John 16:15-24—Ask, and Ye Shall Receive, that Your Joy May Be Full

Jesus said “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” Prayer, especially the kind of prayer the Savior was talking about, is best understood as part of a viable friendship-relationship. A true prayer is quite different from a nearly-memorized and oft-repeated shopping list. It is a conversation that reflects and expands the relationship of the participants.

The Savior had just entrusted his apostles with the power of his NAME. A name is an identity. To be given permission to use another’s name as though it were one’s own presupposes a remarkable trust. That trust presupposes covenants that are already in place that give reason for the trust. In the New Testament, “faith” is the Greek word pistis which is best translated as “contract” or “covenant.” A prayer in faith is an affirmation on the part of both parties of the validity of the covenant. Therefore, a prayer in faith must be a conversation where one listens as well as speaks. That brings us full circle: Prayer is part of a viable friendship-relationship, hesed.

The Savior had promised that he would return to his apostles after his resurrection. He went beyond that and gave them the authority to use his name even when he was no longer with them. The Savior said:

15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
……………….
22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing [but it shall be done unto thee— JST]. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:15-24).

In that statement, “ye” is plural. It is a promise he gave them collectively as well as individually. By giving them his name, the Savior had established a bond among them and with himself—that their “joy may be full.”

A name is a legal identity. That is especially so in matters of priesthood authority. To be given another’s name is like being given their reputation and resources, or in a legal sense, their power of attorney. To use another’s name without authorization is a kind of forgery. “Identity theft” is a phrase we use now. “Taking the name in vain” is the scriptural way of saying it. The Hebrew word translated “vain” also means falsely, lying, and vanity (Strong # 7723), so “taking the Lord’s name in vain” is to use it falsely without authorization or vainly without intelligent thought.

The kind prayer that the Savior was explaining to his apostles was not unique to them. He made the same promise and taught the same thing to his Nephite disciples.

19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
21 Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed (3 Nephi 18:19-21).

The sanctity with which God holds his own name is illustrated by the covenant he made with Nephi, the son of Helaman. While pondering, Nephi had an intimate conversation with God.

3 And it came to pass …. as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying:
4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done …
5 … I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

Then the Lord sealed the covenant by stating the NAMES of each of them.

6 Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.
7 Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people (Helaman 10:2-7).

Pondering, as Mormon used the word here, is like a thought-filled conversation with a dear friend, where neither say much, but their thinking is in sync. When the other party in the conversation is the Holy Ghost, the pondering is a thoughtful prayer. President Joseph F. Smith described his pondering very much like that.

1 On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures;
2 And reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world (D&C 138:1-2).

Before Moroni hid the gold plates, he added several bits of historical information which were not in 3 Nephi. Among them is this conversation between the Savior and his Nephite disciples.

1 The words of Christ, which he spake unto his disciples, the twelve whom he had chosen, as he laid his hands upon them—
2 And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles (Moroni 2:1-3).

That occurred soon after the resurrected Christ came among the Nephites. Later on, after he had left them, we are told how his disciples maintained their relationship and how the Savior taught them about the significance of using his name.

1 And it came to pass that as the disciples of Jesus were journeying and were preaching the things which they had both heard and seen, and were baptizing in the name of Jesus, it came to pass that the disciples were gathered together and were united in mighty prayer and fasting.
2 And Jesus again showed himself unto them, for they were praying unto the Father in his name; and Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said unto them: What will ye that I shall give unto you?
3 And they said unto him: Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter.
4 And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?
5 Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;
6 And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.
7 Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
8 And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church
(3 Nephi 27:1-8)

In each of those instances, we are not only told about the importance of using his name correctly, but we are also told about how they prayed. The Savior instructed, “Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer.” That is what they did, “the disciples were gathered together and were united in mighty prayer and fasting.”

We may judge from the way that the phrase “mighty prayer” is used elsewhere in the scriptures that “mighty” is not about emotional or urgent intensity. Rather, it suggests a conversation and implies priesthood authority as well.

The phrase “mighty prayer” is used several times in the scriptures. Each time it is a description of a prophet’s prayer. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi was the first to use the phrase when he quoted his own psalm as a prayer on the small plates.

24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.
25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them. (2 Nephi 4:24-25)

Enos’s prayer culminated in his hearing the voice of God.

3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away (Enos 1:3-6).

Mormon shows that the mighty prayer was sometimes a group prayer. In describing Alma’s successful mission among the people of Zarahemla he reports:

6 Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God (Alma 6:6).

“Mighty prayer” appears to be a conversation that ends with a covenant. That promise is expressed differently in other scriptures. For example, the Savior said:

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).

That promise is repeated in Luke 11:9-10 and 3 Nephi 14:7-8. In our own dispensation, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph and some of his closest friends:

62 And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near—
63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you (D&C 88:62-64).

John the Beloved tied the promise to its ultimate condition: that we love one another. Then he expanded that relationship to our mutual love of the Savior

22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his [God’s] commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us (1 John 3 22-24).

13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him (1 John 5:13-15).

That brings us full circle where the Savior said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” Prayer, especially the kind of prayer the Savior was talking about, is a conversation between friends

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Posted in John | Leave a comment

John 15:26-27, 16:1-17 — The Spirit of Truth and Jesus’s Forty Day Ministry — LeGrand Baker

It is likely that in these verses Jesus was promising his apostles that the Holy Ghost would come to them after he was not with them any more. This is what Jesus told his apostles at Jerusalem.

26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
……………..
5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?
6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you (John 15:26, 16:5-7).

The Comforter in verse 7 may have been the Holy Ghost. However, there is another possibility that I would like to explore. It could be that he was speaking of himself in the second person. Referring to oneself that way was typical of writers in New Testament times. For example, the Savior referred to himself as “him” and “he” in John 17, and John never describes himself as “me.” Rather, he refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

This second interpretation of Jesus’s words being about himself is possible because there are several scriptures where the Savior identifies himself as the “Spirit of Truth.” It would be instructive if we knew whether or not he were doing the same thing here

It may be that Jesus was promising that he would return after his resurrection to teach them things they could not now understand. If that is correct, then his 40 day ministry would have been the fulfillment of that promise.

Here is what the Savior promised his apostles.

26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.
5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?
6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
8 And when he is come, he will reprove [convict Strong # 1651 ]the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;
10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
17 Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? (John 15:26-27, 16:1-17)

Here are some examples.

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:15-18).

We can know that Jesus was referring to himself as both “another Comforter” and as “the Spirit of truth” because we have Jesus’s own commentary on those verses in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph.

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you who have assembled yourselves together to receive his will concerning you:
2 Behold, this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels rejoice over you; the alms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.
3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son— (D&C 88:1-5).

=====================

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:15-18).

====================

7 And he [John the Baptist] bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was;
8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.
11 And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
…………………….
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things (D&C 93:7-11, 26-28).

If the Spirit of truth Jesus was talking about is the Holy Ghost rather than himself, then what I write below is not correct (It sure wouldn’t be the first time!).

It seems to me that Jesus may have been telling his apostles that he must leave them now, but when he is gone he will have a greater power to assist and teach them than he had when he was surrounded by persistent mortal enemies in this world.

The only example I know of that partly relates to that situation is when Joseph Smith explained to Benjamin F. Johnson that Joseph’s own death would give him greater power to assist the Saints when his enemies were not hindering him at every turn. It is difficult to know how Joseph Smith felt then. He knew and later said “that he had to die.” {1} He wished to stay with his friends, yet he longed for a rest. Benjamin F. Johnson reported a conversation that occurred not long before the Prophet died. While Joseph was visiting the Johnson home,

with a deep drawn breath, as a sigh of weariness, he sank down heavily in his chair, and said, “O! I do get tired and weary, that at times I almost yearn for my rest,” and then proceeded to briefly recount to us some of the most stirring events of his life’s labors, sufferings and sacrifices, and then he said, “I am getting tired and would like to go to my rest.” His words and tone thrilled and shocked me, and like an arrow pierced my hopes that he would long remain with us, and I said, as with a heart full of tears, “O! Joseph, what could we, as a people, do without you and what would become of the great Latter-day work, if you should leave us?” He saw and was touched by my emotions, and in reply he said, “Benjamin, I would not be far away from you, and if on the other side of the veil I would still be working with you, and with a power greatly increased, to roll on this kingdom.” {2}

Joseph’s most immediate task was to prepare the Church for his own death. The Saints could never be prepared for the emotional shock, but he did need to settle the questions of who would have the responsibility of directing the Church after its Prophet was dead? {3}

After Jesus’s resurrection, the author of the gospel of Luke wrote the book of Acts. In the first sentences of Acts, he tells that Jesus remained with the apostles for 40 days after his resurrection and that he taught them “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me (Acts 1:1-4).

There are a number of apocryphal writings that tell about Jesus’s 40 day ministry. One of the most fascinating to me is the Pistis Sophia. I suspect that if Joseph Smith had translated it into “Mormonese” it would be among our prized possessions. However, he did not. Hugh Nibley has given us the next best thing. Nibley wrote a shortened and readable rendition in Appendix IV of his The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri. {4}

The following are five excerpts from Nibley’s interpretation of the Pistis Sophia. The first is an explanation of what the Pistis Sophia is. The other four are examples of the kind of teaching the Savior may have given his apostles after his resurrection.

The Pistis Sophia is a third-century Christian work from Egypt, written in the Coptic dialect of Thebes, where our own Book of Breathings—a near contemporary—was found. The opening statement, that Jesus taught these things to his disciples “after he had risen from the dead” and that they extended to “the first degree (topos, phase, step) of the ordinances (mysteria),” namely, “what is within the veil,” puts the writing in the category of the “Forty Day Literature,” i.e., the higher teachings given by the Lord to the apostles in secret after his resurrection, many of which writings were hidden up by the ancient Christian communities and have come to light only in our own day. {page -273}
————–
For this purpose I (Jesus) have brought the key of the mysteries of the heavens, without which no flesh on earth could be saved, since without an ordinance (mysterion) no one, whether righteous or unrighteous, shall enter into the kingdom of the Light. Wherefore I have in this wise brought the keys of the mysteries to earth that I might deliver those sinners who shall believe on me and obey me; that I might deliver them from the bonds and seals of the Rulers (of this world) and bind them in the sealings and garments and degrees of Light. … Proclaim it to the entire world: … “Strive to receive the mysteries of the Light in this time of tribulation so that you might enter into the Kingdom of Light.” … For when the number of those who receive initiation (lit. the teleioi) is completed, I will shut the doors of Light and no one will enter from that time on. … All who receive the Mystery of the Kingdom of Light shall go individually to receive that inheritance which corresponds to the degree to which one has attained (received) in the world. He who accepts less will inherit the lesser mystery and he who receives the higher mystery will inherit a higher place (topos). And everyone will remain in his place … and have authority over those orders (taxis) that are below him, but not over the degrees which are above him. (States the same in different words) … they who receive ordinances of the minor mysteries will find themselves in a minor degree (of glory, taxis); in a word, each one will remain in that taxis of inheritance of Light which corresponds to (the share of) the mystery (ordinance) he has received. {page -274-}
————–

(The candidate always moves in a company of his kind; each arithmesis—set number—of souls has its time and place on earth, and when the number is fulfilled or the initiation completed of teleioi psychai, the group of souls moves on to) a higher inheritance in the Light…. Everyone must remain in the topos in which he is until he is ready to receive the mysteries of the next. (Only) one in 10,000 will ever attain to the Mystery of the First Mystery. (An important episode of the group initiation is the Prayer Circle, which we have treated elsewhere.) (There are mysteries far beyond any known on earth.) When I lead you to the topos of those who have received their inheritance … the Sun will look like nothing but a tiny speck of cornmeal, because of the enormous distance, and because the new world is so much greater. (These higher mysteries are not for the unqualified, who are terrified of them; they go far beyond mortal comprehension.) {page 278}
————–

When they of this earth become exalted by the mysteries, they will be with me in the topos of the Light, and each of them will be a king over his dominions (emanations, probolai) … according to his measure of glory. … everyone according to the measure of glory he has received will rule with me in the Inheritance of the Light. All who receive the ordinances will be fellow-kings with me in my Kingdom. {page 278}

—————-

And when Jesus had finished saying these things to his Disciples, he added,…Behold, I have put on my garment, and have been given all authority (exousia) by virtue of (hitn) the First Mystery. Yet a little while and I will tell you all the Mysteries…. (The Key to the whole thing) is that mystery which lies beyond the world (etn.bol hm-p-kosmos), for the sake of which the universe itself exists, ever mounting up, ever expanding (srebol)…. Come to us, for we are your fellow-members, all of us identical with yourself; we are all one and you are one with us. {5}
—————-

FOOTNOTES

{1} Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:601.

{2} Benjamin F. Johnson, “An Interesting Letter to Elder George S. Gibbs” (typed copy in BYU library).

{3} These paragraphs were taken from LeGrand L. Baker, Murder of the Mormon Prophet—The Political Prelude to the Death of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Eborn Books, 2011), 221-22.

{4} Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975), 273-78.

{5} Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975), 278.

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Posted in John | Leave a comment

John 15:16-27 — ‘They hated me without a cause’ — LeGrand Baker

Jesus’s message to his apostles was both a warning and a promise. The warning was:

20 They hated me without a cause. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).

The promise would come soon, but for now, Jesus’s explanation shows that this hatred and its consequences were also part of the Law which he must fulfill.

25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause (John 15:25).

The question is why is that phrase so important and how was it to be fulfilled? In its context, this is what the Savior said to his apostles.

16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
(John 15:16-27)

The answer to our question is found in the ancient Israelite temple drama. The drama and rites performed at Solomon’s Temple were a multi-layered story that contained many messages. The first and most important was a symbolic eternal biography of their Messiah, from his role as Jehovah, through his earthly experience and Atonement, until the 8th day of the drama when he presided at their final salvation.

My premise is that Jesus and his apostles knew the ancient temple drama, including how and where each of the Psalms were used in the drama. Therefore, a reference to a psalm was also a reference to that part of the drama where the psalm was sung. For example if we were in a conversation and someone asked in jest, “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” That would be enough to take our minds to the play, the act, and the romantic balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet. Just that short quote might cause laughter and the conversation would proceed with everyone knowing the before and after of the short quote as though they had just walked out of the theater.

Similarly, the conversation between Jesus and his apostles makes much more sense if we understand the Psalms as the backdrop to what they say to each other. The part of their discussion we are now reading in John 15 fits that formula. My understanding of how the Psalms were used in their temple drama is explained in the book Stephen Ricks and I wrote called Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord. {1} “Part One” of the book is a reconstruction of much of the ancient temple drama using the Psalms as the liturgy. “Part Two” shows that the sermons in the Book of Mormon were based on the Nephite temple experience. This present discussion of the Gospel of John is simply an extension of that premise showing that many of Jesus’s conversations with his friends were also based on their mutual knowledge of the psalms and the ancient temple drama.

Most of the drama was performed outside, something like our Hill Cumorah Pageant. The king was the chief actor. In the course of the drama he played the part of himself in the Council in Heaven, of Adam in the Garden of Eden, and of himself again in this world. However, this was a participatory drama where the same things that happened on the stage to the king symbolically also happened to each of the men in the congregation.

In John 15, during the conversation we are discussing, Jesus is rehearsing part of the king’s role and reminding the apostles that what happens to the king on the stage will happen to him and eventually also to each them. Jesus said,

25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

There are two psalms that contain such prophecies. Both are spoken by the king during the stage production of the temple drama. The first is a lament and a plea for help, but it is difficult to know where it fit in the drama. The drama is presented as a kind of autobiography of the king (and also of each person in the congregation). Its sequence ranges from the Council in Heaven, to the war in heaven, through this world’s experience, and to the final judgment. However, the Psalms are no longer in their correct order, so one can no longer read them consecutively to get the story. There are so many events in the play where the king would need help that we cannot tell in which scene Psalm 109 belongs.

1 Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
2 For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
3 They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
4 For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer.
5 And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
6 Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.
7 When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin (Psalms 109:1-7).

The drama follows the same pattern as the “cosmic myth” or “hero cycle.” It is the same basic story as is in Egyptian, Greek, and Roman mythology where the hero’s story follows the same set pattern. He has to leave home, is given a difficult task and some of the tools to perform it. He meets an obstacle that makes his success impossible. The gods give him more tools so he can succeed and returns home triumphantly. In the middle of that story his task becomes impossible without the help of the gods. The pattern of the story—but not its details—rings true because it is our own eternal biography, the plan of salvation, the outline version of the Savior’s mission, and the story told in the ancient Israelite temple drama.

Psalm 119 portrays one of the most dramatic events in the drama. It is the pinnacle of the story where the king is killed and therefore cannot possibly succeed without the intercession of Jehovah. Of course, the story does not end there. The king is rescued from death and hell by the power of Jehovah’s Atonement. Together, they return triumphantly to the Jerusalem. They are joined by the people and in a procession (of which the Savior’s “triumphal entry” reminiscent) they dance around the city, they enter the city gates and move to the temple area, then to the Temple itself. (This is where they sang Psalm 24) Within the Temple the king (again representing every man in the congregation) is adopted as Jehovah’s son and heir. He is coronated as king and goes beyond the great Temple veil into the Holy of Holies, sits on God’s throne and reigns on earth as God’s legitimate son. Unlike in Egypt, the Israelite king is not divine, but he does represent the Divine.

That was the conclusion of the drama, but our concern is what happened to the king at the time of his symbolic death and before his triumphal return.

Psalm 119 is a scene that also takes place in the Temple. But this scene is not a triumph. It is when Israel’s enemies have conquered the city and have met the king in hand to hand combat within the Temple itself. The king tells us his feelings and describes parts of the combat as he confronts his enemy until the very moment he is overcome and killed.

The following descriptions of the battle in the Temple are excerpts from our Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, {2}

In the drama, the challenge began with a symbolic attack by the Canaanites against everything Jehovah loved. Jerusalem was destroyed, its Temple was burned, the people were massacred, and the king himself was killed in their defense. The battle is vividly described in the 74th Psalm, where we hear a fervent prayer by the people imploring God’s assistance:

The final scene of the battle was represented by an enactment of the 119th Psalm. It showed a titanic struggle between the symbolic forces of evil and the young hero king.

Psalm 119 is the longest, and certainly one of the most moving of all the psalms. It is a soliloquy that rivals the soliloquies of Hamlet in its intensity and beauty—suggesting that the Israelite temple drama was performed with all the theatrical power and emotional pathos of a Shakespearian tragedy. In our Bible, the psalm is difficult to read as a single soliloquy because its translators broke it into sections and divided it according to the letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

That the young speaker was king and commander in this battle, there can be no question. The way he identified his enemies and his own social status makes that quite clear:

23 Princes also did sit and speak against me:
but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.

161 Princes have persecuted me without a cause:
but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.

46 I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings,
and will not be ashamed (Psalm 119:23, 161, 46).

The young king reminded God that while he was completely devoted to the Law, he also had access to the greater sources of knowledge—for he had understood the commandments “of old,” meaning they were known and sustained by him when he was a member of the Council in Heaven:

72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me
than thousands of gold and silver.

99 I have more understanding than all my teachers:
for thy testimonies are my meditation.

100 I understand more than the ancients,
because I keep thy precepts.

152 Concerning thy testimonies,
I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever (Psalm 119:72, 99-100, 152).

The greatest portion of the psalm is a series of reminders to God—and no doubt to himself as he engaged in this struggle—of his piety and of his devotion to God. One example is toward the end of the psalm, when the young king had become surrounded by his enemies, but he did not give in. Rather, he assured himself that they were still his inferiors because they did not keep the Law:

150 They draw nigh that follow after mischief:
they are far from thy law (Psalm 119:150).

Then it was all over. The king’s body was at the gates of death—but his spirit was still alive, and his faith in Jehovah was not weakened. In the last stanzas of this scene, he prays that his soul will live on—so that, even in death, he may continue to praise the Lord:

173 Let thine hand help me;
for I have chosen thy precepts.
174 I have longed for thy salvation,
O Lord; and thy law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee;
and let thy judgments help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments (Psalm 119:173-76).

Those last words of the psalm strike the final cord of the young king’s time on the earth and express the hope that will become the ultimate triumph of the entire festival drama: In his last appeal to Jehovah, as his soul approaches the darkness of death and hell, the king pleads: “seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.” That was his testimony of who Jehovah is and of his knowledge of Jehovah’s ultimate authority, and of his anticipation of the saving power of the Atonement. As he entered death, he knew that only Jehovah could save him.

——————-
The timing in Jesus’s life when he had this conversation with his apostles was analogous to the time of that final battle within the Temple where the king was overcome and killed by an enemy who only appeared to have won. If the apostles knew the sequence in the drama they should also have understood what was about to happen. Apparently, what they could not understand was that this King could actually be defeated and killed. Nevertheless, that is what the Savior was trying to tell them.

With the ceremonial and symbolic destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the death of the king and his people as the probable background to this conversation, Jesus now moves from the symbolic to the reality.

18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

That was the phrase he is citing near the end of the 119th Psalm:

161 Princes have persecuted me without a cause (Psalm 119:161)

Then Jesus makes a remarkable observation

22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke [excuse] for their sin.
23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

Their hatred was focused on the Savior. That is serious—it is going-to-hell serious! There seems to be an eternal balance in the conditions upon which we come to this world—to discover for ourselves whether we will do good or do evil. This world’s environment enables us to make that discovery. Sometime before, Jesus had this exchange with the Pharisees.

40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth (John 9:40-41).

Not only are we each given sufficient opportunity to go to heaven, but we are also given sufficient opportunity to qualify to go some other place.

25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

Jesus’s enemies knew a cause but it was within themselves. It was the livid discomfort of being exposed that a bad person feels by being in the presence of a righteous person. When that happens it leaves the evil one with three options: to retire, repent, or retaliate. There is a long list of good people who have been persecuted, some killed, because repentance seemed the least desirable of the options.

As the Savior told the apostles what would happen to himself and to each of them, he also told them of the sure antidote for the hatred they would encounter.

16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another (John 15:16-17).

Jesus’s message was first a warning, now it is a promise.

25 …They hated me without a cause.
26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning (John 15:25-27).

“From the beginning” in an intriguing phrase. It might be read “from the beginning of Jesus’s ministry,” or it might be read “from the very beginning at the Council in Heaven.”
Some people believe that the 12 following the Savior in Lehi’s vision were his Jerusalem apostles (1 Nephi 1:10). If that is correct, it would give a powerful meaning to his words, “because ye have been with me from the beginning.”

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FOOTNOTES

{1} LeGrand L. Baker and Stephen D. Ricks.. Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord. Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, first edition, 2009, second (paperback) edition, 2011.

{2}Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Act 2, Scene 6: The Ritual Combat,” first edition, 397-415; second (paperback) edition. 286-300.

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John 15:13-15 — ‘that a man lay down his life for his friends’ — LeGrand Baker

In these three verses are the only instances recorded in the New Testament where Jesus tells his apostles that they are his friends. He ties the conditions of that friendship to love, joy, sacrifice, integrity, and trust.

LOVE — “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. … This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”

JOY — “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

SACRIFICE — “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

INTEGRITY — “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. … Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

TRUST — “I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”

The context is the private conversation between Jesus and his apostles that begins in chapter 13 and concludes with his prayer in their behalf in chapter 17. These chapters are the focal point of John’s gospel. (Perhaps it is to not detract from the importance of this conversation that John does not mention two of the most important experience is the Savior’s life: the Mount of Transfiguration and Gethsemane.) He explains his relationship with them, theirs with him, and both his and theirs with his Father. He said they must understand their reciprocal love, hesed, “that your joy might be full.” In its larger context this is what the Savior said.

7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another (John 15:7 – 17).

As always, he uses his love for them to illustrate how they must love each other. The best commentary on those chapters is also written by the Beloved Apostle himself in “The First Epistle General of John.”

There is one part that gives us pause, because the word Jesus uses clearly has a double meaning. That is: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Even though there may be some ambiguity because of the multiple possibilities of the meanings of the Greek word that is translated by the phrase “lay down,” the Savior makes one of those meanings perfectly clear. “To die” is not one of those meanings, so to lay down one’s life does not mean to die happily in one’s bed. He also used that same Greek word much earlier when he prophesied of his death, and there is no question about his intention here.

14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father (John 10:14-18).

The way the Savior uses the verb here means exactly what it says, “to willingly lay down one’s life with death as a consequence.” It has the same meaning as Joseph Smith’s words as he and his friends rode to Carthage for the last time.

I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me— He was murdered in cold blood. (D&C 135:4)

We almost always read his words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” in the context of the Savior’s impending death and ultimate sacrifice. One can also find there a prophecy that each of the apostles will seal their testimonies with their own blood. For many of the rest of us, that may also be true in theory. Even though there are some true heroes who have and will yet die in place of a friend, there are actually very few of us who will ever be called upon to stand between our loved ones and an incoming bullet.

It is that second possible meaning that still fits within the context of the Savior’s words, which is much more relevant to our own lives.

I remember my delight when I first heard The Battle Hymn of the Republic sung differently. The words originally were: “As he died to make men holy let us die to make them free.” It now reads, “let us live to make them free.” It is no longer a war cry but a hymn to peace. The different meanings of the Savior’s words are like that. Few of us are called on to die for our friends, but all of are required to live to their salvation and God’s glory.

Years ago I knew a remarkable young woman. She and her husband had both been my students. They had both recently graduated from BYU, she with a double major in philosophy and economics, he in business. Now she was now a stay-at-home mom with two small children and her husband was scoutmaster and was working to establish a business that would eventually become quite successful. They lived in a small, rented house not far from campus. One summer morning, after a rainy night, she was in the back yard washing the mud off the outside toys, watching her children jumping and splashing each other with the muddy water from the puddles. She thought, “What am I doing with my life and my education? I haven’t had an intelligent, academic discussion with an adult for days. What ever good am I?” The Holy Ghost answered her question by reminded her of this scripture and instructed her to go to Strong and discover its meaning. She did and learned it is a complex verb that means many things. “To commit oneself” and to “set forth” are among them—but “to die” is not there. She now read the verse differently, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man expend his life for his friends.” She put the book down, and with soft tears rolling down her cheeks, she stood at the kitchen window and watched her beautiful children laughing, singing, and dancing in the mud.

In that second meaning we hear the reverberation of something else the Savior said to his apostles.

25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth [“to love less”] his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal (John 12:25. Strong #3404)

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (3 Nephi 13:21).

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John 15:1-9 — Jesus said, ‘I AM the true vine’ — LeGrand Baker

We can understand the Savior’s self-identification as “the true vine” to pull together as one the meaning of the Garden of Eden experience, the ancient Israelite temple drama, and the temple itself; and, thereby, to his Atonement, and to our sacrament. The vine represents the tree of life with the grapes being the fruit of the tree and the wine being the waters of life. It is in that imagery of the Savior as the tree of life that we find the message he probably intended his apostles to understand. Jesus said,

1 I AM the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth [prunes] it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love (John 15:1-9).

The Savior’s reference to himself as the true vine is easy to understand as a simple but effective horticultural parable similar to Jacob’s quoting Zenos about grafting weak branches to a strong root.

Using imagery like these opens the mind to a panorama of possibilities. Symbols can stir the heart and mind in ways that transcend their physical reality. Symbols, whether words, gestures, or physical objects, can carry our minds through multiple layers of meaning—layers that may unfold like the petals of a rose, moving our minds though the vast expanse of our eternal journey and causing us to stop along the way and ponder the beauty before us. Our visualization of the tree of life is one of the most powerful examples. For example, the menorah with its three pairs of raised arms sat just outside the veil in Solomon’s Temple. Some saw it as a visual representation of the tree of life, its burning light—like glorious white fruit at the end of each branch—giving light to all the house. Others saw it as a promise that God answers our most solemn prayer.

The idea of the tree of life is found in the religions of virtually every ancient culture, but nowhere is it better explained than in the Book of Mormon. Lehi described it as representing the eternal destination of righteous people. Nephi explains it as symbolic of the Savior’s love. Àlma uses its imagery to teach us how our faith may mature from only a desire to know the Savior, through a sequence of growth experiences until we can taste the light, pluck the fruit of the tree of life, and become an expression of the tree itself (Alma 32:35, 40-43).

The imagery of the tree of life is an integral part of the ancient Israelite temple drama, which is a symbolic description of the entire plan of salvation. {1}

The waters of life are always associated with the tree. They are moving, living, and tranquil waters. They give life as rain, rivulets, and great rivers, but they are never stagnant and never salty. The symbols of the tree of life and the waters of life are fundamental to the Feast of Tabernacles drama. They represent the food we eat and the water that keeps us physically alive. They also the source of our eternal life. Nephi wrote that the waters of life and the fruit of the tree of life represent the love of God.{2}

Nephi understood that more vividly because of his vision, but the principle was fundamental to the teachings of the ancient Israelite temple drama. We know that because God’s love is everywhere in the Psalms and the Psalms were the liturgy of the ancient Israelite temple drama. {3}

In the ancient temple drama’s rendition of events in the Council in Heaven the Savior was anointed with a perfumed oil that symbolized the Tree of Live. Psalm 45 represents the foreordination of both the king of Israel and his queen. After Elohim blessed him, the king did obeisance, first to Elohim, then to Jehovah. It is apparent from what the king says to Jehovah that the latter had just been anointed to be King of eternal Israel.

7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

We know the king was addressing Jehovah in these verses because of the words, “therefore God [Elohim], thy God [Elohim], hath anointed thee [Jehovah] with the oil of gladness.” That anointing was very recent, for Jehovah’s garments were still fragrant with perfume used in the sacred scented anointing oil.

8 All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad (Psalm 45:7-8). {4}

In acknowledging that Jehovah’s garments still smell of the fragrant perfumes of the anointing oil he also gives us the formula by which the sacred oil was perfumed: “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.” This was a very meaningful formula. The oil was, of course, olive oil, the product of the fruit of the olive tree, which in ancient Israel represented the tree of life. Myrrh is a perfume made from the sap of a bush or small tree. Aloes is a perfume made from the heartwood of another tree, and cassia is a perfume made from the bark of still a different tree. So on the stage, one representing Jehovah had just been anointed with a sacred oil whose fragrance were a composite of all the parts of a tree—either an acknowledgment or a declaration that Jehovah is the tree of life. {5}

In the Garden scenes of the ancient Israelite temple drama, the Garden contained not only the tree of life but the waters of life as well. The Garden sat on a hill and the tree of life was at the top of the hill in the center of the Garden. The waters of life flowed down from the tree just as in Lehi’s vision. Eating its fruit gave one both the right and the power to remain in the presence of God. Consequently, when Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge they had to leave the garden where God was.

Thereafter, the symbolism of the fruit of the tree of life and the waters of life representing the way to return back to the presence of God. The ancient Temple presented the invitation to return to the tree, to the paradisaical Garden, and to God. The physical Temple at Jerusalem sat upon an outcropping of rock that was the sacred mountain. Their temple drama was designed to represent one’s ascent to the top of the mountain.

At the top of Sinai Moses saw God; at the top of Garden of Eden’s hill was the tree and the waters of life flowed down from the hill; in the Holy of Holies was the throne of Jehovah. Just as the fruit of the tree symbolizes the promises of the Atonement, so the Savior personifies the fulfillment of the promises of the fruit of the tree of life. As though they were a single unit, the tree, the water, and the ancient temple all come together as an invitation to return to God.

Hugh Nibley explained the relationships between the Garden, the mountain (“navel of the earth”), and Solomon’s Temple.

The Temple at Jerusalem represented the same concepts as the Garden of Eden. The Temple was not just sacred space, it was the navel of the earth—the counterpart of the heavenly temple. It was the symbolism of creation, the place of enthronement, the gathering place of men and gods, the site of the sacred meal (representing the fruit of the tree of life). All these come together at the conclusion of the New Year festival temple drama. In ancient Israel, the Temple was the geographic and cosmic focal point of the earth, where the great New Year rites were presided over by the king as a representative of God on earth. {6}

There are many kinds of trees and other plants that have been used to represent the tree of life. In Greece it was usually the olive tree; in Egypt both the olive and the date palm. {7}

In the 23rd Psalm where one is likened to a sheep who follows his shepherd, the “green pastures” are the fruit of the tree and the “still waters” are the waters of life. In his book about of the menorah, Leon Yarden suggests that at the time of the Exodus, the symbol of the tree of life was the almond tree. He reports that the “almond is the first tree of spring in the Near East” and “the last to shed its leaves.” {8}

In Israel the olive tree played the most significant role as the tree of life. Its fruit represented the fruit of the tree and its oil represented the waters of life. The bowls of the menorah were filled with olive oil that gave light to the interior of the Temple. {9} Kings and priests were anointed with olive oil. The anointing was a cleansing that gave of power and authority, and ultimately the promise of both knowledge and eternal life. {10}

20 But ye have an unction [anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things. …Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. … But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him (1 John 2:20-27).

The distinguished Bible scholar Sigmund Mowinckel was the first to point out that the king’s anointing was an “endowment with the Spirit.” {11} The scripture Mowinckel quoted to show that reads,

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:3-13).

Mowinckel translated it a bit differently.

     [The king’s] anointing was related to his endowment with the spirit. The later tradition says explicitly that when David was anointed, ‘the spirit of Yahweh leaped upon him’.
In virtue of his endowment with the divine spirit, the king is filled with superhuman power. He receives ‘a new heart’; he is changed into a new man (1 Sam. x, 6, 9)….He receives a new disposition expressed, according to oriental custom, in giving to him a new name which indicates his new, intimate relationship with the god who has chosen him, and whom he represents.
Through his anointing and endowment with the divine spirit, the king also receives superhuman wisdom. {12}

The importance of the anointing and its association with the king’s spiritual powers were also described by Professor Aubrey Johnson:

The fact that the king held office as Yahweh’s agent or vice-gerent is shown quite clearly in the rite of anointing which marked him out as a sacral person endowed with such special responsibility for the well-being of his people as we have already described. Accordingly the king was not merely the Messiah or the ‘anointed’; he was the Messiah of Yahweh, i.e. the man who in thus being anointed was shown to be specially commissioned by Yahweh for this high office: and, in view of the language which is used elsewhere in the Old Testament with regard to the pouring out of Yahweh’s ‘Spirit’ and the symbolic action which figures so prominently in the work of the prophets, it seems likely that the rite in question was also held to be eloquent of the superhuman power with which this sacral individual was henceforth to be activated and by which his behavior might be governed. The thought of such a special endowment of the ‘Spirit’ is certainly implied by the statement that, when David was selected for this office, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brethren; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. {13}

Frederick Borsch’s description is much shorter, but also somewhat more inclusive.

The king is anointed. The holy garment is put on him together with the crown and other royal regalia. He is said to be radiant, to shine like the sun just as does the king-god. He is initiated into heavenly secrets and given wisdom. He is permitted to sit upon the throne, often regarded as the very throne of the god. {14}

Widengren quoted Pseudo-Clement to show that the anointing oil was symbolically a product of the tree of life:

     This idea of an anointing with oil from the tree of life is found in a pregnant form in the Psalm Clementine writings, from which some quotations may be given. In the passage concerned, the author (or rather his original source) discusses the problem of the Primordial Man as Messiah. He is represented as stressing the fact that the Primordial Man is the Anointed One:
But the reason of his being called the Messiah (the Anointed One) is that, being the Son of God, he was a man, and that, because he was the first beginning, his father in the beginning anointed him with oil which was from the tree of life.
Primordial Man, who had received the anointing, thanks to which he had been installed in the threefold office of king, high priest, and prophet, is then paralleled with every man who has received such anointing:
The same, however, is every man who has been anointed with the oil that has been prepared, so that he has been made a participant of that which is possessed of power, even being worth the royal office or the prophet’s office or the high priest’s office. {15}

The temple rites of the Feast of Tabernacles culminated with this anointing ceremony when the king was adopted as son and legitimate heir of Jehovah (Psalm 2:7). Israel’s relationship with God was a covenant relationship, and the king was the living evidence of that covenant. One gets a feel for the eternal significance of the anointing ceremony in Psalm 25 where the promises of the sode are projected into the eternities. {16}

Early Christians taught that the Savior’s cross represented the tree of life. There are two reasons to believe it was made of olive wood. Olive was one of the most common trees in the Holy Land and there is historical evidence that it was used to make crosses for crucifixion. The only archaeological evidence of an actual crucifixion still has fragments of olive wood attached to the bone. {17}

Wilfred Griggs explained,

The New Testament also alludes to the cross of Jesus as a tree. (See Acts 5:30; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24.) Some have noticed that the Greek word used in these passages is the same as that used for the tree of life in the Septuagint, different from the usual New Testament word for tree. According to a number of sources, some early Christians thought of the cross as a tree of life. {18}

One of the early Christian writings that most emphasized the idea that the cross became the tree of life is The Gospel of Philip.

     Philip the apostle said: “Joseph the carpenter planted a garden, because he needed wood for his trade. It was he who made the cross from the trees which he planted. And (so) his seed hung on that which he planted. His seed was Jesus, but the planting was the cross.”
But the tree of life stands in the midst of paradise. And indeed (it is) the olive-tree. From it came the chrism [anointing oil]. Through it came the resurrection. {19}

As we have seen, grass (Psalm 23), nuts (almond), and the fruit of a variety of trees could each represent the fruit of the tree of life. The Savior added wheat to that list when he explained that he was the bread of life.

33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst (John 6:33-35).

When the Savior said, “I am the true vine,” he was equating himself with another representation of the tree of life and using the imagery that evokes the same relationships as Alma when he taught the multitude of poor people how they could also become an extension of the tree of life.

The prophet taught that they could begin by believing, or even desiring to believe in the Savior. He then likened that desire to a seed of the fruit of the tree of life. He said the seed is planted in the heart where it may begin to grow. Alma asked, “O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light ….if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.” Alma identifies this fruit as “the fruit of the tree of life.” Therefore, the tree that is growing within us “shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life” (Alma 32:41). This scripture takes on an entire new meaning if we read “faith” as pistis, meaning contract or covenant, as it does in the New Testament.{20}

Alma also explained,

38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith [secured in the covenants] to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith [keeping covenants], and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you (Alma 32:38-43).

The grape vine, as a tree of life, has the same characteristics as the olive tree. The vine is the tree, the grapes are the fruit of the tree, and the wine is the waters of life.

At the conclusion of John’s Revelation, he was shown the celestial city. He wrote, “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Revelation 21:22). He saw God’s throne bearing the identifying characteristics of a sacred temple—in the immediate proximity of the tree of life and the waters of life (Revelation 22:1-5). John wrote,

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely (Revelation 21:3-6)
…………………..
22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof (Revelation 21:22-23).
…………………..
1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
6 And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done (Revelation 22:1-6).
…………………..
13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city (Revelation 22:13-14).

John’s book of Revelation is like Lehi’s vision in that it describes our struggle to return to the tree of life. The difference is that while Lehi talks about individual family members, John talks about an entire celestial culture. In John’s vision, those who are worthy to enter the celestial city are those who have the right to eat of the fruit of the tree of life —they are celestial kings and queens—“the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”

Jesus on the cross of olive wood is an imagery that pulls us directly into the sacrament covenant. Jesus as the bread of life and as the true vine does the same. The fruit of the tree is sweet above all that is sweet and is both the representation and the assurance of the love of god. The tree, the fruit, and the water are a celebration of the Father’s covenant with us. The Savior personifies both the promise and the fulfillment of that covenant. His concluding words, as he explained to his apostles that he is the true vine were,

9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love (John 15:1-9).

For us, its reality was encapsulated in only a few words by Alma.

34 Yea, he [Jehovah] saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely (Alma 5:34).

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FOOTNOTES

{1} For discussions of the tree of life, see Lundquist, “Common Temple Ideology,” 57, 67-71; Draper and Parry, “Seven Promises,” 123-29; C. Wilfred Griggs, “The tree of life in Ancient Cultures,” Ensign 18, 6 (June 1988): 27-38; Parry, “Garden of Eden,” 127-29. For a discussion of the drama see Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Part 1: Temple Drama of the Ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles in the Old Testament,” The Meek in Psalm 25,” first edition, 179-644; second (paperback) edition, 129-458.

{2}For discussions on the waters of life, see Lundquist, “Common Temple Ideology,” 57, 66-67; Lundquist, “What Is a Temple?” 88-89; Parry, “Garden of Eden,” 129-30.

{3} Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into th Hill of the Lord, Part one, is a reconstruction of that liturgy.

{4} For a discussion of Psalm 45 see Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, 255-305; second (paperback) edition, 181-216.

{5} For discussions of these trees and their perfumes, see the articles about myrrh, aloes, and cassia in The Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible. For a discussion of the foreordinations in Psalm 45 see Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “The Meek in Psalm 25,” first edition, 255-305; second (paperback) edition, 181-217.

{6} Hugh W. Nibley, “Ancient Temples: What Do They Signify?” Temples of the Ancient World, 405.

{7} For discussions of the widespread use of the symbol of the tree of life see C. Wilfred Griggs, “The tree of life in Ancient Cultures,” in Ensign, June, 1988, 26-31; and Griggs, “The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Book,” in Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship (Provo, Utah, Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1982), 75-101. }

{8} Leon Yarden, The Tree of Light, A Study of the Menorah, The Seven-branched Lampstand, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 1971, 40.

{9} Geo Widengren, The King and the tree of life in Ancient Near Eastern Religion (Uppsala Universitets Arsskrift, 1951), 38-41.

{10} Stephen D. Ricks, “Olive Culture in the Second Temple Era and Early Rabbinic Period,” in Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch, eds., The Allegory of the Olive Tree: The Olive, the Bible, and Jacob 5 (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book and FARMS), 464-65.

{11} His use of the word “endowment” was appropriate. An endowment is a gift which grows in value with time. For example, when BYU receives an endowment of money, it invests the principle and spends only the accrued interest. Thus the original gift remains permanently intact, providing a perpetual source of income to support university programs or scholarships.

{12}Sigmund Mowinckel, He that Cometh (New York: Abingdon Press, 1954), 66. For a discussion on the power of new names see, Hermann Gunkel, (Michael D. Rutter, trans.); The Folktale in the Old Testament (Sheffield, England, Almond Press, 1987), 87.

{13} A. R. Johnson, “Hebrew Conceptions of Kingship,” in S. H. Hooke, ed., Myth, Ritual, and Kingship (Oxford, 1958), 207-208, quotes 1 Samuel 16:13.

{14} Frederick H. Borsch, The Son of Man in Myth and History (SCM Press, London, 1967), 96.

{15} Widengren, “Baptism and Enthronement,” 213-14. The quotes he uses are from Ps. Clem. Recognitions syriace, ed. Frankenberg, I, 45, 4 and I, 46, 335.

{16} Stephen D. Ricks, “The Treaty/Covenant Pattern in King Benjamin’s Address (Mosiah 1-6),” BYU Studies, 24:2, 1984, 151-62.
Sigmund Mowinckel, translated by A.P. Thomas, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship, 2 vols., Abingdon, Nashville, 1962, 1:50-61.

For a discussion of Psalm 25 see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord (2011 edition), 373-89.
Perhaps the most vivid description of the eternal anointing, clothing, and teaching ordinances is given in Enoch’s account of his sode experience. The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2 vols., ed. R. H. Charles (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976), 2:431-69. Early Christians included at least some of Enoch in their canon. Jude 1:14-16 is 1 Enoch 1:9.

{17} “Crucifixion” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1991), 199-200.

{18} C. Wilfred Griggs, “The tree of life in Ancient Cultures, in Ensign, June 198, 26-31.

{19} Gospel of Philip, in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha, Revised Edition (Westminster, John Knox Press, 1991), 199. Also see: Gospel of Philip in James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English (San Francisco, Harper & Roe, 1988), 153.

{20} For a discussion of “faith” as covenant or contract see Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Meaning of ‘Faith’ — Pistis,” first edition, 1007-1025; second (paperback) edition, 697-710.

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John14:27-31– ‘my peace I give unto you’ — LeGrand Bake

After having promised the apostles he would be with them forever, the Savior said,

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John14:27).

In this world peace comes in many ways. Many are as powerful as they are beautiful. If it were not so we would all go mad. But the Savior was speaking of a peace that is beyond the reach of this world’s most sublime experiences.

Before we can distinguish the Savior’s peace from all the rest, we must describe the others. Each of us live in three worlds and we interact with all three.

1. There is the world where we have to deal with other people.
2.  There is a world where we interact only with our own thoughts.
3.  And there is an even more private world where we communicate with the Spirit of God

The peace like a child needs is the most fundamental of all. It means a place where one can be to find shelter, food, clothes, and people whom we can trust. Beyond that, the physical stability that comes with not being subjected to violence is the most important. Ideally, all that comes from a loving home with understanding parents. In a larger sense, such security is the blessings of a strong military and an efficient, reliable police force that enables us to live in a peaceful neighborhood. To the ancient prophets the prospect of living in a city without stone walls to protect it seemed to be a promise of paradise. Living in that kind of paradisiacal security is what we often think of when we speak of this world’s peace. But there are others.

Financial security for adults is a different kind of peace. It is having an income large enough to provide for the needs of oneself and/or for the other people who depend upon us. For a child it means being able to have an ice cream cone when the other children have one.

Those are the things necessary for peace where peace is not having external pressures that disrupt one’s life. But there are others that are also important to having peace in this world.

In order to have internal peace we must feel socially accepted so that we do not have to justify who and what we are.

A congenial Family is the primary source of peace for many where “family” means there is someone to whom we can turn to when our world is not looking so good. It often means having a confidant who understands our problems, who will listen and try to help.

Often as important as family are friends with whom we can share our interests, our pleasures and even our most intimate Selves. We need people we can laugh with, whom we can laugh at, and who can laugh at us.

Acquaintances with whom we are comfortable and around whom we do not feel threatened is vital to feeling secure in the workplace and in the neighborhood.

In all of these things, peace is a product of our personal freedom to think and to act, but if we abuse that freedom we restrict our options and blunt our peace. The primary purpose of a free government is to protect its citizens, but otherwise leave them alone and let them be the best they can be. When persons seek to disturb the peace of other people then the function of government is to provide laws, courts, police, and military that can intervene to prevent or suppress that disturbance. Otherwise, people are most free and productive when the government keeps out of their private lives. The tenth Amendment to the American Constitution says that clearly. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

All of these are the environmental, external ways we can fit comfortably into a non-aggressive society. It is the society and the people in it with whom we associate who make us feel secure and at peace.

However, personal peace is as much (sometimes more) a product of how we think and what we think about. There is a world where we interact only with our own thoughts and it is in that world where we find the greatest trauma or the greatest peace.

The disruption of our peacefulness is sometimes caused by very real noise, like frustrations in a traffic jam, the words aimed at us from some angry person, disappointments in someone or something we thought we could trust, like a friend who turned out to be a gossip or a car that would not start. In this regard one of Shakespeare’s greatest villains comes up with some of the best advice.

Things without all remedy
Should be without regard:
what’s done is done. {1}

However, passivity is only a small part of the peace within us.
There are three other kinds of peace that are equally important to the environmental security already described. First among these is the satisfaction we feel from being to other people the things that give peace to us

We began by observing that each of us live in three worlds. The most obvious is the world with other people in it. We have discussed that largely as an ideal, but that world is not ideal. There are all sorts of people in it. There are friends who share our concerns and defend our interests. There are enemies who would support whatever proposition that is not in our best interests. There are people who do not care about us. What is important to us never plays into their decision making. Often, we are about as interested in them as they are in us. However, it is they who may have the greatest impact on our character and our sense of Self.

They are the non-people we pass on the street, the store clerk we hand money to as though she were a vending machine. We do not listen to her when she says “have a nice day” in a voice that carries no meaning. She is an alien. We live is a world of aliens. Being surrounded by non-person aliens is lonely and depressing. I went into an office supply store just before it closed and asked the young lady where I could find something. She walked me to the rear of the store to show me where it was. As we walked we also visited, mostly about her interests. When I thanked her for her help, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Do you know, you are the only person who has been nice to me all day.” It was lonely for her to spend the whole day being a non-person.

I was no one special but I had learned from the great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber how to overcome that oppressive loneliness that comes from being a no one. In his book, I and Thou, he observed that we treat some people as though they were only two dimensional, stiff and flat like cardboard. {2}

Some people insist on presenting themselves that way, but that is their choice and need not impose itself upon our acknowledging them as real people. Buber says that as we look upon the rest of humanity as three dimensional living people, and treat them that way, we free ourselves from the unhappiness of living in a cardboard world. If we acknowledge other people as real then we can be real too.

Several years before I talked with the young woman in the office supply store my realization of what Buber meant stunned me when I realized I was treating a person the same way I would I would treat a vending machine.

At that time I regularly went to a grocery store and frequently got in the line of a somber check-out clerk. Each time, when it was my turn I would ask, “How are you?” And she would tell me!!!! I listened, but inside I responded, ‘Hey, that’s a greeting not a question.’ She answered it as a question, as though I had actually wanted to know.

I had read Buber and knew the drill, so I would smile and listen as she bagged my groceries and took my money. Then, one day I slipped off a ladder, hit my foot on the concrete sidewalk, broke my ankle, and did not go shopping for several weeks. When I did, I saw that hers was the shortest line, so I reluctantly went there. When our eyes met she said, “Hello, I haven’t seen you for a long time and I have missed you.” I was devastated! I smiled, said something pleasant, and listened again as she told me her troubles. As I stood there, Hamlet’s words echoed in my mind like an accusation. “One can smile, and smile and be a villain.”

That conversation was one of the most important in my life because it hurt so much. I was pretending to treat people as though they were real while being cardboard myself. It was a kind of emotional imprisonment that precluded the freedom to be my Self and therefore it precluded the possibility of my being at peace.

There is the world where we interact only with our own thoughts. To be at peace in that world we must be comfortable in our own minds and in our own skin.

As in the Hymn of the Pearl and several places in the Book of Mormon, one cannot be clothed in the robes of righteousness until one first removes the filthy clothing by which one is defined in and by this world, thus becoming “naked” before God. “Naked” does not necessarily mean nude. To be naked is to be stripped of the insignia by which one is defined, as when a court-martialed general is cashiered. He is stripped of medals that denoted his honors and rank, but he is not disrobed. He stands naked, but not nude. So Alma asked:

28 Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.
29 Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless (Alma 5:28-29).

An apocryphal writing reports that Jesus’s disciples asked, “‘When will you become revealed to us and when shall we see you?’Jesus said, ‘When you disrobe without being ashamed and take up your [clothes] and place them under your feet like little children and tread on them, then will you see the son of the living one, and you will not be afraid.’” {3}

Minds are active. Sometimes mental replays of past events or conversations, or aimless wonderings through non-ideas can rise to the surface of our consciousness to produce a noise that is as annoying as the real noise of a traffic jam.

Many years ago in General Conference I heard one of the Brethren describe his method of thwarting that noise. He said he had a favorite hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and when subconscious noise surfaced to his thoughts, he used the words of that hymn to override the noise. I use “Teach Me to Walk in the Light of Thy Love” for that same purpose. That noise is rarely bothersome now.

Peace is the power to be one’s Self. But there is a counterfeit to that peace which is the presumed power to impose oneself upon the lives of other people. For those who use the currency of that counterfeit, they use projected friendships as a guise by which to manipulate a subordinate or supposed inferior. In their arrogance they do not realize the transparency of their smiling mask. The principle is very simple: You can frighten others to do what you asked, you can intimidate them to say they believe what you say, but you cannot coerce them to respect or even like you. Simpler translation: around you I am expected to pretend that I am made of cardboard but in fact it is only an acknowledgment that your strut is only flat and two dimensional.

Similarly, there are professional and do-gooder religionists, Christian and otherwise, who, contrary to the laws of nature, use their religion as a weapon by which to judge and persecute others. They enforce their self-defined righteousness by every immoral means: ridicule, insisting on the norms of obsolete cultural morality, and government authority when they can control it.

Even in this world of cardboard people and self-appointed demigods, the integrity of honest people, when reinforced by the Spirit of the Lord, remains unassailable. The power of the Savior is greater than the power of fear. This is true especially for Latter-day Saints who have the gift of the Holy Ghost.

However, it is equally true for good men and women who have lived in all times and all places whose purpose was to increase the freedom and well-being of their fellow human beings. Many live or have lived in a time and place where the fullness of the gospel was unavailable to them.

Spiritual power is difficult to define, not because it is not real, but because it comes in a long spectrum of lights. Ultimately it is a gift of the Spirit. The problem lies in trying to decide whether Joseph was different from John Wycliffe or William Tyndale. One can argue that they were different because Joseph had the gift of the Holy Ghost. However, one cannot argue that Wycliffe and Tyndale were not equally willing to sacrifice their lives for the gospel so we could have an English Bible. Neither can one argue that their integrity was not empowered and validated by that same Spirit of God as animated the Prophet Joseph, but that does not mean that they spoke and acted with priesthood authority as did Joseph Smith.

The point is that there is a power that comes through the Spirit that enables people to be absolutely true to the eternal law of their own being and to the covenants they made before they came to this world. In our hindsight we can see their mission was a necessary prerequisite to the restoration of the Gospel, just as were the missions of Columbus and Washington, who were not religious leaders, but who also knew the course their lives must travel and left it to God to make things turn out right.

——————-
All these ways bring peace to ourselves in this world. However, the peace the Savior promised is different from everything we have discussed so far.

Only a few moments before the Savior promised his apostles,

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

He also said,

18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:15 and 27 and 18).

In a priesthood sense, to be comforted is to have the power to transcend all sorrow. The words “peace” and “peacemaker” come very close to the same meaning. To be at peace with oneself and to be able to help others be at peace also are among the greatest personal attributes one can aspire to in this mortal world. The Savior’s peace is that power.

Ultimate peace is knowing one’s Self, and in that knowledge being secure in a relationship of unfailing love founded on covenants with other people, but most especially with God.

John the Beloved invited the Saints of his day into such a bond.

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:1-5).

Helaman expressed that love when he wrote,

41 And now, my beloved brother, Moroni, may the Lord our God, who has redeemed us and made us free, keep you continually in his presence (Alma 58:41).

Mormon described it as being where the Savior is.

19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ (Moroni 7:19).

In those relationships there is perfect love, perfect joy, and perfect peace.

—————————
FOOTNOTE

{1}Lady McBeth in Shakespeare’s McBeth, Act 3, Scene 2.

{2} Martin Buber, I and Thou (New York, Scribner, 2000).

{3} Gospel of Thomas in James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1988), 130-37.

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John 14:15-26 — Two Comforters — LeGrand Baker

Jesus promised his apostles that he would not leave them alone after his death but would “come to them.” He also promised that the Holy Ghost would help them remember all the things he had taught them.

After Jesus explained Peter’s assignment, he taught the apostles about his relationship with Jehovah, his premortal Self, and about his eternal relationship with his Father. {1} Jesus concluded that explanation with this promise:

12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (John 14:12-14).

He then taught them about power of that prayer by explaining the nature of their relationship with himself and his Father. He began by assuring them that he would be their Comforter, then promises that the Holy Ghost (which he also calls a Comforter) will enable them to remember all that he has taught them. That promise began with a command, but the command was not about unquestioning obedience. It was about a covenant/friendship love.

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

The word “love” is used eight times in the brief report of this segment of their conversation. In each instance love is translated from the Greek word agapao, which means to love dearly in a social rather than in an intimate sense. During this conversation that agapao is projected from now into forever. The Savior said,

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (John 14:15-17). {2}

The Savior gave the same promise to Joseph Smith and those who were with him at Kirtland.

3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom (D&C 88:1-4).

The Prophet Joseph explained,

There are two Comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all Saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence    ……………
The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.
[cites John 14:12-17].

Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less [151] than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions–Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.{3}
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When the King James Version was translated, “comfort” meant just exactly what the Latin said: “with strength,” to strengthen, or to empower. {4} “Comfort” still meant that in 1787 when the American Constitution was written. There, treason is defined as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” That did not mean it was treason to help the enemy feel better by giving him an aspirin and a warm blanket. In the Constitution treason to empower an enemy. That empowerment is called “comfort.” It also has the connotation of empowerment in the Bible.

The most extensive analysis of the biblical term is by Gary Anderson, who writes,

This verb “to comfort” (n-h-m) does not connote a simple act of emotional identification. Comfort can imply either the symbolic action of assuming the state of mourning alongside the mourner, or it can have the nuance of bringing about the cessation of mourning…. The latter usage, to bring about the cessation of mourning, is very common in prophetic oracles of deliverance. The famous exhortation of Isaiah 40:1, ‘Comfort, comfort, my people,’ comes to mind immediately. As Westermann noted, the term conveys ‘God’s intervention to help and restore.’ {5}

Anderson’s definition can account for the way the English translators used the word “comfort” to mean the bestowal of authority or power. It also adds substantial depth to the meaning of some passages, like the 23rd Psalm for example. In the words, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” a rod is a scepter, the symbol of kingship; the staff is a shepherd’s crook, the symbol of priesthood. So the words might be understood to say, “I am empowered by the symbols of priesthood and kingship.” {6}

A stronger example is where the Savior paraphrased Isaiah 61 in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).” Matthew was written in Greek while Isaiah was in Hebrew. The word “comfort” in both places suggests both the Hebrew and the Greek were understood to have the same meaning. The Isaiah passage reads:

2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:2-3)

Verse 3 is the coronation ceremony performed at the conclusion of the ancient Israelite temple drama. {7} The King James translation presents a difficulty in that “for” in English can either mean “in consequence of” or “instead of.” In this verse both the Tanakh and the Anchor Bible have translated it as “instead of.” Here “to comfort” means to empower by making one a sacral king and priest by the ritual coronation. {8}

To comfort [empower] all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, [make them a part of Zion]
to give unto them beauty [a crown] instead of ashes,
the oil of joy [anointing] instead of mourning,
the garment of praise [robes of righteousness] instead of the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called [a new name] trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:2-3).

Isaiah 40:1-2 is another example. These verses report an event at the Council in Heaven where God (Elohim) speaks to the Council (the word ye is plural). {9} If one reads “comfort” to mean empower through the coronation ceremony, the verses take on enormous power. They read:

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins (Isaiah 40:1-2).

To comfort is to give power that one may act in authority to enable one’s self or another to transcend sorrow. That meaning is personified in the Prophet Joseph by John Taylor’s report.

4 When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood.” (D&C 135:4)

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To return to the conversation between the Savior and his apostles:

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (John 14:15-17).

The Spirit of Truth is one of the Savior’s a name/titles. He identifies himself that way in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph.

7 And he [John] bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was;
8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.
11 And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
……………….
22 And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.
23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things (D&C 93:9-11, 22-28).

In the next sentence John shows the tenderness in their relationship. That is also shown in the epistle written by the Savior’s brother, James the Just, who wrote,

27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).

The word translated “fatherless” means orphaned, bereft of a teacher, guide, guardian. That word is translated as “comfortless” when the Savior spoke with his apostles,

18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:18).

Read that as:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter …. I will not leave you orphaned, bereft of a father, teacher, or guide: I will come to you (John 14:16, 18). {10}

19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him (John 14:19-23).

The Prophet Joseph reiterated and clarified that statement in the Doctrine and Covenants.

1 When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.
2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.
3 John 14:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false (D&C 130:1-3).

This part of their conversation concluded when the Savior promised his apostles that the Holy Ghost would enable them to remember everything he had taught them.

24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me
25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:24-26).
————————

The Holy Ghost is our comforter, our communicator, and our purifier. As Moroni wrote, “after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 6:4). The most important function of the Holy Ghost is to testify and teach about the Savior and his Father. The Savior explained,

32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things (3 Nephi 11:32-37).

The nature of that purification was written in the classic, and probably the best known, LDS statement about the gift of the Holy Ghost by one of the Church’s foremost early poets, Apostle Parley P. Pratt. Elder Pratt wrote,

The gift of the Holy Spirit adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.
In the presence of such persons, one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit. No matter if the parties are strangers, entirely unknown to each other in person or character; no matter if they have never spoken to each other, each will be apt to remark in his own mind, and perhaps exclaim, when referring to the interview—“O what an atmosphere encircles that stranger! How my heart thrilled with pure and holy feelings in his presence! What confidence and sympathy he inspired! His countenance and spirit gave me more assurance, than a thousand written recommendations, or introductory letters.” Such is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and such are its operations, when received through the lawful channel—the divine, eternal Priesthood. {11}

In a priesthood sense, to comforted to have the power to transcend sorrow. The words “peace” and “peacemaker” come very close to the same meaning. To be at peace with oneself, and to be able to help others be at peace also are among the greatest personal powers one can obtain in this world.

After having promised the apostles he would be with them forever, the Savior said,

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

That conversation is best viewed like a beautiful painting: standing back far enough that the whole of it can be absorbed all at once. Here it is without interruption.

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of
truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:15-27 {12})

We conclude with the Savior’s invitation:

20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day (3 Nephi 27:20).

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FOOTNOTES

{1} This concept is much easier to understand from Abinadi’s explanation to Alma as explained in chapter “John 13:38 — ‘till thou hast denied me thrice’ – Peter’s Necessary Witness of the Atonement.”

{2}Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Meaning of Comfort” first edition, 467-71; second (paperback) edition, 340-42.

{3}Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Deseret News Press, 1951), 149-51.

{4}Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Meaning of Comfort” first edition, 467-71; second (paperback) edition, 340-42.

{5} Gary A. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance: The Expression of Grief and Joy in Israelite Religion (University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 84-85.

{6} For a discussion of the entire 23rd psalm see Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend intot he Hill of the Lord, first edition, 525-43; second (paperback) edition 378-97.

{7} For an excellent discussion of the coronation ceremony, see Stephen D. Ricks and John J. Sroka, “King, Coronation, and Temple: Enthronement Ceremonies in History,” in Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1994), 236-71.

{8} For a more detailed explanation of these verses see Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Act 2, Scene 9: The Coronation Ceremony in Isaiah 61,” first edition, 461-517; second (paperback) edition, 336-73.

{9} We can tell this takes place in the Council because the next few verses are John the Baptist’s premortal assignment.

{10} Strong # 3737 “bereaved (‘orphan’), i.e. Paretless –– comfortless, fatherless
orphaned.”
Tyler’s Greek Lexicon: “bereft (of a father, of parents, Jas 1:27), fatherless of those bereft of a teacher, guide, guardian, Jn 14:18″

{11} Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology (Liverpool, F.D. Richards & London, L.D.S. Book Depot,1855), 98-99.

{12} The conversation is unchanged in the Inspired Version of the Bible.

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