ, who would fulfill the Mosaic Law and replace it with his higher law and power of the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 84:1-27, Hebrews 4-7).

Man Touches God (Michelangelo - Sistine Chapel)

Lehi and Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life speaks of an iron rod that one must hold onto to obtain the Tree of Life. Clearly, the Tree of Life was upon a mount, which would require a rod to assist one in climbing. Next to the Tree of Life were the Waters or Fountain of Life, representing with the Tree of Life the love and salvation of God. Nephi would see in vision that the fruit of the Tree is Jesus Christ and the atonement encourage us to partake of the living waters (1 Nephi 8-15).

In Ezekiel 47, we see that a river flows from under the temple and heals the Dead Sea and the deserts. The Garden of Eden sent forth rivers to the surrounding lands, watering them and healing them from the drought conditions that often beset many areas of the world. Here, the future temple also heals the land with a river that flows from it. There is also symbolism involved here, because the temple also gives life to those who drink from the waters therein. The Garden of Eden was tied to the first Adam. The latter-day temple is tied to the second Adam, Jesus Christ. When we partake of his living waters, particularly those offered in the temple of God, we are given eternal life. Why in the temple of God? Because in the holy and sacred space is where man meets God face to face. Jacob’s ladder/staircase (Gen 28), Isaiah theophany (ch 6), Lehi’s vision (1 Nephi 1), and John’s Revelation (1, 4) all tell us about their visions of the celestial throne and seeing God sitting upon it. This is a pattern for all of us.

Paul spoke of our bodies being the “temple of God” (1 Cor 3:16-17). Each of us should seek to make of our own lives a paradise of God, a Garden of Eden. Each of us should seek to arise from the fall of the first Adam, and claim the atonement of the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

In today’s LDS temples, we experience the earth’s Creation, the Garden, the Fall, and the return into God’s presence in the Celestial Room (representing heaven). We symbolize Adam, as he symbolizes Christ. In this experience, we literally practice for the day when each of us will kneel at the throne of God and behold our Lord. The question is whether we shall be like the prophets who entered into the throne room of God’s holy temple, or stayed below like the rebellious Israelites in Moses’ day.


David Larsen’s notes on Margaret Barker’s talk at the Temple Studies Group Symposium IV:

The Conflict of Adam and Eve Against Satan (Books 1 and 2):

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine lesson 43 - The Shepherds of Israel - Ezekiel

OT Gospel Doctrine lesson 43 - The Shepherds of Israel
Ezekiel 18; 34; 37

Sadly, the OT schedule being done in only one year has the class only looking at 3 chapters of Ezekiel. So much is available in his vision that ties directly into LDS theology that is not in these few chapters, and so we’ll discuss some of them here.">
Ezekiel’s Vision by Raphael

The Vision
Ezekiel 1

In 594 BC, Ezekiel was a captive in Babylon. It was here in Babylon that he received his vision. The vision is important for several reasons. First, it shows that Jehovah is God outside of the boundaries of the land of Israel. Israel could survive in captivity and exile, even without a temple as their center place.

Ezekiel’s vision begins with him seeing God’s throne in the heavens, surrounded by four cherubim. Unlike the cutesy cherubs of later paintings, cherubim were a powerful group of angels, like the seraphim, who were considered warriors (cherubim protecting the tree of life with a sword), and trusted confidants of God. When we remember that angels and humans are all part of the family of God, just in different stages of development, we can better understand our connection with them, as many of us may someday be seraphim/cherubim, or may have been so in the pre-mortal existence. In Ezekiel, they are described as 4 headed beings. While some take this literally, I believe that the vision displays to Ezekiel the powers ascribed to the cherubim: fearless as a lion, powerful as an ox, the ability to move in all directions as an eagle, and the thinking capacity of man. The term wing, is often translated as covering, or veil. It also represents the ability of movement, or power. So, while the cherub may have had wings, it is as likely that the wings were special garments or veils to suggest they possessed the power and secrets of God.

Ezekiel’s initial vision is very similar to the one in Isaiah 6. Ezekiel has a theophany, or a vision of God on his throne. In Isaiah’s vision, he is cleansed by a coal from the incense fire before God’s throne. Ezekiel sees the cherubim as “burning coals of fire.”

The cherubim’s authority is represented by the wheel(s). These wheels are described with various stones or the colors of stones that are also represented in the Urim and Thummim found on the high priest’s breastplate. In some early versions of Ezekiel, there are actually 12 stone colors mentioned for the wheels. The Urim and Thummim symbolized the priesthood authority, and revelation or communion with God.

In such a revelation, Ezekiel sees God on his throne. As with Isaiah, Jacob and others, God is a man of glory in Ezekiel’s vision, not a burning bush or a spirit.

Son of Man of Holiness
Ezekiel 2

Jehovah calls Ezekiel “son of man” throughout the vision. This is to signify to Ezekiel his status with God. In his mortal ministry, Jesus also would call himself “son of man.” Jesus was the Son of God the Father. In LDS teaching, one of God’s names or titles is Ahman, or Man of Holiness (D&C 78:20, Moses 6:57; 7:35). So, Jesus is the son of the Man of Holiness, and in this context, so is Ezekiel.

In conjunction with many theophanies, the prophet sees or reads a heavenly book. Moses had the Ten Commandments given him (Exo 20). Lehi received a book and prophesied (1 Nephi 1). Isaiah prophesied while reading a book in the ancient text, Ascension of Isaiah. John the Revelator swallowed a book that was given him (Rev 10:10). Here, Ezekiel sees a book containing the lamentations of his people, while they are yet in exile.

Watchman in Israel
Ezekiel 3, 33-34

Anciently, a watchman stood upon a tower, often at night, to ensure the safety of the kingdom or land. From his position in the tower, he could look over the land, perhaps for a few miles, which would give sufficient warning in case of approaching enemies.

Ezekiel is tasked with being Israel’s spiritual watchman, while they are in exile. They are surrounded by enemies and demon idols. His counterparts: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would be tried by the enemies of Israel. They were in need of prophets to teach them, warn them, and protect them from the world’s evils. So important was this position of watchman that God told Ezekiel that their blood would be on his hands if he did not faithfully perform his duties. So it is with those of us tasked in God’s service today. We are to watch over the members of the Church, protecting them from the world’s ever encroaching evils and dangers. If we neglect our duty, we will someday have to answer for the collapse and destruction caused among those we are to care for.

Those watchmen who are faithful in their responsibility, not only save the community, but save their own souls, as well. They are to be true shepherds of the flocks, and not just sheep herders that work for a wage. Instead, a shepherd put his life in danger to protect his beloved sheep. He would fight lions and bears to keep the flock safe. Those who did not protect their flock were not worthy of being Shepherds, even as Jesus has set the example for us. (Ezekiel 33-34).

The Future of Israel

In the next several chapters, Ezekiel sees the future collapse and destruction of Israel (remember, they are already in exile) and its temple. They will suffer much as they are scattered throughout the world. But then they will be gathered again in the last days.

Punished for our own sins
Ezekiel 18

“We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (Article of Faith 2).

Ezekiel teaches that all are responsible for their own sins. Children will not be punished for the evil actions of the parents, nor the parents punished for their children’s sins. This is a drastic departure from the Mosaic Law, where entire families were often stoned to death, whenever a major sin was caused by someone in the family (such as idolatry or rebellion). The idea was that if one was able to do such destructive things, then the entire family was capable of the same.

The Mosaic Law was based upon the needs of the nation as a whole. However, with Israel in exile, they were no longer a nation. Instead, Israel was a loose confederation of Jews that were mostly limited to local worship of Jehovah. Most Bible scholars believe that the concept of worship done in synagogues either began during the exile, or rapidly expanded during the exile, as a method to continue worshiping Jehovah without a temple. Suddenly, without a nation and the need to preserve the exiles as best as possible, the rule was changed by God. Now, only the sinner himself would be punished for grave sins. Those who repented, would be forgiven, while those who continued in rebellion would be stoned to death, in order to protect the religious community.

Jerusalem and Samaria destroyed by Babylon and Assyria

In the following chapters, Ezekiel speaks to Israel concerning why they have been taken into Exile. As Jerusalem had not yet been completely sacked and the temple destroyed, Ezekiel explains that its destruction is certain. Because Judah and Israel were evil and worshiped other gods, they no longer had God’s true power to protect them. This holds true for the surrounding nations, as well.

Israel would be restored in time. Even Egypt would be destroyed by Babylon, and when it arose from the Phoenix’ ashes, it would not ever regain its former strength and beauty.

The Messiah
Ezekiel 34

The concept of a Messiah was becoming highly developed from the time of Isaiah and later. Ezekiel also sees the coming of the Messiah ben Judah (Savior, son of Judah), who would come forth and save Israel from its enemies.

Christ will be the one true shepherd, even the future servant David. While many would expect a Messiah to save them from the physical enemies of the world, the Messiah’s first coming would involve bringing his sheep to him and protecting them from all the spiritual dangers. In his 2nd Coming, Jesus would destroy the physical and spiritual enemies of Israel.

Jesus shall be Israel’s Prince of Peace (Melchi Zedek), as he establishes a covenant of peace with them and begins the Millennial reign. However, he also becomes the spiritual Prince of Peace, bringing peace and hope to the souls of all those who believe and trust on his name.

In the return of Israel, God will change them both physical and especially spiritual:

“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezek 36:24-28).

In reference to a baptism of water and of spirit, the people will walk under a new covenant with God. This is very similar to covenants expressed in the Book of Mormon by King Benjamin and Alma the Elder (Mosiah 2-5, 18).

Dry Bones and Sticks = Restoration
Ezekiel 37

Most LDS are very aware of the LDS belief that a portion of Ezekiel 37 foresees the coming forth of the Bible and Book of Mormon in the last days. And it is a valid way to interpret it. However, we must remain aware that there are often multiple ways to read, and correctly understand scripture. Nephi told us to “liken” the scriptures unto ourselves, in what Jews would call pesher (commentary) or Midrash (explanation of scripture). However, it is important we seek to understand all the correct meanings, so as to expand our own understanding of scripture.

Ezekiel sees a valley of dry bones. These bones suddenly change to living, breathing beings. This can be understood on at least two levels: first it foresees the future resurrection of all mankind through the power of Christ’s own resurrection. But it also determines the restoration of Israel as a living people and nation. We see things that once lived, but for a long time seemed dead. Now they become alive again. Israel as a physical people and nation stopped existing for the most part for almost 2000 years, until 1948, when the nation of Israel was restored. Yet, spiritual Israel also was dead. The Great Apostasy had taken the living Church that mortal Christ set up, and left it a skeleton that had no spirit nor true physical form. For centuries, the Christian church did not have all the priesthood authority, revelation, apostles, prophets, temples, or modern scripture. It was a valley of dry bones, until the Restoration of the Gospel occurred in 1820, when the Father and Son came to the boy Joseph Smith and began the miraculous reconstruction of Spiritual Israel.

In the verses concerning the “stick” of Judah and Joseph/Ephraim, we can gain better understanding of what is happening. First, it foresees the physical and spiritual restoration of both Judah and Israel in the last days (represented by the leading tribe of Joseph through his son Ephraim).

But when we look at the Hebrew word for “stick” (‘etz) we find that a better translation would be “wood.” Based upon the context, we determine what the wood is. If you sit on it, the wood is a chair. If you eat on it, it is a table. If one writes on wood, then it is a book.

In ancient Babylon, books were created with thin boards that had wax on one side. The scribe would write in the wax, and then place two boards together with the wax on the inside to protect it. In essence, Ezekiel is describing the Babylonian technique for preserving their documents, by combining them together. So we literally can have two books combined with the testimonies of Judah (the Bible) and Joseph (Book of Mormon).

Some ask how the Book of Mormon can be the stick of Ephraim, when Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh. The key is not who wrote the books, but for whom the books were written. The Bible was written primarily for the Jews and their fellows (converted Gentiles), while the Book of Mormon was written primarily to the spiritual and physical tribes of Ephraim (which most LDS today belong to, according to their patriarchal blessings) and all others who join the LDS Church and are members of other tribes of Israel.


David Larsen’s notes of Margaret Barker’s Temple Symposium IV discourse on the Paradise Temple:

Model of the Third Temple as described by Ezekiel:


Cherubim/Seraphim Wings or Coverings:

Isaiah’s theophany in Isaiah 6 and in the Ascension of Isaiah (OT Lesson 36) from my blog at Joel’s Monastery:

Painting: Raphael's Vision of Ezekiel:

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Gospel Doctrine OT lesson 42 - I will Write it in their Hearts - Jeremiah 16; 23; 29; 31

Gospel Doctrine OT lesson 42 - I will Write it in their Hearts
Jeremiah 16; 23; 29; 31

Worse than your Fathers

Jeremiah 16

The Lord tells the people that the destructions that are about to befall Jerusalem will be devastating. No one would be left to mourn or rebuild. There would be no more joy for Israel, because the temple would be destroyed, and the people of God will not remain in the Promised Land.

When the people ask why the Lord has forsaken them, Jeremiah explained:

”ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me” (Jer 16:12).

Remember, their forefathers included Manasseh, who placed a statue of Baal inside the Temple of Jehovah, and who killed Isaiah! They did not just follow another god in a particular direction, they had all turned to their own devices and imaginations.

Today, we can occasionally see the same thing, as people reject major teachings in the scriptures, simply because they no longer seem politically correct. Sexual sin, in all its myriad of colors and flavors, is now repudiated even by many Christian churches as belonging to an old era. How can one argue with such teachings, when religions focus on favorite passages, while ignoring or rejecting others. The concept that people can be sexually active outside marriage, or involved in extreme violence (real violence or on video games) and still be fully accepted in God’s eyes truly is an amazing imagination. Yes, people are saved by grace and faith, but true Christian fellowship with God requires us to be like-minded with God. “By their fruits, ye shall know” those who truly follow Jesus and embrace his grace. Works are a natural outcome of conversion and salvation. Many believe that they can be saved and be sinners at the same time. Yet, the teachings of Christ in the Gospels teach us time and again that repentance and good works are necessary as an example of our walk with God.

Yet many imagine they can break the law of gravity and avoid the eventual consequences of it. In 2008, we found out that government, business, bankers, and home owners all imagined they could spend way above their means without consequence. Truly each walked after his/her own imagination. And even now, many insist on continuing their dream, rather than awaking and repenting or changing their lifestyles to a form that is sane.

Too many Americans today want government trimmed down, but do not want their own entitlements or favorite programs cut one iota. No wonder in 2010 we have continued financial struggles. If everything is selfishly considered sacred, then nothing can be fixed.

A true return to God and law requires true repentance, a change of heart and mind. It may often mean rejecting the concepts the world tries to impose upon us, and instead seek to save the world from itself. Mormon, Moroni, and Ether all were in the minority of nations that ripened in iniquity. Jeremiah would be imprisoned and Lehi’s life would be sought after by those in Jerusalem. Their words were politically incorrect. People do not want to hear hard words, but sometimes they need to hear them. Perhaps that is the only thing that pushes people off the fence of apathy, and into deciding to be for or against God and his prophets.

Woe to False Pastors
Jeremiah 23

“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord” (Jer 23:1-2).

Along with true prophets that call the people to repentance, are the false preachers who seek gain by preaching smooth things to the people. Power and money are often the ends sought after by those who preach another gospel than the one Jesus taught in the Gospels and through his prophets. Few today are called upon to take up their cross and follow Jesus.

However, in the last days, we are promised that a new King David will come and reign over Israel. Christ seeks to be the king over spiritual Israel, and in the Second Coming will conquer all enemies and pretenders to his throne and religion.

“Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness.
For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord” (Jer 23:9-11).

Again, God shows the land full of sexual sin. This has both physical and spiritual connotations, as Israel, God’s chosen, has been unfaithful. But the children of Israel have also rejected him and found their own prophets and priests to follow. The Lord proclaims that even in the Temple, the priests profane the holy work they are to perform. Again, this applies to our world today, when pretenders proclaim their version of the gospel, rather than seeking first the will of God and then proclaiming it.

Jeremiah is not a popular figure. And in days of great wickedness, modern prophets will also be found to be unpopular with popular notions of the world.

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.
They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?” (23:16-18)

The answer here is that only the true prophets, such as Isaiah (Isa 6), and Jeremiah (Jer 1) have stood in counsel with God and heard his word. All others use the philosophy of men with a few scriptures tossed in to promote their own belief systems.

Seventy Years of Repentance
Jeremiah 29

Jeremiah tells the people to not fight the Babylonians, but to accept the fact that they are going to be carried off. Many Israelites looked to Egypt to save them from the coming battle, and thinking that because they have Jehovah’s temple in their midst, they would be spared. Jeremiah insists that if they fight Babylon, their pride shall cause great destruction and ruin upon Israel.

Still, even many already in Babylon fought Jeremiah. Shemaiah proclaimed himself a prophet, sending letters to Jerusalem to repudiate Jeremiah:

“The Lord hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the Lord, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.
Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you?
For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them” (29:26-28).

The people chose to believe Shemaiah, because he told them what they wanted to hear. He insisted Israel would return and he would be the new temple priest shortly, and that Jeremiah and the other prophets who said otherwise should be imprisoned.

Today we have people who seek to listen to worldly prophets. They speak soothing and often inspiring words to the people. People seek a savior of their own making, as we saw in 1930’s Germany’s embrace of Hitler, who promised them a way out of poverty. Today, we still seek salvation, happiness, and prosperity through the gods and prophets we make for ourselves, whether they are rock stars, movie stars, corporate CEOs, or leaders of nations. Eventually, when we are sitting in the midst of ruin, we will be forced to look up to the only true salvation: Jesus Christ.

The Restoration of Israel
Jeremiah 31

And eventually Israel and the world will awaken from their deep sleep. Their wild imaginations and riotous living, sex and violence, will not save them. They will look at the things which at one time brought them pleasure, and realize they are nothing but a bunch of empty dreams.

As a small child, one of my sons begged me to purchase him a particular video game, saying it would make him happy. That happiness lasted a few days, until he beat the game three or four times, and now was bored with it. He needed a new fix, a different game. And so it is in the games adults play today. Marriage is no longer an eternal or lifetime event, but only a convenient fairy tale until it becomes boring. The power to procreate is now only looked at as a means to pleasure. Procreation, a loving and selfless act, is replaced by selfishness and the destruction of potential life for convenience sake. Families are torn apart by society and even by government forces that mean well, but regulate fathers out of families. Christ-like compassion and forgiveness have been replaced by anger, division, and retribution.

In the day when spiritual Israel is reborn, and physical Israel returns to its rightful righteous station, the world will no longer bear sway over mankind. Ancient Babylon held Israel captive. Modern Babylon holds many captive as well. Only turning to the living prophets, following the teachings of Christ, and walking in His path, can we ever hope to be freed from Babylon today.

“For thus saith the Lord; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.
For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.
Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.
Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow” (Jer 31:7-13).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 41 - I Have Made Thee this Day an Iron Pillar - Jeremiah

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 41 - I Have Made Thee this Day an Iron Pillar
Jeremiah 1-2; 15; 20; 26; 36-38

Jeremiah wrote two books, this and Lamentations (which contains his lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem). The book of Jeremiah contains both events in his life regarding Jerusalem, as well as his prophecies. He began his calling in the days of King Josiah, who was considered a righteous king. Jeremiah was probably a key counselor for Josiah. Josiah reigned for over 30 years (640-609 BC), during which he refurbished the temple, observed the Passover, and destroyed idolatry out of the land (much of which was implemented by his own grandfather, Manasseh). Josiah was killed in battle when he went out against the Egyptian army that was going north to fight against the Babylonians.

Sadly, Josiah’s four sons were not as righteous as he was. In a short time, Josiah was succeeded by Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah (Jehoiakim’s son), and finally Zedekiah. Jehoahaz was king for three months, then deposed by the Egyptian king Necho as he returned from Babylon and carried off into Egypt. Necho placed Jehoiakim on the throne, and Jerusalem was their tributary. Jehoiakim reigned for 11 years and died. His son, Jeconiah replaced him, but only reigned for three months. The Babylonians’ first siege of Jerusalem led to his being deposed, carried off to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar replaced Jeconiah with Zedekiah, his uncle. Zedekiah was 21 years old when he began his reign as a tributary nation under Babylon. Though Jeremiah began as his counselor, Zedekiah and the elders/leaders of the city-state chose a life of wickedness and rejected Jeremiah and the other prophets.

It is in this timeframe that we find Lehi and other prophets crying repentance to the Jews in Jerusalem. However, as we find, the Jews stoned many of the prophets (1 Nephi 1), and rejected their words. Jeremiah is no different, as he suffered many sore trials under the evil of the sons of Josiah.

Called before you were born
Jeremiah 1

Early in his service during the reign of Josiah, we find that God called Jeremiah as a prophet. This specific calling of a prophet often involved a theophany: a vision of God on his throne or at the altar (c.f.; Gen 28:10-22, Isaiah 6:1-6). In Jeremiah’s case, he comes to understand that he was called even before he was in his mother’s womb. This fits in nicely with Isaiah’s vision of the premortal divine council, where he received his call to the work, or that of the Savior in the premortal existence (Abraham 3:22-28). Given that God tells Jeremiah that he was ordained before this life strongly suggests that Jeremiah existed before this life. It makes no sense to presume God ordained someone or something that doesn’t yet exist, which would be the case if there were no premortal existence. But Jeremiah clearly existed before, and as with many of the other ancient prophets, was called to his calling, not only in mortality, but in his premortal state.

“6 Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
7 But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.
9 Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

Here we see a common event with many prophets. They feel incapable of fulfilling such a major task (Moses 6:26-33, Exodus 4:10), and the Lord insists that he will fill their mouths with his words. Isaiah’s mouth was touched with a not coal from the altar before God’s throne and his speech was cleansed, preparing him to preach to the people, much like Jeremiah’s mouth is touched and filled with God’s words.

Jeremiah’s struggles

While Josiah closely followed the counsels of the prophet, Jeremiah was rejected by his successors. Even after being humbled and carried off by Egyptian and Babylonian kings, the people of Jerusalem and their leaders were eager to defy God. They were convinced that they were living as was expected, and did not want to hear the harbinger’s warning voice.

Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks by the temple’s chief governor, Pashur (ch 20). The prophet was unjustly accused, arrested and thrown into prison. As if that wasn’t enough, he was then tossed into the dungeon, which stank and was filled with vermin and plague. Zedekiah eventually delivered him from the dungeon, but put him back into the prison (Jer 37-38).

The Sins of Jerusalem
Jeremiah 2

We learn that the major sins of the people included: 1) “they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? “ (vs 5), 2) “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit” (vs 11).

The Lord places it on two key issues: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (vs 13).

The people had rejected the living waters, and sought to create their own water supply in his stead. But if they had looked they would have realized that their efforts were not delivering them from either the Egyptians or the Babylonians. Only God was able to do that. But in vanity, their pride caused them to rise above God and his prophets.

Evil of the Elders
1 Nephi

We find that the people rejected Lehi, who also received his call as a prophet in the time of Jeremiah (1 Nephi 1). They sought to kill him, forcing him to flee with his family. In returning to obtain the plates of brass, Nephi explains the ways of the people in Jerusalem. Laban, a powerful member of the ruling caste, who controlled a key set of scripture for the Jews, showed just how wicked the people had become.

When Lehi’s sons attempted to first talk with Laban, and then later offer him a bribe, the man sent his soldiers to slay them, hoping to obtain their riches for themselves (1 Nephi 3-4). That Nephi, disguised as Laban, causes no alarm to the servant Zoram, when told to carry the precious plates out in the middle of the night to the brothers, suggests that such was a common event. Laban was involved in midnight dealings with the other princes of Jerusalem, enriching himself while the enemy encircled them. Isaiah warned about such government leaders when he proclaimed they sought to steal all the land, while ransacking the poor (Isa 5:8; 3:15). We see such occurring in Jeremiah’s day, as he is tossed without cause into prison/dungeon, and caused to suffer.

Importance of Living Prophets in regards to Scripture
Jeremiah 8:8; 36

Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch’s document bulla (the clay impression of the seal) with his finger print.

Some Christians are inerrantists. They claim that the Bible as we now have it is perfect and without any errors. However, Jeremiah showed that corruption in the scriptures were occurring even in his day.

“8 How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain” (Jer 8:8).

If the pen of the scribes, those royal and temple writers and copiers of scripture, is in vain, then just how accurate was their writings? How had they changed the writings of Moses or Isaiah? Today, many Bible scholars show that there were several versions of the books of Moses floating around, some combined in the time of Jeremiah to bring forth a mixture of writings that are occasionally complementary and often contradictory. In Josiah’s reign, the book of Deuteronomy was found in the temple, which many scholars believe was enhanced and rewritten by the temple scribes to include many of their current practices. The Deuteronomists were guilty of changing the First Temple’s rites. Originally they included a tree of life, angels, Messiah and other important symbols and teachings. These were replaced with a greater focus on the law of Moses, as found in Deuteronomy.

In an article on the inerrant view of the Bible, Barry Bickmore quoted Justin Martyr, an early Christian defender, who noted that the writings of Jeremiah had even been changed!

What we find from Jeremiah’s account is that the scriptures were not important to the kings or people of his day. Jeremiah received revelation which God commanded him to write down and read to the king. Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, took down the revelation. When it was read before King Jehoiakim, he picked it up with his knife and tossed it in the flames. God’s response was to have Jeremiah write it again, with many more teachings and warnings (Jer 36).

The scriptures are important to us. They are foundational documents. But they are of limited use if we reject the living prophets. They are even more limited if we change them, destroy them from our lives, or pick and choose which scriptures will be of value to us. We may be able to burn the parchment, but we are still responsible for the words that come from the prophet’s mouth.




Margaret Barker, “The Great Angel” (on the Deuteronomist Reforms - Google book review):

Kevin Christensen, “The Deuteronomist De-Christianizing of the Old Testament”

Kevin Christensen, “Temple Traditions after the Deuteronomist Reform”:

Barry Bickmore, “Does the Bible Claim to be Inerrant?”