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What if joy were a scriptural word that described the emotion felt when receiving light? When “the man” in section 88:52-55, likened unto God, visited his servants in his many kingdoms, he described their encounter as “beholding the joy of my countenance,” but then when repeating the experience, he says the servants were “made glad with the light of the countenance of the Lord” in verses 56 and 58,[i] thus possibly equating joy with light.
“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” Alma 36:20
“…joy because of the light of Christ unto life.” Alma 28:14
When King Lamoni had fainted, Ammon knew some things about what he was experiencing. He said,
“…the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul…” Alma 19:6
This infusion of joy resulted from the light originating as the glory of God. This glory of God is detailed clearly in scripture:
“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” DC 93:36
What is this infusion process? Why does it bring joy? Is it possible then to feel joy even when under awful stress or in pain? How can I enhance and perpetuate this joy? Is there a plan?
The plan simply stated says, “Man is that he might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25) Though simple, this may be one of the most profound philosophical, theological, and perhaps physics statements about man’s nature, future, and divine purpose.
Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants is intriguing with so many puzzling verses about light, Christ, grace, man’s eternal nature, truth, agency, Satan’s methods, etc. But this section appears to be designed to teach the plan of happiness, applications for living it, and relationships between Christ, His Father, and my parenting.
Before detailing some of this amazing account of the “Plan of Happiness” it might be helpful to note what appears as a pattern revealed in an earlier section. Here the Lord says,
“… the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created…” DC 29:30
This first=last, last=first is a chiasm pattern recognized in short scripture passages as this form:
But, it is rarely appreciated as a pattern for the “all things” as this verse indicates. Furthermore, this verse, it appears, is in the center of the section, which can also be seen as a chiasm of ideas, concepts, and events from the past and future. Pairing them in chiastic form gives commentary and explanation for many things in this section. But the use of these patterns for study and insight in this section is another story.[ii] I want to use this as a study pattern in section 93 where it also appears to apply. A simplified overview of the concepts of the chiasm might look like this:
- A) Verse 1 Conditions and Promise
- B) 2-22. Divine parenting model
- C) 23-40) Eternal physics of man and how he progresses or digresses-Light & Truth
- b) 41-50. Parenting admonitions to mortals
- a) 51-53. Conditions and Promise
The chiasm begins and ends by connecting the reception of divine promises with our faithfulness in stewardship. But it is the center of any chiasm that reveals the writer’s main focus thereby pointing to the foundational ideas elaborated in the rest of the poetic format, so let’s start in the middle of the section without losing the connection to and between stewardship and specific promises.
Chiastic SECTION C – “The eternal nature of man and how he progresses.” – Physics
The chiastic center of this section seems to be DC 93:30-31:
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
But how can truth “act for itself” and have that action be the foundation of existence unless “truth” is more than we think. Truth is coupled with “intelligence” in the capacity for independent action. Then expanding outward in the chiasm to matching verses 29 and 32, intelligence is defined as “the light of truth” and equated with “man” in the beginning.
This “light of truth” (v29) or “spirit of truth” (v23), is our eternal-part that is co-existent with God.[iii] Our spirit birth probably gave us the individuality and possibilities to progress as described in verse 27-31. This plan centralizes on the necessity of receiving additional light and truth through our agency or choice to act.
Verse 24 has been puzzling in seeming to define truth as the knowledge of a thing’s past present and future.
“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” DC 93:24
Truth seems to be interchangeable with other words in scripture as we have seen in vs 29 and 32 as “man”. Then in DC 84 truth is used as a name for Christ as He said in John 14:6, but who is full of truth in John 1:14, or is light in DC 84
“For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” DC 84:45
If truth then is used as a word describing part of the nature of both God and us, is our full nature or identity, the knowledge of our past, present, and future? God’s observation, in the mortal present, cements the past modifiable only through repentance and ordinances, which then spawns possibility for potential futures. So, through this lens, verses 24-32 are telling us that our nature, in eternity, is determined by how we act under God’s observation during the lens of mortality. Note a comment by Jehovah, who is omniscient, as He speaks through the mouth of the angel in observing Abraham’s sacrifice:
“…for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son” Genesis 22:12
Until the “now” of Abraham’s choice the known was not established as “the reality” or truth of Abraham’s developing character. It existed only as a possibility, even probability existent in his nature. His observed experience established which inherent possibility had become THE reality, the “now”, and thereby enabled the future possibilities that otherwise could not exist. Once at the judgement bar when the mortal observatory is finished our “truth” will then be cemented.[iv] But until then our nature or truth is being forged by our choices and resultant actions. We should not, however place God on our sequential time-line of mortal perception. God knows the end from the beginning, not because He predicts but because He sees that which is always present before Him.[v]
Standing between two large mirrors produces a metaphorical eternity as the reflections reflect back upon themselves, ad infinitum. If the mirror in back is the past and the one in front the future, changing the back mirror (the past) also changes the front mirror (the future). Thus, through the mercy of the atonement in this probationary mortality, by repenting or through vicarious ordinance work, the past can be changed by action in the present, thus securing new possible futures[vi].
So, when Father says, “I will remember them no more” it isn’t because He forgets or suspends His omniscience, it would be because, after mortality, that mistaken or sinful action ceases to exist as part of our truth.
Since in our sphere of action, we are only able to experience time linearly, psychological time and Satan’s lies to us about our possibilities mentally trap us. Psychological time is defined as dwelling on the past, resulting in depression or pride, or dwelling on the future leading to anxiety, worry, or fear. Note verse 25 in the sequence.
“And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.” DC 93:25
More or less than what; more or less than the knowledge of one’s past, present, AND future. For example, “Look at you, look at what you have done. You will never amount to anything. You are worthless….” “You are your past,” isolates you from both present and future and is therefore “the less,” the lie! Or, “You could never do that or be worth anything, it is too difficult, and you could never be capable,” or “Just who do you think you are?” Again, anything more or less than,” as they are,” and “as they were,” and “as they are to come “, is a lie. It is true that a damaged unrepented past prunes our future choices, rendering some possibilities impossible. But under the power of the atonement, repentance literally changes the past and re-enables those pruned possibilities. Satan’s lies appear in many forms. Note the Lord’s additional reassurance through both Paul and Joseph Smith:
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”[vii]
Satan promises that we can sow without reaping and reap without sowing. In other words, I can do anything I want, now, without any future consequences and, I don’t need to do anything now to get what I want in the future. By so lying, he devalues the power of the present by saying the future has no connection with my present choices or future hopes. That is why so many keep doing the same things over and over, expecting some different future result.
The truth is that the present is really the only time I can act and by acting or choosing I determine my future. In fact, psychological time distracts us, even robs us of the power of the present, the power to act, to choose, to feel and receive the light available, resulting in joy. I cannot act in the past; I cannot feel joy yesterday when there was no light. I can learn from the memories but cannot re-experience the past without the present, the now. I cannot act in the future or feel joy tomorrow until it becomes the present. It remains and always will be a series of possibilities, even illusions hinging on my actions in the present.
“Behold, here (where you can act) is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.” DC 93:31
Equating agency (for which we fought to preserve) with condemnation may seem contradictory unless we understand that as beings of light infused with the light of Christ, we are created to crescendo in our reception of light unto a “fullness”.
“And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.” DC 93:32
A continual reception of light is part of our becoming all that we were created to be. To stop, is to be damned and seems to result in a spiritual entropy of sorts.
“And they that will harden their hearts (shut out reception of light), to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” Alma 12:11
“And (without the physical body) our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil.” 2 Nephi 9
So, this process of becoming like Father also requires that a material body be permanently fused to the spirit of light.
“For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.” DC 93:33-34
A statement made by Joseph Smith in the King Follett discourse could help explain the necessity of this process.
“Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory.” Joseph Smith, TPJS p352
Does our physical body then, allow us to retain the light we are receiving so that an aggregated fullness is possible once we are resurrected and the union between spirit and body is permanent like unto Father?
“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” DC 93:36
So how do I go about receiving this “light” (whereby I can experience joy) along with being “soft hearted” or willing/ humble/ receptive to the Holy Spirit?
“And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And everyone that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.” DC 84:46-47
The Lord adds:
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” DC 50:24 (See 17-26, 28 for context.)
So, the plan seems simple: we begin both as light and with light, then we hearken to the Holy Spirit and the scriptures to receive more light, and we obey or are true to the light we have to thereby receive more light. Because we are subject to deception and appetite we also repent of mistakes and sin wherein, through Christ’s atonement, during our probationary time, our past is literally changed so that our future remains bright. But following the plan remains, for us, the same challenge we have always faced before birth, though the context is changed due to the veil.
“Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.” DC 93:38
But seen here is the necessity to continue the investment so as to receive additional light and truth.
“Light and truth forsake that evil one.” DC 93:37
Therefore, if one is not actively seeking to receive light and truth by which joy comes and progression follows, we become subject to the evil one, divine condemnation results.
Chiastic SECTIONS B – PARENTING
But Satan cannot be blamed for all the darkness and evil in the world when he has no power over our power to act/agency. So, what is in this section about his operational methodology?
“And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.” DC 93:39
All sin is selfishness but leads to the loss of the sinner’s light, part of their intelligence, and thus makes them progressively stupid to goodness. Multiply that reality with the perpetuating of parental traditions intergenerationally, and darkness crescendos. Satan may not be given to temp little children, but he can their parents.
So, the plan for joy must include this divine directive to parents less they become instruments of darkness:
“But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.” DC 93:40
So, it is not enough to teach your children, you must teach your children to teach their children light and truth. This is the pattern clarified in verses 12-13, 19-20 which we will yet examine. This section ends with a stern scolding to each member of the first presidency for his omission as a parent. These include:
- “You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments” v42
- “Set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house” v43-44
- “Your family must needs repent and forsake some things, and give more earnest heed unto your sayings” v48
Other specific scriptural injunctions place responsibility squarely on parental heads.[viii]
It is interesting to match the earlier section in the chiasm about the relationship between the Father and the Son and how the process of light or grace is gifted and crescendoed. Could this be a universal parenting method we should adopt in our relationship with our children?
“And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world; And that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one— The Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men. I was in the world and received of my Father, and the works of him were plainly manifest.” DC 93:2-5
This divine Father and Son were so united, but how? The Son was incrementally given all that the Father was, and since the Son did all his father commanded, even when separated by mortality, their relationship was necessarily founded on obedience, deep love and respect forged, at least, by working together in the creation of this universe![ix] But the process of receiving this fullness is the purpose of including it here as matching commentary to how we need to father our children.
“And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;” DC 93:12
This grace seems to be another word used interchangeably with light as a divine endowment, which Christ then gave to others as He served as Father’s divine instrument. This wasn’t just service but divinely directed instrumentation. Father worked through the Son to bless all mankind. By so doing he received this light/grace incrementally until He had a fullness.
“And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;” DC 93:13
What if we as parents were to engage our children’s agency in opportunities which required parental resources[x] that once used by them to help others, became theirs? Then following this pattern towards independence and then interdependence, they would be fully capable as an adult to then parent their own children.
This is illustrated in the next verses until it is clarified as a path for all of us to follow.
“For 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.” DC 93:20
As we seek partnership with the Father and then allow Him to work through us as parents by giving to our children that which we receive and are instructed to bestow on them, Father adds to the endowment until we too receive fullness. They too must then continue to cross this intergenerational bridge through grace for grace.
Chiastic SECTIONS A – CONDITIONS AND PROMISES
The next matching sections of the chiasm pair the promises with fulfilling our stewardships. The promises consist of all that is included in:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;” DC 93:1
For such an eternal promise of divine unity, we will be allowed this process of refinement until our cup is sufficiently deep to hold all that the father hath. This family context described by one LDS psychologist as:
“Your deepest joys and most difficult trials will come from those to whom you are either married or to whom you give birth.” Sterling Ellsworth
This familial synergy, our parenting, even continues beyond the end of our mortal life. Paul’s summary at the end of Hebrews 11 explained the reality that faith was required for all those noble ones who had passed away because they had died without receiving the completion of the divine promises made to them, said:
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them…
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” Heb 11:13, 40
Paul seemed to know something of the process of parenting that absolutely required this compensating faith to meet the inherent difficulty. Faith adds to belief some devoted action. What actions can those dead have on their posterity? This “something” is elaborated, in the same language used by Paul, by Joseph Smith in our day:
“For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also…” DC 128:18
There are three parties here: We, the living; they, our unendowed dead; and other endowed dead. About which Joseph explained:
“We cannot be perfect without the fathers. We must have revelation from them…”Joseph Smith, TPJS p 338
Parenting doesn’t end with death as we continue to teach our children to teach their children, “grace for grace, and from grace to grace” following the model of the Father and the Son. Fathers and mothers continue to minister to us, care for us, and reveal to us those things needed for our eternal lives. Our success then fulfills the promises made to them in divine covenant relationships like the Abrahamic promises.[xi] We don’t pray to our ancestors nor do they often talk to us directly.[xii] To maintain our mortal proving ground, they speak through the revelatory medium of the Holy Spirit as do all who “speak with the tongue of angels.”[xiii]
“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.” 2 Nephi 32:1-3
As we work to exalt others, the very work allows Christ to exalt us! We cannot be perfect without our children nor they without us. Father can change us and our fathers better by working through us and them, than by working on us. That is the joy/light filled plan. Man is designed for light, which yields joy, now and eternally. “Man IS that he might have joy” … that he might have light and feel joy even until the fulness!
[i] Doctrine and Covenants 88:50-58 (D&C)
[ii] Please see a previous article at: https://meridianmag.wpengine.com/how-chiasmus-can-help-us-unlock-one-of-the-most-important-discourses-ever-given/
[iii] TPJS p 353 footnote 8
[iv] See a previous article: https://meridianmag.wpengine.com/discovering-the-atonement-behind-the-razor-wire/
DC 130:7where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.
[vi] Alma 42:13, 22-24
13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.
22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth eback men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be fudged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
[vii] Galatians 6:7; see also D&C 6:33
- “Teach them …to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands.” DC 68:25
- “Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me; For it is given unto them even as I will, according to mine own pleasure, that great things may be required at the hand of their fathers.” DC 29:47-48
- “And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” Mosiah 4:14-15
[ix] DC 93:6-11; Colossians 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
[x] Testimony, money, knowledge, education, etc.
[xi] Abraham 2:8-11 My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.
- And I will make of thee a greatnation, and
- I willbless thee above measure, and
- make thy name great among all nations, and
- thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee,
- that in their hands they shall bear this ministry andPriesthood unto all nations; And
- I willbless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and
- shall rise up and bless thee, as theirfather; And
- I willbless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and
- in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thyseed (that is, thy Priesthood), …shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.
- for I give unto thee a promise that thisright shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body)
- Other promises are found in the footnote to these verses
[xii] President Dallin H. Oaks, Conf. Oct. 10/98 When I was young, I thought such personal appearances were the only meaning of the ministering of angels. As a young holder of the Aaronic Priesthood, I did not think I would see an angel, and I wondered what such appearances had to do with the Aaronic Priesthood.
But the ministering of angels can also be unseen. Angelic messages can be delivered by a voice or merely by thoughts or feelings communicated to the mind. President John Taylor described “the action of the angels, or messengers of God, upon our minds, so that the heart can conceive … revelations from the eternal world” (Gospel Kingdom,sel. G. Homer Durham , 31).
Nephi described three manifestations of the ministering of angels when he reminded his rebellious brothers that (1) they had “seen an angel,” (2) they had “heard his voice from time to time,” and (3) also that an angel had “spoken unto [them] in a still small voice” though they were “past feeling” and “could not feel his words” (1 Ne. 17:45). The scriptures contain many other statements that angels are sent to teach the gospel and bring men to Christ (see Heb. 1:14; Alma 39:19; Moro. 7:25, 29, 31–32; D&C 20:35). Most angelic communications are felt or heard rather than seen.
[xiii] 2 Nephi 31:13-14; 32:2