3 Nephi 20: 30-46 — LeGrand Baker — Latter-day history of temple building

3 Nephi 20: 30-46 — LeGrand Baker — Latter-day history of temple building

When the Saviour was in America, on his second day (which corresponds to the Great Feast or final day of the New Year festival coronation rites) he delivered an address to the multitude in which he paraphrased the same Isaiah text that Abinadi used here. If one wishes to understand what Abinadi is trying to say, it seems to me that one must begin by examining the Saviour’s rearrangement of that text, and his commentary on it. His words read:

29 And I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance, which is the land of Jerusalem, which is the promised land unto them forever, saith the Father.
30 And it shall come to pass that the time cometh, when the fulness of my gospel shall be preached unto them;
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.
32 Then shall their watchmen lift up their voice, and with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye.
33 Then will the Father gather them together again, and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance.
34 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.
35 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.
36 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.
37 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
38 For thus saith the Lord: Ye have sold yourselves for naught, and ye shall be redeemed without money.
39 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.
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; that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!
41 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.
42 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.
43 Behold, my servant 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, and his form more than the sons of men –
45 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.
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; and then shall Jerusalem be inhabited again with my people, and it shall be the land of their inheritance. (3 Nephi 20:29-46)

The story and message told in the sacred sub-text of the Book of Mormon is its sacred space. There is a linguistic veil which separates the surface story which can be read by any literate person, from its temple sub-text. 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 ancient Israelite temple. I would like to go through that statement by the Saviour again – not to interpret the sub-test – but to point out some keys by which it may be read.

v. 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 word. It means “fullness,” so must be read literally. As I have tried to point out before, I believe the surest and easiest way to read the sub-text of the scriptures is to assume the prophets knew all that the reader himself knows and a good deal more besides, so when one seeks to discover the temple context in which the prophet was writing, one must reach out to the very edge of his own understanding. 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 one he has entered the sacred space of the Book of Mormon.

v. 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 word is “pray.” “In” is also important. “In my name” means what it says. One of the characteristics of the sacred language is that words we often read only 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 verse 32. 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 appears to be the method.

v. 32a 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” and “pray” 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.1

Those key words, “fullness,” “pray,” and “together” are enough to give the initiated reader all one needs to know in order to understand the exact context into which the Saviour’s words have taken him, and thereby the key to understand the plain, but sub-textual 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,” as in the following two examples:

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).

Psalm 17 seems to be such a prayer. It asserts three times that the Lord will listen to one’s voice.

I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me,
O God: incline thine ear unto me,
and hear my speech. (Psalms 17:6)

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?” (The Promised Messiah, p. 557-8.)

32b. for they shall see eye to eye.

Seeing “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).

The Saviour’s paraphrase of Isaiah continues:

v. 33 Then will the Father gather them [the watchmen who participate in the prayer] together again, and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance.
v. 34a Then shall they break forth into joy – Sing together [same idea], ye waste places [sacred spaces which had become profane, but now are sacred again] of Jerusalem; for the Father hath comforted his people, [“comfort” in Isaiah 61 references the coronation rites: wash, anoint, clothe, crown, and give a new name.]
34b. he hath redeemed Jerusalem. [To redeem is to bring back into the presence of God]
v. 35 The Father hath made bare his holy arm [That means exactly what it says]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.
v. 36 And then shall be brought to pass that which is written: Awake, awake [You have heard those words spoken before] again, and put on thy strength [“Strength” connotes royal clothing], O Zion [Zion is the pure in heart]; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city [“Holy” means complete, nothing lacking], for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean [those who are not ceremonially cleansed].
v. 37 Shake thyself from the dust [In the creation story, man is made from the dust of the earth.]; arise [One stands to make a covenant, as in 2 Kings 23:1-3], sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.[A covenant with God is an enabling power.]
v. 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.
v. 39a 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, as I suppose in this instance, the phrase would carry a double meaning, and one of them would be the same concept as if it read, “that my people shall know my covenant.”

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 and the fire of the burning bush separating them.3 One can only really know the name of God when he tells it himself. Only in sacred space, either symbolically or in fact, can one learn, first hand, the name of God.

v. 40 And then[“then” is the key word. Here it suggests after they are clothed and know the name]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; [as in: “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 17:10).] that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!

There is only one way and in one place (either symbolically or in fact) where one can know that “Thy God reigneth!” That declaration can only be made with certainty by one who has been where God is.

v. 41 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. [“The vessels of the Lord” are the cups, horns, and other implements used in the temple ordinances.]
v. 42 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.
v. 43 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
v. 44 As many were astonished at thee–his visage was so marred, more than any man [as in Psalms 22], and his form more than the sons of men–
v. 45a 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.

v. 45b. the kings [sacral kings] shall shut their mouths at him, [This could mean to stand in awe, listen rather than talk, or know how to keep a secret, probably the latter.]for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
v. 46a 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 10:28-34]; and then shall Jerusalem be inhabited again with my people, [italics added]

My people” are the covenant, initiated people who constitute Zion. “Zion are the pure in heart.” They are the one’s spoken of by the Saviour when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

v.46b. and it shall be the land of their inheritance. (3 Nephi 20:30-46).

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