Sunday, August 22, 2010

2 Nephi 31: 3

2 Nephi 31: 3:

"For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding."
This raises an interesting side issue.  Nephi's explanation of how God speaks to different people "according to their language" is something worth explaining. We have a great example in the visit of John the Baptist to Joseph and Oliver found in JS-H 1: 68-70 and Oliver's account in the footnote there. The language they quote from John the Baptist is phrased differently by each of them, although both are quoting the angel. Angel's leave an impression. Notwithstanding Joseph Fielding Smith's teaching that memory from such things fade with time, my experience tells me quite the contrary. Such things are distinct and memorable. Often, if you need to hear a quote, the person who received it can quote word-for-word what they were told many years later; particularly when the quote is a declarative statement of what is to be or what is conferred. When, therefore, Joseph and Oliver give two different accounts of the quote, I understand this not to be a contradiction, but an example of the thing Nephi is referring to in this verse.

The communication of angels is not usually verbal in the traditional sense of verbal communication. That is, no air is being vibrated. Rather, the form the communication takes is for the angel to "speak" by delivering to the mind of the person spoken to the concept or declaration to be understood.  Then the person, receiving the concept or declaration into their mind, is obliged to  convert into words the message received. If the vocabulary of the recipient is German, they will use German to reduce the message to words. If English, they will use English. If their vocabulary is rich and complex, the words may be more exact. If their vocabulary is simple, the words may be simple.

However one comes into the presence of God or His angelic ministers, once there, the thoughts that come to the person will conform to their understanding, their vocabulary, their manner of phrasing. The underlying purpose is always the same: to make the communication plain to the understanding of the person visited. 
It is also true that the Lord "giveth light unto the understanding" and does so according to the heed and diligence we give to what we have already received. (Alma 12: 9, see also D&C 50: 24.) We cannot understand some things even if they are explained to us if we do not have the necessary light to permit that understanding. Light and truth attract one another.

When we approach God, we do so by degrees not merely by study. We find ourselves gaining light that quickens our understanding. What we cannot understand at first, gains clarity only after a period of living true to the things we already have. 
The commandments are not something we follow to please God, but something we do to understand God. Living true to what we believe He expects of us, allows us to gain an appreciation for what kind of Being He truly is. In that sense, the commandments are not so much burdens to bear, but revelations to understand. The greatest understanding, of course, does not lie in strict conformity to the letter of any law or commandment, but the insight obtained from the underlying principle you discover as you follow it. Commandments should soften or break your heart, not harden it. When a commandment hardens the heart of the follower, they have misunderstood the commandment altogether. This was the case with the accusers of Christ, who followed the underlying intent with perfection, while breaking the superficial requirements regularly.
None of it will become "plain" to the follower until they have done and understood what the commandments were attempting to reveal to them. When, however, you encounter a Nephi, you have someone who now sees the issues plainly. It was meant for us all to see them plainly.


  1. Interesting....but in the case of Joseph Smith when the angel Moroni appeared and "recited" scripture...was he actually speaking to Joseph. So, if an angel comes to you, does he just stand there as thoughts fill you mind....or does it seem as though he were actually speaking because of the thoughts being conveyed.

    I like what you said about the commandments in this post. All very interesting.

  2. an aside: does anybody know when and how we can get a copy of "The Writings of Joseph Smith?"--I beieve Ehat and Cook authors.

  3. If you mean the Words of Joseph Smith, I got 2 copies off of Ebay

  4. One side note on scales. Perhaps someone has touched on this. Snakes have scales over their eyes. These scales I presume may protect the eyes of the snake as it travels upon its belly eating dust all the days of his life. But those same scales contribute to their very poor eyesight. In fact my understanding is that snakes can mostly only see general shapes and have to reply upon other senses to locate food etc. So perhaps the reference to scales upon our eyes suggests that we are under the adversary's power and thus struggle to see things as they are. Once those scales shed and ideally we are no longer eating of the dust upon our bellies, we begin to see. Also can't help but wonder if the dust doesn't refer at all to what it often does, posterity. After all, doesn't satan spend his days attempting to feast upon the bodies created for Adam and Eve's posterity? Perhaps if we stop taking advantage of God's children and rather than seeking to destroy, we seek to lift and love, our reptile characteristics may be transformed? Couldn't agree more btw on brother Hugh. Thank goodness for the works left behind.

  5. Steve, thank you. Yes, "The Words of Joseph Smith."

    my mistake. :)

  6. Also, you can get Words of Joseph Smith in electronic form from amazon for about $10. You can read it on a kindle, or download the kindle software for your computer, iphone, etc. and read it there.

  7. Thanks Ben.... I like that idea, but I have to upgrade my MacBook OS to use the Amazon reader.... I have an older macbook.

  8. Denver,

    Excellent post. When a person has a strong spiritual experience it will be burned into their mind.
    Fascinating concept about angels - I have not had discourse with them, but that will be the means of communication when we no longer have the physical tabernacle. Just thoughts communicated being to being - which is why we must keep them pure and learn to control our minds. Things will be somewhat more transparent when we are without our bodies.
    God bless you in your continuing efforts.

  9. The scales of darkness being the scales over a snake's eyes rings true. I'd say this is more likely the original intent of the passage.

    The connection to the scales of justice may be in the reverse, meaning because of Satan's obsession with justice without mercy, the balances used for justice adopted the term "scales" because of their association with the serpent.

    It also rings true that the beam in the eye of the accuser in Christ's Sermon on the Mount parable is the beam on the balances/scales of justice.

  10. How much does the cross itself look like the scales of justice? When the scales of justice become so perverse that they crucify the One innocent man, then the demands of justice itself are destroyed and paid for infinitely for all who will receive the payment on their behalf.

    Doesn't that sound familiar to Christ's own definition of the Gospel in 3rd Nephi 27?

  11. You speak as if angels are not beings with resurrected bodies that can speak? Adam though cast out of the face to face presence of God, still heard His actual voice coming from the garden. I do believe they can minister to us without us ever seeing them, and in those times it is as you state here. But the HG can also reveal all things to us. But in our day, it is quite hard to tune our minds to these things, and most of us probably need an angel to actually come and get us moving to action.


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