Ether 3:13 – ‘Redeem,’ to Come into the Presence of God – LeGrand Baker

The word “redeem” has three different meanings in the scriptures. In the Book of Mormon it almost always means to be brought into the presence of God, just as it does in Ether 3:13.

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 [present tense] from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you (Ether 3:13).

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as “redeem” is a commercial or diplomatic term that means to purchase or to ransom. The word worked well for Christians who used it to describe our relationship with the Savior. He purchases our sins and ransoms us from hell. {1}

The Hebrew word in the Old Testament means the same thing, except the Law of Moses requires that a relative redeem someone who is in bondage. The person who does this is called the “redeemer.” Because that is a Jewish rather than a Greek concept, there is no Greek word that means one who redeems, so the word “redeemer” is not found in the New Testament. {2} 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.

There are also places in the Old Testament where redeem means to be brought into the presence of God. Job laments:

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 the Redeemer lives, Job shall see God. That same meaning is also found in the psalms. An example is Psalm 49 where to be redeemed means 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 ominion 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).

In the Book of Mormon, “redeem” sometimes means to purchase or ransom just as it does in the Bible. But the most frequent meaning is the one found in Job. That is, to be brought into the presence of God. However, while that is the simple denotation, the connotation is much more complex than that.

Samuel the Lamanite explained that “the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.” However, he also says that only the righteous will be able to stay there. 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).

Both Mormon and Moroni taught the same doctrine. Mormon wrote:

6 And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment-seat.
7 And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end (Mormon 7:6-7).

Moroni clarified it even further:

12 Behold, he created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man.
13 And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death (Mormon 9:12-13).

Alma taught that this universal redemption is a necessary part of the justice of God.

14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.
15 But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.
16 And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness (Alma 12:14-16).

Alma further explained:

15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also (Alma 42:15).

Because of the Savior’s Atonement, mercy enables us to repent. It gives us the power to choose to repent or to choose to not repent. Thus, as we pass through the stages of our existence from intelligences until we are resurrected, mercy enables us to become (evolve into) precisely what we choose to become according to our own desires for gratification, happiness, and joy. Thus, because of the Savior’s mercy, when we stand before him on judgement day we will be the Self we have both designed and created. Then mercy will have accomplished its purpose and justice seals us as what we have chosen to be. Lehi explained why that must be so:

10 And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement (2 Nephi 2:10).

Alma explains how it is the immutable law of justice, not the merciful God, that punishes the sinner.

22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God (Alma 42:22).

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).

Thus, it is “the universal plan of redemption” that guarantees the perfect justice and the perfect mercy of God.

There is also an “individual plan of redemption” that is discussed in the Book of Mormon and is a part of the “plan of salvation” that enables the righteous to remain in the presence of God.

Alma uses the phrase “plan of redemption” to show that a purpose of the ancient Nephite temple drama was to teach them how to enter God’s presence. In Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, we drew attention to some interesting parts of his explanation.

28 And after God had appointed that these things should come unto man [that is, at the Council in Heaven when the decisions and assignments were made], behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them;
29 Therefore he sent angels [We don’t know how many, three, perhaps.] to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory. [The object of the angels’ coming was to teach people how to enter God’s presence.]
30 And they [the people] began from that time forth to call on his name [so the angels taught them how to pray]; therefore God conversed with men [the Father himself spoke], and made known unto them the plan of redemption [“redeem” in the Book of Mormon often means to enter God’s presence (Ether 3:13; 2 Nephi 1:15, 2:1-3; Helaman 8:23)], which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to [that is, these were the methods or teaching tools he used for instructions] their faith [pistis, the substance and evidence of the covenants {3}] and repentance [repentance is a very efficient teacher] and their holy works [“holy” means holy, so “holy works” were probably the ordinances and covenants performed during the ancient temple drama; that is, the ordinances were also a source of instruction].
31 Wherefore, he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments as to things which were temporal [“temporal” is time-related, so he was probably talking about the commandments associated with linear time] and becoming as gods, knowing good from evil [that is very different from “good and evil”], placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good——
32 Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption [again, having taught them how to come into his presence], that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness [righteousness is zedek, which is correctness in priesthood and temple things, so the second death he was talking about is the state of being without zedek-type blessings]; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power [without zedek, one cannot come into God’s presence], for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God.
33 But God did call on men, in the name of his Son (this being the plan of redemption which was laid), saying: If ye will repent and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;
34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.
35 And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.
36 And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls; therefore, according to his word, unto the last death, as well as the first.
37 And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word (Alma 12:28-37). {4}

A simple, but perhaps simplistic summation of that is the Plan of Redemption brings unto the presence of God and the Plan of Salvation enables us to stay there. Alma’s summary of the ancient Nephite temple drama seems to suggest that it was a kind of dress rehearsal to teach the Nephites the Plan of Redemption.

A relevant question is: when did the redemption become a reality for the Nephites. The answer was probably the same as the explanation in the Doctrine and Covenants. The promise is:

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 conditions are these:

65 And if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation.
66 Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound.
67 And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
68 Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will (D&C 88:65-68).

His will is, of course, determined by our personal needs. We are here to be tested. If we were to be taught too much, too fast, our knowledge would destroy our agency. So it is reasonable to believe that our individual need is determined by our individual assignment. If the assignment requires it in this life, then it will happen. If the assignment we are asked to fulfill in this life does not require it, then it will happen in the next life.

There are those for whom it is necessary now, and the Book of Mormon teaches us about that. In addition to the one quoted above about the brother of Jared, there are several others. It is interesting to note that in almost all of these examples, their redemption is described in past tense, but its blessings are still described in present tense. One of the most beautiful examples 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).

Another 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).

Another example is Nephi’s 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 brackets his charity with his having been redeemed.

6 I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.
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 in which he equates redemption with being “born of God.”

24 For, said he [Alma], I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord ; 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).

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 of ideas in the Beatitudes:

8 Blessed are all the pure in heart [Zion], for they shall see God.
9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called [covenant new name] the children of God (3 Nephi 12:8-9).

The prophet Abinadi’s testimony to 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).

One of my favorite examples is the conclusion of Helaman’s letter to Moroni. It gives us a powerful insight into 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 in 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). {5}

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.”

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. {6}

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FOOTNOTES

{1} See Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapters “A Meaning of ‘Redeem’— to ‘Come Unto Christ’” and “Alma Chapter 5: the Song of Redeeming Love,” (paper back edition in this website), pages 510-38.

{2} The words “redeem” and “redeemed” are only found in only a few places in the New Testament. They are: Luke 24:13-25; Galatians 3:1-16, 4:1-9; Titus 2:8-15; Revelation 5:1-12, 14:1-9.

{3} See Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, the chapter called, “Meaning of Faith —pistis.”

{4} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, second edition (the one in this website), 556-558

{5} More examples of “redeem” meaning to be brought into the presence of God are Jacob 6:8-9; Mosiah 26:21-28; Alma 13:1-6, 19:6-14, 36:22-26, 58:41; Helaman 8:22-23, 14:15-19; Mormon 9:12-14; Moroni 7:2-4; D&C 43:29-30, 88:14-32, 138:58-60, and even thought the word is not there, one must also include the Lord’s promise to Everyman in D&C 93:1-5.

{6} David A. Bednar,“Clean Hands and a Pure Heart.” Ensign 37, 11 (November 2007): 80-83.

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