Monday, November 17, 2014

Because of Iniquity

During the sacrament yesterday I opened up 3 Nephi to study the sacrament again.  I began with what first caught my eye, which was the highlighted verse of 3 Nephi 15:17:

"That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." 
I kept reading into verse 18:

And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them."  
Often times when I read scriptures, I find I'm directed to a middle of a chapter.  Because I start in the middle, I find I'm missing the context, so I begin reading backwards.  Then forwards, then often backwards again.  My sacrament study began with other sheep.

Growing up in LDS culture (although not really – it was more LDS culture outside of LDS culture), I always viewed the "other sheep" as the Nephites and Lamanites.  This is where all the videos pointed, and it is explained during missionary discussions.  I had the concept down when I was 14.  Jesus visited the players in the Book of Mormon, and this is one reason the Book of Mormon is so important.  We are to open our minds to the concept that Jesus visited other people outside those in Jerusalem from 0 to 34 AD.

The verses surrounding this often quoted verse are often overlooked.  I found some really interesting points as I studied.

Backing up a few verses, Jesus talks to the twelve disciples who he had chosen, and tells them they are a "light" unto this people, "who are a remnant of the house of Joseph" (vs.12).  What does that mean?  Who and what are the house of Joseph?  We often gloss over this in church, assuming everyone knows, and that we automatically know who this Joseph is.  Who is Joseph?

I am going to assume that Christ is referring to Joseph, who is the youngest son Jacob (AKA "Israel").  We learn about him in Genesis.  We also learn that he has 11 other brothers.  These are the "Twelve Tribes of Israel" we often talk about.  So we assume this is the same Joseph that he is referring to here, but it only says that they are of the house of Joseph.

Christ continues,

"Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land" (vs.15). 
Why does Christ need the Father to command him regarding what he says?  Over the course of the next several verses, he refers to "the Father" so frequently, and he intimates that he only speaks what he is commanded to speak.  (Although in some instances, when he completes what he is commanded to speak, we have record of him doing other things, like blessing children.)

Jesus the explains what the Father permitted him to share, which was the basic fact that there were other sheep whom he must bring (vs.16).  But he explains that because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they didn't understand his words.  So the Father commanded him to say no more.

Imagine if the Jews had not been so stiffnecked and unbelieving.  What more might they have learned?  And what more might the world know?

It's a beautiful thing we have this record in the Book of Mormon, because Christ explains that the Father did give him permission to share this.  He says the Father commanded him to tell them (the Nephites) that they were separated from the Jews because of their iniquity.  And it's because of the Jews' iniquity that they still did not know of this remnant.

The coolest part though, to me, is that he says that the Father has separated other tribes.  Once again, because of iniquity the Jews have no idea regarding them.  They Jews thought that Jesus was referring to visiting the Gentiles, when in actuality he meant the Nephites.  (The Gentiles would be converted through the Holy Ghost, and Christ would not minister to them personally.  vs. 23)  Another interesting point this reveals is that we and the Jews do not always understand his words.  We think it to mean something it does not necessarily mean.  And Christ admits it.

Moving into Chapter 16, we learn of even more sheep.  This is what intrigues me the most.  These people had never been ministered to yet by him personally.  And he would go there next.  Have they kept a record?  Have they received his gospel?  Are they on the face of the earth?  Are they hidden in the earth?  Under the face of the great deep?  Is it possible that the religions of the earth, which seem to vary so deeply, are actually part and parcel of the whole?  Part of the one fold, with one shepherd, but we reject their precepts because they do not match our own?  What if this is part of the grand design?  Or do we need to wait for Christ to introduce us, in the end, to the idea that just maybe he taught them too, and that their varying messages are actually of Him?

It's not too far of a stretch for me, when I have Christ informing me in these pages of the Book of Mormon.  And blessed are they that believe.

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