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David Bokovoy

Prophets Standing Before God

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Both the Book of Moses and the Book of Mormon contain references to prophets â??standingâ? before the presence of deity. When read through the lens of Near Eastern tradition, these scriptural passages reflect another important link between modern revelation and the ancient world.

Concerning the prophet Moses who controls the water like God, the Book of Moses states:

â??And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to faceâ? (Moses 1:31).

The image of a prophet standing in the presence of God proves meaningful from a Near Eastern perspective. In the world of the ancient Near East, special emphasis was given to the standing position assumed by the attendant who stood ready to accept any charge issued by the deity.

Notice that the motif appears in the famous stele of Hammurabi which depicts the Babylonian king standing before Shamash, the god of justice:

hammurabi.jpg

In the stele, Hammurabi stands as an attendant before god, ready to follow through on a commission to impart justice throughout the land.

Although subtle in nature, the symbol does appear in the Bible. Drawing upon this important Near Eastern tradition, Elijah the Tishbite proclaimed: â??As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand.â? A similar reference occurs in Jeremiahâ??s discourse concerning true prophets â??who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard itâ? (Jer. 23:18)

Significantly, the Near Eastern concept of a prophet/king standing in the presence of God as one ready to receive and follow through on a sacred commission appears in the Book of Mormon. In the description concerning the Saviorâ??s visit to the Nephites, the account declares that the prophet Nephi immediately knelt before Jesus Christ:

â??And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feetâ? (3 Nephi 11:19)

The account transitions, however, from this description of Nephi kneeling to the Saviorâ??s invitation to Nephi to â??standâ? before his God:

â??And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before himâ? (3 Nephi 11:20).

Like Hammurabi and Elijah, once Nephi â??standsâ? as a Near Eastern-like attendant before God, the prophet receives a sacred charge to go forward in the service of the deity:

â??And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven" (v. 21).

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I accept that on its own, this point, much like the reference to Moses controlling the water like God may not appear meaningful to many critics. I have read so much of this material that I can't help but get excited about these sorts of observations that work so well with Near Eastern tradition. The point is subtle and provides another impressive link between modern revelation and the ancient world.

Granted, when interpreted on its own, this observation may seem trivial to some critics.

I have to wonder, however, how many of these "trivial" observations are needed before the accumulation seems intellectually significant? What if there were dozens of such links? What if there were hundreds, thousands, millions?

At what point from the critics perspective would the accumulation of many â??trivialâ? observations amount to something meaningful?

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I accept that on its own, this point, much like the reference to Moses controlling the water like God may not appear meaningful to many critics. I have read so much of this material that I can't help but get excited about these sorts of observations that work so well with Near Eastern tradition. The point is subtle and provides another impressive link between modern revelation and the ancient world.

Granted, when interpreted on its own, this observation may seem trivial to some critics.

I have to wonder, however, how many of these "trivial" observations are needed before the accumulation seems intellectually significant? What if there were dozens of such links? What if there were hundreds, thousands, millions?

At what point from the critics perspective would the accumulation of many â??trivialâ? observations amount to something meaningful?

While I don't find it trivial at all I do find it par for the course. I think I would be more surprised if these parallels didn't exist. The fact that they do parallel ancient documentation especially Sumerian and Akkadian accounts is amazing because the cultures of these two civilizations were relatively unknown when the Book of Moses came out.

I have an observation though. Is it possible that JS and ancient Mesopotamian prophets sync'd into something that is universal and beyond time and space in their reporting of these visions? In other words, could JS's visions and those of his Mesopotamian and Levantine counterparts have come up with the same visions of heavens independent of each other. Therefore, JS wouldn't really hadn't translated the documents in the traditional sense, but is actually accessing a universal component of divination.

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I accept that on its own, this point, much like the reference to Moses controlling the water like God may not appear meaningful to many critics. I have read so much of this material that I can't help but get excited about these sorts of observations that work so well with Near Eastern tradition. The point is subtle and provides another impressive link between modern revelation and the ancient world.

Granted, when interpreted on its own, this observation may seem trivial to some critics.

I have to wonder, however, how many of these "trivial" observations are needed before the accumulation seems intellectually significant? What if there were dozens of such links? What if there were hundreds, thousands, millions?

At what point from the critics perspective would the accumulation of many â??trivialâ? observations amount to something meaningful?

I think what you are discribing is a very common human ailment:

Helaman 16:14-22

14 And angels did appear unto men, wise men, and did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy; thus in this year the scriptures began to be fulfilled.

15 Nevertheless, the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them, both of the Mormons and also those of other faiths, and began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying

16 Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken.

17 And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying:

18 That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Moroni or a living prophet; if so, and these things be true, as it has been spoken, why will Moroni not show himself and the plates unto us as well as unto them who shall be at Fayette?

19 Yea, why will he not show himself in this land as well as in the land of Fayette?

20 But behold, we know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not; therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot bwitness with our own eyes that they are true.

21 And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.

22 And many more things did the people aimagine up in their hearts, which were foolish and bvain; and they were much disturbed, for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading crumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come.

Heleman 16:14-22(The Her AMun Translation)

Once again the BoM describes our current situation.

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I think what you are discribing is a very common human ailment:

Helaman 16:14-22

14 And angels did appear unto men, wise men, and did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy; thus in this year the scriptures began to be fulfilled.

15 Nevertheless, the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them, both of the Mormons and also those of other faiths, and began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying

16 Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken.

17 And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying:

18 That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Moroni or a living prophet; if so, and these things be true, as it has been spoken, why will Moroni not show himself and the plates unto us as well as unto them who shall be at Fayette?

19 Yea, why will he not show himself in this land as well as in the land of Fayette?

20 But behold, we know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not; therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot bwitness with our own eyes that they are true.

21 And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.

22 And many more things did the people aimagine up in their hearts, which were foolish and bvain; and they were much disturbed, for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading crumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come.

Heleman 16:14-22(The Her AMun Translation)

Once again the BoM describes our current situation.

i always like your posts because they are always full of scripture. bravo.

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Therefore, JS wouldn't really hadn't translated the documents in the traditional sense, but is actually accessing a universal component of divination.

An interesting idea. I certainly believe that the â??translationâ? of these documents was anything but traditional in scope.

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As always, David, very interesting. You might find this congenial, which is footnote 45 in my essay in Glimpses from Lehi's Jerusalem.

See also Steve St. Clair, "The Stick of Joseph: The Book of Mormon and the Literary Tradition of Northern Israel": "As described in the Bible, the southern kingdom had standard practices in regard to who held the priesthood: it was restricted to members of the tribe of Levi and specifically to descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. In the northern kingdom and the peoples descended from it, the picture was much more interesting, and more confusing. They accepted priesthood service by people who did not fit the southern pattern. . . . Priesthood practice among the Rechabites is most instructive as an example of northern Israelite views. When the Prophet Jeremiah, himself perhaps a descendant of northern Israelite priests, praised the covenant-keeping of the Rechabites shortly before the Babylonian captivity, he made them a striking promise in the name of the Lord: 'Jonadab, son of Rechab, shall never lack a man to stand before me.' To 'stand before the Lord' was a technical term with the specific meaning of serving as a priest, because the title 'priest' (Heb. cohen) is derived from a word meaning 'to stand upright.' . . . The Rechabites, then, were a group of functioning priests who had no traceable connection with the tribe of Levi or the ancestry of Aaron." Unpublished paper in author's possession. Compare Barker, Great High Priest, 122.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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Very interesting, Kevin. I didnâ??t realize that you had an article in the book. Iâ??m going to go back and read it.

To 'stand before the Lord' was a technical term with the specific meaning of serving as a priest, because the title 'priest' (Heb. cohen) is derived from a word meaning 'to stand upright.

This is wonderful! I did not know that!

You are correct, the term â??priestâ? may derive from the Hebrew word â??kunâ? meaning â??stand (before God),â? or in other words â??to serve;â? W. Dommershausen, â??cohen,â? Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. VII, 66.

This is an important point.

Thanks.

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Iâ??ve always found this Book of Mormon reference quite intriguing:

â??Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until deathâ? (Mosiah 18:9).

As participants in cases invoked in the divine council, conceptually prophets â??stoodâ? specifically as witnesses before the seated deity.

The celestial image reflects earthly judicial procedures in the ancient Near East:

â??And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Mosesâ?? father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?â? (Exodus 18:13-14)

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As always, David, very interesting. You might find this congenial, which is footnote 45 in my essay in Glimpses from Lehi's Jerusalem.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

Kevin, is there a source for Steve St. Clair's paper? I used to know him quite well, but I have never read any of his writings.

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I accept that on its own, this point, much like the reference to Moses controlling the water like God may not appear meaningful to many critics. I have read so much of this material that I can't help but get excited about these sorts of observations that work so well with Near Eastern tradition. The point is subtle and provides another impressive link between modern revelation and the ancient world.

Granted, when interpreted on its own, this observation may seem trivial to some critics.

I have to wonder, however, how many of these "trivial" observations are needed before the accumulation seems intellectually significant? What if there were dozens of such links? What if there were hundreds, thousands, millions?

At what point from the critics perspective would the accumulation of many â??trivialâ? observations amount to something meaningful?

That point will never be reached.

:P

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I have always been interested in this subject having found the same parallels that David has found. In addition to Moses, Abraham in BofA:

11 Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made;

12 And he said unto me: My son, my son (and his hand was stretched out), behold I will show you all these. And he put his hand upon mine eyes, and I saw those things which his hands had made, which were many; and they multiplied before mine eyes, and I could not see the end thereof.

13 And he said unto me: This is Shinehah, which is the sun. And he said unto me: Kokob, which is star. And he said unto me: Olea, which is the moon. And he said unto me: Kokaubeam, which signifies stars, or all the great lights, which were in the firmament of heaven.

14 And it was in the night time when the Lord spake these words unto me: I will multiply thee, and thy seed after thee, like unto these; and if thou canst count the number of sands, so shall be the number of thy seeds.

15 And the Lord said unto me: Abraham, I show these things unto thee before ye go into Egypt, that ye may declare all these words.

16 If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me.

17 Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it; and there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.

18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

Again, the elements that David noticed in Moses are repeated here in Abraham's discourse with God.

Lehi, too had such visions in I Nephi

8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.

9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.

10 And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.

I also noticed similar visions within Ezekiel, Enoch (Gen. 5:24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-12), the Elders of Israel (Exodus 24:9-11), mICAIAH (i KGS 22:19-23), Isaiah (6:1-13), Daniel, etc., but perhaps the most compelling is JS's own unique vision recorded in the D&C 88

36 All kingdoms have a law given;

37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

42 And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons;

43 And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.

44 And they give light to each other in their times and in their seasons, in their minutes, in their hours, in their days, in their weeks, in their months, in their yearsâ??all these are one year with God, but not with man.

45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.

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Kevin, is there a source for Steve St. Clair's paper? I used to know him quite well, but I have never read any of his writings.

He used to have a website with four or five very good papers. However, it has been offline for a few years now. I have a copy of the paper, though not a footnoted version. Send me a message with your email and I'll send you a copy this weekend. It is a very interesting paper.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

p.s. Interesting quote from Albert Ball. Have you ever read Fred Saberhagen's sf story "Wings out of Shadow"? It's in The Ultimate Enemy and Berserkers: The Beginning.

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David, is it possible you can post some Mesopotamian and/or Egyptian parallels to go with Moses' account?

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