As an inaugural post to this blog, I thought it would be appropriate to start at the beginning – the first chapter and first verse of the first book of the Book of Mormon:
“I, NEPHI, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.”
Growing up, the beginning of this verse held prominence in my mind with the message of strong families and overcoming adversity. Today, the latter part of the verse now speaks loudly. Here, in the first statement included in the record consolidated by Mormon, Nephi chooses to emphasize his great knowledge of the ‘mysteries of God.’ Again, in my formative years, I recall the myriad of times I was told to focus on the gospel and don’t dwell on the mysteries, yet here Nephi speaks of being favored of the Lord and receiving of His mysteries.
I have often thought that Nephi’s experience differed from Laman and Lemuel in that he was younger and more impressionable. His father was a visionary man and he automatically accepted his visions and teachings as desirable. In 1 Nephi 10:17 we read:
“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.”
Nephi sought to have the same experience as his father, the vision of the tree of life. He desired to ‘see, hear, and know’ of these things. He recognized that they were given ‘by the power of the Holy Ghost’ and were available to ‘all those who diligently seek him.’ As we read in verses 18 and 19, Nephi again extends this promise to ALL who ‘repent and come unto God.’
“For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.”
As stated in this scripture, to achieve this objective, one must ‘repent and come unto Christ,’ which represents acceptance of the gospel (see www.fulness.com/gospel). One must then ‘diligently seek’ after these mysteries. The promise is given that by doing so, we will have the mysteries of God presented to us by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Alma gives a glimpse of what it means to ‘diligently seek’ in Alma 5:46 where he states that these things
“…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.”
Even after his glorious baptism of fire, Alma had to humble himself and fast and pray mightily before he was blessed with the revelation through the Holy Ghost. We can, through Alma’s example, understand that the mysteries of God are available to us for a price – we must diligently seek after them.
The previous scripture reference should help one understand that the mysteries of God are available to each of us if we repent, come unto Christ, and diligently seek them through fasting and prayer.
Let’s turn to some scriptural examples of the mysteries of God. In his lecture to his son, Corianton, Alma addresses an issue ‘that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead.’ This is found in Alma chapter 40 verse 3:
“…Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know—that is concerning the resurrection.”
As we read earlier, Alma diligently sought to know the mysteries of God and now, under the guidance of the Spirit, he expounds on one of these mysteries – the resurrection – to his son. Have you ever considered the resurrection as a mystery of God? Yet here, in the Book of Mormon, Alma defines resurrection as such.
In my mind, an earlier comment by Alma now make more sense regarding a question posed by Zeezrom. As you may recall, Alma and Amulek were preaching to the people of Ammonihah when a skilled lawyer named Zeezrom began to contend with them. Once he was ‘softened up,’ Zeezrom presented the following question found in Alma 12:8:
“What does this mean which Amulek hath spoken concerning the resurrection of the dead, that all shall rise from the dead, both the just and the unjust, and are brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works?”
Here is a question regarding the same topic – resurrection – which we previously discussed. As a preface to his remarks on the topic, Alma first discusses the mysteries of God as found in verses nine through eleven:
“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.”
Zeezrom had asked a question about a mystery of God. Alma responds by educating him and us about the importance of diligently seeking the mysteries. We learn here that many are given to know the mysteries of God but they are not to share them except under the direction of the Spirit. We also learn that by being receptive to the spirit of the Holy Ghost, we can know the mysteries of God in total. What a marvelous promise, to have all this knowledge available to us, individually and uncorrelated. We are also presented with the fate of those who refuse to seek after the mysteries of God – they are captured by the ‘chains of hell.’ What a powerful contrast between the two extremes – accepted by God through the dispensation of His mysteries and the chains of hell reserved for those who do not seek the knowledge of the mysteries of God.
It is noteworthy that exposition on the mysteries is not constrained to the Book of Mormon. In Doctrine and Covenants section 76:5-8, we read:
“For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.
And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.
Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.
And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.
For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man.”
The Lord here reinforces the idea that the mysteries of God are available to all those who serve Him in righteousness. He also notes that these mysteries are unbounded – covering all things from the beginning to the end. This promise, to each of us individually, is contingent on our willingness to serve Him and diligently seek after this knowledge.
At the end of the vision captured in Section 76, Joseph Smith speaks of the vision that was unfolded to Sidney Rigdon and himself. This is found in verse 114:
“But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;”
Joseph reaffirms that the contents of the vision touching on things such as the three degrees of glory and the requisite behavior of those in each kingdom represents a mystery of God.
What I have presented here is a glimpse into what I consider the true meaning of the mysteries of God. These mysteries represent the knowledge that God desires us to have. The mysteries of God are required of us to avoid the captivity of the devil. They are available to ALL who diligently seek after them.
What think ye?