Revisit Old Testament for new treasures

The bold Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi, trying to teach a haughty and rebellious king and his pompous followers some of the true purposes and proper ways of life, quoted some vital teachings from their brass plates version of the Old Testament.

He reviewed the basic commandments given by the Lord to Moses and explained many prophecies and ordinances that promise mankind atonement through the promised Divine Redeemer.Concerning all of the prophecies about the Savior, our salvation through Him, and our eternal purposes and potentials, Abinadi said, "Yea, and even all the prophets . . . have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?" (Mosiah 13:33.)

As we turn to our version of the Old Testament in our courses of study this year, we have again an opportunity to consider many great truths about our origins, earth's purposes, our "fall" into mortal life here, our redemption and future immortality, the benefits of our divine covenants and ordinances, the value of life's great virtues, and our ultimate potentials in eternal life.

The Topical Guide in the LDS edition of the King James Bible provides a convenient way to find scriptural passages on all of these seven areas - and more.

You may be impressed to see again what the Old Testament tells about our beginnings of life in the spirit world and its relevance to our earthly missions and opportunities. Consider the Old Testament teachings cited in the Topical Guide under: "Man, a Spirit Child of Heavenly Father"; "Spirit body"; "Spirit Creation"; and "Man, Antemortal Existence of." Excerpts from key verses give clues to their contents. Turn to some and read them in context; think about them at home, at work, and in the temple, and discuss them in Sunday School.

It might be surprising to some - and rewarding to all - to read in the Old Testament and meditate about God's purposes in creating the earth. Think over our opportunities and potentials on earth, and ask yourself why Heavenly Father sent us here to learn to discern "good" from "evil." Why must we use our own agency and will to choose and to do what is good? It may be enlightening to turn to the Topical Guide lists on "Good" and "Evil." Does it appear in scripture that "good" embraces our learning to be peaceable, helpful, cooperative, harmonious, and constructive, while "evil" is the opposite? More about this matter will be considered under topic No. 6.

Consider for now the Old Testament citations concerning "Earth, Purpose of"; "Creation"; "God, Creator"; "Jesus Christ, Creator"; "Man, Physical Creation of"; "Probation"; "Adam"; and "Eve." All of these can help us appreciate why we are here on earth.

Admittedly, the "fall" of mankind has been, and to some still is much a misunderstood concept. Old Testament teachings cover many basics about it, even though they do not use the word "fall." Find some of them in the Topical Guide under "Fall of Man"; "Die"; "Death, Spiritual, First"; and "Man, Natural, Not Spiritually Reborn." Our other standard works do help to clarify just what it was, and why it was necessary.

It becomes clear that what God has done for Eve, Adam and the rest of us will enable us eternally to profit by experiences in our earthly "fallen" state, separated temporarily from the heavenly state of God. Genesis chapter 3 is a major early revelation on this subject.

The Old Testament teaches also some of the factors that will lead us back to the heavenly dwelling of the Godhead as the redeemed children of God.

Some Topical Guide headings pertaining to that ultimate future include "Eternal Life" and "Redemption." They offer a few from the Old Testament, but there are also many good Old Testament passages under "Jesus Christ, Types of, in Anticipation"; "Jesus Christ, Mission of"; "Jesus Christ, Savior"; "Ransom"; "Salvation"; "Man, New, Spiritually Reborn." And additional titles are suggested under each of those.

Study of the Old Testament passages makes it evident that the Law and the Prophets were (as Paul said) "our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Gal. 3:24.) All of the teachings in our Standard Works make it clear that mankind has access to eternal life through special covenants and proper behavior here and in the spirit world hereafter. Our covenants, and the way of life they commit us to, can bring the Spirit of the Lord into our presence immediately, and bring us into His realms ultimately.

It may be interesting to turn to the Bible Dictionary in the Appendix of the LDS edition of the King James Bible and see under "Quotations" (pages 756-759) a long list of Old Testament passages quoted in the New Testament. Look especially at references to the Gospels, and turn to them to see what Jesus quoted from the Old Testament about Himself.

Covenants, and the ordinances by which we make them, abound in the Old Testament. As the Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi said of Israel: "There was a law given them, yea a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him." (Mosiah 13:30.) For us who are blessed to live in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, it is enlightening and inspiring to read and ponder about those Old Testament covenants and relate them to ours.

See topics entitled "Covenants"; "Ordinances"; and survey all the "Priesthood" headings in the Topical Guide. The scriptures cited show us that Old Testament peoples sometimes made covenants and failed to keep them; but their experiences can impress us to do better in living up to our covenants. See also several Old Testament prophecies under the headings: "Millennium, Preparing a People for"; "Millennium'; and "Last Days," and consider how our covenants help to prepare us.

For the special ordinances we are permitted to do in these latter days in behalf of those who had no opportunity to do them for themselves, see "Genealogy and Temple Work" and the related topics. Note that Old Testament prophets knew about the ultimate release of many from the spirit prison.

The Bible Dictionary provides also some informative articles about the covenants and ordinances of "Baptism," and the "Holy Ghost," citing Pearl of Great Price books that are Old Testament related on these two basic ordinances, but not mentioned by name in the present Old Testament. A portion of its restored form is available in the Joseph Smith Translation, a few chapters of which are conveniently published in the Pearl of Great Price, as Moses 1-8. (Compare Joseph Smith Translation Gen. 1-8.)

Since the ordinances are intended to keep us in remembrance of God and our duty towards Him, and since we serve God by serving our fellow beings, it is logical to turn next to such topics that embrace other aspects of good and evil, mentioned in topic 2.

Old Testament identifications of good and evil, moral and immoral - along with divine admonitions concerning our behavior - are found under a host of headings, such as "Benevolence"; "Charity"; "Chastity"; "Courage"; "Grace"; "Honesty"; "Integrity"; "Justice"; "Life, Sanctity of"; "Modesty"; "Morality"; "Prudence"; "Purity"; "Righteousness"; "Self-mastery"; "Steadfastness"; and "Virtue."

The Old Testament and other scriptures show that distinctions between good and evil originated with God, were promulgated by prophets, and have been reiterated by Jesus and the apostles both in the meridian of time and our time. Thus, they are safe guides for happy and productive living here and hereafter. Any who follow them will not be deceived by people who hold that "morals" denote only the "customs" of different peoples, differ from people to people, and change from time to time. That hypothesis fails to observe that God cares about human behavior and helps us choose the ways that bring eternal joy.

The absolute and eternal are the substance of the next and final topic. In His prelude to a great revelation on the creation of the earth, God said to Moses, and again to Joseph Smith, "This is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39.) That is a concise summation of His purpose in His creating this earth.

All the items considered in sections 1-6 above have relevance for, and culminate now in consideration of "Man, Potential to Become like Heavenly Father." This is a challenging and exalting topic to think upon. Even though Jesus urged, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48; compare 3 Ne. 12:48), it is sometimes considered an impossible goal. Yet it is attainable. Even in Old Testament times there were some who were described as "perfect," and some to whom the challenge was issued to "be perfect." Two of the Hebrew words translated into biblical English as "perfect" denote "whole," "complete," "lacking nothing," "having integrity." Those qualities are actually attainable to a degree in mortality, and surely will be for many in immortality and eternal life.

Topical Guide headings citing the Old Testament and other scriptures on this subject include "Man, Potential to Become like Heavenly Father"; "Eternal Life"; "Perfection"; "Family, Eternal"; and "Immortality." Consider not only the Old Testament passages cited, but also the Pearl of Great Price passages.

These and their related Topical Guide headings suggest many aspects of what we may anticipate among the ultimate goals of time and eternity and the scriptural revelations that can help us attain joy in this world and in the world to come.

This can be a good year as we revisit the Old Testament and find some new treasures there - if we personally study the scriptures and ponder prayerfully upon them. Merely attending class is not usually sufficient.

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