Moroni 10:4 – ‘when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you…’ – LeGrand Baker

The Subtextual Code of the Nephite temple drama.

The Book o f Mormon is written in two separate languages, and they are both English. One is the surface text that any literate person can read, and the other is in code. The code is the ancient Israelite/Nephite temple drama, and only those who know the ancient drama can read the code. To everyone else, the encoded text is simply not there. (Some of you know that already, but it still needs to be explained. Because Moroni’s final chapter is heavily encoded, our knowing about the code is an important key to understanding what Moroni wishes to tell us.)

The surface text, the one that even children can read, is amazing. It carries a promise that the Holy Ghost will testify to one’s soul that the message is truth. Millions of people can attest that, for themselves, personally, that promise has been fulfilled.

The subtext simply expands that testimony to those whom Nibley called “the initiated.” An example of the subtext is Lehi’s admonition to his sons in 2 Nephi 1:10.

10 But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them (2 Nephi 1:10).

The most obvious encoded part is between the dashes.

The Psalms were the text of the ancient Israelite temple drama. With the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews had lost their Temple, and their king, and the prophets who held the Melchizedek Priesthood (like Lehi). After their return from exile in Babylon, the Jewish leaders no longer celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama and they rearranged the Psalms so people could not read them from beginning to end to discover the story they once told. In Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, Stephen and I put many of those psalms back in their original order to reconstruct much of the ancient Israelite temple drama. It was not difficult to do. The outline of the story, as had been shown by Mowinckel, Johnson, and others, was the “cosmic myth” or “hero cycle.” So all we had to do is aline the parts of the Psalms with the parts of that ancient story. We discovered that they fit perfectly. All that is explained in the Introduction of Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.

The reconstructed Israelite temple drama is in “Part 1” of our book. “Part 2” shows that the sermons in the Book of Mormon are based on the Nephite temple experience. That is also true of the sermons that are addressed only to us, such as the concluding chapters of 2 Nephi and this final chapter of Moroni.

A wonderful thing about the translation of the Book of Mormon is that it is written in King James English. Consequently the Israelite temple-code words in the Bible map perfectly to the Nephite temple-code words in the Book of Mormon.

In the scriptures there are two kinds of code words: The first are those which were intended to be code and could only be understood by the initiated. Isaiah 61 is a splendid example of that. {1}

The second kind of code words are those that were not intended to be code but were clearly understood when they were first written. Pistis, translated “faith,” is a good example. In New Testament times it was understood to mean covenant or contract. However, by the end of the first century Christians had lost the terms of the covenants, so faith came to mean something like “to believe without evidence.” A careful study of “faith” in the Book of Mormon shows that it retains the original meaning of pistis. The result is that, for us, “faith” became a New Testament and Nephite temple-code word even though the authors who used it never intended it to be code.

Another example is “mystery.” The Greek is mysterion, which means “silence imposed by initiation into religious rites.” (Strong 3466) {2}

New Testament authors used it to mean either the early Christian temple rites (as in Mark 4:11, Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:9, 1 Timothy 3:9.) or to mean premortal covenant ceremonies (as in Ephesians 1). Mystery has both meanings in the Book of Mormon. A relevant example is Alma’s statement about the burden of knowing the mysteries.

9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him (Alma 12:9).

In the New Testament, “faithful” is another. The word is pistos and means those who keep their covenants. So when Peter or Paul address the “faithful in Christ Jesus,” they are writing to Christians who are keeping their covenants.

Our knowing that information about the audience is an important key to understanding what is being said.

Such words are not so much code as they are keys for us to understand who was being addressed. “My beloved brethren” is a similar kind of phrase in Book of Mormon. It is always a reference to faithful priesthood holders (as in 2 Nephi 31-33, Alma 5 & 7, and Moroni 7).

Another example in the Book of Mormon is the phrase “these things.” In the great majority of instances of its use by Book of Mormon authors, “these things” means “these sacred things.” Sometimes (as in 1 and 2 Nephi, and Jacob 7:5) it is a reference to the things the prophet saw in a vision, but usually (as in Mosiah 4:10) it is used to simply call attention to the things the audience understands to be sacred. For us, the phrase is another kind of identification code to help us know the context of what is being said by knowing the audience to whom it is addressed.

Moroni used words very carefully when he wrote his final chapter of the Book of Mormon, and it is apparent that his words were translated into English with equal care. Moroni writes,

1 Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites; and I would that they should know that more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ.

2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.

That explanation, that he intends to write “by way of exhortation,” should not be taken lightly. Every individual section of this chapter includes something like “I would exhort you.” Then, true to his words, he admonishes his readers to be true to their covenants. There are eight of these exhortations. They are a kind of last will and testament given as the most important things Moroni could teach us. They are in sequence, each building upon the previous one until they reach a crescendo in the last verse. The first begins:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them,

In the next verse, his exhortation is “when ye shall receive these things.” One “receives” these things differently from the way one reads them. There is an important actual difference between reading and receiving. We can find the phrase “these [sacred] things” sprinkled throughout the Book of Mormon. But even so, as he suggests here, not everyone will read them. His words remind us of John the Beloved’s frequent admonition in his writings, “He who has ears let him hear.” Moroni’s statement is:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

Moroni’s reference to “the creation of Adam” is a quiet reminder of “these [sacred] things” that permeate his father’s writings.

The next verses, 4 and 5, are often called “the promise of the Book of Mormon.” They are the key to having a testimony of the Prophet Joseph, the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is likely that these are the most frequently quoted passage of LDS scripture. (They are quoted every day by thousands of missionaries all over the world.) My suggesting that there is another, but subtextual meaning to those verses is intended to enhance rather than to diminish the importance of their magnificent promise.

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

That is Moroni’s testimony: that “these [most sacred] things” have a single focus and that is to enhance our understanding, appreciation, and love for the Savior. The promise is that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things,” and the admonition is:

7 And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.

Moroni’s next exhortation is “ I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God.” I’ll try to discuss those gifts next week.
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FOOTNOTES

{1}You can find a discussion of Isaiah 61 in the this website, under “scriptures” then “Old Testament.”

{2} There are several versions of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. They have Greek and Hebrew dictionaries keyed to the words in the concordance. I have a first edition that actually tells what the ancient Greek meanings were. A reprint of that edition is still available. I also have a new version called The Strongest Strongs which tells how its authors expect Protestants to understand the words. Their definition of mysterion reads, “Mystery, secret, often refers to a misunderstood part of the OT that, with Christ’s coming, is now unveiled: mystery.” I don’t read Greek, but I would be amazed if Plato actually understood the word to have anything to do with the misunderstood parts of the Hebrew Old Testament. My point: if you are going to buy a copy of Strong, be sure it has the kind of definitions that will be useful to you.

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