By Chris Layton
From the scriptures such as the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 4 we learn that Adam on finding himself in the lone and dreary wilderness built up an altar upon which he offered sacrifice. After many days an angel of the Lord appeared to Adam and asked, “why do you offer up sacrifices?” The angel knowing the answer to the inquiry begins to prepare Adam by asking why he is doing what he does. What is being suggested here is that it is not enough to simply do according to God’s commands, but to also comprehend His ways.
Adam answers and says, “I do not know save the Lord commanded me” to which the angel replies, “this thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father which is full of grace and truth; Wherefore thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son. And thou shalt repent, and call upon God in the name of the Son for evermore. And in that day, the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying, I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever; that, as thou hast fallen, thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.”
How often do we go through the motions of our own worship perhaps understanding the will of God but not knowing his mind? We can build temples and places of worship but why do we do it? Why did Moses build an ark with two Cherubim on top when the Ten Commandments tells us that you shall make no graven images? (Exodus 20:4) Why did Solomon build a house for a God that cannot be contained? (1 Kings 8:27)
The church buildings or temples are not the end goal but rather they are a means to God’s purposes. To the Samaritan woman Jesus said “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship; and salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:23) It’s the light and knowledge that we seek that is the all-encompassing beacon that calls to the elect for as the Lord has said, “for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts” (D&C 29:7).
From the Proverbs we learn from King Solomon’s wisdom that “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; but the honor of kings is to search out a matter. The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.” (Proverbs 25:1-2)
One of the things that we were taught by our prophet James is that in order for us to comprehend the scriptures we needed to begin to comprehend the Hebrew mindset. We began with simple things like the word “hand” as in “hand of the Lord” which is a reference to the Lord’s servant. Another example was the word “things” which means “words” so when we read something like, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28) we understand that it is more literally saying when the words of the prophets come to pass, lift up our heads for our redemption is coming. Also the word “angel” which according to Strong’s concordance from the Greek and Hebrew means “messenger, ambassador, or delegate” which can refer to both earthly messengers and heavenly messengers. Jesus said of John: “For this is the one of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily 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.” (Matt 11:10-11)
These are a few simple examples of word definitions that better help us understand the scriptures.
In reading the scriptures, when we begin to see these hidden meanings of the words, the scriptures begin to take on a whole new light. We begin to understand what is referred to as “the mysteries” that are contained within the scriptures. Jesus Christ said in 3rd Nephi,“And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.” (3 Nephi 23:1)
Alma also testifies, “It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.”(Alma 12:9-11)
Of all the scriptures that we have been given by our prophet James, none have been more thoroughly spoken of and expounded upon than the words of Isaiah for again as the scriptures say, “great are the words of Isaiah”. They serve as a blueprint for the salvation and exaltation of the House of Israel. We see the very same pattern in Israel repeated time and time again from her state of spiritual adultery and idolatry to her punishment and exile to her ultimate humiliation and eventual return to righteousness and beauty as God in his tender mercy receives his “groomed” bride. We see this very pattern today in the general apostasy of His church for as we see from Isaiah 3 the children rule over their parents and daughters of Zion are “haughty walking with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go making a tinkling with their feet.” (Isaiah 3:16) The Church of Christ is in a general state of apostasy and idolatry including many of our own because they have ignored the warnings and commandments they have received but even now at this late stage in this final dispensation of time, it is still not too late to repent and return to the Lord.
We have all heard the saying that you can’t hit a target that you can’t see. The purpose of the scriptures is to both warn and enlighten by showing you patterns of the past so that when “the rains descend and the winds blow that your house does not fall flat, that when (not if) the enemy comes he will not bind you and dispossess you of all your goods.” If you cannot comprehend the message of the scriptures then the enemy who comes, who knows better, will overcome you. Remember that even the devils can testify that Jesus is the Christ and that Satan can also preach a convincing sermon because he also knows the scriptures mingled with the philosophies of men that he can use to lie to and flatter the Saints into a sense of carnal security. We see this very pattern in Alma 31 when Alma encounters the prideful Zoramites.
“Now the place was called by them Rameumptom, which being interpreted, is the Holy Stand. Now from this stand, they did offer up, every man, the self-same prayer unto God. Thanking their God that they were chosen of him, and that he did not lead them away after the tradition of their brethren; and that their hearts were not stolen away to believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about. Now after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again, until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner. Now when Alma saw this, his heart was grieved; for he saw that they were a wicked and a perverse people; ye he saw that their hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods, Yea and he also saw that their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting in their pride. And he lifted up his voice to Heaven, and cried, saying: O how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men. Behold, O god, they cry unto thee, and yet their hearts are swallowed up in their pride. Behold O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness with the vain things of the world.” (Alma 31:21-27)
Therefore I would admonish you as a voice of warning in the words of Paul to his son Timothy saying “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (2 Timothy 2:15-16)