Thursday, May 31, 2012

United in Mighty Prayer and Fasting

Later, the disciples are together, "united in mighty prayer and fasting" and Christ appears to them again.  Alma's description of the private meetings of the "children of God" is that they would "join in fasting and mighty prayer."  I think we have to read this chapter as a later appearance of Christ to his disciples in a temple worship context.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

They Had All Things in Common

After their superlative mass initiation, the Nephites had all things in common -- we are told this is something Jesus commanded them to do, which makes perfect sense if this segment of the worship of the shalems is the delivery of a law of consecration.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

For the Space of Three Days

Christ ministers to the Nephites for three days.  This ministry looks like three days of dwelling in the hekal for the shalems, since he repeatedly administers to them the offering of bread and wine, Christ ascends to and descends from heaven, and we're repeatedly told that things were said and witnessed that are unspeakable, can't be uttered, or are forbidden to be shared.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Holiness Which Is in Christ

Christ expounds the Day of Atonement / Judgment Day, and there's a curious note in this verse.  Though the verse describes its own content as being a "parallel," there's an odd element out.  If people are good, they go to everlasting life, according to Christ's mercy; if they are bad, they go to damnation, according to Christ's justice.

So what is the role of Christ's "holiness" in the verse?

Holiness is power, efficacy, the ability to get things done.  Without his holiness, Christ's justice and mercy would not accomplish the great works they do.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

They Shall Be Mine

The day when the Lord makes up his jewels is a Day of Atonement image.  The high priest in his official vestments was the Lord in his body of flesh.  Those official vestments included a breastplate containing various jewels.  The Lord making up his jewels is (the Lord putting on his body = the high priest getting dressed) for the Day of Atonement.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Will Come Near to You in Judgment

Malachi's rebuke is addressed to a corrupt priesthood.  In addition to the moral-behavioral failings of which he accuses them, they don't bring "meat" into his house; if they did, he would open the windows of heaven to pour out a blessing on them.

It's impossible not to connect this passage with Malachi 1, where we learn that these same priests have polluted the Lord's "table" with contemptible "fruit," which is his "meat."  What is this "fruit" and "meat"?  It is "polluted bread," shrewbread not offered correctly, in accordance with the worship of the shalems.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Christ gives the Nephites a passage from Malachi.  "Malachi" is "my angel," and the word "messenger" that appears twice in verse 1 is also "malach," "angel."  The Father promises to send his angel, to prepare the way.  Then the Lord will appear, who is the angel of the covenant.

A couple of observations and a question.  Angels are priests, and this is obviously a text of the visionary men about priestly leaders.  The Lord is the "angel of the covenant" and the high priest, when dressed and acting in his priestly office, was the Lord.  Question: might the Nephites have seen the first angel in Malachi 3:1 as their own Nephi?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When Jesus Had Expounded

Jesus expounds "all the scriptures in one."  This is the opposite of how critical scholarship works.  It focuses on the particular, the micro-level issues and analysis, finding different parties at work in the scriptural record with different themes and agendas.  And that's okay -- Nephi tells us (1 Nephi 13) that the scriptures are edited and mutilated.  But under the editing, there is unifying thought and doctrine, and that's what Christ expounds.

I think the unifying stratum is the temple.  That's what Nephi describes, right between the two principal visions of 1 Nephi, as "one eternal round."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Neither Shall the Covenant of My Peace Be Removed

This passage of the song is a promise to shalems struggling in a time of a corrupt temple priesthood.  The mountains being taken away are the temple in the wrong hands.  The comfort given is that the covenant of peace will not be removed, the shalems' children will be taught by the Lord, and have peace, and the Lord will build a new temple for them.

The discussion here of the covenant of peace should strengthen our inference that when Christ talks about the covenant people in his sermons of 3 Nephi, he is talking about the shalems.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Enlarge the Place of Thy Tent

Christ transitions from prophesying about the work of the Father commencing among scattered Israel to this Isaianic song to the Divine Woman, who has been barren (without sons) due to the apostasy.  The tent (temple) will have to be enlarged to contain all the new children she will have.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

When This Gospel Shall Be Preached

Various gospels have been preached of Christ.  "This gospel," as we have seen, is a gospel of temple rites, doctrines and prophecies.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Then Shall the Power of Heaven Come Down

Christ again identifies himself as the "power" of "heaven," the occupant of the Holy of Holies.  This is an image of the high priest emerging from the Debir and mingling among the shalems in the hekal.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Men Are That They Might Have Joy

So once we realize that eating the fruit = eating the bread in the temple feast of the shalems, and that afterwards the participants break forth in singing that is described as "joy," we can see that this famous passage is a temple text.  Is Lehi inventing this association, or when the shalems ate the fruit did they BOTH remember Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit AND ALSO look forward to the Lord as the fruit of the tree of life?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

They Shall They Break Forth into Joy

Christ prophesies about his own second coming in terms of the whole cosmos experiencing a vast temple initiation.  The waste places "break forth into joy" and "sing together" (are "joy" and singing equivalents?  Lehi's family feel joy after they eat the fruit, and the multitude of 3 Nephi 20 sing after they eat the bread and wine).  Jerusalem dresses and arises.  The Lord's "name" will be known, and he will be known as the one who speaks (the resident within the Holy of Holies, the Debir, the Place of Speaking).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Then Shall Their Watchmen Lift up Their Voice

I think Christ's sermon in 3 Nephi 20 is best understood when we realized that he is delivering it in a temple context, in the middle of a temple ordinance, to temple initiates.  For instance:

The remnant of the House of Jacob are a covenant people.  Which covenant?  The covenant the participants have all just made, the covenant of the "prophets" and of Abraham (administered to Abraham by Melchizedek).

The "powers of heaven" will be with them.  Christ himself will be with them.  Christ is the power of heaven, the Lord Yahweh who dwells behind the veil and who has come forth to give them his flesh and blood.

When the "fulness of the gospel" (temple rites and doctrine) is preached to a people, then can their "watchmen" (= angels = priests) sing "together," because of their vision (they "see eye to eye").

Monday, May 14, 2012

When the Words of Isaiah Should be Fulfilled

Christ now preaches a sermon.  Did the Worship of the Shalems include a sermon, following the bread and wine?  Christ, having just come from behind the veil as high priest / Melchizedek / Lord and delivered the bread of his body and the wine of his blood, takes as his text Isaiah.  Apparently, all of Isaiah.  "When the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled" begins his sermon, which presumably means that he and the multitude both saw his administering the shalem feast to them as a fulfillment of Isaiah.

We should read Isaiah with that in mind.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

They Did Cry Out with One Voice

After they have eaten the shalem feast, the multitude sings.  "With one voice" means that they knew in advance what they were to sing, either because they were conducted by someone or because they were participating in an ordinance they already knew, which included this song.

This should not surprise us.  Isaiah tells us of singing in the temple, and Job, and Luke, and Nephi.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

There Had Been No Bread

Jesus commands the multitude to arise and he again administers the feast of bread and wine.  This time we are given the curious note that the bread and wine were miraculously provided, so Jesus brought them down with him from heaven.  If this was seen as the fulfillment of the ritual prophecy that was the Worship of the Shalems, it suggests that when the high priest joined the shalems in the hekal as Melchizedek / the Lord and gave them bread and wine, he brought the bread and wine with him... from behind the veil.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Nothing on Earth So White

Jesus shines, and his disciples are similarly white.  This is no surprise: both Alma and Matthew tell us that the righteous shine in the kingdom of God, and Matthew even identifies this fact as an initiatory secret.

And how is it that there can be "nothing on earth" so white?  Because they're not on earth.  They're in heaven.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On the Morrow

The next day, a bigger multitude comes.  There is a curious baptism scene, beginning with Nephi's self-baptism, and then again we have images of the Worship of the Shalems: encircling, ministering angels descending from heaven and group prayer.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Multitude Did Disperse

The people, having been through the covenant ordinance, return to their homes.  This echoes our account of the other great temple gathering of the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin's speech.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Whoso Eateth and Drinketh

As part of his exhortation to the participants, the Lord urges them to admit even "unworthy" people to their churches and synagogues, and to minister unto them.  They are not, however, to drink the Lord's blood and eat his flesh, for fear of damnation.

I don't think this means that someone who wandered in off the street during an LDS sacrament meeting and ate the bread would be damned.  I think this is an instruction to the same point as what is described in Alma 6: everyone was allowed into the general assembly, but the "children of God" met privately.  The feast of bread and wine was a temple feast, and not everyone could participate.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ye Are Built Upon My Rock

The echo of the Sermon at the Temple / Worship of the Shalems continues: if the participants "do these things," they will be "built upon the rock."

Then Christ exhorts the participants to stay faithful, with light imagery employed in various permutations (remember that Nephi and Lehi allude to the Worship of the Shalems culminating in coming out of darkness into the light).

At the end, Christ goes to the Father: a cloud overshadows him and he ascends.

All three of these are images of being inside, seeing into or entering into the Holy of Holies.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In Remembrance of My Body

Both the bread and the wine are taken in "remembrance" of Christ.  Like Luke, therefore, 3 Nephi ties the bread and wine to the sons of Aaron and their eating of Frankincense-topped bread as a "memorial."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

There Shall One Be Ordained

In blessing the sacrament, Christ tells his Nephite disciples that "one" among them will be ordained to break and bless bread.  Does this mean that the table-offering of bread in the Worship of the Shalems was the province of the high priest alone?  In Matthew 6 and 3 Nephi 13, it's Christ who performs this ordinance.  In Genesis 14, it's Melchizedek.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Shall Ye Do in Remembrance

The echo of the Sermon at the Temple continues in 3 Nephi 18 with the sacrament of bread and wine.  Remember that Christ told his disciples that they would "minister" to others in connection with food, drink and clothing during the Sermon at the Temple.  In 3 Nephi 17 we saw angels (= priests) "minister" to the children, "encircling" (dressing) them.  Here the disciples distribute the bread and wine after Christ blesses it, an act again described as "ministering." 

1. The fact that in chapters 17 and 18 the disciples minister in the distribution of bread and wine and "angels" minister in the encircling with garments of glory ("fire") tends to support my inference that Christ's aside to his disciples in 3 Nephi 13 indicates not that only disciples are subject to the food, drink and clothing portion of the ordinance, but that they are being trained to minister in it to others.

2. This consistency strengthens my perception that we are reading in chapters 17ff a sort of repeat, or retelling, of the ordinance.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

They Saw the Heavens Open

Chapter 17 begins a curious echo of the Sermon at the Temple.  The infirm and the children are brought forward (the poor in spirit, etc.).  Jesus conducts a group prayer (might these have been the words?).  Then we get a perfect vignette or summary of the Worship of the Shalems: the heavens open, angels descend in glory ("fire"), and they minister to the children by encircling them.  In particular, we know from 2 Nephi that "encircling" is an image of being clothed in heavenly garments.

I don't know why we have the apparent doubling.  Curiously, double visions are a characteristic of apocalyptic literature: the visionary has one vision, and then a second vision to explain the first.  This is exactly what we're given in 1 Nephi (8 and 11-14), and I wonder if we have the same phenomenon here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Fulness of These Things

Given that I think the Nephites understood Christ's coming in terms of the Worship of the Shalems, both before and after its occurrence, I think this prophecy refers to the restoration of temple covenants.  This is what the "fulness" is, which occurs several times in this chapter.