Regarding the Plan

 

See for Yourselves

A way to see What Nephi Saw

Steven C. Fotheringham

Abstract: The Savior could expound “all the scriptures in one” (see 3 Nephi 23:14).  He gave us a tool to do the same. The purpose of this paper is to showcase that tool. To use that tool requires we rethink how we see the plan of salvation.  It is helpful to realize the ancients saw our day as being for themselves and their people, as well as all mankind.  Nephi talked about our Church being for all, all the time.  He (as well as all holy men) was promised to see our day in the flesh.  That promise (not found in the Book of Mormon) is conclusive evidence that they saw our Church as we see our Church as being for all. Fiona and Terryl Givens suggest, “In some ways, we are still living and believing according to paradigms of the past.[1]How we have seen the plan of salvation may be the most entrenched paradigm in our Church.  It is due for a change.  With a tool from Jesus Christ and a revelation that makes it work, we can see for ourselves what the ancients saw.

Introduction

In their book, All Things New, the Givens remind us that “the heart of the Restoration is more than offices and programs.”[2]  The title of their book suggest that everything is on the table. It includes, “Rethinking Sin, Salvation, and Everything in Between.”[3]  In June 2018, Elder Kim B. Clark of the Seventy charged Church educators to rethink the plan of salvation.  He said,

Many years ago, I served a mission in Germany. In those days we used flannel boards and little cut-out circles to teach the plan of salvation. The circles represented the pre-mortal realm, mortality, the spirit world, and the three degrees of glory. If I remember right, the veil of forgetfulness was a squiggly line, and the Day of Judgment was a rectangle. Now, missionaries do not use flannel boards anymore, but believe me, the little circles are alive and well.[4]

That traditional depiction of the plan offers valuable insights. In many ways it is helpful to conceptualize our eternal journey as a three-act play.  It can be instructive to know where we came from, why we’re here, and where we’re going, but no prophet in scripture described the plan in this manner.  That might be because it isn’t really a plan.

There is reason to believe the Lord wants us to see the plan as the ancients saw it. After identifying numerous prophets and the things they saw, Joseph Smith taught, “And, fellow sojourners upon earth, it is your privilege to purify yourselves and come up to the same glory, and see for yourselves, and know for yourselves.”[5] For those who love God and purify themselves, “He grants the privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves” (see D&C 76:117-118).  The Savior provided a tool that can help us see what they saw.  To use it requires we rethink the plan.

The Plan of Salvation

To shift how we see the plan, it might be helpful to ask, “What is a plan?”  A plan, by definition, is how. Whether we want to build a ship or go to the moon, a plan shows how.  We ought therefore to ask how will we get into the Celestial Kingdom?

In the Millennium the Savior will teach us. He “shall reveal all things—things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof” (D&C 101:32-33, see also D&C 121:26-32). When he comes every word out of his mouth will help prepare us for the Celestial Kingdom.

  • How will we get into the Millennium? Christ’s second coming will take us into the Millennium.
  • How will we prepare for his second coming? Christ’s latter-day church prepares us for his coming.
  • How do we get into his church? He gathers us into his church.
  • How is all this possible? The atonement of Jesus Christ makes all of this possible.

 

These are oft repeated themes in scripture. They constitute the vision virtually every prophet in scripture saw. It is as if they all saw (if I may be pardoned the metaphor) the same movie. The fact that the Lord had each prophet describe what they saw, suggests he wants us to envision the same.  He gave us books (the scriptures) that contain their descriptions, each adding detail to the same movie. He also gave us pictures in the form of stories that illustrate elements of that common vision.  The vision (movie) they saw has six elements. They are:

  • The scattering of Israel
  • The Savior’s life and atonement
  • The latter-day Zion
  • The gathering of God’s elect
  • Christ’s second coming
  • The Millennium.

Those doctrines are how our God plans to save all mankind.  It is hard to imagine anything more important for us to see.  When we think of the plan it may be that we know too much.  We know we began as intelligences (see D&C 93:29), were born as spirits (D&C 93:33), and participated in a council (Abraham 3:24-28) and the war in heaven (Revelation 12:7).  We know there was a creation and a fall and an atonement of Jesus Christ.  We know about the post-mortal Spirit World, as well as three degrees of glory and even Outer Darkness.  We know we can become like God.  And we know all of this was planned.  But when God showed his prophets in scripture the movie, more times than not he only showed those six elements.

Those six doctrines are how our Savior plans to save us from that Fall.  Our celestial potential permeates scripture. The promises made to the fathers are a thread that weaves throughout the Standard Works.  Abraham and Isaac and Jacob were promised seed that will “continue; both in the world and out of the world” (D&C 132:30), meaning they will be like God.  They were also promised that they would possess land “in eternity, no more to pass away” (D&C 38:19).  Those promises are the reason for our existence. They are the answer to every significant why question.  Whether we ask, “Why an atonement of Jesus Christ?” Or “Why do we have basketball rims in our chapels?” The answer is the same—to help us be with God and to help us be like God.  The promises are why.  The movie is how.

A Framework for Scripture

In Sections 1 and 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord provided a framework for that sacred record.  In those sections, he discusses:

  • His Atonement – 8 times
  • The latter-day Zion meaning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 23 times
  • The Gathering (which implies a scattering) – 30 times
  • His Second Coming – 25 times
  • The Millennium – 9 times

 

We teach that those sections (1 and 133) constitute the Doctrine and Covenants in condensed form.  Elder John A. Widtsoe explained,

The “Appendix” [D&C 133], supplements the introduction [D&C 1]. The two sections together encompass the contents of the book in a condensed form. An appendix is something which the writer thinks should be added to amplify that which is in the book, to emphasize it, to make it stronger or to explain the contents a little more completely.[6]

Those sections offer a marvelous tool that can be used as a framework for the Doctrine and Covenants. And since they capture the most talked about doctrines in scripture, they offer an amazing framework for all of scripture.  That framework offers a place for all the descriptions and stories that illustrate the plan of salvation.  The Savior could expound all the scripture in one (see 3 Nephi 23:14).  He gave us a tool to do the same.  If we were to draw that framework/tool it might look something like this.

This picture[7] represents the framework Christ gave us in sections 1 and 133. The dots on the continents represent scattered Israel.  The cross represents the life and atonement of Jesus Christ.  The missionaries represent the gathering of God’s elect.  Zion is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Savior in the clouds represents his second coming. The Celestial Kingdom is added in this picture to show where the plan leads. It is not a major stress in the movie or in sections 1 and 133.  But it is helpful to include because it shows the reason for the plan.

A Look at That Framework

The first words of the Doctrine and Covenants are “Hearken O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together” (D&C 1:1).

Christ’s Church and his people are in the picture.  Virtually every verse in sections 1 and 133 has a place on that framework.  Section 2 features the promises made to the fathers.  The Celestial earth with that family represent those promises.  Section 3 is about the Book of Mormon.  It can be found in the hands and backpacks of those missionaries, in the homes of people in Zion, in the temple, even in the arms of that angel on the temple.  Section 4 describes those missionaries. Going through the rest of Doctrine and Covenants would show we were given an amazing framework.

Since that framework includes Christ’s Church, it holds more than might be supposed.  The Kingdom of God and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the same thing (see D&C 105:32).  The Lord taught, “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand” (D&C 88:78).

Every theory, every principle, every doctrine, every law of the gospel, pertain to God’s kingdom. For example, Christ’s apostles have a place in the kingdom. They are the foundation. He is the cornerstone.  Baptism is the gate. The Book of Mormon is its keystone.  Randomly pick a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants, odds are (like 8 out of 10) it will have a place on that framework.

For example, regarding the doctrine of sacrifice, the Savior revealed, “Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming” (D&C 64:23).  Christ’s people (in Zion) and his coming are both in the picture.  He revealed “Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (D&C 59:8).  This section is the Lord’s instructions for faithful saints “in Zion, Jackson County, Missouri” (see section heading).  The “thou” in that verse is his people who live within those walls.  “Sacrifice” is not an abstract unrelated doctrine.  It is what the Savior did on that cross and in Gethsemane.  It is what those missionaries are commanded to do.  It is what the people in the Church are expected to do.  In conjunction with the law of obedience and sacrifice, they are to consecrate all the Lord has or will give them for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth and the establishment of Zion.  Virtually all of the references to sacrifice in the Doctrine and Covenants have a place on that framework.

With Christ’s Church in the picture, there is a place for every doctrine.  President Gordon B. Hinckley advised, “Keep before you the big picture, for this cause is as large as all mankind and as broad as all eternity.  This is the church and kingdom of God.”[8] Perhaps no one was better at painting that picture than Isaiah. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that Isaiah’s “chief doctrinal contributions fall into seven categories:

(a) restoration of the gospel in latter days through Joseph Smith,

(b) latter-day gathering of Israel and her final triumph and glory,

(c) coming forth of the Book of Mormon as a new witness for Christ and the total revolution it will eventually bring in the doctrinal understanding of men,

(d) apostate conditions of the nations of the world in the latter days,

(e) messianic prophecies relative to our Lord’s first coming,

(f) second coming of Christ and the millennial reign, and

(g) historical data and prophetic utterances relative to his own day.[9]

The Savior’s framework can hold Isaiah’s message.  This is helpful to know because Isaiah’s message was Ezekiel’s message, which was also Malachi’s message and Russell M. Nelson’s message.[10]  They all wrote about the same six things.  With dozens of descriptions of the same vision, along with pictures (stories) that illustrate the same, it may be that the book is better than the movie.  That cross in the diagram represents the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Everything he did in his life was part of his atonement.  No one who described that common vision reported seeing the Savior walk on water or restore a severed ear.  The ancients may not have seen all that the four gospels describe. The book probably does offer more than the movie as books usually do.

Even if we saw what Isaiah saw, there would be things we would miss. We could see in vision Israel being scattered. We could even see God weep over their plight.  But the book tells us more.  He, in essence, told Hosea “When your wife betrays you, you’ll know how I feel.” “And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (Hosea 1:2). Through Hosea we see the heart of a broken-hearted God—something an actual vision might not fully convey.

Nephi’s father missed something in the vision they both saw. “. . . and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water” (1 Nephi 15:27).  Nephi provided added details regarding the vision his father saw.  With dozens of prophets describing the same vision, each adding their own views, in a way it can be better than seeing the vision ourselves.  This is not suggesting we shouldn’t try to actually see what they saw.  Indeed, combining their views could help us see it in reality.  But even if we saw the movie, it may not be as helpful as the book.  Responding to a man who claimed he had no time for theology because he had a spiritual experience, C. S. Lewis wrote,

If a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.[11] 

That framework the Savior provides is an excellent map.  But some may find it difficult to recognize it as the plan of salvation.  Some may ask, “Shouldn’t the pre-mortal and post-mortal spirit worlds be included in the picture?  It would be helpful to remember this is not our framework.  Psychologist and Philosopher William James wrote, “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”[12] For the time being it might be wise to overlook what we know about the plan.  We could add pre and post- mortal realms to the picture.  But that could do more harm than good.  If we go to the scriptures looking for an eight-element plan, we will never find it.  

The Pre-mortal Realm 

The scriptural references to pre-mortality are usually given to emphasize one of those six elements. The Lord wants us to know there is a pre-mortal component to the atonement of Jesus Christ, Zion, the gathering, etc. Those passages usually emphasize some aspect of the plan, more than where we came from. By leaving that realm out of the picture, we find we are focused more on the point of those references. For example, John wrote about “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). That verse is not about pre-earth life.  It is about the Lamb who has a place on that framework.

Those called to serve were foreordained to gather Israel. They were held in reserve for our day (see D&C 138:53).  They are among the noble and great ones–the “dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of his will, from before the foundation of the world.”[13]  The Savior’s framework has a place for all of these details because missionaries and God’s people are in the picture.

Post-mortal Realm and Salvation for the Dead

Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “We are part of a great movement—the gathering of scattered Israel. I speak of this doctrine today because of its unique importance in God’s eternal plan.”  He added, “We help to gather the elect of the Lord on both sides of the veil.”[14] A framework that has a place for missionary work and Zion (with a temple at its center), has a place for the gathering for the living and the dead.

In sections 1 and 133 the Savior doesn’t mention pre or post mortal realms.  But he does allude to salvation for the dead.  When we talk about saving the dead, we often draw a post-mortal spirit-world. When the Savior talks about saving the dead, he says “all.”  “For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated” (D&C 1:1-2). This passage makes no sense unless “all men” includes the dead.  Those six elements are for all mankind.

The Plan is for All

Knowing these things are for the entire human family can help us see the vision they saw.  We know our Church is for all.  It is helpful to realize the ancient prophets knew that as well.  When Nephi wrote of these things, he always used the word “all.”  Therefore, in this paper I center on him. What is said of him can be said of all the holy prophets.  Understanding that he looked upon those six elements as being for himself, as well as all mankind, can help us see the plan he envisioned. President Hinckley taught,

Ours is a vision greater than that granted any other people who have walked the earth. It encompasses all of the sons and daughters of God of all generations of time, those who have walked the earth, those now upon the earth, and those yet to come upon the earth. For the salvation and eternal life of all of these we have a responsibility.[15]

On another occasion, he spoke of the mission of the church that,

Contemplates all generations of mankind—those who have gone before, all who live upon the earth, and those who will yet be born. It is larger than any race or nation or generation. It encompasses all mankind. It is a cause without parallel. The fruits of its labors are everlasting in their consequences.[16]

Nephi said our Church is for all many times.  One example is how he introduced Isaiah’s teachings.  Isaiah wrote about seeing

  • The latter-day temple,
  • The gathering of Israel,
  • The Millennial judgment and peace
  • The proud and wicked [that would be] brought low at the Second Coming” (see 2 Nephi 12 heading).

 

Introducing that chapter, Nephi wrote, “And now I write some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men” (2 Nephi 11:8).  It sounds like Nephi saw our Church as President Hinckley saw it, as being for all mankind.

We know that Abraham is already exalted (see D&C 132:37).  We cannot doubt that Nephi is with him.  Do they need Christ’s latter-day Church for their “salvation and eternal life?” Nephi, Abraham, and many others, received a revelation not mentioned in the Book of Mormon. To appreciate that revelation we need to consider what the Lord told Enoch and his people. He told them that they would participate in our day.

And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.

And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other Moses 7:62-63)

Evidently what God promised Enoch, He promised to all “holy men.” Referring to Enoch and his people, the Lord told Joseph Smith that they,

. . . were separated from the earth, and were received unto myself—a city reserved until a day of righteousness shall come—a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations; And confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; But obtained a promise that they should find it and see it in their flesh (D&C 45:12-14).

That “city” is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  That “day of righteousness” is the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.  It is our day.  “All holy men” were promised to find it and see that city, in our day, “in their flesh.” When Nephi said our Church would be for all, he apparently included himself.  There is no way he could say that temple Isaiah saw is for all men, unless he understood our Church would help save the dead.[17]

Job evidently received that promise.  He testified “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26).

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).  But “These all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).  Of that city, Joseph Smith taught,

The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day. . . the dispensation of the fulness of times, when God will gather together all things that are in heaven, and all things that are upon the earth, even in one . . . The heavenly Priesthood will unite with the earthly, to bring about those great purposes . . .and whilst we are thus united in one common cause, to roll forth the kingdom of God, the heavenly Priesthood are not idle spectators . . . a work that God and angels have contemplated with delight for generations past; that fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets; a work that is destined to bring about the destruction of the powers of darkness, the renovation of the earth, the glory of God, and the salvation of the human family.[18]

Models of the Plan

After his resurrection, the Savior taught his apostles in Jerusalem.  “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).  After his appearance to the people at Bountiful, the Savior taught his disciples, “And now it came to pass that when Jesus had expounded all the scriptures in one, which they had written, he commanded them that they should teach the things which he had expounded unto them” (3 Nephi 23:14).  We can assume, since he began with Moses, that he discussed the Creation and the Fall.  He must have also included the elements of “the movie.”  Those six elements are the most talked about doctrines in scripture. Surely, he discussed them because he “expounded all the scriptures.”

So far, in this paper I have maintained the distinction between the Fall that was planned and the plan to redeem us from the Fall since the Savior did not stress the Creation and the Fall in sections 1 and 133.  But it would be almost impossible to draw those six elements without placing them on a created, fallen and subsequentially a Millennial Earth.  Therefore, those two doctrines, by default, are in the picture.  Therefore, when the Savior expounded all the scriptures in one it had to look a lot like the picture described above.

After he taught them, “he commanded them that they should teach the things which he had expounded unto them” (3 Nephi 23:14).  We can do that.  He gave us a tool to do that.  What follows is a look at some of the stories in scripture.  With the Savior’s framework in mind, we can combine them all into the same picture.

That framework is easy to use.  If we find one of those six elements, we need only look for the others in the story.  Like looking through a rifle scope, when two crosshairs intersect on an object, we know we are on target.  The Savior’s framework has six crosshairs.  If three or four of them line up on objects in a story, we can assume it was intended to represent his plan.   Everything that follows are assumptions.  It is left to readers to decide if matches really match.

 Elijah’s Contest With the Prophets of Baal is a Model of the Plan

Elijah built an altar and offered sacrifice. No doubt the bullock he slew represents Jesus Christ. Fire from heaven consuming that sacrifice and the destruction of the wicked, sounds like Christ’s second coming. So, we ought to ask, is the gathering in the story? Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the story?

“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down” (1 Kings 18:30).

To see what they saw requires more than a matching game. We ought to make the effort, like Nephi, to think on these things (see 1 Nephi 11:1). There is nothing glamorous about frameworks. They are like scaffolding. We still need to put the building together.

Elijah’s name means “Yahweh is my God.” Does he represent Christ or his prophets or both? Is it instructive that “all the people came near”? Why “near?” Why did he not just build a new altar? What does that say about the Restoration? Was it a clean build or did Joseph Smith benefit from Christ’s church that was in shambles (in the wilderness) in his day?

The Restoration is second only to the atonement of Jesus Christ in the plan. Christ’s atonement makes salvation possible. His latter-day church makes it available to all mankind. Every prophet saw it. Every prophet talked about it (see Acts 3:21). It is a huge part of the plan. It is a huge part of the book. It appears to be part of Elijah’s story. “And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name” (1 Kings 18:31) Is the Millennium part of his story?

And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,
And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel (1 Kings 18:41-46).

“Seven,” and “a great rain,” after years of famine sounds like the Earth being renewed to its paradisiacal condition. Anciently Baal was believed to be able to run very fast. Elijah’s race may have suggested that in every way he (or his God) beats Baal. But it may suggest more than that.

Through Isaiah, the Lord taught that we could someday be like Him. “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? (Isaiah 40:28) In mortality “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (Isaiah 40:30). “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (see Isaiah 40:28-31). In the Millennium resurrected beings will probably fly like eagles. They will run and not be weary and walk and not faint. They will be like God who is faster and stronger than any false god.

Elijah prayed, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (1 Kings 18:37). This seems to prefigure Elijah’s mission in the latter-days.

There are many lessons in Elijah’s story. But one of them seems to be the plan of salvation. It is as though he was following a script. “And . . . Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word” (1 Kings 18:36).

Enoch’s Zion is a Model of the Plan

Enoch’s people were of one heart and one mind (Moses 7:18). We will someday be like them. Zion “was blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish (Moses 7:17). “And Zion shall rejoice upon the hills and flourish” (see D&C 35:24; 39:13). Before the Earth was cleansed by the flood, Zion was lifted up. Before the earth will be cleansed by fire, Zion will be lifted up. Through Enoch we are given an added detail. “And it came to pass that the Lord showed unto Enoch all the inhabitants of the earth; and he beheld, and lo, Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Behold mine abode forever” (Moses 7:21). How will the righteous be taken up when the Lord comes? Probably in the “process of time.” Enoch was shown the movie (see Moses 7:60-67). He and his city seem to typify it as well.

The Story of Joseph in Egypt is a Model of the Plan

Joseph’s beautiful story typifies our Savior and his plan of redemption. Apparently, Joseph saw what all the prophets saw (see 2 Nephi 3:5-23). That may be why he put his brothers’ money in their sacks.

Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them.
And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.
And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack’s mouth.
And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?
. . . and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid (Genesis 42:25-28;35).

Moroni tells us the story of Joseph is a type of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the New Jerusalem).

And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph, for which things there has been a type.

For as Joseph brought his father down into the land of Egypt, even so he died there; wherefore, the Lord brought a remnant of the seed of Joseph out of the land of Jerusalem, that he might be merciful unto the seed of Joseph that they should perish not, even as he was merciful unto the father of Joseph that he should perish not.

Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old; and they shall no more be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away (Ether 13:6-8).

Joseph’s father died but he didn’t perish. Only in our Church could that make any sense. Joseph was taken to a land that was not his own. Lehi and family were taken (scattered) to a land that was not their own. At the beginning of their journey, they learned they were descendants of Joseph (see 1 Nephi 5:14), suggesting they represent him. Joseph laid up in store for a famine. Lehi’s family stored up on plates of gold for a famine—not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the word of the Lord. Joseph opened his store and saved his family and all the Egyptians. Joseph Smith opened the Lord’s store (the Book of Mormon) to save the world. We (descendants of Joseph) take that store to a starving world. We also save our fathers as Joseph saved his. Notwithstanding they die, they need not perish from that famine. When we knock on the world’s doors, they do not recognize us as Joseph, any more than Joseph’s brothers recognized him. As Israel was gathered to their brother, Israel will be gathered to Ephraim (the church) in the last days. “And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants” (D&C 133:30).

And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits of the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds:

And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight” (Genesis 43:11-12)

Joseph also seems to typify Jesus in that he was betrayed by his brothers, cast into a pit (and prison) only to emerge to save them. Is Christ’s second coming in the story?

Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.
And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard.
And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence.
And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:1-5).

Is the Millennium in the story?

And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.
And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to their families. (Genesis 49:11-12).

And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly (Genesis 49:27).

We know Fourth Nephi is a millennial type. In it we read, “And now, behold, it came to pass that the people of Nephi did wax strong, and did multiply exceedingly fast, and became an exceedingly fair and delightsome people (4 Nephi 1:10).

The story of Joseph tugs on our heartstrings. It is the greatest story ever told because it portrays how our God plans to save the world.

The Story of Naaman is a Model of the Plan

When a story begins with the scattering, like the story of Ruth and Lehi’s journey, it is likely typifying the plan. Naaman’s story begins with the scattering. “And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife” (2 Kings 5:2). She suggests Naaman see Elisha. Why didn’t Elisha go out to meet him (see 2 Kings 5:10-11)? If Elisha represents Christ in this story, then him not seeing the Gentile Naaman makes sense. To the Nephites, Christ taught,

They understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching.

And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 15:22-23).

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:14)

Clean surely represents Christ’s atonement. Seven times may suggest Millennium. Coming up out of the water sounds like coming out of the grave or womb. His new flesh could represent being born again or being resurrected at Christ’s second coming, or both.

Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the story? Elisha’s messenger may represent Christ’s church (see 2 Kings 5:10). That messenger, Gehazi, was stricken with leprosy, suggesting that “the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish” (2 Nephi 25:31).

Elisha choosing not to go out to meet Naaman (which is so strange for a holy man) suggests he may have been following a script. 

The Exodus is a Model of the Plan

In a popular study on perception, Daniel Simmons and Christopher Chabris invited participants to count the number of basketball passes between players. Most of the observers missed the gorilla that came in, danced around, then ran out.[19]

Looking at the Exodus story through the lens of our traditional plan we find things like the slain Lamb, baptism of water and fire at the Red Sea (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-2) and a Promised Land.  That can be helpful.  But in a way, that is like counting passes.  If we only look through that lens, we miss dozens of gorillas.  Christ’s second coming seems to be typified in the story.

In Egypt Israel was in need of deliverance (Exodus 12 We need the plan of salvation.
There were plagues in Egypt (see Exodus 8-10). The same plagues will precede Christ’s second coming (D&C 29 and Revelation 8-9).
The destroying angel passed by those who listened to the prophet and applied the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12). At the Second Coming, the destroying angel will pass by the righteous on similar terms (D&C 89: 21).
There were three days of darkness (Exodus 10:22). Before the great and dreadful day, the sun shall be darkened again (see D&C 29: 14).
Israel was gathered by Moses before they left Egypt. Israel will be gathered in the last days before we leave this world.
Israel was trapped between an army and the Red Sea (Exodus 14). Israel will be trapped between an army and the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14).
The Red Sea parted and Israel was delivered (Exodus 14). The Mount of Olives will part and Israel will be delivered (D&C 45: 48).
Pharaoh’s influence was obliterated at the Red Sea (Exodus 14). Satan will be bound and death destroyed at Christ’s second coming.
The wicked were destroyed as “stubble” (Exodus 15: 7). Christ will come and cleanse the earth of wickedness (D&C 43: 31).
As the Egyptians were cut off from the people of the covenant (Exodus 14: 28-30), Those who do not give heed to the prophets will be cut off when the Savior comes again (D&C 1:14; JS-H 1:40; D&C 133:63).

 

There are numerous Millennial types in the Exodus story.

Israel’s burdens were relieved and their taskmasters were destroyed (Exodus 1: 11 and Exodus14:13).

 

“For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him” (Jeremiah 30:8).
Israel was delivered from bondage (Exodus 14). Israel will be delivered from bondage (D&C 103:16).
Israel contracted none of Egypt’s Diseases and the Lord healed them in the wilderness (Exodus 15: 26).

 

“For a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved…” (D&C 45: 31-32).
Israel drank freely from the rock which was Christ (1 Cor. 10:1-4) Of the Millennial day, Isaiah prophesied, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).
Moses set up God’s government in the wilderness (Exodus 8). At Christ’s coming, the government will be upon His shoulder (see Isaiah 9: 6)
Moses (a similitude of Christ) was their lawgiver (Exodus 20) Christ will be our lawgiver (D&C 38:22)
In the wilderness Israel had no laws but God’s laws (Exodus 20). “Ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver, and what can stay my hand?” (D&C 38:22).
Moses was their Judge (Exodus 18: 13). Christ will be our Judge (Isaiah 33:22).
Moses was their teacher (Exodus 18: 20). Christ will be our teacher (Isaiah 54:13; 30:20).
Moses was their mediator (Exodus 32). Christ will be our mediator (D&C 107: 19).
The Egyptian government was destroyed (Exodus 15: 4-5). God’s kingdom will destroy all earthly kingdoms (Daniel 2: 44).
Manna came spontaneously (Exodus 16: 4). Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion…for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength (D&C 59:3).
Israel’s clothes did not wear out (Deut. 29: 5). In the Millennium our clothes will be “durable” (Isaiah 23:18).
Israel sang a new song (Exodus 15). Israel will sing a new song (D&C 84: 100)
Pharaoh was cut off from Israel (Exodus 14) “And Satan shall be bound, that he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men” (D&C 45:55; Malachi 4:1).
The waters of Marah were healed (Exodus 15: 23). The waters of the dead sea will be healed (Ezekiel 47: 8; TPJS p. 286-87).
Moses, the Priests, the Tabernacle, cloud, and pillar of fire represent Christ’s continual presence. Christ will reign for a thousand years (D&C 29: 11; Ezekiel 37:27).
Israel spoiled the Egyptians (Exodus 12: 36) meaning they took their stuff. The world’s “merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord” (Isaiah 23:18).

 

Where is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the story? In the last days there will be a plague of hail. John prophesied “every stone about the weight of a talent” (Revelation 16:21). Will members of the Church be harmed by that hail? “Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail” (Exodus 9: 26). In the main, there will be safety in Zion. When the Lord sets His hand the second time (2 Nephi 29:1) it will be a lot like the first time.

If the Red Sea, destroying angel and plagues typify Christ’s second coming, where is the resurrection of all the righteous portrayed? The resurrection is a huge part of the Second Coming. It must be in the story. We teach that the Savior’s visit in Third Nephi typifies his second coming. That is probably why he was so insistent that the dead rising be part of the story (3 Nephi 23:9). If it wasn’t, we might wonder if his visit was a type. Thus, we see how important it is to him that the story is portrayed correctly. It would therefore be wise to look for a portrayal of a mass resurrection in the Exodus story.

On a personal note, with these questions, I went looking in the story.  Continuing with the gorilla analogy, what I found was as huge as King Kong (both physically and symbolically).  Knowing God is intent on portraying his plan made it helpful to know what to look for. It became clear that Israel’s experience on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19) was intended to portray Christ’s second coming. Imagine standing five hundred yards away, watching the righteous going up that mountain and Jehovah coming down in a cloud. Trumpets, crowns (a kingdom of priests) thunder, lightning, the earth shaking, clean clothes, (see Exodus 19-20) all seem to typify the glorious day. It, for me, was a fabulous find; but it was even more amazing to find that Joseph Smith had been there long before. Through him, the Savior revealed,

And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, and it hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else. For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth-yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one (D&C 29:12–13).

Preparing for that day, the Lord, “said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives” (Exodus 19:15). Three days ties to the resurrection. Since it is unlikely we will have physical relations with our spouses in the Spirit World, having them not touch their wives makes sense.

But Israel told God to stop speaking (see Exodus 20:18–19). They failed to go up. They ruined the type. Like the Savior in Third Nephi, he apparently wants this included in the story. That is probably why he had the whole thing repeated with Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders of Israel (see Exodus 24). And then he repeated it again by instructing them to build the tabernacle—a duplicate of their experience on Mount Sinai, the mountain of the Lord (see Exodus 25).

The movie almost always ends with the Millennium. That is probably because our Savior wants to stress how. But the Exodus story ends in the Promised Land. When Joshua crossed the Jordan river and entered the Promised Land, we read, “And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so” (Joshua 5:15). He was admitted into the presence of the Lord.

The Ancient Tabernacle is a Model of the Plan

When we draw the plan in a classroom, we use whiteboards. The Savior uses continents and mountains and temples. We know the sacrifice on the altar of the tabernacle represents the atonement of Jesus Christ. Israel gathered around that altar daily. The threshold of the tabernacle represents Christ’s second coming (see Ezekiel 9:3). The holy place (like Terrestrial rooms in our temples) represents the Millennium. Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints portrayed in that building?

Those jewels on the High Priest represent the twelve tribes of Israel. But they are not just the twelve tribes. They are gathered. That happens in the last days. In that day our Great High Priest will gather Israel (His jewels), carry them on his shoulders, next to his heart, across that threshold, into Millennial space, and eventually into the presence of the Father (the Holy of Holies). If the tabernacle is a model of the plan, Christ’s latter-day Zion must be there. Indeed, it shows up with him in every room.

The Story of Ruth is a Model of the Plan

The scattering of the children of Israel is a huge part of God’s plan.  Through the scattering Israel was refined in the furnace of affliction (see Isaiah 48:10).  As a result, we inherited a better disposition (see D&C 64:36).  At the same time the Lord salted the earth with the house of Israel; so that when they are gathered, others will be gathered to him (see Isaiah 56:8).  That, in essence, is the story of Ruth.

The stories in scripture often feature valiant individuals.  Their examples inspire emulation.  It appears however, that those stories are also often given to emphasize an aspect of the plan.  Jacob taught that if Abraham had not seen Christ in the offering of his son, it would not have been sanctified unto him for righteousness (see Jacob 4:5).  There is no salvation for good behaviors outside the plan of salvation.  It is the plan that provides context and meaning for behavior.  If we can find where a story fits in the plan, we are probably closer to the intent of the author.  We are also more likely to appreciate the behaviors being exemplified.

This can be demonstrated with the Old Testament book of Ruth.  Her story has, at times, been seen as a lesson in loyalty.  There is no harm in this. Ruth’s loyalty is inspiring.  However, that loyalty viewed in the context of the plan is even more impressive.  The story of Ruth shows God’s redeeming love for the Gentiles who will be gathered with Israel in the latter-days.  It is the story of the divine Redeemer who has the strength to save.  It portrays him as able and willing to redeem.  It illustrates his overwhelming kindness towards all who will be gathered.  It includes the Restoration, and the covenant God offers to all mankind.  It shows the blessings that will fall to Israel in conjunction with the gathering.  We can teach about Ruth’s noble character.  But seeing where her story fits in the plan, adds to our views of that plan.

The last verse in the book of Judges offers context for the book of Ruth. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).  Speaking of Israel, “who have “strayed from [his] ordinances, and have broken [his] everlasting covenant” (D&C 1:15), the Lord, in our day, said basically the same thing.

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall (D&C 1:16).

But in our day, those who have strayed are ready to be gathered.  The book of Ruth seems to be saying that although their apostacy would result in their being scattered, there would be a blessing in it.  Through that ordeal God would use Israel to help save the world.

Ruth The Story Possible Interpretation
1:1 Famine Apostasy that leads to the scattering
1:1 They came into the country of Moab Israel scattered in the world
1:2 Elimelech Means “My God is King”, husband to Naomi (Israel).
1:2 Naomi Israel
1:2-5 Naomi’s sons and husband die Israel loses her relationship with God and the blessings of the covenant. She has no land and no seed.
1:4 Ruth Gentiles
1:6 Lord had visited his people in giving them bread. The Restoration (which literally began with a visit from God) with an increase of God’s word.
1:6 Naomi’s return Gathering of Israel
1:16 “Thy God my God” The Gentiles desire a covenant relationship with the God of Israel.
1:22 Ruth returns with Naomi When Israel is gathered others will gather also.
1:22 Harvest Gathering
2:1 Boaz Means “In him (The Lord) is strength.”  Jesus Christ
2:4 Reapers in Boaz’s field Servants of the Lord
2:5 Boaz’s “servant that was set over the reapers” God’s prophets
2:8 “Go not to glean in another field” Gentiles invited to work along side the Lord’s servants, in their care.
2:9 “Drink of that which the young men have drawn” The Waters of Life available to all through the Lord’s servants.
2:10 Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? Gentiles will be overwhelmed by the kindness of the Redeemer.
2:11 “It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law…”

“and how thou has left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and are come not a people which thou knewest not heretofore.”

The Lord is aware of the sacrifices the Gentiles will make for the House of Israel and the cost many will incur to join his Church.
2:12 “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” The Gentiles will receive a full reward like Israel.
2:14 “At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread” All will be invited with the children to the table of the Lord.
2:15-16 “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:

And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.”

The overwhelming kindness of the Redeemer even to the Gentiles.
2:18 And [Ruth] gave to her (Naomi) that she had reserved after she was sufficed The blessings that fall to Israel through the gathering.
3:1 “Shall I (Naomi) not seek rest for thee (Ruth)” Israel assists others who desire to find rest in the Lord to make covenants with him.
3:3 “Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee.” The ordinances to be like Christ and tie individuals to Him (marriage) by covenant.
3:9-13 Boaz Kinsman Redeemer Redeemer
4:1-9 Boaz bought all that was Elimelech’s Christ redeems Israel and the Land (a blessing of the covenant).
4:10 “Ruth…have I purchased” Redeemed by Christ
4:13 And she bare a son The blessing of the covenant (seed)

 

The picture/framework that holds the stories of Enoch and Noah, the sacrifice of Isaac, the tale of Joseph in Egypt, the Exodus, the fall of Jericho, the tabernacle, the temple, Jacob’s ladder, every whit of the law, and more, that framework holds the story of Ruth.  But her story adds details to that picture that are unique and significant.  Few places in scripture portray Christ’s kindness to the Gentiles, as a result of the scattering of Israel, as well as the Book of Ruth.

The Book of Mormon is a Model of the Plan

All these stories featuring the same things suggests our Savior wants us to know how he plans to save us.  A prime example of this point is how he structured the Book of Mormon.  It appears the overall history in that book was given to show his plan.  As we look at that history, those elements are easy to find.  We have always taught that the Savior’ appearance at Bountiful is a window to his second coming.  The destruction of the wicked followed by his appearance makes that obvious.

After he appeared he healed and taught the people.  That was followed by centuries of peace (see 4 Nephi).  We have always taught that that represents the Millennium.  But these are not merely additional representations of the plan, they are, without question, the best representations of the plan to be found on Earth.

The book begins with the scattering.  Lehi, Ishmael, and their families were led out of Jerusalem. Nowhere in scripture are we given such intimate details about a people who were scattered.  We see that they were led and supported by God.  We see their struggles and their successes.  We see how long their journey took.  We see their courage, their weaknesses, and their failures.  We see that not all those who were scattered were wicked. We see that on their way they were shown the movie, suggesting they saw their role in the plan.  With that journey, the Book of Mormon, discusses and portrays (especially with the allegory of Zenos) the scattering better than another other book.

The prophecies of the gathering, the allegory of Zenos, the missionary work of Alma and the sons of Mosiah are enough to establish the Book of Mormon as the handbook for the gathering in the latter days.

With regards to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Nephi describes the world’s darkened condition that will precede the establishment of Zion. He, in unprecedented detail, predicts the roles of Columbus, the Revolutionary War, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon in establishing Christ’s latter-day Church. He also describes the fate of those who fight against Zion.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say how to baptize, give the Holy Ghost or say a sacrament prayer. All of these are functions of Zion that are explained in the Book of Mormon. While the Old Testament contains the moving story of Joseph, it is from Moroni that we learn he typifies Zion (see Ether 13:3-6). The Savior’s specific prophecies in Third Nephi about the Father’s latter-day work are without equal in scripture (see 3 Nephi 20-26). Elder Bruce R. McConkie challenged anyone who would question the depth of the Book of Mormon, to compare its teachings with the Bible’s. He instructed:

Ponder the truths you learn, and it will not be long before you know that Lehi and Jacob excel Paul in teaching the Atonement; that Alma’s sermons on faith and on being born again surpass anything in the Bible; that Nephi makes a better exposition of the scattering and gathering of Israel than do Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel combined; that Mormon’s words about faith, hope, and charity have a clarity, a breadth, and a power of expression that even Paul did not attain; and so on and so on.[20]

We cannot speak too highly of a book that portrays the plan of salvation more precisely and more clearly than any other book. We cannot praise our God enough for a book that foreshadows, foretells and facilitates the plan.  We can, with Jarom, ask, “For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me” (Jarom 1:2). The very structure and story of the book shows how our God plans to save the world.  And why not?  It is what he wants us most to see.  It is as if Mormon, as he compiled their history, was following an outline.

Conclusion

We have not scratched the surface. A thief in the night, ten virgins, Sodom and Gomorrah, the fall of Jericho, Zeno’s allegory, and a thousand other types, as well as Christ’s entire life, all serve to fill in the picture.

In November 1831, Joseph Smith assigned a committee to draft a preface for the Book of Commandments. Unsatisfied with their draft, those who attended the conference requested that Joseph ask the Lord for a preface. After petitioning the Lord in prayer, he received a preface by revelation (D&C 1). Two days later he was given the book’s appendix (D&C 133). The book, at that time, was only half written. And yet those sections beautifully constitute the book in condensed form and wonderfully capture the overall point of scripture.

There is not space here to describe how valuable that framework is for a teacher. Those six elements are easy to draw. Our students can see where they fit in the plan. They can see the relationships of doctrines. They can see the big picture. They can tell what the books of Joel or Amos or Ezekiel are about before they read them.  They can see all the scriptures come together in one big picture.  In 1990 Kent P. Jackson wrote an article for The Ensign magazine (now Liahona) that looked at the passages of scripture Moroni quoted to the prophet Joseph Smith on September 22-23, 1823. At the end of his article, he categorized those passages. They are:

  1. Apostasy and scattering
  2. The calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith
  3. The opening of the heavens during the restoration
  4. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon
  5. The restoration of the priesthood and of the sealing keys
  6. The gathering of the elect
  7. Destruction and purification prior to and during the Second Coming
  8. Deliverance for the faithful
  9. The Second Coming
  10. The pre-millennial and millennial state of the faithful[21]

 

Moroni began this dispensation with an overview of the plan of salvation. For the rest of Joseph’s life he could add the truths he would receive to that framework. It would be sufficient to hold virtually all scripture and the majority of the revelations he would receive. Joseph could also locate himself on that framework.

William James wrote, “Genius in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.”[22] Thirty-five years ago, a brilliant teacher said to me, “You need to understand they all saw the same movie.” With that understanding, prophetic descriptions, dozens of pictures, and a framework from God, I have (in my mind’s eye) seen the movie. Actually, I read the book. I can’t imagine the movie being better.

————————————————————-

After these endnotes there is another paper called:

Glad Tidings From Cumorah

Interpreting the Book of Mormon Through the Eyes of Someone in Hell

———————————————————-

[1] Fiona and Terryl Givens, All Things New Rethinking Sin, Salvation, and Everything in Between, Faith Matters Publishing, Meridian, ID, 2020, Page 2.

[2] Fiona and Terryl Givens, Cover.

[3] Fiona and Terryl Givens, ibid. Page 4.

[4] Elder Kim B. Clark, The Plan of Salvation and the Rising Generation, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Annual Training Broadcast • June 12, 2018 • Conference Center Theater, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/broadcasts/miscellaneous-events/2018/06/the-plan-of-salvation-and-the-rising-generation?lang=eng

[5] Joseph Smith, History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805-30 August 1834], Page 229. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/search?query=fellow%20sojourners%20upon%20earth&sort=relevance&page=1&perpage=10&startdate=&enddate=&transcripts=false&issuggestion=false&types=documents-papers|documents-papers-histories|related-materials|biographical-directory|geographical-directory|glossary|event

[6] John A. Widtsoe, Message of the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 17, found in D&C Institute manual p. 335). https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/section-133-the-lords-appendix-to-the-doctrine-and-covenants?lang=eng

[7] This picture was produced by The Draw Shop, Salt Lake City, Utah.  I hired them to make a video of the plan.  This is one frame of that video.  It can be found on Youtube under “Regarding the Plan.” https://youtu.be/7TQ_xWF58Dc

[8] President Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, April 1982. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1982/05/five-million-members-a-milestone-and-not-a-summit?lang=eng

[9] Bruce R. McConkie, Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah, Ensign, Oct. 1973, Page 80, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1973/10/ten-keys-to-understanding-isaiah?lang=eng

[10] Russell M. Nelson, General Conference address, Oct. 2006, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2006/10/the-gathering-of-scattered-israel?lang=eng

[11] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Company New York, N.Y. 10022, Page 119. https://www.novelforfree.com/mere-christianity_chapter_chapter-23_2843_230.html

[12] William James, The principles of psychology, vol 2, 1950, Ch 22, Reasoning, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 50-7801, Dover Publications Inc., United States of America, p. 369.

[13] Joseph Smith History, 1838–1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838–31 July 1842], Page 904[b]

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/search?query=dignified%20characters%20of%20the%20called%20and%20chosen%20of%20God,%20according%20to%20the%20purposes%20of%20his%20will,%20from%20before%20the%20foundation%20of%20the%20world&sort=relevance&page=1&perpage=10&startdate=&enddate=&transcripts=false&issuggestion=false&types=documents-papers|documents-papers-histories|related-materials|biographical-directory|geographical-directory|glossary|event

[14] Elder Russell M. Nelson, October Conference, 2006, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2006/10/the-gathering-of-scattered-israel?lang=eng

[15] Gordon B. Hinckley, “He Slumbers Not, nor Sleeps,” Ensign, May 1983, 8,

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org.study/general-conference/1983/04/he-slumbers-not-nor-sleeps.

[16]  Gordon B. Hinckley, “Five Million Members — A Milestone and Not a Summit,” Ensign, May 1982, 46, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1982/04/five-million-members-a-milestone-and-not-a-summit.

[17] For more on this see: Steven C. Fotheringham, Glad Tidings from Cumorah: Interpreting the Book of Mormon Through the Eyes of Someone in Hell.  The Interpreter Foundation. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/glad-tidings-from-cumorah-interpreting-the-book-of-mormon-through-the-eyes-of-someone-in-hell/

[18] Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, 2 May 1842, Page 776

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/times-and-seasons-2-may-1842/10

[19] Chabris, C. Clifford, E. Jimenez, R. Most, S. Scholl, B. Simons, D. (2001) “How Not to be Seen: The Contribution of Similarity and Selective Ignoring to Sustained Inattentional Blindness.” Psychological Science. Vol 12 No. 1.

[20] Elder Bruce R. McConkie, What Think you of the Book of Mormon, Ensign, Nov. 1983.

https://nam10.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.churchofjesuschrist.org%2Fstudy%2Fensign%2F1983%2F11%2Fwhat-think-ye-of-the-book-of-mormon%3Flang%3Deng&data=04%7C01%7CFotheringhamSC%40ChurchofJesusChrist.org%7Cc52dc3de68ca474e9b3908d994cf6ecf%7C61e6eeb35fd74aaaae3c61e8deb09b79%7C0%7C0%7C637704440897950685%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=NxSut24ylnzoqiyyCF4jUtwnSu%2B9Si74U1zPigbSBIE%3D&reserved=0

[21] Kent P. Jackson, The Ensign, August 1990, Pages 13-16 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1990/08/moronis-message-to-joseph-smith?lang=eng

[22] William James, The principles of Psychology, vol 2, 1950, Ch 19, The Perception of Things, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 50-7801, Dover Publications Inc., United States of America, p. 110.

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Glad Tidings From Cumorah

Interpreting the Book of Mormon Through the Eyes of Someone in Hell

Abstract

This article offers evidence that the Book of Mormon authors knew our church would help save the dead.  It will show that when they prophesied about our church, they almost always said it would be for all mankind, including those of their generation.  It will also show they knew their book would go to the ends of the earth on both sides of the veil.  This approach offers a slight but important shift in how we interpret that book of books.

Introduction

Nephi spoke a lot to his people about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Here we consider the possibility that he did so because he and his people, as well as their posterity, would rely on that church for their salvation.  Neither they nor we can be perfected without each other.  It seems the Book of Mormon authors understood that because when they talked about our day, they invariably said it would be for all mankind.  If our church is for all, we might assume its keystone (the Book of Mormon) would be for all as well.  There is subtle evidence that the Book of Mormon authors thought their book would be for the entire human family.

A Book for all Mankind 

 “The more clearly we see eternity, the more obvious it becomes that the Lord’s work in which we are engaged is one vast and grand work with striking similarities on each side of the veil . . .”    

                                                                                                                          Spencer W. Kimball [1]

We have considerable evidence that when Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon he did not know about salvation for the dead.  The historical and scriptural records show it took him over ten years after the church was organized to realize its role in saving the dead. It is therefore fascinating that the Book of Mormon prophets talked about our church and their book being for all, all the time.

This paper is not an attempt to add to the mountain of evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  It is about a shift in how we see the plan of salvation. That shift is slight, but it is like a switch plate on a railroad track.  It can take us to a whole new destination.  Along the way we will find much that adds to that mountain.  New views vindicate true prophets.  But more significantly we will get closer to the intent of the scriptural authors.  They talked a lot about our day.  This paper is about why they would care.

It would be close to impossible to share the message of the Restoration without mentioning the Book of Mormon.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught “When you share the Book of Mormon, you share the Restoration” (April Conference, 2020). The way the scriptures are used when we make covenants for the dead suggests (indeed requires) they have access to them.  The first words we read from Mormon’s hand suggests that he knew to whom he was writing.

And now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni, behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it is many hundred years after the coming of Christ that I deliver these records into the hands of my son; and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people. But may God grant that he may survive them that he may write somewhat concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ, that perhaps some day it may profit them (Words of Mormon 1:1-2, italics added).

Alma prophesied (and Mormon recorded) that the Nephites would become “extinct” (Alma 45:11). That is as definitive as “entire destruction.”  Any Nephites who remained in Moroni’s day were numbered among the Lamanites, meaning they were no longer Nephites (see Alma 45:11-14, see also 1 Nephi 15:5 and 1 Nephi 15:14). For Moroni to “survive them” meant they would be dead (see Mormon 6:11).

We may have previously read this passage as if Mormon were simply thinking about the future descendants of Lehi, both Lamanites and former Nephites who joined them, but in this passage Mormon does not use the terms that are frequently used to describe the future remnants of Lehi’s posterity. But after speaking of the Nephites about to be slain, he refers to “them.” The “them” at the end of the above passage is the same “them” near the beginning of that sentence: the slain Nephites.  The most natural reading is that the slain Nephite people are in his thought, and he yearns that his record will “profit them” in the future.  Evidently, he believed their book could someday help “them.”  

The Book of Mormon can hardly benefit anyone without access to the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Mormon repeatedly taught that that access requires baptism and repeatedly spoke of Christ. If he knew his book would go to the dead, he knew baptism would be made available to them.  Reading a book about Christ in hell, without access to His atonement, would only add coal to the fire.  This suggests that he recognized that the work for the dead would be underway in our day, a day in which his sacred record would benefit both the living and the dead.   

Out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged

Peter wrote, “For for this cause was the gospel preached to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh . . .” (1 Peter 4:6).  Men in the flesh have the scriptures, the standards, for that judgment.  The Savior taught that “out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged” (3 Nephi 27:26).  Regarding the judgment, and his book, Mormon wrote,

And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore, I write unto you all. And for this cause, I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam; and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil;

And also that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, which ye shall have among you; and also that the Jews, the covenant people of the Lord, shall have other witness besides him whom they saw and heard, that Jesus, whom they slew, was the very Christ and the very God (Mormon 3:20-21).

Some may assume he was writing to the Jews in general, not to those who actually slew their Messiah (see also 2 Nephi 25:17-18).  After all, they would be dead when his book comes forth.  

The Book of Mormon prophets, at times, referred to the Jews as if they were corporate Israel.  For example, Jacob prophesied that the Jews would be carried captive into Babylon (around 600 B.C.), then return to Jerusalem (around 530 B.C.), and then crucify Jesus (around 34 A.D.; see 2 Nephi 6: 8-9). We don’t assume he thought the Jews of his day would slay Jesus. Likewise, we don’t think Mormon thought the Jews of our day would see and hear and crucify Him.  We tend to think he was writing to the Jews, “the covenant people of the Lord,” who are an extension of them.

But part of corporate Israel that Jacob was talking about really did crucify Christ.  If Mormon was treating the Jews as corporate Israel, it would include those who actually killed Jesus (around 34 A.D.). It seems Mormon was saying his book would be as universal as the judgment; that it would be an additional witness (maybe even an additional chance) for those who saw and heard and slew their God.     

  • The Savior himself prophesied that the people of his day will get Mormon’s book. In 34 A.D. He told the people at Bountiful how they would know the latter-day gathering had commenced.

And verily I say unto you, I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place-that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion (3 Nephi 21:1, italics added).

The sign, He explained, would be the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.  We know those He was talking to would be long gone when that book came forth.  Why would they care about that sign?  The Savior told Joseph Smith why.  Around 34 A.D. He told His disciples in Jerusalem why they would be interested in the signs of His coming.

And I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my disciples as I stood before them in the flesh, and spake unto them, saying: As ye have asked of me concerning the signs of my coming, in the day when I shall come in my glory in the clouds of heaven, to fulfil the promises that I have made unto your fathers, For as ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel (D&C 45:16-17).

They will know when the Book of Mormon comes forth. And they will have that book.  The Savior, at Bountiful, continued, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, when these things shall be made known unto them [the gentiles] of the Father, and shall come forth of the Father, from them unto you” (3 Nephi 21:2-3, italics added).

He is not speaking here to corporate Israel, nor latter-day Israel, but to 34 A.D. Israel.  We know this because the Lord then differentiated between them and their seed.  Concerning their seed, the Savior continued,

For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth from them [the gentiles] unto a remnant of your seed, that the covenant of the Father may be fulfilled which he hath covenanted with his people, O house of Israel;

Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles, unto your seed which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity (3 Nephi 21:4-5);

And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things-it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel (3 Nephi 21:7).

Nephi, Mormon and Moroni, each said they were writing to “the ends of the earth” (Mormon 9:21; 2 Nephi 29:2; Mormon 3:18; see also 3 Nephi 27:20).  But that could mean their book would make it to Australia.  They said they were writing to “all.”  But that could mean all living in the last days.  Mormon saying he was offering another witness to those who saw and heard and slew Jesus, seems straightforward.  And yet we can, and many do, read that to mean he was not writing to them, but an extension of them. But it seems clear the Savior was saying that those people and their seed would see that sign and have that book.

The Book of Mormon Reads Equally Well on Both Sides of the Veil

Joseph Smith taught,

All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all. . . (TPJS p. 355).

We can therefore expect the Book of Mormon to apply equally to those with or without bodies, on either side of the veil.  Imagine reading that book in hell.  As Nephi’s record begins we learn that an angel delivered a book to his father.

And he read saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem-that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.

And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish! (1 Nephi 1:13-14).

People in Spirit Prison can come unto Christ.  They need not perish there.  They would cling to every word of verse fourteen.  No one could tell them they are not a part of “all the inhabitants of the earth.”

In that passage Lehi saw the impending destruction of family and friends.  If God’s goodness and mercy doesn’t include them, his rejoicing seems incongruent.  On the other hand, if “all” really means all, the passage makes more sense. It sounds like the voice of Him whose throne is high in the heavens, who is not concerned if we are in our bodies or not.

A Marvelous Work for all

When I ask my students, “How many people were baptized into our church last year?” they generally reply “About 250,000.”  I then remind them that the real figure is millions more, taking into account the work on the other side of the veil.  So which church did Mormon see, the one of Joseph Smith’s day which baptized thousands, or the one gathering millions (and striving to ultimately gather all)?  When the Book of Mormon authors talked about our church, they always used that word.

Of that work, the Lord at Bountiful continued, 

For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them (3 Nephi 21:9).  

And they [the gentiles] shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem. And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem (3 Nephi 21:23). 

And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst (3 Nephi 21:25).    

And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem (3 Nephi 21:26, italics added).

Yea, the work shall commence among all the dispersed of my people, with the Father to prepare the way whereby they may come unto me, that they may call on the Father in my name (3 Nephi 21:27, italics added).

Yea, and then shall the work commence, with the Father among all nations in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance (3 Nephi 21: 28, italics added).

Ezekiel was shown that “the whole house of Israel” will be gathered home to the land of their inheritance (see Ezekiel 37).  It appears the Savior was saying that.  As we continue, we will see when the Book of Mormon mentions “the remnant of this people,” it is almost always (if not always) followed by the word “all.”  Nephi finished his small plates with the following.

And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.

And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day. (2 Nephi 33: 13-14).

Like Mormon, Nephi connected his book to the judgment.  Of that judgment, Nephi wrote,

Wherefore, these things shall go from generation to generation as long as the earth shall stand; and they shall go according to the will and pleasure of God; and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written (2 Nephi 25:22).

Nephi knew that the Lord would “commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” (2 Nephi 30:8).  He knew his words would go to the “ends of the earth,” “as long as the earth shall stand” (2 Nephi 25:22), and so he ended his record with,

And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good (2 Nephi 33:10).

These words, that are for “all [the] ends of the earth,” teach “all men that they should do good.” It sounds like he thought they were for all.  

A Book for Lamanites and Nephites

Mormon and Moroni wrote specifically to the Lamanites of the last days (see Title page and Mormon 7).  That is probably because they knew the Nephites would be entirely destroyed.  Mormon wrote Fourth Nephi.  He knew the Lamanites and Nephites had become one people.  But in his day they were once again two nations.  In the end, as a people, there were no Nephites. He wrote,

And they have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites, even until they have fallen into transgression and have been murdered, plundered, and hunted, and driven forth, and slain, and scattered upon the face of the earth, and mixed with the Lamanites until they are no more called the Nephites, becoming wicked, and wild, and ferocious, yea, even becoming Lamanites (Helaman 3:16).

In our day the missionaries were called to go amongst the “Lamanites” (see D&C 32), not the “Lamanites and Nephites.” That is probably because there are no Nephites. Before that call, the Lord acknowledged they had been destroyed.

And this testimony shall come to the knowledge of the Lamanites, and the Lemuelites, and the Ishmaelites, who dwindled in unbelief because of the iniquity of their fathers, whom the Lord has suffered to destroy their brethren the Nephites, because of their iniquities and their abominations. (Doctrine and Covenants 3:16–18).

It is therefore interesting that, when Joseph Smith lost the 116 pages, the Lord told him,

Nevertheless, my work shall go forth, for inasmuch as the knowledge of a Savior has come unto the world, through the testimony of the Jews, even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people- And to the Nephites, and the Jacobites, and the Josephites, and the Zoramites, through the testimony of their fathers- (D&C 3:16-17).

Speaking of the last days when God’s word will be gathered into one, the Lord prophesied,

And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.

And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever (2 Nephi 29:13-14).

A Book for the Whole House of Israel

We cannot assume our God will only remember Abraham’s seed living in the last days.  Regarding that gathering, and regarding inheriting the lands of their possessions, Ezekiel prophesied,

Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.

Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel (Ezekiel 37:11–12, italics added). 

In this prophecy we might wonder if the gathering includes any living? It is in that context wherein the Lord prophesied, “then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions” (Ezekiel 37:16, italics added).

Mormon and Moroni wrote specifically to the Lamanites.  But they also wrote to the “Jews or all the house of Israel” (which includes Nephites, see Mormon 5:14) and the gentiles, meaning the rest of mankind (see Title page and Mormon 3:18-20), and all the ends of the earth (2 Nephi 29:2; 2 Nephi 33:10-13;  Mosiah 12:21; 3 Nephi 27:20; Mormon 3:18-22; Moroni 10:24), which we will see, means the entire human family.  

Joseph F. Smith taught,

The work in which Joseph Smith was engaged was not confined to this life alone, but it pertains as well to the life to come, and to the life that has been.  In other words, it relates to those who have lived upon the earth, to those who are living and to those who shall come after us.  It is not something which relates to man only while he tabernacles in the flesh, but to the whole human family from eternity to eternity.[2]

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “Keep before you the big picture, for this cause is as large as all mankind and as broad as all eternity. This is the church and kingdom of God.”[3]

On the subject of the gathering, President Marion G. Romney taught, “These predictions by the Book of Mormon prophets make it perfectly clear that the restoration of the house of Israel to the lands of their inheritance will signal their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Redeemer.”[4]

The following passage is a good example of his point.  Mormon explained,

And behold, they [the words of The Book of Mormon] shall go unto the unbelieving of the Jews; and for this intent shall they go—that they may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that the Father may bring about, through his most Beloved, his great and eternal purpose, in restoring the Jews, or all the house of Israel, to the land of their inheritance, which the Lord their God hath given them, unto the fulfilling of his covenant (Mormon 5:14, italics added).

Mormon seems to be saying the house of Israel will be restored to the land of their inheritance, when they accept Jesus Christ through the instrumentality of the Book of Mormon. To accept their Redeemer, they must be baptized.  That, we know, requires The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Here, of course, we must caution that some absolute terms in the scriptures must be understood with caution, recognizing that they may sometimes be used as a figure of speech for emphasis.  Eve, after all, was not technically the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20).  She did not bear kittens.  And we do not assume “all Judaea” went out to meet John the Baptist (Matthew 3:5)  However, there does not seem to be evidence to propose significant unmentioned limitations on the intended scope of the Lord’s work to bring the Gospel message to all.

A Church for all Mankind

As previously mentioned, when the Book of Mormon authors talked about our church, they invariably used the word “all.”  This terminology is echoed in the words of modern-day prophets like President Hinckley, who said our church is for “all” many times.  President Hinckley taught,

Ours is a vision greater than that granted any other people who have walked the earth. It encompasses all of the sons and daughters of God of all generations of time, those who have walked the earth, those now upon the earth, and those yet to come upon the earth. For the salvation and eternal life of all of these we have a responsibility.[5]

On another occasion, he spoke of the mission of the church that,

Contemplates all generations of mankind—those who have gone before, all who live upon the earth, and those who will yet be born. It is larger than any race or nation or generation. It encompasses all mankind. It is a cause without parallel. The fruits of its labors are everlasting in their consequences.[6]

We understand how our church is for all mankind. Salvation for the dead is not a new concept to any of us.  But we tend to think the ancients saw our church as being more for us than them.  We tend to see latter-day prophesies as being for Latter-day Saints. We generally do not consider that the ancients looked upon our church with self-interest.  But they must have because it is ultimately for their people, as well as all mankind.    

Would God show his prophets the church responsible for the salvation and eternal life of all people (including their people) and not explain that to them?  Nephi and other Book of Mormon prophets let us know that God had shown and explained to them these things.  They repeatedly told their people that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be for them, as well as all mankind. Commenting on Isaiah’s prophecy about our church (see Isaiah 49:22), Nephi taught,

Nevertheless, after they shall be nursed by the Gentiles, and the Lord has lifted up his hand upon the Gentiles and set them up for a standard, and their children have been carried in their arms, and their daughters have been carried upon their shoulders, behold these things of which are spoken are temporal; for thus are the covenants of the Lord with our fathers; and it meaneth us in the days to come, and also all our brethren who are of the house of Israel (1 Nephi 22:6).

Those days to come are the latter days. We know that standard is the restored church. And yet Nephi was claiming it for his people (“and it meaneth us”), as well as all the house of Israel. Later Nephi asked his brother Jacob to speak to his brothers about the same prophecy.

And now, behold, I would speak unto you concerning things which are, and which are to come; wherefore, I will read you the words of Isaiah. And they are the words which my brother has desired that I should speak unto you. And I speak unto you for your sakes, that ye may learn and glorify the name of your God.
And now, the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel.
And now, these are the words: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders (2 Nephi 6:4-6, italics added).

Some may interpret this prophecy to mean the latter-day Zion will bless Israel’s children living in the last days, which of course is true. But that hardly constitutes “all the house of Israel.” What about Israel’s children who lived in 1492? Surely, they are part of “all.”

If that standard is not for them, then Jacob and Nephi would be difficult to understand. On the other hand, if they saw our church the way we see our church, as really being for all, their words make perfect sense. That reference to that standard to be raised was central in Nephi’s commentary on two chapters of Isaiah (Isaiah 48 and 49). Before reading those chapters to his brothers, he identified Isaiah’s intended audience.

Wherefore I spake unto them, saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written (1 Nephi 19:24).

Those “from whom [they had] been broken off” ended up in Babylon. They were taken into bondage because they, like the ten tribes, hardened their hearts against the Holy One of Israel (see 1 Nephi 22:5). The first chapter Nephi quoted from Isaiah (Isaiah 48) is about Israel being chosen in the furnace of affliction and eventually returning to Jerusalem.

The Lord prophesied that furnace would do its job. “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin” (Isaiah 1:25). The nightmare of being torn from home and family, scattered, and made to serve in bondage must have refined many of them. Yet most of Israel, even if penitent, would find themselves without the gospel in this life and confined to Spirit Prison in the life to come. We know if they would have come to their senses, and would have accepted the gospel in this life, they can be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God (see Doctrine and Covenants 137:7). We know that will require the latter-day church Isaiah spoke so much about.

This is likely the reason that Nephi quoted the next chapter. It talks about the prisoners being freed from Spirit Prison (see 1 Nephi 21:9), the Lord assuring Israel He had not forgotten them (see 1 Nephi 21:14–16), and that standard to be raised in the last days (see 1 Nephi 21:22). Commenting on that standard, Nephi spoke of a “marvelous work,” and the Lord “bringing about his covenants and his gospel” (see 1 Nephi 22:8-11). In other words he emphasized the Restoration.

But whom he said that Restoration is intended, may be his most important teaching. After quoting those Isaiah chapters, he began by explaining, “And since they [the ten tribes] have been led away these things have been prophesied concerning them, and also concerning all those who shall hereafter be scattered and be confounded” (1 Nephi 22:5, italics added).  Combining this with his introduction to the Isaiah chapters, it is as if he said, “The latter-day Zion is for those who have been scattered, those who are now being scattered, and those who would hereafter be scattered and confounded. It is for all the house of Israel.” He sounds a lot like President Hinckley.

Hope

Nephi said Isaiah’s words offered hope to all the house of Israel. “That thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth” (1 Nephi 21:9) could give them hope. But can they “go forth” without baptism? Is hope possible without baptism? Nephi didn’t think so. He later wrote,

I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation (2 Nephi 33:9).

This makes most sense if viewed in light of the work of baptism for the dead.  How else could our church offer ancient Israel hope? There is no hope in telling wayward people, “Although you’re going to hell, at least your children (or parts of a future corporate Israel) will be saved.” Hope is deeply personal. Notwithstanding all our Savior has done for us, without access to his atonement, we are hopeless. His atonement makes salvation possible. Zion makes it available. So that although there is a strong reference to Christ’s atonement in the chapters Nephi read (see 1 Nephi 21:14-16), he centered on Zion. Even in that reference, Christ’s church is part of the picture.

Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me-but he will show that he hath not. . .Yea. . . I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (1 Nephi 21:14-16).

Those walls (as we will see) are the latter-day Zion. Surely, they are continually before Him because they are His mechanism for saving the world.  Zion has everything to do with how we will be saved.

The phrase “but he will show that he hath not,” is not found in the King James version of Isaiah. That prophecy was, at least in one way, fulfilled by the drama surrounding King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  The monarch’s outlandish demands for the interpretation of that dream would have made it very public, and Daniel’s resulting interpretation would serve to remind the people that the Lord had not forgotten them, and that His kingdom yet had a destiny.   Isaiah’s prophecy coupled with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream could indeed give the Israelites hope, but only if they realized the walls of Isaiah’s prophecy have a gate, and that one day, they could go through it.

But the odds of exiles in Babylon having the words of Isaiah in this life are slim.  Nevertheless, if they received them in the Spirit World, Isaiah’s words could indeed give them hope. Nephi saying isaiah’s message could give exiled Israelites hope, seems to imply that most of them would receive the message in the afterlife.

As mentioned above, on the subject of the gathering, President Marion G. Romney taught, “These predictions by the Book of Mormon prophets make it perfectly clear that the restoration of the house of Israel to the lands of their inheritance will signal their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Redeemer (Marion G. Romney, “The Restoration of Israel to the Lands of Their Inheritance” Ensign, May 1981).

Can they accept their Redeemer without baptism?  Jacob did not seem to think so. He connected all of Israel being gathered to lands of inheritance with them coming into God’s true church.

And now, my beloved brethren, I have read these things that ye might know concerning the covenants of the Lord that he has covenanted with all the house of Israel–

That he has spoken unto the Jews, by the mouth of his holy prophets, even from the beginning down, from generation to generation, until the time comes that they shall be restored to the true church and fold of God; when they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise (2 Nephi 9:1–2).

There is only one church.  There is only one fold.  There is only one shepherd.   Before Israel is gathered to the lands of their inheritance, they must join that church.

When commenting on the prophet Zenos’s allegory (which is all about the gathering), Jacob exclaimed, “how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches” (Jacob 6:4, italics added). We have no problem conceptualizing how the branches will be gathered (grafted in) in the last days.  But the word “us” includes the roots. The roots, we know are ancient Israel. “And, behold, the roots. . . are yet alive” (Jacob 5:54). Branches need roots and roots need branches. Jacob’s statement suggests we are all in this together. We all need The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which shows up in the allegory—Jacob 5:61).

When the standard (the latter-day church) is raised, and Israel’s seed is nourished, that seed are not all the house of Israel. They are Israel’s children living in the last days. They are the branches.  Perhaps that’s why Nephi said, “these things of which are spoken are temporal” (1 Nephi 22:6). But that standard (which includes their seed) will bless all mankind. Perhaps that’s why he said these things are “both temporal and spiritual” (see 1 Nephi 22:1–3 and 1 Nephi 15:31–32). Nephi continued with his commentary on those two Isaiah chapters.

And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.
And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles; and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel, unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed (1 Nephi 22:8–9, italics added).

We understand how Abraham’s seed will bless all the families of the earth. We understand how our mission encompasses all mankind. Nephi understood the same, evidenced by his subsequent explanation that blessing all the kindreds of the earth necessitated the Lord establishing His church in the last days.

And I would, my brethren that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations. Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel (1 Nephi 22:10–11).

Immediately after these verses, Nephi uses the word “Wherefore.” “Wherefore” means “as a consequence of.” As a consequence of God “bringing about his covenants and his gospel,” he will save the dead. Nephi continued,

Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel (1 Nephi 22:12).

Who are they? They are those who Nephi said had hardened their hearts against the Holy One of Israel (see 1 Nephi 22:5).  They are “all the house of Israel.” Nephi said that six times before this verse (1 Nephi 22:12).

Nephi’s use of the word “captivity” seems to correspond with Isaiah’s phrase “that thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth.” We teach that these terms have reference to salvation for the dead (see 1 Nephi 21 footnote 9a).  Isaiah taught, “to cause to inherit the desolate heritages.” Likewise, Nephi taught “and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance.” Isaiah described “them that sit in darkness.” Nephi added “they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness” (1Nephi 21:8-9 compared with 1 Nephi 22:12).

“Obscurity” can be likened to state of being unknown. We bring our ancestors out of obscurity through Family Search. We bring them out of darkness through preaching the gospel on both sides of the veil. We bring them out of captivity by doing the ordinances for them—all of them.

Did They Know the Gospel Would be Preached to The Dead?

King Benjamin described two groups who are considered blameless after death. The first is those who die without the gospel.” For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned” (Mosiah 3:11). The second are children who die before the age of accountability. “For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy” (Mosiah 3:18).

If King Benjamin believed there was an advantage in ignorance, he would not have gone to such  lengths to teach his people. He clearly did not see an advantage; instead, he taught, “[a]nd even at this time, when thou shalt have taught thy people the things which the Lord thy God hath commanded thee, even then are they found no more blameless in the sight of God” (Mosiah 3:22).

Some people might have been concerned that Christ’s atonement no longer covered their ignorance, since King Benjamin, in teaching them, had taken away any “excuse.” However, King Benjamin had already addressed such concerns. Earlier he taught,

And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent (Mosiah 3:20–21).

He went from two blameless groups after death to only one. Once the gospel is taken to every people, ignorance will no longer be excusable. Little children will be blameless, but those who die in their ignorance do not remain in their ignorance.

Abinadi made the same point to the wicked priests of King Noah (see Mosiah 15:24-30). If these things didn’t pertain to them, why bring them up?

Clearly, Abinadi was addressing his own people. For wicked priests (Abinadi’s audience) who would likely end up in hell, and parents (King Benjamin’s audience) whose children would refuse to be baptized, that message may prove to be the most pertinent of all.

Did They Know Spirits in Hell Could be Redeemed?

Jacob told his brothers that they could “rejoice, and lift up [their] heads forever, because of the blessings which the Lord God shall bestow upon [their] children” (2 Nephi 9:3). Many of their children would perish because of unbelief (see 2 Nephi 10:2). We know—as did Jacob—that those who perish in unbelief, end up in Spirit Prison. That pertained directly to Jacob’s point—God prepared a way to get them out.

“O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit” (2 Nephi 9:10). As we will see, to escape is not just keeping people out of hell, it includes getting people out.

Of that deliverance Jacob continued, “and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other” (2 Nephi 9:12). Jacob then added that those in Paradise would also be resurrected and judged. Then he continued,

And it shall come to pass that when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel.

And assuredly, as the Lord liveth . . . they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them (2 Nephi 9:15–16).

The moment Jacob taught that those in hell are brought out and judged, he was teaching there is salvation for the dead — unless after that judgement they are all sent back.  Enoch saw, “And as many of the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God; and the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day” (Moses 7:57).

Among that “remainder” will be those who are “filthy still.” They are sons of perdition (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:35 and 102).

Sons of Perdition

There is only one obstinate group that will return to hell forever. Of them the Lord said, “they shall return again to their own place” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:32). They are those who “remain filthy still” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:35). The way Jacob described the fate of those who are filthy still (see 2 Nephi 9:16), is how the Savior described sons of perdition in the Doctrine and Covenants.

These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels-

And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power;

Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.

For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were made.(Doctrine and Covenants 76:33-39; see also D&C 88:35 and 88:102)

President Spencer W. Kimball noted that few will commit this sin: “The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file [members of the Church] to commit such a sin.

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles similarly reassured Church members: “Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fulness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.

If defecting to perdition is rare, then why does the Book of Mormon, more times than not, describe hell in that way?  In other words, if perdition is almost impossible for members, why is it described so often in the book only they read? 

In that book hell is usually described as forever, an everlasting fire from whence we cannot return.  That is probably because if you harden your heart in that realm, that’s your last chance. On this subject, that book seems to be more for them than us.  It can apply to us.  We can end up in hell forever.  But for them, that is likely their only alternative.

A few rebellious souls will die being enemies to God.  Of them, King Benjamin taught, “mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment” (see Mosiah 2:36-39).  Of such, the Savior revealed, “there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:34).  The exception highlights the rule, suggesting everyone else has a chance.  The Book of Mormon makes that abundantly clear by saying “all” all the time and then giving the only exception by how it describes hell.  All will be saved to some degree except sons of perdition.  Evidently in that book there is an exception to “all” after all.

Mormon wrote of the power of God’s word in getting people out (or keeping them out) of hell. Imagine reading the following in hell.

Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.

Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked-

And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out (Helaman 3:27-30; Compare with Moses 7:57).

Did They Know God Would Save Those Who Die in Unbelief?

There are some verses in the Book of Mormon that can be read two ways. For example, verses teaching that God will gather Israel to their lands of inheritance could refer to the living, the dead, or both. We presume the answer is both. But we don’t always know the mind of the author. The following however doesn’t seem to leave any question. Nephi taught,

After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles . . . and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten (2 Nephi 26:15, italics added).

After their seed have dwindled in unbelief and after they are dead (“brought down low to the dust, even that they are not,”) they shall not be forgotten. Indeed “all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.” They are unmistakably dead (see Genesis 42:13 with Genesis 44:20; or Jeremiah 31:15). They died in unbelief. But none of them will be forgotten. All we need know is first, who will remember them, and second, what it means to be remembered.

In the first instance, it is God who will remember them (see 1 Nephi 21:14–16; 2 Nephi 29:2; Jacob 6:4). We cannot assume that He, at some point in eternity, will remember them, but do nothing on their behalf.  If the words of the righteous and prayers of the faithful can yield no more result than that, then it is hard to see the purpose of such a promise. To remember them either means to save them to some degree, or it means nothing at all. Isaiah prophesied,

But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.
For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. O house of Israel.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me (1 Nephi 21:14–16).

Wilford Woodruff, referring to this passage, said, “Any man who has ever read the book of Isaiah . . . can see that he, with other prophets, had his eye upon the latter-day Zion of God.”[7] Hence, the Lord connects remembering Israel to his Atonement (palms) and his church (walls). To remember them is to save them.

Long before any of Lehi’s seed dwindled in unbelief, God promised Abraham He would remember them. “I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever” (2 Nephi 29:14). Evidently, He remembers all His children. ”and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33). We cannot assume He remembers only the lucky heathens living in the last days. Indeed “he rememberth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto ​​​all” (Mosiah 27:30).​ Jacob spoke of many of his people perishing in unbelief, but he knew they would be restored to the knowledge of Christ.

For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh; wherefore, as it has been shown unto me that many of our children shall perish in the flesh because of unbelief, nevertheless, God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer (2 Nephi 10:2, italics added).

The word “many” seems contrary to Jacob’s teaching that all the house of Israel will be restored to the true church and fold of God. It seems contrary to Nephi’s teaching that all who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten. Both brothers constantly wrote “all.” But this time Jacob wrote “many.”

The context of that verse helps. In the preceding verse we read, “And now I, Jacob, speak unto you again, my beloved brethren, concerning this righteous branch of which I have spoken” (2 Nephi 10:1).

This is a promise “according to the flesh.” Not all, in the flesh, will be that righteous branch, albeit many will be. The result of that branch being righteous is “our children, [all of them], shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer” (2 Nephi 10:2). God will be merciful unto as many as will accept His latter-day gospel and they in turn will help bless those who perished in unbelief.

“[T]hat which will give [them] the true knowledge of their Redeemer” (see 2 Nephi 10:2)  was the Book of Mormon when Mormon wrote about these same things (see Mormon 5:14).
As noted earlier, Nephi taught that when that standard is raised, and Israel’s seed is carried, they will, in turn, bless all the house of Israel. Concerning that righteous branch, Lehi prophesied they would be grafted in, in the last days (see 1 Nephi 1-14).  Then Nephi added,

Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed (1 Nephi 15:18).

Almost always in the Book of Mormon, when it speaks of that remnant in the last days, it is followed by the blessing of all (see 1 Nephi 13:39–40; 1 Nephi 22:6–9; 2 Nephi 3:5–13; 2 Nephi 21:11–12; 2 Nephi 30:3–8; 3 Nephi 5:23–26; 3 Nephi 16:4–5; 3 Nephi 20:25–30; 3 Nephi 21; Mormon 3:18–22; Mormon 5:9–14; Ether 13:6–11). God being merciful unto “many,” but all of them being restored, seems consistent with that.

The Ends of the Earth 

The three primary authors of the Book of Mormon said they were writing to “the ends of the earth” (see 2 Nephi 33:10; Mormon 3:18; Moroni 10:24). When Jacob says “all” in the following passage it is clear he means “every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.” His last “all men” in this passage is significant.   

And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. (2 Nephi 9:21-23).

In Third Nephi we see Christ do exactly that.  But instead of commanding “all men” to repent He commands “all ye ends of the earth.” After explaining to His twelve disciples that He will draw all men (all mankind) unto him, He said,

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 (3 Nephi 27:20).

”All ye ends of the earth” seems to be synonymous with “every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.”

Abinadi, quoting Isaiah regarding the Restoration, equated “all the ends of the earth” with “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” and “all nations.”

And now I say unto you that the time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. . .

. . . The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God (Mosiah 15:28-31, italics added, see also Mosiah 16:1).

Remember when Nephi spoke of the Lord making bare His arm in the eyes of all the nations (which is the Restoration; see 1 Nephi 22:11), he Included all the house of Israel (past, present and future), as well as the gentiles and all the kindreds of the earth (see 1 Nephi 22:9).

In our day the Lord prophesied, “For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:2). “Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:11).

Most people will not see and will not hear and their hearts will not be penetrated in mortality.  We believe the vast majority of mankind will hear and feel these things after this life.  That is how we believe His voice (His word) will go to “the ends of the earth.”

Notice in Third Nephi Jesus switched from answering a question posed by his disciples to addressing “all the ends of the earth.”  It’s like He knew.

It seems Nephi, Mormon and Moroni believed Christ’s latter-day church, (which includes their book), would be for all mankind.  For example before Nephi again quoted Isaiah’s writings extensively, which are packed with prophecies about our day, right before he read about a temple to be built in Utah (see 2 Nephi 12:1–3), he taught, ”And now I write some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men” (2 Nephi 11:8).

A Wonderful Tool 

Seeing our church as being for all allows us to use a marvelous tool.  In 1993 President Boyd K. Packer assigned Seminary and Institute teachers to “. . . prepare a brief synopsis or overview of the plan of happiness—the plan of salvation.” He said this would provide “. . . a framework on which . . . students can organize the truths [their teachers] will share with them” (Doctrine And Covenants/Church History Symposium Speeches, August 10th 1993, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Brigham Young University, p. 2).

He added, “At first you may think that a simple assignment. I assure you, it is not. Brevity and simplicity are remarkably difficult to achieve. At first you will be tempted to include too much. The plan in its fullness encompasses every gospel truth” (p.3).

It would be extremely difficult to prepare/provide a framework that encompasses every gospel truth, while at the same time keeping it simple. An easier approach would be to use the one Jesus gave us. We teach that Sections 1 and 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants constitute a framework for that sacred record. In those sections, Christ mentions Zion 25 times, His atonement 8 times, the gathering 20 times, His second coming 19 times and the Millennium 9 times.  Those two sections offer an impressive framework for the Doctrine and Covenants.  And since they offer a place for the most talked about doctrines in scripture, they offer a wonderful framework for all of scripture.

Orson Pratt observed, “There is no one thing more fully revealed in the scripture of eternal truth, than the rise of the Zion of our God in the latter-days” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16., p. 78). It is therefore interesting that there is no one thing more fully revealed in Sections 1 and 133 than the rise of the Zion of our God in the latter-days.  That suggests our God would have us include His church in the picture.  Indeed His church is the picture.  President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “Keep before you the big picture, for this cause is as large as all mankind and as broad as all eternity. This is the church and kingdom of God” (Ensign, May 1982, 46.)

President Packer, in his charge, counseled, “Providing your students with a collection of unrelated truths will hurt as much as it helps. Provide a basic feeling for the whole plan, even with just a few details, and it will help them ever so much more” (p.3).

A collection of unrelated truths is like having a thousand puzzle pieces in a box.  Each piece is beautiful in and of itself because each piece is from God.  But not seeing how they fit together can hurt us. Saul lost his crown for not understanding the relationship between obedience and sacrifice.  Brother Lynn B. Robbins taught,  “When Satan is successful in dividing doctrinal pairs, he begins to wreck havoc upon mankind.  It is one of his most cunning strategies to keep people from growing in the light.” (BYU Speeches, Be 100 Percent Responsible, August 22, 2017).  A basic feeling for the whole plan can help.    

The easiest way to assemble a puzzle is to look at the picture on the box. In 1831 our God gave us the picture. A year later He revealed why including Zion in that picture is necessary. Through Joseph Smith He instructed,

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:78).

Every principle, doctrine and law of the gospel pertains (relates) to the kingdom of God.  In other words, if we want a framework for the doctrines of the kingdom, we ought to include the kingdom.  In the Savior’s enclosing sections (1 and 133) He included Zion 25 times.

An Important Shift

As the picture comes together a problem becomes apparent.  We tend to view scripture with two lenses.  We have a latter-day lens and a plan of salvation lens.  It’s like we’re looking at the scriptures through a pair of binoculars with lenses not in sync.             

President Packer solved that problem by telling us that we can call that framework “the plan.”  The framework we find in the Doctrine and Covenants consists of the six elements mentioned above. Seeing how they are for the entire human family combines those lenses.  If we were to draw that plan it might look like the following video.

Since the ancients were shown and wrote about this same plan and  since aspects of it can be found in most of the stories in scripture, we can assume our God wants us to see it as well.  But there are blind spots with binoculars not in sync.  Not only that, when we go to scripture looking for the plan we traditionally depict, we close our eye on our latter-day lens. 

Compounding this problem is the phenomenon known as selective perception.  That too can cause us to miss things.  Most are aware of the experiment wherein people are told to count basketball passes and they miss the gorilla.  Looking in the scriptures for the plan we were raised on can cause us to miss the plan our God is trying to portray. A prime example of this is how we see the Exodus story. 

We know, in that story, that the destroying angel, plagues, pillar of fire, and the destruction of the wicked at the Red Sea, typify the Savior’s second coming.  But when we look for the plan in that story we generally ignore those types.  With our plan lens we see the death of the Lamb, baptism of water and the Spirit at the Red Sea, the temple covenant at Mount Sinai, and Jesus leading Israel into the Promised Land.  Hence when we write about the Exodus being a model of the plan we never include the Second Coming, Zion or the Millennium in that model, even though they are clearly there. There are gorillas in the Exodus story that we ignore (or don’t see) when we consider God’s plan to get us to the Promised Land of eternal life.  .

One such gorilla in that story is the portrayal of the resurrection.  In Third Nephi the Savior was adamant about including the dead rising in His typifying visit.  If it wasn’t in the story, we might wonder if His visit was a type.  The resurrection is a huge part of Christ’s second coming (see Doctrine and Covenants 45:17). So we can assume the Savior would want it portrayed in the Exodus story.  

The day will come when Israel will be backed up against the Mount of Olives like Israel was backed up against the Red Sea.  Like that sea, that mountain will split.  Israel sang a new song, like we will when the Savior comes again  (Doctrine and Covenants 84:98).  The waters of the Dead Sea will be healed like the waters of Marah were healed.  Our food, like manna, will come forth spontaneously in the Millennium.  Jesus Christ, like Moses, will be our law giver, our judge, and our teacher in that Terrestrial realm.

Where is the resurrection in the story?       

At Mount Sinai the Lord told Moses he would  make Israel a kingdom of priests (see Exodus 19).  They would eventually wear crowns. They were to clean themselves and their clothes; and stay away from their wives.  On the morning of the third day they were to come up the mountain and see God.  

On that occasion, Jehovah came down in a cloud.  They heard thunder and saw lightening.  The earth shook. A trumpet sounded louder and louder.  Thousands of people, with clean clothes, were supposed to go up. Had they gone up, that episode would have looked like a mass resurrection.

To Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed,

And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, and it hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else.

For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth-yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one (Doctrine and Covenants 29:12–13).

But Israel told God to stop speaking (see Exodus 20:18–19). They failed to go up. As we have seen, our God does not like the dead rising left out of the picture.  That is probably why He had Moses and seventy elders of Israel repeat the type in Exodus 24.  After that episode the Lord instructed Moses to make the tabernacle (see Exodus 25).  It too is that mountain.  It too is the plan.

Regarding that tabernacle, the Savior’s framework (from sections 1 and 133) suggests we look for His second coming in that holy house.  The Lord portrays it (as we would expect) at the threshold that separates the Outer Court and the Holy Place (see Ezekiel 9). In the Lord’s house His atoning sacrifice and Millennial space are also easy to identify.

But where is the latter day Zion?  Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a prominent feature in the plan, we should ask if it is a prominent feature in the ancient tabernacle?  Indeed it is.  It is gloriously featured in every room of that sacred house.

We believe the stones on the High Priest’s breastplate represent the twelve tribes of Israel. But they are not just the twelve tribes, they are the gathered twelve tribes.  That will only happen in the last days.  Before the Savior comes again He will gather those stones to Zion.  He will carry His church (like jewels) next to his heart, attached to his shoulders, across that threshold, into a millennial realm.  In time He will carry His people into the presence of the Father (the Holy of Holies).  Christ’s latter day church shows up in every room of that sacred structure, much like His saints who progress from room to room in the house of the Lord.

This view requires a shift in how we see the plan of salvation.  That shift can help us see things in scripture we have not seen before.  Many more examples could be given.  But no one needs anyone pointing out things.  All they need is a pair of working binoculars and to refer to the picture on the box.

Why we Don’t use That Framework

There is not a person on earth who can fulfill President Packer’s assignment better than Jesus Christ.  He could expound all the scripture in one.  He gave us a tool to do the same.  So why don’t we use it?  It is probably because President Packer said we could call that framework the plan of salvation.  That requires a paradigm shift.  And paradigm shifts are extremely difficult. Perhaps the biggest impediment to making that shift is that we know that Abraham is exalted.    Many reason that for something to part of “the plan,” it must be for everyone.  Since Abraham became a god without our dispensation, it Is hard to see how it can be part of the plan for him.  But he does need our church.  He needs the gathering, the Second Coming and the Millennium.  They are part of the plan for him.  Elder John Taylor taught,

The ancient Nephites who lived on the earth, those men of God who, through faith, wrought righteousness, accomplished a good work and obtained exaltation, are as much interested in the welfare of their descendants as we are, and a good deal more; and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and those ancient men of God who once lived on the earth, and who yet live, are as much interested in the accomplishment of God’s purposes as we are, and a good deal more . . . We are not alone in these things, others are operating with us, I mean all the men of God who ever lived, and they are as much interested as we are, and a good deal more, for they know more, and “they without us cannot be made perfect” neither can we be perfected without them. . . . there is a combination of earthly beings and of heavenly beings, all under the influence of the same priesthood, which is an everlasting priesthood, and whose administrations are effective in time and in eternity. We are all operating together, to bring about the same things and to accomplish the same purposes.[8]

Thus, even exalted Abraham participates in and will benefit from the latter-day Zion. Paul wrote, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10). Someone (like Abraham) being in heaven doesn’t exclude him from the gathering and other blessings of the Restoration. In fact, Joseph Smith spoke of knowledge to be revealed in our dispensation “which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:27)

Abraham is one of our foremost forefathers. He may be exalted, but that doesn’t mean he has a fullness. Joseph Smith taught that not even Adam can “receive a fullness until Christ shall present the Kingdom to the Father, which shall be at the end of the last dispensation.”[9] Obtaining that fullness is part of the plan (see Doctrine and Covenants 93:20). It is

According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence and into his immortal rest (Doctrine and Covenants 121:32).

Apparently Abraham isn’t finished yet. Perhaps that’s why he  “looked for a city . . . whose builder and maker is God” (see Doctrine and Covenants 45:11-14 and Hebrews 11:10). Job sought for and obtained that city.   He exclaimed, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26).  Evidently all holy men could say the same.  Of Enoch and his people, we read,

Who were separated from the earth, and were received unto myself-a city reserved until a day of righteousness shall come–a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations; And confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; But obtained a promise that they should find it and see it in their flesh. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:11-14, italics added; see also Moses 7:62-63 and Hebrews 11:33).     

This suggests that Abraham saw the latter day Zion as being for himself and his worthy posterity. Surely that is why the Restoration was spoken of by “all [God’s] holy prophets since the world began” (see Acts 3:21). That passage suggests why Nephi talked so much to his people about that standard to be raised. It helps make sense of him saying, “and it meaneth us in the days to come.”  It suggests why he said “all” (in conjunction with Christ’s latter-day Zion) all the time.  It helps us understand why God gave Nebuchadnezzar that dream.  It was a call to repentance.  It offered motivation for him and his people.  It offered hope.  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught,

I believe with all my heart that the brethren and sisters of our earlier eras were able to do what they did and were able to keep going in the face of, what was in every dispensation, terrible trouble and apostasy because they could see our day and knew that then, in the great latter day the work would succeed. We do have a rare city of Enoch experience here, and a 4th Nephi period there, but not for long and not for many people. By and large the story of the scriptures, up to this dispensation, is a story of difficulty and apostasy and defeat…
…I do believe it was because they could see the glory and majesty of the latter-day work that would come in our day—I believe it was that that allowed earlier leaders to persevere in the face of such terrible difficulty and destruction in their own time.[10]

Elder Holland seems to be echoing Joseph Smith who taught,

The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; . . . a work that God and angels have contemplated with delight for generations past; that fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets; a work that is destined to bring about the destruction of the powers of darkness, the renovation of the earth, the glory of God, and the salvation of the human family.[11]

They would not anticipate nor persevere for a kingdom that is not for them. It is true, we are in a favored position to bring about that latter-day glory, so we tend to think these things are primarily for us. But a moments reflection reminds us we are all in this together. We all wait for the day when the author of our faith will finish our redemption (see Moroni 6:4), the “day of righteousness” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:12) when our “redemption shall be perfected” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:46), when our God will come and “complete the salvation of man” (Doctrine and Covenants 77:12) in Zion.

Brigham Young taught,

Where is Zion? Where the organization of the church of God is. And may it dwell spiritually in every heart; and may we so live as to enjoy the spirit of Zion always. Do we realize that if we enjoy a Zion in time or in eternity, we must make it for ourselves? That all, who have a Zion in the eternities of the Gods, organized, framed, consolidated, and perfected it themselves, and consequently are entitled to enjoy it. This is the Gospel; this is the plan of salvation; this is the Kingdom of God; this is the Zion that has been spoken and written of by all the Prophets since the world began. This is the work of Zion which the Lord has promised to bring forth.[12]  

On June 12th, 2018, Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy, Church Commissioner of Education, charged religious educators to include the Savior’s restored church in depictions and discussions of the plan. He taught, “The gathering of scattered Israel . . . is an important part of the Father’s plan. . . The Lord’s true and living church is a critical part of the Father’s plan for the salvation of his children.”[7.5]

Elder Clark was not necessarily commenting on Abraham’s need for the Restoration.  But he did give us all the permission we need to include these things (as well as anything that bears Christ name) in our depictions and discussions of the plan.

As the final speaker of the April 1985 Priesthood Session of General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency, taught, “This church is part of his divine plan” (April Conference, 1985, To Please our Heavenly Father).

Conclusion

It must be a thrill to teach with the Book of Mormon in the Spirit World. For those who dwindled in unbelief—even those who saw and heard and slew Jesus, it must be overwhelmingly good news.  What must the following mean to them?

Wherefore, when I came, there was no man; when I called, yea, there was none to answer. O house of Israel, is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea . . . (2 Nephi 7:1–2).

It would be exciting to talk to people about how large the sea is and the power, and goodness, and mercy of our God.  Surely they will rejoice in hearing they are not forgotten; that “Whosoever will” may end up on the “right hand of God” (Helaman 3:29-30); that they are not cast off forever.  That book makes that point repeatedly with the ubiquitous word “all.”

Jacob asked, “And now, my beloved, how is it possible that these, after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?” (Jacob 4:16).

Who are “these”?  Are they those who actually rejected him [34 A.D.] or their descendants who are an extension of them?  Yes.  As to how they individually or as a people could ever build on him, Jacob’s answer was the same—Zenos’s allegory. He concluded, “And how merciful is our God unto us for He remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches” (Jacob 6:4, italics added). Who is this Savior who immediately after his death prepared a way for saving (to some degree) all, including those who had just rejected Him?

Six times in the Doctrine and Covenants He said, “I am the same that came unto mine own, and mine own received me not” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:21). Evidently that really hurt Him. “And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads” (Mark 15:29). It is amazing He did not fry them there on the spot. One twitch of His quivering finger, one word from His parched lips, and they would have been sent to where they belonged. And yet as soon as He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He set out to reclaim them. Even they will not be forgotten.

 

About the Author

Steve Fotheringham teaches at the Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV). He has been a teacher since 1982. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Weber State University, a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling and a Doctoral Degree in Educational Administration from The University of Arizona. He is married to the former Kaylene Pace. They have six children, one of which is a famous wheelchair athlete. They call him “Wheelz.” Steve is on the High Council in his stake. And he invented lunch.

Email: FotheringhamSC@ChurchofJesusChrist.org

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[1] Spen

 

cer W. Kimball, The Things of Eternity—Stand We in Jeapardy? Ensign, Jan. 1977, p.3.

[2] Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 481.

[3] Gordon B. Hinckley, Five Million Members—A Milestone and Not a Summit, Ensign, May 1982.

[4] Marion G. Romney, “The Restoration of Israel to the Lands of Their Inheritance” Ensign, May 1981.

[5] Gordon B. Hinckley quoted by Jeffrey R. Holland, “Our Consuming Mission,” Address to CES Religious Educators, Salt Lake Tabernacle. February 5th, 1999.

[6] Gordon B. Hinckley, “He Slumbers Not, nor Sleeps,” General Conference, May 1983.

[7]  Wilford Woodruff, in Journal of Discourses, 15:7-8.

[7.5] Kim B. Clark, in the Annual Seminary and Institute broadcast, June 12th, 2018, Si.LDSChurch.org

[8] John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, (London: Latter-day Saints, Book depot, 1854-86, 17:213

[9] Joseph Smith in The Joseph Smith Papers, History, 1838-1856,, volume C-1 [2 November 1838-31 July 1842], p. 17.

[10] Jeffrey R. Holland, C.E.S. Broadcast, “An Evening with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland,” February 5, 1999.

[11] Joseph Smith in The Joseph Smith Papers, History, 1838-1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838-31 July 1842], p. 1328.

[12] Brigham Young Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1925-46), 118.