2 Nephi 2:25 – LeGrand Baker – “that they might have joy”
2 Nephi 2:25
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
Probably more than any other passage in the Book of Mormon, this verse has become a cliché among Mormon people. I once heard someone say that the sentence was a bit awkward, and wondered why Lehi hadn’t just said “Adam fell so men could live happily.” His point was well taken: If one is going to trivialize ideas which are most profound and most sacred, one may as well do it in a way that makes perfect sense, even if the sense is only minimally associated with the intent of the original text.
“To Be” and other forms of the present tense “be” verb (especially “am” and “is”) are the strongest words in the English language. Examples are the way God speaks of himself: “I Am,” and the way we speak of him: “He is.” It is in that context that one must understand Lehi’s “that man might BE.”
“To be” is different from “to live.” “To live” is only to be alive and that only suggests one aspect of Being. Shakespeare, in Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy, struggles with the question of the difference between living and “being.”
To be, or not to be – that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–
No more, and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep – perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of de’spised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would farde1s bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action (Hamlet, Act 3, scene 1).
Lehi answers Hamlet’s “unanswerable” question. Hamlet has projected his question into the darkened realms of future uncertainly, where “to be” lurks like a fearsome dream; but Lehi’s answer is projected into realms of light, where to be is to know boundless joy. Hamlet’s question is the focal point of Shakespear’s most brilliant play. Lehi’s answer is a summing up of all the aged prophet knew. To understand what Lehi meant, would require understanding what he knew. That is beyond the scope, not only of my knowledge, but even of my imagination. Yet there are scriptures which can help.
So far as I know, one of the best commentaries on the relationship of life and being is in the first few pages of section 88. I would like to do a somewhat superficial review of only the first 32 verses, and thereby try to discover the beginnings of the answer to two related questions, “What is life that one might be?” and, “If to be is to have joy, how, in this life, can one establish his being, and taste its joy?”
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 [present tense] in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world (D&C 88:1-2).
I have often wondered why it did not say “the words of your prayers” or simply “your prayers.” What does “alms” have to do with it? OED helps a little. Its first definition of alms is “Christian relief of the poor.” That might be relevant to our question, but the second definition might help more: “A meritorious action.” Perhaps it may have had to do with the way they prayed.
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.
This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
I have also wondered about the word “Comforter,” as it is used here. “Comfort” is a code word in Isaiah 61:2-3. There, “to comfort all that mourn” means the same as performing the ancient kingship coronation rites:
1. To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion [That is, to make them a part of Zion], ‘
2. to give unto them beauty for ashes [Isaiah commentators say that represents a ceremonial washing–one washes to remove the ashes.]
3. the oil of joy for mourning [an anointing],
4. the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
5. that they might be called [new name] trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. [That new name represents the tree of life and the principle of eternal increase.]
If that is what to comfort means; and the Holy Ghost is the “Comforter;” and the Saviour is the “Second Comforter;” then I leave it to you to discover the implications as the word is used here.
5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son–
6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
These verses, even though they are couched in different words, place the ideas of this revelation in the same context as Lehi placed his words. That is, the meaning of “to be” and “joy” must be understood within the contextual meaning of the atonement of Christ. And the atonement of Christ must be understood in terms which reach from “the beginning,” to Gethsemane, to “the end.”
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space–
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things (D&C 88: 7-13).
John expressed the same idea when he wrote that in the beginning, “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of man. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (1:3-4)” Paul brings the idea back to Lehi’s statement by saying, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being;… (Acts 17:28)” And the Saviour pulls it back again, to the beginning, where it was with John. “…give ear to him who laid the foundation of the earth, who made the heavens and all the hosts thereof, and by whom all things were made which live, and move, and have a being. (D&C 45:1)” But in our section 88, the Saviour says the light was not only the life of man
in the beginning, but also in the resurrection. The revelation continues:
14 Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead.
15 And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.
16 And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul
17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it(D&C 88: 7-13).
As far a I can tell, in the Beatitudes the “poor” are those who have sacrificed a broken heart and contrite spirit, and the “meek” are those who keep the covenants they made at the Council in Heaven. It is they, our revelation says, for whom the earth was created, and, the Beatitudes adds, who will inherit the earth. Thus, the nature of the fullness of “life,” even in one’s distant future, is a “this earth” reality. Implicitly, that suggests that the joys also are a “this earth” reality.
18 Therefore, it [the earth] must needs be sanctified [future tense] from all unrighteousness [from everything which is not Zadok, temple oriented.], that it [the earth] may be prepared [future tense] for the celestial glory;
19 For after it [the earth] hath [future tense] filled the measure of its [the earth’s] creation, it shall be crowned [future tense] with glory, even with the presence of God the Father (D&C 88: 18-19-13);
I suspect that may also be said of us. If one is to be sanctified from all unrighteousness, one must fill the measure of one’s creation, and be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
20 That bodies [ the physical bodies of individual people] who are [present tense] of the celestial kingdom may [future tense] possess it [the earth] forever and ever; for, for this intent was [past tense] it [the earth] made and created, and for this intent are they [the individual children of God] sanctified [“Are sanctified” is in present tense. Throughout this part of the scripture the Lord moves back and forth from the present to the future, acknowledging the binding power between that which is present and that which is to come.].
21 And they who are [present tense] not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit [future tense] another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
22 For he who is not able to abide [present tense] the law of a celestial kingdom cannot [present tense] abide a celestial glory.
23 And he who cannot abide [present tense] the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot [present tense] abide a terrestrial glory.
24 And he who cannot abide [present tense] the law of a telestial kingdom cannot [present tense] abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet [present tense] for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.
25 And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth [present tense] the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth [present tense] the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not [present tense] the law—
26 Wherefore, it shall be sanctified [future tense]; yea, notwithstanding it shall die [future tense], it shall be quickened [future tense] again, and shall abide [future tense] the power by which it is [present tense] quickened, and the righteous shall inherit [future tense] it.
27 For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise [future tense] again, a spiritual body.
28 They who are [present tense] of a celestial spirit shall receive [future tense] the same body which was [past tense] a natural body; even ye shall receive [future tense] your bodies, and your glory shall be [future tense] that glory by which your bodies are [present tense] quickened.
29 Ye who are quickened [present tense] by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive [future tense] of the same, even a fulness.
If you have questioned whether the present tense verbs have really been in the present, or whether they have referred to the future as though it were the present, this verse should answer that question. Notice the word “then.” It clarifies the problem by clearly distinguishing the present “are quickened” from the future “shall then receive.”].
30 And they who are quickened [present tense] by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive [future tense] of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened [present tense] by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive [future tense] of the same, even a fulness.
32 And they who remain shall also be quickened [future tense]; nevertheless, they shall return [future tense] again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received (D&C 88: 7-13).
What all that says to me is that the glory by which one’s person is now partially quickened, will be the same glory with which one is fully quickened in the resurrection. I don’t think that is just talking about an accumulation of the good things one does. I think it is describing what one IS — the nature of his BEing. It has to do with what one IS within the context of the atonement. It has to do with the peace and charity one translates to joy, and with the peace and joy one helps others to achieve. It has to do with BEing a peacemaker within the context of this fallen world, without losing sight of the present reality of the future celestial earth. Thus, Adam fell that each individual might BE. And each IS that he might have JOY.