Some mistakenly believe that we should steer away from conversations regarding the mysteries of God. I think that’s attributable to false doctrine that has crept into LDS culture as well as a fundamental misunderstanding of what they are. They are supposed to be the focus of all we do. That’s because the mysteries of Godliness are simple: man can seek and find the face of God in this life. This is explained in the Doctrine and Covenants:
“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.” (D&C 84:19)
Five steps are required to know God face to face:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;” (D&C 93:1)
Also helpful is the reminder that we must strip ourselves from jealousy and fear and be humble to know God in this life:
“And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.” (D&C 67:10)
As we prepare to study the Book of Mormon this year, it may be useful to keep in mind that the mysteries are a common thread that permeate the entire Book. It begins in the very first verse:
“I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.” (1 Nephi 1:1)
In the next chapter Nephi explains that his direct interaction with the Lord began after “having great desires to know of the mysteries of God:”
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.” (1 Nephi 2:16,19)
How can you have a great desire to know the mysteries of God if you don’t know what they are or don’t talk about them or don’t believe in them or think they are only for the leaders of the Church?
The Book of Mormon begins with Lehi receiving several significant revelations (the pillar of fire on the rock, the vision on his bed after that, and subsequently the vision of the tree of life). Nephi talked with the Lord. Jacob talked with the Lord. Enos received the Second Comforter. Jesus showed Moroni our day. The Brother of Jared received a vision of all. Nephi (son of Helaman) received the sealing power via God’s voice. Man interacting with God happens throughout the Book of Mormon. The mysteries are a fundamental part of what the book teaches. For example:
19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:19)
“And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God…I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.” (Mosiah 1:3,5)
Think about what King Benjamin is saying to his sons; without the brass plates that allowed them to understand the mysteries and commandments of God, he asserts that even their fathers (Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, etc) would have dwindled in unbelief. Is that because once a people forget about, ignore, or lose the mysteries as part of their belief, the result is a religion that loses the ability to muster enough faith to leave behind the things of this world? I think it is highly likely that’s what he meant as it’s clear to me that’s the great religious plague limiting the spiritual aspirations of saints today.
King Benjamin didn’t just teach about the mysteries in private to his sons; with the whole kingdom gathered he explains that helping them understand the mysteries is the fundamental purpose of his invitation to them to gather for his last speech:
“And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.” (Mosiah 2:9)
Consider also Amulek’s admission:
Amulek: “Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people. Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart, even until the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges.” (Alma 10:5,6)
The admonition to pursue the mysteries continues in the D&C:
Because the mysteries entail knowing God, and knowing God is the only path to eternal life, ignoring or avoiding the mysteries destroys the fundamental purpose of our religion.
“Seek not for riches but for wisdom; and, behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.” (D&C 11:7)
The mysteries are associated with the peaceable things, which are the source of the joy of the saints:
“If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” (D&C 42:61)
The limitation on understanding the mysteries is placed only on those outside the Church:
“Behold, thou shalt observe all these things, and great shall be thy reward; for unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them.” (D&C 42:65)
Understanding the mysteries is the beginning of understanding that God wants us to be reconciled to Him during our mortal probation. Those under the bondage of sin are identified as those who have not been initiated into the mysteries, and who thus have not heard His voice. Consider the Lord’s condemnation of the Church for not receiving His voice, which is a result of being under the bondage of sin, which sin and darkness came due to vanity and unbelief, which is associated with them not taking seriously the Book of Mormon and doing what it teaches:
“And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin. And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me. For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin. And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me. And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now. And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written— That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion. For shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily, I say unto you, Nay.” (D&C 84:49-59)
This condemnation has never been lifted by the Lord.