Ark: Oldest, most sacred of Israelites' holy symbols

After David was anointed king, one of his first acts was to have the sacred Ark of the Covenant taken to Jerusalem. But that journey was interrupted.

The ark, known also as the Ark of Jehovah and the Ark of the Testimony, was an oblong chest of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Measuring 2 1/2 cubits long, 1 1/2 cubits broad and high, it was made by Moses at God's command. (See Ex. 25.) It was the oldest and most sacred of the religious symbols of the Israelites, and the Mercy Seat that formed its covering was regarded as the earthly dwelling place of Jehovah. (Ex. 25:22.) The ark was fitted by rings and staves, by which it was carried. (See Dictionary in 1979 LDS edition of King James Bible.)Only designated individuals, priests of the Levites, were authorized to touch the ark as it was moved on numerous occasions. As it was being transported to Jerusalem under David's direction, the cart bearing the ark crossed the threshing floor of Chidon. One of the oxen pulling the cart stumbled.

"Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.

"And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God." (2 Sam. 6:6-7.)

David was "afraid of the Lord" and did not continue on with the removal of the ark to Jerusalem. Instead, he caused it to be left in the house of Obed-edom for three months, after which time it was taken to Jerusalem amid sacrificing, dancing and shouting. (2 Sam. 6:9-16.)

The harshness of Uzzah being struck dead is a reminder against excess zeal and disobedience. It is a reminder that has lingered unforgotten through the centuries. In 1832, the Lord revealed through Joseph Smith: "While that man, who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God, shall fall by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning." (D&C 85:8.)

In the case of both Uzzah and latter-day scripture, the Lord emphasized that just because someone has been appointed - Uzzah had cause to be in the presence of the Levites moving the ark - that appointment does not give a man the license to exceed his authority.

President John Taylor commented on those who would use their own wisdom to alter the course of the Lord or His inspired servants:

"Do not think you are wise and that you can manage and manipulate the priesthood, for you cannot do it. God must manage, regulate, dictate, and stand at the head, and every man in his place. The ark of God does not need steadying, especially by incompetent men without revelation and without knowledge of the kingdom of God and its laws. It is a great work that we are engaged in, and it is for us to prepare ourselves for the labor before us, and to acknowledge God, His authority, His law and His priesthood in all things. . . .

"Do not be too anxious to be too smart, to manage, and manipulate, and to put things right; but pray for those that God has placed in the different offices of this church that they may be enabled to perform their several duties. The Lord will sustain His servants and give them His Holy Spirit and the light of revelation, if they seek Him in the way He has appointed, and He will lead them and lead you in the right path. This is the order of the kingdom of God." (The Gospel Kingdom, pp. 166-67.)

Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve wrote in one of his books: "Some may reason that he

UzzahT was only trying - though mistakenly - to help out. But given the numerous times the Lord had saved and spared Israel, including the high dramas of the Red Sea and of the manna from heaven, surely He knew how to keep the ark in balance! Was Uzzah steadying the ark out of sincere but naive concern? Perhaps. But he would also have been carefully instructed as to his duties, which should have check-reigned his eagerness. Meekness is neither alarmist nor shoulder-shrugging unconcern. It involves shoulder-squaring self-discipline, and what follows is the special composure that meekness brings." (Meek and Lowly, pp. 14-15.)

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