How about this! This body of mine finally got “old.” Its been trying to tell me that for quite a few years but the part of me that matters has a hard time taking it seriously. Collage students are still among my best friends and I still think of myself as their contemporary. But my body turned 75 last week, and people tell me that’s “old.”
Scott Oberg have been friends since he was a student at BYU. He sent me this beautiful testimony this week, and I asked him if I could share it with you.
LeGrand, Hello my friend. I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say that this week’s comments on a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit resonated with me. I know we have talked about it before and referenced it before, but the last several discussions of 3 Nephi 9 has just helped make the entire experience and the meaning of of the message all come to life. The words are indeed poetic and descriptive, but as I think of the Savior speaking these words with all the energy of his heart hoping that we understand the love that this whole message is communicated in leaves these words so understated on the page. I have felt many times that as Mormon was compiling the book how many tears he must have shed as he too wished he could communicate the power of the words and the love that all of this is communicated to us in. I don’t know what to say other than I continue to be amazed at how wonderful this book really is.
3 Nephi 9:21-22 — LeGrand Baker — ‘redeem’ – to ‘come unto Christ’
21 Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.
22 Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me………..
A Meaning of “Redeem”— to “Come Unto Christ”
The entire message of the Book of Mormon revolves around a single concept. It is the same as the pivotal doctrine of the festival temple drama—the basic human need to return to the Garden and to the presence of God. All other discussions in those chapters are subsets of that most important doctrine. It is what Alma called “the plan of redemption” (Alma 12). In the Book of Mormon, the word “redeem” has a specific meaning rarely found in the Old Testament. The meaning is the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama which follows the pattern of the universal “cosmic myth— returning home triumphant.”
For each person who participated, the entire ancient dramatic temple presentation was a review of one’s own eternal odyssey. Its purpose was, as Amulek assures us:
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors (Alma 34:32)
The operative word here is “prepare.” For some this life is the time to meet God, but even for such, there are necessary preparations to be made. For the rest of us, that meeting will come later, and this life truly is the time to prepare. Speaking of our time, Nephi wrote,
32….wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved (1 Nephi 15:14).
That was the entire point of the ancient temple drama: to teach one how to come. As we approach the great mountain, those familiar with it’s heights can tell us that there is only one way to get to the top. We must walk that path, and that path only, or we will never reach the Holy of Holies at the summit. The path is described in brief this way:
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am (D&C 93:1).
The way is described in much greater detail elsewhere. The following are examples:
26 And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved (Omni 1:26).
The “power of his redemption” is the power to bring us back to him. In much of the Book of Mormon the realization of the drama’s crescendo—to become a son and heir of God, and return to his presence—is encapsulated in the single word “redeem.” For that reason, an analysis of the way the Book of Mormon often uses the word seems very much in order.
“Redeem” has a number of different meanings in the scriptures, and its context determines what its meaning is. In both the New and the Old Testaments the words translated “redeem” or “redeemed” mean to purchase (as one would purchase something in the market place) or to ransom (as to pay to get another out of prison or out of bondage). The connotation is that through his Atonement, the Lord has ransomed or purchased us from the consequences and the bondage of sin and death.
The primary difference between the meanings in the New and Old Testaments has to do with one’s relationship with the person who does the redeeming. In Hebrew thought, the debt is paid by a brother or other relative, and the family relationship is a necessary part of the word’s meaning. For example, when a man dies and leaves behind his widow and family, a “redeemer” might be a near kin who is obligated by law to care for the them. In the story of Ruth, Boaz married Ruth according to his family rights to redeem her in her widowhood because, as Naomi pointed out, he was their “kinsman.” It is significant that “kinsman” in that story, and “redeemer” in Job’s statement, “I know that my redeemer liveth” are translated from the same Hebrew word.
In the New Testament, the Greek meanings of the words that are translated “redeem” carry no connotation of family responsibility. Consequently, the word “Redeemer” is not found in the New Testament. Even though the Greek words do not convey the idea of a family relationship, almost all of the ways the words “redeem” and “redeemed” are used in the New Testament focus on the ideas of one’s being a child and an heir of God.
The most important meaning of the word in the Old Testament, and the one used by most writers of the Book of Mormon, is in the Book of Job:
23 Oh that my words were now written!
oh that they were printed in a book!
24 That they were graven
with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body,
yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 Whom I shall see for myself,
and mine eyes shall behold, and not another;
though my reins be consumed within me (Job 19:23-27).
Job’s testimony is that because his Redeemer lives, Job shall see God. That same meaning is also found in the psalms. For example, in the 49th Psalm where to be redeemed is to be brought from the grave and into the presence of God:
14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave;
death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have
dominion over them in the morning;
and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.
15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave:
for he shall receive me.(Psalm 49:14-15).
Psalm 69 speaks of redemption before death comes. It reads:
16 Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good:
turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.
17 And hide not thy face from thy servant;
for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.
18 Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it:
deliver me because of mine enemies (Psalm 69:16-18).
That meaning is found throughout the Book of Mormon, where the words “redeem,” “redeemed,” and “Redeemer” usually mean the same thing as in Job: “yet in my flesh shall I see God.” It is the opposite of “second death,” which is to be excluded from the presence of God.
In the Book of Mormon, the “Redeemer” is the One who makes that return possible, because he is the God to whom one first returns.
The definition of “redeem” is given by Samuel the Lamanite when he said, “the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.” The context in which he said that is as follows:
14 And behold, again, another sign I give unto you, yea, a sign of his death.
15 For behold, he surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth him and becometh expedient that he dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord.
16 Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death—that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.
17 But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.
18 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 [zedek] (Helaman 14:14-18).
If to be redeemed means to be brought into the presence of God, then the phrase “plan of redemption” means the plan whereby one can be brought back into God’s presence and has the same connotation as the frequently repeated invitation to “come unto Christ.”
Nowhere is that more clearly explained than by the Savior when he introduced himself to the brother of Jared:
13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters (Ether 3:13-14).
A beautiful example of the fruition of that invitation is the one spoken by Lehi:
15 But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell [past tense]; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love (2 Nephi 1:15).
That is one of the most important verses in the Book of Mormon because it identifies a facet of the single most important doctrine of the gospel: by using the symbolism of an embrace it describes the Savior’s personal relationship with the righteous and incorporates into that same verse a number of other key words in addition to “redeemed.” The entire concept of this redemption is suspended on the past tense quality of the word “hath.” For Lehi, his redemption had occurred in his own past, but through the embrace it also continues as the vitality of his present and is the projected hope of his future.
The final phrase in our verse, “and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love,” is a reference to a physical embrace, a present and eternal token of friendship—a “hope” that brings the future fulfillment of the covenant into the reality of the present until it changes the very nature of one’s eternal being. (That, by the way, is how the meaning of the word “hope” in Moroni 7may be understood.)
The concept and the realization of “redemption” are together the most important doctrine of the gospel. It encompasses the power and meaning of the Atonement and of all our eternal relationships with the Savior—as a flower encompasses all of the promises of the seed that was planted, is the product of the stem and the hope of the nourishment from the roots and the leaves that grew from that seed – and that same flower is the promise of fruit which will produce other seeds, and thus the flower is both the glory of the past and the prefiguration of eternal lives in perpetuity. Redemption is the epitome of friendship, and the timeless light of all that is life. Another Book of Mormon example is Lehi’s blessing to his son Jacob:
2 Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.
3 Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.
4 And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory (2 Nephi 2:2-4a).
Here again, the power of the concept is in the verb: “I know that thou art [present tense] redeemed,” for “thou hast [past tense] beheld” God. Another example is Nephi, writing about himself, his brother Jacob, and Isaiah:
2 And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.
3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words (2 Nephi 11:2-3).
In another place Nephi wrote:
6 I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell [past tense].
7 I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat (2 Nephi 33:6-7).
Alma left us with this testimony of being with God and thus being redeemed:
23 And it came to pass after they had fasted and prayed for the space of two days and two nights, the limbs of Alma received their strength, and he stood up and began to speak unto them, bidding them to be of good comfort:
24 For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord [past tense]; behold I am born of the Spirit.
25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
27 I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off.
28 Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God (Mosiah 27:23-28).
A favorite example is the conclusion of Helaman’s letter to Moroni. It gives us a subtle insight into the foundation and fruition of the very intimate friendship shared by these two great prophets:
41 And now, my beloved brother, Moroni, may the Lord our God, who has redeemed us and made us free [both past tense], keep you continually in his presence; yea, and may he favor this people, even that ye may have success in obtaining the possession of all that which the Lamanites have taken from us, which was for our support. And now, behold, I close mine epistle. I am Helaman, the son of Alma (Alma 58:41).
Abinadi’s entire instructions to Alma rest upon the importance of one’s becoming a child of God. In that context, one may assume that in his statement, “For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people?” Abinadi was using the word “redeem” to mean to be brought into the presence of God and also to teach Alma that one must become a child of Christ.
If the whole plan of salvation were reduced to a single sentence, the first part of that sentence would be about the Savior’s Atonement, and the last part might read: “that one might return and remain in the presence of God.” That was the promise from the beginning. After Adam and Eve left the Garden, they were taught the meaning of sacrifice:
9 And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will (Moses 5:9).
Adam understood the full impact of “thou mayest be redeemed” and he said:
10 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 is significant that the Savior emphasized that same relationship in the Beatitudes:
Blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (3 Nephi 12:8-9).
The prophet Abinadi’s testimony to the young prince Alma uses different words, but carries the same message:
23 They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ, who has broken the bands of death (Mosiah 15:23).
In the 2007 October general conference, Elder David A. Bednar explained the importance of the phrase to “come unto Christ.”
The risen Lord next explained the importance of coming unto Him. The multitude gathered together at the temple was invited literally to come forth unto the Savior “one by one” (3 Nephi 11:15) to feel the prints of the nails in the Master’s hands and feet and to thrust their hands into His side. Each individual who had this experience “did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he” (v. 15), even Jesus Christ, who had come.
The Savior also taught the people to come unto Him through sacred covenants, and He reminded them that they were “the children of the covenant” (3 Nephi 20:26).
Repenting and coming unto Christ through the covenants and ordinances of salvation are prerequisite to and a preparation for being sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost and standing spotless before God at the last day.
(This is taken from Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord)