Monday, January 31, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 6: “They Straightway Left Their Nets“ Luke 4-6, Matt 10

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 6: “They Straightway Left Their Nets“
Luke 4-6, Matt 10

In just a few short chapters in the gospels, we read of Christ’s birth, and events leading up to that miraculous birth. In just one verse we find that Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding. With the exception of his trip to the temple at 12 years of age, we know nothing from the Bible about his youth, or of the years leading to the beginning of his ministry at age 30.

Suddenly, the quick fly by through Jesus’ life ends, and we get to spend some time in the beginning of his ministry. We read of the preparation for his mission, the calling of the 12 apostles and others to assist him, and see his teachings and miracles touch the lives of those around him.

The Messiah
Luke 4

In the ancient synagogue there was a traditional set of events that occurred. A synagogue service required at least ten men to be present. During the service, the Shema would be recited:

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
(Deut 6:4-9)

Next, would come a series of prayers, including the Tephillah, a series of praises/songs that were worn on the body (wrist or forehead), and included Exodus 12:2; Exodus 13:11; Deut. 6:4; and Deut 11:18. These were called “tephillin” or prayers. These prayers were often sung in a sing-song fashion, and many passages in the Old Testament are written in this form.

Once the prayers were sung, a section of the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) was read. Then the reading moved to a section from the Prophets. The service then ended with a closing prayer. It was probably during the section on the Prophets where Jesus stood to read from the book of Isaiah. Unlike most sermons, his is very brief. He read Isaiah 61:1-2 which reads:

1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.

Unlike most commentaries on the Prophets, his commentary was short and to the point: "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Jesus announced his Messiah-ship! The acceptable year of the Lord was the year of Jubilee. Jubilee occurred every 50th year in the Law of Moses. Anyone who had acquired a debt prior to that year, whether in the first or 49th year was released from that debt. This was tied in with the Sabbath of years (every seventh year), wherein anyone who was enslaved during the previous 6 years would be freed with his children and family. Those in debtor’s prison were released. During the Jubilee, lands that were taken or purchased were returned to their original owners, ensuring the lands remained under the control of those who inherited it.

Jesus came to establish a new Jubilee. The Jews had not fully honored the Jubilee of Moses for years. It was a major event during the period of the Temple of Solomon (approx 950BC to 600BC) that during the period of the 2nd Temple (approx 500BC to 70AD) was conveniently ignored, or nominally observed. Freeing slaves and returning property was not good for business. Isaiah had condemned the wealthy of his day for this exact purpose:

13 The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts. (Isaiah 3:13-15).

8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! (Isaiah 5:8).

Now the Lord would bring forth his own version of the Jubilee. He would bring sight to those who were physically and spiritually blind. He would free those who were imprisoned by ignorance, in chains of tyranny, or were taken captive by Satan and his devils. In him as Messiah, he would not just deliver the Jews from Roman captivity, he would free the world from Satan’s grasp.

The Calling of the Twelve

Many Bible scholars argue that Jesus did not establish a church in his day, that the Christian church actually was developed later by James the Just among the Jews, and Paul among the Gentiles. However, for those who understand priesthood authority, which Christ gave to his apostles, we understand that anywhere there is proper authority of God, there is the Church of Christ.

Christ called 12 apostles, and later the 70, to serve as missionaries and preach his gospel. This shows organization and an established order. After the death of Judas Iscariot, the 11 living apostles gathered and prayerfully selected Judas’ replacement, Matthias (Acts 1). If there were no Church, such restructuring would not have been necessary.

Apostles are prophets that are established in a quorum or council. Together they hold the keys or special rights to establish and run God’s work here upon the earth. They are special witnesses to the resurrected Christ (D&C 107:23). Whether in the early years after the resurrection of Jesus, or today, we have witnesses that Jesus really did resurrect and is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Such a witness was very important anciently among the Sadduccees, who did not believe in resurrection, and today among atheists and others who are uncertain of life after death.

While even among Christians many doubt the actual resurrection today, we can consider the testimonies of not only the original 12 apostles, but of apostles and prophets of today:

22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father (Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, D&C 76:22-23)

Or we can read the testimony of modern apostles regarding “the Living Christ.”

“We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”


Early synagogue service:



The Living Christ:,4945,90-1-10-1,00.html

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 5, Born Again John 3-4

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 5, Born Again
John 3-4

Born of Water and Spirit
John 3

Jesus went forth proclaiming faith and repentance to the Jews. Beginning a new Jewish sect that offered a Messiah to save them, and that condemned the works of the current Jewish sects often made an uproar among the people and its religious leaders. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a leader of the Jews (probably a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews) came to Jesus at night. Why? Because he feared losing his position in his own sect, and as a leader. in the Sanhedrin The Pharisee and Sadduccee sects shared power, as the Sadduccees held power in the temple, while the Pharisees were popular among the people. They often had an uneasy peace between the two sects. They were, however, quick to protect their turf by challenging other sects, such as the Essenes and Zealots. For a new sect of Judaism to arise, especially during turbulent times, meant a new challenge that risked their power and the status quo.

Even though he was trained as a religious leader, Nicodemus could not understand Jesus’ requirement for salvation: a man must be born again. He imagined going again through the womb as an infant, but this is not what the Savior had in mind. Nicodemus was being lazy in his thinking, as he was very aware of John the Baptist’s baptisms and preaching of Christ, in which John baptized with water, but the Messiah would come baptizing by water and fire.

As the Lord explained to Adam, Enoch and Moses:
“58Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:
“59That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
“60For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6:58-60).

Symbolism is extremely important to the Lord. Symbolism was placed everywhere in the ancient temple of Solomon, and in the law of Moses, “every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal” (Alma 34:14).

Baptism in water does not save us. It is a symbol of our accepting the atonement and sacrifice of Christ. But that symbol is necessary for us to receive, as we must be born again of water (baptism), spirit (Holy Ghost) and blood (atonement of Christ. The water symbolizes our covenant with Christ. The Holy Ghost changes us so we believe and desire to follow Christ, while Christ’s blood cleanses us of our sins.

In the Book of Mormon, we find that the “Doctrine of Christ” is the concept that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are “one God” and we must become one as well through 1) faith in Christ, 2) repentance, 3) baptism by water (ordinances), and 4) receiving the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31-32, 3 Nephi 11-18). This unity we seek is greater than just being united in purpose. The Godhead is one in all things except their physical persons, and to become Christ-like means we must also become one with Christ and his disciples, so that we may become one with the Father.

Being born again is not a one time event, as some Christians believe. Instead, it is a daily event. We must continually grow in our faith and faithfulness. As we spiritually approach Christ, we spiritually discern that we fall short. Our faith leads us to repent of sins, and we are then ready to make a new covenant with God through the ordinance of baptism, the Sacrament (communion), and other ordinances we receive. Then, we receive the Holy Ghost, which justifies us to a higher level of faithfulness and righteousness. At that point, we are ready to develop greater faith, and repeat the process. It is through this process of the Doctrine of Christ that we are then able to perfect ourselves, going from grace to grace, receiving grace for grace (D&C 93).

The Gospel of Nicodemus

One old Christian text, entitled the Gospel of Nicodemus, describes events after the resurrection of Christ. It details the story of two deceased sons of the chief high priest, who resurrect and enter into the city of Jerusalem. They are questioned by the Sanhedrin (of which Nicodemus is a member) regarding how they can be alive when previously dead.

They tell of being in a Spirit World where they were held by the being Death. With them were the prophets of old and all good people, but they were trapped by Death. Satan showed up and boasted about his victory over Jesus, having slain him. When Death heard this, he protested, saying he did not have the power to hold Jesus. When the Lord arrived, the gates of Death were broken down, and all within were resurrected. For Latter-day Saints, this story relates rather well our belief in a Spirit World, the place where all the dead go while they await the resurrection.

Living Waters at the Well in Samaria
John 4

Samaria in Jesus time was located north of Judea, and covered much of the original territory of the original Kingdom of Israel, after the split of Israel into the two kingdoms in Rehoboam’s day. However, 700 years before Christ, the nation of Israel was carried off by the Assyrians, leaving just the poor in the land. Assyria brought many from other lands to dwell in Samaria, leaving it with a mixed genealogy.

When the Jews returned from their Babylon captivity, the Samaritans wished to help them build the new temple. The Jews refused to allow it, as they were not pure blood Israel. Josephus tells us that the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim. Archaeologist Yitzhak Magen has been excavating the site for 25 years, and has found signs of its existence.

Still, even in the times of Jesus, the Samaritans were treated as second class citizens by the Jews. They were not allowed into the temple at Jerusalem, and their form of worship for God had changed over the centuries, a mixture of Israelite faith and pagan belief. In this environment, the Jew Jesus Christ went north to Samaria and sat by a well to speak with a Samaritan woman.

“9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”

She was shocked that a Jew would even talk with her. His response was wholly unexpected:

“10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”

The Lord then explains to her that he is the living waters that save the soul. The Samaritan faith system was flawed, and needed major fixing. In speaking of these things, the woman notes that Samaritan belief looked forward to the Messiah, who would teach them all things. At this moment, Jesus noted that he was the Messiah, even the Anointed One, they sought.

Their temple works and faith were all fulfilled in Christ. He was and is the living waters that flow next to the Tree of Life, which both symbolize the Love of God (1 Nephi 11:25).

“God is a Spirit”

In talking with the Samaritan woman, the Lord explained to her:
“22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
“23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
“24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Verse 24 contains one of the few verses used by traditional Christianity to express that God is [a] Spirit. From this comes the development of the belief in the Trinity, established with the Nicene Creed three centuries after Christ. Then and now, it is a contentious issue. As discussed in New Testament lesson One in my blog, there were differing views on the Trinity/Godhead.

Discussing religion often in their later years by letter, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams discussed how they viewed Christianity. Both were Christian, yet differed greatly from ertain traditional beliefs. Jefferson was a Deist Christian, believing God wound up the universe and then pretty much left it alone to wind down on its own. Adams, known as a strong Christian of his day, still questioned certain issues. He wrote Jefferson once saying, “Ye will say I am no Christian” because he disagreed with the concept of the Trinity. He noted that Jesus said “God is [a] Spirit” and agreed with it. But then asked, “what does that mean?” The concept of Trinity expands further than what the Lord states in John’s Gospel. For John Adams, it meant that God is real, He lives, and he is our true God.

That God is a Spirit is true. The Bible also tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:16), and a “consuming fire” (Deut 4:24, Hebrews 12:29), This does not mean either of these statements is the only thing God is, but only descriptive of some of his attributes. For we also know he is the “father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9), and Christ commanded us to call God, “our Father which art in Heaven.”

God is our true Father of spirits, and Christ is our Messiah, the living waters who will cleanse us, purify us, and bring us back into the presence of the Father.


Symbolism in ancient temple of Solomon:

Gospel of Nicodemus/Acts of Pilate:

The Samaritan Temple, Yitzhak Magen, Biblical Archaeological Review:

The Trinity/Godhead in early Christianity, NT lesson 1 in my blog:

“Ye will say I am no Christian” by Bruce Braden:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 4 - “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” Matthew 3-4, John 1:35-51

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 4 - “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”
Matthew 3-4, John 1:35-51

Jesus’ baptism

Matthew 3:13-17

John baptizing Jesus

Early Christians viewed the baptism of Christ as a singular event. Many Gnostic Christians, in particular, viewed Jesus’ baptism as the specific event that denoted his becoming Christ. Some early sects used the text in Luke regarding Jesus’ baptism to demonstrate this, as some early manuscripts of Luke have God’s voice stating, “Thou art my Son. Today I have begotten/chosen you.”

Some Gnostics went so far as to believe that Jesus and Christ were two separate beings. The mortal Jesus was baptized, upon which the Spirit of Christ entered into him, and remained with him until the cross. When Jesus exclaims, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” it is because the Christ has left the mortal to suffer on the cross alone. For his sacrifice, the dead Jesus is resurrected and given a great responsibility to teach the apostles. It would be due to such heresies that the apostle John and others would warn of anti-christs: those who claimed the Christ never was mortal or resurrected.

Today, modern revelation through latter-day prophets show that Christ’s work began before the world began. Nephi saw in vision the birth of Christ by the virgin Mary, and this event was one of two condescensions of God, the other being Jesus’ baptism (1 Nephi 15). Each of these events is a sign of his divinity, as Christ was fully human, but also fully divine. That even God had to receive the ordinances of the Gospel meant that he was not above men. It also meant that as he would later be lifted up on the cross, he would be able to lift up those who followed him.

In considering Jesus’ baptism, we can see that it was a day in which he was chosen or spiritually begotten, just as all of us are spiritually begotten of God when we are baptized. It officially began his earthly mission, which culminated not on the cross, but at his resurrection.

Temptation in the Wilderness
Matthew 4:1-11

Imagine beginning one’s mission with head-on temptations of Satan! Most new missionaries pass out after missing two meals while fasting, yet Christ fasted for 40 days. This is one of the special numbers in Israelite belief, representing the 40 days Moses fasted, the 40 days and nights of Noah’s Flood, 40 years Israel wandered in the wilderness, etc.

Each of these events ties in closely to Jesus’ fasting and temptations. Moses and Jesus both fasted for 40 days, prior to beginning an important mission for God. Moses’ fasting brought forth the Ten Commandments for Israel to follow, Jesus’ fasting would allow him to call his apostles and begin his preaching. While the children of Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness due to disobedience, and the earth was destroyed by 40 days of flooding; Jesus came to save the disobedient and rebellious. His 40 days would prepare him to take upon himself their sins, even the pains and sorrows of the whole world.

Jesus then experienced three temptations, even the three main temptations any of us face in our own lives: temptations of the flesh, pride, and the riches and power of the world. In each instance, Jesus did not discuss the temptation with Satan. Nor did he evaluate or consider all aspects of it, especially when Satan quoted scripture to him. Instead, the Savior quoted scripture to establish the right. Only in quickly and fully dismissing the temptation was Jesus triumphant, and he shows us that pattern in doing so. Had he stopped to think about it in the moment, rather than making the complete decision before and in its final form, he would have faltered and failed. If we choose ahead of time what our full decision must be, then in the moment of temptation, we will not have to think twice. The decision will already be made.

While Jesus was tempted with hunger (turn stone into bread), we also face the temptation of many other physical appetites: lust, desire, jealousy, anger, doubt, fear. Each of these can crush our spirit, as the physical body seeks to overthrow it, because it wants its appetites sated. But physical appetites never are satisfied. As with a fire, when you add wood, it only grows hotter and higher. Jesus understood that you starve a fever, or any other physical temptation.

In the Book of Mormon, we find that: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction” (Moroni 8:27). Pres Ezra Taft Benson, in warning us against pride, noted:

“Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance....Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.”

Satan was hitting Jesus below the belt. He sought to create enmity between God and God, Father and Son, by tempting Jesus to misuse his powers. The temple’s corner was very high, and below it was one of the major market places in the city. For Jesus to toss himself down and be caught by angels would mean all of Jerusalem would quickly know that Jesus had huge powers. Rather than quietly using those powers to bless others, it would have only been used to satisfy his own pride, instantly distancing himself from Heavenly Father, and invalidating his ability to save mankind.

In the third temptation, for Satan to insist Jesus worship him in exchange for great wealth and power was a sign of pure hubris. Nothing belongs to Satan, and everything already belongs to God! Satan was cast out of heaven for trying to place himself above the throne of Heavenly Father, and now sought to place himself above the Son of God, by having Jesus worship him!

Yet, as crazy as the story seems, how many of us walk away from God, bought off with the riches of the world? How many of us do not pay tithes or keep the Sabbath holy, because our money and time are more important to us than God? How often do we say “no” to God, but “yes” to the world? It reminds me of an LDS actress, who has stopped doing most things Mormon for now while she is enjoying her moment in the Hollywood Sun, even though she acknowledges that someday she will return to her Mormon roots and lifestyle. In other words, she has put God off for now while she worships Mammon and fame.

An Israelite Indeed!
John 1:43-51

After the temptations, Jesus called forth his apostles. One disciple, Philip, sought out his best friend, Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew), and told him that the Messiah had been found in Nazareth. Nathanael’s response was quick, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” For those in Jerusalem, the area of Nazareth was viewed as the scum of the earth. Much of this view came from the strong Roman influence in the area, but also perhaps from its distance from the big city of Jerusalem, and therefore being a country hick area.

Yet, when Nathanael saw Jesus, the Lord called him an “Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael was stunned that someone who did not know him could make such a pronouncement. When Jesus said he saw Nathanael praying under a tree in a vision, it was all that was needed for him to become a disciple.

Today we live in a world where few are so easily convinced to believe. Worse, few are “without guile.” Guile means crafty, fraudulent, or deceptive. To be without guile means you are honest and faithful in all things. Few are without guile in modern society, where “greed is good” and it is okay to “dig a pit for your neighbor” as long as you get ahead. Among Mormons and other Christians today, do we seek to be an “Israelite indeed” without guile? It seems that such are the type Jesus looks for in his closest and most trusted disciples.


Bart Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted:

Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities:

Ezra Taft Benson, Beware of Pride:

Karl D’s NT lesson 4:

Jim F’s NT lesson 4:

Friday, January 14, 2011

NT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 3 - Unto you is Born a Savior - Matthew 2, Luke 2

NT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 3 - Unto you is Born a Savior -
Matthew 2, Luke 2

Due to a family death, I did not have the chance to prepare much for this week’s lesson. However, I did want to share a story that ties the Wise Men’s gifts in with Adam and the Garden of Eden.

In the early text, Conflict of Adam and Eve Against Satan, we find the couple have been cast out of the Garden, and spend much of the 2 books mourning their loss of the beauty and glory of the Garden. After a series of events, where Satan tempts and tries Adam and Eve, he appears to them and tries them again. In this instance, he appears with his demonic host as angels of light. Satan tells them that God has sent him to take them near the Garden, to be bathed or baptized in water, in order to be cleansed so they can re-enter the Garden. Adam and Eve follow Satan, who takes them to the top of a mountain, where he intends to push them off and kill them.

4 Then Satan, the hater of all good, said unto Adam, "O Adam, I am an angel of the great God; and, behold the hosts that surround me.
5 "God has sent me and them to take thee and bring thee to the border of the garden northwards; to the shore of the clear sea, and bathe thee and Eve in it, and raise you to your former gladness, that ye return again to the garden." ….
10 But when they came to the mountain to the north of the garden, a very high mountain, without any steps to the top of it, the Devil drew near to Adam and Eve, and made them go up to the top in reality, and not in a vision; wishing, as he did, to throw them down and kill them, and to wipe off their name from the earth; so that this earth should remain to him and his hosts alone. (1st Book of Adam and Eve, chapter 28).

In fact, Satan pretended to be the chief of the host of heaven, Yahweh the Angel of the Lord’s Presence, and the Captain of the army or host of heaven. In this precarious position, God calls to Adam and warns him of the deception. Adam weeps and begs for some boon or blessing from the Garden. God calls forth his three main arch-angels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

1 BUT when the merciful God saw that Satan wished to kill Adam with his manifold devices, and saw that Adam was meek and without guile, God spake unto Satan in a loud voice, and cursed him.
2 Then he and his hosts fled, and Adam and Eve remained standing on the top of the mountain, whence they saw below them the wide world, high above which they were. But they saw none of the host which anon were by them.
3 They wept, both Adam and Eve, before God, and begged for forgiveness of Him.
4 Then came the Word from God to Adam, and said unto him, "Know thou and understand concerning this Satan, that he seeks to deceive thee and thy seed after thee."
5 And Adam wept before the Lord God, and begged and entreated Him to give him something from the garden, as a token to him, wherein to be comforted.
6 And God looked upon Adam's thought, and sent the angel Michael as far as the sea that reaches unto India, to take from thence golden rods and bring them to Adam.
7 This did God in His wisdom, in order that these golden rods, being with Adam in the cave, should shine forth with light in the night around him, and put an end to his fear of the darkness.
8 Then the angel Michael went down by God's order, took golden rods, as God had commanded him, and brought them to God. (chapter 29).

The Lord then called forth Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation:

AFTER these things, God commanded the angel Gabriel to go down to the garden, and say to the cherub who kept it, "Behold, God has commanded me to come into the garden, and to take thence sweet smelling incense, and give it to Adam."
2 Then the angel Gabriel went down by God's order to the garden, and told the cherub as God had commanded him.
3 The cherub then said, "Well." And Gabriel went in and took the incense.
4 Then God commanded His angel Raphael to go down to the garden, and speak to the cherub about some myrrh, to give to Adam.
5 And the angel Raphael went down and told the cherub as God had commanded him, and the cherub said, "Well." Then Raphael went in and took the myrrh.
6 The golden rods were from the Indian sea, where there are precious stones. The incense was from the eastern border of the garden; and the myrrh from the western border, whence bitterness came upon Adam.
7 And the angels brought these three things to God, by the Tree of Life, in the garden.
8 Then God said to the angels, "Dip them in the spring of water; then take them and sprinkle their water over Adam and Eve, that they be a little comforted in their sorrow, and give them to Adam and Eve.
9 And the angels did as God had commanded them, and they gave all those things to Adam and Eve on the top of the mountain upon which Satan had placed them, when he sought to make an end of them.
10 And when Adam saw the golden rods, the incense and the myrrh, he was rejoiced and wept because he thought that the gold was a token of the kingdom whence he had come, that the incense was a token of the bright light which had been taken from him, and that the myrrh was a token of the sorrow in which he was.
(chapter 30)

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

So the three arch-angels brought to Adam gifts or tokens from the Garden of Eden, to remind him of his former life in glory and paradise. The Lord then explained to Adam and Eve:

AFTER these things God said unto Adam, "Thou didst ask of Me something from the garden, to be comforted therewith, and I have given thee these three tokens as a consolation to thee; that thou trust in Me and in My covenant with thee.
2 "For I will come and save thee; and kings shall bring me when in the flesh, gold, incense and myrrh; gold as a token of My kingdom; incense as a token of My divinity; and myrrh as a token of My suffering and of My death.
3 "But, O Adam, put these by thee in the Cave (of Treasures); the gold that it may shed light over thee by night; the incense, that thou smell its sweet savour; and the myrrh, to comfort thee in thy sorrow." (chapter 31)

Adam placed the tokens of the Garden in the Cave of Treasures and was comforted. The Cave of Treasures was the place where Adam and Eve dwelt after being cast out of the Garden and God's presence. It was a holy place, and would also become the tomb for Adam and many of his righteous descendants.

10 These remained by Adam in the House of Treasures; therefore was it called "of concealment." But other interpreters say it was called the "Cave of Treasures," by reason of the bodies of righteous men that were in it.
11 These three things did God give to Adam, on the third day after he had come out of the garden, in token of the three days the Lord should remain in the heart of the earth. (chapter 31)

With this early story, God foreshadowed and foretold the birth of Christ, with the Magi bringing the sacred gifts to the holy child. Just as great beings brought the gifts from the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, so the wise men brought the same gifts to Christ, recognizing his royalty, his life, and his death. In attending the temple, we, as with Adam and Eve, receive the gifts of the Garden, that tie us to the birth of the Savior of all mankind. And in coming to Christ and giving him our hearts and souls, the Savior cleanses us that we may return to the Garden of Eden, even back into the presence of God.


First Book of Adam and Eve:

Also, check out Jim F’s lesson:

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gospel Doctrine New Testament Lesson 2 - My Soul Doth Magnify My Lord - Matthew 1, Luke 1

Gospel Doctrine New Testament Lesson 2 - My Soul Doth Magnify My Lord
Matthew 1, Luke 1

The Annunciation

The previous lesson discussed the mission of the Messiah, as foreseen by Isaiah. It also discussed Christ as the premortal Word, the Son of God. Lesson 2 begins the Annunciation, where angels foretell the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ to Zechariah and Mary, respectively. In Roman Catholic theology, the Virgin Mary is a saint with incredible reserves of holiness to share with believers. However, for many modern Christians, the role of the Virgin Mary is downplayed, as the role of Christ is focused upon.

For the average Latter-day Saint, we should find our view of Mary in between that of Catholic and Protestant. We do not worship nor pray to her, yet we should see her in a very important real and symbolic role. We also see in LDS teaching a similar position for John the Baptist.

The Vision of the Tree of Life

John the Baptist

Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8-10) and previous visions (see 1 Nephi 1) emphasize the coming Messiah. For Lehi, the concept of Messiah was an idea that still needed fleshing out, and the visions provide much of the details. Lehi sees the Tree of Life, after which he sees the Messiah come down to earth to save mankind.

“7And he (Lehi) spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—
“8Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.
“9And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.
“10And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world” (1 Ne 10).

In all of LDS scripture, very few people’s missions are foreseen. John the Baptist, Mary, Moses, Joseph Smith, the Three Witnesses, and Jesus Christ are pretty much the whole extent of it. Clearly, their missions were so important as to be foreseen in scripture.

The mortal Savior would say this of John:

“7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
“8But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
“9But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
“10For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
“11Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
“12And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
“13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
“14And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come” (Matthew 11).

John was not an ever-bending reed blowing in the wind. He was a solid oak that stood firm and unbending. The only way to change him would be pull him up from his roots, or behead him. John the Baptist is Elias, or rather AN Elias. Elias is a title for a messenger who is to prepare the way for a great work. Noah was the first Elias as he warned the people of the Flood to come. Later, as the archangel Gabriel, Noah as Elias would announce Jesus’ birth to Mary. John not only would announce the mortal Christ as the Messiah, but would also baptize him. No other prophet or man would have that opportunity. Even Joseph Smith, as the Elias of the Restoration, would not do as John did in preparing the way for the Savior’s work of redemption.

Mary, The Virgin

Nephi sought to understand his father Lehi’s vision. His version is more detailed and gives us interesting concepts regarding ancient Israel and of the virgin birth.

Lehi saw the religious reforms done in King Josiah’s reign. These included the “finding” of the book of Deuteronomy in the temple. Most scholars today believe that some ancient Deuteronomy fragments were found and amplified into the book we now have by the temple priests. This was in order to establish their power. With the reforms came the loss of certain things in the temple, including the Tree of Life, God’s wife (known as Wisdom or also Asherah), and even the idea of angelic visitations.

Nephi saw in his Vision of the Tree of Life. His spiritual guide explained to him that what he would then see would be the things Nephi would have to bear witness of, as these would explain the Tree and the white fruit of the tree.

“8And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
“9And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all....
“12And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.
“13And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
“14And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
“15And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
“16And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
“17And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
“18And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
“19And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
“20And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. “(1 Nephi 11).

Jesus is the fruit of the tree. He is the love shed forth for all mankind. But the tree itself is Mary. Anciently, the Tree of Life was a symbol for the wife of God, known as Wisdom and as Asherah. She symbolized both wisdom and fertility, and was honored as such (see Proverbs 8 for an example).

Mary is the “mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.” She symbolizes the Heavenly Mother, wife of Heavenly Father, who is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the spirit.
So important is the work of Mary and what she symbolized that early Christians wrote stories about her life, including the “Gospel of the Birth of Mary”, wherein is described her miraculous birth and childhood. While the stories are probably fictitious, they do show that many ancient Christians did revere her for her important role as the mother of the Son of God.

The Tree of Life is only as important as the fruit it gives to mankind in order to give them life. While the fruit of an apple tree can sustain us here in mortality, the exceedingly white fruit of the Tree of Life can give us eternal life. The fruit fills us with the love of God, as only Christ can bring us back into the presence of our loving Heavenly Father and Mother. Imagine then the great resolve of the young teenage girl, when Gabriel spoke to her and told her she would bear God’s child! Knowing she would be ostracized and perhaps even killed for being pregnant outside of wedlock, she told the angel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1). She would stand by her sacred calling and her sacred son, even when grown men fled while Jesus hung on the cross.


Great New Testament Introduction by Kevin Barney:

Jim F’s Lesson 2:

Karl D’s Lesson 2:

Old Testament lessons containing info on Deuteronomists, The Tree of Life, the Virgin Mary and Asherah/Wisdom:

Margaret Barker on the Josian Reforms, the changes to the Temple, Asherah, and the Deuteronomists:

“The Gospel of the Birth of Mary”: