Professor in the Department of Religious Education,
The Book of Mormon was born in the Old Testament world. Mormon, who edited the Book of Mormon, assumed his reader had an understanding of the Old Testament. However, many who read the Book of Mormon have a limited understanding of the Old Testament. This paper is designed to help the reader of the Book of Mormon to become acquainted with some of the most important aspects of the Old Testament that will aid in studying the Book of Mormon.
ABRAHAM AND THE COVENANT
Elder Bruce R. McConkie has noted that "Israelite history begins not with father Jacob, who is Israel nor with his tribal descendants who adopted his name as theirs, but with Abraham, their father. In the true and spiritual sense of the terms, Abraham was the first Hebrew, the first Israelite, and the first Jew, although none of these names originated with or had their first application to him. But Abraham was the father of the faithful, the progenitor of the chosen people, the one through whose loins the Lord promised to raise up a righteous nation and people, the one with whom God made an eternal covenant that would save him and his seed after him . . ." (A New Witness For the Articles of Faith, p. 503).
The Four Major Promises of the Abrahamic Covenant
Abraham was born and raised in Ur of the Chaldees at a time when Egyptian influence, both political and religious, was felt over much of the ancient Near East (Abr. 1). We know little of his first contact with the gospel save that he became an ardent supporter of Jehovah which nearly cost him his life (Abr. 1:1-18). Having escaped the Egyptian priests who tried to kill him because he would not conform to the status quo religion, Abraham fled his homeland and went to Haran, a neighboring area (Abr. 2:1-5). While in Haran, the Lord introduced Abraham to the covenant of exaltation. This is recorded in Abraham 2:6-11. This covenant is known both as the Abrahamic Covenant and the marriage covenant for time and all eternity for when a man and woman are married in the temple they receive all the blessings promised to Abraham.
The Abrahamic Covenant consists of several promises that may be generalized into three categories of earthly promises with each having eternal fulfilment. They are as follows:
Posterity Abraham and Sarah were promised that they would have a posterity while in mortality. Their faithfulness in bearing and raising a righteous family would secure them eternal increase or posterity in the eternities.
Land Abraham and Sarah were promised that their posterity would have a land. The importance of this can be seen in the fact that Abraham was raised in a land without religious freedom. Therefore, the promise of land would insure that Abraham's posterity would have a land where they could worship God they way God intended. Through proper worship of God, Abraham and his posterity would ultimately receive an eternal land of inheritance - the celestial kingdom!
Gospel Abraham and Sarah were also promised that their posterity would have gospel or priesthood privileges. Further, they were promised that their posterity would become a blessing to all nations of the world be bringing them gospel opportunities. The eternal fulfillment of this promise is that if Abraham and his posterity and any who joined the truth faith through Abraham's posterity lived the gospel fully they would receive exaltation or eternal life.
Often, LDS scholars emphasize the promises of posterity and gospel. Nevertheless, the land is of major importance in understanding the history of Israel in the Old Testament. It is quite evident that for Abraham and his descendants, the land became the symbol of the Lord honoring the covenant he made with Abraham and, later, his descendants. If Abraham's descendants kept the covenant, they would receive and maintain a prosperous life in the land. However, breaking the covenant would result in losing the land which was tantamount to losing prosperity, divine protection, and ultimately the Lord's saving grace given to man through the gospel (the atonement).
The Abrahamic Covenant and the Atonement
There is a principle associated with the Abrahamic covenant that is essential in understanding God's dealings with his children. Because the Lord promised Abraham that his posterity would have gospel/priesthood rights, the Abrahamic covenant insures that if Abraham's posterity ever strayed from the gospel covenant, the Lord would do all in his power to bring them back into the covenant. This is only possible if the law of justice, which would condemn Abraham's posterity because of their disobedience, could be satisfied. Thus, the role of Jesus Christ was to satisfy the law of justice making it possible for Abraham's posterity (and any gentile who unites himself with Abraham's posterity by covenant) to return to God's covenant and receive the same blessings promised to Abraham.
This concept is important in understanding scriptural history. For example, this principle lies behind the purpose of the Book of Mormon. Moroni stated that the Book of Mormon was written "to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever-- And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST" (Title Page, Book of Mormon). Essentially, then, the scriptures are an historical account of the Abrahamic covenant, including prophecies of its fulfillment.
Abraham Enters into the Covenant
The incident of Abraham 2:6-11 seems only to be preparatory to Abraham's actually entering into the covenant. The rest of the Abraham's story is recorded in Genesis 12-25. After leaving Haran, Abraham traveled some distance until he arrived in the land of Canaan. After traveling some distance in the land, he stopped at Shechem, a sacred area near the center of the land of Canaan. While there, the Lord declared to Abraham that the land of Canaan was the land promised to Abraham and his posterity. Abraham then built an altar (Gen. 12:6-7) memorializing Jehovah and perhaps establishing Shechem as the sacred center of the land of promise (as will be shown, several important Biblical events have Shechem at their center.)
Sometime later, Abraham asked, "whereby shall I know that I shall inherit" the land of Canaan? (Gen. 15:8). In response, the Lord told Abraham to bring him a certain number of animals. Abraham secured the animals and then cut them in half, laying the severed halves together. Why? Abraham understood that the Lord intended to formalize the promises He had made with Abraham through a covenant ritual.
Covenant rituals in the ancient world most often involved cutting and blood. In some cases animals were cut in half. Then after reciting the terms of the covenant, the parties making the covenant would pass between the severed parts of the animal (thus identifying themselves with the animal) suggesting that if he did not keep his part of the covenant then what was done to the animal would be done to them: i.e., they would be killed. In fact, the proper way to say in Hebrew, "he made a covenant" is "he cut a covenant". (For another Old Testament example, see Jeremiah 34:18-19.)
After the animals were cut in half, the Lord stated the terms of the covenant: Abraham's posterity would become enslaved in another land for four generations (a generation was one hundred years). At the end of that period the Lord would bring them out of bondage and give them the land of Canaan. Then the Lord, represented by a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, passed between the severed animals (Gen. 15:13-18). Abraham then knew the land would be his.
In Genesis 15, only the Lord entered in the covenant. Genesis 17 records the occasion relative to Abraham's entering into the covenant. The ritual which initiated the covenant on Abraham's part also involved cutting and blood. The ordinance was that of circumcision. Circumcision became the token of the covenant throughout Old Testament history. The one entering into the covenant cut off his foreskin symbolizing that if he did not keep his part of the covenant that he and his posterity would be cut off from the presence of the Lord even as he had cut off the foreskin.
The Abrahamic Covenant is "Made Sure"
In Genesis 17:1, Abraham was told what his part of the covenant was in these terms: "walk before me, and be thou perfect" (Gen. 17:1). To walk before the Lord is to be obedient to all that God requires. When one is obedient to all that God commands, he then is assured by God that the blessings promised him for his obedience will be given to him (D&C 82:10; 130:20-21).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the Lord will thoroughly prove those who come unto him and when he finds that they are "determined to serve Him at all hazards, then [they] will find [their] calling and [their] election made sure" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150). Abraham was fully tested by the Lord and was found obedient in all things (D&C 132:37).
The testing of Abraham forms the basis of the Abraham story found in Genesis 12-22. In these chapters, it can be seen that the testing of Abraham followed a pattern: he was asked to give up something earthly for a higher or Godly cause. In the end, Abraham never really gave up anything for he was always blessed with something better. For example, he was asked by the Lord to give up his homeland and inheritance only to be given an eternal land and inheritance by the Lord (Gen. 12:1-3). Again, when strife arose between his herdsman and the herdsman of his nephew, Lot, Abraham gave Lot the best part of his land that there might be peace between them. Yet, God assured him that he had not really given up anything for in the end the whole of the land would be his and his posterity (Gen. 13:5-17). On another occasion, Sarah had given Abraham her handmaid, Hagar, to bear a child in her behalf. Then contention arose between Sarah and Hagar because Hagar attempted to assume a status that was not rightfully and legally hers (that of being a full wife to Abraham instead of a handmaid raising up a child for Sarah). Consequently, Sarah told Abraham to expel Hagar from the tribe because of Hagar's unethical behavior (Gen. 16). In so doing, Abraham lost his son and heir. Yet, the Lord promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son of their own that would be the heir of Abraham (Gen. 17). That son was Isaac.
The ultimate test of Abraham's obedience to God came when God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to him (Gen. 22:1-2). This struck against everything God had taught Abraham about the wickedness of human sacrifice. Moreover, by offering Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham would lose his heir, the child through whom the promises of the Abrahamic covenant would come (Heb. 11:18-19). Nevertheless, Abraham was obedient to the command of God and would have sacrificed Isaac had the Lord not intervened and stopped Abraham at the very moment he was about to slay his son (Gen. 22:10-12). This test of Abraham's obedience proved that Abraham was "determined to serve God at all hazards." Therefore the Lord assured Abraham that the covenant he had made with him was now in full force (Gen. 22:15-18). This is confirmed in modern revelation (see D&C 132:29-37).
Abrahamic Covenant Extended to Isaac and Jacob
The covenant made with Abraham was also made with Abraham's son, Isaac (Gen.
26:1-5). Further, the covenant was made with Jacob, his grandson (Gen. 28:10-22;
35:1-15). As part of the covenant, Jacob's name was change to Israel. To Jacob
or Israel the Lord gave twelve sons. These sons have become known as the twelve
tribes of Israel. It was through these sons that the promises made to Abraham
concerning his seed would be fulfilled.
MOSES AND THE EXODUS
How the Twelve Tribes of Israel Came to Live in Egypt
In Genesis 37 and 39-50, the story of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob, is recounted. In this story, Joseph, who was favored by Jacob, was despised by his older brothers. They sold Joseph as a slave to a band of Ishmaelites who in turn sold him to Potiphar, an Egyptian official. Through a process of events, Joseph rose from slavery to become second in command of all of Egypt. In that position, Joseph prepared Egypt for seven years of famine, a catastrophe he had prophesied would happen. When the famine came, Jacob and his sons were forced to come to Egypt for food. As a result of this, Joseph was once again reunited with his father and brothers. Initially, Pharaoh invited Jacob and his family to live in Egypt. Jacob was initially reluctant to go to Egypt, but the Lord insured him that it was essential in fulfilling the covenant. To Jacob, the Lord said: "I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation." Then the Lord promised him that he would bring Israel back to the land of promise again (Gen. 46:1-4). When Jacob arrived in Egypt, Pharoah gave the best part of the land, the land of Goshen (in the delta area of the Nile), to him and his sons.
Before he died, Joseph prophesied concerning the tribes of Israel. He prophesied that Israel would be brought into bondage but that the Lord would raise up a prophet to deliver them from their captors and bring "out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, and unto Isaac, and to Jacob" (JST Gen. 50:24, 29, 34-36). He then prophesied that Israel would be "scattered again." However, he said that God would bring "them to a knowledge of their fathers in the latter days; and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord." At that time, God will "restore them, who are of the house of Israel, in the last days" (JST Gen. 50:31-32).
The Twelve Tribes are Brought into Bondage
The book of Exodus tells of Israel's escape out of Egyptian bondage. While in Goshen, the twelve tribes of Israel made Egypt their permanent place of residence. During this time "the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them" (Ex. 1:7). Sometime after Joseph and the Pharaoh died, "there arose a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph" (Ex. 1:7). Fearing that the Israelites would become greater than the Egyptians, but wanting them to build their cities for them, this new Pharaoh brought the Israelites into bondage. They remained in this condition for four hundred years.
During this period of time, the Israelites gradually began to believe in and worship the Egyptian gods. Like most peoples of the ancient Near East, the Egyptians were polytheistic; that is, they believed in many gods. To the Egyptians, these gods controlled all the elements that allow men to live. They believed that by performing various rituals the gods would look kindly upon them and control the elements in such a way that mankind could survive and be happy. These rituals often involved immoral acts performed during the ritual action in the presence of the idols of the various gods located in temples or sanctuaries. As the Israelites began to follow Egyptian religious practices, they lost the knowledge of the gospel, the religion of the God their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
However, the Lord was not going to allow this situation to continue. According to the promise that he had made with Abraham (that he would bless Abraham's posterity with the gospel), the Lord now set his hand to restore Israel to the knowledge of the gospel. This required the work of a prophet.
Moses, the First Gatherer of Israel
Sometime around 1300 B.C., the man ordained of God to restore the gospel to Israel and free them from bondage was born. His name was Moses. Elder McConkie stated that, "Moses, the man of God, continued the work of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in standing as a father and friend and founder of the family of Israel" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 522). Moses was born a Hebrew but raised an Egyptian in Pharaoh's court. When he was forty, Moses killed an Egyptian who was "smiting an Hebrew" slave. When this was found out, Moses fled Egypt for his life. He went to the land of Midian in the Sinai wilderness (Ex. 2:11-15). While there he lived with Jethro, the priest of Midian and a descendent of Abraham through Keturah, Abraham's third wife (Gen. 25:1-4). Jethro gave to Moses one of his daughters to marry (Ex. 2:21). He also conferred upon Moses the Melchizedek priesthood (D&C 84:6).
While Moses was in the Sinai, "the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob" (Ex. 2:23-24). According to the terms of the covenant, Abraham's descendants would be given a land where they could worship God and live his gospel. To this end, the Lord called Moses to redeem Israel from bondage.
The calling of Moses came forty years after Moses fled Egypt. While tending his flocks near Mt. Sinai (sometimes called Mt. Horeb) the Lord called to Moses from a bush that appeared to be on fire but "was not consumed" (Ex. 3:1-
2). As Moses approached this "great sight," the Lord said, "Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Ex. 3-5). This was not an ordinary mountain but the "mountain of God" or the Lord's holy temple (Ex. 1:1). The Lord introduced himself to Moses, saying, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex. 3:6), thus recalling the Abrahamic covenant. He then told Moses that he was to return to Egypt and bring the Israelites out of bondage and lead them to the very mountain that Moses was standing upon (Ex. 3:7-12). At the sacred mountain of Sinai, the children of Israel were to meet with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and sacrifice unto him, or in other words, they were to come to the temple and enter into a covenant with their God (Ex. 3:13-18). All this would be preparatory to the children of Israel going to the promised land.
The Exodus of Israel From Egyptian Bondage
Moses returned from Sinai to the court of Pharaoh in Egypt. To Pharaoh, Moses said, "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go" (Ex. 5:1). To no surprise, Pharaoh refused the request. Under the direction of God, Moses levied a series of nine plagues upon Egypt (Ex. 7-9).
The plagues were intended to accomplish two things: (1) to show to both Egypt and Israel that the gods of Egypt were false, and thus (2) to soften Pharaoh's heart so that he would follow the only true and living God and allow the children of Israel leave Egypt. Each plague was designed to accomplish this by showing that the God of the Hebrews had power over the various elements that the Egyptians believed were controlled by their false gods. For example, the Egyptians believed that the Nile was controlled by the god Hapi. However, when the Lord through Moses caused the Nile to turn to blood (a sign of death), the Egyptians religious rituals could not stop the plague but only add to it. Hence, Egypt was shown that the God of the Israel had control over the life-giving Nile and not their false deity, Hapi. Further, through the progression of each plague, Egypt and Israel was shown that the God of Israel was not limited in power but in fact the God over all the earth;
The plagues should have softened Pharaoh's heart. However, instead of softening his heart, Pharaoh hardened his heart (JST Ex. 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10). The Lord then sent a tenth plague upon all Egypt including Goshen. This was the plague of the death of the first born (Ex. 10). The Israelites were taught that in order to avoid this plague, they were to participate in the ordinance of the Passover (Ex. 11-12). This was a special dinner which involved the eating of a roasted lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. After the "destroying angel" (D&C 89:21) went throughout Egypt killing all the firstborn, Pharaoh relented and allowed the children of Israel to be released from bondage. Then God, represented by a pillar of fire and smoke, led the children of Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 13:20-22).
The scriptural account tells us that God did not lead the Israelites out of Egypt by way of the nearest or quickest route which was "through the way of the land of the Philistines," but instead "God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea" (Ex. 13:17-18). After releasing Israel from bondage, Pharaoh hardened his heart again, and led his army to recapture the Israelites. With Pharaoh's army to their back and the Red Sea to their front, Israel found themselves hemmed in. Seeing their was no apparent way to escape the Egyptians, the children of Israel complained to Moses regarding their plight. To this, Moses said, "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." Upon that, the Lord parted the Red Sea and caused the children of Israel to pass through on dry ground. However, when the Egyptians tried to pass through the Red Sea, the Lord caused the waters to return, thus destroying the Egyptian army (Ex. 14:5-31).
Once through the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel were in the barren desert of the Sinai peninsula where both food and water were scarce. As the Israelites journeyed to Mt. Sinai, they hungered for food and water. The children of Israel murmured to Moses saying that it would have been better to have remained in Egypt where at least they had food and water. In consequence of their grumbling the Lord provided bread from heaven (manna) on a daily basis (Ex. 16) and on one occasion he had Moses heal bitter water (Ex. 15:23-26) and on another occasion he supplied water from a rock (Ex. 17). Thus, after leaving Egypt the children of Israel lived off the sustenance of the Lord.
The Exodus Story is a Type of the Plan of Redemption
The Exodus story has become a type and shadow of what man must do to escape the bondage of this world that comes because of sin so that he might enter into the promised land of the celestial kingdom. Just as the first step of Israel's escape from bondage was the death of the firstborn, so the first step of our deliverance from sin is the death of Christ. As Israel followed Moses to the promised land, so we must exercise faith in living prophets who speak the mind and will of Christ whose words will led us to exaltation. As Israel was led through the Red Sea to be saved from the destruction of the Egyptians, we must all be baptized to be saved from the eternal consequences of our sins. (In 1 Cor. 10:1-2, Paul tells us that the crossing of the Red Sea was symbolic of baptism. Further, note that the parting of the Red Sea is similar to the ritual of the cutting of the covenant in Genesis 15 where the animals were cut in half and the one making the covenant walked between the severed pieces.)
As Israel was fed bread and water from heaven instead of given the food of this world, so we must live the ways of God instead of the ways of the world. Finally, as we shall now see, as Israel was brought to Mt. Sinai to enter into covenants with God before entering into the promised land, so we must be brought to the temple to enter into covenants with God that will prepare us to enter into the celestial kingdom.
ISRAEL AT MT. SINAI
In the third month of their journey from Egypt, the children of Israel arrived at the base of Mt. Sinai where they "camped before the mount" (Ex. 19:1). Their stay lasted for eleven months. It was the Lord's intent to establish the descendants of Abraham as a unified people with one God and one religion. To the Israelites, the Lord said: "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar [Heb., valued property] treasure unto me above all people . . . and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:5,6). It was also the Lord's design to get the Israelites ready to "behold the face of God" or bring them into his presence (D&C 84:23).
The Preparatory and Higher Gospel
In order to be prepared to enter into the presence of God and receive all the blessings he had in store for them, Israel would have to enter into a keep all the ordinances of both the lower and higher or everlasting gospel. The lower gospel is known as the preparatory gospel. It consists of "the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments [such as the ten commandments]" (D&C 84:26-27). Or in other words, it is the first principles and ordinances of the gospel (A.of F. 4). The preparatory gospel is entered into by covenant. When one enters into the preparatory gospel, he entered onto the "strait and narrow path" that leads to eternal life.
Once on the strait and narrow path, one must enter into the ordinances of the higher gospel before being qualified to come into the presence of God and live. The higher gospel is variously called the "the everlasting covenant of the holy priesthood" (JST Deut. 10:2) or the "holy order, and the ordinances thereof" (JST Ex. 34:1; see also Alma 13 and Moses 6:67). The holy order consists of the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. President Ezra Taft Benson stated: "To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord" (Ensign, Aug. 1985, p. 43). It is only by active participation in these ordinances that men and women can prepare themselves to enter into God's presence (see D&C 84:19-22).
Israel Enters into the Preparatory Gospel
The first step in becoming "an holy nation" (or Zion society) worthy of entering the presence of God was for the children of Israel to enter into the preparatory gospel by covenant. Exodus 19-24 gives an account of the children of Israel entering into the preparatory gospel by covenant. To prepare for the covenant, the children of Israel were sanctified and their clothes were washed (Ex. 19:10-11). The mountain was also prepared by establishing a border around the base between the people and the mountain with the injunction that no one was to touch the border or pass beyond it lest they should be put to death (Ex. 19:12-13). On the third day, the Lord descended on top of the mountain, his divine presence being represented by "fire and smoke" (Ex. 19:16-25). In the hearing of the Israelites, the Lord gave to Moses the 10 commandments (or "carnal commandments") as part of the preparatory gospel (Ex. 20; Deut. 5).
Exodus 24 records the ritual the Israelites participated in when they entered into the covenant where they promised to obey the 10 commandments. After putting the covenant into writing, Moses built an altar at the base of the mountain and placed twelve stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel around the altar. Moses then read to the children of Israel the terms of the covenant. In response, the Israelites said, "All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient." Then Moses sprinkled the blood of sacrificed animals on the altar (representing God) and the children of Israel (most likely the twelve stones) suggesting the retributive nature of the covenant (the same as when the Lord passed between the pieces of the severed animals in Gen. 15). That is, if the children of Israel broke their covenant they would suffer death even as the sacrifices from whom the blood had come. Moses referred to this as the "blood covenant" in these terms: "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words" (Ex. 24:8). (These words were used similarly by the Savior when introducing the sacrament of the new covenant in Matt. 26:28.)
Moses Receives the Higher Law
After entering by covenant into the preparatory gospel, the next step for Israel to become "an holy nation" involved entering into higher covenants or ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. In preparation for this, the Lord informed Moses that he was to once again come to the mountain where he would receive tables of stone upon which these higher ordinances and laws would be written (Ex. 24:12). For forty days and nights, Moses was in the presence of God upon the mountain. Against common belief, this is the first time Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and nights. During this time, Moses received the higher law. Then the details of both the preparatory and higher gospel were written on the tables of stone "with the finger of God" (Ex. 31:18).
While on the mount, Moses not only received the tables of stone upon which the fullness of the gospel was written but he also received detailed instructions concerning the building of a portable temple commonly called the Tabernacle wherein the ordinances of both the preparatory gospel and the higher law could be performed (Ex. 25-31). The Hebrew name of the Tabernacle is ohel mo'ed, which is best translated "tent of meeting." This is an appropriate name for this structure because the Tabernacle was the place where the Israelites were to prepare to meet God and live in his presence.
The Tabernacle consisted of a large rectangular courtyard within which was placed the sanctuary. Entrance into the courtyard was through a single gate which located on the eastern side. The sanctuary was found on the western end. Between the gate and the sanctuary there was an altar for sacrifice and a laver (a large metal bowl full of water) for ritual washings. This is where the ordinances associated with the preparatory gospel (or Aaronic Priesthood) would be performed. Beyond the laver was the sanctuary or temple. The sanctuary was divided into two rooms. The foreroom was called the holy place while the back room was known as the most holy place or the holy of holies. In the holy place there was a seven-branched candelabra, a table with twelve loaves of bread placed thereon, and an altar of incense. The altar of incense was placed immediately before a veil which separated the holy place from the most holy place. The furnishings of the holy place were associated with the ordinances of the higher gospel (or Melchizedek Priesthood). In the most holy place was placed an ark known as the ark of the covenant. The ark represented the throne of God.
It appears from D&C 84:19-24, that the Lord initially intended that the children of Israel would pass through the ordinances of both the preparatory gospel (performed in the courtyard) and higher gospel (performed in the holy place) thus qualifying them to come into his presence symbolized by the passing through the veil into the most holy place (where God's presence was represented by the ark). However, as we shall now see, Israel lost their right to the Melchizedek priesthood portion of the temple.
Israel Breaks the Covenant
During the 40 days Moses was on the mount, the children of Israel turned back to Egyptian idolatry. They fashioned a golden calf and participated in the fertility cult worship with its immorality (Ex. 32:1-6). In so doing, they violated the ten commandments they had covenanted with the Lord that they would obey. Hence, the covenant was broken, forcing God into the position of executing the demands of the broken covenant: Israel must be destroyed! At the moment God was going to satisfy justice, Moses interceded in behalf of his people, reminding God of the covenant he made with Abraham, saying, "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever" (Ex. 32:13). In response, the Lord said: "If they will repent of the evil which they have done, I will spare them, and turn away my fierce wrath; but, behold, thou shalt execute judgment upon all that will not repent of this evil this day" (JST Ex. 32:14). We find within this story Moses as a type of Christ wherein he demonstrates the mediatorial role of Christ. Further, this story illustrates the powerful role of the Abrahamic covenant in the salvation of Israel.
When Moses came off the mount he found the children of Israel participating in the fertility cult worship. He threw down the tables of stone breaking them as a sign of the broken covenant and the loss of the higher law they would have received (Ex. 32:19). He then stood outside of the camp and cried, "Who is on the LORD's side?"(Ex. 32:26). Those repenting of their actions came to where Moses was standing while the rest were executed by the tribe of Levi (Ex. 32:27-29).
Law of Moses Given in Place of the Higher Law
Moses returned to the mount once again for another forty days and forty nights (Ex. 34:28) where he received divine assurance that the Lord would once again own his people and bring them to the promised land (Ex. 32:31-33:23). The Lord then commanded Moses to "hew two other tables of stone" whereon the terms and conditions of a new covenant was written. This included everything that was written on the first set of tables "save the words of the everlasting covenant of the holy priesthood" or the higher ordinances of the temple (JST Deut. 10:2; JST Ex. 34:1,2; D&C 84:23-
27). In other words, the higher gospel or Melchizedek Priesthood order was removed thus denying the children of Israel the ordinances that would enable them to come into the presence of the Lord.
In place of the higher gospel, Moses received what became known as the "law of Moses" (much of which is found in the Books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The prophet Abinadi said that the law of Moses was "a law of performances and ordinances, a law which they [Israel] were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him" (Mosiah 13:30). The Apostle Paul taught that it was intended to be a "schoolmaster" that would "bring [Israel] unto Christ" and the higher law (Galatians 3:24). Essentially, the law of Moses was a set of laws that were given to the Israelites that might be thought of as object lessons that illustrated the importance of the preparatory gospel and explain how it functioned. Hense, the preparatory gospel was the focus of the law of Moses. This law was not only to be the religous code of the Israelites but also their civil code.
After returning from the mount with the new set of stone tablets, Moses explained the new law and covenant to the children of Israel (Ex. 34:29-35:19). Then the children of Israel entered into a covenant to keep the law of Moses (Ex. 34:27-28). This covenant replaced the covenant the children of Israel had made in Exodus 24.
The Construction of the Tabernacle
Though the higher ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood (those which would have been performed in the sanctuary or temple) were excluded from the law of Moses, thus essentially cutting the people off from the sanctuary or presence of the Lord, the building of the portable temple or Tabernacle was nevertheless necessary. The reason being that the altar of sacrifice and laver located in the outer courtyard which were essential in ordinances associated with the preparatory gospel would naturally play an essential part in the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses. Further, the fact that the common Israelite was cut off from the sanctuary would have been a constant reminder that there were higher laws and ordinances necessary in order for man to come back into the presence of God and that the law of Moses did not provide those ordinances and laws. These must come at a future time.
How much of this the children of Israel understood is not known. Nevertheless the building of the Tabernacle was important to them in order to live the law of Moses. Consequently, after the children of Israel entered into the covenant of the law of Moses, "they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing" and brought all the offerings necessary for the construction of the Tabernacle (Ex.35:21). The Tabernacle was then constructed. After its completion, the cloud of smoke and fire (which led the children of Israel out of Egypt and which rested upon Mt. Sinai) descended upon the portable temple indicating God's acceptance (Ex. 40:34-38). Further, the Tabernacle would be the residence of Jehovah and no longer Mt. Sinai. Wherever Israel went, their God would be with them. However, Israel would never be able to behold God's presence for they remained cut off from the presence of God. This was dramatically symbolized by the veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place for according to the law of Moses, the common Israelite could not pass through the veil into the most holy place.
ISRAEL INHERITS THE PROMISED LAND
Having entered into a covenant with the Lord and built a portable temple, Israel was now ready to inherit the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The "camp of Israel" dissembled and began their march to the promised land (Num. 9).
The Forty Year Wandering
They traveled northward until stopping at Kadesh, just south of the land of Canaan, the promised land. From there, twelve spies were sent to spy out the land (Num. 13:1-25). Upon their return, they gave a report saying that the land is a fruitful land, "Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great" (Num. 13:27-28). This caused a stir among the Israelites. Caleb and Joshua, two of the spies, tried to convince the people that they could defeat the inhabitants of Canaan. But the other ten spies said, "We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we." The children of Israel believed the words of the ten spies and would not go into the land (Num. 13:30-14:10). The Lord then declared that Israel would remain in the wilderness until that generation of Israelites (those twenty years and older) passed away hoping the next generation would have the faith to the follow the Lord into the promised land (Num. 14:26-39).
The Book of Numbers records Israel's "wandering" in the wilderness which lasted forty years. During that time, the children of Israel were led by Moses until they came to rest east of the Jordan River near the north end of the Dead Sea. While there, Moses delivered three discourses reviewing the history of Israel from the exodus from Egypt through the forty years of wandering. These discourses comprise the Book of Deuteronomy. In these discourses, the terms of the covenant or law of Moses were reviewed after which the children of Israel renewed their covenant with the Lord (Deut. 29:1).
Moses' mission was now complete. He departed from the children of Israel, ascended Mount Nebo where the Lord showed him all the land of Canaan, saying, "This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying I will give it unto thy seed" (Deut. 34:1-4). Moses was then translated and taken from the earth (JST Deut. 34:5-7; Alma 45:19; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 158). This was done in order that he could return to deliver keys to Peter, James, and John (Matt. 17:1-13).
Israel Enters into the Promised Land
At the end of the forty years of wandering, a generation had been raised who were willing to follow the Lord's new leader into the promised land. That leader was Joshua. He brought the children of Israel into the promised land by passing through the Jordan River which was miraculously parted similar to the dividing of the Red Sea (Josh. 4:1-24). After coming into the land, the children of Israel were all circumcised (Josh. 5:1-9), the token of the Abrahamic covenant. This should have reminded Israe that if anyone broke the covenant God made with them, they and their posterity would be cut off from God's presence. After the circumcision, the children of Israel celebrated the passover in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt (Josh. 5:10-11). They were then ready to conquer the land under the direction of the Lord. The first Canaanite cities the Israelites conquered were the strategic sites of Jericho and Ai (Joshua 1-8).
An Important Covenant is Made at Shechem
After the conquering of Jericho and Ai and before proceeding to conquer more of the land, Joshua led the children of Israel to Shechem (Ex. 8:30-35) where God had first told Abraham that the land of Canaan was the land promised to his posterity (Gen. 12:6-7). There Joshua fulfilled a command given by Moses in his final discourse (Deut. 27-28). Moses wanted Israel to go to the very place where the promised land was first revealed and enter there into a covenant with God that they would remain faithful to him and the law. In so doing, they would secure the Lord's help in conquering the land of Canaan.
Shechem was situated between two mountains, Mt. Ebal on the north and Mt. Gerizim on the south. Moses charged Israel that once they arrived at Shechem, they were to set up the ark of the covenant between the two mountains (Joshua 8:33). Then six of the tribes of Israel were to place themselves on Mt. Gerizim while the other six were to ascend Mt. Ebal (Deut. 27:11-13). Upon large stones, the law of Moses was to be written in the presence of the children of Israel (Joshua 8:32). The law was then to be read to all the Israelites (Joshua 8:33). This was to be followed by the Israelites renewing their covenant that they would honor the law of Moses.
As part of the covenant renewal, the six tribes on Mt. Gerizim would shout out all the blessings that Israel would receive if they were obedient to the law. These included blessings over their cities, fields, crops and the blessing of rain for water. They were also promised that the land would remain theirs and that the Lord would fight their enemies for them (see Deut. 28:1-14).
The other six tribes would then pronounce the curses that would result if they were disobedient to the covenant including the loss of their cities, fields, crops and rain. When their enemies would attack, the Lord would not fight their battles. The ultimate curse Israel would experience would be the loss of the promised land. This would be accomplished by the Lord scattering Israel among the gentiles "from the one end of the earth even unto the other." Israel would live among the gentiles and serve their gods. In this condition, Israel would continue to wander among these nations (see Deut. 28:15-68). As the prophet Amos would later prophesy, after the Lord sifts "the house of Israel among all nations" (Amos 9:9) they would "wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it" (Amos 8:12).
The significance of this sacred setting is enhanced when the proper orientation of the ancient Hebrew map is understood. Instead of north being the primary direction for orientation as in western societies, east was the primary direction. Therefore, south is on the right hand of the map while north is on the left. The Hebrew word for south is yamin, or right hand. This is also the Hebrew word for blessing. The Hebrew word for north is smol, or left hand. Though smol is not the same word for curse in Hebrew, often left hand or north is associated with curses (see, for example, Matthew 25:31-46 and Mosiah 5:12). To the Hebrew mind, then, the southern mountain, Mt. Gerizim, was the appropriate mountain to yell out the blessings while the northern mountain, Mt. Ebal, was the appropriate side to yell out the curses.
In light of this it is interesting to note that eventually, as we shall see, Israel broke their covenant with God and he used the nations of Assyria, Babylon, and Rome as instruments to scatter Israel. Curiously enough, when these warring nations came upon Israel, they came from the north or cursing side. Further, captive Israel was taken to the north before being scattered among the nations of the world. The symbolism of this is obvious. Having broke their covenant with God, Israel experienced the full brunt of the curses by losing the land and being taken captive to the north; that is, they were placed under the burden of the curse by being taken to the north. Regardless of where Israel has been scattered among the nations, they are under the curse of the broken covenant and thus are in the "north."
The covenant renewal at Shechem is comparable to the "cutting" of the covenant between God and Abraham recorded in Genesis 15 where God promised Abraham that his posterity would inherit the land after they were enslaved for four hundred years. It should be remembered that in that covenant ceremony, animals were cut in half and laid side by side. Then God passed through the severed animals upon making his covenant with Abraham. There is no record of animals being cut in half and passed between in the covenant ritual at Shechem. However it appears that the land of Canaan itself became symbolic of a severed animal. This was represented by the two mountians that stood adjacent to each other. The placing of the ark between the two mountains symbolized God passing between severed animals promising to bless Israel if they were obedient. Israel identified themselves with the land by standing on the two mountains. If Israel kept their covenant with God, they would keep the land. But if they broke the covenant, they, like the two mountains, would be split apart and scattered among all the nations of the earth.
Joshua fulfilled the command of Moses and led the children of Israel in the covenant renewal at Shechem before continuing the conquering of the land of Canaan (Joshua 8:30-35). Then before he died, he once again gathered Israel to Shechem where he delivered his final discourse encouraging the children of Israel in their obedience to the covenant. He then led the people once more in a covenant renewal (Josh. 24).
The Period of the Judges
After the death of Joshua, the Israelite tribes were left without a strong leader. The Book of Judges describes this period. The tribes of Israel were loosely allied but with no central government. For the most part each tribe became autonomous, fending for itself. Adding to this precarious condition was the fact that the Canaanites had not been entirely driven out of the land as the Lord had commanded (Judges 1). Therefore the Israelites and Canaanites cohabited. During the period of the Judges, the Israelites struggled with honoring their covenant, especially in relation to the first three commandments. Consequently, a pattern developed wherein Israel forsook the worship of Jehovah while adopting the Canaanite religion of Ba'al worship. According to the terms of the covenant, the Lord allowed neighboring nations to overtake Israel bringing them into subjugation. This curse would humble Israel causing them to return to Jehovah. To free Israel from these "spoilers," the Lord at various times called certain individuals to unite Israel and lead them in battle against these nations in order to lift the yoke of oppression. These leaders were called "judges." However, their authority was not passed on to their posterity.
The Book of Judges records the events of this time period. The first half of the book (chapters 1-11) tells the stories of several judges (Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, and Jephthah) who, by placing their trust in God, led the Israelites in victorious battles against their enemies. The second half of Judges (12-21), highlighted by the story of Samson, shows the tribes of Israel rapidly declining, trusting less and less in God.
ISRAEL IS UNITED
The Prophet Samuel, the Last Judge of Israel
The last of the judges was Samuel (1 Samuel). He was more than a judge, he was also a prophet, priest, and a leader of Israel. Though an Ephramite by birth, he had been consecrated to the Lord by his mother through a lifetime Nazarite vow and, consequently, became a priest in the Tabernacle which was housed in the Israelite city of Shiloh during the time of Eli who was the high priest (1 Sam. 1-2). The high priest had the responsibility of overseeing the temple rituals of the Mosaic law.
During Samuel's early days while he lived in the Tabernacle, Eli's sons became corrupt and perverted the rituals of the law of Moses mixing them with Canaanite fertility rituals (1 Sam. 2:22). Eventually, Israel's major enemy, the Philistines, made war against Israel. Eli's sons took the ark of the covenant and led the Israelites in battle against the Philistines. The Israelites were defeated, Eli's sons were killed, and the ark was taken captive (1 Sam. 4). When Eli, who was responsible for the care of the ark, heard that the ark had been taken captive he died of shock and fear. It appears from archaeological evidence that the Tabernacle was destroyed for Shiloh was destroyed during the war with the Philistines. The Lord plagued the Philistines and they returned the ark of the covenant to Israel (1 Sam. 5-6). The ark was kept in the house of Abinadab (1 Sam. 7:1-2) and the Tabernacle was not rebuilt.
Saul, First King of Israel
In place of Eli, Samuel became the high priest and leader of the Israelites. However, the children of Israel desired to be ruled by a king "like all the nations" (1 Sam. 8:5). Though Samuel felt he was rejected, the Lord told him to give Israel a king "for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" (1 Sam. 8:7). In giving Israel a king, the Lord was trying to work with the weakness of his people.
The first man to be chosen king of Israel was Saul, a Benjaminite (1 Sam. 9-31). He attempted to unite the autonomous tribes of Israel and defeat their enemies. However, though humble at first, Saul became a proud, arrogant king. In his pride, he disobeyed the commands of the Lord given through Samuel (1 Sam. 15:1-23). Eventually, the Lord rejected him as king (1 Sam. 15:24-31). Upon his death, the kingdom was given to David, the head of the Israelite army.
David, Second King of Israel
The kingdom David inherited was fractured by internal strife. Further, the worship of Jehovah and the law of Moses among the Israelites was almost non-existent as evidenced by the fact that the ark of the covenant was not even in an established sanctuary. David desired to unite the twelve tribes of Israel and reinstitute Jehovah worship and the law of Moses as the governing law of Israel. He did this by first capturing Jerusalem, a Canaanite city that was not controlled by any of the tribes of Israel (2 Sam. 5:6-9). He made the neutral site of Jerusalem the capital of Israel. He then conquered the Philistines (2 Sam. 5:17-25).
After establishing peace, he invited all Israel, including both men and women, to Jerusalem. He then retrieved the ark of the covenant from its dubious location and brought it to Jerusalem. He placed it in a new Tabernacle that he had made on the highest point of the hill upon which Jerusalem was built (2 Sam. 6:17; 1 Chron. 16:1). (Jerusalem was built on the southern end of Mt. Moriah where the water source was located. The highest point of the hill was outside the wall of the city to the north.) As the ark was brought into Jerusalem, David danced before the ark without his royal robes, showing to all Israel that their real king was Jehovah (2 Sam. 6:14-16).
With the ark in place in the new Tabernacle, David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings in behalf of Israel. These were offerings of the law of Moses that demonstrated the reconciliation of God with those who had sinned. Then David gave to each man and woman a loaf of raisin or date bread (see Hebrew version of 2 Samuel 6:17-19). Bread is symbolic of life and the raisins and dates are symbolic of eternity. This last gesture suggested that by reuniting with Jehovah, Israel would have eternal life.
Through these actions David brought Israel and God at one with each other. This was prophetic of two important events associated with the work of the Messiah in Jerusalem. First, the atoning sacrifice was performed at that very location. Second, after the Savior's second coming, he will reunite scattered Israel (the ten tribes) and Judah into one kingdom in Jerusalem (see Ezekiel 37:20-28). [The importance of this last event is lost until it is remembered that the kingdom David united eventually divided into two nations. Both nations were scattered among the nations of the world.]
Solomon, Last King of United Israel
David's son, Solomon, became the last king of united Israel (1 Kings 3-11). During his reign, a permanent temple, known as the Temple of Solomon, was built in Jerusalem. It was built over the spot where David placed the ark of the covenant. Upon its completion, Solomon had the ark of the covenant placed within the most holy place. The temple was then filled with the glory of the Lord as it was when the Tabernacle had been built and dedicated by Moses (1 Kings 8:1-11).
During his reign, Solomon entered into several political marriages contrary to the law of Moses. Towards the end of his life, his foreign "wives turned away his heart after others gods" (1 Kings 11:4). The Lord was angry with Solomon and told him that the kingdom of Israel would be taken from him upon his death and divided into two separate nations. For David's sake, Solomon's son would rule over Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah but the rest of Israel would be ruled over by another (1 Kings 11:9-13).
The Kingdom of Israel Divides into Two Nations
Civil war followed the death of Solomon, splitting the kingdom in two separate nations, one north and one south. Oddly enough, the splitting of the kingdom took place at Shechem (1 Kings 12). The northern kingdom became known as Israel (sometimes called Ephraim, after the head tribe, or Samaria, after the capital) and initially consisted of the northern ten tribes. The southern kingdom became known as Judah (often called Jerusalem or Zion) and consisted mainly of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Those living in Judah became known as Jews, regardless of what tribe they came from.
ISRAEL AND JUDAH ARE SCATTERED
The splitting of the kingdom was the beginning of the final curses that the children of Israel experienced as a result of their breaking the covenant their fathers had made at Shechem and the first step in the scattering of the twelve tribes of Israel among the nations of the world.
The Scattering of Israel
The kings of the northern kingdom were wicked. As a result, many from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon left the northern kingdom and fled to Judah "when they saw that the Lord his God was with" Judah, who at that time had a righteous king (2 Chron. 15:9). This could explain why Lehi, a descendant of Manasseh, was living in Jerusalem. As a result of the wickedness of their kings, the northern kingdom succumbed to Canaanite Ba'al worship, utterly breaking their covenant with Jehovah.
The Lord used several prophets to try to get the children of Israel to repent and turn back to the worship of Jehovah. Chief among those prophets was Elijah whose specific mission was to get Israel to "turn their heart back again" to the covenant made with the "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel" (1 Kings 18:36-37). However, Israel rejected the prophets and their warnings. As promised in the curses shouted out from Mt. Ebal, Israel experienced several natural disasters intended to humble Israel (e.g., 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 8:1-6). Yet Israel failed to repent. Therefore, Israel experienced the final curse of the broken covenant. In 722 B.C., Israel fell to the expanding Assyrian empire, a vicious people living in northern Mesopotamia. This army came from the north (or cursing side) and destroyed Israel. Those who were not killed were taken captive through a series of deportations and scattered throughout the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 15, 17). From there, eventually, Israel became lost among the nations of the world (Lev. 26:33; Deut. 4:27; 32:26; Jer. 9:16; Ezek. 20:23; 22:15; 36:19; Amos 9:9, 17; 1 Ne. 22:3-5; 3 Nephi 5:24; 20:12-13).
Not all of Israel, however, was scattered by the Assyrians. The peons, the laboring class consisting mostly of farmers, were left. The Assyrians imported peoples from other parts of the empire to intermarry with the remaining Israelites. This mixed group became known as the Samaritans, taking their name after the capital city of Israel, Samaria.
The Exile of Judah to Babylon
The downfall of the southern kingdom was more gradual than that of the northern kingdom. Though Judah had its share of wicked kings, there were also a few righteous ones as well. The righteous kings learned from the mistakes made by the northern kingdom. Under the leadership of Hezekiah, 715-687 B.C. (2 Kings 18-20), and Josiah, 640-609 B.C. (2 Kings 22-23), Judah briefly returned to the Lord and renewed their covenant with him. However, during the years following the death of Josiah, Judah's kings caused the Jews to reject Jehovah, thus breaking the covenant. Consequently, the Jews suffered a fate similar to the northern kingdom.
In the latter part of the 7th century B.C., the Assyrian empire began to crumble. At that time, Babylon, a kingdom in the southern part of Mesopotamia began to rise in power. As Assyria began to collapse, Babylon attacked and conquered many regions of Assyria. Egypt, who would rather have a weak Assyria controlling Mesopotamia than a strong Babylon, decided to side with Assyria. In 609 B.C., Pharaoh Neco decided to rush to the aid of Assyria in a battle against the Babylonians. In so doing, he crossed through Judah. King Josiah made an attempt to check Pharaoh Neco's plan. In a battle at Megiddo, Josiah was killed and Judah was made a vassal state of Egypt. Neco placed Josiah's son, Jehoiakim, on the throne for it appears that Jehoiakim loyalties were with Egypt. Jehoiakim did not follow in his father's righteousness but "did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord" (2 Kings 23:37).
In 605 B.C., the Babylonians defeated the Assyrian/Egyptian coalition in a major battle in northern Mesopotamia. The Egyptians began a retreat to Egypt. As Babylon pursued the retreating Egyptians all the Assyrian/Egyptian vassal states in Syria and Palestine were at the mercy of Babylon. As Babylon drew closer to Judah, Jehoiakim quickly changed loyalties and Judah became a Babylonian vassal. At that time, several Jews were taken into Babylon including Daniel.
In 601 B.C., the Egyptians fought the Babylonians to a stand off on the Egyptian border and the Babylonians retreated back to Babylon. Observing this, Jehoiakim decided to changed his loyalties back to Egypt. His decision was disastrous. In 598 B.C. (600 B.C. in Book of Mormon chronology), King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sent his armies to besiege Jerusalem. Once again, many Jews were taken captive to Babylon including Ezekiel, the prophet. Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah on the throne as a puppet king. He was to keep the Jews loyal to Babylon.
When Zedekiah was placed on the throne, there were many prophets who prophesied of Jerusalem's destruction if the Jews would not repent. Among those prophets was Lehi (1 Nephi 1). It was at this time that the record of the Book of Mormon began. The message of the prophets went unheeded.
During the next ten years, the loyalties of Zedekiah and the Jews were turned back to Egypt. This would prove to be the last straw that broke the camel's back for Babylon's patience would not be tried anymore. Finally in 587 B.C. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians. Those Jews who were not killed were exiled into Babylon (2 Kings 24-
25). This period has become known as the Babylonian exile. The Babylonians hoped that with the loss of their homeland, the Jews would be absorbed in Babylonian society and thus suppress their rebellious spirit. However, many of the Jews retained their identity due to a commitment that is best expressed in Psalm 137:1-6: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. . . . If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." Therefore, many of the Jews remained loyal to the institutions of their fathers.
The Scattering a Blessing to the Gentiles
The scattering of Israel among the nations of the world, though a punishment, would be the very means by which the Lord would fulfill part of the covenant God made with Abraham. Joseph Fielding Smith explained: "the Lord always turns punishments to the accomplishment of his purposes. The scattering of the Israelites among all nations was a punishment inflicted upon them, but a great blessing extended to the nations among whom they were scattered. . . .the scattering of Israel, especially the descendants of the ten tribes who mingled with the Gentile nations, the blood of Abraham had been mixed with the blood of the Gentiles, and in this way the Gentiles have been brought into the seed of Abraham, and are therefore entitled to receive, on conditions of their repentance, all the blessings promised to the seed of Abraham. The children of Israel, even in their greatest number, never fulfilled the promise of the Lord concerning their magnitude when dwelling in the land of Palestine. The prediction was that their number should be as countless as the stars or the sand upon the seashore. In Palestine they never reached proportions too great to be numbered nor have they reached this number in their scattered condition although they had become absorbed into the body of the Gentile nations. Moreover, they, through this scattering, planted in the hearts of the Gentiles to some degree a desire to worship the God of Abraham and to accept of his teachings and the teachings of the prophets who came through his seed. Because the Jews rejected Jesus Christ they were scattered as the Savior predicted; but the Lord has kept them, for his own purpose, as a distinct people. They have not mixed to any great extent with the Gentiles by marriage, but have maintained their racial identity. And when Christ comes, he will appear to the gathered Jews as predicted by Zechariah" (The Restoration of All Things, p.129-137).
What began in the Old Testament is not completed in the New Testament. These two together form the first half of the "scriptural movie." The conclusion is not seen until the latter days and is shown forth in the Doctrine and Coveants and in church history. In this epilogue, a brief attempt will be made to show how the movie ends so that the reader might see the whole picture.
The Universal Apostasy
After the death of Christ around 33 A.D., the Apostles continued to spread the Kingdom of God on earth. The gospel soon spread throughout Asia Minor, into Greece and Italy, other parts of Europe, and northern Africa (especially in Egypt). After the death the Apostles, the Church entered into a state of apostasy (see D&C 86:3).
The Book of Mormon reveals that in an attempt to save apostate Israel, the Lord took select groups of Israel and placed them in various spots throughout the earth where they were privileged to retain the gospel. In an allegory found in Jacob 5, apostate Israel was symbolized as an olive tree producing bad fruit. In order to save the dying tree, Jacob 5:7-18 says the Lord took certain branches (groups of Israel) and placed them in various parts of the vineyard (world) while the rest of the bad branches were burned with fire. We are told that the Lord visited the various places where the select groups had been placed (Jacob 5:19-28). This is verified in 3 Nephi where Christ appeared to the Nephites/Lamanites and said he would visit the other scattered remnants of Israel (3 Nephi 16).
Eventually these remnants of Israel lost the gospel through apostasy. Just as the Book of Mormon records the apostasy of Lehi's posterity, so the allegory in Jacob reveals that all the remnants who had retained the gospel also fell into apostasy (see Jacob 5:30-40). Thus, the whole world, scattered Israel included, were in a state of darkness for several hundred years. During this time, the remnants of Israel continued to scatter among the nations of the world intermixing their blood with the gentiles until the blood of Abraham was spread throughout the whole earth. Finally, after America had been colonized, and a country was founded that secured the right of religious freedom, the Lord saw fit that he would fulfill his covenant that he made with Abraham.
In 1820, Joseph was visited in the Sacred Grove by God the father and his son, Jesus Christ. Joseph asked which church he should join. He was told that the truth was not on the earth. With the gospel no where to be found on the earth, a complete restoration of the gospel including the ordinances associated with the Abrahamic covenant (which are performed in the temple) had to be enacted. On September 22, 1823, Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith and began training him for his work, which work was similar to Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. That is, Joseph Smith was to restore the gospel with all the ordinances that scattered Israel's heart may be turned back to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the covenant. Moroni told Joseph that Elijah would return and "reveal unto [him] the Priesthood" (or sealing powers) and that he would "plant in the hearts of the children [modern scattered Israel] the promises made to the fathers [the promises of the Abrahamic covenant]" (Joseph Smith History 1:38-39; D&C 2).
As part of the restoration, a land of promise was announced. On Jan. 2, 1831, the Lord stated to the church in language similar to the Old Testament: "I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh. And I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts. And this shall be my covenant with you, ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever, while the earth shall stand, and ye shall possess it again in eternity, no more to pass away" (D&C 38:18-20).
On July 20, 1831, the place of the new land of promise was revealed. The land of Missouri was to be the new land of promise and the place where Zion (the New Jerusalem) would be built (D&C 57:1-16). On Aug. 1, 1831, the church (modern Israel) was told that they would receive the land of promise only after many years and "much tribulation." The church in the days of Joseph were only "laying the foundation" of Zion (D&C 58). Israel must first be gathered from the four quarters of the earth. This would be accomplished by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh who would "push the people together from the ends of the earth" (D&C 58:45; cf with Deut. 33:17).
On Aug. 2, 1831, the History of the Church records a significant event. On that day, twelve men representing the twelve tribes of Israel placed a log for a foundation of a house near Independence, Missouri, symbolizing the laying of the foundation for Zion in the latter-days. Sidney Rigdon stood up and said to the men representing the twelve tribes: "Do you receive this land for the land of your inheritance with thankful hearts from the Lord?" They replied: "We do." He then said, "Do you pledge yourselves to keep the law of God in this land which you never have kept in your own lands?" They replied, "We do." This ritual is reminiscent of the covenant their forefathers made at Shechem between Mt. Gerizim and Ebal when they had first entered the land of promise.
In 1833, the saints in Jackson County were driven from their homes and lands. They lost the promised land. In D&C 103:11 the Lord stated the promised land would be redeemed. However, they were reminded of D&C 58:4 in which they were told that they would receive their land only "after much tribulation" (D&C 103:12). They were then told that a new Moses would be raised "who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel." Further, they were told, "For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be" (103:16-
18). Thus the first gathering of Israel from bondage is a type of the gathering of Israel in the last days. That is to say, before Israel can gather to their promised land, they must first gather to the "mountain of the Lord's house," or temple, wherein they can enter into the same covenant that Abraham made with God.
Keys for Israel's Gathering Restored
Though Joseph Smith the Church was organized, Israel could not fulfill the law of the gathering without a temple wherein they could receive the ordinances of the higher gospel. In 1832, Joseph received a commandment to build a temple in Kirtland, Ohio (D&C 88:119). After the Kirtland temple was built and dedicated in March of 1836, an important event occurred. On April 3, Moses, Elias, and Elijah appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith and committed various keys necessary to the fulfill of the Abrahamic covenant (see D&C 110).
First, Moses committed "the keys for the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north" to Joseph Smith. Concerning this, Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated:
"Two things are involved in this commission. First, Israel--all Israel, the Ten Tribes included--is to be gathered "from the four parts of the earth," out of every nation and from among every people. They are to be gathered into the true church and fold of the God of Israel. This gathering is primarily spiritual, but it is also temporal in that the gathered sheep are assembled into the stakes of Zion where the living waters flow. But next, this commission directs the one who holds the keys of the gathering, meaning the President of the Church, to lead the Ten Tribes from the land of the north to their destined Palestinian homeland. They will be led to their promised inheritances after they join the Church, after they return unto the Lord, after they believe in Christ and accept his gospel, after they receive, individually and collectively, the Abrahamic covenant again. This part of the gathering of Israel is Millennial, for that is the assigned period in which the Ten Tribes are to come forth; that is the day in which the kingdom will be restored to Israel in the political as well as the ecclesiastical sense." (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp. 528-530; see also "The Restoration of the Ten Tribes," in The Millennial Messiah, pp. 319-329)
Following Moses, Elias restored the keys of the "dispensation of the gospel of Abraham" -- the Abrahamic covenant or the temple marriage covenant. Then Elijah restored the sealing powers to the prophet Joseph Smith so that the covenant made in marriage is bound on earth and in eternity.
Through the instrumentality of these keys given to the prophet, he could begin to turn scattered Israel's heart back to the promises made to the fathers. The actual temple ordinances associated with the Abrahamic covenant were restored in Nauvoo in the 1840's.
The Gathering of Israel Completed in Phases
With the temple ordinances restored, the gathering of Israel commenced on a broad scale. The gathering of Israel however is not haphazard but instead is well ordered and planned. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that the gathering of Israel would be accomplished in three phases of the gathering of Israel (Ensign, May 1977, pp. 115-118).
Phase I--From the First Vision, the setting up of the kingdom on April 6, 1830, and the coming of Moses on April 3, 1836, to the secure establishment of the Church in the United States and Canada, a period of about 125 years.
Phase II--From the creation of stakes of Zion in overseas areas, beginning in the 1950's to the second coming of the Son of Man, a period of unknown duration.
Phase III--From our Lord's second coming until the kingdom is perfected and the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea, and from then until the end of the Millennium, a period of 1,000 years.
We are currently living in Phase II. Phase I and II deal with Israel gathering first to the church through baptism and then to the temple. It is during Phase III that Israel gathers back to the land promised to Abraham.
President Kimball on the Gathering
Concerning the law of the gathering, President Spencer W. Kimball taught, "Now, the gathering of Israel consists of joining the true church and their coming to a knowledge of the true God. Any person, therefore, who has accepted the restored gospel, and who now seeks to worship the Lord in his own tongue and with the Saints in the nations where he lives, has complied with the law of the gathering of Israel and is heir to all of the blessings promised the Saints in these last days." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 438-439).
Concerning Phase II of the gathering, President Kimball said, "The Saints are no longer to come to a single place. In 1955, Sister Kimball and I went to Europe. We spent six months touring all of the missions in Europe. The people were still laboring under the impression that they should come to America for the gathering process. The burden of our sermons to them was, 'Stay where you are. You have received the gospel. The blessings will be brought to you. It will not be long until you have stakes, and the Brethren will come across the ocean to visit you. Eventually temples will come, and you will have all the blessings of Zion' " (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 438-439).
He also stated, "Early in the history of this world there was the great scattering of Israel, but today we have the gathering of Israel. In sixty-five countries we are now bringing the gospel by these fine young men who are among you. What are they doing? They are gathering Israel. Now, in the early days of the Church we used to preach for the people to come to Utah as the gathering process largely because that was the only place in the whole world where there was a temple. Now we have sixteen temples, and two more that have been approved, scattered throughout the world. So it is no longer necessary that we bring the people all to Salt Lake City" (Proclaiming the Gospel, p.99).
Finally, he said, "Many people have been holding their breath waiting to see the gathering of Israel. We are in Israel and are being gathered" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 439)
The Gathering of Ten Tribes and Judah
Though the gathering of Israel is first, spiritual (to the Church and temple and stakes of Zion), and second, temporal (to the land that God promised Abraham), it is also apparent that there is a general gathering of the ten tribes and a general gathering of Judah and that these gatherings are generally separate from one another before the millennium. It is also evident that Israel's gathering is spiritually to the church before the coming of Christ and then physically to their lands of inheritance after the coming of Christ. On the other hand Judah's gathering seems to be temporal then spiritual. That is, Judah will first gather to the land of Palestine, the land promised to Abraham, then to the gospel after the coming of Christ. This is not to say that there will be no Jewish converts to the church before the second coming. But generally speaking, the Jews will not be converted until the coming of Christ. This is made clear in the Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published under the direction of President Brigham Young on April 6, 1845 (see Messages of the First Presidency 1:253-266). In that document the following was stated concerning the gathering of Israel: "And we further testify that the Lord has appointed a holy city and temple to be built on this continent for the endowment and ordinances pertaining to the priesthood; and for the Gentiles, and the remnant of Israel to resort unto, in order to worship the Lord; and to be taught in his ways and walk in his paths: in short, to finish their preparations for the coming of the Lord" (p. 254). Then concerning the Jews, the document states: "And we further testify, that the Jews among all nations are hereby commanded, in the name of the Messiah, to prepare, to return to Jerusalem in Palestine; and to rebuild that city and temple unto the Lord: And also to organize and establish their own political government, under their own rulers, judges, and governors in that country." The document then states: "For be it known unto them that we now hold the keys of the priesthood and kingdom which is soon to be restored unto them" (p. 254)
The Return of the Ten Tribes
In Joseph Smith - Matthew (in the Pearl of Great Price) we are informed that once the gospel has gone to all the world then the end of the world will come (vs. 31). The end of the world is directly preceded by the war that has become known as the battle of Armageddon (vs. 32). Zechariah prophesied that as part of this war Jerusalem would be besieged.
At a point in the war when the Jews have lost most of the "land" of Israel in battle and are about to be destroyed, the Lord will return to this remnant of the covenant people of Abraham to fulfill his covenant. When he comes, he will stand upon the Mt. of Olives. A great earthquake will split the Mt. of Olives in two, with half going towards the north (or left-hand) and the other towards the south (or right-hand) - a reminder of the covenants made with Abraham in Gen. 15 and at Shechem in Joshua 8! The Jews will escape their destruction by passing between the two halves of the Mt. of Olives - symbolizing that only by covenanting with the Lord can we be saved (again, note the similarity of this to the Israelites passing through the Red Sea thus being saved from destruction by the Egyptian army). Concerning these events, the Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles says, "In that day all who are in the siege, both against Judea and against Jerusalem, shall be cut in pieces; though all the people of the earth should be gathered together against it" (Messages of the First Presidency 1:258).
Doctrine and Covenants 45 continues the story. As the Jews pass "between the pieces" of the Mt. of Olives they will see their Messiah with wounds in his hands and his feet (a token of the blood of the covenant). They ask, "what are these wounds in thine hands and thy feet?" When they learn that this is the Savior, Jesus Christ, they are converted and the final fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant commences. The "earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation" (vs. 58).
Doctrine and Covenants 133 finishes the story. After the Savior stands "upon the mount of Olivet . . . the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided" (vss 20, 24). Then, "the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh" (vs. 25). At this point, "they who are in the north countries [scattered Israel gathered in stakes of Zion throughout the world] shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence." Though the 10 tribes have gathered to stakes of Zion, they are still considered in the north countries (or under the curse) because they have not yet been restored back to the land from whence they were scattered - the land promised to Abraham!