Friday, October 15, 2004


Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19)

Last night I accompanied the youth on a temple trip to do baptisms for the dead. The temple president spoke with them briefly before we got started. He compared baptism with a naturalization ceremony for those who desire to become U.S. citizens. I immediately thought of the scripture above from Ephesians. I think it's a good analogy. He talked about how the naturalization ceremony requires that we know certain things and commit to certain things, and that we are then accepted as members of the community -- the celestial community, for baptism. (And, of course, there is the implication of necessary authority.)

As I look at the Ephesians verse, I note also that it includes both "fellowcitizens with the saints" and "of the household of God". I believe "of the household" means "part of the family". I think these are both similar and distinct concepts. We become "the seed of Christ" at baptism, but we are not sealed into the family until we have received the temple covenants, and had them sealed upon us by the Holy Spirit of promise. This is a process of progression indicated in the scriptures by various relational terms describing us as slaves or servants to God, or children, or friends.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Grace to grace

11And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us. 12And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace. 13And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; 14And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first. 15And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son. 16And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father

(D&C 93:11-16)

What did Jesus know about himself and his mission, and when did he know it? Did it take time for the realization of his role to sink in? I had always assumed that by the time of Jesus' baptism, he had a full understanding of his mission and role and his relation to the Father. But recently, as I have been reading the New Testament in German, I wonder if that is really the case.

We have the account of the Holy Ghost descending upon Jesus in all four gospels, with some slight differences that may be a little more pronounced in German. In Matthew, we read that when Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the Holy Ghost descending upon himself, with a voice declaring, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In Mark, we read that the heavens were open to Jesus, who saw the Holy Ghost descending upon himself, and the voice spoke directly to him: “Thou art my beloved Son, and I am well pleased with thee.” In Luke, “the Holy Ghost descended visibly in the form of a dove,” implying that this was visible to everyone, not just Jesus, but the voice spoke directly to him, as in Mark. In John, Jesus' baptism is not mentioned, and John the Baptist testifies that he saw the Holy Ghost descend like a dove upon Jesus and remain upon him. He doesn't mention a voice, but he states that the one who sent him to baptize with water (God) had already told him how to recognize the one who would baptize with the Holy Ghost.

So, to summarize, we have these features of the accounts:

 BaptismWho saw the sign of the Holy GhostWho heard the voice
MatthewYesJesus onlyEveryone present (ambiguous)
MarkYesJesus onlyJesus only
LukeYesEveryone present (implied)Jesus only
JohnNoJohn onlyNo one

Why should these differences be interesting? It seems to me they may give some insight into what the various gospel authors thought Jesus' understanding of himself was at the time of his baptism, as well as the kind of witness that was given to the people around.

For example, only in the account of Luke do we have the implication that the sign of the Holy Ghost was public. The voice from heaven may have been more public, but is not mentioned in John (instead, John had a private prior revelation) and was directed to Jesus in two of the other three accounts.

This makes me think that the sign of the Holy Ghost and the voice from heaven were signs intended primarily for Jesus, giving him a greater understanding of his role and mission. It was followed immediately (according to the synoptic gospels) by his forty days in the wilderness, in which he is tempted with “if thou art the Son of God...” -- perhaps especially targeted at a Jesus just coming to terms with a fuller understanding of his role and mission.

And even then, I wonder if it took some time for it to sink in. In Matthew, John preaches, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” After his forty days in the wilderness, Jesus heard that John had been imprisoned, and he returned to Galilee, perhaps fearing that the same might happen to him. He began preaching the same message as John: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It seems that early on, he is in a similar role as John was. Luke has him, shortly thereafter, reading in the synagogue in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me... this day is this scripture fulfilled.” It seems that he may have been coming to realize the full import of what God had revealed to him since his baptism.

I think there are good reasons why modern revelation includes the teaching that Jesus “received not of the fulness at first.” Primarily, it is to allow us to identify more fully with him, as he states further in D&C 93:19-20:

19I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness. 20For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.

We should not be discouraged that we do not receive full understanding in short order. Jesus himself also needed to proceed bit by bit until he had a full understanding.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Jacques Derrida dead at 74

This isn't exactly a Mormon-specific topic, but since Derrida comes up frequently in conversations on LDS-PHIL, I thought it would be interesting to many in the Bloggernacle. He died today, at age 74, of pancreatic cancer.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Blog updates

After some prodding, I've installed Ebenezer Orthodoxy's Blogger Comment Hack and Recent Comments Hack. I've also updated the template a little bit to tighten up the sidebar. The Blog Club seems to have gone the way of the dodo, so I've removed it. I plan to update my Bloggernacle links any day now... really...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

New blog: By Study and Also By Faith

A shout-out to new Bloggernacker Tyro, who has started up By Study and Also By Faith. Tyro has been an active participant on the forums for some time. Welcome to the Bloggernacle, Tyro!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

New book on the JST

Scott Faulring, Kent Jackson, and Robert Matthews have edited a new book on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible: Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. From the description on the site I linked to:

This volume – the work of a lifetime – brings together all the Joseph Smith Translation manuscripts in a remarkable and useful way. Now, for the first time, readers can take a careful look at the complete text, along with photos of several actual manuscript pages. The book contains a typographic transcription of all the original manuscripts, unedited and preserved exactly as dictated by the prophet Joseph and recorded by his scribes. In addition, this volume features essays on the background, doctrinal contributions, and editorial procedures involved in the Joseph Smith Translation, as well as the history of the manuscripts since Joseph Smith’s day.

The page I linked to above also includes a transcript of an interview with two of the editors, who describe the process of getting access to, and preserving, the original manuscripts, which belong to the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS Church).

It sounds like an excellent project, and they reportedly plan to release a CD next year with digital images of the original manuscripts.

UPDATE: The book, which was originally estimated to be available toward the end of the year, is now available.