"There is so much more in the Book of Mormon than we have yet discovered. The book's divine architecture and rich furnishings will increasingly unfold to our view, further qualifying it as 'a marvelous work and a wonder' ...The Book of Mormon is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. All the rooms in this mansion need to be explored..."
-Neal A Maxwell

Monday, September 8, 2014

Prophets as symbols of Christ: The Brother of Jared and the Mount of Transfiguration

The Brother of Jared Sees the Finger of the Lord, by Arnold Friberg

In previous posts, I have suggested how EtherNephi₁ and Nephi₂ may have served as types of Christ; as part of their prophetic missions to testify of Him, each experienced an event in his life that closely mirrored an event in the life of the Savior. In this post, I propose how the brother of Jared might also qualify as a symbol of the Messiah. The following juxtaposition will compare the brother of Jared's vision of the premortal Christ at Mount Shelem and the experience Christ Himself had at the Mount of Transfiguration. The facets of this parallel, I’m finding, are seemingly endless. What I present here, then, will merely be a summary of three of them, each to be examined in more detail later. Future posts will also explore other additional dimensions. 

I will not begin with a recap of each story, as it is assumed the reader will already have a passing familiarity with both. If such is not the case with one/and or the other, the story I reference in the Book of Mormon can be found in the Book of Ether, chapters 2–3, 4:1-2, and chapter 6; the KJV account of the Lord’s transfiguration is in Matt. 16:13-1917:1-9Mark 9:2-10, and Luke 9:28-36.  

I. Departure

The experience each man had at his respective mountaintop was in preparation for a voyage, of sorts, he was about to embark upon. In the case of the Lord, notes Talmage, His voyage would begin on Calvary’s cross: 
The Crucifixion, by Harry Anderson, detail
“The record states that the visitants [Moses and Elias], who appeared in glory, ‘spake of his decease which [Jesus] should accomplish at Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:31). It is significant that the decease, which the Lord should accomplish, not the death that He should suffer or die, was the subject of that exalted communion. The Greek word of which ‘decease’ appears as the English equivalent in many of the MSS. of the Gospels is one connoting exdous or departure. (James E Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Chapter 23, endnote 6, emphasis added)

An “exodus” or “departure” rather aptly describes what the brother of Jared was about to undertake as well. And when the time for each “departure” arrived… 

The Brother of Jared’s vision
The Transfiguration
“...and it came to pass that… [the Jaredites] got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.” (Ether 6:4, emphasis added)“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”  (Luke 23:46, emphasis added)   

Jaredite Barges, by Robert T. Barrett
Recalling what I’ve previously suggested regarding the possibly deliberate scarcity of certain words or phrases in the Book of Mormon, it may be worth noting that the word ‘commend’ in any form appears only once more in the entire volume—and even then it’s used as a synonym for ‘exhort,’ not ‘entrust.’ Given all the journeys, battles, missions, migrations, emigrations, escapes, escapades and martyrdoms detailed in the Book of Mormon, there was ample opportunity elsewhere to remark that an individual or group had commend[ed]” himself or themselves “unto the Lord [his or] their God.” 

The usage of two other words a few verses later in Ether 6 may be of interest as well: 

And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them… (Ether 6:10, emphases added)

That may well serve as an allegory of Christ’s victory over the grave following his “departure, given that ‘monster’ and ‘whale’ are both used elsewhere in the scriptures as metaphors for death:

O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit. (2 Nephi 9:10, emphasis added)

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40, emphasis added)

II. Small stones

What or who each man brought with him to the mountain is the salient component of this symbolism as a whole, though it may be a little difficult to see why at first: 

The Brother of Jareds vision
The Transfiguration
And it came to pass that the brother of Jared… went forth unto the mount… and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord… (Ether 3:1, emphasis added)And… Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (Matthew 17:1, emphasis added)

Brother of Jared Sees the Finger of the Lord
by Robert Barrett, detail

Now remember what Peter’s name means. As noted in footnote ‘a’ for John 1:42 (LDS edition of KJV), ‘Cephas’ (the Aramaic equivalent of ‘Peter’) is Greek for “stone” or, more precisely, “pebble.”

Let that sink in for a moment: In each story, small stones (or at least one) were brought to the top of the mountain for a very special purpose. 

Each group of “stones” then underwent a significant transformation. In the case of the brother of Jared, the sixteen stones were presented to the Lord to be infused with light. Perhaps something similar might be said of they who accompanied the Savior: 

The Transfiguration, by Carl Bloch, detail
“On the mount, the Savior, Moses, and Elias (Elijah) gave the promised keys of the priesthood to Peter, James, and John (HC 3:387), which enabled these brethren to carry forth the work of the kingdom on the earth after the departure of Jesus. These keys were later given to all of the Twelve.” (LDS Bible Dictionary: Transfiguration, Mount of)

This wouldn’t be the only instance of the Apostles (and the keys they hold) being equated with light: 

“And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.

“And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.” (1 Nephi 1:9-10) 

Also, the notion that the sixteen stones represent the Apostles may be further enhanced by a familiar interaction the Savior had with another group of special witnesses:

The Brother of Jared’s vision
Christ’s New World Ministry
And it came to pass that... the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger... (Ether 3:6) And it came to pass that... Jesus... touched every one of [the Nephite disciples] with his finger save it were the three who were to tarry, and then he departed. (3 Nephi 28:12)

As it happens, transfiguration comes into play in this encounter as well: 

And behold, the heavens were opened, and they were caught up into heaven, and saw and heard unspeakable things.

And it was forbidden them that they should utter; neither was it given unto them power that they could utter the things which they saw and heard;

And whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell; for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God. (3 Nephi 28:13-15, emphasis added)

(It’s unclear to me, however, whether “they” refers to the nine disciples the Savior touched, the three He didn’t, or all twelve.) 

III. “Tell No Man” 

At the conclusion of the Lords transfiguration, Peter and his companions were told to keep secret the remarkable event they had just witnessed until the time the Lord would be resurrected:

And as they came down from the mountain, [Jesus] charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. (Mark 9:9, emphases added)
As Thomas Valetta notes, the brother of Jared received similar instructions...
And it came to pass that the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt not suffer these things which ye have seen and heard to go forth unto the world, until the time cometh that I shall glorify my name in the flesh; wherefore, ye shall treasure up the things which ye have seen and heard, and show it to no man. (Ether 3:21, emphases added)  
...as did the Nephite prophets subsequently entrusted with the Jaredite record:

And the Lord commanded the brother of Jared to go down out of the mount from the presence of the Lord, and write the things which he had seen; and they were forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he should be lifted up upon the cross; and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people. (Ether 4:1, emphases added) 

As far as I am aware, these are the only two visions in recorded scripture that came with this specific charge. Additionally, even now theres more about both visions we dont know, and likely wont until the Lord comes again:

...the earth shall be transfigured, even according to the pattern which was shown unto mine apostles upon the mount; of which account the fulness ye have not yet received. (Doctrine and Covenants 63:21
And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written… (Ether 3:17)   

Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared... 

They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord. 
And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are." (Ether 4:4, 6-7)

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