The Mysteries of God


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?

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10 Comments

  1. Spektator

    I think that is an excellent post and a great topic.

    I have often wondered if there are two degrees or categories of mysteries:

    1) Those mysteries not revealed in scriptures that are directly revealed to the individual through the Holy Ghost (from God 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.”)

    2) Those mysteries found in the scriptures but are written cryptically, and therefore not seen and understood by those not being enlightened by the Spirit.

    Would you agree or disagree with that proposition? I am interested in hearing the views of anyone willing to comment on this.

    And if you agree, is it fair to say that category one should not be talked about in a public forum and in posts and articles such as this but category two are fair game? Or should none of the above ever be postulated in posts and articles.

    I ask this because I have a blog about the Marvelous Work which is a scriptural, gospel based topic and as a personal rule, I never enter a topic in a post in my blog that is not related to a scripture and a teaching found in the scriptures, yet much of what I blog about based on my interpretation of the scriptures might be considered by some to be in the category of “hidden treasures of knowledge” or perhaps the “mysteries” of category #2.

    What think ye?

    If you make a compelling argument that neither should be spoken of I will not submit the next article that I have prepared for this blog… and I may quit posting on my blog all together…

  2. Watcher,
    You bring up some interesting points. As I pondered your question, I would suggest there are three categories:

    1. Same as your #1

    2. Similar to your #2. Those mysteries that are not directly revealed in the scriptures, but are veiled in parable or similitude. I had the benefit of a very good gospel mentor for several years. This person would point me at a scripture and ask questions which would prompt me to ‘diligently seek’ to understand the potential ‘mystical’ implications. As I would study these out and return for a discussion, my mentor would support my study or suggest I consider other aspects. The sacred understanding that we shared, I believe, was done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It was shared between us but I do not feel it would be appropriate to share in a larger setting. In this case, I would be hard pressed to find anything I would consider a non-public mystery what does not have cryptic linkage to the scriptures.

    3. Mysteries of God that were deemed appropriate for public consumption as I pointed out in my post. These are, at times, only the first layer of understanding. I believe that resurrection as a mystery of God goes a lot deeper than has been revealed in the scriptures.

    My experience suggests that the guidance of the Holy Ghost is the best barometer of whether a topic should or should not be placed in a public forum such as your blog. There are certain things that I keep only in my heart and mind. There are things that I feel comfortable posing leading questions in a public forum such as this; leaving the reader to ‘diligently seek’ an understanding.

    Having read your recent post on this blog as well as on your third watch blog, I don’t recall anything that would cause me alarm. I believe that there is a small segment of the population that are truly hungering for the ‘meat’ but have not the confidence that the Holy Spirit can ‘show all things, and teach the peaceable things of the kingdom’ (D&C 39:6). Perhaps these kinds of discussions can awaken them to the splendor of the word.

    Spek

  3. OWIW,

    Alma said, “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.” (Alma 12: 9)

    We tend to think that this scripture applies to all of us and to all of the knowledge we’ve received from God, but it only applies if we have received such a command. In other words, we are free to impart what we have received, unless we have been laid under a strict command not to impart. For most LDS, the only command we have received concerning not imparting are the signs, tokens, etc., of the temple. Everything else comes under the “freely ye have received, freely give” command. (See Matt. 10: 8.)

    Besides the temple, the Lord can put additional prohibitions of revealing to others mysteries He has imparted to you, but unless he gives you such specific prohibitions, there is no law against telling others the heavenly knowledge you have received.

    Of course, it may not always be wise to reveal all information to every audience in every circumstance and in exactly the same way. Wisdom will dictate the best or safest path to take, and often it is best to tailor a message to the audience and circumstance so that there is a better chance of it being received. But what mysteries the Lord has given without any specific prohibitions, may be freely spoken to all people without fear of entering into transgression, though they may end up trying to stone you to death over it.

    Still, an anonymous posting on an Internet blog is a pretty safe forum in which to impart mysteries.

  4. Great feedback guys.

    I have always felt there is a synergism that takes place as people share knowledge and compare notes… etc. “when two or more are gathered in my name…” etc. …even when we don’t necessarily agree on something it helps to get another point of reference.

    Anytime we learn something we did not previously understand as a result of something someone else points out, we have uncovered a hidden treasure of knowledge or something that was previously a mystery to us I suppose.

    It is interesting how the Lord commanded the brethren to teach one another the doctrine of the Kingdom. This would imply that gaining gospel knowledge is a group process as well as an individual process.

    D&C 88: 77, 118
    77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
    • • •
    118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

  5. It just now occurred to me that you could also just put the really controversial posts in the Deep Waters section of the blog.

  6. There are “mysteries,” and there are MYSTERIES.
    For all practical purposes there are only two types of mysteries. First are those things about which God has revealed little or nothing. The true nature of the resurrection is one of those. We know virtually nothing of the powers and processes involved. Another is how the expiation of Chirst provides that resurrection. How does the death and resurrection of a man/God provide new life for us? These are mysteries becaused there is a dearth of information, and there are so many as to boggle the mind.
    The other mysteries are a measure of our own ignoance, not God’s withholding. Because our cultural indoctrination/education blinds us to many gospel truths (and believe me, there are many), we find blank or grey areas in our gospel conprehension that leave us wondering. We experience confusion and outright contraditions in some cases. These are areas in which much has been revealed, but we fail to understand it or even see it because of our cultural/educational blind spots.
    The information regarding the first class of mysteries is purposely withheld from us. If we get it at all, to any degree, it can only come through revelation. When it does, it comes with a strict prohibition: You will not share this information with anyone! Mum is the word. Thus, these precious and sacred truths remain secret, for the most part.
    The information in the second class of mysteries is all around us. We read about it in ancient history, in the scriptures and in our temples. But, because of our intellectual blind spot (and it’s a big, abominable one) it is invisible to us. Yet, these are the mysteries that we are encouraged, by the prophets, to explore and discover. These are mysteries that, when understood, will greatly enhance our gospel conprehension.
    This last category must be ferreted out by us. These are not righteousness dependent; anyone can discover answers to them. They are dependent only upon the due diligence and persistence of the seeker. Unlike the first category of information, which comes only through revelation and is based entirely upon worthyness, we are expected to learn the answers to the second category through our own diligence and study. In this case, revelation does not inform, as in the first. It only confirms. That is, you must ask to know the truth of what you have learned after you have first studied it out thoroughly. When you do so, you then get confirmation, as was explained by the Lord to Oliver Cowdery when he attempted to translate some of the gold plates.
    Because there are two types of mysteries and two very different ways of dealing with them, most Saints are confused because they fail to see that there are two, distinct approaches. Most are intellectually and spiritually indolent, so they give themselves an excuse to not study, saying these are “mysteries,” and we should leave them alone. That little catch phrase lets them off the spiritual hook. Instead, they expect all answers to questions to come through prayer. The rest they expect to be spoon-fed to them by the Brethren, as are the First Principles. Thus, whole areas of gospel conprehension go unilluminated for them. Yet, they seem content to have it that way. Examples of such are prophecy and temple symbolism.
    So, there are “mysteries,” and there are MYSTERIES – two very different things.

  7. I firmly believe we should seek after knowledge and the understanding of the gospel, many times these can be doctrines not revealed in the scriptures (referred to as #1 above) and those in the scriptures but not yet understood (#2 and #3 above).

    My dad tells the story about his time in the Mission Home prior to leaving to serve in the Great Lakes mission. His last day there, he and all other missionaries leaving the next day, were invited into a large room in the SLC temple. I believe it was LeGrand Richards (I will verify with him and correct here if necessary) came in and told the missionaries he was there to answer their questions, there was no taboo subject, they could ask anything they wanted. Many missionaries asked questions and each time he used the scriptures to answer thier questions. After some time going about this way, he made a comment along the lines of: Obviously you guys don’t know your scriptures because every question you asked was written plainly in them. He had come to expound on mysteries and left giving them an assignment to read thier scriptures. The point is, mysteries were not a closed topic and he was disappointed when they did not ask about them.

    As far as what to talk about and what to not, I hope no one makes a case good enough for OWIW to stop posting. I sure won’t. I think it is great that ideas and knowledge can be shared in a forum like this. I do agree with what has been said, to follow the spirit. I think Thomas Paine said it best:

    What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods…

    The mysteries that have been revealed after many hours of study and prayer can be trampled under foot by those who receive them without doing the work. However, I agree with LDS Anarchist that an anonymous posting is a great way to impart it, then those who are searching have a place to find it.

  8. I always thought when you joined the church, everyone received gifts of the Holy Ghost; some few, some many and some all. You received knowledge then understanding and then wisdom. After checking out the blogs for a few weeks I find most have little or no faith. Most don’t believe any of the miracles or visions let alone seen or had one. Is this the blog or is this the way it is?

  9. King,

    I do think that those who see a disconnect and are more vocal find their way to the blogs. I would say that the majority of members of the church say the right words but don’t really have a testimonny of dreams, visions and revelations. I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are only given to those who diligently seek them. As with Alma, we have to engage in mighty prayer and fasting to receive these gifts. Most seem not willing to pay the price.

  10. spektator
    When I first moved to Salt Lake the ward I was in had a young man going to the MTC in a week. Every hand was going up, but I couldn’t raise my hand. Being new to the church I doubted. Then five minutes later the bishop made an announcement the young man was going to have to postpone his departure for a week. Then at that very moment I knew why he had to wait. I had just assumed it was a test of my faith. Then I was shown another gift. I had never given it another thought. Now I’m wondering why a lot of things happened.
    You know during this time I worked at the homeless shelter in Salt Lake. People from the shelter would ask me about the church so I would take them on the temple tour and bear my testimony. Then to church, then I would put the missionaries on them. At the time the 13th and the 9th ward shared a building; you know different times. I attended the High Priests Quorum at the 13th and I brought new members to the 9th where I attended the Elders Quorum and Gospel Principals with them. I did this for almost two years and no one questioned me about anything I did. I was doing all the Holy Spirit had me do. Again I never gave it a thought.
    One day one of the brothers asked if I would help him pass the sacrament and I told I couldn’t. It took no discernment to know what he was thinking. So I assured him I held no priest hood nothing else. He then said “Well let’s go see if we can fix this.” I knew then I was to move on. I still can’t believe the Bishops from the two wards didn’t know or the members of the High Priest Quorum know something. Come on; you go to a ward with 30 members and you will have 50 people asking your life history. I don’t know; so much to do and I have wasted so much time.


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