Mormon Identity Podcast Notes – Women in the Scriptures

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From the latest Mormon Identity podcast entitled Women in the Scriptures (part 1) with Robert Millet and Camile Fronk Olson.

“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons.” (Moses 4:13; emphasis added).

I’ll quote Camille Olson’s insight:

“I suddenly saw that where they had no recognized that they were unclothed before, they now saw a need to be covered. And knowing in Hebrew the word for covering or to cover is kaphar that is also sometimes translated as atonement. Suddenly this had a new meaning to me because they realized they have need of a covering that only Christ can provide. You notice that in that same verse they start looking at fig trees to try to make them a covering and it doesn’t work…. So what happens? The Lord finds a covering for them. He gives them the covering…from an animal skin. You think what does it cost the animal to provide that covering? And it is his life. And suddenly you can see a lamb that has given its skin, its covering to cover Adam and Eve and as they leave the Garden. And suddenly you get the imagery of the way the Lord protects us, the way He covers our sins through repentance, the way He covers our debts when we come to Him in a whole variety of ways that He covers us and that there is no other covering that will do that.”

Robert Millet and Camille Olson go on to talk about how the faithful are clothed with power from on high or clothed in the robes of righteousness. What I think was the key insight in what Sis. Olson said was her comment about how Adam and Eve saw that they had been naked and that they now needed covering. They had transgressed the law of God and so were no longer completely pure. Their covering of fig leaves was not sufficient; they had need of garments of animal skin that not only covered more of their bodies but also were symbolic of the covering of sins (atonement) the Lord provides. In other words, the sacrifice required by the animal(s) to make the coverings of skin was in similitude of Christ’s sacrifice.

Now on to Rebekah, wife of Isaac. [All words are (mostly) Camille Olson’s]:

“I think an important piece to remember is what takes place two chapters before [the issue of the birthright], before those boys are even born. Isaac and Rebekah have been married 20 years and not had any children. Isaac prays on behalf of his wife that she can conceive a child and she does. But Rebekah is the one who feels something seems very unusual inside of her as she is carrying what – she doesn’t know at the time – will be twins. And interestingly, it’s clear in chapter 25 of Genesis she prays to the Lord and the Lord answers her directly…. It was between Rebekah and God, and God reveals to her that she is carrying two children and more than that it will be the younger one who will be the leader. And there is nothing that says she ever told anyone that or if she was given permission to tell anyone. All we know know is they [Jacob and Esau] get older; the assumption is that the elder one will receive the birthright, Esau will receive the birthright. Isaac and Esau seem to have a camaraderie, they relate to each other, it seems to be his favorite one. Rebekah feels an affinity towards Jacob and you wonder if that didn’t start even before they were born because of this revelation.

“But Isaac is old, he can’t see really clearly and he is ready to give the birthright blessing. Rebekah knows what’s going to happen; Isaac has sent out Esau to get him something to eat and Rebekah springs to action to make sure that the one that the Lord wants to receive the blessing actually does…. I think there is a tremendous responsibility [about if we receive a revelation that we do all we can to make it come to pass]. We love the Epistle of James. Faith without works is dead. And we think faith and works is praying but as I read that epistle it is faith is praying with true faith but then the works are that we are willing to act on what we receive and it takes great faith in what we received by way of an answer and Rebekah does it!… Revelation from the Lord automatically assumes action [on our part]…. Well Rebekah is ready to act and so while Esau is away she puts her plan into motion. Jacob is a little concerned thinking, ‘I’ll look like I’m a deceiver.’ And Rebekah is willing to take all the responsibility. So she sends Jacob to get – the wording in Genesis chapter 27 is – ‘the goodly raiment’ that belongs to Esau. And along with this is a description of Esau being very hairy and Jacob not being hairy and Rebekah having goat’s hair put on Jacob’s hands and neck.

“I’m telling you; I’m reading this and I’m thinking as hairy as some men I know I don’t know anyone that’s more like a werewolf; I mean this is hairy! But I found something. Once in a while in Rabbinic literature you come across some things that really seem to resonate with what we know from revelation in modern day. [In other words,] legends of the Jews. And here’s one that that goodly raiment was the same covering that Adam and Eve had been given as they left the Garden and it had been handed down from generation to generation, now given to Abraham, then to Isaac and Isaac now giving it to the birthright son who will be the priesthood leader to govern in the affairs as Adam was originally called to do that. [It is sometimes called the garment of light]. And if it is what we’re seeing from the Garden it is an animal skin. Well no wonder it would feel like a goat or a lamb! And he is covered with that. Isaac, not seeing puts his hands on Jacob or this son or this son that he knows is to receive the birthright. I love Hebrews chapter 11 where it says “by faith Isaac blessed Jacob” with that birthright blessing. I think the idea that he [Isaac] is not doing this because this is the son he would like to give it [the birthright] to but he is being led by the Spirit to do it…. Isaac [still] gives Esau a wonderful blessing, he could have retracted [Jacob’s] blessing but he reiterates it.”

I like how Sis. Olson points out that Rebekah was only being “tricky” because she was fulfilling revelation. Jacob was the chosen one and was to receive the birthright. Isaac recognized this finally and Jacob’s birthright stuck. Esau was not someone who held his birthright as very dear and was unfaithful to it by selling it. Jacob was faithful. Even more, Rebekah was faithful to the revelations of God. The other specific part I enjoyed of the previous quote was the discussion of the animal skin that was either that given to Adam or made after its fashion (and with the same symbolism and power). This is a teaching Sis. Olson and Bro. Millet revisit.

“Joseph gets the birthright [from Jacob] and incidentally, the covering, the robe [the coat of many colors], which we don’t know what that means, what exactly that is describing but it seems to be the same covering or at least the same symbolic covering that has been so desired in previous generations. [Bro Millet now: ‘Two clarifications here. We’re talking here about not necessarily about the same garment being conveyed {from Adam} but we’re talking about a symbol, a message, a doctrinal message that’s being conveyed that the Lord is passing through the generations the rights of priesthood governance and supervision and oversight of a family to worthy people…. Personal righteousness actually supersedes birth order {in obtaining the birthright and priesthood blessings}’]. The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers in heaven…. A lot of people got confused with the symbolism of an animal skin and the actual power. Later in Zechariah chapter 13 verse 4 we read about evil men who wore a rough garment with the intent to deceive. Now if you think about Elijah the prophet who wore an animal skin garment and that’s very similar to what John the Baptist wore. The Savior said of John the Baptist [paraphrasing], ‘What did you expect to see? A man in royal raiment? They’re in the palaces but here is a prophet.’ In the Sermon on the Mount the Savior gave a warning that false prophets were wolves in sheep’s clothing. Some could get caught up with the symbol being the source of power rather than Christ and the Atonement truly being the source of power; thinking you could just put on an animal skin [and] you would have that power.”

This is similar to themes Hugh Nibley wrote about in his great book Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present (The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol 12 : Ancient History). I really like the connection Camille Olson makes between the garments given to Adam and Eve, the hairy clothing that Jacob wore at his mother’s encouragement, the special clothing Joseph was given, the garments of Elijah and John, and the Savior’s cautions about wolves in sheep’s clothing. Throughout the scriptures, the Old Testament (and Book of Mormon) in particular, certain articles of clothing have often held special and symbolic meaning. The doctrines, rites, ordinances, and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a continuation of this. These garments are symbolic of priesthood power; they are symbolic of covenants; they are symbolic of the covering that Christ’s Atonement provides for us and our sins.

I enjoy all these Mormon Identity podcasts but this one had a few parts that really jumped out at me.

The Divine Role of Motherhood – Part 3

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There is the example of Rebekah, who was blessed to become the “mother of thousands of millions” (Gen. 24:60) as a result of her righteousness. This teaches us that for those who are faithful to the covenant, motherhood does not end with death. We also have the great example of Hannah who had much anguish over being childless. She covenanted with the Lord that if He would bless her with a son, she would dedicate her son unto Him. Her son Samuel grew up to be one of the great prophets in Israel and a sign of his mother’s faith. Mary, the mother of the Savior, was a woman of great virtue and faith. She was highly favored and blessed because of her role as the mother of the Prince of Peace (see Luke 1:28). Mary remained near the Savior throughout His life and was even at the foot of the cross, watching her Son finish His mortal ministry. She was there for Him, from the cradle to the cross. King Benjamin gives in simplicity one of the greatest tributes in the scriptures: “and his mother shall be called Mary” (Mosiah 3:8). What more need he say? She was to be the mother of the Son of God. The scriptures are largely patriarchal and priesthood-focused so the references to great mothers of faith and covenant are sparse. Thus, stories of mothers in the scriptures are very significant. We can learn much about the qualities of faithful motherhood from these illustrious women. It is thought provoking to wonder about what would have happened had Eve, Hannah, or Mary not been good mothers? A wise man once stated: “What a mother sings to the cradle goes all the way to the coffin” (Henry Ward Beecher, Columbia Book of Quotations, 1996, no. 6395). Or, rephrased according to LDS belief: “What a mother sings to the cradle goes all the way [through eternity].”

Being a mother is such an important part of who women are and has so many consequences that it can seem overwhelming at times, even impossible, to be the best mother possible. Perfection is quite a lofty goal; but it is more than just a goal or an end—perfection is also a process. When a woman becomes a mother and has a child or two or three or ten, she has not reached some static state where she automatically knows everything about being a mother. Being a mother also does not end when the children leave home at age 18 or 21 or whenever; it is a role that keeps rolling, growing, and expanding. This is what it means, in part, to be an eternal family. The eternally expanding role as mother is a portion of the blessing of eternal lives (see D&C; 132:24). Therefore, just as perfection does not come in a day neither does the full realization of motherhood; the process is as important as the goal (or else Satan’s plan of salvation would have been just as good as the Father’s).