Mosiah 15:28-31 — LeGrand Baker — Abinadi and 3 Nephi 20

Mosiah 15:28-31 — LeGrand Baker — Abinadi and 3 Nephi 20

Mosiah 15:28-31
28    And now I say unto you that the time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.
29    Yea, Lord, thy watchmen shall lift up their voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.
30    Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
31    The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

In verses 29 – 31 Abinadi quoted Isaiah 52: 8-10. The Saviour quoted that same Isaiah passage in 3 Nephi 16:18-20; then again in 3 Nephi 20. However, the second time he rearranged Isaiah’s imagery, and his new arrangement constitutes a commentary in which he explains why Abinadi used this passage in Isaiah to show “…that the time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.” I would like to review what the Saviour said, and in doing so, I would also like to discuss the nature of the sub-textual language of the Book of Mormon. Please remember that I am aware that the fundamental flaw in my writing style is that it sounds like I really do think I know what I am talking about, even – or perhaps most frequently – when all I am doing is expressing an opinion. And please remember that I know that what follows is only my opinion.

Third Nephi 20:30-46 reads:

30    And it shall come to pass that the time cometh, when the fullness of my gospel shall be preached unto them;

“Fullness” is a key code word. It means “fullness” so must be read literally. The easiest way to put Isaiah or any of the Book of Mormon prophets into the pot called “too difficult to understand,” and then to keep them in that pot with the lid on, is for a reader to assume he knows more than the ancients knew. If one does that, he assumes those prophets did not know all about pre-existence, fore-ordination, eternal marriage, the atonement, all of the ordinances and covenants, and all the other ideas which belong to the temple; then, when he reads Isaiah, for example, he says to himself, “Isaiah did not know such and such a thing, so he can’t be talking about such concepts.” As soon as one assumes that, the sacred language is closed to him, and our reader will not be able to understand Isaiah. That is equally true of Alma, Mormon, both Moronies, and all the Nephies. If a reader insists on limiting the understanding of the Book of Mormon prophets, then he will never find those concepts in the Book of Mormon, and that part of the book which is about the temple will be closed to him. But if, on the other hand, a reader assumes the prophets knew all that the reader himself knows and a good deal more besides, then, when he seeks to discover the context in which the prophet is writing, he will reach out to the very edgeof his own understanding. Out there is where one will find Isaiah, along with Nephi, Alma, Mormon, and Paul, all writing in a sacred language which is simple and easy to understand.

Since there can be no “fullness” of the gospel where there is not also a knowledge of the temple, the phrase “fullness of the gospel” immediately tells the reader he has entered the sacred space of the Book of Mormon.

31    And they shall believe in me, that I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and shall pray unto the Father in my name.

The key code word is “pray.” “In” is also important. “In” means in. One of the characteristics of the sacred language is that words we often read casually speak with all their power, and by so doing, give great depth of meaning to what we habitually pigeon hole as “I already understand that, so I don’t have to think about it any more.”

The next verse begins with the word “then.” “Then” creates a causal relationship between the prayer in verse 31 and what follows in the next verse. So the “then” tells us that the words which follow must either describe the results of the prayer, or else they must describe the method by which the prayer is said. In this case it is the method.

32    Then shall their watchmen lift up their voice, and with the voice together shall they sing;

The watchmen sing in unison. Now, given the context of the “fullness of the gospel,” one can easily recognize their song “together” as the ancient, sacred prayer circle, where words are spoken or sung in unison and where the movements of their dance are also in unison. {For further explanations of the ancient prayer circle see Hugh Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1992, 313-316; others of Dr. Nibley’s works; and also Donald W. Parry, ed. Temples of the Ancient World, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1994.}

Those code words, “fullness,” “pray,” and “together” are enough to give the initiated reader all he needs to know in order for him to understand the exact context to which the Saviour’s words have taken him, and thereby the key to understand the plain meaning of this paraphrasing of Isaiah.

So who are the “watchmen”? They are, of course, those who are engaged in the sacred dance and prayer of the ancient prayer circle. They are those engaged in “mighty prayer” in the following:

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).

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 [ “midst” means center, as in the center of a circle ] of them, and said unto them: What will ye that I shall give unto you? (3 Nephi 27:1-2).

Elder McConkie commented on those verses this way,

The Nephite Twelve “were united in mighty prayer and fasting…They were praying unto the Father in the name of Jesus.” This is the perfect pattern for gaining revelation or whatever is needed. In this setting, the record says: “And Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said to them: What will ye that I shall give you?” (Bruce R. McConkie The Promised Messiah,  557-8.)

32a    for they shall see eye to eye.

“Eye to eye” may mean there is no hard feelings or disagreements among the participants. It may mean that they can look across the circle and see into each other’s faces. It may mean what it meant to Alma.

26    For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and the knowledge which I have is of God (Alma 36:26).

33    Then will the Father gather them [ the watchmen who participate in the prayer ] together again, and give unto them [ those who pray ] Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance.
34     Then shall they [ those who are thus gathered ] break forth into joy–Sing together [ the gathered will participate in the prayer circle ] , ye waste places [ sacred spaces which had become profane, but now are sacred again ] of Jerusalem; for the Father hath comforted his people,

“Comforted” is a very important code word. When an ancient Israelite wished to show his repentance or sorrow, he would dress himself in sackcloth and put ashes on his head. When he was comforted he would wash off the ashes, wash his body, anoint himself with oil, then dress himself in clean clothes.

Isaiah writes about that process as an ordinance for the dead who are liberated from the spirit prison. In a revelation which is quoted in several parts of Doctrine and Covenants section 138, Isaiah writes of the great congregation which gathered in the spirit world to meet the Saviour before his resurrection (see especially, section 138, v. 42). Isaiah described the dead’s as being “comforted” in much the same way as we have just described, except the washing, anointing, and clothing are done by someone else rather than by themselves. The conclusion of their being “comforted” is that they become “the planting of the Lord,” a code phrase which suggests eternal increase. (Trees make fruit, fruit have seeds, seeds make trees, ad infinitum.) Isaiah wrote of the Saviour,

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

[ 1 ] To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion [ make them a part of Zion ],
[ 2 ] to give unto them beauty for ashes [ wash off the ashes] ,
[ 3 ] the oil of joy for mourning [anoint],
[ 4 ] the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness [dress];
[ 5 ] that they might be called [new name] trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3)

34a    He hath redeemed Jerusalem.

To be redeemed may mean purchased, ransomed, or being helped by a kinsman. However in the Book of Mormon and elsewhere it often means to be brought back into the presence of the Saviour, as in the following verses:

13    And when he [ the brother of Jared ] had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed [ present tense ] from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you (Ether 3:13).

[ Lehi to his son Jacob: ] I know that thou art [ present tense ] redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fullness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men. And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory (2 Nephi 2:3-4).

[ Lehi about himself: ] But behold, the Lord hath [ past tense ] redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love (2 Nephi 1:15).

But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord. Yea, and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance, that whosoever repenteth the same is not hewn down and cast into the fire; but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death, for they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness (Helaman 14:17-18).

35    The Father hath made bare his holy arm  (3 Nephi 20:35).

One who is not familiar with the encoded language might interpret this as always meaning that God will flex his muscles and exercise his strength. Sometimes it does mean that. However, sometimes it means exactly what it says: that God will show someone his arm.

There is a place where that actually occurs, symbolically at least, within the environs of the sacred language. It is on the mountain where the Lord extended his hand and the Brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord, just before the veil was parted and the brother of Jared entered into the presence of the Lord.

35a    in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Father; and the Father and I are one.

Here the phrase “the Father and I are one” define the meaning of the phrase, “shall see the salvation of the Father.” (“Salvation of the Father” might be a title which should begin with a capital S.) The word “see” means see.

One finds the same kind of imagery, in the same kind of context, in the story of Job.

1    Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said, …
9    Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?
10    Deck [dress] thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. ….
14    Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee. ….

1    Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
2    I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
3    Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
4    Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
5    I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” (Job 40:1, 9-10; 42:1-5.)

36    And then shall be brought to pass that which is written: Awake, awake (3 Nephi 20:36).

One also finds that same kind of imagery, and in the same kind of context, it the last words of Moroni.

28    I declare these things unto the fulfilling of the prophecies. And behold, they shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the everlasting God; and his word shall hiss forth from generation to generation.
29    And God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is true.
30    And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.
31    And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.” (Moroni 10:28-31.)

36b    again, and put on thy strength  (3 Nephi 20:36).

Strength, as we will soon be told, is the code word for sacred clothing.
O Zion [ Zion is the pure in heart ]; put on thy beautiful garments [ that is clear enough, it means just what it says ], O Jerusalem, the holy ” [ Holy” means complete, nothing lacking ] city, for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised [ those who have not the evidence of the covenant ] and the unclean [ those who are not ceremonially washed].

37    Shake thyself from the dust (3 Nephi 20:37).

In the creation story, man is made from the dust of the earth.

37b    arise,  sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

One stands to make a covenant, as in 2 Kings 23:1-3. A covenant with God is an enabling power.

38     For thus saith the Lord: Ye have sold yourselves for naught, and ye shall be redeemed [brought into the presence of God ] without money.
39    Verily, verily, I say unto you, that my people shall know my name;

Sometimes, as in the story of King Benjamin and his people, when one learns the name of Christ they also take that name upon themselves. In the scriptures, new names are so closely associated with new covenants, that the words “name” and “covenant” can often be interchanged without changing the meaning of the sentence.

39b    yea, in that day they shall know that I am he that doth speak.

As was true with Moses when he stood in the presence of God with the fire of the burning bush [ veil ] separating them, one can only really know the name of God when he tells it himself. Only in sacred space can one learn, first hand, the name of God.

40    And then shall they say: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings unto them of good, that publisheth salvation (3 Nephi 20:40).

That may be understood in light of what Abinadi said,

15    And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet!
16    And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!
17    And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!
18    And behold, I say unto you, this is not all. For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people (Mosiah 15:15-18).

Or it may also be understood in light of Third Nephi when the Saviour came to them at the temple.

And it came to pass that he spake unto Nephi (for Nephi was among the multitude) and he commanded him that he should come forth. And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet. And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him (3 Nephi 11:18-20).

9    And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.
10    And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears (3 Nephi 17:9- 10).

40a    that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!

There is only one way and one place where one can know that “Thy God reigneth!” That declaration can only be made with certainty by one who has been in the throneroom, the Holy of Holies, of a temple where God is.

41 And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence [ the profane world ], touch not [ one would do that with a hand ] that which is unclean [ not ceremonially washed, etc., or not worthy of such a cleansing ]; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean [ ceremonially washed, anointed and clothed ] that bear the vessels of the Lord.

“The vessels of the Lord” are the cups, horns, and other implements used in the temple ordinances.

42     For ye shall not go out [ leave the “world” to come to the Kingdom of God ] with haste nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you [ to lead, show you the way ] , and the God of Israel shall be your rearward.

To protect you from your adversaries who would attack you when you are unaware. That is the same idea and the same context as in 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd…he leadeth me…prepareth a table in the presence of mine enemies.”

43     Behold, my servant [ the one who was called the “Father and the Son,” the Saviour himself ] shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
44    As many were astonished at thee–his visage was so marred, more than any man [ Psalms 22 ], and his form more than the sons of men–
45     So shall he sprinkle many nations;

In the temple ceremonies of ancient Israel, the High Priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrificial offering on the Tabernacle altar, the congregation, and on himself. This sprinkling with blood was a symbolic cleansing and was a necessary prerequisite to the other temple ordinances.

45a    the kings

A king is not necessarily a potentate of this world. A legitimate king is one who has received the coronation rites of the temple.

45b    shall shut their mouths at him,

This could mean to stand in awe, listen rather than talk, or know how to keep a secret. In any case, from the time the arm was revealed until now, we have been talking about whose arm it was. Now, brother of Jared like, those who see also understand.

45c    for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. [ That’s straight forward enough. ]
46    Verily, verily, I say unto you, all these things shall surely come, even as the Father hath commanded me. Then shall this covenant which the Father hath covenanted with his people be fulfilled [ see Moroni 10 ];
46a    and then shall Jerusalem be inhabited again with my people,

“My people” are the covenant, initiated people who constitute Zion. “Zion are the pure in heart.” “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

46b    and it shall be the land of their inheritance.

The land shall be theirs by right, and it cannot be taken from them (3 Nephi 20:30-46).  (see #9 below for a discussion of “prosper in the land”)

You see how powerful, explicit, and yet how exclusionary the language is. One’s reading scriptures like this is walking in sacred space, and is limited to those who already know. For such people, there is nothing either obscure or hard to understand in this paraphrasing of Isaiah’s words by the Saviour. To demonstrate how true that is, please read it again in the paragraph below, as it was spoken by the Saviour, and see how clearly and powerfully it delivers its message.

And it shall come to pass that the time cometh, when the fullness of my gospel shall be preached unto them; And they shall believe in me, that I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and shall pray unto the Father in my name. Then shall their watchmen lift up their voice, and with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye. Then will the Father gather them together again, and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance. Then shall they break forth into joy–Sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Father hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Father hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Father; and the Father and I are one. And then shall be brought to pass that which is written: Awake, awake again, and put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city, for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus saith the Lord: Ye have sold yourselves for naught, and ye shall be redeemed without money. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that my people shall know my name; yea, in that day they shall know that I am he that doth speak. And then shall they say: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings unto them of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth! And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. For ye shall not go out with haste nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel shall be your rearward. Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. As many were astonished at thee–his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men– So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Verily, verily, I say unto you, all these things shall surely come, even as the Father hath commanded me. Then shall this covenant which the Father hath covenanted with his people be fulfilled; and then shall Jerusalem be inhabited again with my people, and it shall be the land of their inheritance (3 Nephi 20:30-46).

The story and message told in the sacred code language of the Book of Mormon is the book’s “sacred space.” That sacred space is kept more secure in the Book of Mormon than sacred space could ever be secured in a three dimensional temple. Pompey, the Roman general, could ride his horse into the Holy of Holies of the temple at Jerusalem to see for himself what was there, but only the initiated can ever know first-hand the sacred space of the Book of Mormon. There is a linguistic veil which separates the surface story and message which can be read by any literate person, from the sacred space of the Book of Mormon. But while everything about that surface story invites one to discover its veil and learn its sacred language, the encoded story and message can only be read within the context of the legitimate functions of a three dimensional temple.

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