I have often heard the term ‘word of God’ used to cover everything from scripture to the latest conference talk. Many have the mindset that they must flock to the biannual conferences to hear what the Lord has to say to them. I propose that the ‘word of God’ had a very specific meaning to Nephi and should have a similar meaning to us.
The iron rod in Lehi’s dream symbolized the word of God. So… what is the word of God? I went back through the scriptures to try to better understand the meaning of the word “word.” (Sorry, I had to do that)
Let’s start with the triple combination index where you find that the first reference to ‘word of God/word of the Lord’ is to 1 Nephi chapter 2 verse 3:
“And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.”
The information defined here as the ‘word of the Lord’ is a dream received by Lehi warning him to flee into the desert. In other words, this personal revelation received through a ‘vision of the night.’
Why do I bring this up? Well, later in the same chapter, another similar term is used. Verse 13 states:
“Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.”
Here the reference is to ‘words of the prophets’ regarding the content of what could be considered the inspired writings of Lehi’s day. So we have ‘word of the Lord’ and ‘words of the prophets.’ It seems to me that this is a somewhat subtle suggestion that these two sources should be considered as different classes of the knowledge we receive from God. The ‘word of God’ being direct and personal while the ‘words of the prophets’ being delivered through another person and are written down for others benefit. Further, in verse 16, Nephi tells us of his own desire to gain a testimony of his father’s words:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.”
Again, Nephi delineates the source of the ‘word.’ We have defined, now, the word of God and the words of prophets. I found that I could fairly consistently apply this idea to the use of the term in the scriptures, especially in 1st and 2nd Nephi. Clearly, though, the primary meaning of the ‘word of God’ as used by Nephi is personal revelation. That communication with God that comes directly to us, not through a third party or the written word.
Alma taught that there are two means that we can receive truth. In Alma 5:45-47 we find:
“And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.
And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God.”
Alma speaks here of the ‘spirit of revelation’ and the ‘spirit of prophecy.’ The former is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as a personal witness of the truth. The latter is a witness that the scriptures are true. In other words, by the spirit of revelation we gain a personal testimony of the truth of the things of God. By the spirit of prophecy, we gain a testimony of the truth of that which was written by others.
So what is my definition of ‘scripture?’ The words of inspired men that requires the spirit of prophecy to gain a testimony of the truthfulness therein. If one seeks for the spirit of prophecy, they are promised to receive a validation of the truth found in the words of those that have gone before us. It is a supplement to the word of God delivered directly to us through the spirit of revelation.
Why is this important? Am I simply wresting the scriptures? You can draw your own conclusion regarding the words that bring us salvation. I have come to recognize, in my own life, that the iron rod is the word of God and the word of God is personal revelation.
Following their miraculous departure from Egypt, the children of Israel were invited to ‘sanctify’ themselves in preparation for meeting the Lord. Instead of adequately preparing themselves, the people feared (Exodus 20:19):
“…And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
This same fear is prevalent today as we seek to ‘hide’ behind the mantle of the prophet rather than sanctify ourselves to enter the presence of God and hear His words. Gods calls upon all of us to knock. In response, He will open the door. The importance of this sanctification is core to the gospel defined by Christ to the Nephites as we read in 3 Nephi 27: 9-21 that:
“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel…”
We all must be ‘sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost’ in order to be prepared to enter this kingdom. This sanctification through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is also defined as a path the wisdom and knowledge. In D&C 39:6 we read:
“And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.”
The necessity of a personal revelatory relationship with God is the same message as I proposed in my previous post on the mysteries of God. It is not the role of the prophet to stand as an intermediary between us and the Lord, not at the time of Moses and not at the time of Thomas. If we, indeed, strive to receive ‘all things,’ the above scripture should be our roadmap.
When Joshua complained about Eldad and Medad prophesying in the camp of Israel, Moses responded (Numbers 11:29):
“…would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”
All of the Lord’s people are to take His spirit upon them. It was not until after the sanctifying baptism of fire, both at the time of Peter and at the time of Nephi and Lehi, that we read of the marvelous things that were spoken by those who had been baptized by fire. The same gospel calls upon us to come unto Christ, be baptised by water and then fire and the Holy Ghost and receive of His wisdom and knowledge.