Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Against Wisdom, Part 6: More Precious than Silver

How much better is it to get wisdom than gold, and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!

—Proverbs 2:200 RE

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

When we consider the long and distinguished history of our scripture, it’s almost unavoidable to stand all amazed at the Lord’s masterful planning and execution. Despite the opposition, despite Satan’s best efforts, despite all the combined powers of earth and hell, we yet have an adequate record! And not just an adequate record, but one specifically designed, prepared and protected for our day to play the key role in fulfilling God’s covenants.

We must marvel at God’s power and mercy. We’re left to contemplate what sort of being God is. In doing so, we obtain a more correct idea of God’s character, perfections and attributes, as manifested by this marvelous work. It is indeed a wonder—and perhaps we’re left to wonder, “who did this?” Of course, it’s easy to simply say, “God did it.” And this is true enough. But there may be more to consider. 

Here’s a curiosity:

The Book of Mormon goes to some trouble to record the guiding force behind all the miraculous means and turns of event that contributed to the triumph of this incredible record. Consider the following events, which we listed in Part 5 of this series, with one addition. I’ve added the explanations given by the Book of Mormon regarding each event. I realize there’s a lot here to consider, but it will be worth your time to read through each explanation carefully.



Obtaining the Plates of Brass from Laban’s treasury

And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers, and also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets...

Carrying the record into the wilderness

And we had obtained the record which the Lord had commanded us and searched them and found that they were desirable, yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children. Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us as we journeyed in the wilderness toward the land of promise.

Making a second set of plates to replace the future lost manuscript

And after I made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies—the more plain and precious parts of them—should be written upon these plates, and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord...Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.

Preserving the records in the promised land through a line of record keepers

And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved. For behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways and brought them to the knowledge of their God, unto the salvation of their souls...Now these mysteries are not yet fully made known unto me, therefore I shall forbear. And it may suffice if I only say they are preserved for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God; for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.

Keeping the sacred records from generation to generation

And I also command you that ye keep a record of this people according as I have done, upon the plates of Nephi, and keep all these things sacred which I have kept, even as I have kept them—for it is for a wise purpose that they are kept—and these plates of brass which contain these engravings, which have the records of the holy scriptures upon them, which have the genealogy of our forefathers, even from the beginning.

Carefully choosing the successor record keepers

And now remember, my son, that God has entrusted you with these things which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations.

Promising the future preservation of the record

for God is powerful to the fulfilling of all his words. For he will fulfill all his promises which he shall make unto you, for he has fulfilled his promise which he has made unto our fathers. For he promised unto them that he would preserve these things for a wise purpose in him, that he might shew forth his power unto future generations.

Defending the records against destruction by those who vowed to destroy them

Now these mysteries are not yet fully made known unto me, therefore I shall forbear. And it may suffice if I only say they are preserved for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God; for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.

Amplifying the record by adding specifics needed by future generations

These scriptures which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you, for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations.

Preventing translation and inclusion of certain information

Therefore, touch them not in order that ye may translate, for that thing is forbidden you, except by and by it shall be wisdom in God. And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may shew the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work.

Intentionally exposing the errors of past generations in hopes we would avoid their mistakes

Wherefore, O ye gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shewn unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you

Adding the small plates to the large plates abridgment

But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren. And I do this for a wise purpose, for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now I do not know all things, but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.

Setting up a free Gentile nation where these things could come forth and spread to all the world

for it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth from them unto a remnant of your seed, that the covenant of the Father may be fulfilled which he hath covenanted with his people, O house of Israel

Foreseeing and controlling the eventual audience of the book

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,

As I’m sure you’re aware, the image of God is a male and a female, joined together as one.
Knowledge personifies the divine masculine and Wisdom personifies the divine feminine. Given the above, we should now have a much clearer picture of who gathered, protected and nurtured the collection of sacred writings, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. 

It was her. Heavenly Mother. The divine feminine. She has done this. One of the greatest miracles of this creation, and she seeks no credit, desires no acclaim, and works quietly, unheralded and unnoticed behind the scenes of this creation, ensuring her children have the words of eternal life. It is a miracle.

It’s frankly astonishing we have not noticed this before. You see, every time the Book of Mormon uses the phrase, “It is wisdom in God that…” the resulting action has to do with preparing and preserving scripture. 




And the same goes for all the title variations, like “It is wisdom in the Father” or “It is wisdom in the Lord.” If the Wisdom of God is mentioned, it always, invariably has to do with scripture.

The same occurs with “for a wise purpose.” Invariably, if something is done “for a wise purpose” in the Book of Mormon, the thing being done has to do with preparing and preserving scripture for the future. 




Therefore, it should be clear to those with eyes to see that the Divine Feminine is far more intimately involved in the revelation, creation, transmission, planning, preservation, and presentation of scripture than we ever realize. In fact, this turns one criticism of scripture on its head: Why don’t we have more female voices represented in scripture? 

Given that scripture is the product of her mind, her planning, her wisdom, her direction, and her production, we’re left to conclude the scriptures are largely a feminine testimony, testifying most abundantly and clearly of her Son. True, the Holy Order laborers whose names we have are males, but it’s important to realize their boss was a woman, and they were all working for her, at her direction. The factory workers may be men, but the CEO is a woman.

Consider the following quotes:

Our scriptures speak carefully about the existence and importance of a Heavenly Mother, a Divine Female whose greatest attribute is to bestow wisdom upon the whole of this creation. It is possible to miss Her presence. That cultural and theological blindness is not because of Her absence from the scriptures. It's not hard to detect Her if you look. We just don’t look. (Denver Snuffer, “Our Divine Parents,” p 2-3)

A great deal can be learned about Heavenly Mother by searching for the word wisdom in scripture. Very often, the reference to wisdom is to Her distinctly and not merely an abstract attribute. If we are blind to Her existence, we cannot see the reference to Her in those passages. Although many scriptures have the Divine Mother’s words, Her presence is veiled by our ignorance and refusal to acknowledge Her.  (“Our Divine Parents,” p 6)

The Father is the source of glory and likened to the sun. The Mother reflects and shares this glory and is likened to the moon. She reflects God’s glory, endures within it, and is empowered by it. She can participate with Him in all that is done wielding that glory. Knowledge is the initiator or force, and wisdom is the regulator, guide, apportioner, and weaver of that power. If not tempered and guided by wisdom, knowledge can be destructive. Wisdom makes the prudent adaptation required for order. The Father and Mother are one. But the Mother bridges the gulf between the Throne of the Father and fallen man. (“Our Divine Parents,” p 14)

There are seven stages of development through which God’s children must pass. It is not all to be done in this life. Christ is the prototype of the saved man, and He qualified by passing through these stages of development. We should not be surprised that the Heavenly Mother was responsible for planning and creating these developmental opportunities for Her children.  (“Our Divine Parents,” p 23)

Hopefully, this understanding, combined with the numerous, direct references to Divine Wisdom from the Book of Mormon, above, will help us re-calibrate our understanding of, expectations for, and knowledge about scripture. We’re dealing with something far more sacred, powerful and carefully, lovingly prepared than we might realize. We are dealing with Wisdom indeed! We should be humbled to the dust upon realizing we’re the beneficiaries of such an effort by a loving Mother, who seeks to nurture and teach her children. It is difficult to stand all amazed when you have fallen to your knees. 

Happy is the man that finds wisdom, and the man that gets understanding; for the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you can desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand, riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, and happy is everyone that retains her. The Lord, by wisdom, has founded the earth; by understanding has he established the heavens; by his knowledge, the depths are broken up and the clouds drop down the dew. My son, do not let them depart from your eyes.
—Proverbs 1:11 RE

Against Wisdom, Part 5: Iron Will

Then shall the Lord God say unto him, The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore, thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee. Touch not the things which are sealed, for I will bring them forth in mine own due time, for I will show unto the children of men that I am able to do mine own work...For behold, I am God, and I am a God of miracles, and I will shew unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and for ever, and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.

—2 Nephi 11:20 RE

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

As we’ve traced the path of scripture through the ages, we’ve seen inspiration, revelation, education, destruction, recovery, prophecy, protection, planning, prescience and care manifest to a great degree. We’ve also watched the epic battle between good and evil—between truth and error—play out on the stage constructed of the bones of mortals and the eternal suffering of souls. In short, the battle over scripture is the battle over this creation. Everything hangs in the balance, and it's more serious than we can imagine.

Considered from this perspective, we can readily identify the Lord’s intervention—often through small and simple means—to preserve and protect a record of truth on earth. Even as the ruin of scripture played out among apostates and idolators, the Lord worked behind the scenes, through a single prophetic family to yet preserve a record equal to the evil it would confront in our day. This is the final act. The stage is set, the characters are in place, the script is written and the lights are dimming. We have front row seats to watch the denouement play out.

The preparation for this moment began, literally, before the foundation of the world, and has continued through millennia. Rather than attempting to explain all the incredible works of God concerning all scripture, my goal here is to simply consider the Book of Mormon portion of that record, and the lengths to which God went to ensure the record made it into our hands. 

From the first moments of Lehi’s history, we encounter tantalizing questions to which we don’t have answers. 

Wherefore, it came to pass that my father Lehi, as he went forth, prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart in behalf of his people. And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him, and he saw and heard much. And because of the things which he saw and heard, he did quake and tremble exceedingly. And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem. And he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the spirit and the things which he had seen. And being thus overcome with the spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the Heavens open and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. And it came to pass that he saw one descending out of the midst of Heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noonday. And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament. And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth. And the first came and stood before my father and gave unto him a book and bade him that he should read. (1 Nephi 1:1)

Who was this Lehi anyway? From whence did he “go forth?” Why was he attempting to make intercession on behalf of his people? And who were “his people?” All Jerusalem? His family? His lineage? What was the pillar of fire? Why was there a rock before Lehi as he made intercession? Who was the one brighter than the sun at noonday? What is the significance of the Messiah handing him a book? Why was the initial revelation to Lehi given in the form of a book? What did this prefigure? Why are the 12 others characterized in comparison to stars, while the Messiah is characterized by the sun? 

Well, that’s only part of the first paragraph of the book. Clearly, there’s much more to this Lehi character than we might first assume. When God instructed him to flee, then had him send back his sons for the record, the shift that took place at that moment was cosmic in nature. The kingship of Israel, the custodianship of THE holy record, and the future of the world took an astonishing turn (a left turn at the Red Sea, to be precise.) God acted through one who had been in his presence to remarkably alter the destiny of scripture and therefore of the world.

Who could have foreseen that the most important record in human history would end up spirited off in the dark of night by a fleeing family, accompanied by signs of kingship and headed for a new promised land in a new continent, led by God and pursued by an army? 

Oh wait, was I talking about the Exodus? Or was I talking about Lehi’s family? Or was I referring to Nephi leaving the land of their first inheritance? Or perhaps referring to Mosiah’s exodus to Zarahemla? Or maybe something in the future…The pattern does seem to repeat itself, doesn’t it? Every exodus in history has included preservation of sacred records.

Well, rather than consider them all, let’s confine ourselves to the Book of Mormon for a bit. Here’s a quick outline of some pivotal and miraculous events in the development and preservation of that holy record:

  • Obtaining the Plates of Brass from Laban’s treasury
  • Carrying the record into the wilderness
  • Making a second set of plates to replace the future lost manuscript
  • Preserving the records in the promised land through a line of record keepers
  • Keeping the sacred records from generation to generation
  • Carefully choosing the successor record keepers
  • Promising the future preservation of the record
  • Defending the records against destruction by those who vowed to destroy them
  • Amplifying the record by adding specifics needed by future generations
  • Preventing translation and inclusion of certain information
  • Intentionally exposing the errors of past generations in hopes we would avoid their mistakes
  • Adding the small plates to the large plates abridgment
  • Setting up a free Gentile nation where these things could come forth and spread to all the world
  • Foreseeing and controlling the eventual audience of the book

What was the significance of God’s continued efforts to defend the record? Why did those who knew God personally desire most that a record be preserved? Nobody demonstrates that more poignantly than Enos:

And now behold, this was the desire which I desired of him: that if it should so be that my people the Nephites should fall into transgression, and by any means be destroyed, and the Lamanites should not be destroyed, that the Lord God would preserve a record of my people the Nephites, even if it so be by the power of his holy arm, that it might be brought forth some future day unto the Lamanites, that perhaps they might be brought unto salvation. For at the present, our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith. And they swore in their wrath that if it were possible, they would destroy our records, and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers.

Wherefore I, knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me, Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive, in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it. And I had faith, and I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records. And he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the Lamanites in his own due time. And I, Enos, knew that it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore, my soul did rest. And the Lord said unto me, Thy fathers have also required of me this thing, and it shall be done unto them according to their faith, for their faith was like unto thine. (Enos 1:3-4)

Enos’s soul could not rest until he had obtained a promise from God that the record would be preserved. This promise did nothing to benefit him, but like the future sons of Mosiah, he was “desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for [he] could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure Endless torment did cause [him] to quake and tremble. And thus did the spirit of the Lord work upon [him].” (See Mosiah 12:1)

Consider this: If the hallmark of godly mortals is the desire that a record be preserved so salvation can be declared, how much more intense must be God’s commitment to preserving scripture? What sort of resolve does it take to continually guide, teach, guard, and protect the word that has gone forth? 

Consider how scripture has historically been handled. 

The Book of Remembrance from the first Fathers was kept in a box that could only be opened by the faithful. Joseph’s Brass Plates were carried with his remains in his coffin-ark. (I suspect that they, too, could only be opened by the faithful.) The tablets of Moses were born by Levites and protected by power so fearsome that even unauthorized touching of the box that contained the record resulted in death (2 Samuel 2:8 RE). Laban’s refusal to surrender the record according to God’s will resulted in his death (1 Nephi 1:17 RE). Joseph Smith’s initial attempts to remove the plates from the ground before their time resulted in him being thrown back by a shock three times. 

The Ark of the Covenant protected stone tablets in a gold box. The ark of Cumorah protected gold tablets in a stone box. All demonstrated the power of God to protect and preserve the record. When Joseph finally received the plates, he was charged very strictly regarding their safety (JSH 6:1). Family legend has it that Joseph was instructed to bring a box with him to the hill when he obtained the plates so he would have a way to keep them hidden from view as he carried them home and stored them. The legend further states that Joseph procrastinated this preparation until the day he was due at the hill, and having not yet obtained a box, he hastily borrowed a lap desk from his brother Alvin who used it to store tools. Joseph literally dumped out the tools, took the box, and hurried to the hill.

When the translation began, Joseph arranged a sheet to separate the translation space from the rest of the room. He literally went behind the veil, into the Holy of Holies to translate the record from within the veil. The first sacred space Joseph established in his dispensation wasnt a temple. It was a treasury to house scripture and bring it forth to us. The symbolism ought not be lost on us. 

Further miracles attended the publication of the Book of Mormon. E.B. Grandin didn’t have nearly enough type to typeset the book, nor was there a ready source. But somehow he immediately had enough brand new type to do the job. The source of the paper remains a mystery (the type and amount of paper needed simply didn’t exist.) And the typesetting and press work, running a single press 60 hours per week, as fast as it could go, the actual printing could not have been accomplished in less than 15-1/2 months. Add binding to that, and a minimum of 17 months would be required for the first books to become available. Yet the job was completed by a tiny newspaper print shop in just over 6 months. There is no explanation. The power of his holy arm, indeed (for details see, “Miracle on Palmyra’s Main Street: An Old-time Printer’s Perspective on Printing the Original Copies of the Book of Mormon” by Gordon L. Weight).

Overwhelming evidence leads me to believe there is little on earth more important to God than accurate scripture. And though he allows foolish men to tamper, alter and destroy in times of apostasy, God has also shown he will make bare his mighty arm and wield his unspeakable power in defense of scripture for those who will value the record. And it may not be accomplished at all in the way we expect. Let’s consider one example.

When Lehi obtained and read the Brass Plates record, Nephi reported the following: 

And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the spirit and began to prophesy concerning his seed — that these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, and tongues, and people, who were of his seed. Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed anymore by time. (1 Nephi 1:22RE)

Likewise, Alma prophesied as follows:

…these plates of brass which contain these engravings, which have the records of the holy scriptures upon them, which have the genealogy of our forefathers, even from the beginning. And behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon. And now behold, if they are kept, they must retain their brightness, yea, and they will retain their brightness, yea, and also shall all the plates which do contain that which is holy writ. (Alma 17:7 RE)

From these passages, we may easily conclude the Lord intends to bring forth the Brass Plates themselves at some future date so they can be published to the world. And that may, indeed be what happens. But let’s consider another perspective. 

Nephi, the first writer in the Book of Mormon presented much of his prophecy by quoting the prior prophet Isaiah. He adapted Isaiah’s words to his own purposes, using them to encode what he was not allowed to directly reveal. In doing so, he set a precedent of teaching truth by quoting from the Plates of Brass. Because he quoted a prophet whose writings we yet have today in the Old Covenants, we can verify his method.

The next record keeper, Nephi’s brother Jacob, did exactly the same thing, but he quoted from Zenos, even going so far as to offer his own “prophecy” that the words of Zenos were true and would come to pass. We don’t have the full record of Zenos available to us to verify Jacob’s method, but it is nevertheless obvious that Jacob simply taught truths that already appeared in the Brass Plates record. 

It’s therefore extremely likely that the other authors quoted extensively from the Plates of Brass as well, and the only reason we can’t identify more of their sources is our lack of extant records from the era. But even given the limited Old Covenants writings still available, we can identify numerous instances of Book of Mormon authors relying on prior prophets. 

Jesus Christ himself, in teaching at Bountiful quoted extensively from Isaiah, Micah and Malachi, thus following the same pattern and quoting from the Plates of Brass and other prophets. 

Therefore, even if the actual Plates of Brass don’t come forth, or no longer exist, the prophecy nevertheless is fulfilled by the Book of Mormon. Is it not filled with light and “brightness” from the Plates of Brass? Has it been dimmed by time? Has it not gone forth to every nation, kindred, tongue and people? Has it not been kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord in every particular? Therefore, whether we recognize it or not, whether it conforms to our expectations or doesn’t, nevertheless God has acted to vindicate the prophecies, and none can say otherwise. 

Therefore, one lesson we can and should take from all this is that God has an iron will when it comes to scripture. His words will be fulfilled, his promises will be vindicated, and earth and Hell cannot stop him or hinder him in the least. We have thousands of years of history and too long a list of miracles attesting to this fact. Who can gainsay it?

What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from Heaven upon the heads of the Latter Day Saints…Hell may pour forth its rage like the burning lava of Mount Vesuvius, or of Etna, or of the most terrible of the burning mountains, and yet shall Mormonism stand. Water, fire, truth, and God are all the same. Truth is Mormonism. God is the author of it. He is our shield. It is by him we received our birth. It was by his voice that we were called to a dispensation of his gospel in the beginning of the fullness of times. It was by him we received the Book of Mormon, and it is by him that we remain unto this day, and by him we shall remain if it shall be for our glory, and in his Almighty name we are determined to endure tribulation, as good soldiers unto the end. 

—T&C 138:22-24

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Against Wisdom, Part 4: Gold Standard

O remember, remember, my son Helaman, how strict are the commandments of God. And he said, If ye will keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land, but if ye keep not his commandments, ye shall be cut off from his presence. And now remember, my son, that God has entrusted you with these things which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations.

—Alma 17:9 RE

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

In my opinion, the publication of the Book of Mormon is the greatest miracle since Christ’s resurrection. The path of scripture we’ve traced thus far really amounts to a mere prelude for the Book of Mormon and the effects it has had and will have on the destiny of humanity. In this installment, we’ll consider the book’s path of development, Satan’s opposition to it, and the Lord’s hand in bringing it forth.

Previously, we’ve examined God’s continual efforts to transmit truth to the human family. Beginning with Adam and Eve, God has continually sought to illuminate the path that returns humanity to a relationship with God. And the Adversary has fought tirelessly against God’s efforts, knowing that truth is the greatest enemy to his diabolical plan. The path we’ve traced thus far has left us with a rather tattered, corrupt, and incomplete library of scripture in the Biblical canon, suffering not only from the insults of human tampering, but also from misinterpretation and exploitation.

The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was the antidote to the prior failures encompassed in the Bible. Yet, in actuality, we know very little about how the book actually came forth. Rather than retracing the entire familiar history, I’m going to focus on a few particulars we should consider. 

First, let’s trace the plates for a bit. After Nephi began the record in the new world, the Lord instructed him to create a parallel record, focusing on the spiritual and revelatory aspects of the Nephite history, which Nephi did without understanding why such a record would be necessary. 

Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men. For behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen. (1 Nephi 2:14 RE)

We have developed the habit of calling this second record the “small plates” and the more secular history the “large plates.” Interestingly, the small plates were passed down in the priestly line through the descendants of Nephi’s brother Jacob, while the large plates continued in the kingly line of Nephi’s posterity. This dual situation continued for approximately 500 years until the time of Benjamin, when the small plates were full. Then they were joined with other records in the kingly line and passed down for a further 500 years. Ultimately, for a thousand years, lines of record keepers kept, preserved, guarded and recorded the Nephite record. 

We could cite many statements about the importance these record keepers felt. Here are a few:

And it came to pass that after king Benjamin had made an end of these sayings to his son, that he gave him charge concerning all the affairs of the kingdom. And moreover, he also gave him charge concerning the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and also the plates of Nephi, and also the sword of Laban, and the ball or director which led our fathers through the wilderness, which was prepared by the hand of the Lord that thereby they might be led, everyone, according to the heed and diligence which they gave unto him. (Mosiah 1:3 RE)

And now, my son Helaman, I command you that ye take the records which have been entrusted with me. And I also command you that ye keep a record of this people according as I have done, upon the plates of Nephi, and keep all these things sacred which I have kept, even as I have kept them — for it is for a wise purpose that they are kept — and these plates of brass which contain these engravings, which have the records of the holy scriptures upon them, which have the genealogy of our forefathers, even from the beginning. And behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon. (Alma 17:7 RE)

And Nephi, the son of Helaman, had departed out of the land of Zarahemla, giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates of brass, and all the records which had been kept, and all those things which had been kept sacred from the departure of Lehi out of Jerusalem. Then he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth. And his son Nephi did keep the record in his stead, yea, the record of this people. (3 Nephi 1:1 RE)

We can learn from all the above quotes (and others) just how important the record keepers knew their role to be, and just how seriously and carefully they fulfilled their responsibilities, including appointing their successors. This ensured that when Christ came and asked to see the records, Nephi could present him a collection of work that was accurate and largely complete. Nevertheless, the Lord instructed Nephi to add material that had been overlooked, then he gave them further material to include. This demonstrates the attention and care Christ gave to preparing the Book of Mormon record. Even more amazing, the Lord made clear that the record was not even for the Nephites. Over and over he told them to record his words so they could be had by the latter-day gentiles: 

And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem — they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry — do not ask the Father in my name that they may receive a knowledge of you by the holy ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the gentiles; (3 Nephi 7:4 RE)

Write the things which I have told you, and, according to the time and the will of the Father, they shall go forth unto the gentiles. (3 Nephi 10:4 RE)

And he saith, These scriptures which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you, for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations. (3 Nephi 11:6 RE)

At the end of the Nephite civilization, Mormon and later his son, Moroni, grappled with completing the record, abridging 1000 years of Nephite history, and providing what would be most needed in our day. Mormon spoke about his specific purposes in writing the record:

And these things do the spirit manifest unto me; therefore, I write unto you all. And for this cause I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam, and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil; and also that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, which ye shall have among you; and also that the Jews, the covenant people of the Lord, shall have other witness, besides him whom they saw and heard, that Jesus whom they slew was the very Christ and the very God. And I would that I could persuade all ye ends of the earth to repent and prepare to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (Mormon 1:12 RE)

When the time came for the record to go to the Gentiles, God went to some lengths to ensure Joseph was prepared. By the time Joseph Smith received the Book of Mormon plates, he had undergone four years of training, including meeting annually with the resurrected Nephi, who ultimately held responsibility for the records transferred from Judah, for the kingly line of Joseph, and for the Book of Mormon plates. We know almost nothing of Joseph’s interviews with Nephi each year on the Autumn equinox. Joseph told us very little about them:

Accordingly as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year and at each time I found the same messenger there and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days. (JSH 4:1)

What “instruction and intelligence” were necessary to prepare an uneducated teenager to stand in the Holy Order line of record keepers? How carefully and deliberately did Nephi prepare for the handoff of the 2,400-year effort to preserve a pure record? We may never know those details, though we do know Nephi took a terrible risk in handing the record to a mortal. So long as the record remained “sealed up” by Moroni, it was in God’s care. But once it was handed to a mortal man, all manner of opposition could, and did, work against it. 

Remember, if history tells us anything, it’s that God’s word is rarely safe in the hands of mortals. Joseph was warned in the strictest terms concerning the responsibility that fell to him. 

Now, to begin to appreciate the full import of this Book of Mormon record without the need for hundreds of pages, we’ll have to resort to a list: 

Attributes of the Book of Mormon

  • The direct continuation of the record going back to Eden, which included all the holy prophets and the religion of the Fathers.
  • Prepared by a line of prophets in the Holy Order, under special care and guidance from God.
  • Recorded on metal plates throughout to prevent alteration by uninspired scribes.
  • Multiple copies of certain information prepared in anticipation of events 2,400 years in the future.
  • Designed to establish, and where necessary, correct the truth of the Bible.
  • Abridged and prepared by prophets and seers who saw our day and uniquely understood what would be required.
  • Sealed up and protected by God’s care for 1,400 years, to come forth unchanged and uncorrupted.
  • Translated by the gift and power of God for the gentile audience.
  • Targeted also to the Jews and other remnants of Israel for the specific purposes of restoring their covenant status, bringing them to Messiah, and fulfilling the covenants of God.
  • The keystone of the Marvelous Work and Wonder purposed by the Father.
  • The only record currently available that came forth under such circumstances, demonstrating the long-game approach of God. The Book of Mormon has been planned, prepared, and shepherded by God for millennia, specifically to play its role in our day.

I began this post by stating that the publication of the Book of Mormon is the greatest miracle since Christ’s resurrection. In light of the above, I feel such a statement is overwhelmingly vindicated. 

Nevertheless, even in the face of such impressive power, wisdom and planning, the Adversary has done what he can to fight against God. Obviously, he’s sought to discredit the record through all manner of sophistry. The arguments of mortals against the Book of Mormon have ranged from alternative origin theories, to linguistics, archaeology, geography, history, biology, theology, personal attacks and mockery. In other words, we’re back to tactic one from Part 1 of this series: Believe it not. 

And yet, the convincing power of the book is such that millions have flocked to its standard, despite Hell’s best efforts to discredit the work. So two other tactics have come into play. Let’s examine them both.

Tactic Five: Exploitation

For most of the 192 years since the book’s publication, the churches that accept the book have largely not accepted the book. Rather than giving this record the preeminent place it deserves as the gold standard for doctrine, practice and truth, many have instead treated it as a proof text for their own claims, and validation for their own man-made practices. 

Often it works something like this:

  • The Book of Mormon is true (yes)
  • So therefore Joseph Smith was a prophet (yes)
  • And therefore the church(es) who claim their origins with Joseph must unavoidably be “true” (wait, what?)
  • So therefore the guys at the top are most unavoidably prophets as well (seriously?)
  • So naturally what they do, say, and teach must certainly be God’s very word and will (fat chance!)
  • Therefore you must give them your money, obedience and support, otherwise you will be damned (oh please!)

If you try pointing out what the Book of Mormon ACTUALLY teaches about many of their practices and beliefs, and about churches in general, you’re likely to find yourself thrown out (ask me how I know.)

So, unfortunately, Lucifer has managed to deflect and retarget belief in this most amazing scriptural record into belief in churches, trusting the arm of flesh, and accepting all manner of falsehoods. To be honest, it’s a pretty effective tactic. 

Before we move on, we need to examine the foundations of faith, and therefore the foundations of the Adversary’s attacks. According to the Lectures on Faith (3:2-5):

Let us here observe that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.

  • First, the idea that he actually exists.
  • Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.
  • Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will. 

Consider how the three items listed directly map to Satan’s efforts:

Notice how each of the factors required for faith in Jesus Christ has been the target of one of Lucifer’s primary attacks? It’s no coincidence, of course. Both Satan and Joseph Smith are well aware of what is required for saving faith. One promotes it, and one attacks it, but the concepts are eternal.

Tactic Six: Imitation

OK, here’s where things start to get really strange. Try as he might to destroy faith by attacking scripture, Satan recognizes there are still some few who will prioritize correct scripture above all and will actually try to live according to the Lord’s teachings. They value and seek after truth with open hearts and minds. Therefore the Adversary has come up with a special way to entrap those folks. To put it simply, in effect he says, “So you like scripture, do you? Here, have more. Have all you want!” 

To that end, we’ve seen the bizarre and recent proliferation of numerous pieces of Book of Mormon “fan fiction” in the form of false scripture, manufactured by deceived or conspiring men, with the intent of misleading believers into false paths. I’ve personally encountered the following imitation scriptures (and I’m sure there are more):

  • A record purporting to be from the Hagoth colony
  • A record purporting to come from copper scrolls hidden in a cave in the Philippines
  • The supposed “Book of Lehi”
  • The supposed Plates of Brass
  • The supposed “Lost 116 pages”
  • Various versions of the “Book of Remembrance” 
  • At least four separate claimants have published the “sealed portion” of the Book of Mormon (one of whom has an unimpressive imitation set of gold plates, interpreters, and sword of Laban.) It’s very strange that the “sealed portion” seems to have irresistible attraction for forgers, yet is the most un-forgible scripture of all. Anyone who understands what it should contain and when it is destined to be revealed is not taken in by imitations.

And the list goes on, diverging from Book of Mormon derivative works into wholesale pretended revelations declaring all sorts of nonsense. 

Having personally read a number of these fake volumes of scripture, I can testify that they are all poor imitations. Nevertheless, each has managed to convince some few adherents and earn some money and notoriety for the forgers. Each comes with a back story designed to impress the gullible, but none comes with the sort of back story that aligns with the level of care God has taken through the ages in working through the Holy Order for the publication and protection of scripture. Dreamers make up interesting fantasies, but ultimately radioactive spider bites don’t really bestow superpowers. That’s just lazy writing.

So now that we’ve gotten to somewhat modern times in our story, we’ll next consider how the miraculous coming forth of the Book of Mormon was managed and nurtured by God. Watch for that in Part 5. 

And now behold, I tell you by the spirit of prophecy that if ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken away from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind. But if ye keep the commandments of God, and do with these things which are sacred according to that which the Lord doth command you — for you must appeal unto the Lord for all things whatsoever ye must do with them — behold, no power of earth or hell can take them from you, for God is powerful to the fulfilling of all his words. For he will fulfill all his promises which he shall make unto you, for he has fulfilled his promise which he has made unto our fathers. For he promised unto them that he would preserve these things for a wise purpose in him, that he might shew forth his power unto future generations.

—Alma 17:10 RE

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Against Wisdom, Part 3: Satan Hath Great Power Over Them

Then Jesus addressed those Jews who believed on him, Only if you continue to follow my teachings will you be my students indeed, because you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. The leaders interrupted to claim, We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been slaves to any man. Why do you say we will become free? Jesus answered them, In the name of Father Ahman I say unto you, Whoever misses the mark is the slave of errors. And such a slave will not be allowed to be within Abraham’s house in the resurrection, but the Son will remain part of God’s Family forever. If the Son sets you free from sin, you are free indeed.

—Testimony of St. John 6:18-19

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

In parts 1 and 2, we traced the course of scripture from Adam to the Plates of Brass, including God’s intervention to ensure a correct record survived. Hopefully, the path thus far has reminded us all how carefully and effectively God has shepherded sacred records, protecting them against increasing threats, often by miraculous, yet small and simple means. 

  • Adam’s Book of Remembrance was protected within a family line until it was destroyed by jealous brothers within the family.
  • Joseph’s more permanent replacement was safeguarded with his remains and carried in his ark until Moses came on the scene and continued the record with revelation from heaven.
  • These Plates of Brass were again safeguarded by a family dynasty, and kept under lock, key, and guard until the coming destruction of the city threatened them.
  • Nephi rescued the Plates of Brass and carried them to a completely different continent to keep them safe. Once there, they were again guarded as the treasure of kings and priests, carefully handed down and guarded by the Holy Order. 

I point these patterns out so they won’t escape our attention. The creation, protection and transfer of scripture is not random or uncontrolled. Rather, there is intent, organization, intelligence, power, wisdom, forethought and care involved every step of the way. Though heaven always allows and preserves agency, great care is taken to see that the record is preserved despite the weakness, frailty and wickedness of men.

The Brass Plates, Continued

We left our narrative at the point where Nephi rescued the Plates of Brass from certain destruction at the hands of Babylon. That was a pretty amazing piece of work, Nephi! What are you going to do next? 

Well, if we know anything about Nephi, it’s that he’s going to do whatever the Lord asks. And what does the Lord ask? He asks Nephi to make more plates. God seems rather single-minded in his efforts to get truth into the hands of mortals. So here are some questions to consider:

Where do you think Nephi got the idea and pattern to record sacred history and revelations on metal plates? Could it have been from the Plates of Brass? 

The Brass Plates record was current and up to date when Nephi rescued the record from Jerusalem. He then continued recording scripture, including his father’s records and his own narrative and revelations, and he also commanded that his successors do likewise, even commanding what sorts of things were to be recorded on which plates. 

Therefore, isn’t it most correct to view Nephi’s record as the direct, uninterrupted continuation of the Brass Plates? The recording of scripture never stopped as long as there were willing participants and recipients.

And finally, the Plates of Brass contained the “record of the Jews,” but also included Northern Kingdom prophets—not just records from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In Nephi’s day, with the Northern Kingdom destroyed, the record remained in Jerusalem and was identified with Judah. Then Nephi continued the record as a descendent of Joseph. The record therefore went from Judah to Joseph, as did the accouterments of kingship, and the Holy Order responsibility to continue the record. 

Indeed, the kingship of the house of Israel passed at that time from David’s line to Joseph’s line, in the person of Nephi, with remarkable signs attending. But that’s a story for a different day. Besides, the kingship is not nearly so important as the scriptural record, so we'll stick with the topic at hand.

Now that we’ve considered some questions about the continuation of the Brass Plates and the kingship, let’s return to the Jews and Jerusalem for a moment.

Tactic Four: Perversion

After the Babylonian captivity, some portion of the Jews returned to Jerusalem and undertook an effort to recover what remained of scripture. More prophets came, further records developed, but the teaching of Messiah remained suppressed in surviving scripture. The post-exilic records are as bereft of Messiah as the pre-exilic records, once again demonstrating the tampering that necessarily took place. 

But that all changed when the Messiah himself came on the scene. After his life and ministry, a number of his followers provided eyewitness accounts of his ministry, his teachings, his death and his resurrection. Because the entirety of their records centered on HIM, and because so many witnesses testified, the Adversary’s prior approach of eliminating the Messiah from the scriptural record became impossible. 

Though his efforts were again foiled by the Holy Order, Satan did not give up. His next approach was to tamper with the record such that “many plain and precious” things were eliminated. Interestingly, they were eliminated not by anti-Christs, but by the church that claimed to believe his Gospel:

For behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men. Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and most precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. And after these plain and precious things were taken away, it goeth forth unto all the nations of the gentiles. (1 Nephi 3:21)

By targeting certain plain and precious truths, as well as the covenants of the Lord, Satan managed to pervert what remained into an obscured, twisted, polluted version of the Gospel, lacking power to save.

And after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the gentiles, yea, even across the many waters (which thou hast seen) with the gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest, because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book — which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God — that because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them. (1 Nephi 3:22)

The upshot here is that it was no longer necessary to wholesale suppress information about the Messiah. Satan showed that merely perverting Christ’s teachings was enough to bring about the desired result. And his best tool for doing so was the “church.”  Thus, Satan’s new approach became to promote a false caricature of Christ and his teachings, using the religious institutions on which the world relied. Such had the benefit of offering people a savior and hope of salvation, while withholding necessary information about what such salvation required. 

The result was all sorts of churches, preaching all sorts of doctrines, and bearing all sorts of fruit, but none of it was good (Jacob 3:17 RE). The perverse gospels of cheap salvation, church authority, prosperity, and leader worship all served to lead people away from Christ, even while proclaiming his Messiahship. Ok, I have to admit, it seems pretty clever at first. But it’s really nothing new. After all, Satan started promoting false forms of salvation before the foundation of the world, and he managed to convince a sizable group. What else would you expect him to do?

Tactic 5: Withholding

One particular historical practice is worth mentioning in this regard. The Catholic church, through most of its existence, saw to it that scripture and worship existed only in a language completely foreign to most believers. Therefore, for well over a thousand years, believing in Christ meant simply accepting the statements of clergy regarding what the scripture said, and what it meant. Only those properly trained in Latin, Greek or Hebrew could even read the scripture. Thus, worship throughout the vast majority of the Christian era consisted of blindly following traditions established by those in authority, based on scripture almost nobody could examine or even read. Thus, tradition supplanted scripture giving a small class of men control over millions—even billions—of lives. The aggregation of immense power and wealth resulted from “teaching for commandments the doctrines of men” and led innumerable souls carefully down to hell.

Of course, it doesn’t matter a bit what language the scripture is written in if people don’t bother to read it. Unexamined scripture sitting on a shelf might as well be written in Greek, Hebrew or Latin. Perhaps it’s better summarized in a quote often attributed to Mark Twain: “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” 

Whether truth is withheld by conspiring churches and clergymen seeking control, or hidden by the apathy of those to whom the truth is offered, the result is the same. Rather than experiencing the freedom truth brings (John 6:14 RE), the human family experiences bondage, sin, death, and hell, knowing nothing concerning God’s mysteries. This is what is meant by the chains of hell (Alma 9:3 RE). In this regard, Satan’s greatest ally is our fallen human nature. Unless we choose to be otherwise, we will most certainly be his.

It Ain’t Rocket Surgery

By now, we should be noticing the pattern employed by our adversary. I’ll admit it’s perhaps easy to conclude the Devil is clever in his opposition to truth. But the more I examine his tactics, the more I come to realize his approach is more brute force than finesse. Destroy the records. If that fails, attack the parts about Messiah. If that fails, attack the plain and precious parts of the gospel and obscure the covenants. No luck there? Entice power-hungry men and institutions to exert control by withholding scripture. And remember, you can always play on humans’ apathy, laziness, and distractibility. Yes, his tactics work, but the “great power” he displays is really power given him by weak and foolish mortals who choose to do his bidding. It’s a pretty standard tool set, and if the Devil is to be given his due for anything, it would be his persistence. 

But here’s the good part: God is persistent as well. Immensely so. He unwaveringly, unceasingly and constantly seeks to present truth to those who will receive it. His foreknowledge, wisdom and might overcome and overthrow every effort of the adversary. God installed the fire sprinklers before Satan ever even contemplated striking the match. Working through the Holy Order, God has preserved truth for thousands of years, and continues to do so. It is a marvelous work, and a wonder indeed. So much so, in fact, that Christ boldly and openly declared God’s ordained intent and the final outcome to the Nephites 2,000 years ago—so they could record it for us. 

It’s a bold move, really, to lay out the whole game plan before men and devils, declaring the outcome of the war even before the final battle begins. God’s confidence should enhance our own. Though Lucifer may rage and seek to destroy, he continually gets blindsided by the small and simple means God uses to defeat him again and again. The ultimate triumph is a given. The remaining question is whether we will stand or fall in the fight. And that hinges on our treatment of scripture.

Now that we’ve examined scripture through the Christian era, in Part 4 we’ll consider the miracle of modern scripture and the Adversary’s tactics to oppose it. 

But Jesus answered and said, It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

—Matthew 2:5 RE