3 Nephi 12:4 & Isaiah 61:1-11 – LeGrand Baker – Temple rites for the dead

3 Nephi 12:4 & Isaiah 61:1-11 – LeGrand Baker – Temple rites for the dead

This Beatitude is a paraphrase from Isaiah 61.  

This post is in three parts. They are:
3 Nephi 12:4 & Isaiah 61:4-11 – LeGrand Baker – Sealing rites for the dead
3 Nephi 12:4 & Isaiah 61:3 – LeGrand Baker – washing, anointing, and clothing in ancient Israel
3 Nephi 12:4 – And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

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3 Nephi 12:4 (& Isaiah 61:1-2) – And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Isaiah 61 is deeply encoded, and, as is true elsewhere in the scriptures, the code is the ancient Israelite temple rites. If one knows the temple, then one knows the code. If not, the encoded message simply is not there. I would like to point out some of the key phrases so that it can more easily be read as a temple text by those who know how to read it that way. When one can read its code, this chapter of Isaiah becomes one of the most interesting and complete temple texts in the scriptures.

This chapter in Isaiah was very important to the Savior. He also quoted it on another occasion.

17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, [Isaiah says “to the captives”]
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. [those phrases come from Isaiah 61:1-2]
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears (Luke 4:17-21).

In his vision of the redemption of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith also quotes from that chapter. D&C 138 is the testimony that everyone will have a full opportunity to receive the gospel before the final judgement. his report of his vision of the redemption of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith twice quoted from Isaiah 61.

30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel (D&C 138:30-31).

When he identified those who were there to welcome the Savior to paradise, he introduced the prophet Isaiah by quoting from the first verse of Isaiah 61:

42 And Isaiah, who declared by prophecy that the Redeemer was anointed to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound, were also there (D&C 138:42).

From these contexts, we may safely infer that the “prisoners” here are those in the “spirit prison” who did not receive the gospel while they lived in mortality. That also sets the stage for understanding that chapter of Isaiah as being about the salvation of the dead. This does not imply that vicarious ordinances for the dead were performed in Solomon’s temple, but only that Isaiah knew that they would be valid after the Savior’s resurrection.

There is another place in the Old Testament that discuss salvation for the dead. It is in the the last third of Psalm 22. A discussion of that psalm is found in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, the chapter called “Act 2, Scene 7: Jehovah Conquers Death and Hell. ”

There is a careful discussion of the first three verses of Isaiah 61:1-3  in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, the chapter called “The Coronation Ceremony in Isaiah 61.” The full text of the book is available on this website under “published works.” In the following paragraphs, I shall summarize the information about those verses, then give a more complete analysis of the rest of the Isaiah chapter.

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Isaiah 61:1

1 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;

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Isaiah begins by recalling the Savior’s anointing at the Council in Heaven:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me

The “me” here is identified in D&C 138:42 as “the Redeemer.” I am aware of four accounts of the Savior’s being anointed. This one and the quote in D&C 138. Another is Peter’s testimony that when Jesus was baptized “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power” (Acts 10:37-38). The other is Psalm 45 which takes place in the council in heaven. (For a discussion thoses verses in Psalm 45 see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “The prince does obeisance to Jehovah,” page 201 in the hardback edition and page 207 in the paperback. The full text of the paperback can be found on this website under “Published Books.”)

Since Isaiah’s statement is already in past tense, I believe he is talking about the anointing in Psalms that takes place in the council in heaven.

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to preach good tidings unto the meek

The meek are defined in Psalm 25 as those who keep their premortal covenants. In D&C 138 we learn that those to whom Jesus personally visited in the spirit world were those who made covenants in the council in heaven and kept them in this world.

36 Thus was it made known that our Redeemer spent his time during his sojourn in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits of the prophets who had testified of him in the flesh;
38 Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all,
39 And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God. [lists many others by name, then adds:]
55 I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.
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he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

“Bind” means the same thing in Hebrew as it does in English — to tie up. The temple word that means to tie people together is “seal.” Given the context of this verse and the entire chapter, “to seal up” is an appropriate way to understand “bind” and “bound” in this verse. D&C 138 says they already felt they were in bondage because they did not have a physical body. Now, after they are sealed to each other, that lack can be rectified.

50 For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.
51 These the Lord taught, and gave them power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life (D&C 138:50-51)

The Savior told the Nephites that their sacrifice must be a broken heart and contrite spirit. So the “brokenhearted” would be those who have performed that sacrifice. (For a discussion of a “broken heart” as a sacrifice see “3 Nephi 12:3 — LeGrand Baker — poor in spirit” on this section of the website.)

The word “sacrifice” means “to make holy.” To make one’s Self holy gives it another meaning as well. Gary A. Anderson has observed:

When the lamenter has received an assurance of divine assistance or has experienced divine deliverance, he must offer either praise or a selamim sacrifice. Just as the sacrifice is identified as means of demonstrating joy before the Lord (so Deut 12:11-12 and passim), so also for praise.   [Gary A. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance, The Expression of Grief and Joy in Israelite Religion (University Park, Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 42]

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to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

When we read this, we read “prison” as the “spirit prison,” the place where the dead wait until they have heard and accepted the gospel and its vicarious ordinances. Margaret Dee Bratcher read the Hebrew differently, and added an interesting insight to the translation. She wrote:

To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners” … Some difficulty exists in the translation of the phrase “release to the prisoners.” The Hebrew word translated “release” appears everywhere else in the Old Testament with the meaning “the opening of blind eyes.    (Bratcher,  “Salvation Achieved: Isaiah 61:1-7; 62:1-7; 65: 17-66:2.” Review & Expositor, 88, 2 [1991]: 177-87. 178.)

If this is the meaning of “comfort” as the Savior understood it, then the idea so teaching the spirits in prison and doing vicarious ordinances in their behalf is precisely consistent with the that meaning of the word.

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3 Nephi 12:4 & Isaiah 61:3 – LeGrand Baker – washing, anointing, and clothing in ancient Israel
It is important to remember that these ancient temple rites were participatory ordinances. In the drama the king represented every man and the queen every woman in the congregation. So when the king is washed, symbolically the people are washed. Also when he is anointed, clothed, crowned, and given a new name. Even though this chapter is a prophecy about a temple drama that would be performed for the dead, it is the only place in the scriptures where one finds all of the rites of the entire royal enthronement ceremony. The consecration of Aaron is almost complete, except it lacks a new name (Exodus 28-29).

(Isaiah 61:3 is more fully analyzed in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord (1st edition, pages 469-515 and 2nd edition, pages 341-372. Except for direct quotes, the present short version has almost no footnotes to identify the sources of the ideas. However, there are lots of footnotes as well as much more text in the book. It is in this website in the section called “Published Books.” It is downloadable without cost.)

Isaiah 61:3 

3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

“to give unto them beauty instead of ashes”

The denotation of the Hebrew word translated as “beauty” is the beauty of a hat or turban, rather than a direct reference to the hat itself. The connotation is the glory of a crown. Some translations accept the connotation and use a words “diadem” or “crown,” rather than the more literal “beauty” as is found in the King James Version. In either case, the meaning is that the ashes were removed and then replaced by a crown. The removal of the ashes necessarily implies a ceremonial washing. The ashes would have been those of a red heifer, and the washing a ceremonial cleansing from sin.

In ancient Israel, putting a mixture of water and the ashes of a red heifer on one’s head was a formal purification rite. A red heifer was sacrificed once each year and its ashes were kept to be used in an ordinance that made a person ritually clean. In Isaiah 61 it was used in preparation for other ordinances that would follow. Instructions for the preparation and use of the ashes are given in Numbers 19:5-6.

Just as the sacred anointing oil was perfumed with a recipe that could not be legally duplicated, so there was also a sacred recipe for the ashes of the red heifer. The ashes contained “cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet” that were burned with the heifer.

Cedar is a fragrant smelling wood. Hyssop is a small bush, a branch of which was used for daubing the lintels of the Israelite homes in the first Passover (Exodus 12:22). It was also used in the ritualistic cleansing of lepers (Leviticus 14). Scarlet was “a highly prized brilliant red color obtained from female bodies of certain insects and used for dying woven fabric, cloth, and leather.”

The ashes were removed by a ceremonial washing. So, while the word “wash” does not appear here, it is a necessary part of the cleansing rites.

“the oil of joy instead of mourning”

Inasmuch as the early scenes of the drama had already shown that the king had been foreordained at the Council in Heaven, this concluding anointing was a re-affirmation of that premortal ordinance. As Borsch believed,

The ceremony is said to take place in the heavenly realms just as the royal ritual was often described as though it were taking place in heaven. Let us notice, too, that the anointing act here is not associated primarily with cleansing or healing, but rather with a rite like King David’s. It is said that the ceremony makes the pneumatic into a god as well, just like the one above. In other words he will be a royal god (Borsch, Son of Man, 184) .

Widengren added another meaning to the anointing.

The same, however, is every man who has been anointed with the oil that has been prepared, so that he has been made a participant of that which is possessed of power, even being worth the royal office or the prophet’s office or the high priest’s office. ( Widengren, “Baptism and Enthronement,” 213-14.)

The anointing has a double purpose. It is an adoption ceremony, making the king the son and therefore the legitimate earthly heir of Jehovah. That is, he could rule Israel as a representative of Jehovah. If he were not adopted as son, then he would sit on the throne as a usurper. In the same anointing the king or high priest is consecrated to that high office. (There is more about the adoption below in the discussion about the new king-name.)

“the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness”

The royal robes of the king are not described in detail in the Old Testament. However, some scholars believe that the descriptions of the High Priestly garments (Exodus 28-29) were originally descriptions of the royal robes, and the miter hat was the crown used by the king in the coronation ceremony. The implication is that the post-exilic editors who re-worked the books of Moses, allotted to the High Priest the royal garments that had once been worn by their kings. Widengren was among those who believed that all of the ceremonial clothing of the High Priest, including the breastplate which held the Urim and Thummim, was an adaptation of the earlier sacral clothing of the king.{1}

One of the best evidences that these were the garments of the king is this interesting coronation scene described in Zechariah. Joshua was not a priest but was Moses’s successor as ruler of Israel. It reads:

3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
4 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with clean change of raiment.
5 And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord stood by.
6 And the angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua, saying:
7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by (Zechariah 3:1-10).

The coronation clothing is always described as two separate garments. The sacred clothing attributed to the Aaronic priesthood High Priests consisted of white linen undergarments and outer royal robes. The undergarments were a two part suit—a long sleeved white shirt and breeches “to cover their nakedness” (Exodus 28:42. see also Mosiah 10:5). Above that he wore a solid blue robe with a fringe of alternating golden bells and pomegranates. The pomegranates were made of blue, purple, and scarlet threads—the same colors as in the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Tabernacle (Exodus 28:4-42). Around the waist was a sash, also woven in the same colors as the fringe and the veil. His breastplate was a kind of pouch or pocket in which he placed the Urim and Thummim. It was supported by shoulder straps attached  to an apron called the ephod. His crown was a miter, a flat hat made of fine linen, with a gold plate attached that was worn on his forehead. Engraved on the plate were the words “Holiness to the Lord.”

This same ritual clothing—or something very much like it—was worn by the early Christians. Paul described the sacral garments as the protective “armor of  God.” (Ephesians 6:10-18. It is also in D&C 27:15-18.)

The scriptures often speak of the clothing in terms of their meaning rather than of their physical appearance. Thus, the outer one is usually called “majesty,” representing the powers of kingship, and the other “glory,” representing the authority of priesthood (Psalm 45:3-4, Psalm 8:4-6, Job 40:9-14). God’s clothing is similar, except he also has a garment of light. (Psalm 93:1-2,  Psalm 104:1-2).

The interpretation of Figure 3 in Facsimile No. 2 in the Book of Abraham shows that the clothing given to earthly holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood is symbolic of the clothing worn by God. It reads:

Fig. 3. Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed.

Here, the crown is shown as a sun disk, but if it were laid flat, rather than being shown upright, it would be a miter.

Nibley’s description of the High Priest’s garments—which, if the above quoted scholars are correct, were originally the king’s royal garments—shows their sacred nature:

The combination of the items that make up the full clothing comes from the description of the high priestly garments at the beginning of Exodus 28. Very recently in Jerusalem, a magnificent book was published based on an attempt to reconstruct the kelîm, the supellectila, the implements and equipment of the temple, and the priestly garments (fig. 17). A section at the end of the book describes them in detail. In this particular passage there is general assemblage, a listing, and then a description of what the articles are.
“Thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother,” the Lord tells Moses (cf. Exodus 28:2), lokabod ultip’eret, “both for glory and for magnificence”—to give an impression, to fill one with awe. And the Lord instructed Moses to say to all the people of “thoughtful-mindedness” and intelligence “that they shall do so, and make such garments for Aaron, for holiness, and for his priesthood, to represent his priesthood to me” (cf. Exodus 28:3). “And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ‘epod [the much disputed ephod!], and the mo’il,” a “cloak, a covering, a long garment”; “a kotonet,” the “shirt”; “a tashbe,” a thing elaborately woven in a checkerboard pattern, or something similar; “a mitre,” mi .z ne -p e -t, “a turban,” “a round cap”; “and a girdle” or “sash”; “and these garments they shall make holy for Aaron, thy brother, and for his sons, to serve me in the priesthood” (Exodus 28:4). {2}

“that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified”

One is “called” by one’s name. Similarly, here to be “called” is to be given a new name. One finds the same usage in the Beatitudes: “And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (3 Nephi 12:9); and in Isaiah: “and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). A new name is a new covenantal identity. In our verse, it denotes one’s new relationship with God, much as Nibley writes, “In Egyptian initiation rites one puts off his former nature by discarding his name, after which he receives a new name.” Truman Madsen explains,

In antiquity, several ideas about names recur, among which are the following:
1. In names, especially divine names, is concentrated divine power.
2. Through ritual processes one may gain access to these names and take them upon oneself.
3. These ritual processes are often explicitly temple-related. {3}

The regal new name given to the enthroned dead in Isaiah 61 is “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified.” The meaning of this new name is an echo of the Lord’s words to Moses, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

This new name — new identity — is a promise of eternal lives. “Trees” suggests the tree of life. “Righteousness” is zedek—correctness and propriety in performing and receiving sacred ordinances. “The planting of the Lord” implies eternal increase (trees make fruit, fruit make seeds, seeds make trees, ad infinitum). And the words “that he [God] might be glorified” proclaim that the glory of God is inseparably connected with the continuation of the family (as in Moses 1:39). The importance of the family is again emphasized at the end of chapter 61 where we find “a song of rejoicing” in celebration of the sacred marriage. It is a hymn sung by the bride and groom:

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).

Psalm 2, The Ancient Israelite Royal King-name {4}

There is always a new name with a new covenant, whether in civil or ecclesiastical affairs. Some covenants in civil affairs are in the form of an oath. After an oath one becomes “sheriff,” “judge,” “senator,” or “Mr. President.” Some covenants are explicit, some are implied. When a bishop or scoutmaster accepts the call to serve, the covenant is implicit, based on an earlier, overriding covenant. He may still be Jake at work, but it is “bishop” at church. In that same way a missionary becomes “elder,” and a stake president becomes “president.”

The new name is a new identity. The person is different from the person before he received the name-title. Similarly, the long list of titles (names) of the queen of England identify her differently in different legal and ecclesiastical roles.

No coronation ceremony can be complete with the bestowal of a new name. In ancient Israel, even though the royal new-name that was given to the king during his coronation ceremony in the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama was different from the one given to the dead as is prophesied in Isaiah 61, its promises were no less far-reaching. The ancient Israelite royal new name is found in Psalm 2, which was sung at the time of the king’s anointing near the conclusion of the temple drama, In that psalm, the king’s new name is “son,” denoting that he had been adopted as a son and heir of Jehovah. {5} Psalm 2 reads:

7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me,
Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

The covenant name-title of the king of ancient Israel was “son” — the one formally bestowed on him at the time of his anointing as king. It was the epitome of his name-titles because it represented his having been adopted as a son of God. The implication was that just as the covenant between the house of David and Jehovah was eternal, so the sonship would not terminate with the king’s death. It was that name that established the eternal covenant relationships between the king and God, and by extension, between the people, the king, and God.

In all of the ceremonies and ordinances of the festival drama, the king was the main actor and represented each person in the audience, as though the play were only about that one person. That would also be true here. Because Psalm 2 represents an ordinance where each person in the audience had just been made a sacral king — not the reigning king, but a son and king in his relationship with Jehovah. Thus, inasmuch as the king had just been adopted as a “son” of God, the same was also true of all of the men in the congregation. What we find in the story of King Benjamin is applicable here. There we read:

7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters (Mosiah 5:7).

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ENDNOTES

{1} Geo Widengren, Geo. The Ascension of the Apostle and the Heavenly Book (Leipzig: Otto Harrassowltz, 1950), 25.
see also:
Frederick H. Borsch, The Son of Man in Myth and History, (London: SCM, 1967), 185, 194.
Ivan Engnell, Studies in Divine Kingship in the Ancient Near East ( Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967), 62-63.
Stephen D. Ricks, “The Garment of Adam in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Tradition.” InTemples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 705-39.
Stephrn D. Ricks and John J. Sroka. “King, Coronation, and Temple: Enthronement Ceremonies in History.” In Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry. 236-71 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 254-57.
Geo Widengren, “King and Covenant.” Journal of Semitic Studies (2: 1, Jan. 1957), 1-32), 21.

{2} Nibley, “Sacred Vestments,” In Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present,edited by Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 97-98.
The book Nibley refers to is: Moshe Levine, The Tabernacle: Its Structure and Utensils (Tel Aviv, Israel: Melechet Hamishkan), 1989.

{3} Madsen, “Putting on the Names,” in By Study and Also by Faith, 1:458.

{4} For an extended discussion of Psalm 2 and the royal new name see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, pages 499- 516, second edition, pages 360-72.

{5} Gerald Cook summed up the work of many scholars regarding the meaning of “son” in this psalm.. “The Israelite King as Son of God.” Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 73 (1961): 202-25.

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3 Nephi 12:4 & Isaiah 61:4-11 – LeGrand Baker – Sealing rites for the dead

The first two verses of Isaiah 61 are a promise to the dead that the ordinances and covenants performed in their behalf by the living will be valid. Verse 3 is an enthronement ceremony where the ordinances of washing, clothing, anointing, crowning, and giving a new name are all mentioned. The remainder of the chapter walks us through the ancient Israelite temple rites. It is deeply encoded, and I suppose that is the reason it appears to have been preserved completely intact. The code is the ancient temple rites, and if approached from that point of view, the obscurity of the code melts into a beautiful harmony.

The voice we hear at the beginning of Isaiah 61 is that of Jehovah. We know that because when Joseph F. Smith paraphrased the first verse in D&C 138:42, he wrote that “the Redeemer was anointed to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,” and the Isaiah original tells us the same thing, but in the first person, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek (Isaiah 61:1).” Therefore, it is apparent that Isaiah was speaking the words of the Savior, just as the Prophet Joseph did in many of the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.

After verse 3, the voice does not change, but the audience does. In verses 1-3, Jehovah is talking about a promised enthronement of sacral kings and priests among the dead. But beginning with verse 4, he is talking to the dead. So when he addresses “you” he is speaking to the dead who will hear the gospel; and when he mentions “they,” “strangers,” “sons of the alien,” “Gentiles,” and “their seed” all these are designations for the living who will act in behalf of the dead. That is made clear in verse 9 where we are told that “they” are Israel, that is, “they” are you and I.

9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.

“The seed which the Lord hath blessed” is the family of Israel who have the gospel and who will do the temple work for the dead. Now, returning to verse 4.

4 And they [the living] shall build the old wastes, they [the living] shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations [of the dead].

A “city” can be the buildings, the inhabitants, or both. There is little point in repairing the buildings “of many generations,” but if it is a reference to the people who lived in those cities, then it is an intelligible reference to family history and ordinance work for the dead. Isaiah uses the same kind of language in his prophecy about Joseph Smith and the restoration. It reads:

8 Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time have I heard thee, O isles of the sea, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee my servant for a covenant of the people [the footnote takes us to 2 Nephi 3:11, which is a reference to the Prophet Joseph Smith], to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners [same “prisoners” as in Isaiah 61]: Go forth; to them that sit in darkness: Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places [sacred spaces].
10 They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water [waters of life] shall he guide them.
11 And I will make all my mountains [temples] a way, and my highways shall be exalted (1 Nephi 21:8-11)

Similarly, in Isaiah 61, that great prophet uses the same imagery to identify those who will to temple work for the dead. Isaiah now tells how that will be accomplished:

5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.

This is a beautiful verse but deeply encoded.

5 And strangers [the living] shall stand

One stands to make a covenant. If “stand” is a code word, then the reason the “strangers” are standing is to make a covenant in behalf of the dead. An example of standing to make covenants is this story in the Old Testament.

3 And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant (2 Kings 23:1-3) .

and feed your [the dead’s] flocks

“Flocks” can refer to a congregation of people as well as to sheep, just as in the 23rd Psalm.

and the sons of the alien [the living] shall be your [the dead’s] plowmen and your vinedressers.

In ancient Israel the staple crop was wheat, which is the main product of the plowmen; wheat makes bread. Vinedressers care for the vineyard; grapes make wine. So apparently the “flocks” will receive bread and wine.

6 But ye [the dead] shall be named the Priests of the Lord:

That’s reasonable. After they accept the gospel they should be given the priesthood.

men shall call you [the dead] the ministers of our God:

To minister is to bless and to teach. So after the dead receive the priesthood they are sent on missions to do just that.

ye [the dead] shall eat the riches of the Gentiles [the living], and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.

If one understands “riches” and “glory” to mean the blessings of the gospel, then the meaning of this verse fits perfectly into the next one:

7 For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.

For your shame …. and for confusion

Read “for” the same way we read it in verse 3: “in place of” or “in exchange for.”

ye shall have double … they shall possess the double

The Law of Moses required that the firstborn son be given the birthright, and in acknowledgment of that birthright “by giving him a double portion of all that [his father] hath” (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).

Therefore, a “double portion” means the same as the “birthright blessings.” In a priesthood and temple settings such as Isaiah 61 and Isaiah 40:1-2 “double” represents the birthright blessings of Abraham. (Perhaps the story of Elisha’s asking Elijah that “a double portion of thy spirit be upon me,” and then his receiving Elijah’s garment of authority is another example [2 Kings 2:8-13]).

In Isaiah 61:7 Jehovah promises: [In exchange] for your shame, ye [the dead] shall have double [the crowning birthright blessings of Abraham]; and [in place of] confusion they [the living] shall rejoice in their [double] portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double [birthright]: everlasting [eternal] joy shall be unto them (Isaiah 61:7).

The Birthright Blessings of Abraham are the covenants the Lord made with Abraham and his family. We find them in Genesis 12 and 13, and they are more fully discussed in the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. They are the covenant blessings of family, land, priesthood, gospel, and invulnerability.

FAMILY

“I will make of thee a great nation….and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Abraham 2:9-11).”
“And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered (Genesis 13:16).”

LAND

“land which I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession (Abraham 2:6).”
“For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever (Genesis 13:15).”

PRIESTHOOD

“shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations (Abraham 2:9).”

GOSPEL

“in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal (Abraham 2:11).”

INVULNERABILITY

“I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee (Abraham 2:11, Genesis 12:3).”

The prophet Isaiah used the codeword “double” in the same way in Isaiah 40:1-2. The verses report an event at the Council in Heaven where God (Elohim) speaks to the Council (the word ye is plural). If one reads “comfort” the same as in Isaiah 61:2-3, that is, to mean the power to transcend sorrow through the administration of the coronation ceremony, then the first two verses in Isaiah 40 take on enormous meaning. The verses read:

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins (Isaiah 40:1-2).

The key is in the last bit: The reason why her iniquity is pardoned is because she has received from the Lord’s hand, the birthright blessings of Abraham in exchange for all her sins.

8 For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their [the living] work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them [the living].

For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering

The key to this intriguing sentence is the “burnt offering.” The Savior’s Atonement brought an end to burnt offerings. Besides that, the dead could hardly make such offerings any more—the animals where they are, are also already dead. So that eliminates a good part of what the verse might mean. For the living, there is one offering that is acceptable before the Lord. It is a broken heart and contrite spirit (3 Nephi 9:19-20). Any counterfeit of that is like robbing the Lord. The dead people are now instructed that they must make the same sacrifice as the living. (For a discussion of “a broken heart and contrite spirit” as a sacrifice see Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord (2011 edition), 620-25.)

and I will direct their [the living’s] work in truth

This work that the Lord will direct is family history. There are innumerable individuals who have dedicated their time and resources to doing genealogical research. They can and do testify that the Lord does “direct their word in truth.”

and I will make an everlasting covenant with them [the living].

In the context of the next verse, the covenant God will make with the living is the Abrahamic Covenant summed up in a single phrase: the sealing power. It is the overarching umbrella under whose definition all of the other ordinances and covenants can comfortably fit. It is the everlasting covenant that seals together all those who inherit the celestial glory and thereby validates all over covenants.

Up to this point in the chapter Jehovah has been speaking. But now the voice changes and we hear a hymn of praise sung by the dead man who, with his bride, has been dressed and prepared for a wedding.

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

The final verse is the conclusion, not only of the chapter but also of the Lord’s promise to the dead. It is a promise of the resurrection. For just as a seemingly dead seed is placed in the ground to become a living plant, so the dead body is placed in the ground to rise again an eternally living being.

11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

———————————————————-

Now, let me show you how precise this description of the ancient Israelite temple drama is: Read the entire chapter and you will almost be able to see it performed on a stage.

1 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;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
7 For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
8 For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations (Isaiah 61:1-11).

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