John 1:1-4– (part 12) — Preparing for the Resurrection — LeGrand Baker

After Alma threatened Zeezrom with the loss of his priesthood blessings (By this time Zeezrom is feeling like he is being clobbered with his past covenants, and is taking Alma’s warning very seriously), Alma then reviewed the entire Nephite temple drama. (Alma 12:28-35) {1} He reminds him that God sent angels to teach the people how to come to where God is. After the angels visited,

30 And they [the people] began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works (Alma 12:30).

He says that God made known unto the people the plan of redemption, “and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works.” So the teaching tools God uses are “faith” that is pistis (as it is in the New Testament), which is a reference to the covenants; {2} repentance, which is ultimately the only effective way to learn; and the “holy works” which are the ordinances. Then Alma concludes,

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 (Alma 12:34).

In this context the “holy works” must be priesthood ordinances. From this it is reasonable to deduce that the “works” by which we will be judged are these “holy works.”

James also uses “works” to mean ordinances when he says “faith [pistis] without works is dead.” What is he is saiying is that one can make whatever covenants one wishes, but without the validating ordinances the covenants have no eternal value. {3}

17 Even so faith [the word he uses here is pistis, the covenants], if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
….
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:17-26).

So I conclude that our “good works,” like kindness, empathy, and taking warm bread to the neighbors, will qualify us to receive a celestial body. But our final judgement before the Savior will be about whether we have made and kept the saving covenants, and received and honored their validating ordinances.

We are assured that “no unclean thing can enter the presence of God.” Therefore, we must be clean. he covenants, symbolized and ratified by the ordinances, are designed to enable us to become clean. However, it is the function of the Holy Ghost to actually cleanse us. Fortunately, it is the function of the Church to provide the means that we may support each other so we may remain clean. Moroni explained that very clearly.

3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith (Moroni 6:3-4).

Having clean garments on our bodies is symbolic of being clean within, as Alma told the people in Zarahemla.

21 I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins (Alma 5:21-28).

That is the same doctrine that God taught to Adam ever so long before.

58 Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:
59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment (Moses 6:58-61).

For the Book of Mormon prophets, their having clean garments was symbolic of their having fulfilled their covenants. Moroni explained,

37 And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.
38 And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.
39 And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things (Ether 12:36-41).

In Isaiah 61, which is an in-depth prophecy of vicarious work for the dead, the royal priesthood clothing is part of the coronation at the beginning, and also of the sacred marriage at the end. The prophecy presents the coronation ceremony as the same cleansing ceremony that was an important part of the ancient Israelite temple drama.

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 (Isaiah 61:3).

Let us examine that verse.

A. “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,” That is, to make them a part of Zion.

B. “to give unto them beauty for [in place of] ashes.” “Beauty” connotes the beauty of a crown. Ashes that are placed on the head as part of formal repentance or morning are removed by a ceremonial washing. So even though the word “washing” is not found here it is a necessary part of the coronation.

C. “the oil of joy for [in place of] mourning” The oil is olive oil which also represents the waters of life and is used to consecrate both kings and priests.

D. “the garment of praise for [in place of] the spirit of heaviness” Elsewhere in the scriptures that clean clothing is called by names that represent priesthood and kingship.

E. “that they might be called [given a new royal king-name] trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” Trees make fruit; fruit make seeds; seeds make trees, ad infinitum. For the dead, the new name royal king-name is a promise of eternal family. {4}

The last two verses of Isaiah 61 are spoken by the dead. Verse 10 is about a royal wedding, with an appropriate emphasis on “the garments of salvation” and “the robe of righteousness.”

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). {5}

That clean, royal clothing is a permanent characteristic of the righteous, as John writes,

9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
….
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. (Revelation 7:9-15).

In an essay first published in the Evening and Morning Star, the Prophet Joseph explained further,

But from the few items previously quoted we can draw the conclusion that there is to be a day when all will be judged of their works, and rewarded according to the same; that those who have kept the faith will be crowned with a crown of righteousness; be clothed in white raiment; be admitted to the marriage feast; be free from every affliction, and reign with Christ on the earth, where, according to the ancient promise, they will partake of the fruit of the vine new in the glorious kingdom with Him; at least we find that such promises were made to the ancient Saints. {6}

It may be that the white clothing is symbolic of the promise of the resurrection, when one’s spirit puts on a new garment — a resurrected body that is clean and made of pure light. It reminds us of where we began this odyssey through linear time when all things are made of the light of Christ. We began there, and now we have come to the conclusion where,

24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day (D&C 50:24).

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FOOTNOTES

{1} see in scripture section. and Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.

{2} see discussion of 2 Peter 1:1-4 in last one

{3} Martin Luther understood that and wanted to take the book of James out of the Bible because the Catholics claimed a monopoly on the ordinances and Luther believed they were not necessary.

{4} For an analysis of Isaiah 61 see the “Scripture” section of this website.
For a discussion of the coronation ceremony as a part of the ancient Israelite temple drama see, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, the section called “Act 2, Scene 9: The Coronation Ceremony in Isaiah 61, first edition, 461-99; second edition 336-60.
A section within that chapter is called “the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness.” It discusses the ancient ceremonial clothing as representing the king’s priesthood and kingship, first edition, 483-95; second edition 349-58.

{5} The royal clothing is also described in the section called “The Royal Wedding in Psalm 45,” beginning in the first edition on page 255, and in the paperback edition on page 181. The kings clothing is called “glory and thy majesty. “Glory representing his priesthood and “majesty, his kingship. pages, 257 and 182. The queen “is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold, pages 258 and 184.

{6} Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951), 2:21.

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