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The Divine Council In 1 Nephi 1


consiglieri

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Last week, our gospel doctrine class covered 1 Nephi chapter one, dealing with Lehi's vision. I later synopsized the material and sent it to my daughter who is in college some distance away. I wanted to reprint it here for public comment.

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Lehi's vision--Lehi describes a classic throne theophany (which means a vision of God sitting on his throne; typically surrounded by his angels); which was the normal way of doing things in pre-exilic Israel. (The exile is the exile to Babylon which they were on the eve of; so "pre-exilic" means prior to the Babylonian exile.) As I say, this was customary at the time, although this idea was lost/suppressed in post-exilic Israel. It showed a brief resurgence among first century Christians; and thereafter was lost again.

The idea is that a prophet receives his message from the divine council; and either sees the grand council or actually participates in the grand council. The grand council is where God is surrounded by his sons (i.e., the "sons of God," or in Hebrew, the "bene Elohim"). These sons of God sit in council with God and carry out his dictates, usually comprising messages to be given to the people (which is either done by an angel or a prophet, such as Lehi.) This idea of the "sons of God" being the participants in the council is sometimes referred to as "angels."

Lehi begins by saying he sees God seated upon his throne surrounded by numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. (This is another prime function of the council; that of praise and worship of God.)

We see this in numerous places in the Old Testament--

(1) Job is probably the oldest book we have in the Old Testament, and it starts out in classic form with the "sons of God" entering in before God on a certain day. They do this at the beginning of chapter one and again at the beginning of chapter two. This generally strikes people as strange inasmuch as Satan is present and that is the context in which God and Satan discuss Job and how righteous he is and how Satan thinks if he can get his hands on Job with no interference from God, he can make Job deny God; and the story is off and running.

(2) Isaiah in chapter 6 receives his divine call from a heavenly council, in which he is in the temple, of all places, and sees God high and lifted up, sitting on his throne, and accompanied by angels (these are the angels described as having six wings); God says to his angels, "Who will I send?" and Isaiah respond, "Here am I, send me." God then gives Isaiah the message he is to give to Israel;

(3) 1 Kings 22:19-21 has an especially interesting episode in which the prophet Micaiah is caught up into the heavenly council and receives his message to give to King Ahab;

(4) Jeremiah, a contemporary of Lehi, goes so far as to indicate that the sign of a true prophet is one who has "stood in the council of God" and received his divine appointment from that source;

(5) This carries over into the New Testament a bit, as I mentioned above, where John sees God seated on his throne and 24-elders seated around the throne of God who throughout the vision are seen to fall down on their faces and worship and praise God for his acts.

The council of God in Hebrew is the "sod." (I said in class not to worry; it wasn't a dirty word; and Brother Holbrook looked at me like he didn't get it; so I explained "sod" being a clump of dirt in English. General class consensus--"not funny.") In Greek, the word for "sod" is "mysterion," which is, of course, where we get our word "mystery."

This is because the "sod" came to represent not only the council itself, but the divine decrees handed down to the prophets in the council. These are things that cannot be found out by our own effort, but only by divine revelation, which is what a "mystery" originally meant in Greek.

This is of interest because in chapter 2, Nephi says he wants to know the "mysteries" of God. What mysteries is he talking about? We are right at the beginning of the book and the only thing that has happened so far is Lehi receiving his visions. Nephi then goes on to say that he called upon God to know the "mysteries" and that God answered his prayer such that "he believed all the words of his father," Lehi. This is important. The Book of Mormon itself shows it recognizes the meaning of the "sod" or the "mysterion" which was relayed by Lehi to his family, such that Nephi wanted to know the "mysterion" or message for himself and his prayer was granted such that he believed his father. Of course, this is not the only time that Nephi will go to the Lord to inquire regarding the meaning of his father's visions; the classic example being when he goes to God several chapters later to find out the meaning of Lehi's vision of the tree of life.

So the bottom line is that the Book of Mormon opens with a classic pre-exilic divine council vision by Lehi, where he receives his message from the "sod" and later Nephi says he wants to know the meaning of the "sod" received by his father so he asks the Lord and the Lord gives it to him in chapter 2.

This would not be so startling except that it is only in the last 50-years or so that an understanding of this concept in pre-exilic Israel has been recognized by scholars; and now is so well accepted that it is a common understanding of pre-exilic Israel. Joseph Smith appears to have been over 100-years ahead of the scholars; and of course, Joseph Smith made this a defining aspect of Mormonism; dealing in greater detail with the divine council in Abraham 3; and going on record as saying that he supposed that everybody who had a mission to minister to the children of men received that mission in the grand council in heaven. This is remarkable.

And we are only to chapter 1 of the Book of Mormon!

Hope you find this interesting..

Keep up the great work. I love you!

Dad

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And I love all of you, too! :P

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Thank you, that was extremely interesting. I'm going to save that.

~Kate

Thank you. I hope it is as correct as it is interesting. I think so, but am open to other points of view. It's the humility in me.

I cannot take credit for one whit of the post, though, as it is taken primarily from an article authored by John W. Welch available on the FARMS web-site, and from which I copiously plagiarized.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

What do you think the relation might be between that use of musterion and the use in 1 Cor 2-4 and other places where it seems to imply "secret rite" or "ordinance"? Is this somehow related to the divine council?

Thanks.

DispensatorMysteriorum (Steward of the Mysteries)

I think this is a good question, but confess I am not prepared to respond to it.

In one way, however, it would seem that any temple associated initiatory rites would be, by definition, available only by revelation, or by one who has received it.

In other words, you can't get it on your own.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Keep up the great work. I love you!

Dad_________________________

And I love all of you, too! ;)

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

All this from the Night Stalker?! :P

I think David Bokovoy covered this as well, didn't he?

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What do you think the relation might be between that use of musterion and the use in 1 Cor 2-4 and other places where it seems to imply "secret rite" or "ordinance"? Is this somehow related to the divine council?

Thanks.

DispensatorMysteriorum (Steward of the Mysteries)

I think the term is more related to the Gnostics than to a shadow of the Divine Council. They are not really congruous.

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Consigliere,

Interesting. Does this mean Nephi knew Greek?

Perhaps Lehi might have been introduced to Greek thru Egyptian sources...this might also explain other Greek elements of the BOM; at least that has always been my rational for the greek inclusions...are you aware of any other theories on that?

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