Monday, January 25, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #5 "If Thou Doest Well, Thou Shalt Be Accepted" (Moses 5-7)

(Moses 5-7)

THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL

Tom Holdman stutters.  As a young man, this was such a trial for him, that he threw himself into art, which doesn't require much speaking.  When he served his mission, however, he found that whenever it really mattered, when he was teaching a gospel discussion, for example, if he prayed for help, he would be able to speak intelligibly.  He was given a gift of tongues.  And he even found that God could use his disability to touch the hearts of others.

As an adult, Tom became a stained glass artist.  First he made windows for the children's library in Orem, Utah.  Then the interior designer for the Palmyra New York Temple asked Tom for a sketch of what he might do on a window of the First Vision.  He was so overwhelmed, he went to the Mount Timpanogos Temple to ask the Lord for help, and while there, he said, "my mind was flooded with a vision of all 108 windows."  He took his sketches to the Church Office Building and they were all approved. 

The panels that went in the front doors of the Palmyra Temple were not the Tree of Life, but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
"[Brother Holdman] explained how the Palmyra temple windows represent a person’s journey through life. Entering the front doors, which depict the tree of knowledge of good and evil, one can look down a hallway through windows overlooking the world, or turn toward the First Vision window. “You see,” said Tom, “you must make a choice in life to follow the world, or to obtain a testimony of our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Restoration of the gospel.” (Jane H. Forsgren, "Windows on Eternity," New Era, December 2001)





If you turn toward the First Vision window, and go through the temple endowment, you reach the Celestial Room with its Tree of Life window.  (The picture below is actually the Tree of Life window in the Winter Quarters Temple--the caption below it is incorrect.)


In other words, once you have knowledge of good and evil, you can choose to do nothing with it and follow the way of the world, or you can turn yourself and choose to seek God.  And this is where we pick up from last week's lesson with these two contradictory statements:

"Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe" (Moses 6:48). 

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy" (2 Ne. 2:25).

Misery and woe are guaranteed in this life; joy is conditional.  They might have joy.  Of course, it isn't totally obvious to the children of men that choosing to seek God will bring joy, because it isn't immediate.  Everyone gets some of the misery, even those who are righteous, because the earth is in a fallen state and we are subject to sickness, and death, and accidents, and living with other people who choose wrongly.

"If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended.  No man would have to live by faith.  If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil--all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good.  There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls."  (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 97)

Two men early in the scheme of things were perhaps the most extreme examples of agency with the knowledge of good and evil.  Cain is well-known as the father of wickedness among humans, who turned himself away from God, and Enoch is known as the one who grew so close to God that he was literally pulled up into heaven to live with Him.

CAIN

The best commentaries available to us on the Old Testament are the modern-day revelations.  The Book of Moses teaches us a great deal more about Cain than does the Book of Genesis.  It tells us much more about his motives and about his methods.  When Eve gave birth to Cain, she said, "I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words" (Moses 5:16).  Clearly she expected Cain to be a righteous son.  But within the same verse we find that, "Cain hearkened not, saving: Who is the Lord that I should know him?"

The trouble began with Cain when he offered a sacrifice of plants to the Lord rather than animals.  In the Book of Genesis, there is no explanation as to what is wrong with this.  But in the Book of Moses, we find that "Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord" (Moses 5:18).  So we know that Cain was not motivated by faith in Christ, but by the temptation of Satan.  The Lord knows the intent of the heart, but in this case, the outward action also displayed opposition to the Savior.  The Lord had given unto Adam and Eve "commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.  And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: 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 forevermore" (Moses 5:5-8).  "And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters" (Moses 5:12).  So Cain knew very well that only a sacrifice of the firstlings of the flocks was an expression of faith in the coming Savior.  His sacrifice of "the fruit of the earth" was his own invention and expressed clearly his disobedience and disregard for the Christ.

Elder Thomas S. Monson said, "There are those who do not hear, who will not obey, who listen to the beat of a different drummer. Most prominent among their number was that son of Adam born of Eve, even Cain—a well-known name among men. Powerful in potential, but weak of will, Cain permitted greed, envy, disobedience, and even murder to jam that personal rudder which would have guided him to safety and exaltation. The downward gaze replaced the upward look; Cain fell" (Thomas S. Monson, "Sailing Safely the Seas of Life," Ensign, July 1999).

Of course, knowingly giving an inappropriate offering and then being offended that the Lord did not accept it was not the end of Cain's evil.  He continued to hearken to the temptations of Satan until he finally created a secret society with murderous intent (Moses 5:29).

So in this first dispensation of time, the prophet Adam's son Cain killed his brother through a conspiracy, as the Book of Moses tells us (Moses 5:29).  These secret combinations increased until "Satan had great dominion among men, and raged in their hearts" (Moses 6:15). 

Into this environment of wickedness was born Enoch, who would become the prophet of the next dispensation.

ENOCH
 
Enoch received a call of God to become the prophet (v. 27) and he asked the Lord very humbly why, which is the typical response of anyone who has ever been called to be the head of the Church.  Enoch pointed out that he might not be the best choice, as he was a poor speaker and highly unpopular (v. 31).  The answer the Lord gave was the answer that always applies:  "Open thy mouth and it shall be filled," or in other words, the personal abilities of the individual called are largely irrelevant, because with God's help, he would have all the power he would need (v. 32).  Enoch believed the Lord and never again expressed self-doubt.  (We can learn something here!)  The message he was to deliver to the people:  "Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you" (Moses 6:33).

Enoch's righteousness and obedience was so great that the Lord's Spirit was upon him and he was promised that "all thy words will I justify" (Moses 6:34), even to the point of moving mountains or chancing the courses of rivers.  But although Enoch was given power over the elements, no one is given power to make people choose the Lord.  However, Enoch created the opportunity through his teaching for the children of men to turn, and in the midst of a very wicked civilization, many people did turn.

"And from that time forth Enoch began to prophesy, saying unto the people, that: As I was journeying, and stood upon the place Mahujah, and cried unto the Lord, there came a voice out of heaven, saying—Turn ye, and get ye upon the mount Simeon. And it came to pass that I turned and went up on the mount; and as I stood upon the mount, I beheld the heavens open, and I was clothed upon with glory" (Moses 7:2-3).

Because Enoch turned to the Lord, he was shown a series of three great visions, which this blog post does not have space to cover, but one of the most telling aspects of the last vision, the vision of the spiritual history of the inhabitants of the earth, was the sight of the great God of Heaven weeping.  "And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?" (Moses 7:29).  God explained that it was the choices of His children to do evil and bring upon themselves misery that made him sorrowful.  "Wherefore, for this shall the heavens weep, yea, and all the workmanship of mine hands. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook" (Moses 7:40 - 41).

SORROWING FOR THE WRONG CHOICES OF OTHERS

Elder Richard G. Scott gave counsel to those who experience this type of godly sorrow:

"Many of you have heavy hearts because a son or daughter, husband or wife, has turned from righteousness to pursue evil.  My message is for you.  Your life is filled with anguish, pain, and at times, despair.  I will tell you how you can be comforted by the Lord.  First, you must recognize two foundational principles:

"1) While there are many things you can do to help a loved one in need, there are some things that must be done by the Lord.
"2) Also, no enduring improvement can occur without righteous exercise of agency.  Do not attempt to override agency.  The Lord himself would not do that.  Forced obedience yields no blessings.

"I will suggest seven ways you can help.

"1) Love without limitations.
"2) Do not condone the transgression, but extend every hope and support to the transgressor.
"3) Teach truth.
"4) Honestly forgive as often as is required.
"5) Pray trustingly.
"6) Keep perspective.

"When the things you realistically can do to help are done, leave the matter in the hands of the Lord and worry no more.  Do not feel guilty because you cannot do more.  Do not waste your energy on useless worry...In time, you will feel impressions and know how to give further help.  You will find more peace and happiness, will not neglect others that need you, and will be able to give greater help because of that eternal perspective...

"One last suggestion--Never give up on a loved one, never!"
(Ensign, May 1988)

NEVER GIVE UP HOPE

Enoch was then shown the next dispensation of the gospel in which the prophet would be Noah.  Here, the Book of Moses gives us more commentary and insight into the Bible story, as we are told, twice, that Noah's three sons were saved, not just because they were the prophet's children, but because they also had turned to the Lord (Moses 8:13,27).  Their choices saved them from the watery grave that opened to receive all the rest of humankind.  "Wherefore, Enoch saw that Noah built an ark; and that the Lord smiled upon it, and held it in his own hand" (Moses 7:43).  Then the waters overtook the world, "And as Enoch saw this, he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look" (Moses 7:44).  He then showed Enoch "the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced" (Moses 7:47).

Even for the grossly wicked in the time of Noah, there was still some hope.  God had given them the best chance by removing them from the clutches of Satan on the telestial earth to a better environment.  They would have the opportunity to turn to the Lord outside the limits of time in Spirit Prison, as they were taught by a host of the greatest prophets who ever lived on the earth (See D&C 138:28).

After his visions, Enoch went on to influence enough people to turn to God, that they were taken up into Heaven as the City of Zion.  (See Moses 7:69)

TURNING TO GOD

Every day, every hour, as we make choices, we choose whether to simply look out the window on the world, or whether to turn and walk with God.  "But God hath made known unto our fathers that all men must repent.  And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying: I am God; I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh. And he also said unto him: If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you" (Moses 6:50-52).

As we turn to the Lord, we choose the option offered, "Men are, that they might have joy" (2 Ne. 2:25). 

"I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalms 16:8-11).

7 comments:

LisaD4 said...

Had to sub in Gospel Doctrine. Your blog made a lot of information clear to me. This site will become part of my regular study. Thank you so much.

Nancy W. Jensen said...

Lisa, thank you for your feedback. I'm so glad the blog was helpful!

Carol said...

Yes...thankyou Nancy...we're going through some trying times right now with some of our children, and these messages were just what I needed...bless you for your choice of topics also. The talk by Richard G. Scott is wonderful and I remembered hearing some of it, but couldn't find it. Thanks again..

Nancy W. Jensen said...

You're so welcome. Never give up hope!

Tom Holdman said...

Hello Nancy,
Thank you for your kind thought and the article was uplifting to me.
There is in fact a Tree of Knowledge on the inside front doors of the temple. But the picture shown is the Tree of Life in the Winter Quarters Temple. The Winter Quarters temple also has a Tree of Knowledge behind the recommend desk.
Tom Holdman tomholdman@gmail.com

Nancy W. Jensen said...

Tom,

Thank you so much; I have made the correction.

Do you have a picture of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil you would be willing to share on the blog? If so, send it to my e-mail: thepianoisgrand@gmail.com

I saw your all your stained glass in the Palmyra Temple when we were there several years ago and I absolutely loved it! It was definitely the most stunning feature of that temple. You have a wonderful gift.

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