Sunday, September 19, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #37 "Thou Hast Done Wonderful Things"

Isaiah 22; 24-26; 28-30

(Note:  This lesson will focus entirely on the beautiful prophecy of Isaiah 25-26.  In a following entry, details, helps, and interpretations for the other chapters will be offered.)


My brother is a most amazing defense lawyer.  He wins every case he takes to trial, regardless of the merits of his defendant.  No matter what crime the defendant has committed, as long as my brother is his lawyer, the person is guaranteed freedom.  That's because the judgment is not placed on the merits of the defendant, but on the merits of the defense attorney.  He stands before the judge and says, "This defendant has made some mistakes, but he's really sorry.  He begs forgiveness.  He'd like a new start.  You know what a great attorney I am, so I see no sense in wasting any more time in court.  Based on my abilities, I would like to ask you to release the defendant."  The amazing thing is that the judge agrees!  And the defendant goes free, without a mark on his record!

Unbelieveable, don't you think?  Preposterous, wouldn't you say?  What an incredibly unfair way to run a trial!  But it is true.  My Brother is Jesus Christ, and the courtroom scene above is the Judgment Day for all those who enlist Christ as their Defense Attorney.  The plan of the Atonement was never intended to be a plan of fairness; it is a plan of mercy.  The Judgment Seat is the only court in which the defendant is freed solely on the merits of the Defense Attorney.  Our merits, as the defendants, are necessary, but clearly insufficient.  The Defense Attorney is willing to argue our case, but much more is involved than that:  He gained the merit required to get us off scot-free by paying the price for the crimes himself, in advance.  (Robert Millet)


The words of the missionary Aaron:  "And since man [plural] had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory..." (Alma 22:14)

The words of Father Lehi:  "Wherefore redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.  Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.  Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise." (2 Nephi 2:6-8)

The Words of the Lamanite King Anti-Nephi-Lehi:  "And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son."  (Alma 24:10)

The Words of the Apostle Paul:  "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."  (Romans 10:1-3)

The only thing that will keep us from being saved is to not have confidence in Christ that He will save us. 


Isaiah 25 paints a beautiful portrait of the mercy of Christ through Hebrew poetic imagery.  (To emphasize this idea, mount a large, inexpensive print of Christ with children or as a shepherd onto posterboard, and then cut into 16 puzzle pieces.  [Draw the puzzle shapes on the back of the posterboard.]  On the back of each puzzle piece, write one of the verses of Isaiah 25:1-26:4.  Hand them out to class members.  Have each person read his or her verse, in order, and fit the puzzle piece onto the board, so that as you read and discuss the imagery of the scriptures, the picture of Christ becomes more clear.)

Here are a few relevant notes:

v. 4--The poor and needy aligns well with the "poor in spirit" and the "meek" of the earth, mentioned in the beatitudes. (3 Nephi 12:3, 5)

v. 6--"Mountain" refers to a temple.  In the temple, the Lord of hosts (a reference to His might and power as the Captain of the armies of heaven) will prepare a glorious feast for all nations (see footnote).

v. 7--In the temple, the Lord will dissolve the barrier ("the face of the covering," or "the vail") between the people and their knowledge of their God.  In Old Testament temple worship, a veil covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies.  The Holy of Holies was the place in which man could meet God, but only the priest could go, as a representative of all the people, and even he could only go on one day of the year.  On the day of Christ's death, the veil of the temple was rent, top to bottom, a symbol that Christ's Atonement had opened the way for man to return to God.  In the latter-day temples, each person individually passes through the veil for himself, or in proxy for one other deceased individual at a time, into the Celestial Room where he can commune with God.  With the revelation on the Priesthood (D&C Official Declaration--2), and the explosion of temple-building around the world, "all people" and "all nations" can enter into the Celestial Room.  This is symbolic of and preparatory to entering God's presence in the Celestial Kingdom after earth life.

v. 8--"The Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces."  "Think of the select few individuals you would allow to wipe tears from your face.  Even close friends and lifelong neighbors would not be granted such an [intimate] expression.  No, this is a moment reserved for spouses [or] for a parent and child." (Mark Eastmond)  What a touching image!  (You may want to ask class members to be thinking of times that God has wiped tears from their faces, to be shared later in the lesson.)

v.9--"This is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us."  Those times in mortal life in which it looked like it wasn't paying off to follow the Lord will now be rewarded.

v. 10--In the temple, "shall the hand of the Lord rest."  Love that imagery!  Not for all, though, only for those who waited for him.  Moab, the unrighteous, will be trodden down.

v.11--There will be no escape for Moab.  The Lord will fully extend His reach to bring down their pride, just as a swimmer will fully extend his arm and thus set in motion all the water around him.

v. 3--Here is the key to "perfect peace:" "staying our minds on the Lord."  The verb "staying" implies a conscious effort, not passive.  It takes effort to remain focused on the Lord, it is not a default setting in the human brain.

v.4--Only four times in the King James Version of the Old Testament is the name "Jehovah" written out, and this is one of them.  The name "Jehovah" was the formal covenant name for the God of Israel, meaning the unchangeable one, the great I AM, the one who exists independently.  Although the name "Jehovah" was found abundantly in the Hebrew Bible, it was so holy that  the Jews never spoke it aloud, but always substituted another name for God.  The early Hebrew written language did not include vowels, so the original pronunciation has actually been lost.  The King James Translators, out of deference to the Jewish custom of reverence for the name, substituted the title "LORD" in all capitol letters, each time the name "Jehovah" was found, except for these four key references (Bible Dictionary, "Jehovah").  The other three occurences are found in Exo. 6:3 (notice the JST footnote), Psalms 83:18, and Isaiah 12:2.


Christ's appearance to the Nephites was a foreshadowing of His reunion with each of us at the end of our mortal existence.  As in Isaiah's prophecies, those who were "more wicked" were destroyed (3 Ne. 9:13), and only those who gathered around the temple in a desire to learn of Christ (3 Ne. 11:1-2), who were willing to "open their ears to hear" and who put forth the effort to "understand" (3 Ne. 11:5-6), were blessed by Christ's "arm of mercy [which was] extended towards [them]," and were converted and healed (3 Ne. 9:13-14).

3 Ne. 11:14-15--Christ did not have the leadership come up, and then send them out to minister and testify to the congregation, although that is the effective and necessary way He has us, as limited mortals, administer His church on the earth.  He had 2,500 people come up "one by one" to build their testimony of the Atonement and the Resurrection, and to develop a relationship with Him, their personal Savior.

3 Ne. 17:7-9--Jesus offered to heal any who were afflicted in any manner.  He did not heal them as a group, although He certainly could have done so with His great power.  He healed them "every one".

3 Ne. 17:21--"He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them."

The Atonement was infinite, and applied to everyone everywhere who was human and therefore fallen, and to every sin they might commit.  All mankind was saved in one event.  But in Christ's personal mortal ministry, both in the East and the West, the service He gave and the relationships He built were one-on-one.

(This would be the time to ask for class members to share experiences in which Christ personally wiped away tears from their eyes.)

Christ's example extends to us:  Maybe we can't do everything for everybody, but we can wipe away one person's tears, heal one person's spirit, bless one child at a time.  We can be true disciples of Christ if we simply ask each day, "Which one person can I serve next?"

(This may be a great place to end the lesson, especially if there is a lot of sharing from class members, or you can continue with the following testimony of someone in our day who personally knew Christ.)


Those of us who are old enough will always remember the final testimony of Elder Bruce R. McConkie.  It was a moment that stood still in time, like September 11th or the fallin of the Berlin Wall.  Those who experienced it can remember where they were and how they felt as if it were yesterday.  Even as I write this blog, all those emotions come flooding back, and my eyes are filling with tears.  Elder McConkie had been suffering with cancer and improvement in his health had been reported, but as he began his talk, we all knew that we would not hear his voice again:

"I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation's dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity...

"It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform.  Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father's eternal plan of salvation become operative.

"Through it are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  Through it, all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.

"And through it, all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are--all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory."

That was how one of the greatest doctrinal geniuses of the latter days, who could have addressed any topic comfortably, who wrote the chapter headings and many of the footnotes to the LDS scriptures chose to begin his "Last Lecture." And here is the memorable end:

"And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God--I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world.  He is our Lord, our God, and our King.  This I know of myself independent of any other person.

"I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.

"But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God's Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way."  (May 1985 Ensign)

(If you have access to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD "Hymns of Faith," you may like to play "I Believe in Christ" as a conclusion to this lesson.  Elder McConkie was the lyricist, and his voice narrates several of the verses as an interlude to the choir's singing of the others.)

Note:  Reader Shel has found a YouTube video of Elder McConkie's last testament.  See her comment below, or follow this link.  Thanks, Shel!


Robert Millet, "Rest and Hope in Christ," BYU Education Week Lecture, August 2002.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #36 "The Glory of Zion Will Be a Defense"

Isaiah 1-6

Sergei Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto is commonly considered one of the most challenging piano pieces ever written.  It is not often performed because it is so difficult to play (although it is often used in international competitions for the very same reason), and it requires skill on the part of the listener to understand it and enjoy it. 

You can hear the great Russian pianist, Vladimir Horowitz, play this piece with the New York Philharmonic if you click here. (By the way, Rachmaninoff, when he heard Horowitz perform it, said he would never play it himself again.)

1) Listen to the first 24 seconds of music, and notice the beautiful melody that is played on the piano. This is the main theme of the piece, the part you will find yourself singing the rest of the day, if you listen to the entire movement. This phrase is an antecedant, or a question.  You can hear how it is open-ended; it goes upwards; it sounds incomplete.  Later on, of course, there is a similar phrase that "answers" it, and provides a feeling of closure.

2) Listen to those 24 seconds again, and this time, notice that it is not a single note that is being played, but two notes in different registers.  The pianist's skill deceives us into thinking it is one note at a time, but having the two sets of strings ringing at once gives a richer, more beautiful ringing sound.

3) Listen to it again and hear how the bassoon brings in its voice in the background to provide a complementary melody.  It adds a melancholy feel.

4) Listen again, and notice the first thing you actually hear, before the piano or the bassoon, is the bass violin providing a backbeat, lending a sense of urgency.  (The Beatles were not the first to use a backbeat.)  Although you don't really notice it, it draws you in, and carries you away throughout the piece.  It keeps you from relaxing.  It provides an anxious heartbeat.

5) If you continue to listen beyond the first 24 seconds, you hear this main theme repeated in the string section, with the pianist accompanying.  You hear it come up again and again, with different feelings, sometimes with great dissonance and chords that crash together with great pathos.  (Unfortunately, YouTube only allows 10-minute segments, so you don't get to hear the entire movement played by Horowitz.  You can find it in other places on the internet, however, played by other pianists.)

I love this piece more every time I listen to it, because I pick up something new each time.  I also love it because I was able to hear it for the first time at the International Tchaikovsky Competition at the Moscow Conservatory during the one evening my husband and I had available on my first reluctant trip to Russia--an amazing coincidence.  I had never heard the complete concerto live, and, being a pianist and a piano teacher myself, I had long wanted to, so this blessing was tailored to my desire.  So, in addition to enjoying the depth and meaning of the piece itself, there is a depth and feeling of love that accompanies it for me, as I remember my Heavenly Father's gift to me that day.  Hearing this performance was a high point of my "musical life."  I don't think I will ever tire of listening to Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, and having learned something about the composer since, I have a great desire to meet him myself in the next life.

There are all kinds of music to enjoy.  Some of it is just fun, and very easy to understand, like, "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.  She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah."  The message is: She loves him.  A three-year-old could figure it out.  But this concerto isn't lightweight, wallpaper-type music that you can listen to in the background while you are doing something else.  It requires rapt attention.  You have to sit down in front of the speakers.  You have to close your eyes.  You have to be uninterrupted.

Isaiah is to gospel literature as Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto is to music. Isaiah requires commitment.  You don't just breathe it in; you have to sit down at the table with your knife and fork.  But, like the concerto, you can also enjoy it and gain something from it in your very first reading, and each time you come back to it, you can pick up a little more.  As significant events happen in your spiritual life, the Lord may speak to you through the scriptures, and then you add the depth of feeling that accompanied that experience.  You are moved as you hear Isaiah performed musically, such as in Handel's Messiah (40:1-5, 11; 53:3-6), in the hymn, "How Firm a Foundation" (41:10; 43:2), and in other sacred songs (40:31; 52:7).  You gain a desire to one day meet the Author of those passages, Jesus Christ.  Additional feelings may be evoked when you see Isaiah in unexpected places, such as in front of the United Nations Building in New York City, below (2:4). 

Each time you read it, you love it more, and you understand it better. There are so many levels, you will never reach the bottom of Isaiah. In fact, Isaiah was commanded to make his writings hard to understand (6:9-10) that those who were not sincere would not be quickly converted, fall away, and then be held responsible for knowing better than they were willing to behave. You have to pay a price to understand Isaiah, therefore you receive more joy with each bit of understanding you gain. Christ commanded the Nephites to "search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah" (3 Ne. 23:1) "Note the word diligently. Casually doesn't work; we've already tried that" (Gary Poll).

You can study Isaiah so many ways:

1) You can simply read it, enjoying the rhythm and beauty of the words.

2) You can pick it apart into tiny pieces, word by word, noting minute details, and researching them in depth.  (See ideas for storing your information in a previous entry.)

3) You can watch for repetitions of the main themes.  (See ideas in the next section.)

4) You can follow different aspects, like the different voices of the orchestra, such as the geography, the poetic style of the day (see a previous blog entry for help with that), the symbolism, references to mountains and temples, the historical time periods, etc.

5) You can take advantage of the many references and commentaries available in the LDS scriptures, starting with the footnotes about alternate translations and the Joseph Smith Translation, and the commentary provided in the Book of Mormon.  The best references for interpreting scriptures are always other scriptures.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie said you cannot really understand Isaiah without the Book of Mormon.  It is "the world's greatest commentary on Isaiah."  Not only does the Book of Mormon quote 446 verses of Isaiah, and comment on many of them, it also brings the Spirit of the Holy Ghost, which will heighten understanding.  So read the Book of Mormon as you read the Old Testament.

6) Each time the Old Testament comes around in Sunday School study, you could purchase another book of commentary by an LDS gospel scholar. Unlike the Ethiopian in Acts 8:27-31, we have no need to ask, "How can I understand except some man should guide me?" when so many books are available to us.

7) You can create an "emergency spiritual food storage" for times of trial to come, by highlighting in a different color all the verses you find about the mercy and love of the Lord.   


The Lord is Ever Merciful

"A correct knowledge of God's character traits and attributes, his personality and disposition, is of vital import in mankind's quest for exaltation...We must know a Being who asks our all before we can place trust, faith, and ultimately, our complete submission on the altar. Isaiah addresses this theme at the very onset of his writing and weaves it as a cord throughout." (Mark Eastmond)

Pattern of the Old Testament:
1)Statement of the problem; 2)Consequences, 3)Statement of the Cure, 4)Reason for Hope

1) The Problem:  The children of Israel don't know they belong to God. (1:2-4)
2) The Consequences:  Wounds, bruises, sickness, desolation. (1:5-7)
3) The Cure: Wash you, put away evil, relieve the oppressed, seek justice for the fatherless. (1:16-17)
4) The Hope: Sins as scarlet will be white as snow, the good of land will be a reward. (1:18-19) (Michael Wilcox)

God's Plan to Fulfill His Covenant

"Isaiah blends the imagery of the tabernacle from his day, the mortal and postmortal mission of Christ, and the restoration of the gospel and construction of temples in the latter-days to reveal the Lord's plan for restoring the children of Israel to the covenant.  Isaiah blends these ideas over and over, going back and forth in both time and event, leaving readers to engage themselves more in the finished tapestry than to look for each individual thread."

1) Many of the house of Israel will die before receiving the covenant.
2) Christ must come and open the way for all people to be taught the gospel and enter into the presence of God.
3) "Mountains" (temples) will provide a way whereby all, including the dead, may receive the covenant.
4) The Gentiles of the latter days will be instrumental in helping ancient Israel receive the covenant.  (Michael King)

Isaiah is written in "3-D," or is multi-dimensional.  There is more than one meaning, more than one angle to take.  We can look at it from the front and see one thing, and walk around it to the back side and see another.  Rather than reading it literally, we need to put on our "3-D glasses" to see the meaning of the symbols.  In addition, Isaiah is full of dualism in that most of the prophecies were to be fulfilled in two different time periods. 

Keeping these things in mind, here are some ideas on chapters one and six.


1:1 is the title.
1:2 states the main problem.
1:3 People are dumber than animals.  At least animals are aware of where their food comes from.  People turn away from the Source.  Wickedness does not promote rational thought ("doth not consider").
1:5 "Head" denotes the leaders of the people; "heart" denotes the core of the people.
1:6 "Putrifying sores" tells how spiritually diseased they are.  They have not even used simple first aid to clean the wound.
1:7  The Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans all conquered the children of Israel.  This also has connotations in the 20th-21st Centuries.
1:8  A "lodge" is a little shade hut for a gardener; not a secure place.  About the shoddiest construction the Jews would have known.
1:9  If God hadn't intervened, there would have been nothing left.  Although it is assumed to be at the bottom of the Dead Sea, there is no remnant of Sodom and Gommorah that has ever been found by archeologists.  It has completely vanished from the earth without a trace.
1:10 "Rulers of Sodom"--a slap in the face to the Israelites.  An equivalent insult in our day might be to compare someone to Hitler.
1:11  Why pretend to worship?  Like people who are schemers and cheaters or viewers of pornography during the week, but are still taking the sacrament every Sunday in their suits and ties.
1:13  For "new moons," see Bible Dictionary, p. 738.  The people are simply "following the dots," but the worship is empty.
1:16  "Wash you" means to be baptized or, if already baptized, to renew the covenant.  "Cease to do evil--learn to do well" are linked: When you leave behind your sins, you need to fill that void with good works.
1:18  Scarlet and crimson were some of the very few colorfast dyes of ancient days.  Wool takes a lot of work to be made nice and white: the shearing, washing with fuller's soap, scrubbing, carding.
1:21  A harlot takes something sacred and holy and sells it for money: it's not just wicked, it's profane.
1:22  Dross is the waste from the metal processing.  (David J. Ridges)


6:1  "Train" refers to the hem of his garment, signifying his great power, the great robe of his righteousness, filling the temple of Heaven.
6:2  The word seraphim comes from the Hebrew root sarap, which means "to burn."  Therefore, in this context it means "the burning ones," or "the bright, shining ones," which describes the glorious condition of the angels who are in the Celestial Kingdom near God's throne.  (See D&C 109:79)  That they have two wings covering their eyes may refer to being veiled, as in temple clothing, from the glory of God.  The two wings covering their feet may also denote temple clothing and the holiness of the ground upon which they walk.  The wings with which to fly symbolize the ability to act quickly and unimpeded.
6:3  Repeating something three times, such as "Holy, holy, holy," signifies the ultimate, the maximum.  This is the Hebrew superlative.  This particular cry points to the Godhead.  "Lord of hosts" refers to the Captain of the Heavenly army.  "Lord of Hosts" is used 62 times in Isaiah.
6:4  "Posts of the door moved."  The passageway trembles when the Lord speaks.  The presence of smoke indicates the presence of the Lord (Rev. 15:8).
6:5  "I am undone" means "I am destroyed," or "I am lost," for (or because) he has found himself unworthy in the presence of the Lord.  Isaiah realizes his nothingness and unworthiness next to God, much as did Moses (Moses 1:9-11).
6:6-7  But one of the seraphims flies to him with a live coal (remember, the "burning" is because of holiness, as in verse 2), which he has taken from the altar that symbolizes Christ's Atonement.  When he touches Isaiah's lips (the entrance to the inward parts of the body), Isaiah is cleansed and purified. It is similar to our sacrament, in which taking a token into our mouths allows us to be forgiven through the Atonement, and purifies us once again with the Holy Ghost.
6:8  "Here I am" in Hebrew signifies more than mere presence, but readiness to do what is asked.  In fact, it shows a willingness to give one's life for the person asking.  This is the same phrase Christ used.  Isaiah is a type of Christ.
6:9  Check all the footnotes at the bottom of the page for Christ's references to this commandment given to Isaiah to make the scriptures hard for the casual reader to understand.  Also see John 12:37-41.
6:10  "Heart" in ancient Hebrew refers to the center of thought and motivation, therefore the New Revised Standard Version reads, "Make the mind of this people dull."
6:11-12  "How long" will men choose spiritual blindness?  The answer: Until they are desolate--to the end.
6:13  A small remnant of the people will be preserved, and as a tree that is dormant or felled, that stump will regenerate because its substance is the holy seed:  Christ and his gospel.  (Parry, Parry and Peterson, plus my own interpretation)

Gary Poll, "Keys to Understanding Isaiah," BYU Education Week Lecture, August 2002.

Mark Eastmond, "Images of Mercy in the Writings of Isaiah," Covenants, Prophecies, and Hymns of the Old Testament: The 30th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, p. 196-197.

Michael Wilcox, "Finding Themes and Patterns in the Scriptures," BYU Education Week Lecture, August 2008.

Michael L. King, "Isaiah's Vision of God's Plan to Fulfill His Covenant," Covenants, Prophecies, and Hymns of the Old Testament: The 30th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, p. 162-179

David J. Ridges, "Isaiah Made Easier," BYU Education Week Lecture, August 2002

Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry, Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah, p. 62-67.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Point of Discussion on Isaiah 4:1

I have never found an interpretation of Isaiah 4:1 that has satisfied me.  I'm inviting your comments on this scripture.

--Update to this post: Reader "Tabi" has offered a really insightful interpretation! Read it in the comments below this post. It makes more sense to me than anything I've heard before. Thank you, Tabi!--

Here is the verse:

"And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach."

The footnote to "seven" reads: "because of scarcity of men due to wars."  The footnote to "reproach" reads: "the stigma of being unmarried and childless."

It would make more sense to me if it were the last verse of Chapter 3, which tells of the great devastation that will strike the daughters of Zion for their unfaithfulness.  And this is a possibility, because, of course, the chapters and verses were decided by editors, not by the original authors.  Parry, Parry and Peterson, in their book, Understanding Isaiah, agree with this placement. 

In the Book of Mormon, these chapters and verses are arranged the same way that they are in Isaiah. If verse 1 should really be a part of Chapter 3, might not Joseph Smith have rearranged it, even though E.B. Grandin, the publisher, originally divided the book into chapter and verse?

Still, I can't see where this prophecy fits with our society today.  Many women desire to keep their own names, and being unmarried and childless has a somewhat elevated status among the worldly, moreso in our day than in any other time on the earth.

But if it is really the first verse of Chapter 4, it is linked with the marvelous prophecy that "In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious..." and those who are left in Zion will be the holy temple-goers, etc.  How does it fit there?

Gary Bennett, CES instructor, interprets the "one man" to be Jesus Christ, who is the only one whose name can take away reproach.  The number seven is symbolic of Christ's church or perfection, completion.  It fits with the rest of the chapter, and it makes sense to me, except for the "eat our own bread and wear our own apparel" part.  That doesn't seem to fit the imagery of Christ, or a temple-goer, or someone who has been covered by the Atonement.  Also, Elder McConkie's footnote commentary, noted above, does not seem to lead to that idea.

You readers all have great ideas, and if you have any on this topic, I would love to hear them.  Please leave your comments and theories below.  I'm looking forward to reading them!

(If you're not techno-savvy, and don't know how to leave a comment, you just click on the words "0 Comments" [or however many comments it says] or "Post a Comment" [depending on whether you are viewing the single post or the entire blog].  A box will pop up, you type your comment in, choose below it whether to be anonymous or to leave your name, and click "Publish Comment."  A box with squiggly letters may appear, sometime during the process, with a request for you to type out those letters.  This is just to prove that you are a real human and not a computer sending spam.  Type the letters, and you should be able to post your comment.)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #35 "God Reveals His Secrets to His Prophets"

Amos 3; 7-9; Joel 2-3


"Prophecy is not designed just so we can build our time lines and figure out what is going to happen. Prophecy is designed to show us the character of God (His justice, mercy, sovereignty, etc.) and cause us to turn to Him." --Hampton Keathley IV,

There is a fabulous treatis on the book of Amos at  Rather than just quote it or paraphrase it, I'm sharing the link so you can read it word-for-word and not miss anything.  The only changes for Latter-day Saints would be that when the author asks, "How does this relate to us since we are not under the covenant blessings and curses?" we can answer, "It completely relates to us because we are of the House of Israel and under the covenant blessings and curses."

And, for those who may not know, Yahweh (referred to in the article) is Jehovah, the premortal Jesus Christ (Bible Dictionary).

THE BOOK OF JOEL also has a helpful article on the book of Joel.  It is interesting to note, however, that the author is not entirely sure of the meaning and fulfillment of the prophecy in chapter 2.  That's because he is not a Latter-day Saint.

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:  And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

"And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.

"And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call" (Joel 2:28-32).

What is mount Zion referred to here? It is the New Jerusalem (D&C 84:2), to be built upon the American continent (Article of Faith 10).

Interestingly, although Peter quoted this scripture at Pentecost (Acts 2:17), and many scholars feel it was fulfilled at that time, the author of the article does not.  Pentecost was missing several of the elements, he says:  signs, wonders, dreams, and visions.  In fact, the only element he thinks happened at Pentecost was the pouring out of the Spirit of the Lord upon the people.

Of course, he is right.  The full prophecy was to occur in the dispensation of the fullness of times.  The signs and wonders in heaven have not yet come, but the dreams and the visions and the outpouring of the Spirit are abundant.  This very scripture was quoted to Joseph Smith by the Angel Moroni in a vision.  The fulfillment of verses 28 and 29 began when Joseph Smith had his first vision, was shared among many of the Saints in the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, and continues to spread over the earth to this day.  Dreams and visions were not infrequent occurences in the lives of the early saints, and although sacred and therefore safeguarded, they are not highly unusual among the Church members today.  Elder Scott has said, "One of the most memorable and powerful patterns of communication by the Spirit is through dreams" ("To Learn and to Teach More Effectively", BYU Education Week, 2007, paragraph 50).  The outpouring of the Spirit blesses the lives of Latter-day Saints daily.  Every month miracles are chronicled in The Ensign.  

Note that the scripture does not discriminate between the sexes:  both sons and daughters shall prophecy.  This occurs daily in our missionary force, in our Priesthood and Relief Society, in our family home evenings, and in our General Conference sessions, since "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10). 

The prophecy does not discriminate against the youth or the aged:  "old men shall dream dreams, and young men shall see visions."  Not only do those of all physical ages receive such manifestations, but also those of all spiritual "ages:" investigators to the Church as well as fourth-generation members have full access to the Spirit of the Lord as they exercise righteousness. 

And it does not discriminate by hierarchy of the Church:  even the "servants" and the "handmaids" will receiving an outpouring of the spirit.  That sentence could also refer to the fact that anyone who is a servant or handmaid of the Lord is qualified for this blessing.

Elder Scott gives us counsel on how to receive the outpouring of the Spirit to guide us in our lives.  "Spiritual guidance," he says, "is direction, enlightenment, knowledge, and motivation you receive from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  It is personalized instruction adapted to your individual needs by One who understands them perfectly.  Spiritual guidance is a gift of incomparable worth bestowed upon those who seek it, live worthy of it, and express gratitude for it...

"To acquire spiritual guidance and to obey it with wisdom, one must:
  • Seek divine light in humility
  • Exercise faith, especially in Jesus Christ
  • Strive diligently to keep his commandments
  • Repent constantly
  • Pray continually
  • Hearken to spiritual guidance
  • Express gratitude for guidance received."
(ibid., paragraphs 14, 17)

We in the latter days are blessed beyond measure with the gift of prophecy, both through the individual revelation available to guide us in our personal lives, and through the revelations our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, receives for the Church and for the world.

Quick quiz:  What was the last counsel President Monson personally gave to the Church members? 

Here is the answer.