Friday, August 19, 2011

Three Sacrifices and Three Altars.

The notion of four worlds which also includes three degrees of glory is well established in LDS theology. These three degrees of “glory” are three degrees of “salvation.” Frequent readers of my posts and other materials know that I contend that the three glories are three different “dimensions,” or groups of dimensions (as our current world is a group of three and a half dimensions). If you take this idea further, salvation is a very delineated proposition.

Let me propose this questions: Did the atonement take place in the garden or on the cross?

LDS folks are often quick to answer “the garden” because we have been taught about what happened in the garden, but was the garden the completing of the atonement? If you answered yes then you must believe that the cross was not necessary? Or perhaps it only had to do with accommodating the resurrection? If so why was it that Jesus waited until His experience at the cross was complete to say “it is finished.” The cross is prominently pointed to in scripture as the place of atonement.

I would suggest that the atonement happened in three different glories, and three different places. We see this pointed to in the plan of salvation in stone, the temple. We can observe the underlying structure that is shared with all true temples. Central to this structure is the existence of three levels of salvation, or holiness. For simplicity, let’s look at Solomon’s temple. There are three basic section; the Court representing the Telestial Kingdom, the Holy Place representing the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Holy of Holies representing the Celestial Kingdom.

Each of these kingdoms has a prominent feature, and that is the altar for that kingdom.

In Solomon’s temple, the space designed to represent the Telestial Kingdom had an altar called the “Altar of Sacrifice.” It is here that the working out of the salvation of man is symbolized, and memorialized.

The gate into the telestial space is equated with membership into the church, or in other words, the Kingdom. To rightfully enter that space the initiate had to accept the principles and ordinances of that space. We are not told all of what went on in Solomon’s Temple, but we do know some things.

The altar in any given holy space represents the spot where God and man come together in that degree of glory, where the symbols of the covenant for that degree are expressed, and where a portion of the “Covenant of Creation” is renewed.

The symbols for a kingdom are not some unrelated abstract token, they not only symbolize of the underlying saving truth. they are emblematic of that truth, and in a likeness of that truth, which is the covenant.

The Altar of Sacrifice was the first order of business in the telestial space (The Court). It symbolizes the suffering and death that Christ endured on the cross. It is meant to impress upon us that in a telestial world that justice is achieved in brutal and violent ways. The Altar of Sacrifice is the space where the covenant, the cross, justice, mercy, man, and God come together in what some ancients thought of as a knot, where all of these things intertwine. What happened on the cross is symbolized by what happens on the Altar of Sacrifice.

If we then enter into the space representing the Terrestrial Kingdom (in Solomon’s Temple) we find another type of altar, the Table of Shewbread. It is at this table that the covenants belonging to the Terrestrial Glory, along with the ordinances are expressed.

We know [1] of only two places where Jesus atoned for our sins; the cross and in the Garden of Gethsemane, 
but certainly there are three. It is likely that the place that Jesus retired to with Peter, James, and John, that was farther into the garden than He allowed the other apostles, where He was “exceeding sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:34) is the place that is represented by the Table of the Shewbread, and is the place of atonement in the Terrestrial World. This could rightfully be referred to that which saves someone into that kingdom, but it might be more properly be described as a level of sanctification.

The Table of the Shewbread has a strong resemblance to the modern LDS rite of Sacrament. The existence of the bread and the wine 
on each table leads us to believe this connection may exist. If this is a real link, we are forced to consider the Sacrament as a Terrestrial Ordinance [2].  Which would also make some symbolic or mystical link between the altar of the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Sacrament tables of LDS meetinghouses. We could view this as an extension of the temple into our weekly worship. In the telestial realm our baptismal fonts clearly have a theological link to the temple sea on the backs of twelve oxen.

The priests and laymen (at least in the early years of Solomon’s Temple) killed the lamb and other victims on the north side of the Altar of Sacrifice in the Court, or the Telestial area of the temple. This was a playing-out, or theater of the Atonement upon the cross. When the participants burnt the offerings it was an invitation to deity to participate in or accept the sacrifice (like burning incense symbolizes prayers or petitions to God). The eating of the remaining parts of the victim has to do with internalizing the deity, or becoming one with God.

We can eat the flesh (flesh and blood) of the Telestial sacrifice, at the Altar of Sacrifice, and become one with God there, be identified with Him at that level, with that law, with those ordinances, or we can eat from the Table of Shewbread, drink the wine, and be sanctified and one with God at that level, glory, dimension, law, and ordinances. It’s our choice.

There is an additional choice. When Christ went further into the Garden of Gethsemane, there He suffered to the greatest degree. There he suffered alone. He left the area where Peter, James, and John waited, the place of “suffering unto death” and went in further. What exactly happened there we don’t really know [1], 
other than; for us He suffered to a very great extent:

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit...” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18)

1. Others may know, but it is not widely known.
2. Some may view this assertion differently, but I see this as a holy and inspiring thing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tents and Hebrewisms

Never shying away from speculation, I have some observations that I would like to attempt here to tie together.

I have observed that there is a practice found among some older Hebrew writings where a person, but more specifically a prophet, equates a physical journey to his spiritual journey, and more specifically his ascension teaching and initiation. I am not sure that some of the stories as we receive them may not have even been adapted and adjusted to better demonstrate the points of the stories. This practice could be called a "Hebrewism."

In a prior post (click here) I described how Abraham considered going down to Egypt as going into a "deep [spiritual] pit." I described how he made that trip by holding to his "knot of faith" or a line going into the pit with knots that represented his covenants. He was not afraid to go into the pit because he was confident he could escape by pulling himself up grasping the knots. For Abraham this trip was a spiritual journey.

Jacob in his physical journeys stopped by a place called Beth-el and as he slept he dreamed a dream where he saw a ladder ascending up to God (see Gen. 28:12). Among LDS and Jewish thinkers it is understood that the rungs on the ladder represent the covenants, ordinances, or levels of ascension, that can also be applied to each of our lives (or the lack of such covenants). This is a temple/ascension motif (Gen 28:16-19) where Jacob called the place the "house of God" and poured oil upon a stone that created an altar. All true altars have a mystical connection to one of the three altars of the temple. 

Moses meet God on the Mountain. Mountains anciently represented and physically presented ascension. Going back to Abraham we read in the Zohar:

"He [Abram] moved on from there (ha-harah),  to the mountain. There he discovered (har he), Mountain of He. and all those rungs planted there." (The Zohar, Matt vol . II, pg 18 - Lekh Lekha)

Abraham climbed the physical mountain and built an altar, and the Lord added a "he" to Abrams name. The "he" represents the "Shekhinah" or divine presence resulting from covenants - it is a a sign of covenant. See THIS and THIS. Continuing on:

"He [Abraham] spread (ololoh), his tent, spelled with a (he) -spreading a spread, accepting the Kingdom of Heaven with all its linked rungs."(The Zohar, Matt vol . II, pg 18 - Lekh Lekha)

We see a couple concepts intertwined. When Abraham had the sign of the covenant (he) added to his name, he spread his tent. But the "tent" was spelled with a "he" instead of the normal "vav," indicating a tent of covenant or "the tent of Shekhinah."

From the above we see an association with covenants, temples, altars, and tents. A tent can be thought of as a "Tallit Gadol" reminiscent of the temple, with "tzitzit" tied at all four corners. The Zohar continues with Abraham:

"...Abram journeyed, continually journeying towards the Negev ... Continually journeying, rung upon rung until ascending to the South, where he was fittingly bound, ascending to his rung..." (The Zohar, Matt vol . II, pg 18 & 19 - Lekh Lekha)

It is a Hebrewism to connect like this the journey, the tent, the altar, the covenants, the ascension, and the temple. 

My point has to do with 1 Nephi chapter 2. In a prior post I pointed out a few of my observations about 1 Nephi 2:6-9. See my post HERE. The points I tried to make there was that there was a Hebrewism pattern in the text. In 1 Nephi 2:6-9 here is what I see:

- Lehi and his family are on a journey. It is a real journey, but also a journey of ascension.

- They camp by the river. This is an association with other ascension - living water imageries.

- Lehi builds an altar - associating this with covenants, ordinances, and the temple, and the tree of life.

- Also of interest, but not of our present concern is the valley, the sea, and the fountain of all righteousness. 

My point, in 1 Nephi 2:15 which reads:

"And my father dwelt in a tent" 

Which critics have cited as being out of place in the text, and useless. I submit that it is very much in place with the preceding Hebrewisms.

I would bet a dollar that the Reformed Egyptian that conveyed the word "tent" contained a modifier that gave a meaning somewhere close to  "a tent of covenant" or "a tent of Shekhinah."  At the very least, the way in which "tent" was used would convey the idea to any readers of Lehi's day, but is not right on the surface in our translation.

That's the way I see it. What think ye? 

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Holy Spirit of Promise

I was teaching a class the other day in High Priests Group on the Plan of Happiness. I had proffered my contention that each ordinance we receive must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (Holy Ghost) to be of force. It is my view that when a person receives an ordinance the Holy Spirit of Promise “seals” that the ordinance was performed correctly regarding form and authority, and the associated law was received and has been kept (assuming that person is living that law - or it is later sealed when the person does live the law).

I used a paragraph in the "Guide to the Scripture" under “Holy Spirit of Promise” which reads in part:

“He [the Holy Ghost] confirms as acceptable to God the righteous acts, ordinances, and covenants of men. The Holy Spirit of Promise witnesses to the Father that the saving ordinances have been performed properly and that the covenants associated with them have been kept.”

This notion was challenged by one of the good brethren, because of the following paragraph that reads: 

“They who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise receive all that the Father has, D&C 76:51–60 (Eph. 1:13–14).”

The distinction being where I contend that each law and ordinance must be sealed upon a person, he read the reference to mean that at some point, all at once they are all, including exaltation sealed upon a righteous person.

I would argue that the next line also needs to be considered to understand this concept:

“All covenants and performances must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise to have force after this life, D&C 132:7, 18–19, 26”

I believe that baptism is a critical ordinance, even for a person who never has “all that the Father has” or exaltation sealed upon him. But, that each ordinance and its corresponding law, including baptism, must be sealed upon each of us. If not, we are son’s of perdition (in the case of baptism).

The same would hold true for each ordinance and law. 

I would further contend that what ordinance and corresponding law we receive (we receive law by ordinances) dictates the resurrection we will receive. This is clear in the Doctrine and Covenants. Regarding the Holy Spirit of Promise we read:

“...All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise ...are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:7)

And then to the point of the law we keep or abide determines our resurrection:

“22For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.

23And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.

24And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88)

I suspect that for most of us we receive the ordinances and the laws, and we grow into the law some time in the future. When we do, we have some spiritual experience and don’t even know that it was the Holy Spirit of promise sealing those ordinances upon us. And like those who receive “all the Father has” or have their calling and election made sure in this life, we may spiritually digress and return many times. But, we have proven that we can live the law, and only a full rebellion will separate us from that kingdom sealed upon us.

What think ye?