The title of this series of articles suggests that there might be scriptures that are “most important.” I don’t pretend to be capable of knowing what, of all God’s revealed scripture is the most important. However, Malachi 3 must be of great importance because, like many chapters of Isaiah it is given to us twice, and was given to the ancient Nephites by Christ himself. Malachi 4, in turn, must also be hugely important to us, because we have it many different times in the Latter-Day cannon of scripture. Of all things that Moroni could have told Joseph that night in his bedroom, he repeated Malachi 4, something Joseph already had in his Old Testament, and Moroni knew he would translate those verses from the plates that Moroni was there to announce to Joseph. Yet he gave them again. Why?
The Return of the Prophet Elijah
Elijah rebukes Ahab for turning from worshiping Jehovah to Baal.
We ended the last article with the indication that there were further ordinances that allow us to experience the things of Godliness. Clearly these ordinances are very important, perhaps most important. I personally believe that this is the reason we are given Malachi 4, several different times. Moroni even gives us different wording in the latter-day reciting. There are probably many reasons for this but I think two are very important: first, to help us better understand a scripture we may have become too familiar with, and therefore have stopped trying to extract deeper meaning from; and second, to help us take notice of it and ask the questions that will help us delve beyond the surface meaning. Lets go to the scriptures. In. 3 Nephi 25 we read:
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
I’ve been working on a couple different posts for this blog for the past week. The third article in the “Most Important Chapters in Scripture?” series needs special attention due to the power and sacredness of the subject. Because of the time required to give that attention, I haven’t been able to get it completed. The following is a talk I gave several years ago in as a student in a student ward. Its one of the few talks that I ever wrote completely before giving. It is also a great preparation for the third article in the “Most Important Chapters in Scripture” series.
I have chosen to speak on Our Divine Potential. I pray that the Spirit will permit me to deliver this message in accordance with God’s will, and that everyone here will be able to feel of that Spirit and receive the message by the Spirit who is the ultimate teacher. I also hope you understand that this message is taken from the scriptures and the words of our church leaders. It is not my message, and I need to hear and understand it as much as any of you.
Kings and Queens
I hope everyone here has seen the new movie The Chronicles of Narnia. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, and here’s why: This movie (and the book it is based on) is a great Christian allegory of our divine potential. Throughout the movie various characters keep telling the three children–who are the protagonists of the story–that they were meant to be Kings and Queens, leaders in the fight against evil. Every time someone tells them this, they say essentially “no, you must be mistaken, there is nothing special about us, we’re from some place in England, we’re not important or great.” They can’t see their potential. They don’t know that they really were meant to become Kings and Queens.
I love this theme of Kings and Queens because it is the same one Heavenly Father uses to teach and remind us of our potential. Psalms 82:6 reads: “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” And D&C 76:56, 58, 62 says: “They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fullness and his glory…. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God…. These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.”
Too often I think we take the same attitude as the children in the Chronicles of Narnia. We say “who am I to shine, to lead out, to be righteous and deserve blessings?” “What makes me so special that I should discover the mysteries of God, or perform great acts of service, or become pure and spotless before God?” We doubt ourselves, we doubt our God. This is what Satan wants us to do. If he can get us to forget who we are, and what our purpose is, then we will never achieve it. We can’t work toward what we don’t know. The Prophet John Taylor said it this way:
“Have you forgotten who you are, and what your object is? Have you forgotten that you profess to be Saints of the Most High God, clothed upon with the holy priesthood? Have you forgotten that you are aiming to become kings and priests to the Lord, and queens and priestesses to him? Have you forgotten that you are associated with the Saints of God in Zion, where the oracles of truth are revealed, and the truths of God are made manifest, and clearly developed; where you and your posterity after you can learn the ways of life and salvation; where you are placed in a position that you can obtain blessings from the great Elohim, that will rest upon you and your posterity worlds without end?” (The Gospel Kingdom, p.229-230)
I liked the graphic that I found for the last post so much that I created a wallpaper out of it. I decided to share it here, and may make more scriptural & symbolism themed wallpapers. I like gospel themed wallpapers and often have pictures of temples on my desktop. They help to remind me of where my heart and focus should be. So visit our images page to download and set the new wallpaper as your desktop background. Or here’s the widescreen version:
I usually don’t post about popular media, or even current events or other things that might be related. I feel strongly that the purpose of this blog is to focus on learning doctrines, not keeping abreast of all the scholarship, events, attacks, etc that goes on in the world around us (partly because I don’t have time to post that often or keep on top of all of it). I model it on the pattern the temple teaches: it’s only when we get away from all the noise that we can internalize simple principles and doctrines that will make the real difference in our lives and then allow us to make a real difference in the lives of others.
This post goes contrary to that and addresses the recent news that the HBO show “Big Love” will show parts of the endowment ceremony on an upcoming episode. I think it’s an important thing to address, because we need to know how to properly handle these kinds of situations (they’ll only get more common).
I’d like to quote Moroni 9:25–26, with one slight modification (italicized):
25 My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which HBO & the world does grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.
26 And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen.
One of my mentors put it so well, I’ll just quote him:
The adversary is always coming up with new fiery darts. Withstanding them is best done by focusing on our sacred duties, rather than on the darts. For example, we can all channel our passionate feelings about the temple into more temple attendance. The adversary doesn’t want to attack the temple; he knows he can’t succeed in that. But if his attack on the temple distracts temple attenders into worry and letter-writing campaigns that take time away from temple attendance, that’s victory for him. Having only so much time, we do best to focus on our sacred responsibilities.
Anyone who plays sports knows the best way to avoid an incoming ball is to know where it is so you can catch it–or at least dodge it. In the gospel the opposite is true. The best protection against fiery darts is to ignore the darts and make sure we are strengthening our armor by focusing on doctrines, duties, and other people: the things that will make a difference.
I add my voice to that of Bryce Hammond, Terrance Olson, Orson Scott Card and others in saying that the bigger of a deal we make of this, the more attention it will get. That’s the last thing we want to happen. And to all those people who are threatening to cancel their HBO subscriptions: why do you have HBO in the first place?
In the last general conference, Elder Oaks gave a talk titled “Sacrament Meeting & the Sacrament.” In this powerful talk he specifically addresses various behaviors related to the sacrament and church. He also speaks of the importance of the sacrament in making the Atonement a part of our lives. This is the most important part of his message. However, he repeatedly hinted at the power and sacredness of the sacrament and sacrament meeting:
“The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church.”
“Its like going to the temple.”
“This is a very sacred act.”
“All who officiate in this sacred ordinance stand on sacred ground.”
“For sacred ordinances… we often use ceremonial clothing, and a white shirt could be seen as… an anticipation of the white shirt you will soon wear into the temple….”
“I sense that some in the rising generation and even some adults have not yet come to understand the significance of this meeting and the importance of individual reverence and worship in it.”
Rendering of Solomon’s Temple
As suggested by several of these quotes, I believe that our church on Sunday is meant to point us to the temple. The Lord intended it to be a weekly reminder of the covenants we make in the temple, as well as encouragement to return often to learn the “weightier” things of the gospel. I hope that I can help those mentioned in the last quote (probably all of us) to better “understand the significance” of church and the sacrament.
I believe the Lord has setup church as a temple in the pattern of the temple in Jerusalem: An Aaronic Priesthood, lesser law, or Levitical temple that points us to the higher ordinances of the Higher Law.
A lot has happened in mine and my wife’s life since I wrote Part 1 of this article. I believe some of it has helped me have a deeper appreciation for the truths contained in these chapters. I hope I can convey them well here, and show their importance.
First we need to go back and look a little more deeply into 3 Nephi 24 which is the same as Malachi 3. 3 Nephi 7 states “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.” While we previously discussed the idea that both ancient Israel, and us, “are gone away from” certain ordinances that the Lord calls His own, we didn’t address what these were.
What “ordinances” are we “gone away from?”
The Doctrine & Covenants is often a great place to find clarification on other scripture. Especially the Old & New Testaments, since they weren’t written for us, like the Book of Mormon was. D&C 84 was designated as “a revelation on priesthood” by the Prophet Joseph.
“Giving of the Law Upon Mt Sinai” woodcut by Gustave Dore
Verses 19 through 23 state:
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
The Lord tells us that Moses taught the children of Israel “plainly” that they could see the face of God. He taught them that the “greater priesthood” held the keys to this blessing, and that it was only through the “ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood” that people could have this experience.
How & when the ordinances were “gone away from.”
“Moses Comes Down from Mt. Sinai” woodcut by Gustave Dore
The chapter continues:
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fullness of his glory.
25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
So even though Moses taught them “plainly,” they rejected the blessings that God had offered to them. Blessings that could be obtained only through ordinances of the “Holy Priesthood.” God had offered them the greatest of gifts, and they had rejected it. No wonder He cursed that generation to die wandering in the wilderness. No wonder following generations were left largely without the blessings of the Melchizedek priesthood. Its hard to imagine being offered one of the greatest gifts the Lord can offer us mortals, much less being in the Lord’s position and having His people reject the offer of this specific gift. In the end I have to rely on my faith that God’s “judgment is just.”
Understanding all this, 3 Nephi 24:7–8 that we looked at in Part 1, becomes much more clear:
7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts. But ye say: Wherein shall we return?
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say: Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Combining what we discussed in Part 1 with what we’ve just learned, we see that the ordinances gone away from, are those that teach us the ways of Godliness. Ordinances wherein we covenant to give all that we have, including our very will, to the Lord and His Church. Ordinances that ultimately allow us to see the face of God, just as Moses and others have. And only through the keys to these ordinances, could we ever even see the face of God, and not die from the experience.
The question here is if each of us have “gone away” from these ordinances like ancient Israel did? I don’t want to be found rejecting the opportunity to see God and know what its like to be in his presence. I find that asking myself a series of questions around this, helps me to determine where I’m at spiritually, and how I can improve:
Do I attend the Temple regularly?
Has the Endowment become merely a way to get to the Celestial Room or a way to feel like I can say “yes” to #1, but isn’t the empowering, enlightening experience it was intended to be?
Do I see the Endowment as an end in itself, forgetting that the Initiation and Marriage ceremonies of the temple continue the Endowment in either direction, and that the covenants made in the Endowment are to be taken home with me and kept on higher and higher levels as I grow and improve?
Finally, have I ceased to focus on the fact that the Endowment points to further ordinances wherein the promised blessings of the Endowment and Marriage become ours permanently?
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.
40 Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.
Notice in 34 that if we do what is required, we “become the sons of Moses and of Aaron,” why? Because their son’s rejected these ordinances. Thus if we receive them, we become their spiritual progenitors, picking up where they left off. Notice also that when we “receive this oath and covenant of [the] Father,” its a covenant that “he cannot break.” We aren’t included in what’s mentioned here. The Father makes an oath and as part of this ordinance, and we can see His face.
I was sitting in another ward’s sacrament meeting on Sunday listening to the testimonies. I heard this teenage boy say something like “I’ve seen how a lot of people like to write X-mas instead of Christmas. They’re taking Christ out of Christmas.”
That X-mas is a way of taking Christ out of Christmas, is something I’ve heard many times growing up and even believed for a while. I agree with the sentiment that things like “happy holidays” is taking Christ and the Christan part of the holidays away. However, its completely incorrect to say that writing “X-mas” instead of “Christmas” is anti-Christ.
Today I taught the Sunday school lesson, as a substitute teacher in my ward. It was a humbling experience and happened in the middle of some stressful times for my wife and I. Preparing for, then actually giving, this lesson helped to grow my faith and give me confidence to move forward with some things.
The lesson was over 3rd Nephi 22-26. The words of Isaiah in chapters 22 & 23, are powerful and Christ commands us here to study them, but as in my lesson, I’m not sure we have time to discover them now. So I want to focus on 24-26. As Christ is teaching the Nephites, there are patterns, points, and a structure. So here’s what I have learned about these chapters, both in studying, & teaching them, now and in the past.
Several of my mentors have taught the power of one simple principle: try to throw away preconceived ideas about the popular verses we often read without context. I encourage everyone to do the same. The Sunday school understanding we normally assign to many very sacred verses may be one very important way to read them, but in many cases there are much deeper, more powerful meanings we avoid if we stick to those surface-level interpretations.
Its important to realize that Christ is quoting Malachi (from the end of what is now our Old Testament), who was speaking/writing the words given him by Jehova. So Christ is quoting his own words, but makes it very clear for both the Nephites and us, that these are Malachi’s words. Probably so we can quickly realize he’s giving them something they didn’t have, and so we can realize he’s giving us something we already have, a second time. Why?
In these two Chapters, whoever organized the verses has made the Book of Mormon version exactly parallel the OT version. So the purpose here is to look deeper to find the reasons why Christ thinks this is so important, and why he made sure and said it was Malachi that originally said it, so we’d be clear we were getting the same stuff a second time.
Jesus Blesses the Nephite Children
Problem & Symbolic Solution
Here we have this image of Christ (“he,” “his,” refer to Christ who verses 1 & 2 say is coming) “like refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap” and also “as a refiner & purifier of silver.” Now don’t get Christ and his messenger mixed up. We’ll look at the messenger more in 25. Its interesting that Christ is portrayed in two ways in each instance, first as fire, then fuller’s soap; next as both a refiner, and purifier of silver. It seems there are two processes being alluded to here one of fire that refines, then as soap that purifies. My feeling is that Christ is suggesting multiple ways in which he, through the Atonement, can make us pure and holy. First we need refining into something he can work with, then a final purifying through heightened heat or soap that can ultimately allow us to ultimately be perfected. He also lets us know that He’s not just the fire we’re exposed to, but also the “refiner” who exposes us to the heat, the refining and purifying process.
At the end of verse 3 he tells us why all this is necessary: “that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Israel, and each of us as members of the house of Israel, are probably not currently offering this offering in righteousness. Vs. 7 says that “ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.” Then that is followed with a solution and commandment: “Return unto me and I will return unto you.” Then Israel (us) responds: “Wherein shall we return?” It’s clear we think we’re doing okay, just as Israel often did throughout the OT, BoM, and NT. In these cases we have the prophet who’s writing the story to tell us the people were wicked, so we think “isn’t it obvious, you’ve gone away from Jehova, and need to return to him.” But we get lost in the same forest and don’t realize our own need for the Savior in his Atonement in our lives. “I’m a pretty good person,” I often think to myself. Other’s take on the “all is well in Zion” attitude that Nephi warns us about. The simple fact is, we all need Christ, no matter what, and must return to him again and again.
Now, with that context, we’ll look for new meaning in verses we often read, as I said in the introduction, “without context.” Please try to see these verses with fresh eyes:
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say: Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house; and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
The “wherein have we robbed thee?” question parallels the previous question that we’ve asked: “wherein shall we return?” But that question wasn’t answered, this one is: “in tithes and offerings.” Here’s where we need to throw out the Sunday-School interpretation and think like a Hebrew, to whom Malachi’s original prophecy was directed. With this in mind, and in context of the previous verses we realize that the tithes and offerings referred to isn’t our modern tithing and fast offerings, but a sacrificial lamb (tithe), offered as a burnt offering to the Lord. This, in turn, is symbolic, the same “offering in righteousness” referred to in vs. 3. The tithes are that with which we make the offerings: perfect firstborn lambs, but symbolically its ourselves. Just as the sins of the people were put upon a scapegoat that was sent into the wilderness to perish, and other goats were burned upon the altar during the Day of Atonement, we are asked to offer ourselves in “righteousness” to the Savior. This way he, through the purifying and refining power of the Atonement, can make us perfect, sacred, and holy.
We are to be symbolically burned on the altar until the impurities come to the surface and we become truly refined and pure. This can only happen though, if we offer ourselves in righteousness. He won’t force us in any way. Thus we must have a pure heart, completely submitting to his will in this cleansing processes that can often be painful. However, the promised blessings are worth it, and he acts also as the refiner: sitting, holding each of us over the fire, ensuring that we are not heated more than we can endure.
Most of the rest of the chapter is spent telling us all the blessings that are given us if we can make this “offering in righteousness.”
Now that we understand what this offering is, in Part 2 we will explore what ordinances we “are gone away from,” that allow us to offer this “offering in righteousness,” and how it is that we return to them.