This week in the Book of Mormon we’ll look at chapters 14 to 19 in the Book of Alma. In chapter 17, Alma meets with the sons of Mosiah who Alma describes as “having waxed strong in a knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding”. This week we’ll consider what it takes to have a sound understanding of the Gospel.
The Flow of Concepts
When we look at v2 and 3 of Alma 17, Alma lays out a flow of concepts that looks like this. This flow of concepts is a road map, in general terms, to have a solid understanding of the Gospel.
Another way to look at this flow of concepts is to consider that it is a process of collecting, organizing, expanding and then sharing.
So this is what we have now.
Searching the Scriptures
Notice here that Alma says that the sons of Mosiah had searched the scriptures. Searching the scriptures is primarily becoming familiar with the various words or terms in the Bible and how they are used.
One thing that I have notice about some Gospel commentators and believers is that when they don’t understand a term, they equate that different terms all can be lumped into one category. For instance, when a believer has been “Born Again” they associate now that they are “Zion”, “Elect” and “Joint Heirs”. But all of these terms have their own meaning and actually belong to different categories. I also have noticed that when believers don’t understand a term they omit that term from their religious discussions. For instance, in my previous faith system I never heard the phrase “reaching the full stature of Messiah”, which is an extremely important phrase to understand. So I can only think that there was a lack of understanding what that phrase meant.
This is where we can see the importance of the learning of the Jews that Nephi refers to at 1 Nephi 1:2.
One technique that we see the Jews employ in their learning is the do a rhetorical analysis of a word. This technique involves taking a word and see how it is used throughout the scriptures. A concordance of the Bible is an essential tool for establishing a meaning of the word and for searching the scriptures.
Another concepts that we can see here is that the sons of Mosiah had a developed a comprehensive Gospel vocabulary. This becomes really important because it will be hard for the Spirit to bring a term or concept to your remembrance if you have not been exposed to it.
The Hebrew language is considered the language of faith and the language of liberty. Adding Hebrew as an aspect of scriptural education can add a depth into the understanding to the meaning of words and connecting Gospel concepts together. EKS Publishing is a good source for beginning to learn Biblical Hebrew.
The Jews also employ a four level analysis of the the scriptures that include:
Peshat, the plain (simple) or literal reading;
Remez, the allegorical reading through text's hint or allusion
Derash, the metaphorical reading through a (rabbinic sermon's) comparison/illustration (midrash)
Sod, the hidden meaning reading through text's secret or mystery (Kabbalah).
This approach to Jewish study can be found in Etz Hayyim: A Torah Commentary. But for the beginner, they should start with the Peshat level to establish a foundation.
Another technique to searching the scriptures that the Jews employ is to prioritize the scriptures from the most important to the least. The Jews prioritize their scriptures by the order of authority or degree of inspiration. The most important is God’s Word given directly to man, then the Word of God through man and finally the word of man to God. So if we parse the scriptures out under these three categories, we have a study scheme that looks like this.
The Book of Isaiah
I would be incomplete if I didn’t mention the Book of Isaiah. The Book of Mormon places special emphasis on the Book of Isaiah, which is critical reading for Endtime believers. The Book of Mormon quotes extensively from Isaiah and includes a command from Yeshua to study Isaiah – 3 Nephi 23:1. Isaiah has been a volume that has been hard to understand and I would highly recommend that you consider the work of Avraham Gileadi, PhD to begin your study of Isaiah.
Knowing the Word of God
The next concept that Alma sets out in having a sound understanding is that the sons of Mosiah knew the Word of God. This is where creating order and organizing the Word takes place. Organizing God’s Word is the process of prioritizing and assembling God’s word into a holistic and unified system of processes and structure.
The first command that God gave Adam in the Garden of Eden was to create order. God commanded Adam to “dress” and “keep” the Garden (Genesis 2:15). Moreover, Adam was given the task of naming all the animals in the Garden (Genesis 2:19). Arthur Hertzberg wrote in his book, Judaism, “To be like God…means to be His partner in ruling the world and in carrying forward the work of making order,…” (p. 178). So God expects men to create order not only in the physical world but in understanding His eternal plan for man and our personal destination in eternity.
The next major event where we see God creating order is the Law that He gave to Israel. Indeed, the Law provided rules for every aspect for a theocratic society. Further, God gave us the Law to bring us life and to overcome personal sin. Moreover, when we see the use of the word lawlessness, God is also referring to the concept of disorder.
Moreover, the scriptures give us three primary keys to assemble God’s Word into a holistic system – Jacob’s Ladder to Heaven, the Theme of Threes and the Rule of Seven
Jacob’s Ladder to Heaven
In Jacob’s dream he saw a ladder to heaven. This ladder defines a pattern of ascension to become like God or to descend into evil. The prophet Isaiah expands this pattern by using spiritual types of humanity from the Bible. Dr. Gileadi sets out this pattern in his book Isaiah Decoded with the basic system.
* Added by Gene Hagloch
The Theme of Threes
The Theme of Threes is seeing a relationship in the Bible where three concepts are linked together with a common theme in an ascending pattern. Here is a short example.
The Rule of Seven
The Rule of Seven connotes a condition of completeness, wholeness and fullness, which we see also in the Bible, and looks like this.
Prayer and Fasting
Alma's next key to having a sound understanding is to expand our understanding. To expand our knowledge, we need to petition God for an answer to a question through prayer. We can see that in James 1:5 and Matt 7:7,8.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." James 1:5
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Matt 7:7,8
Spirit of Prophecy and Revelation
God expands our understanding by answering the questions we ask of Him through His Spirit. Much of this revelatory process is bringing to remembrance concepts we learned when searching the scriptures.
Teaching with Power and Authority of God
The higher we ascend on Isaiah's Ladder to Heaven to be like God the greater is our knowledge and the more effective we are in bringing souls to God. In becoming like God, we acquire light and knowledge until we receive a fulness of truth.