John 13:31-38 — 14:1-7 — His “many mansions” — “I am the way, the truth, and the life” — LeGrand Baker

Only John tells us what Jesus and his apostles talked about after Judas left. His report of their conversion immediately transports our thoughts from this time and space into the eternities, not just the future eternities but those past realms from which we came as well.

He began by telling them he is going to die soon. They apparently do not understand the full implications of what he told them, probably because they cannot wrap their minds around the idea that he will leave them and they will have to pick up the burden he left behind.

31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32 If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you (John 13:31-33).

He teaches them that they will carry their burden by of their unity as a quorum. One does not get the full impact of his words as they are recorded here, but John will later teach us what he meant. Jesus said,

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35).

To more fully understand what the Savior was telling his apostles, we must go to another writting writing of John the Beloved. In his first epistle he explained,

5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him (First John 2:5-10).

This new commandment is the same “old commandment which ye had from the beginning.” It is new in the same way that the “new and everlasting covenant” is everlasting because we first made that covenant in our eternal past and it is new because we can no longer remember it so it must be renewed in this world.

36 Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards (John 13:36).

When Peter asked, “Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.” The Lord then told him of his immediate duty to be a witness of his trial and whipping, and then reassured Peter with this promise,

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:1-2).

The King James translators chose the word “mansions,” for the Greek word that means a residence, but my friend BYU professor Wilfred Griggs told me that “motels” would be a perfectly reasonable modern translation. He said that because the word means “a staying, i.e. residence (the act or the place).” The Savior said “many mansions.” The connotation is that there will be many staying places, rather than one eternal beautiful home. {1}

The Prophet said much the same thing. He explained that persons in the celestial kingdom would receive a white stone “whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known.” The implication is the same. There would not much point in teaching celestial people about “a higher order of kingdoms” if there was no way they could get there. Joseph said,

8 The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.
9 This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s.
10 Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known;
11 And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word (D&C 130:8-11).

If Jesus was using “many mansions” to mean a series of resting or visiting places and Joseph Smith was using “higher order of kingdoms” to represent the same journey, then one may conclude that Jesus was telling Peter that after this life Peter “shalt follow me” through an amazing eternal adventure.

After reassuring Peter, apparently addressing all of the apostles, the Savior added,

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know (John 14:3-4).

The next to speak was Thomas “called Didymus.” The word means “twin.” They were inseparable boyhood friends. He had only recently encouraged his fellow disciples by saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him (John 11:16).” Thomas asked the question one would have expected a lifelong friend to ask.

5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? (John 14:5)

As the word “mountain” is code for the ancient temple, so “walk,” “path,” and “way” are code words that represent the ordinances and covenants by which one ascended that holy mountain to come to its heights where one may meet God. Similarly, those same code words are used to describe the way one lives one’s life after he has come down from the mountain to fulfill the mission he received from God. King Benjamin used “way” along with “name” as temple code, in his sermon to this people. {2}

17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent (Mosiah 3:17-22).

Here are some more examples:

3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3).

6 And it came to pass that king Mosiah did walk in the ways of the Lord, and did observe his judgments and his statutes, and did keep his commandments in all things whatsoever he commanded him (Mosiah 6:6).

43 And now it came to pass that Alma did walk in the ways of the Lord, and he did keep his commandments, and he did judge righteous judgments; and there was continual peace through the land (Mosiah 29:43).

14 And they did also bury their weapons of war, according as their brethren had, and they began to be a righteous people; and they did walk in the ways of the Lord, and did observe to keep his commandments and his statutes (Alma 25:14).

“Way” is used along with several other code words in the promise at the conclusion of the revelation about the word of wisdom.

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen (D&C 89:18-21).

Given Jesus’s response, it is apparent that both he and Thomas were using the word “way” as the that often denoted a progression through the ancient Israelite temple drama. Indeed, they use it here to suggest a progression even beyond that.

6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him (John 14:6-7).

John is reminding us of the first chapter of his gospel where we learn that truth, light, love are the same thing as each fill the immensity of space. Their product is joy which is an eternal characteristic of those who are full of truth/light/love. Now he adds a new and richer dimension. He pushes that characteristic to where Enoch places it, “before the very beginning.” Enoch wrote,

24:1 And the Lord summoned me, and said to me: Enoch, sit down on my left with Gabriel.’ And I bowed down to the Lord, and the Lord spoke
2 to me: Enoch, beloved, all thou seest, all things that are standing finished I tell to thee even before the very beginning, all that I created from non-being, and visible things from invisible. {3}

If all that I have suggested were explicit or just implicit in the conversation between Jesus and his apostles, it makes a perfect backdrop for the rest of what he told them. Their conversation, as John reports it, begins here and does not conclude until they hear him pray for them in his beautiful intercessory prayer.


{1} Mansions is Strong # 3438.

{2} Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, second (paperback) edition, 529-30.

{3} R. H. Charles, Secrets of Enoch, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford, Clarendon, 1976), 2:442-45. Early Jews and Christians considered the books of Enoch as an important part of their most sacred literature. For example, compare Jude 1:14-16 with 1 Enoch 1:9.


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