Episode 44

Hebrew Literacy Patterns of the Book of Mormon

with Robert Kay

Meghan:  Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Latter-Day Disciples Podcast. I’m super excited to be joined today by Robert Kay.  Rob was a military brat. He grew up in Tennessee and Alabama. He went to school at Vanderbilt and then University of Alabama for his undergraduate. He then attended the University of Utah for his MBA. He later went back for a Master’s Survey on Semitic Studies, which we’ll talk about extensively, I’m sure. He has three young kids and converted to the church when he was twenty. His mother raised him in a very observant Jewish home and she was of Sephardic lineage which gave him a rich understanding of Judaism and a very strong background in that. He is an avid researcher, especially of Hebrew roots of the Book of Mormon. Besides having a degree in Mathematics and an MBA, he spent many years studying the Hebrew language and culture. He was schooled in the Talmud and several esoteric disciplines of the Jewish people. His father’s family is from New York and his mother’s family is originally from Alabama. Rob, thank you so much for joining us today.

Rob: Thank you for having me.

Meghan: Absolutely. So some of my absolute favorite people to talk to are members of the Church with a Jewish background. So I’m really excited about that. Can you tell us a little bit about your conversion? How were you introduced to the Church? And what was your experience like as you learned the gospel for the first time?

Rob: Oh, sure. Well, that’s a long story. See, my father and mother actually were divorced, and my stepfather worked, and then my father was from New York, and he was traveling quite a bit. The best way I can describe it is, I was bar Mitzvahed  at thirteen.  And then, of course, my father’s side was more observant. My mother is more genetically Jewish from the Sephardic line. My father’s line is kind of a mixture between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews out of Europe. He probably introduced me to more things of the practical Jewish world than my mother’s side. So during that time,  when I was about sixteen, I actually found the Book of Mormon on a bookshelf. And it was one of the old missionary styles, but it didn’t quite have the cover. It was kind of worn and it was in a library, and I started looking at the pictures of all things.  And that is actually what first turned me on to the Book of Mormon, was the actual pictures. I thought it was cool  And I started reading it. And all I can say is that the Book of Mormon was something that really resonated with me. As I read it, I could see just from even at that age, many Hebraic patterns and overtones that I’d already been  exposed to in reading Isaiah and sitting in the Talmud and, of course, learning Hebrew at that age and that kind of thing. And so that’s really when I came across it. And then, of course, you know, my family was never going to allow me to be a member of the church. And so I waited until I was about nineteen years old and did the investigations and everything.  I was up in the Nashville area. And I in that area, I basically did the missionary discussions, and then I joined the church from there. And I was going to school here at the time.

Meghan: That’s awesome. I think it’s so interesting that you were led to it, in a library of all places. That’s just fascinating to me. 

Rob: I know. I didn’t even know what it was. I have to admit, I remember the very first time I saw it, and I was reading it and I was like, well, this is interesting. Now it’s one of those things that, at that age, your parents aren’t going let you do anything. And I remember asking my biological father what this was. He said, “Oh, just forget about that. That’s nonsense.”  It should have been my mother’s husband at that time, my stepdad, he was a Christian.  It was kind of one of those things that he knew who the Mormons were, but in the south, you don’t really talk about them at that time.  And so I didn’t have anybody to talk to. And so many years later,  I asked a girl at school about it.  And that was certainly a start. And then it’s one of those things that one thing leads to another. And then I ended up joining and it’s changed my life ever since.

Meghan: What a blessing. So tell me a little bit more about diving into the Book of Mormon. You said that even at that young age, the first time around, you saw a lot of the Hebrew structures, but you’ve spent a lot of time going into the Book of Mormon and digging for those patterns and those literary structures since.

And obviously, that has had a significant impact on your testimony. both of the Book of Mormon and of Joseph Smith as a prophet. Can you tell us a little bit about where this journey has taken you in your life? And  what are some of the key findings that you have taken away from the Book of Mormon?

Rob: Well, it’s kind of interesting because when you’re at a young age like that, you begin to see things that are similar. but you’re still so young, you don’t fully know what to make of it yet. And you’re kinda still trying to understand, like I said, of course when I came into the church, I had actually assumed that, I know it sounds funny, but I thought that many members of the Church already knew all this, that this was because of the Book of Mormon. I was like, oh, they’re just another branch at the house of Israel, so they must know all this. And then when I started talking to many of them, they looked at me like I’m from another planet. I’m going, maybe, yeah, I’m different. You know, maybe somehow I need to see what they’re all about. And as I began to talk to many of the members at that time, and I was in my twenties then, I began to realize it’s like, okay, they’re still coming from more of a Christian aspect compared to a Jewish aspect. And I can appreciate that because part of my family ended up going and being part of Christianity in my father’s family. So there’s only two of us in our family that stayed even remotely connected to Judaism. My one sister, she just went into Judaism head over heels.  She’s not Orthodox, but she’s a little conservative sometimes. I call her a conservative Jew mixed with a little bit of reform.  For myself, I had always resonated with things that show that my Hebrew roots were always very strong, and we were always taught to know who we were. But I have to tell you there is something about the Book of Mormon that just spoke to me as I read it. The phraseology, the things that were going on, the things that were being said, I picked up on the little things, like little phrases that you’re taught like, ‘my father dwelled in a tent’. It’s a simple little phrase that has a whole world of meaning.

Meghan: Tell us what that means from a Jewish perspective.

Rob: So in the Torah, there is a section in Exodus 14:19-21 and that particular verse which is where Moses is crossing the Red Sea. But contained in the Hebrew of that verse are very sacred names and characters.  We call them Hebraic markers, they’re phrases that borrow from those three verses; like, ‘and he came’, ‘and dwelt’, (like dwelt in a tent) and then ‘stretched’ or ‘pitched’.

Those are the three markers and the Book of Mormon is filled with them. If you look at those areas, you know that when he says, ‘and my father dwelt in a tent’ you’re talking about a temple teaching. You’re talking about something. That is a marker that something either has told you or is about to tell you something that is very sacred. And it’s also because the Book of Mormon was a sealed book. Most people think, oh, it’s sealed in the sense of it’s got a lock and key on it. And so while that’s what we think of in our American minds, sealed in a Hebraic concept means that it’s basically encrypted. It’s actually written on a multidimensional level and it’s not always meant to be understood until the time is right. So when we talk about Joseph Smith translating the book, he’s translating a sealed book. He’s giving us the actual story and translation we call it, the peshat, or the literal translation: Nephi goes hunting with a bow, Nephi builds a ship, that’s exactly what occurred. But as part of that, they begin to encrypt or layer the text with different information, for example, you’ll come across phrases that are meant to turn you to a specific scripture, say in the Torah, in the first five books of Moses. There are words or phrases that we often,  in just our regular reading, read right over.  But if you understand when he says specific words, one case for example is in 3 Nephi 11, where we hear the phrase from heaven, from the Father declaring the Son, “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name – hear ye him.”  So we read that and we think, ‘Oh, that’s just a declaration.’  But the declaration to a Jew will refer you and will turn your mind back; ‘Behold, my Beloved Son’, that’s the Psalms; ‘in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name’ is Isaiah, it’s the prophets; ‘hear ye him’ the Shimah, hero of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. So actually by vocalizing those words it satisfies the three prophetic decrees according to Torah, the prophets and the writings that we all lump together in the Old Testament, but they’re actually separate works. But it fulfills a legal decree to declare the Messiah, so he declares him according to the words in the Torah, to the prophets, like Isaiah, and then, of course, to the writings, like Psalms or Proverbs and those kinds of things. It’s a technique called (renas), a bit of a phrase, to refer you back to a different scripture. And it’s assumed that the audience will know that.  The New Testament often does that as well. The Book of Mormon, I think, does it more so than the New Testament. So you have your literal level. It’s an acronym we use called PARDAS. It’s the four dimensions of scripture. The first we call peshat meaning your literal level.

So when you read the story, you’re reading the story. The second is remez. In other words, hints, things or words that are taken or portions of scripture that are taken and you’re meant to go back and read the whole. Then of course, there’s derash, which would be like a teaching from another prophet that is inserted into the middle of another prophet’s teaching or another works teachings and they’re drawing upon more ancient teachings. In many ways, I really believe that the parable of the olive tree (is a good example) when Zenos is quoting from the teaching of another prophet. And sometimes, it can be teachings that are not just scripture; it could be a prophet’s other teachings. But the idea is, he’s going from another prophet to use and teach you in the middle of scriptural work. And then, of course, there’s what we call the sod level. 

These are  things that have to do with the council of heaven, the very sacred level.  In the Book of Mormon, it will refer to them as things which are unlawful to be spoken or they cannot be uttered, because while people can teach you things about the sod level of scripture, the only way you will ever understand them is to receive the same things. And so that’s why it says it’s unlawful to speak it or they could not speak it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they were forbidden, it means that their language did not have the power to fully convey to us. It’s like someone saying, ‘you kinda had to be there’. When the Savior’s there in 3 Nephi, this is when he spoke things which were unlawful to be uttered, and we’re going, it’s another way of saying, ‘translation; you kinda had to be there’ because our language doesn’t even have the power to to explain it.

And those elements of scripture begin to open up and the Book of Mormon functions at all of those levels simultaneously.  When I say it’s a sealed book, it doesn’t mean that it’s under lock and key, it means that it has layers and it is encrypted to pack as much information into the text as possible. So in the text, the Book of Mormon, you will have teachings regarding astronomy or astrotheological symbols, you’ll have teachings regarding mathematics, you’ll have teachings regarding language, you’ll have varying teachings and all of them are communicated at the same time. And so it just depends upon your approach, what you were trying to get out of it. If a person wants to read something more personal or how to develop their spiritual life, the book will reveal itself. If they want to learn something about principles of astronomy of the ancient world or the ancients, if you know what you’re looking for, it is in the text. And so all of these things are there at one time. So, truly, as a Hebraic text, the Book of Mormon is a multidimensional text.  There are a lot of people right now that are throwing away the Book of Mormon, that I have talked to. And the sad part about that is, and if I have the opportunity to talk to them (those that are saying that Joseph Smith just kinda made this up or copied this), I tell them that because of the intricacy of the text, the Hebraic mechanisms used, if you will, they are so interwoven into the text that there is no way possible in this light, that he could at that age or even with the best books around him could have ever produced a text with the centricity. What people focus on is the weaknesses of the text such as some printing issues or what they feel or think he may have plagiarized.  Eighty percent of the Messiah’s sayings are quotes from the Torah. So the Book of Mormon does the same thing, it’s very normal. And so when I look at the Book of Mormon and when I try to share it with other people, I try to show them various things from those varying dimensions so that they can see for themselves that the Book of Mormon is more than meets the eye. In fact, in my opinion, it really is one of the greatest gifts that God has given to man because of what it contains. Unfortunately, [we have a hard time] because of language and culture. We are at a cultural disadvantage, but that’s why we need the Jews as much as they need us, because we need to learn from them. But that doesn’t mean we want to follow the traditions of the rabbis or those kinds of things or the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses. The performances of the law of Moses are not quite what people think, it’s not the Ten Commandments, those are the case laws, the rabbinic laws, and then the laws from the sages that developed over a few thousand years. And so we don’t want to necessarily imbibe Jewish tradition, but we do need to learn from them because they have preserved many prophetic keys. And those keys unlock the Book of Mormon. because most people don’t realize it and they almost freak out when I say, ‘Well, you do understand that Lehi and Nephi were actually Jews.’  They say, ‘No, no! They’re not from the tribe of Judah.’ And I tell them,  ‘No, listen, there were many many tribes that were in the Southern Kingdom of Judah and all of them collectively later became kind of under the umbrella of the Haddam or the Jews. So like Paul, he was of the tribe of Benjamin but yet he was a Jewish Jew. Was he from Judah? No, he was from a tribe of Benjamin, but was still considered a Jew because he was from that area. Well, it’s the same thing with Lehi or Nephi, they were of the tribe of Menassa, the House of Joseph, but they were still Jews in the sense that they were in the southern kingdom because the northern kingdom had been taken away about two hundred years earlier. It’s funny because people say “Well. Nephi says he’s not teaching his people after the manner of the Jews…”  And I tell them that it’s not quite what you think because he definitely writes after the manner of Israel.  Some of the most ancient prophetic traditions in Israel, he has used and incorporated into the text. But there’s no way Joseph Smith would ever have been able to know these things.

Meghan: And that’s something that I’ve realized too, even just, in studying Isaiah when you were talking about how prophets would refer to other prophets in the middle of their own prophetic teaching, I feel like Nephi, in quoting Isaiah for chapters at a time, he puts a third of the book of Isaiah in there is a prime example of that sort of structure. And what I found is that in understanding this, [I am beginning to understand more] because Isaiah wrote in the exact same way, obviously, because he was a Jew too. He used keywords. He used these things that are supposed to elicit to your mind an image or a past event to give your mind a broader concept of what’s happening and I see that now throughout the entire Book of Mormon,  I see Isaiah throughout the whole book of Mormon. But then applying it to each prophet and how they wrote reveals a consistency [in the book].  I think that we tend to look at the Book of Mormon in sections; this one was by Nephi, this one, Mosiah… we break it up by the prophet that the book is about on that story level but in reality, there are so many connecting threads that make it one holistic piece and tie it to all other scripture. And I think that this is something that perhaps we don’t realize as much, that scripture as a whole uses all of these patterns,  I believe we could make that argument. And that you could tie back all of the standard works to one another to create a more holistic approach to gospel truth; including the Doctrine and Covenants.  We might want to say that maybe Doctrine and Covenants is written separately because it’s a more modern revelation, but the Lord knew what he had revealed to all the other people who have written scripture and he is the one who’s speaking in Doctrine and Covenants the most.

And so that’s really been fascinating for me. Honestly, it’s little things like this that have totally changed the way that I study scripture. I used to just be a chapter a day,  which I feel like so many of us are; we grew up in that tradition. When you were talking about performances and ordinances under the law of Moses and that tradition that Nephi didn’t want to teach his kids well, in some ways, we kind of have mirrored some of that. I feel like we have these performances and one of them is, ‘read a chapter a day and that’ll keep the devil away’ is kind of how we treat it. But I found that that’s really an inefficient way to gain spiritual knowledge from the scriptures. So in your experience and as you’ve studied these patterns, how can someone who’s brand new, who is not as familiar with the manner of the Jew, how can we approach our scripture study differently, now that we know that these principles and  literary tools exist? How can we approach our scripture study differently to get more out of it from a context of  understanding that there is this rich Jewish heritage in what we’re reading.

Rob: I think just from my own cultural perspective, but also I think the prophet Joseph Smith was leading the people in the right direction because in Kirkland, he had established a school of the prophets. And there, he actually brought in, I believe his name was Rabbi Seamus, and he was teaching them Hebrew.

When you learn the Hebrew language, even if you just begin by learning the letters and then putting together words, whether it be biblical or conversational, it will change your brain and it will change the way you think. It’s very subtle. You won’t know that it’s changing your brain. The idea is that you begin to think more in what we call block logic. It’s the idea of painting pictures with language, not that there’s not concrete things because there are, but the manner of scripture is like painting a tapestry and there are so many elements. So imagine you go to an art museum and you’re looking at a specific work of art.

and I’m looking at the same work of art with you yet, we’ll both see different things. Which one of them is right? Well, we both are because we’re looking at it from our perspectives. And then when you and I would start discussing that work of art, you open my eyes to the things you’re seeing there and I open your eyes and we’re both edified. So for me, I think the first thing is to just begin, even if it’s just a fun thing, don’t make it a stressful thing. Just take some time and look at the letters and begin to understand the aleph bet, which is very similar to our alphabet. As you begin to do that for those who have a desire, it will change you. It’ll change the way you look at scripture. As you begin to learn those things, I recommend the two books I use the most, and this is no joke. Anymore, I tell people the two books I use the most together are the five books of Moses, and the Book of Mormon, they are my baseline. And the reason is because if I use that as my baseline, I am amazed at how the two are so dependent upon each other. So understanding that everything in the Book of Mormon is heavily dependent upon the five books of Moses and of course, Isaiah and other things will help you. But also, in the five books of Moses, when you learn about the culture, the feasts of Israel, for example. And the appointed times such as Passover. Right now, we’re just finishing up with Roshishana and we’ve got Sukkot coming up.  I think we’re in the Ten Days of Awe right now.  I’ve been sick with COVID, so I’ve been so out of it. I’m not sure what day it is half the time.

Meghan:  You’re good. Yom Kippur is on the ninth or tenth, I think.

Rob: I think so. Yeah. So I think we’re in the Ten Days of Awe right now. And then it goes to Yom Kippur,  and then, of course, Sukkot, the feast of tabernacles.

But we call them feasts because that’s what the English called them when they translated [the Bible].  Like calling it the feast of the king, because that was the closest thing they had in their culture to compare it to. But in actuality, these are appointed times when all Israel is to meet with God. And everything in the Book of Mormon, if you understand those appointed times, follows that sequence. Lehi leaving Jerusalem is a Passover thing. Begin to look at various things like Sukkot or the feast of tabernacles, King Benjamin. In his speech, all of them are dwelling in huts? That is a classic feast of tabernacle thing, where they’re all dwelling in huts and they’re facing towards the temple. Even the blessing that I sent to you, ‘Glad tidings of great joy’, that’s part of the blessing that the ancient high priest pronounced during the feast of tabernacles.

And yet, we read over these things and here’s King Benjamin quoting that very blessing. And so to a Jew,  they think, ‘oh, you’re at the feast of tabernacles, you’re at Sukkot.’ And other people are thinking, ‘Why are they all gathering like this?’  And so learning the culture, the ancient culture, specifically the feasts, and the language, in my opinion, probably will open up the culture in the mindset of ancient Israel more than anything. Now again, there are traditions that the Jews developed that have nothing to do with what I am talking about. For example, in the Passover seder, there is a lot of stuff that was added over many centuries, and their interpretation of scripture is not necessarily something that is required. So what I tell people to do is to stick to the scriptures. What do they tell you? So if you want to observe Passover, or if you want to observe Sukkot… But  I  also tell many Latter Day Saints, ‘Do you think by chance it’s only accident that your spring conference, (and by the way, the very first one, I believe, was in 1831, when they organized the church, was on the Passover?’  Your spring conference and your fall conferences are always pretty close to Passover in the spring and Sukkot in the fall. And according to some friends of mine, it used to be that in the early days of the church they also had a summer conference which was usually in May or June, that they no longer do,  because of redundancy, which would be parallel to, you know, Shavuot or the feast of weeks. And so we may call them different things; you may call them Solemn Assemblies because that’s the English translation, but in Israel, they’re  appointed times. Solemn Assemblies or appointed times. So he says, “Draw close to me while I’m near, call your Solemn Assembly. That’s in the D&C. He’s drawing your mind to his ancient pattern. These ancient things that are all designed to lead you to Christ, to lead you to Messiah. And so that’s why, from my perspective, I tell people, ‘Start there, start exploring and have fun. Don’t make it a competition. Don’t make the high holy days a competition between Christmas or anything like that because you don’t want to jump into a cultural war. You really don’t.  It can be more destructive.’  I always tell people, imagine doing a Passover family home evening, or imagine doing a Sukkot family home evening, or something like that to teach your family; use them as teaching tools because one day, I truly believe, that when the Messiah is back and all things are set in order, we will probably not be observing Christmas and Easter. We will probably be observing the appointed times as all Israel has done all the way back to Genesis.  And by doing that, we begin to change our minds and our brains. We also begin to explore our Israelite identity. When I explain to a lot of people in the church that we are from the house of Israel, they look at me almost cross eyed and they’re like, what are you talking about? I tell them, “Okay, most of your patriarchal blessings are probably saying you’re of the house or such and such tribe. If that’s the case, then that means you’re of the house of Israel. So all these things regarding Israel apply to you as much as it does to all the other tribes or even Judah.” And so that’s what I try to tell people, don’t make contests in your life, enrich it by exploring, using these things as learning tools centered in Messiah. These are not just the feasts of Israel. They’re the feasts of Messiah. Everything in these appointed times or feasts testify of him. And then when you do them, you’ll start looking in the Book of Mormon and you’ll begin to see  Jacob, when he talks when he’s at the temple, he seems to be quoting things from certain things regarding things like the day of Atonement or when he taught for example, his sons later on,  you’ll see a repeating pattern in the Book of Mormon.  It’s almost laid out according to the pattern of that feast, whoever designed the book seems to follow that cycle throughout the entire book.

And you’ll see recurring themes and teachings. And if you know, hey, this is in regards to an appointed time, then your depth of understanding of the Book of Mormon is going to open up.

Meghan:  Not just the Book of Mormon, but it seems that this is a timetable that the Lord taught and that the Lord honors. Time is only measured unto man. God is not bound by the laws of time. We know that past, present and future are always before him. But it seems to me that the Jewish calendar and the Jewish appointed times, like you’re mentioning, this is God’s calendar that he gave us. Is that going too far to say that?

 Rob: No, I think that’s a hundred percent right on. I mean, think about it. Joseph Smith received the Book of Mormon, and every year he went at the same time, and he received the Book of Mormon, Yom Kippur the feast of trumpets or we call it Rosh Hashanah. 

Meghan: Which is the Jewish New Year, right? 

Rob: Exactly. Well, it’s the modern New Year, post Babylonian.  There’s a lot of debate on calendars just so you know. But the modern Jewish calendar, yes. Rosh Hashanah is the feast of trumpets. And so as a trumpet, think of the Book of Mormon as a trumpet, it’s to sound to Israel. There’s always two major trumpets that sound at Rosh Hashanah, anciently. One of which was the first one which was to wake up, it’s like, Israel wake up, remember who you are. The second Trump that I believe has yet to be sounded is that the times of Jacob’s troubles are upon us. It’s the time that we’re in. It’s time to gather our families together. It’s time to come together and observe the appointed times because for those who do, there are covenant promises that if they honor the Lord, truly as he wants them to,  in keeping these appointed times by worshiping him, they will receive covenant protection. So I totally agree with you. It’s no mistake and not by chance that many of the greatest events, even in the restoration, follow the Lord’s calendar; follow these appointed times.

Meghan: Do you feel like on a broader scale, not just in the church or in the Jewish faith, but do you feel like even on a broader scale events seem to align with the Lord’s calendar, from your observation?

Rob: I really do believe that the Lord will follow his timetables. I see it with the House of Israel, even modern Israel, meaning the the land of Israel, it’s founding, its establishment, its miraculous deliverance in the wars back in the sixties, all of these things usually seem to to fall on or near a prophetic event or an appointed time. So I think whether we observe them or not, God observes his calendar.

Meghan: But it would be important for us to observe it too, right? If we wanted to have a better idea of perhaps how the Lord might be working?

Rob: Yes.

Meghan: I hadn’t planned to go in this direction, but I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the command that the Lord gave anciently to the Israelites, to keep a Sabbath year and how that might apply to us in the latter days in preparing for the Second Coming of the Lord.

Rob: Well, the Sabbath year is quite interesting because there are several Sabbath years. You obviously had every seventh year.  And then, of course, you have a Jubilee. The idea is that you would let the land rest every seventh year.

Also taxation was done according to what we would call tithing but the ancient tithing or taxation system kind of got merged in ancient Israel, and followed that same cycle.  So how I look at it is that just like we approach the Lord on every seventh day, which I do believe is important to observe the seventh day even though,  people want to get in a fight about Sunday versus Shabbat, I look at it and go, well, guys understand that the Torah is also meant to be somewhat flexible, because if I were in Alaska, and I observed Torah according to Jews, strictly according to it, I would probably have a three to six month long
Sabbath because they have evening and sunlight for long periods of time. Don’t get me wrong, I would certainly love that but we want to adapt it, to some degree, to our present circumstances. For example, your bankruptcy laws in America were actually once patterned off that seven year principle. You used to be able to declare bankruptcy only once every seven years. Now can cause all kinds of problems. But in the cycle of the Sabbath, be it, whether it be yearly, weekly, or seven years all the way up to the Jubilee, you would find if you began to run even your financial life off that that type of thing, that type of cycle, that the blessings of ancient Israel would be bestowed upon you because you’ll begin to organize your finances that way. Think about everything that you’re doing is geared toward patterning you and your family off the pattern that God gives to Israel, to his people, and the pattern he observed. And it’s the same basic concept; that we are patterning ourselves here below to what is done above, albeit adapted because we’re in a different sphere, a fallen sphere.

But as we do that, there’s a very ancient law, called one of the laws of Enoch, ‘as above, so below, as within, so without’. It’s quoted by many other peoples, but it is a very ancient law and it’s the idea that as we come into conformity or as we follow the pattern of heaven, heaven then begins to connect with us more and more. The spirit of God can flow freer and in greater amounts because you’re conforming to His image. It’s like, have you received his image in your countenance? What does that mean? Well, as you conform to the image of the Messiah and you follow his appointed times, you begin to think the way he does, look at the language that he spoke. Why would he give these things? As you do that, it opens up doors so that the spirit can flow in greater abundance.

And in doing that, the times that are coming ahead, which we are really, you know, we are really approaching some rough times. Every person is going to need to have that spirit, to have that revelation, to have that guidance.

Because guess what guys? You may not have access to a general conference. You may not have access to a bishop for all, you know, depending on where you’re at out there. And then what are you going to do? “Oh, I can’t do anything because I can’t find out what the prophet wants me to do?” But here’s the thing; if you already have the gift of revelation and the spirit of revelation, and a prophet of the Lord has the spirit of revelation, do you think God is going to give you opposing instructions? Whether he was there or not, you would still know what to do and specifically in your circumstances because it could get to that point where guess what? We don’t have access. Look at just what COVID did. We didn’t have access to each other. People had to keep the Sabbath in their own homes, probably a new stretch for some. We didn’t have the organization, if you will, of the church as the support that we’re used to because we couldn’t meet. Now, this was a test run. What happens when it’s the real thing?

Meghan: Yeah, and I’m afraid that we have forgotten so much of those Godly patterns that were given to ancient Israel. I think that we still have a lot to be restored. There are a lot of people that like to say, oh, well, the law of Moses has done away, the Old Testament is not relevant. I think that is so untrue. The law of Moses in terms of the performances and the ordinances;  the outward ordinances, the going through the motions, the checklist, that was what was supposed to be fulfilled in Christ. As I mentioned, I think we’ve kind of restored it against his wishes in some ways if I can be so bold as to say that. But there’s so much about the Old Testament, that hopefully reading it this year, people see It’s not done. And even Christ says about the Book of Mormon, when he comes to the Nephites,, he says, “I’m come.  I fulfilled the law of Moses, but I’m not here to destroy the prophets and everything that they have said that is going to come to pass will be coming to pass.” And so I think that there is so much for us to gain, as you said, by patterning our lives this way. The Shmita year is something that I’m dismayed that we have forgotten because it really is meant to be that Sabbath year where it’s like you set aside the things of the world in a very real way and dedicate yourself to God. And what an exercise to say, ‘Well, I’m not gonna work this year. So, God, it’s on you. Like, it’s us, it’s my relationship with you. You’re the one that’s going to provide for me, and I will do whatever you tell me to do.’ I think that that is an exercise that we all need to be doing right now because as you said, it’s to prepare for the things that lie ahead.

Rob: And if our current situation here in America is not conducive to that, remember, you can keep the weekly Sabbath. You can still set apart the high holy days. You know, God understands we may be limited depending on circumstances and understanding, and even our workweek, so he understands that. But he still requires us to conform to his image as closely as we can, because in doing that, the windows of heaven really do open, and we begin to see things we’ve never seen before. It says in the scriptures, it’s a very interesting teaching. It’s both in Athar, Ether, or or it’s also in Genesis. “My spirit shall not always strive with man.” The phrase strive, we think of, ‘oh, my spirit will not always plead with man’ but one of the meanings behind the word ‘strive; in Hebrew is ‘mediate for’ or ‘fill up’ in many ways. It can mean striving in the sense of work with or or call upon, but the idea is that, God, if we don’t seek him, we go to chaos, we go to entropy. And so what was the solution? To call upon the name. This same teaching is in the Old Testament as well as in the book of Ether and is found throughout the Book of Mormon, calling upon God. And as we do that, and that is not prayer the way we think it is, prayer is certainly necessary but it’s not prayer the way we think it is. And so as we call upon the name of the Lord, which is an ancient practice, we in a sense resonate with his spirit,  we bond with him; His essence, His grace, His love flows into us and that is what gives us the life and the ability to transform from from the inside out, which we all need, everybody needs. And so we all have different difficulties. We all have different challenges. But the idea behind calling upon the name restores. That is a teaching that is a very dominant teaching throughout the Book of Mormon. And so when we see around us, the spirit of the lord withdrawing from our nation, as you can tell with all the craziness you’re seeing going on, that does not release or deny us as individuals or even as groups of people from calling upon the name of the Lord and receiving that spirit in the midst of all this. Because that is what brings us into alignment with him, it’s what restores the gifts of the spirit.

Meghan: So good. I love that. And I’m so glad that you brought up that calling upon the name of the Lord is not equivalent to prayer as we come to accept it.

I think prayer perhaps is another area that we have become pretty rote in. It seems more like a chore, perhaps, sometimes. And there’s not a lot of power in it, unless we transform it to mirror this pattern that you’re talking about of not just saying a prayer but calling upon the Lord to the point where you can sense the veil and you can sense the Lord on the other side of the veil, listening to you.

Rob: Exactly. And yet most people don’t know that in the Book of Mormon, that prophetic science has been preserved again, heavily encoded, but we’re reading it right in front of our eyes. There are actually instructions both in the book of Helaman as well as the book of Ether on actually how they would call upon the name. But again, written in the language of symbol. The language of Israelite prophetic is the language of symbol. So if we understand the ancient Israelite symbols and the names, they begin to teach us things. So for example, at the end of Alma, in Alma 63, it talks about a curious man by the name of Hagath.

In Hebrew, it’s Hagolt. And it means meditations. It’s actually what it translates as. Why would man be named meditations? And why would he take a people in the vessels he created to go to the land northward, which in Hebrew context, is not only physical north, but northward is the place of power, the place where God resides. This is where God is. And why does he take 5,400? Each of those elements of that particular scripture in Alma 63 contain specific elements meant to communicate what it is you’re about to receive. So in other words, commencing with that little story of Hagolt, he’s telling you, ‘I’m about to give unto you these ancient engravings’. And in the mindset of ancient Israel,

engraving is the same as a meditation, it’s the carving into yourself something. You’re carving it upon your heart. It’s the idea that when you see that word ‘sacred engravings’, you could also say in our culture, ‘sacred meditations’.

But not meditation the way we think of as presented in the world, not necessarily like transcendental meditation or those kinds of things.

Many of the Oriental practices, which have some interesting things about them,  which go toward more of the idea of a Nirvana, some are going to a nothingness, it’s not like that. The sole purpose of Israelite meditation and the meditative practice of ancient Israel is to be one with God. to bond with God, that is your focus in Israelite meditation, not to go to nothing but oneness with Him. And so there were specific prophetic practices that God taught many in the ancient school of the prophets that he preserved in scripture, and they’re considered very sacred and that’s why he says he passed on these sacred engravings to his son, Helaman. So if these are sacred engravings and we know that there’s a euphemism for meditations, is it possible then that the book of Helaman actually contains these meditations? And we read right over the text. We assume that we’re reading one story, never seeing the subtle markers that were placed for people to discover. For example, the very first meditation, Helaman  chapter three, ‘the name of the Lord is the gate of heaven’, that very simple phrase, ‘the name of the Lord is the gate of heaven’, Jehovah is the name of the Lord, that’s what we get translated as Lord. That name is the gateway of heaven. Now if we think about a gateway and we think about it in terms of a meditative practice…in ancient Israel, we need to understand that the name Jehovah or Jehovah contains within it the idea of the prophetic future, it’s like a state that contains the prophetic future, the prophetic present, and the prophetic past. Imagine being in a dimension of spirit and thought, like God is, where everything is an eternal now. While in our physical bodies, that’s hard for us and our physical bodies to comprehend. But there is something subtle in our spirits that is connected to it, that while the veil that is over us doesn’t quite get it, there’s something internally that does, which is why we were given the instruction. to call upon His name. And it literally is a practice. It can be a visual practice. It can be a musical practice. But the idea is that the person begins to take the desires, desires of their mind, the will power, the thoughts of their heart, as well as their emotions and then we focus all three in a sense, on bonding with God, being still like chashaq, bonding with God, we’re being still, waiting upon him. Waiting upon God in Israel does not mean, just sitting around, ‘Okay, I’ll just wait for God and if he finally does something, okay, we’re we’re there’. But the reality is, in ancient Israel, to wait for God, is to bond with him, to sit in silence, and bond with him. It’s like when Christ says, “Don’t pray like the scribes and Pharisees, but go into your closets’. Well, most people don’t realize they don’t really have closets like we do, that’s just what it got translated as. What they would do is they would pull their tallit, their head covering over their head, and they would close it off. And then within that closed off place, they began to speak or to meditate and bond with God. It’s the same concept. It’s the idea of our hearts, our minds, our emotions are meant to seek a state of oneness with him. and those meditations that are incorporated into the book of Helaman teach a person how to do so. And it begins to open up that prophetic road. By prophetic, I don’t necessarily mean telling the future. prophetic In the Israelite mindset, it encompasses everything; it could mean the gift of prophecy in a sense of a future telling, but it encompasses all of the gifts of the spirit, wisdom, knowledge, healing, those things. The more we bond with God in that upper world of the spirit, if you will, then the more he bonds with us and those things, the two come together and then there’s like a conduit between your heart and him and it opens up, and we begin to connect with him and to receive further light knowledge. And we are enlivened and that’s what these ancient practices were designed to do.

Meghan: I love that so much because I think that one of the things that the Lord has been teaching me this year is that when we talk about the Book of Mormon as containing the fullness of the gospel, what does that actually mean?

Do we think that that just means that it teaches faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost. It does. But I imagine that that’s a lower level than some of the things that you’ve taught us today. The overarching theme I’ve really truly come to believe about the Book of Mormon, the purpose of the Book of Mormon, is exactly what you were just talking about, it is meant to show us how to become one with God and to be bound to him and not just in an abstract spiritual sense, but in a literal physical sense. And the Book of Mormon is replete with examples of men and women who had experiences with the Lord in that way. And I love that understanding the Hebrew literary structures, it’s so genius. The Hebrew way of writing is mind blowing to me compared to our Greek, super literal way of learning and teaching, it’s really truly beautiful. And so even just having the slightest idea that those things are taking place, it makes a world of difference. And that is the true essence of the gospel. I think that that is the root of spiritual preparation as we talk about it in relation to this podcast is becoming one with God in every way possible. 

Rob: I totally agree. And, you know, you mentioned faith, hope,  we often call it the first principles or I simply will call it the basics, I call it the foundation because faith, hope, and charity is actually the direct line to God. But faith in Hebrew doesn’t have the same meaning that we often have. For example, we think of faith as being, ‘if I believe enough that will happen,’  Faith in Hebrew is a trusting loyalty to God. But more so, it is an intentional act of spiritual creation. In other words, all things occur spiritually before they manifest physically. So when you read about faith in Ether 12, and it talks about faith,  God is using his definition and our definition really doesn’t quite come close. But if you were to say, ‘by faith, the brother of Jared saw the finger of God’, a better translation would be ‘by an act of trusting loyalty or an act of spiritual creation, an act of patterning yourself off God, these things opened up; these things manifested in this world because these people had hope.’ But what is hope in Hebrew? Well, it’s the idea of an expectation that was based on a promise God gave in the first place. Hope’s not wishful thinking, ‘Well, I think, I hope God will do this.’ No. I hope because if I hope I have an expectation that God will fulfill his word. And then, of course, charity, which in Hebrew is Tzedakah, is translated as pure love,  it’s a condition. That’s why there’s no actual action of charity; we often call it acts of charity, but the real definition is what Moroni gave; it’s a condition of being, putting off the natural man, not being puffed up, those kind of things, a lot of truly caring and loving without expecting something in return. That condition that Moroni talks about, charity, that is the condition that we strive toward. So if you think about it, we’re engaging first in faith with an act of spiritual creation. How do we know what to create? Well, we know what to create because God already told us what we should create. And he says, ‘If you do these things, then this will occur. You have my word.’ And what is one of the major promises of the Book of Mormon, ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in the name of Christ,believing that you shall receive, behold it shall be done unto you.’ And this promise is unto the end of the earth. But this doesn’t mean that I can just ask for a Maserati and it appears in my doorway. I really do wish it would. However, to ask in the name of Christ or in the name of someone is to ask in their condition. Another way of saying it would be I’m asking God to help me fulfill the commandments of Christ. And if I ask him then whatever I ask will be fulfilled because it’s asking to fulfill his commandments. That’s the difference between asking amiss versus asking for a promise that will actually be fulfilled.

It’s the difference between receiving an unclean gift or the unclean thing which you do not want and those things which testify of Christ. That which is good testifies of Christ. But even the word good in Hebrew doesn’t mean what we think it does. God says that which is good, but why is it good? Because it fulfills his commandments. So whatever is good is that which fulfills his commandments.

You’ll notice everything seems to go back to oneness with Christ, keeping his commandments, and the promise of the Book of Mormon is that anything that we ask for to help us or to fulfill his commandments, he will do. And that promise is to the end of the world, all over the planet, you don’t even have to be Mormon to have that. You don’t have to be a member of the church. It’s the idea that this is a promise that’s given to all. That’s why if you think about it, that’s why the Book of Mormon is one of the greatest gifts because that promise is in there. But if we understand what that means, what that promise is telling us, It’s not that I just ask whatever I want and I get it, it’s the idea of ‘I’m asking to be one with Christ, I’m asking to fulfill his commandments, I want my heart and my spirit to be as much like Him as I can and I need help to do that. In fact, I can’t do it without Him.

Meghan: That was something that I wanted to point out too,  I love how delineating these things against the Hebrew really shows that these are not things that any of us can do. These are not conditions that any of us can earn, even keeping the commandments as you’re saying, even fulfilling covenant is a gift that we receive as we call upon God, and that’s the same for faith, hope, and charity. We act like these are things that we do. And if we just do them well enough or often enough, then we’ll get the blessing.  And the truth of the matter is that our lives, our eternal destinies, have nothing to do with what we can do by ourselves.

Rob: Look at Alma the younger, he’s met by an angel, he’s struck down and think about what happens; he’s unconscious for about three days and then he gets up and says I’ve repented. Now, explain to me, how does someone who’s unconscious, probably having a vision (as he talks about later), how does he repent? There’s nothing he could do. Repentance in Hebrew, teshuvah is the idea of a condition of heart and mind, a turn, it’s really as simple as making a decision of turning to God. I’m turning from one direction to another. Direction is God.  That’s the basis of true repentance. The fruits meet for repentance are, by you turning to God and connecting him with him and receiving his spirit then the fruits will naturally appear like a tree produces a fruit. And if it does that, it’s natural. I mean, if you’re trying to produce the fruits of ‘I have to do all these works and all these things and all these things and I have to go church five times a day and meet with the bishop seven times an hour, you know, because I’ve sinned every few minutes’ it’s gonna get crazy because we turn the gospel into a  form of a transformative act of grace and the manifestation of the power of God to a pathetic version of a self help program that will never work. And there’s the difference.

Meghan: I could not have said it better.  I mean, we really have done that and I’m not going to blame anyone. I think that this is a generational thing that we’ve inherited for a hundred plus years now at this point but the power of the gospel is very much lost in a lot of ways. And it is because we are relying on the arm of flesh. We think that we have to do it. We have to earn it, that it’s all about what we do on a daily basis and if I don’t read my chapter, if I don’t say my prayers, then I’m not going to get the blessing, and if I do and I don’t get the blessing, then something’s wrong and I’m leaving the church. That’s really how we’ve approached things. And this approach to the Book of Mormon and to the gospel is so powerful, if we can really tap into it, if we can rid ourselves of the false notions that we’ve adopted and restore a true understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that oneness with him is a gift and that we do our best to qualify by doing one thing, being perfectly obedient to whatever he tells us to do, and the rest is him. Repentance is him. Faith is him. Hope, charity, it’s all him. And he is the one who can change us, from the inside out. And I’m so grateful for the knowledge that’s been preserved in the Book of Mormon that just solidifies that as the truth.

Rob: Very true. And I think that over time as people begin to discover and rediscover the powerful message and the power within the Book of Mormon, they will begin to experience that. Our idea of ‘be ye therefore perfect’ is really messed up in our Greek minds. It’s the idea of mathematical perfection.

It doesn’t exist in the Hebrew mindset that way. The reason it’s always expressed as perfect, like mathematical perfection, is because that’s a Greek concept of how to describe true beauty.  In Hebrew, beauty is a balance. It’s connecting into the tree of life, connecting into a point where you balance with Christ because he’s the tree. He is that iron branch if you will, not the iron rod. It’s an iron branch from the tree. He’s that strong branch. And as we connect into that, his spirit, his sap, flows into us.  He is the vine. If you abide ‘in him’. Translation,  as a sprig or even a leaf or whatever, if you connect in, then his life will flow through, that’s as simple as it is. It’s just connecting with Messiah. And no man can do that for another man or woman. No one can. That is something every individual has to do. And we’re all at varying stages of that. But make no mistake, this is not a competition. Everybody comes to it in the time and the way that God ordains for them. And in doing so, they open up those windows of heaven in a sense, if you will, and the doctrines of grace and faith and hope and charity begin to open up and they realize they’re not as powerless as they think. This is not an endless act of do’s and don’ts that I check off on a checklist, there’s no concept of mathematical perfection, but there is a concept of maturity and beauty, like a tree that flowers, the images like that of a tree that flowers and produces fruits and that’s when we plant that word within our heart like Alma talks about. And even if you can only desire to have the desire, That’s what he’s telling us, if you don’t have faith yet, if you can’t spiritually create that yet, and you can’t trust what I’m telling you, but if you can just have the desire to have the desire to experiment with my words, that will bring it to it.

You can give everybody a list of do’s and don’ts. We have our own LDS performances and ordinances. Just like every other religion out there has them.

We’re not immune. We are human beings. We do exactly what other human beings do. We create checklists. We do things. We have goals, and they have their place for the carnal or the physical man to keep us in line with certain things, but we’re not just a body. We’re not just that animal, natural man, and woman. We are a spiritual child of God too. And in ancient Israel, the idea is that that spark, that spirit of god that is within us is never severed from God.

We are not severed now. It is veiled but it’s not severed. And all we have to do is open the curtain. We connect. And when we connect, then those things begin to transform us. People struggle with all manner of different things, look at the varying addictions that we see, the destructive behaviors we see, that’s natural man and it takes a transformative power to be able to overturn those things. That’s what Christ gives us. But how does it happen? It doesn’t happen through a checklist of dos and don’ts. It happens by connecting to him, by becoming one with him, then his life flows into us, like a branch that’s grafted into a tree and then we receive life from him and we produce those fruits because without him, we can’t. And so there’s Christ the man, and then there’s his condition that he represents of what we are progressing into, to become one with him. It’s that balance of justice and mercy, wisdom and understanding, longsuffering and glory, the very elements of the fruits of the tree of life.

Meghan: Well, thank you. You gave us so much food for thought. I’m so thankful for your study and the work that you’ve put into understanding these concepts.

And I hope that we all will take these things seriously, not just leave these on the shelf and stick to the lowest levels of understanding of the Book of Mormon, but really seek to come out from the condemnation that we’ve been in for two hundred years. When the Lord says, in the Doctrine and Covenants that were under condemnation for taking lightly, the scriptures, particularly the book of Mormon. I think that not understanding these things or not seeking to understand these things is a part of that condemnation. And so I pray that we will remember the things that you taught today and take to heart some of the admonitions that you gave for us to really strive to see the scriptures the way that they were intended, the way that they were written and to marvel at the greatness of God in the process because this is his work. Absolutely marvelous. So thank you, Rob, so much for joining us.


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Meghan: Well, thank you. You gave us so much food for thought. I’m so thankful for your study and the work that you’ve put into understanding these concepts.

And I hope that we all will take these things seriously, not just leave these on the shelf and stick to the lowest levels of understanding of the Book of Mormon, but really seek to come out from the condemnation that we’ve been in for two hundred years. When the Lord says, in the Doctrine and Covenants that were under condemnation for taking lightly, the scriptures, particularly the book of Mormon. I think that not understanding these things or not seeking to understand these things is a part of that condemnation. And so I pray that we will remember the things that you taught today and take to heart some of the admonitions that you gave for us to really strive to see the scriptures the way that they were intended, the way that they were written and to marvel at the greatness of God in the process because this is his work. Absolutely marvelous. So thank you, Rob, so much for joining us.


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