As a scholar said, “Once it happened that the crafty was taken in his own trap, the falsely condemned were saved, and the worthy were rewarded. It is not always so.” Perhaps [the] story [in Esther which we study today] has endured because it has given the comfort of hope to other oppressed people” [and demonstrates God in the details of our lives.] Although God is not expressly mentioned in the book of Esther, there appears to be evidence in it of the God whom Job describes, who can “set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety. (Job 5:11-12).Ellis Rasmussen, Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament.
Hello and welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and today we look at a Biblical book that may seem slightly out of place to the casual reader. We have been studying the history of prophets and kings in Israel—and then suddenly we have this stunning story that seems to come out of nowhere. Who is this Ahasuerus and why should we suddenly care about what is going on in Persia, when our interest has focused on Judah, Jerusalem and Israel? What consequence does this little Persian story have to do with any thing that matters in the Bible?
It is easy to have the sense that you are reading a wonderful fairy tale about a country far away. Not so.
As it turns out, it is not a little off-the-beaten path story about Persia, at all, but of great consequence to the Jews. We need some context to understand. You remember, of course, that Babylon besieged Jerusalem and it finally fell in 586 B.C. The prophets had been giving warnings to the people to repent and they had been met with the same response that Lehi did. “And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away (1 Nephi 1:20).
When Jerusalem fell, the Jews were led away into Babylon. Then Babylon, itself fell in 539 BC to the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great, who after eight years was followed by Darius 1. According to the biblical history, one of the first acts of Cyrus, the Persian conqueror of Babylon, was to commission Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. However, initially the majority did not return. Many Jews stayed in Babylon or dispersed themselves to other lands in the area including Persia, forming significant colonies there. This dispersion is part of what is called the diaspora. It’s as if the Jews were told, “You can go home now,” and they answered, “We don’t want to go home.” They had become accustomed to other places and Persia was one of those places. With reference to today, Babylon was headquartered in what is today’s Iraq, and Persia in today’s Iran.
So as the book of Esther opens we talk about a great king of Persia, who is basically ruling much of the known world at that time. He is mighty and powerful. His word is law throughout a great swath of the known civilization. His name is Ahasuerus in the Bible, but the more common Persian-to-Greek transliteration is Xerxes. This is Xerxes 1, who referred to himself as “king of the Persians and the Medes.” That Ahaseurus is indeed Xerxes 1 is believed by most scholars. He reigned from 486-465 B.C.
So for a bit of background on him. Xerxes had a reputation for harsh punishments, womanizing, and draining the Persian empire’s coffers. With the immense palaces he built, he nearly bankrupted Persia.
During his reign there were uprisings against him in several areas of what had once been Babylon and he reduced Egypt to a conquered province. He was known for attacking Greece, and ultimately failing, but to build his army for the Greek invasion, King Xerxes, whom we understand to be the same as the Ahaseurus, conscripted soldiers throughout his empire.
“Among those conscripted were the five sons of Pythias, a Lydian governor. Pythias requested that his eldest son be allowed to remain as his heir. Xerxes took offense, believing that Pythias doubted the success of the invasion. He reportedly had Pythias’ son cut in half, displayed the corpse on either side of the road, and marched the army between the grisly markers.” (See https://www.thecollector.com/king-xerxes-i/)
This view of the vain, pompous, cruel and heedless king gives us a clearer picture as we read Esther. We can see starkly who she is up against when she goes in to see him and make her request. He is the king of everything from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces in all, including the province of Judah. His word can bring a people to their knees, a flick of his wrist can condemn someone.
That picture of this man is filled in with great color and verve in Esther. As the story begins, Ahaseurus has invited the princes and noblemen of his kingdom to a feast for the purpose of showing the “riches of his glorious kingdom” and the “honor of his excellent majesty”. And how long did this celebration go on? Not for a night, or a week or even a month. His arrogance is on display for 180 days (See Esther 1: 3,4). Added glamour and opulence were shown in a “feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days.”
This is a snapshot of his character and the extravagance that surrounded him:
6 Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.
7 And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king (See Esther 1: 6,7).
On the seventh day of the feast where all were gathered, Ahaseurus was drunk, and asked in some sloppy merriment for Vashti, his queen to be brought to him “for she was fair to look on” (Esther 1:11).
He wanted to show off her beauty and Vashti did an astonishing thing—she refused to come, angering this mighty and terrible king. How dare she do this and why? Some scholars have looked at this scripture and asked a question. The king wanted “to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.” Was this only in her crown? In other words, was she being asked to appear naked?
Others have suggested, that the women were usually at the beginning of these feasts and then left when they became drunken brawls. Was she refusing out of her personal sense of ethics to appear? Did she feel used, as if Ahaseurus was saying, “You’ve seen the beauty and glory of all my kingdom, now see the beauty of my wife?
Vashti’s refusal to come has made her a bit of a feminist icon, but she surely must have known what would be at stake with this quixotic, mean-spirted husband. He saw her as his possession and in his mind, now, he had been mocked by her refusal to come down in front of everyone. This affront could not be disregarded.
The king asked his wise men what he should do, and one answered that, “Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus.
For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported (Esther 1: 16,17). Ah yes. They were worried that Vashti’s independence from the king’s command might be contagious, loosening a husband’s possession and authority over his wife.
There’s another snap shot for us. We see in this moment the place of women in that ancient Persian kingdom. Vashti is removed from being queen and her royal estate would be given to another. We have a glimpse of women’s place in ancient Persia.
So now, Vashti was gone, and the king must find a new queen, so the “fair young virgins” were sought for the king. They gathered together in the palace for a year of purification and then were brought before the king to see who would please him. How difficult to be asked to please a king like this.
Among this group of fair virgins was a stunningly beautiful girl named Esther. Having lost both of her parents, she was being raised by a man named Mordecai who took her as his daughter, because her father had been his uncle. They were Jewish, and Mordecai’s ancestors had been carried away from Jerusalem when the Babylonians destroyed it.
“Mordecai’s genealogy in the second chapter of the Book of Esther is given as a descendant of a Benjaminite named Kish. As “Kish” was also the name of the father of King Saul, another Benjaminite, the Talmud accords Mordecai the status of a descendant of the first King of Israel.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordecai#:~:text=Mordecai’s%20genealogy%20in%20the%20second,the%20first%20King%20of%20Israel.
When Esther is taken into the palace during her purification, “Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her,” and he warned Esther not to reveal that she was Jewish. (Esther 2: 11). When it was her turn to go before the king, “the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti” (Esther 2: 17). This is an important moment for all the Jewish people, and the next event is like unto it, equally important.
Mordecai, who sat in the king’s gate, discovered that two of the chamberlains, were angry with the king and wanted to kill him. Through Esther he was able to warn the king of the plot and both were “hanged on a tree” (v 25). The Lord has moved two of His children into place for a very great rescue.
Now into the scene, enters the villain, Haman, whom the king had elevated to a place higher than all the princes. All commanded and reverenced Haman, but Mordecai, as a covenant keeper could not bow to anyone but God. He refused to bow or reverence Haman, and for this Haman was infuriated and revengeful. He wanted to despise and crush, not only Mordecai, but all of the Jews, and said to the king: “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them” (Esther 3:8).
He is asking Ahaseurus to have all the Jews killed throughout the entire vast kingdom of Persia. This isn’t some local group or neighborhood club of covenant people. It will be a decree for all Jews to be annihilated wherever they are, which would, of course, include all of Judah.
Now, we’ve seen Ahaseurus act willfully and rashly before, so know that these consequences are real. Since Haman is basically asking him to wipe out all the Jews everywhere, this could have been another of those tipping points in history where Jehovah worship could have been erased from our historical world and impact us today. No scriptures, no place for the birth of Christianity, a people gone.
Haman made the proposition sweeter by saying that ten thousand talents of silver would be delivered to bring into the king’s treasury. People say that this is the first time anti-Semitism is used as an excuse to liquidate a people. When the Assyrians and Babylonians crushed Israel and Judah, it wasn’t specifically about their being part of the covenant people. They were mostly in the way. But in this moment, this attack upon the Jews, which were the only people left who were still self-identifying with the covenant, was directed specifically at their Jewishness, and the idea of murder to get gain certainly was a crucial motivation. We hate you because you are Jew. There’s a refrain that would go down through history and repeat itself endlessly.
Murdering Jews and then stealing their property has been a recurring theme in history. The Holocaust, of course, jumps to mind, but that is not the only time Jews have been killed or expelled just because they are Jews. You can find long lists of their expulsions. Take the 15th century alone: Jews were forcibly expelled and their property seized from Austria, Bavaria, Passau, Ravenna, Spain, Naples, Nuremberg.
The king requires positively to Haman’s request, which is another key to the king’s character. In the book of Esther, it does not appear that the king is particularly interested to investigate the matter or find out who these people are that Haman wants to murder. Instead, “letters [with the king’s seal]were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey” (Esther 3:13). Here’s a note of irony. The posts go our “And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.”
That reminds me of a time when we were at the family dinner table with all the children present, and we told them about some tragic thing that had happened. One said, “Oooh, that’s too bad. Pass the rolls.”
“When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;
“And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and afasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4: 1,3)
Esther did now know why Mordecai was in sackcloth and ashes, so she sent for him, and he gave her a copy of the decree and made a request that she should go into the king and plead for her people.
At first, Esther hesitated, for this thing seemed impossible to her. She said, “All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days” (Esther 4:11).
Mordecai answered, “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews…who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 13,14). What a statement that reverberates through our souls and is in fact personal to each of us as children of God. Why have you come to the kingdom for such a time as this? We’ll explore this more in a moment, but let’s finish this story of Esther.
Esther answered Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16. Esther is going to put her life on the line to serve her people, and though this is the only book in the Bible that doesn’t mention the name of God, she is clearly acting out of faith in Him.
Was Esther trembling in fear as she donned her royal robe and went in to see the king? Would he hold out that golden sceptre? He did. “Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom” (Esther 5:3).
Her request was that she could hold a banquet for the king and Haman the next day. Haman went home joyfully, until he saw Mordecai sitting at the gate, and again, his indignation was stirred. He told his wife and friends that he had obtained riches and elevation in the kingdom, “Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (v. 13). His grudge and hatred defined him. His wife advised him to build a gallows 75 feet high on which to hang Mordecai.
That night the king couldn’t sleep, undoubtedly influenced by the fasting and prayers of the people, and he asked the book of chronicles of Persia be read to him. There he learned that Mordecai had saved him from two of his chamberlains who had hoped to murder him.
“And the king said [to Haman] , What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him.”
The irony becomes thick here, because, in his blindness, Haman thinks that he is the man the king hopes to honor and makes this lavish suggestion.
“Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head:
“And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour” (Esther 6: 8,9]
Then comes the kicker.
“Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoke (Esther 6: 10).
His wife and friends answer: “If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him”. The hammer is beginning to fall. The one who made the trap, will be the one who falls into it. These words are ringing in Haman’s mind when he attends the banquet that undoes him. With this poetic justice, it almost feels like a Shakespeare play, where pieces are moved into place to hang the villain by his own rope.
That’s not just an expression in this story. At that banquet, Esther tells the king: “For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish” (Esther 7:4). The king wanted to know who had the heart to do this, and Esther answered that it was “the wicked Haman.” The king was in wrath and went into his palace, while Haman pled for his life. When the king returned, Haman had fallen in fear on Esther’s bed, still pleading. “Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house?” (Esther 7:8). Haman was hung on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.
The king placed Mordecai over the house of Haman, and it is interesting that in “the name ‘Mordecai’ is of uncertain origin but is considered identical to the name Marduka or Marduku, attested as the name of up to four Persian court officials in thirty texts” during this time frame. ( See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordecai#:~:text=Mordecai’s%20genealogy%20in%20the%20second,the%20first%20King%20of%20Israel.)
Esther asked the king to revoke the edict against the Jews to save her people, but according to a quirkiness in their law, a king’s order signed with the king’s seal could not be reversed.
The king did, however, “sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries:
“Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey” (Esther 8: 10,11).
“The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour” (Esther 8:16).
The Jews instituted the holiday Purim to remember and celebrate their rescue from destruction.
Of course, the story of Esther has implications for us today. We see, for instance, that truth and goodness will ultimately win out, even if evil looks powerful and reigns for a season. This is important to remember so that we don’t sink into despair before the ravaging world before us just now or drop like a bag of potatoes on the train tracks.
It is also clear this could have been a complete Jewish genocide if the Lord hadn’t stepped in and put particular, courageous players in place—namely Esther and Mordecai. The Lord is in the details and knows precisely who we are and what we will do in our time frame. The entire history of the world has been shaped by the individuals God has sent to be born in their own time and place. Your birth and circumstances are not accidental, but in the hands of the most Intelligent of them all—God.
Think of Mordecai’s words to Esther: “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
So much is implied in that statement, including the Lord’s perfect foreknowledge of Esther. She had been designated from before this world was to redeem her people, and in this way her role is Christlike. What about you—and me? Did we come to the kingdom [or the world] for such a time as this? The prophets tell us that we are in a good, but perilous time, and we only need to look around to see that is true. We are so familiar now with President Russell M. Nelson’s counsel on this: “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” (See https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/04/revelation-for-the-church-revelation-for-our-lives?lang=eng
So we, who were born now, were specially reserved for those times and we accepted certain responsibilities and missions in that pre-mortal sphere, that are now largely forgotten by us.
President Kimball said:
“Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. You are accountable for those things which long ago were expected of you…” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women”, October 1979).
Neal A Maxwell wrote:
“Brothers and sisters, the degree of detail involved in the covenants and promises we participated in [pre-mortality] may be a much more highly customized thing than many of us surmise. Yet, on occasion even with our forgetting, there may be inklings.”
Neal A. Maxwell, “Meeting the Challenges of Today” Oct 10, 1978. Italics added.
We are going to reference Elder Maxwell extensively here. He said:
“The combined doctrine of God’s foreknowledge and of foreordination is one of the doctrinal roads least traveled by, yet these clearly underline how very long and how perfectly God has loved us and known us with our individual needs and capacities.
“Yet, though foreordination is a difficult doctrine, it has been given to us by the living God, through living prophets, for a purpose. It can actually increase our understanding of how crucial this mortal estate is and it can encourage us in further good works. This precious doctrine can also help us to go the second mile because we are doubly called.”
Elder Maxwell continued, “In some ways, our second estate, in relationship to our first estate, is like agreeing in advance to surgery. Then the anesthetic of forgetfulness settles in upon us. Just as doctors do not de-anesthetize a patient in the midst of authorized surgery to ask him again if the surgery should be continued, so, after divine tutoring, we agreed once to come here and to submit ourselves to certain experiences and have no occasion to revoke that decision.
“Of course, when we mortals try to comprehend, rather than merely accept, foreordination, the result is one in which finite minds futilely try to comprehend omniscience. A full understanding is impossible; we simply have to trust in what the Lord has told us, knowing enough, however, to realize that we are not dealing with guarantees from God but extra opportunities—and heavier responsibilities. If those responsibilities are in some ways linked to past performance or to past capabilities, it should not surprise us.”
Elder Maxwell notes:
“The Lord has said,
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. [D&C 130: 20–21]
This is an eternal law, brothers and sisters—it prevailed in the first estate as well as in the second. It should not disconcert us, therefore, that the Lord has indicated that he chose some individuals before they came here to carry out certain assignments and, hence, these individuals have been foreordained to those assignments. [Joseph Fielding Smith said:] “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of Heaven before the world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council” (Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365).
“Foreordination is like any other blessing—it is a conditional bestowal subject to our faithfulness,” Elder Maxwell said.“Prophesies foreshadow events without determining the outcomes, because of a divine foreseeing of outcomes. So foreordination is a conditional bestowal of a role, a responsibility, or a blessing which, likewise, foresees but does not fix the outcome…
“The doctrine pertains not only to the foreordination of the prophets, but to each of us. God—in his precise assessment, beforehand, as to those who will respond to the words of the Savior and the prophets—is a part of the plan. From the Savior’s own lips came these words: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14). Similarly the Savior said, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:27). And further in this dispensation, he declared, ‘And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts” (D&C 29:7).’
“This responsiveness,” said Elder Maxwell, “could not have been gauged without divine foreknowledge concerning all of us mortals and our response, one way or another, to the gospel. God’s foreknowledge is so perfect it leaves the realm of prediction and enters the realm of prophecy.
“The foreseeing of those who would accept the gospel in mortality, gladly and with alacrity, is based upon their parallel responsiveness in the premortal world. No wonder the Lord could say as he did to Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; . . . and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations’ (Jeremiah 1:5). Paul, when writing to the saints in Rome, said, ‘God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew’ (Romans 11:2). Paul also said of God that ‘he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:4).
Elder Maxwell said, “The Lord, who was able to say to his disciples, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the ship,’ knew beforehand there was a multitude of fishes there (John 21:6). If he knew beforehand the movements and whereabout of fishes in the little Sea of Tiberias, should it offend us that he knows beforehand which mortals will come into the gospel net?
“It does no violence even to our frail human logic to observe that there cannot be a grand plan of salvation for all mankind, unless there is also a plan for each individual. The salvational sum will reflect all its parts. Once the believer acknowledges that the past, present, and future are before God simultaneously—even though we do not understand how—then the doctrine of foreordination may be seen somewhat more clearly. For instance, it was necessary for God to know how the economic difficulties and crop failures of the Joseph Smith, Senior, family in New England would move this special family to Cumorah country where the Book of Mormon plates were buried. God’s plans could scarcely have so unfolded if—willy-nilly—the Smiths had been born Manchurians and if, meanwhile, the plates had been buried in Belgium!
“Quite understandably, the manner in which things unfold seems to us mortals to be so natural. Our not knowing what is to come (in the perfect way that God knows) thus preserves our free agency completely. When, through a process we call inspiration and revelation, we are permitted at times to tap that divine databank, we are accessing, for the narrow purposes at hand, the knowledge of God. No wonder that experience is so unforgettable!”
So each of us is left with a question. If I was given a mission before I came to earth for my time and place, how can I find what that is? Certainly it is a quest we are to be about, and we can assume that the Lord has tutored and prepared us for the work he gives us. It also means our lives have purpose, even if we sometimes can’t see it. No mission is small when it involves seeking to bless and lift eternal spirits. Everything on this world is temporary and will fade away, but the people we seek to serve our eternal.
Said Joseph F. Smith, speaking of the certain foreknowledge that Jesus must have had in order to volunteer for his mission
If Christ knew beforehand, so did we. But in coming here, we forgot all, that our agency might be free indeed, to choose good or evil, that we might merit the reward of our own choice and conduct. But by the power of the Spirit, in the redemption of Christ, through obedience, we often catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul, which lights up our whole being as with the glory of our former home. [Yes, the spark. Someday the whole flame.] [“Spirit Memories,” GD, pp. 13–14] We begin to have inklings of who we are and a sense of something that calls to us. You were sent for this time.
The Spirit of God speaks to our spirit, our deepest, most eternal self, and begins to teach us. The Prophet Joseph said, “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us…are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all; And those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies. [Teachings,p. 355]. Truman Madsen suggested that this communication directly to our spirits is like a laser beam.
Truman Madsen said, “Elder Parley P. Pratt, who gave this considerable thought, once wrote that it is when we are off-guard that some of these insights spring up unbidden. You need to pay attention to them and try to remember them because they are fleeting and elusive. But, said he, for example, at night as you are approaching quiet slumber, when the outward organs are resting, then “some faint outlines, some confused and half-defined recollections of that heavenly world” may come, ‘and those endearing scenes of their former estate” enable spirit to commune with spirit. “Soul blends with soul, in all the raptures of mutual, pure and eternal love’ (see “Dreams,” Key to the Science of Theology [Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, Co., 1891], p. 126).
The Lord wants to talk to us and reveal who we are and what we can do. We come to know in our Spirits, as if we are riding on light. Truman Madsen again said, “I bear testimony that there is locked in you, under amnesia, power greater than you can presently imagine. And I bear my testimony that if it is true, then you don’t need to leave this room and go anywhere else to investigate, for it has reverberated in your souls.”
That’s all for today and thanks for being with us. Next week we will study Job. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces this podcast.
Now put with that the lines from Eliza R. Snow that we sing and feel, “Oft times a secret something whisper[s], ‘You’re a stranger here.’” That’s what a friend of mine calls “celestial homesickness.” But it is also, I will add, a feeling that we are here on purpose—that we haven’t just wandered “from a more exalted sphere,” but that we are where we ought to be (see “O My Father,” Hymns, 1985, no. 292). That sometimes comes through in a sense that we have seen it or felt it or experienced it before. We are at home at sea. And so I suggest that, as a premise, rather unique to our tradition, recognition, spiritually speaking, is indeed recognition, that some discovery is recovery, that recollection is the recollection of images from before.
Said the Prophet Joseph again,
All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all [like a laser beam, I suggest]; And those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies. [Teachings,p. 355].
Now from Lorenzo Snow,
We were selected, ordained, and set apart there [Where? In the prior life] according to our worthiness and preparation and training to come forth when our preparation fitted clearly into the great plan of our Father. And as we live worthy [and perhaps not otherwise] the Holy Spirit brings this knowledge to this body, and that is the only way we become acquainted with the knowledge of our spiritual understanding. This body must get acquainted with former pre-existent experiences through being revealed to, and made a part of, this flesh. [Journal of John Whitaker, 6 April 1894]
Said Joseph F. Smith,
If Christ knew beforehand [and he’s talking about the certain foreknowledge that Jesus must have had in order to volunteer for his mission], so did we. But in coming here, we forgot all, that our agency might be free indeed, to choose good or evil, that we might merit the reward of our own choice and conduct. But by the power of the Spirit, in the redemption of Christ, through obedience, we often catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul, which lights up our whole being as with the glory of our former home. [Yes, the spark. Someday the whole flame.] [“Spirit Memories,” GD, pp. 13–14]
Elder Parley P. Pratt, who gave this considerable thought, once wrote that it is when we are off-guard that some of these insights spring up unbidden. You need to pay attention to them and try to remember them because they are fleeting and elusive. But, said he, for example, at night as you are approaching quiet slumber, when the outward organs are resting, then “some faint outlines, some confused and half-defined recollections of that heavenly world” may come, “and those endearing scenes of their former estate” enable spirit to commune with spirit. “Soul blends with soul, in all the raptures of mutual, pure and eternal love” (see “Dreams,” Key to the Science of Theology [Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, Co., 1891], p. 126).
I bear my testimony that the ways of knowing are true. I bear testimony that there is locked in you, under amnesia, power greater than you can presently imagine. And I bear my testimony that if it is true, then you don’t need to leave this room and go anywhere else to investigate, for it has reverberated in your souls.