RS/MP Lesson 7: “The Holy Ghost” (Gospel Princples Manual)
Posted by Robert C. on April 3, 2010
The first part of this lesson focuses on Moses 5:9. Chapter 5 starts with Adam and Eve being driven out of the Garden, then they begin to labor (v. 1), and to multiply and replenish the earth (vv. 2-3), and then to call upon the name of the Lord (v. 4), then to make offerings unto the Lord (v. 5). Then an angel comes and explains that these offerings are in similitude of Christ (vv. 6-7). Then the angel continues by saying
[T]hou shalt do all that thou does in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon god in the name of the Son forevermore. And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son. . . . (Mose 5:8-9)
I’d like to focus most of this post on the events before the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam and Eve (technically, we only read that the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, commensurate with the singular “thou” that the angel uses in addressing Adam in verse 8).
To set the stage for this discussion, I’d like to turn to another scriptural passage cited in the Additional Scriptures for this lesson:
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. (D&C 8:2-3)
Heart and mind
First, I’d like to focus in on this phrase “in your mind and in your heart” in D&C 8:2. I’ve always had a tendency to think about the tension between one’s heart and mind. This is a popular theme, I think, in art, literature and film. Moreover, I had a philosophy class at BYU where we read parts of Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling” where Kierkegaard talks about the tension Abraham must have felt between his intellect—presumably telling him that sacrificing Isaac was an absurd, unethical, and irrational thing to do—and his heart which told him, despite his great love for Isaac, that the right thing to do was to follow God (this is a bad gloss of Kierkegaard’s book, but roughly the way I thought about the work in subsequent years). I also thought about this tension when I was in a relationship one time that my mind was somewhat hesitant about—was this really the right person for me?—but my heart was racing ahead.
However, I don’t think the scriptures talk about there being a tension between the heart and the mind in the same way. As far as I understand, there’s not really a word for “mind” in ancient Hebrew (I’d love to hear more thoughts from someone who knows Hebrew better than I do, or who has access to better resources!). The word “mind” as it occurs in the KJV Old Testament typically used in an English idiom, or the Hebrew word being translated has a fairly different primary meaning than mind.
Curiously, however, in the Book of Mormon, the phrase “blindness of their minds” occurs frequently, starting with several occurrences in Nephi’s writing. This might be a translation (of Nephi’s or Joseph Smith’s) of some phrase in Hebrew scripture, or perhaps there is some sort of Egyptian influence being carried through in Nephi’s writing. The phrase usually occurs in connection with the phrase “hardness of their hearts.” There is one exception, however, in Alma 14:6 when Zeezrom acknowledges “the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words.” I think this is a fascinating development in Nephite culture, deeply connected with the rise of what I have previously referred to as a kind of secular state arising with the reign of the judges, and the (presumably) consequent appearance of lawyers in the land. I think this development might be productively thought in light of a kind of parallel development in Western Christian culture which is also deeply rooted in Hebrew culture, where there is little distinction between the mind and heart, but is heavily influenced by Greek culture, where a distinction between mind and heart is important. The sophistry of lawyers amongst the Nephites, then, would be parallel to a certain kind of sophistry that arose out of Greek philosophy (and is carried on into various scholarly disciplines today?).
The notion of a blinded mind occurs twice in the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 3:14 and 4:4. Paul is using veil imagery in both of these chapters in a fairly interesting and provocative way, but I don’t want to get too side-tracked by these verses. However, I do think these verses set the stage in a very interesting way when we move to the D&C and find that the phrase “blind their minds” occurs only once, in D&C 121:12, where the the phrase “hardness of hearts” is not found in close proximity, although we do read in verse 13, “because their hearts are corrupted.” Also of interest is the usage in verse 11 of removal imagery (like the removal of the veil, perhaps): “and they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and the prospects shall melt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun.”
So how should we make sense of the notion of heart and mind as it is variously used in scripture, and more specifically the “heart and mind” phrase in D&C 8?
David Hume famously said that reason is the slave of the passions. I wonder if this doesn’t suggest a good way of understanding the sense in which the mind and heart are related in the various scriptural passages I’ve mentioned. When we harden our hearts against the Holy Spirit/Ghost (yes, I will get back to discussing the topic of this lesson!), our minds are not able (or not willing, a la Ranciere, for those who followed that discussion…) to see things as they really are, undistorted by lies and self-deception, in the light that the light of Christ casts upon everything in the world. It is in this sense that having a hardened heart and a blinded mind go hand-in-hand, blinding us to things that the Holy Ghost would otherwise reveal to us. Obversely, when we are receptive to the Spirit, we are open and receptive in both our minds and in our hearts, to the world it really is, as God lovingly created it for us.
The upshot of all of this is that I think we need to be very suspicious of promptings that speak only to our heart or only to our mind. Understanding this can, I think, help us avoid many dangers of mistaking other kinds of feelings for the Spirit. (There was a post recently at the T&S blog here discussing dangers like this. I am also particularly fond of Noel Reynolds discussion of the Spirit in contrast to sentimentalism in his BYU speech on the topic.)
Crossing the Red Sea and “the spirit of revelation”
Moving on to verse 3 of D&C 8, Elder Holland, in his 1999 BYU address “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence” (see previous blog discussion of, and alternate link for, this article here, comment #7 esp.) poses a great question:
Why would the Lord use example of crossing the Red Sea as the classic example of “the spirit of revelation”?
Make sure you ponder this question on your own before you read further….
Elder Holland goes on to talk about revelation as being much more than just the mere conveyance of information. And it is for this reason that matters of the heart, like faith and fear, play an important role in being receptive and open to revelation from the Holy Ghost. When the Egyptians pursued Moses and the Israelites, many became afraid and expressed regret that they hadn’t continue serving the Egyptians, rather than being led into the wilderness to die (Ex 14:10-12). This is opposite the spirit of revelation, opposite Moses’s remembering and recounting of the miracles that God had previously performed in Egypt in an effort to calm the fears of the Israelites (Ex 14:13-14).
It is significant, I think, that Moses exercises this faith before God tells him to lift his rod and divide the Red Sea. The revelation comes after the exercise of faith, after Moses faithfully remembers the previous gifts and miracles God had bestowed upon them, in the midst of urgent and very frightening circumstances. This is essentially Elder Holland’s response to the question: this kind of urgent and faithful seeking for God’s help, as exemplified by Moses, captures the spirit of revelation perhaps better than any other example God might’ve cited to Oliver Cowdery on the occasion of what is now D&C 8.
Back to Adam and Eve
If all of us are like Adam and Eve, cast out of God’s presence into this dreary world, alone, except for their remembrances of God’s commandments, then what is the model for receiving revelation from the Holy Ghost as given to us in Moses 5? First, Adam and Eve “till the earth” and exercise “dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat his bread by the sweat of [their] brow[s], as [ ] the Lord commanded [them]. And Adam knew his wife . . . and they began to multiply and replenish the earth” (v. 1).
Next, Adam and Eve (this time both are mentioned together, without Eve being mentioned subsequently, as in verse 1) “called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord . . . and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence” (v. 4). In God’s absence, Adam and Eve obey God’s previously given commandments, and they actively call upon God for further light and knowledge.
Then, when God speaks to Adam and Eve, he gives them more commandments—this time to worship God and to give an offering to God. Adam (not Eve, this time—perhaps because sacrifice was a priesthood ordinance that was a male duty, then as it is now) obeys (v. 5). Then, “after many days, an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam” (v. 6).
The angel goes on to query Adam about the reasons and meaning of giving sacrifice, and relates this to the Savior. Only then does the Holy Ghost fall upon Adam—after Adam has repeatedly obeyed God’s first commandments and second commandments. Note: I explored the significance of the first and second commandments mentioned in Alma 13 in a previous lesson post, here and here. Joe has also done a fair bit of work on this topic at the wiki on the Mosiah 2:23-24 page. Also, since we’re discussing this in a context fraught with temple significance: how might this first-second pattern might relate to what early church members discussed in terms of first and second annointings?
So, the Holy Ghost does not merely convey information to Adam and Eve—the angel does that prior to the Holy Ghost falling upon Adam. Also, the Holy Ghost comes to Adam only after Adam is repeatedly true and faithful to the commandments God gives to Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve’s actions are, presumably, in accordance with the desires of their hearts, to return to God’s presence. Their actions are also in accordance with the dictates of reason, since obeying God’s commandments would be the best way to pursue the end of returning into God’s presence. However, seeking God with one’s heart and mind is not sufficient if it is not done in fidelity, continually and repeatedly, with diligence and endurance.
Now, since I’ve run out of time for writing this post, let me just close by asking a series of questions—in a rather Jim F. style—regarding related issues in the rest of this chapter (Moses 5):
* If the the angel gave commandments to Adam and Eve before the Holy Ghost came, how are we to understand verse 14 which says that “the Holy Ghost . . . commanded [men everywhere] that they should repent”?
* What are the significant contrasts between the way Adam and Eve offer sacrifice and the way that Cain is described as offering sacrifice later in this chapter (vv. 18-27 esp.)?
* The Holy Ghost is again mentioned in Moses 6:8-9 when Adam begins to “prophesy” about the creation of man, “in the likeness of God . . . in the image of his own body, male and female.” Why would the Holy Ghost move Adam to prophesy about these particular aspects of creation? What relation is there between the Holy Ghost and families (and the sealing power?)? (Cf. Moses 6:10.)
* The next time several instances that the Holy Ghost is mentioned in the Book of Moses have to do with baptism (Moses 6:52, 66; 7:11). In Moses 7:11, Enoch is preaching about baptism. Might this be read as a particular instance of Moses 9:14 where the Holy Ghost is described as commanding all men to repent? Why or why not? What parallels are there between Adam and Enoch and their relationship to the Holy Ghost (as the the Book of Moses presents the account, not as we might simply speculate things might’ve been…)?