Monday, April 30, 2012

Ye Shall Write These Sayings

Christ commands the Nephites to write his "sayings."  The purpose is that the sayings will circulate through the Gentiles and bring the descendants of Christ's "people at Jerusalem" to a "knowledge" of him as their "Redeemer."  It's interesting that the sayings in question, to this point, consist of a fulsome account of the Worship of the Shalems, including the pre-covenant creation and call scenario, because that indicates that an understanding of the practices of the visionary men has missionary value.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ye Have Both Heard My Voice, and Seen Me

Having conducted them through the Worship of the Shalems, Christ tells his disciples that they have heard his voice, and seen him.  This reminds me of what I pointed out the other day about Nephi's take on the Isaiah chapters: that he knows them as things that are spoken and witnessed, and not just as words on a page.  Nephi also tells us that he and Jacob both saw "the Redeemer," as Isaiah did, in the context of introducing the arc of Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi.  Of course, in the climax of the Worship of the Shalems, the participants entered the strait gate and narrow way and met the Lord in person.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Do Not Destroy the Prophets

The Nephites expected the coming of the Lord in terms of the Worship of the Shalems and the Day of Atonement.  When he arrives, he leads them through the shalem-ordinance, which leaves them understandably confused.  He assures them that the "law is fulfilled," but the "prophets" aren't yet.  The "prophets" are another name Nephi gives to Lehi's colleagues, the visionary men.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Whoso Remembereth

Immediately after conducting the Nephite crowd through the Worship of the Shalems, in which the shalems ascend into the Holy of Holies, Christ identifies the ordinance for them as what he taught before he "ascended," and assures them that remembering the "sayings" of the ordinance and "doing" them will result in Christ "rais[ing]" them up.

This idea of ascension is at the heart of the teachings of the visionary men.  They ascended in the temple, in vision, teaching and practice, doing the things they had seen the Lord do, so that they could similarly ascend to heavenly mansions after their mortal lives.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

At the sight of the good tree with good fruit, the shalems are warned of "corrupt" trees, the fruit of which cannot be good.  The bad trees are explicitly tied to "false prophets," who dress as "sheep," and it's hard to avoid making the connection with a corrupt temple hierarchy unworthily dressed as the Lord, the Lamb of God, in the high priest's clothing.

This makes a strong connection with Isaiah 5.  In between the first account of Isaiah's calling (Isaiah 3-4), and the second (Isaiah 6), we are given an interlude about the Divine Woman's vineyard, which despite her ministrations has only brought forth wild grapes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This Is the Law and the Prophets

This is the very last bit of instruction the shalem receives, after having made the triple petition and before being admitted into the strait gate.  That makes it the pinnacle of earthly wisdom, the summary of the visionary men's teaching about how to get to heaven.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Remember the Words Which I Have Spoken

The 3 Nephi account of the Worship of the Shalems includes an aside not recorded in Matthew.  Christ turns to his twelve disciples and urges them to remember his words, because they are the ones he has chosen to minister to this people.

This is sometimes understood to be a clarification of what follows, the admonition to take no care for food, drink and clothing.  It is read to indicate that those commandments only apply to the disciples, and not to all the participants.  I disagree with this interpretation.  I think that the food-drink-clothing commandment is text referring to a ritual action that is not explicitly described -- the receiving of the bread, wine and clothing of heaven -- and I think that all the participants in the ordinance here took the sacrament and were dressed (either at this time or, perhaps, later).

Remember that we have a multitude here.  So how I read this is that Christ chooses his disciples and he ministers to them in the provision of bread, wine and heavenly clothing, and the disciples in turn minister the same elements of the Worship of the Shalems to the rest of the crowd.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thy Father Who Is in Secret

In this second room of the Worship of the Shalems (3 Nephi 13), three times the participants are urged to do things discreetly, to be known only by their Father who is also "in secret."  The three things are alms, prayer and fasting.

At this point, the participants stood in the hekal, before the temple veil, beyond which, still concealed, was the Holy of Holies.  It must have seemed to the shalems that the eyes of heaven were upon them through the veil as they took this instruction.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spoken by the Mouth of Isaiah

Although I'm reading in 3 Nephi myself, I also read out loud to the kids, and we're in 2 Nephi.  I've been thinking a lot about the Isaiah chapters lately, and 2 Nephi 25.  Here's one small observation I've made in that context.

Nephi says two curious things in this chapter (he says more than two; I'm going to talk about two here).  First, he refers to the thirteen chapters of Isaiah from which he's just quoted as words "which have been spoken by the mouth of Isaiah."  This is curious because we don't have a record of these texts as being spoken.  We know them as writings only, and since Nephi lived more than a century after Isaiah, we would presume that that's how he knew them, too.

But Nephi also says, in discussing how he is able to understand the Isaiah chapters he's just excerpted, "mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews."  In the same verse he also refers to what sounds like formal training, but "mine eyes hath beheld" is a statement of witness.

What is my point?  Nephi seems to know the Isaiah chapters as texts that are spoken and that have a visual component.  In other words, he seems to know them as a play, or a ritual.  I think when we read them, we should read them that way.  Try reading all of the 2 Nephi Isaiah chapters through as a story, looking for recurring characters (though sometimes under different names... the Virgin of Isaiah 7 and the Prophetess of Isaiah 8, for instance) and a story arc.  I think it's there.  I think that's the point.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Children of Your Father Who Is in Heaven

In 3 Nephi 11 the congregants at Bountiful were told they had to become as little children in order to inherit the kingdom of God and build upon the rock.

Now here at the end of the first room of the ordinance, just before they are pronounced shalems, they are taught that they become children of their Father in heaven by loving their enemies.  Again we see (as in Alma 6 and Job 38) that the children of God was a temple concept, and something one could become.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Side by Side - Observations

Reading the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple side by side is interesting.  A couple of observations from the first room of the ordinance.

1. In both Sermons, Christ notes that entry into or greatness in the "kingdom of heaven" (which is clearly the temple) depends on keeping the commandments accepted in connection with entry into the temple (see: Matthew and 3 Nephi).  In Matthew, he then pretty clearly states that the religious establishment of Palestine of his day do not participate in the Worship of the Shalems.

2. Christ is in some sense the same as the altar.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blessed Are They Who Shall Believe

Christ begins the covenant and instruction portion of the Worship of the Shalems in 3 Nephi 12 that we don't have recorded in Matthew 5.  First, he ratifies the authority of his servants to the participants.  Then, he echoes 1 Nephi 31-32 and the end of 3 Nephi 11 by repeating the first three steps of the Doctrine of Christ: repentance (humility), baptism, and the Holy Ghost.  We know from 1 Nephi 31-32 that what should follow is various identified as speaking with the tongues of angels, standing in the strait and narrow way, or doing the things one has seen the Lord do; what in fact does follow is the Worship of the Shalems.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Become as a Little Child

Christ teaches the Nephites his "doctrine," and it's the same doctrine Nephi teaches in 2 Nephi 31-32: repentance and baptism, the visitation of the Holy Ghost, and then entry into the temple, which he describes in strictly traditional terms, entry into the kingdom of God or building upon the rock.  Those who inherit the kingdom and build on the rock are those who "become as a little child," reminding us of Alma's "children of God" who met in private worship for prayer and fasting.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

And He Arose and Stood

All the Nephites fall to the earth and Christ commands them to arise.  Then Nephi falls to the earth alone and Christ commands him to arise.  This precedes or is in the beginning of the Worship of the Shalems (chapters 12-14).  Similarly, Lehi commanded his recalcitrant sons to arise three times in connection with putting on the armor of God and coming in out of the darkness.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Man Descending Out of Heaven

When Christ appears to the Nephites, he is described in terms of the high priest emerging from the temple.  He descends out of "heaven," wearing special clothing, and they take him for an "angel."  The fact that the Nephites choose to describe him in this way when he arrives is I think related to the fact that this is how they talked about their expectations of him all along; their temple rites were prophecies of Christ.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Wife of Thy Youth, Against Whom Thou Hast Dealt Treacherously

A recurring feature in the writing of the visionary men (and the Small Plates are full of this) is imagery of the Divine Woman.  No wonder, given that Nephi's view of the candlestick-tree-Virgin is that she is "precious above all."

In Malachi, "Judah" and "Jerusalem" (less than two centuries earlier, the "Jews [Judahites] who were at Jerusalem" were Lehi's opponents) have forsaken the wife of their youth, the woman with whom they have a covenant, and married "the daughter of a strange god."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He Is the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts

Still in Malachi.  Take a look at this terrific bit about the covenant of Levi.  A couple of comments:

First, look at what first seven says: the "priest" is "the messenger of the Lord."  "Messenger of course, is mal'ak, "angel."  Malachi ("my angel") tells us here directly what Alma shows us by repeated implication: that priests are angels, warriors in the heavenly host.

Second, the word "peace" appears twice.  Levi's covenant was one of "life and peace," and he walked with the Lord "in peace and equity."  "Peace" is the Worship of the Shalems, the peaceable followers, and "life" and "equity" are both references to the Day of Atonement / Judgment Day, on which the Lord brings judgment and resurrection.  So we have here two synonymous pairs, or really one pair, which is also synonymous with "my rock and my salvation," and a subtle reference to the two core rites of the visionary men.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Fruit Thereof Is Contemptible

The Sun of Righteousness has lured me down a short detour through Malachi.  The book's name is provocative: it means "my angel."  This is obviously written by visionary men following the return from Babylon -- the establishment is called "Esau" and "Edom," Jerusalem was laid waste for their sins, and though they have come back and rebuilt, the Lord is still unhappy with them.

And what does My Angel have to say to this establishment?  They have laid "polluted bread" on the altar, a clear reference to deviation from, loss or corruption of, the Worship of the Shalems, with its central sacrament of bread and wine.   Even better, Malachi says they have "polluted" the "table of the Lord" and "the fruit thereof."  This is not a different charge, but the same one repeated, and it tells us what in Plain and Precious Things I inferred by comparing Leviticus 24, Revelation 22, John 6, Luke 22, and 1 Nephi 8 -- that the bread upon the table in the temple (the "table of the Lord") was regarded as "fruit."

Monday, April 9, 2012

With Healing in His Wings

The sun is darkened because Christ is removed from the world, and then he pronounces his desire to gather Israel under his wings.  This shows us that the NT chicken image is the same as Malachi's sun of righteousness (quoted later in 3 Nephi).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Creation and Covenant

I argued in Plain and Precious Things that the recurring combination of the words "peace" and "rest" indicate that the Worship of the Shalems had a Genesis 1 creation component as well as a Matthew 5-7 covenant and instruction component.

3 Nephi shows us how they were joined.  In the lands of the Nephites there is a great (re)creation, followed by darkness specifically identified with mists of darkness, which we saw in 1 Nephi 8 represent temple incense, and then singing (mourning, weeping, howling and groaning).  After this comes the voice of the Lord with the invitation to come forward, and later the covenants and instruction (chapters 12ff).

So 3 Nephi 8 shows us as the same moment that Job does, when at the end of the work of creation, the morning stars sing and the sons of God shout for joy.  The same moment appears in Isaiah 14, when, after great destruction, "the whole earth is at rest" (this is the state at the end of the period of creation) and then "they break forth into singing."  In Isaiah's vision what has just happened is that Lucifer, "son of the morning," has just been cast down in his aspiration to ascend to "heaven" -- a perfect thing to recount in the transition between the angelic work of creation and the beginning of the shalems' own ascent into heaven.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Ha!  Life takes you by surprise.

The otherwise really excellent site we've been posting to for four months has apparently suffered Death by Server Failure.  That's sad, but I'm going to take it as an occasion to move in a new direction.

Starting tomorrow, I'll begin brief daily postings again on this site.  I think they'll change slightly in character.  I'll report on my reading, but I'll try to make just a single daily observation about what I read, or something else in the Scriptures (I think I won't have the time to do more).

Also, starting now, the site is open to the public.  This is an experiment, and if it doesn't work, I reserve the right to go back to a more private format.