Monday, February 24, 2014

Scriptures, Not Traditions

Mormon’s abridged account of King Benjamin gives us a wealth of background information about the Nephite sacred history. Look at what leaks through in these opening verses:

"And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days. And it came to pass that he had three sons; and he called their names Mosiah, and Helorum, and Helaman. And he caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord. And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God. For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time. I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct." (Mosiah 1: 1-5.)

Notice the “plates of brass” are mentioned. These are not the Nephite records, but the records obtained from Laban. (See 1 Ne. 3: 3; 1 Ne. 4: 24; 1 Ne. 5: 10-16.) These Old Testament records were “in the language of the Egyptians” which was required to be able to “read these engravings.” Therefore, it was necessary for King Benjamin’s sons to “be taught in all the language of [King Benjamin’s] fathers” in order to be able to read these records. From this we can conclude the earliest Jewish records were composed and preserved in Egyptian rather than Hebrew. As a matter of historic fact, Hebrew did not exist as a written language until several thousand years following Egyptian writing. This is an interesting detail that leaks through. Joseph Smith would not likely have known this.

To even be capable of reading these scriptures, the Nephite student was required to be proficient in another language. This proficiency was required in order to prevent this line of faithful descendants from “dwindling in unbelief” because they would never be able to remember all of God’s “mysteries” apart from the record. When they lose this kind of information they “know nothing” and “do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.”

What is the difference between ignorance of scripture because they cannot be understood due to the inability to read the language (Egyptian) and ignorance of the scripture because you do not study?

Do we dwindle in unbelief because we fail to study as easily as one would who couldn't read the language?

Can we overcome the incorrect traditions of our fathers if we fail to study the scriptures any easier than we could if we were unfamiliar with them because of apathy?

Is it possible today to dwindle in unbelief because we do not study the scriptures and acquaint ourselves with God’s mysteries?

King Benjamin intrudes into the Nephite record following the content of the Small Plates of Nephi. The Small Plates document a dwindling by the descendants of Jacob. The greatest content is early, and as the record moves along, it has less and less to offer about God and His mysteries. Then abruptly, King Benjamin reverses this pattern. He emerges as a figure of restoration in a pattern of decay. But his ability to serve in that role was directly related to him “remembering” God’s mysteries, which came directly from his study of scripture.

You neglect the scriptures at your peril. You dwindle as you lose contact with God's mysteries contained in scripture. Trusting in the traditions of our fathers is risky. Traditions get measured against scripture, not the reverse.

The Constitution is likewise a guide to protect our liberty. We are free to ignore it, and thereby lose the protection it provides us. Because we have done this, we have destroyed our freedom. The scriptures are also a guide to save us. Because we ignore them, we have lost our way. In place of liberty and salvation we have chosen captivity and damnation. The cure for both is only found through repentance and remembering God's great mercy to us, then laying hold again upon that mercy.

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