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).