Jarom 1:11, — LeGrand Baker — value of the Law of Moses

Jarom 1:11, — LeGrand Baker — value of the Law of Moses

11   Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them (Jarom 1:11).

One of the biggest questions about the ancient Israelite religion is “What was the Law of Moses.” For Mormons, that question is expanded, because of verses like this one in Jarom to read, “How did the Law of Moses persuade one to look forward to the Messiah — the anointed one – the King.

Surprisingly, the Old Testament’s five books of Moses are not the best place to look for an adequate answer. We know from them the basic story of how the Law came to be, and what some of its criminal and social laws were, and we know a little about the sacrificial rites. But not much. The book of Leviticus is a how-to manual for the Levitical and Aaronic priesthood ordinances and sacrifices, but there is almost nothing there which tells what the king or the common people were doing during the great festivals. Neither is there very much that can be described as overtly “persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah.” There is the Passover lamb and ceremonial cleansing by blood, but they are not enough to justify Nephi’s statement, “Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given… ( 2 Nephi 11:4) Neither are they sufficient evidence for Jacob’s assurance that “And for this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him; and for this cause it is sanctified unto us for righteousness…” (Jacob 4:5)

Historically, the problem is that the five books of Moses in our Old Testament were severely edited during the Jewish apostasy which followed the Babylonian captivity. (All one has to do is compare the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price with the beginning of Genesis to see how severe an editing job someone did.) Consequently, much of the testimony about the Saviour which was in the Law, and almost all of the descriptions of the ancient temple rites and ordinances which were a part of the Law, have been edited out.

There are many examples: We don’t have a description of the temple ordinances associated with the great festivals, but we do have something which is very important. Many biblical scholars believe that the Psalms are the actual hymns and the dialog of the dramas performed during those festival temple rites. So if we wish to discover how the Law of Moses testified of Christ, the best place to look is not in the five books of Moses, but in the Psalms.

We do not know how many or which of the Psalms were written on the Brass Plates, but there are many phrases and short quotes lifted from the Psalms throughout the Book of Mormon, and Alma 12 quotes several verses of Psalm 95.

Since the Psalms were so important to the performances of the rites and dramas of the Law of Moses, it is reasonable to suppose that the Brass Plates contained all the Psalms which were a part of those rites and dramas. Whether we also have them all, one cannot say. Whether ours are in the same order, there is no question. They are not. The order was changed at about the same time, and probably by the same people who edited the books of Moses. So one can not read the Psalms in their present order to discover the sequence in which they were spoken anciently.

It is apparent from the Book of Mormon and the Psalms that the focus of the temple rites was the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah and the “way” provided for people to obtain the blessings of that atonement. They understood that the Law did not have the power to save, any more than does modern membership in the LDS church, without one’s personally availing oneself of all the blessings of the atonement. I think that is what King Benjamin meant when he observed, “…the law of Moses availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood.” (Mosiah 3:15) King Benjamin did not say, “…the law of Moses availeth nothing!!!” He said, “…the law of Moses availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood.” One could say the same thing about modern baptism into the Mormon church, and it would be equally true. But the Book of Mormon prophets also taught that “…the law of Moses… is a shadow of those things which are to come– ( Mosiah 16:14) The Saviour later reiterated that message when he said, “And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled” (3 Nephi 9:17).

I would like to give just one example of the power by which the Law of Moses and its ancient temple rites and ordinances expressed the foreshadowed the Saviour’s sacrifice and taught the meaning of the atonement. But, as I suggested, my example will have to come from the Psalms. How this psalm was enacted in the dramas presented during the festival, I do not know. But it should have had a profound effect on those who participated in the ordinances and experienced the drama. The 22nd Psalm is spoken in first person. It represents the Saviour’s words as he hung on the cross. You will recognize some of those words because they are quoted by the Gospel writers who tell the story of the Saviour’s death. This first person account of his suffering and death continues from verse 1 through verse 21. Then the scene changes, and we go with the Saviour to the “great congregation” which awaits him in the spirit world.

I believe if one wishes to get a good look at how fully the Law of Moses, with its sacrifices, ordinances, temple rites and dramas, testified of the Saviour’s atonement, this Psalm is the first, if not the best place to look.

1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

[The Saviour’s body is now dead, and his spirit goes to the “great congregation” which await him in the spirit world. The rest of this Psalm is a version of Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead, D&C 138.]

22   I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
23   Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel
24   For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
25   My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26   The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
27   All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28   For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations.
29   All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
30   A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31   They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this (Psalms 22:1-31)

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