Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ancient Scripture Week One

Tonight was my first night back at Institute. For those that don't know, LDS Institute is essentially like a Christian seminary or place of learning. We have a genre of classes that range from the doctrine of eternal marriage, to a study of the scriptures (which include the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price), to preparation for full-time missionaries and the study of the words of our modern prophets.

The class I'm currently taking is the study of Ancient Scripture, specifically the Book of Mormon, although other scriptures are also used. Now this class is different from our typical Book of Mormon class in that we have no manual or set teaching method for this. What I'll share with you is the outline of what we are studying in the Book of Mormon and what I've learned after each class.

Without further ado...

Ancient Scripture Week One

What is the Book of Mormon?

My classmates and I came up with a list to summarize what the Book of Mormon is:
  • A good book
  • the Doctrine of Christ
  • a resource for instruction
  • the Fullness of the Gospel
  • the most correct of any book on earth
  • record of covenants
  • Another Testament of Jesus Christ
To put together all of the ideas that we came up with, our teacher had us turn to the Title Page. The Title Page was written by the last prophet in the Book of Mormon, named Moroni. Moroni was the son of Mormon who originally began compiling and abridging the ancient records that make up the Book of Mormon and he passed it on to Moroni to complete. 
An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi
Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.
 An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ. 


(I added the bolt to emphasize what we looked at most closely in the Title Page.) By studying this closely, we see that the points we brought up to describe the Book of Mormon all fit into this introduction written by Moroni in one way or another.

The Book of Mormon was recorded for future generations, which is expressed multiple times throughout the work; it focuses on preparing ourselves for the Second Coming of the Lord, the trials that we face, what causes us to lose our way, missionary work, and the pinnacle of it all- the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For further emphasis, we turned to the Doctrine and Covenants 20:8-12 which points out that the Book of Mormon:

  • was translated by power from God
  • is a record of a fallen people
  • teaches the fullness of the gospel
  • was given by inspiration and shared through the "ministering of angels" aka missionary work
  • proves the words of holy scripture are true
  • proves God inspires men now as he did anciently
  • proves God is the same yesterday, today and forever. 
The class discussion took a small detour here to explore why in D&C 20:9 it specifies that it contains a record of both a fallen people and the fullness of the gospel. We came to the conclusion that a people cannot fall unless they are first raised up. How are we raised up? Through a knowledge of the truth and a closeness of God. And why do we study the history of a fallen people? To understand the contrast between the light of God's presence in our lives and the darkness of rejecting Him as well as to understand how we can come close to Him and what we need to avoid to prevent ourselves from falling. 

The Gospel

What can we do to come close to Christ? 3 Nephi 27:8-14 gives us the answer- build ourselves upon the Gospel. And what is the Gospel? The above verses dictate four points that make up the Gospel of Jesus Christ, verses 13 and 14 specifically. If you have trouble picking them out, Marion G. Romney summed them up into four verities (or truths).
  • Christ came in obedience to the will of the Father which demonstrates his relationship with the Father. 
    • Look at our relationship with Christ and how much he loves us. The love of Christ demonstrates to us the love that the Father has for us. All things that Christ did or taught were what the Father willed should be done or demonstrated. If Christ loved us enough to live, suffer, die and be resurrected for us, how infinite is the love of our Heavenly Father? To emphasize the relation between the Father and Son, refer to John 5:19.   
  • the Atonement (which encompasses his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the Cross)
  • the universal Resurrection of mankind
  • the Judgement


How do we learn the gospel? Where do we get the gospel?

Let's start with a little chronology so we can get our bearings.
Chronologically speaking, where does the Book of Mormon start? The Book of Ether, which is the 14th book in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Ether is the history of the brother of Jared (not the same Jared from the Old Testament), his brother and their people who lived about the time as the Tower of Babel (between 2300 and 2000 BC). To give you a visual, below is a chronological history of the Old Testament. (If you have trouble reading the names, click the picture to go to the original link.)

I want to point out a few things on this chronology, but we're going to jump around a little bit so bare with me. 

Do you see the gray line that says "The brother of Jared goes to America?" It's between the blue line that says, "Flood" and the light blue line that indicates, "Abraham." I point this out because I want you to see where the Jaredites fall in regards to two of our most famous patriarchs, Noah and Abraham.This helps us understand the time frame we're dealing with. Noah lived somewhere between 2900 to 1900 BC and the Jaredites left for the ancient Americas soon after the flood around 2300 BC. It's possible that Jared may have known Noah, and even if he didn't know him personally, he probably knew of him considering that he wasn't far removed from him genealogically speaking.

The next bit that we discussed was of great interest to me. In a thorough study of the Book of Mormon, we see over and over again that this was written for future generations. We are that generation that the ancient prophets make reference to. Who is at the head of a generation? The father (also known as the patriarch). Can you name a few of the better known patriarchs? We have two above- Noah and Abraham. How about: Jacob, Isaac, Methuselah, Enoch, Jared and Seth? And let's not forget the most important, Adam. 

To explain why Adam plays such an important role in this, I have to refer you to the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. If I went into detail here, this would go on for eons. Suffice it to say, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden. When they left the Garden, they were no longer in the presence of God, however that does not mean that they forgot that they knew God. They were given the Law of Sacrifice as well as other laws and as time went by and their family grew, they shared their knowledge of the Lord with their children. Adam, a high priest, ordained certain of his children and grandchildren to the Melchizedek priesthood (also known as the high priesthood). These ordinations included Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared (not the Jared from the Book of Ether), Enoch and Methuselah. For a full account of the ordinations, refer to D&C 107: 40-57

The Lectures On Faith, Section 2 tell us:
43 We can see from this [Genesis 5] that Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Methuselah, Lamach, and Noah all lived on the earth at the same time, And that Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech, were all acquainted with both Adam and Noah.
53 We have now traced the chronology of the world, agreeably to the account given in our present bible, from Adam to Abraham, and have clearly determined, beyond the power of controversy, that there was no difficulty in preserving the knowledge of God in the world, from the creation of Adam, and the manifestation made to his immediate descendants, as set forth in the former part of this lecture, so that the students, in this class need not have any dubiety resting on their minds, on this subject; for they can easily see, that it is impossible for it to be otherwise; but that the knowledge of the existence of a God, must have continued from father to son, as a matter of tradition, at least. For we cannot suppose, that a knowledge of this important fact, could have existed in the mind of any of the before mentioned individuals, without their having made it known to their posterity.
56 We have now clearly set forth how it is, and how it was, that God became an object of faith for rational beings; and also, upon what foundation the testimony was based, which excited the enquiry and diligent search of the ancient saints, to seek after and obtain a knowledge of the glory of God: and we have seen that it was human testimony, and human testimony only, that excited this enquiry, in the first instance in their minds--it was the credence they gave to the testimony of their fathers--this testimony having aroused their minds to enquire after the knowledge of God, the enquiry frequently terminated, indeed, always terminated, when rightly persued, in the most glorious discoveries, and eternal certainty. 

Let's reiterate what's been stated above. Noah had a very direct and not distant line of testimony back to Adam via Methuselah and the other patriarchs that were living after Adam's death. Further, we also know from the chronology shown above that the first Jaredites (Jared and the brother of Jared which came to the ancient Americas) were alive at the same time Noah was alive. 

The brother of Jared (from the Book of Ether) knew (or knew of) Noah, Noah knew Methuselah and Methuselah knew Adam. The ancient patriarchs had a direct line of knowledge back to Adam and through the records kept by those patriarchs and others, we have a direct line to Adam's knowledge and testimony. No matter which of the standard works (scriptures: OT, NT, BofM, PofGP or D&C) you use, the gospel always traces back to Adam. He had it and he passed it on to his posterity and they passed it to theirs and so forth. Everything we know about the Gospel of Jesus Christ comes through our fathers and their testimonies of that gospel. And the reason that people throughout history have fallen and will continue to fall is because they reject  the testimony of the fathers, which in turn is rejecting the testimony of Adam who knew God. 

Now that we understand what the gospel is and where we get it, we can now dig deeper into the four verities (or truths) of the gospel, which we will be doing in class over the next seven weeks. I hope some of the information above was as interesting to you as it was to me. 

Until next week,

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