Saturday, June 30, 2012

We Did Pitch Our Tents Round About

Mormon's description of the Nephites camping around Cumorah is curiously reminiscent of the description of Benjamin's people camped to listen to him: a temple / hill, with "tents [a]round about."

Why would this be?  Is this Mormon writing about his own death in temple terms, like Enos did?  Is he setting up Cumorah as a temple-like place, because he's going to make it the repository of the records?

Friday, June 29, 2012

They Had Christ for their Shepherd

Having Christ as one's shepherd is an image that resonates in both of the great ordinances of the visionary men.

In the Worship of the Shalems, the high priest who emerges from the holy of holies with his staff to provide the feast of bread and wine is Melchizedek and Yahweh, the shepherd with his crook (which is the iron rod, and the one who bears it is the Word of God).

In the Day of Atonement, all the sheep are gathered into two flocks: the flock of the Lord, and the flock of Azazel.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It Was All in Vain

The Lamanites tread the Nephites under their feet.  This is not accidental imagery; being trodden under feet is the punishment prescribed for covenant violators in the Worship of the Shalems.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Was Without Hope

Mormon has no "hope," because "judgment" is coming and his people haven't "repented."

This is a secular/military application of the doctrine of the spiritual gift of hope, which is confidence of success at the judgment; or, as Alma would have it, hope is the conviction that one day, having been judged worthy, you will rest.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It Is by the Wicked that the Wicked Are Punished

As Mormon watches the destruction of his people, he comments that the wicked punish the wicked.  This is an old idea of the visionary men, dating at least back to Isaiah.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Prepare to Stand Before the Judgment-Seat

On the Day of Atonement, Yahweh comes with universal judgment.

But the image of the individual repenting and preparing to stand before Christ on his judgment-seat is an image from the Worship of the Shalems.  After passing through the strait and narrow gate and seeing the tree with good fruits, the Shalem is in the holy of holies, the place of the throne (the rock).  Here, he is judged by Christ.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

They Did Swear by the Heavens

After a major victory, the Nephites swear "by the heavens," "before the heavens," and "by the throne of God" that they will attack their enemies and win.  They are swearing by the parts of the temple: the heavens (that part to reveal mysteries) are the temple veil, and the throne of God is the ark on the foundation stone.  The Nephites are committing themselves to violence on the most sacred symbols of the visionary men.  This oath was specifically forbidden to the Shalems... and Mormon promptly resigns.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Had Gone According to the Word of Ammaron

Ammaron urges Mormon to take the plates when he's twenty-four years old.

Mormon tells us that he's sixteen when "three hundred and twenty and six years" have passed away.  Therefore, when he finally in the "three hundred and forty and fifth year" is able to get to the plates, he's thirty-five, and a decade late.

Why does Mormon give us these details?  So we'll appreciate the scale of the war?  So we'll see him as frail?  Conversely, so we'll see that he's struggling to do his best, despite the bad situation?

Friday, June 22, 2012

They Became Slippery

The image of laid up treasures disappearing comes from the Worship of the Shalems.  It appears to be part of a commandment to be single, and not serve Mammon -- in other words, consecration -- and comes after the shalem is washed and anointed and before he is dressed and participates in the feast of bread and wine.

Mormon uses the image skillfully.  The wicked lay up their treasures and lose them, because their hearts are in the wrong place.  Ammaron, though, the good and faithful keeper of the record, laid up his treasure (the plates) and it was not lost, because he served God.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Was Forbidden That I Should Preach

Mormon must have understood that the shalem's basic mission was preaching, because he immediately tells us why he didn't preach: he was forbidden.  The visionary men have once again gone underground.

Mormon's position is parallel to Isaiah's.  At Isaiah's calling, which took place in a temple setting, he was commanded to go preach... but in a way that his audience wouldn't understand.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Therefore I Was Visited of the Lord

Mormon tells us that when he was fifteen years old (and "sober"), he was visited of the Lord and "tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus."  I think the imagery of both seeing and eating the Lord (the former in the person of the officiating high priest, and the latter in the sacrificial bread) should tell us that Mormon is here discreetly recording when he became a shalem.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Thou Art a Sober Child

Mormon now appears personally in his record.  Introducing himself, he twice tells us that he is "sober." The context is that Ammaron is handing on the records to him, by telling young Mormon where he'll find them when he's grown.  Ammaron calls Mormon sober, and later Mormon identifies himself in the same way.

The word "sober" only appears twice elsewhere in the Book of Mormon.  Those instances are close together, and share a context with each other and with Mormon's sobriety: at the end of Alma II's career, as he commissions his son Helaman to be the next recordkeeper, he urges both Helaman and Shiblon to be "sober."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

From This Time the Disciples Began to Sorrow

When it comes, the Nephite apostasy resembles the one from which Lehi fled.  Church leaders go bad (wearing "fine things"), seeking wealth and inappropriately sharing sacred things.  As in Lehi's day, the visionary men are persecuted (the children of God). A corrupt hierarchy leaves no one to fight the Gadianton robbers, who return with all their oaths.  This combination is the one-two punch that kills the Nephites.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

They Were in One

The peaceful Nephites have the blessing of unity and are children and heirs to the kingdom of God.  The children are those who worship in private, and the place they enter is the kingdom.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Which Did Dwell in the Hearts of the People

When the zealous and effective anti-temple missionary Sherem is defeated, the two things that return to the Nephites are peace and the love of God.

The great Pax Nefita is marked by the same two blessings: peace and the love of God.

These are temple blessings.  Peace is the worship of the Shalems, the peaceable followers of Christ.  The love of God is the tree in the temple.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Church of Christ

The disciples form "a church of Christ in all the lands round about."  Previously, the word "church" has seemed to mean a "congregation," rather than a doctrinally-distinct denomination.  Should we read this as meaning that the disciples formed a church in each of the lands round about?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hearken, O Ye Gentiles

3 Nephi ends on this warning note.  I have two thoughts.  First, we've spent most of 3 Nephi literally or figuratively in a temple setting: this is a description of the world outside the temple, that must be forsaken to become a shalem.  Second, I think we could read the addressed "gentiles" as today's secular world.  That would be a comfortable reading, and I think it would be mistaken.  A book can only be addressed to its readers.

Monday, June 11, 2012

At That Day

The coming forth of the BoM precedes "that day," the day of "judgment" when everyone is sorted under the right or the left hand -- the Day of Atonement.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

They Were Caught Up Into Heaven

Jesus returns to the Father, as he'd promised.

The disciples, who have been standing at the veil, then have a clear holy of holies experience.  The "heavens" open (the veil parts), they are caught up into heaven (the debir), where they have revelations they can't share.  They become angels ("immortal"), which is a "transfiguration" (and should make us see, if we haven't already, that the Mount of Transfiguration is a temple text).

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Father and I Are One

In the context of a temple appearance, promising blessings expressed in the terms of temple ordinances, Jesus expresses his unity with the father.  When Jesus expresses the same ideas elsewhere, we therefore infer the same, temple, context.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

More Blessed Are Ye

Throughout the BoM, we see the two great rites of the visionary men, the Worship of the Shalems and the Day of Atonement, appear paired together.  They are the visions of 1 Nephi 8 and 1 Nephi 11-15; they are reflected in 1 Nephi 20 and 21; they are the rock and the salvation.

They appear again, paired in the wishes of the twelve Nephite disciples.  The nine desired to come into the kingdom and rest; this is the Worship of the Shalems.  The three desire to remain on earth until the Lord returns; this is the Day of Atonement.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

That We May Speedily Come Unto Thee

"Ministry" in the KJV OT can be 'avodah, the work of the priests in the hekal.  The disciples' wish, therefore, may be expressed in temple terms: when I am done working in the hekal, call me behind the veil.  They are promised that when they enter, they will rest.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Write the Things Which Ye Have Seen and Heard

Christ's commandment to the disciples to write strongly echoes Lehi's second temple vision in 1 Nephi 1.  The setting is heaven / the temple; the Lord is present; disciples are present; a book is written, which is the basis of judgment.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

This Is the Gospel Which I Have Given unto You

Christ summarizes the "gospel" for his disciples, and does so entirely in terms of the Worship of the Shalems and the Day of Atonement.  Christ is lifted up and draws others to follow him (the doctrine of Christ in 2 Nephi 31 climaxes in temple worship, described as speaking with the tongues of angels, standing in the strait and narrow path and doing what you have seen the Lord do; to go up is to ascend into the temple).  You must be washed and dressed to enter into the kingdom.  The "commandment" is the same as the "doctrine of Christ": repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost and "stand spotless before me" (this last is a temple image; one passes through the veil and meets the Lord).  The end of the process is the Day of Atonement's judgment, with the wicked hewn down and burned.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

If It So Be That They Are Built upon My Gospel

Speaking with his disciples in the temple, Christ tells them that they are built on his gospel.  This is the only appearance of this phrase in ancient scripture, and it's surprising.  In a temple context, what we expect to hear is that the worship is or should be built upon the rock.  Interestingly, these concepts are bridged in the Doctrine & Covenants, where we learn that the gospel is the rock.  This is coherent: the rock is the revelation, the look behind the veil and the place of meeting with its great occupant, the true good news.

Friday, June 1, 2012

By This Name Shall Ye Be Called

In their temple meeting, the disciples ask Christ how they should call the church.  He tells them they must take upon them his name, a requirement he identifies as being spelled out in the scriptures.  The Topical Guide on this subject (footnoted in the passage) lists various NT, BoM and D&C passages.

That's fair enough, but this notion is in the Old Testament, too, and in fact it's in the early chapters of the Book of Isaiah, the foundational charter of the underground visionary men.  After the establishment high priest is judged unworthy (there is no bread or clothing) of being a "ruler" in the "house of his father," the counterestablishment priest is anointed instead (he is chosen by the seven women who are the seven branches of the menorah, and they will provide the missing bread and clothing).  It is essential that the temple have a worthy high priest to stand in for the Lord, because the shalems need someone in whose name to be called.