Isaiah 29:11-14     The sealed book

“The book” is the record from which comes the Book of Mormon, and it will be a blessing to all people.  The book contains “a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof” (2 Ne. 27:7), and a portion of it is sealed and cannot be revealed to the world because of wickedness (2 Ne. 27:8).
 
The book will be delivered to a man, Joseph Smith, and he will deliver up some of the words or characters to another man, Martin Harris.  Martin’s 1828 meeting with Dr. Charles Anthon in New York City is reported in scripture, in Joseph Smith—History 1:63-65.  This episode in latter-day Church history was, at least in part, seen, heard, and recorded by the prophet Isaiah 2,500 years before it happened.

“One that is learned” was the renowned professor of classical languages, Dr. Anthon, from Columbia College (now Columbia University).  “Him that is not learned” was Joseph Smith, who had only about three years of formal education and during the translation of the Book of Mormon record enlisted others to serve as scribes for him.  

“This people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me”: Lip-service” without the heart is hypocrisy and is an insult to the Lord.  He wants righteous, deep-felt works as well as words.  Our scripture study, fasting, praying, partaking of the sacrament, home and visiting teaching, tithe-paying, and other such spiritual duties all need to be done with full purpose of heart and not as “vain oblations”—the heart is what He wants.  Inner motives are more important than outer motions.

Verse 14 speaks of the glorious Restoration of the gospel in these last days.  The word “proceed” in the phrase “I will proceed . . .” in Hebrew is yosef (English Joseph).  The work of the Lord will continue to flourish until it has penetrated all the lands of the earth; it will be increasingly “a marvelous work and a wonder.”

 “The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” — to many scholars, this message from Isaiah 29 is still sealed.

Ezekiel 37:15-17     The two sticks

Speaking of the newly published LDS editions of the scriptures, Elder Boyd K. Packer explained: “The stick or record of Judah—the Old Testament and the New Testament—and the stick or record of Ephraim—the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ—are now woven together in such a way that as you pore over one you are drawn to the other; as you learn from one you are enlightened by the other.  They are indeed one in our hands.  Ezekiel’s prophecy now stands fulfilled” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 75; or, Ensign, Nov. 1982, 53).

Jews (representing the tribe of Judah), and Nephites (representing the tribes of Joseph—Ephraim and Manasseh), will receive the words of God.  According to the law of witnesses, there will be a minimum of two or three testaments of Jesus Christ.  Not only will people be gathered back to their lands of inheritance, which is part of the great covenant, but God’s words will be gathered together.  All of this gathering—peoples and words of God—was foreseen by Ezekiel (37:16-22).  Bones come together, scriptures come together, and people come together.  Ezekiel seems to have envisioned what Paul later wrote of: “That is the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10).

Daniel 2:34-35, 44     The stone to roll forth

“A stone was cut out without hands” –  The year was 1830, and the God of heaven himself, without human hands, initiated the restoration of his kingdom on the earth.  The Lord spoke through Joseph Smith in 1831: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2).  

In this context, recall again the bold words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 366).  It is a kingdom that will never be destroyed, which is a comforting message!  In all other dispensations the Church and kingdom has been lost through apostasy, but never again.  The restored gospel is on earth to stay.  It will continue to roll forth and it will stand forever—through the millennial and celestial worlds.

Malachi 4:5-6     Elijah to come before the Second Coming of the Savior

Joseph Smith taught about these last two verses in Malachi’s writings, and the last two verses of our Old Testament, more than any other passage of scripture.  There is something of utmost importance contained in them.

It is written in everyone’s Bible—whether Jewish or Christian—that Elijah the prophet would return before the coming of the Lord.  Though many people, especially observant Jews, still maintain expectant tradition of his coming, and even prepare a place-setting for him at the annual Passover seder, the Latter-day Saints are the only people in the world who believe he has actually come, just as prophesied.  But Elijah came, not to a Jewish home or synagogue, but to the House of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio, on April 3, 1836, the very occasion of the Passover service that year (Doctrines of Salvation 2:100-101).

And what did Elijah return to earth to accomplish?  The grand and glorious purpose is stated in a single sentence.  He came to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”  The Prophet Joseph Smith later elaborated on the word “turn,” expanding it to mean also “bind” or “seal” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 330).  The spirit and purpose of Elijah and those sealing powers is to promote the labor of love we call “genealogy” (from the Greek, meaning the study of race or family) and family history—researching and preparing the basic and necessary data on every child of heavenly Father, in order to perform the saving ordinances for them: baptisms, confirmations, priesthood ordinations, marriages, sealings of man and woman to each other and children to their parents.  “For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect” (D&C 128:18).  We all need the welding links of family units, else the earth would be smitten and utterly wasted at the Savior’s coming (D&C 110:14-16; JS—H 1:36-39).

During Moroni’s many hours of instructional interviews with Joseph Smith, the ancient Nephite prophet quoted the first sentence of Malachi’s last verse in this way: “And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers” (JS—H 1:39).  The promises made to the fathers (Adam, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and so on) included the great blessings of the Covenant: the gospel of Jesus Christ and its associated principles and ordinances, the receiving of which, and the living of which, seals upon the obedient the ultimate and consummate blessings of exaltation in celestial glory with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.


John 10:16     Other sheep

The God of all creation has other sheep, in other pastures, in this and in other worlds. To his disciples among the Nephites and Lamanites in the western hemisphere, in Book of Mormon lands, he announced: “Ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (3 Ne. 15:21).

The Jerusalemites who originally heard this teaching thought Jesus might be referring to the Gentiles, but he clarified that the Gentiles in general would not hear his voice but would receive the gospel through his disciples and through the Holy Ghost.  A partial record of the Gentiles’ being taught the gospel is preserved in the New Testament books of Acts through Revelation (see 3 Ne. 15:22–23).

Jesus continued, explaining that his disciples in the western hemisphere were not the only “other sheep” who would hear his voice: “And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister.  For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice; neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them.  But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them” (3 Ne. 16:1–3).

 All of God’s numerous flocks of sheep will be gradually, continuously, and eventually gathered into their eternal fold to enjoy celestial pastures.

Acts 3:19-21     The restitution of all things

Jesus Christ would come again to the earth at the “times of restitution of all things,” which is the restoration of his gospel, his covenant, and his Church.  The Spanish Translation (Casiodoro de Reina, produced in 1569, half a century before the King James Version) helps clarify the text.  The King James “restitution of all things” is in Spanish, “restauración de todas las cosas,” meaning “restoration of all things.”  Numerous passages in the New Testament plainly and unequivocally describe a great apostasy that would occur through the first centuries after Christ (see the LDS Bible’s Topical Guide, “Apostasy of the Early Christian Church”), and this and other passages unambiguously speak of a great latter-day restoration (see Topical Guide, “Restoration of the Gospel”).
 
Catholic churches and orthodox churches believe the organization and doctrine of Christ continued uninterrupted (though admittedly at times contaminated) from ancient times to the present day.  Protestant churches believe the organization and doctrine of Christ became corrupted and needed to be reformed, which reformation was accomplished in its numerous manifestations by sincere men.  Latter-day Saints constitute the only major Church on earth that believes not a reformation but a complete restoration of the lost Church of Jesus Christ was necessary.  Jesus Christ himself, as prophesied by Peter, came to initiate the glorious restoration.

1 Corinthians 15:29     Baptism for the dead

If baptism by immersion is mandatory for entrance into the kingdom of God for the living, as Jesus and his Apostles plainly taught, it should also be a requirement for those who have passed on, who had no opportunity to receive baptism during mortality.  

There is evidence outside the Bible that the ordinance of baptism for the dead was taught and practiced by early Christians.  Even the Roman Catholic Jerome Biblical Commentary admits that it seems as though Christians at Corinth “would undergo baptism in the name of their deceased non-Christian relatives and friends, hoping that this vicarious baptism might assure them a share in the redemption of Christ.”  Nevertheless, the Commentary regards the passage as obscure and the practice strange (Brown, Jerome Biblical Commentary, 2:273).  Many scholars find no satisfactory explanation for such a practice (see “Baptism for the Dead” in Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1:95-97).

The following is a reconstruction of an interview between Dr. Edgar J. Goodspeed, a renowned Bible translator and scholar, and the late Dr. Paul R. Cheesman, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.  The interview took place on the campus of UCLA in the summer of 1945 (as recorded in Richard L. Anderson, Understanding Paul, 413):

 

Cheesman:       Is the scripture found in 1 Corinthians 15:29 translated properly as found in the King James Translation?

Goodspeed:       Basically, yes.
Cheesman:       Do you believe that baptism for the dead was practiced in Paul’s time?
Goodspeed:       Definitely, yes.
Cheesman:       Does the church to which you belong practice it today?
Goodspeed:       No.
Cheesman:       Do you think it should be practiced today?
Goodspeed:       This is the reason why we do not practice it today. We do not know enough about it.  If we did, we would practice it.

The Prophet Joseph Smith was greatly concerned about, and taught a considerable amount about, the doctrine of baptism for the dead and all the saving ordinances essential for every child of Heavenly Father who desires eternal life in His celestial kingdom.

All of the above details of his life and ministry and the explanations of scriptural passages evidence the remarkable revelatory gifts of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  They demonstrate in an exceptional way how the God of heaven works through a weak vessel to accomplish his glorious purpose in providing eternal salvation for his children.  The Lord said of his Prophet: “I have sent forth the fullness of my gospel by the hand of my servant Joseph; and in weakness have I blessed him” (D&C 35:17).  And later, “thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, I am well pleased with your offering . . . which you have made; for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth” (D&C 124:1).

Weak as he was—and a normal human being he was—yet we feel to rejoice in the Prophet’s astounding and singular endowments and accomplishments.  “He shall do a work . . . which shall be of great worth” and “he shall be esteemed highly” (2 Nephi 3:7). “I will make him great in mine eyes” (2 Nephi 3:8).  God did make him great, and the Prophet dedicated his life to helping untold millions of people to come to know God, and become like him.  We praise the man of whom Brigham Young exclaimed: “I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all of the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith” (Journal of Discourses, 3:51).