Mosiah 2:9 — LeGrand Baker — ears to hear

Mosiah 2:9 — LeGrand Baker — ears to hear

Mosiah 2:9
9   … that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.”

King Benjamin’s is speaking during what is probably the most important annual temple festival of the ancient Nephites. So what he says ought to be understood in the context of covenants and ordinances. We get only a small glimpse of the ordinances later on, when his audience speaks in unison while making a covenant.

Dil (Richard Dilworth Rust) sent me a copy of his question at the same time he sent it to Beck. His question expanded the subject considerably by adding Isaiah 6:9-10, so I have also expanded my comments in response to his question. As I try to answer Dil’s question, there is not much I can do except string a bunch of scriptures together and hope you will walk with me along the path of the ideas which they represent.

Isaiah 6:9-10, which Dil cites, is a part of the conversation between the Lord and Isaiah which took place when Isaiah was given his assignment at the Council in Heaven. It reads,

9   And he said, Go, and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10   Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed (Isaiah 6:9-10).

This scripture is important, because it brings the idea of “hearing” and “seeing” to the forefront, even as early as the Lord’s giving Isaiah his assignment during the Council in heaven. That is, “hearing” and “seeing” are recognize as vital issues way back then.

One discovers something of that same idea in Isaiah 48. In the Bible that chapter is the end of the Cyrus section, but on the Brass Plates, as we have it in 1 Ne. 20, it appears to be a discussion of the war in heaven. As far as I can tell, there are more references to ideas like “in the beginning” and before “you were born” in that chapter than in any other chapter of the Old Testament except the creation story. If I read 1 Ne. 20 correctly, the Lord is chastising people in the pre-earth life spirit world for not keeping their covenants (“they swear not in truth nor in righteousness”) and also for choosing to not understand the ordinances. He says,

6-8    Thou hast seen and heard all this … And that I have showed thee new things from time to time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them … Yea, thou herdest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time thine ear was not opened; for I knew that thou would deal very treacherously, and was called a transgressor from the womb (1 Ne. 20: 6-8). [Remember a third  part of these people messed up really bad. If I’m reading this correctly, he is talking here about their birth as spirit children, rather than their physical birth.]

It appears to me that in this chapter the idea of “hearing” and “seeing” (being shown) is associated with ordinances and covenants in the pre-mortal existence, but if I am not correct, the ideas of “hearing” and “seeing” are being associated with ordinances and covenants in this life. So it works either way. This association of “hearing” and “seeing” with ordinances is consistant with other scriptures. For example, before the Lord showed his great vision to Enoch, the Lord instructed him, “Anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see. And he did so.” (Moses 6:35) Expressing a similar idea, the Lord gave these instructions at the beginning of John’s Revelation, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” (Revelation 3:18) In a different setting, but probably not a different spiritual context, the Saviour turned to “his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see.” Luke 10:23)

Ordinances are also associated with the idea of hearing with the sacral ears. Here is a negative example, where Jeremiah says of his people, “their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.” (Jeremiah 6:10)

So it appears that the concept of one’s being able to see with one’s eyes and hear with one’s ears is an ordinance and covenant related concept, and is central to salvation, probably not only in the world in which we now live, but also the ones before, and, we may presume, also the ones after.

As to the nature of things after this life, these scriptures seem relevant:

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth [it]. (Revelation 2:17) That is explained by the Prophet Joseph this way: “This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s. Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known; And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.” (D&C 130: 9-11)

The concept of being able to see, hear, and understand is very big, even if one limits it to a this-world discussion. For that reason, my comment this week will be longer than usual. I appologize in advance for that. To make it easier to follow, I will break it down into the following ideas. First, the difference betweed the “heart” and the “mind” as they apply to seeing and hearing. Then the consistency with the prophets have admonished the people to “see” and “hear.” After that I will discuss the implications of what one sees and hears, and the promises given to those whose eyes can see and whose ears can hear.
HEARTS and MINDS –“your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.”

In the ancient world, the heart of an individual was the seat of his intellect as well as of his emotions. In their world, it was the heart which understood, considered, contrived, learned, loved, and hated. It was the heart, therefore, which was weighed on judgement day, in the theology of both ancient Egypt and ancient Israel. Significantly, it is the broken heart which is the sacrifice requisite to salvation in the gospel of Christ. But that sacrifice also requires a contrite spirit. The spirit and the heart are separate things. The ancients had no idea what the brain was for, so the use of the word “mind” cannot refer to the functions of the brain.

In a brilliant little book called The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient Israel (Cardiff : University of Wales Press, 1964)

Professor Aubrey Johnson has used the Old Testament to try to sort out many of the religious beliefs of ancient Israel. (He is not LDS, so does not have the advantage of having the sources we have.) From his study, Johnson concluded that the pre-exilic Israelites believed people are dual creatures, consisting of a physical body and a spiritual one. He wrote that the ancient Israelites believed one’s physical self had the capacity to think and feel emotion (i.e. the heart), and that one’s spirit self had an independentant ability to think and feel emotion. That was a new concept to me. LDS theology agrees that our spirit body somehow inhabits and animates our physical body, and when the spirit leaves, the physical is dead. With that understanding, we think of some sort of communication or coordination between our spirit self and our physical self as a natural and necessary phenomenon but the idea that our spirit has a separate and independent intellect is a philosophical step which most of us do not take. Yet it is one which is clearly taught in the Book of Mormon. (See the discussion of Mosiah 15:1-7)

As I read the words “heart” and “mind” in the scriptures, it occurs to me that as the “heart” is the seat of the intellect and emotion of the this-world person, it follows that the “mind” is the intellect and emotion of the spirit within us. If that is so, then King Benjamin’s admonition to “open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view (i.e. that you may see)” makes perfect sense to me.

In a related way, it also makes sense that having clean lips, or a worthy mouth, is an appropriate evidence of the quality of both the heart and the mind. The prayer of the palmiest, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD,” (Psalms 19:14) is consistent with a prayer for help: “For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.” (Psalms 59:12) As the Saviour observed, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34)


Throughout history, the Lord and his prophets have cited the inability to see and hear as evidence of a people’s waywardness. Enoch “heard a voice from heaven, saying: Enoch, my son, prophesy unto this people, and say unto them–Repent, for thus saith the Lord: I am angry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed hard, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off;” (Moses 6:27)

Moses complained, “Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” (Deuteronomy 29:4)

Isaiah admonished his people, “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see,” for he accused them, “Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.” (Isaiah 42: 18, 20)

Jeremiah charged, “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:” (Jeremiah 5:21)

The Lord warned Ezekiel, “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 12:2)

The Saviour explained, “Therefore I speak to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is the fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias [Isaiah], which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive; For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:13-16) He then adds, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. And blessed are you because these things are come unto you, that you might understand them.” (JST Matthew 13:15)

John, Paul and the Prophet Joseph also used the Isaiah 6 prophecy to apply to the people of their own times. (John 12:40, Acts 28:25-27; see the quote from TPJS below.)


In the famous prophecy of the Book of Mormon, Isaiah wrote, “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” (Isaiah 29:18) In the JST, the Prophet Joseph added a statement to that prophecy which brings together the promise of the Book of Mormon and the promise of the Beatitudes. The Prophet’s version reads: “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book; and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness; and the meek also shall increase, and their joy shall be in the Lord; and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.” (JST Isaiah 29:30)

In partial fulfillment of that prophecy, the Lord promised the Prophet Joseph, “Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see, and his ears opened that he may hear;” (D&C 136:32)

The idea of opening one’s ears, is expanded by this observation in Third Nephi which describes the coming of the Saviour, “And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.” (3 Nephi 11:5)

The following words of the Lord to Ezekiel were spoken in a different context, but the same idea is expressed, and the circumstances seem almost to be the same: “And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.” (Ezekiel 40:4)

As one must see, so must one hear. So it is not surprising that the phrases “he who has ears let him hear” (or some variation of that) is a kind of code in much of the New Testament. It is found in the gospels and in Revelation, and means something like: “If you are among the initiated, pay attention! I have just written something important and temple-related.” I quoted one of those above, in connection with the white stone. I will quote only one more of those passages here: “For there is nothing hid which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret, but that it should in due time come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:19)

One may get that same idea from another of the Lord’s instructions to Ezekiel. “And the LORD said unto me, Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the LORD, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.” (Ezekiel 44:5)

That reminds one of an oft-repeated prophecy of Isaiah. “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.” (Isaiah 52:10. That prophecy is cited in Mosiah 12:24 and 15:31, and by the Saviour twice in Third Nephi [16:28, 20:35] and again in the D&C [133:3].)

The statement that “the LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations” reminds one of the Lord’s question to the brother of Jared: “Sawest thou more than this?” and the response, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” (see Ether 3:6-16)

Similarly, the psalmist testifies,”Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.” (Psalms 20:6) He further prays, “That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.” (Psalms 60:5)

In these and many other many scriptures, for one to be saved, the “hearing” must go both ways, as the following Psalms suggest: “Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.” (Psalms 28:2) “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.” (Psalms 54:2) For Isaiah, the Lord’s answer to that kind of prayer was the promise of eternal life, couched in the memory of the kingship covenants he had made with David. The Lord is quoted as responding, “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” (Isaiah 55:3)

In the concept of salvation, the ideas of hearing and seeing come together in one place. Again it is the Psalms which says this most clearly. “When thou saidst [that is: when I heard you say], seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” (Psalms 27:8)

One’s seeking, wishing to see, is a hope for the fulfillment of an ancient and often reiterated promise. It goes back as far as Adam. “And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.” (Moses 5:10) It was spoken again by Job. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:17-27) Later, as Job’s story comes to a conclusion, we see him standing before the vail and here him say, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” (Job 42:5)

Again the echoing of the Psalmist’s praise,”Thereforemyheartisglad,andmyglory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.” (Psalms 16:9) [If “heart” is heart, and it is, then the question here is this: Is the word “glory” used here the way King Benjamin used the word “mind”?]

Perhaps Paul was writing of the same thing when he observed, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.” (2 Corinthians 12:2)

The Prophet Joseph’s introduction to D&C 76 suggests the same idea: “By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God-” (D&C 76:12) That sounds very much like the way Enoch introduced his vision. “Enoch a righteous man, whose eyes were opened by God, saw the vision of the Holy One in the heavens, which the angels showed me, and from them I heard everything, and from them I understood as I saw.” ( R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament {Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1976} Vol. 2, p. )

As a conclusion, let me turn to the Prophet Joseph for an explanation of this entire theme:

Now we discover that the very reason assigned by this prophet, why they would not receive the Messiah, was, because they did not or would not understand; and seeing, they did not perceive; “for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” But what saith He to His disciples? “Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

We again make remark here-for we find that the very principle upon which the disciples were accounted blessed, was because they were permitted to see with their eyes and hear with their ears-that the condemnation which rested upon the multitude that received not His saying, was because they were not willing to see with their eyes, and hear with their ears; not because they could not, and were not privileged to see an hear, but because their hearts were full of iniquity and abominations; “as your fathers did, so do ye.” The prophet, foreseeing that they would thus harden their hearts, plainly declared it ; and herein is the condemnation of the world; that light hath come into the world, and men choose darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. This is so plainly taught by the Savior, that a wayfaring man need not mistake it.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 95)

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