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Joseph, firstborn in Israel

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What is the privilege of a firstborn, according to the Law of God?

Numbers 3:13
13 Because all the firstborn [are] mine; [for] on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I [am] the LORD.

Numbers 3:40
40 ¶ And the LORD said unto Moses, Number all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names.

Numbers 3:41
41 And thou shalt take the Levites for me (I [am] the LORD) instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlings among the cattle of the children of Israel.

So the firstborn pertain to the Lord and best of all the Priests, Levites, were considered the real FIRSTBORN.

1 Chronicles 5:1
1 ¶ NOW the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he [was] the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.

Joseph receive this right because Reuben defiled his father's bed

Jeremiah 31:9
9 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim [is] my firstborn.

Ephraim is declared to be the firstborn for God.

Colossians 1:15
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Jesus is the firstborn of every creature.

Now the firstborn has duties and rights. Reuben failing his duties lost his rights.

I am pointing this out because as lds we know that in these last days through the house of Ephraim will come the blessings of the Gospel to the House of Israel and consequently to all mankind.

In 1955, the Macmillan Company of New York published the English translation of a book by Dr. Joseph Klausner, professor of Hebrew literature and Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The book came out under the title of the Messianic idea in Israel. In this volume Dr. Klausner devoted one full chapter (part 3, chapter 9) to the coming of a future "Joseph". Dr. Klausner pointed out that one of the most ancient and respected traditions among the Jewish scholars is the prophecy that a "Joseph" should be raised up in the latter days for the specific purpose of preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah. He cited sources to show that this future Joseph is not only mentioned in the Talmud and other Jewish classics, but Christian scholars have also taken note of this tradition.

According to the Jewish scholars, this future Joseph was to be killed, some said in battle, but Judah Ibn Shmuel said he would be attacked by "Armilus, who is the Antichrist" Klausner p. 496). According to tradition, this Joseph of the latter day saints would be a descendant of Joseph who was sold into Egypt and would come trough the line of Ephraim (Joseph's heir). It also said that his mission would commence about the time Elija made his appearance to fulfill the promise made in Malachi 4:5-6 (Klausner p. 498)

But the thing which puzzled Dr. Klausner most was why this tradition of a latter day Joseph should be so thoroughly among the Jewish scholars when there was no reference to it in the Hebrew scriptures. The Talmud, the Midrash, and the Targum all refer to it, but these, of course, are merely commentaries rather than the scripture itself. Furthermore, the Jews are not the only ones wh have this tradition. Dr. Klausner states that the Samaritans are even more zealous than the Jews in keeping alive the tradition of the latter day Joseph. Some of them claim to be of the tribe of Joseph and therefore this prophecy is extremely important to them.

It will be recalled that the ancestors of the Samaritans were the tiny remnant which was successful in escaping the siege of the Assyrians in 721 B.C., and therefore they were not carried off to Mesopotamia with the rest of Israel. Their tradition concerning the latter day  Joseph goes back to a period which was long before the Talmud. According to Dr> Klausner the Samaritans had this to say about the future Joseph.

1)He would be a descendant of Joseph through Ephraim

2)They called him "TEAL", meaning the "restore" " he who returns" or "he who causes to return".

3)They said he would call the people of the world to repentance and bring back better days for Israel.

4)They said this Joseph of the latter days would "restore everywhere the true law to its former validity and convert all peoples, especially the Jews, to the Samaritan (Ephrainite) religion.

this messenger was prophesied by Malachi

Chapter 3
Malachi 3:1
1 ¶ BEHOLD, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

the next verse clarify when this messenger will come

Malachi 3:2
2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he [is] like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:

Malachi 3:3
3 And he shall sit [as] a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

before of the second coming.

In translating the book of Mormon Joseph

1 Nephi 5:14
14 And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.

1 Nephi 5:16
16 And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records.

1 Nephi 6:2
2 For it sufficeth me to say that we are descendants of Joseph.

2 Nephi 3:4
4 For behold, thou art the fruit of my loins; and I am a descendant of Joseph who was carried captive into Egypt. And great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph.

2 Nephi 3:5
5 Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light--yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.

2 Nephi 3:6
6 For Joseph truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins.

2 Nephi 3:7
7 Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.

2 Nephi 3:14
14 And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;

2 Nephi 3:16
16 Yea, thus prophesied Joseph: I am sure of this thing, even as I am sure of the promise of Moses; for the Lord hath said unto me, I will preserve thy seed forever.

2 Nephi 3:22
22 And now, behold, my son Joseph, after this manner did my father of old prophesy.

2 Nephi 3:25
25 And now, blessed art thou, Joseph. Behold, thou art little; wherefore hearken unto the words of thy brother, Nephi, and it shall be done unto thee even according to the words which I have spoken. Remember the words of thy dying father. Amen.

Jacob 2:25
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

The Bible is clearly the story of the tribe of Judah but also contains in many instances prophecies regarding Joseph and  Ephraim, but nothing about Dan, Reuben, and others of his children. Especially interesting are the dream of Joseph and...

Genesis 37:3
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he [was] the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of [many] colours.

Alma 46:23
23 Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.

Alma 46:24
24 Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said--Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.

Once again, prophecy and traditions are supporting the Joseph Smith position in these last days like a descendant from the loins of Joseph of Egypt to fulfill the ancient prophecy regarding the last days.

There is another scripture that helps clarify this point. Let's take a closer look at John 1:19-23. In verse 19 we read, "And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And He confessed, I am not the Christ."

The first question the Jews asked was, "Are you the Messiah?" We know that the Jew were expecting the coming of the Messiah. However, when
John answered that he wasn't, they next asked him, "What then? Are you Elias? And he said I am not." It's clear from this second question that
the Jews were also awaiting another person, besides the Messiah. Specifically, a prophet named Elias. It should be noted that if the prophet Elias was also the Messiah, John would have clarified this point. However, the way he answered the question is proof enough that he knew about prophet Elias coming again.

Then the Jews asked John a third question: "Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that send us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then?"

It is clear from this question that the Jews were familiar with the practice of baptism as a means of repentance. If they didn't accept this practice their question would have been, "What are you doing?" or "What is this all about?" Instead they were asking about his AUTHORITY to perform this act. It seems certain they felt that both the Messiah (or Christ) and Elias had the right to perform baptism as part of the repentance process. Therefore they asked him if he was one of these two expected prophets.

We have to remark here that at that time the Jews were waiting for three distinct people -- Elias, the  Messiah and one other prophet. We have the record of John the Baptist that he knew about these three prophets. Furthermore, we know now that Christ was the Messiah. But what about Elias? In our church we believe he has already come and visited Joseph Smith.. But what about the other prophet? Who is he? Unfortunately there is no mention of him in the scriptures of the Bible. Yet, not withstanding this, the Jews and John knew knew about him. Surely they had others sources of scripture that we don't have today. The Bible itself supports the idea that something like thirty books are lost, and it is enough to see how many new books we have now from Nag Hammadi and Qumran. Those book were found only fifty years ago and not all are translated, Perhaps in the future we will have more clues about this important prophet.

Monte S.Nyman wrote about this topic:

Jeremiah's Prophecy of an Ephraimite Prophet

Leaving Isaiah, may I now suggest that Jeremiah described both Joseph Smith and the First Vision. I take no credit for seeing what others have not seen; I got the idea from an old Jewish writer who, after reading a passage from Jeremiah, announced, "Certainly we could not blame any Jew who should see in these words a Messiah ben Joseph." He then added that the passage was to be fulfilled in the last days. After careful examination I decided my old Jewish friend was right; Jeremiah was not one whit behind Isaiah and others of the ancient prophets in his ability to see and describe events of our day and in his knowledge of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The passage is Jeremiah 30:21, which in the King James Bible reads thus: "And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord."

How is such a conclusion drawn from this passage? First, we must look to the context from which it comes. Jeremiah chapters 30 and 31 deal with the latter-day restoration of Israel. They form a unit and should be read together. By tradition they are known as the Book of Consolation, because of the solace they extended to Israel when the prospects of the nation were at their lowest. The testimony of these chapters is that there would again be a day when Israel would return to their lands and former glory, with prophets at their head and the favor of God resting upon them. To this they are to look, and in this they are to believe. That Jeremiah's prophecy was not fulfilled in their return from the] Babylonian captivity is evident from the prominent role he ascribes to Ephraim in these chapters. He clearly identifies Ephraim as the tribe of the birthright and as the moving force behind the gathering. This certainly has not been the case in any instance before our day. Ephraim is described as "the watchmen upon the mount," the tribe designated to raise the warning voice, to gather Israel, and to declare the word of the Lord. Ephraim repented and was instructed in the principles of salvation (see Jeremiah 31:19). The prophetic promise was that of a returning to the true and living God, of a restoration of ancient truths, and of "a new covenant," for the Lord said, "This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jeremiah 31:33).

In that setting we return our attention to the passage in question. The old Jewish commentator quoted it thus: "His Mighty One shall proceed from himself and his Ruler come forth from his own midst."11 Thus he is changing the plural "nobles" of the King James translation to the singular "Mighty One." This is in harmony with our more recent Bible translations.

For instance, the Jerusalem Bible reads:

Their prince will be one of their own, their ruler come from their own people. I will let him come freely into my presence and he can come close to me; who else, indeed, would risk his life by coming close to me?—it is Yahweh who speaks.

The New English Bible reads:

A ruler shall appear, one of themselves, a governor shall arise from their own number. I will myself bring him near and so he shall approach me; for no one ventures of himself to approach me, says the Lord"

Other possible renditions could be "their Glorious One" or "Leader."

The passage promises a single "leader" from Ephraim who will be brought into the presence of the Lord Jehovah and then assume the presiding role in the latter-day gathering of Israel.
Messiah ben Joseph

As we have referred to the ancient tradition of a latter-day prophet—the Messiah ben Joseph, or ben Ephraim, as he is [p.24] variously called—let us now consider that tradition and its origins. Old Testament prophecies dealing with the coming of Christ naturally divide themselves into those speaking of his earthly ministry and those describing his second coming. In the literature of the Jews it is not uncommon to find reference to the Messiah ben Joseph associated with the passages dealing with the earthly ministry of Christ. These are often referred to as the "suffering servant" passages. The nation longed for a triumphant king, one who would free them from bondage and return them to the glory of David's day. They could talk endlessly about those passages dealing with their triumphant liberator. The passages dealing with Christ's rejection, his being despised, bruised, and afflicted, and his being "brought as a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7) caused them considerably more difficulty, especially when the messianic flavor of such passages was too obvious to be denied. (We are obviously talking here about many of Isaiah's prophecies.) In an attempt to resolve this difficulty, a well-established Jewish dogma of a second messiah is cited—one destined to be a suffering messiah, a martyr messiah, but not to be confused with their triumphant king. "The doctrine of two Messiahs holds an important place in Jewish theology," writes a Yale theologian, Charles Torrey, "more important and more widely attested than is now generally recognized. It is not a theory imperfectly formulated or only temporarily held, but a standard article of faith, early and firmly established and universally accepted."13 Briefly stated, the doctrine is this: "According to a talmudic statement the Jews believed in two Messiahs, one of the tribe of Joseph, or rather who was an Ephraimite, and the other a scion of David." The Messiah ben Joseph, according to this tradition, is to be killed, following which the Messiah ben David is to make his triumphant appearance. So then the suffering servant passages could be handled by simply being applied to the Messiah ben Joseph.

Excepting Samaritan sources, virtually every reference to the Messiah ben Joseph notes his violent death. Since the Samaritans believed themselves to be Ephraimites, they refused to admit the possibility that their prophet-hero could be killed. The general agreement, however, is that he was to die at the hands of the enemies of Israel. Since he was to appear on the scene in the last  days, his death is most often associated with the battle of  Armageddon, when the forces of Gog and Magog march against the gathered host of Israel. Though this is the generally accepted tradition in later literature, it traces to secondary sources. The earliest of sources that have survived to our day—these would be the references to the Messiah ben Joseph in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds—affirm his martyr's death, but do not mention the nature of it.

I would suggest that the best explanation of the manner of his death is to be found in the Testament of Benjamin, the younger brother of Joseph, in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Benjamin recounts the manner in which Joseph besought his father to seek the Lord's forgiveness in behalf of his brothers for their transgression against him, and how Jacob in turn announced his knowledge of the special promise made to Joseph's seed. Benjamin says Joseph

besought our father that he would pray for his brethren, that the Lord would not impute to them as sin whatever evil they had done unto him. And thus Jacob cried out: My good child, thou has prevailed over the bowels of thy father Jacob. And he embraced him, and kissed him for two hours, saying: In thee shall be fulfilled the prophecy of heaven which says "that a blameless one shall be delivered up for lawless men, and a sinless one shall die for ungodly men."

After quoting this passage, H. J. Schonfield observed that "The Patriarch Joseph does not really qualify as fulfiller of such a prophecy; but he was regarded as the antetype of a righteous man killed by the godless, a veritable suffering Ben Joseph."16 Whether the phrases "blameless" and "sinless" both have reference to Messiah ben Joseph is open to question. It seems to me that the "sinless" prophet who was to die "for ungodly men" could be none other than Jesus Christ. The "blameless one" who was to die at the hands of the "lawless men" is the Messiah ben Joseph. In either case, the prophecy is a remarkable description of the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was murdered by a "lawless" mob on June 27, 1844.

A number of interesting traditions surround the death of the Messiah ben Joseph. One holds that after having restored temple  worship he would be killed. "Then the time of the last extreme suffering and persecution for Israel will begin, from which escape will be sought by flight into the wilderness."

These events are closely associated with the return of Elijah, who is to restore the Messiah ben Joseph to life and join the righteous in their flight into the desert, where they are to remain until joined by the Messiah, who will then begin his redemptive work.

Joseph's role in destroying the kingdoms of wickedness is also emphasized in a Jewish tradition about the blessings given by Jacob to his sons. Louis Ginzberg records that Jacob "called Benjamin a wolf, Judah a lion, and Joseph a bull" in order to

point to the three kingdoms known as wolf, lion, and bull, and the doom of which was and will be sealed by the descendants of his three sons: Babylon, the kingdom of the lion, fell through the hands of Daniel of the tribe of Judah; Media, the wolf, found its master in the Benjamite Mordecai; and the bull Joseph will subdue the horned beast, the kingdom of wickedness, before the Messianic time.

There is also a very old Jewish tradition that Edom or Idumea, meaning the powers of the world, can fall only at the hands of Joseph. One Jewish writer stated that it was the "province of the Messiah son of Joseph to conquer Israel's enemies."20 These threads of tradition come from whole cloth. Doctrine and Covenants section 1, which, as we have already seen, introduces Joseph Smith in the language of Isaiah, picks up that language again to announce the imminent return of Christ: "Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh; and the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth" (D&C 1:12-13). Isaiah's exact language was: "For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment" (Isaiah 34:5). The modern revelation continues (and we are paraphrasing Isaiah and Moses here):

And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;

For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; 
They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. (D&C 1:14-16.)

The revelation then announces that Joseph Smith has been given the power "to lay the foundation" of the Church, "to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness," and to send forth to all men the message of repentance, for "the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world" (vss. 30-36).

In summarizing the Messiah ben Joseph tradition, it should be said that his role centers in—in fact, he seems to be the focal point of—the latter-day gathering of Israel. In this role he is to restore true temple worship, return Judah to Palestine, rebuild the city of Jerusalem, build the temple there anew, and bring to pass the restoration of the ten tribes. All of this is destined to happen before the coming of the Messiah ben David. The Messiah ben Joseph tradition is always closely associated with the return of Elijah, who is also to be a forerunner of the Messiah. Elijah, according to such traditions, is "charged with the mission of ordering the coming time aright and restoring the tribes of Jacob." It is believed that when Elijah comes he must adjust "all matters of law and Biblical interpretation" and correct "all genealogical records." He is to destroy the power of Satan and to be "instrumental in bringing Israel to genuine repentance," establishing peace, and turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. "Elijah's chief activity," it is stated, "will consist in restoring the purity of the family."

The traditions also include a prophecy by Joseph's mother Rachel "that Joseph would be the ancestor of the (Ephraimitic) Messiah, who would arise at the end of days,"24 along with an interesting variation on the dreams of his youth. According to such accounts "Joseph dreamed a dream, and he could not refrain from telling it to his brethren." In this dream he and his brothers were gathering fruit. "Your fruit rotted, but mine remained sound," Joseph explained. "Your seed will set up dumb images of idols, but they will vanish at the appearance of my descendant, the Messiah of Joseph."
Origins of the Tradition

Perhaps as interesting as anything else in relationship to the Messiah ben Joseph traditions is the fact that no one seems to know where they came from. No passage in today's canon fits. Arguments have attempted to tie these traditions to Jacob's patriarchal blessing to Joseph, to the blessing given by Moses to the tribe of Joseph, to Isaiah's suffering servant passages, and, as we have seen, to Jeremiah's reference to an Ephraimite prophet. Other arguments have involved Ezekiel's prophecy about the stick of Joseph, Daniel's reference to "Messiah the Prince," and passages in Joel and Hosea which have been linked to the Teacher of Righteousness of the Dead Sea Scrolls, who has also been associated with the Messiah ben Joseph. Also, attempts have been made to associate the tradition with Obadiah's references to the leading role of the tribe of Joseph in the events of the last days; Habakkuk's reference to a prophet who would do a work that would cause men to "wonder marvelously," a work which most would not believe (which passage is especially interesting because Christ applied it to Joseph Smith in 3 Nephi 21); and Micah and Zechariah. The marvelous thing is that none of them fit. None of them speak of a prophet named Joseph who would be a son of Joseph of Egypt called to gather Israel in the last days.

To the Latter-day Saint the answer is simple. We have read it in the text that Joseph Smith restored to chapter 50 of Genesis in his translation and in 2 Nephi 3, where Lehi gives a patriarchal blessing to his son Joseph. But the scholars continue to be puzzled. Professor Torrey writes:

Some biblical passage or picture, indeed, is to be looked for as the source of this remarkable feature of Jewish eschatology. It would seem to be beyond question that a tenet of such importance, well established in Talmud, Targum, and Midrash, must have its proof texts in canonical Hebrew scripture.26
Religious Studies Monograph Series, Isaiah and the Prophets, Vol. 10, p.28
In speaking of the idea of the two Messiahs, ben Joseph and ben David, he says:
Religious Studies Monograph Series, Isaiah and the Prophets, Vol. 10, p.28
Here are two divinely anointed beings, each connected in the closest way with the fate of both Israel and the nations of the world. It is hardly possible to believe that the Rabbis could have adopted and given out this very significant article of faith merely on the basis of speculation, without definite prophetic authority.27 
What Of It All

I will borrow for my conclusion the words I wrote in the book His Name Shall Be Joseph, which contains a more detailed discussion of the tradition of a Messiah ben Joseph and the knowledge had by the ancients of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

Only the light of the restored gospel can dispel the shadows of time and bring the tapestry of legend and tradition into full view. Only as we stand in that heavenly light that surrounded the youthful Joseph Smith as Moroni unfolded the mysteries of the ancient scriptures to him can we see as Joseph saw and as the prophets of all ages have seen. It takes a prophet to understand the prophetic. The revelations of the past are of little worth without revelation in the present. Until one shares the testimony of living revelation the arguments of past revelation are but the expressions of one who sees "through a glass darkly." One must have life to grant life. Only living revelation can grant life to the revelation of ages past. Having the revealed knowledge that Jacob's son, Joseph, did in fact have Heaven's promise that a latter-day descendant of his would yet bear his name and do again his work in restoring Israel, can we be blamed in seeing in such traditions a resemblance to truths once had? It is a resemblance far too close to have been born of chance. Even the frills of the folklorist, the embroideries of the Talmudist, and the gross exaggerations to which all ancient tales are subject have not destroyed that likeness. Our prophet bears the right name, he was of the right lineage, he was in reality anointed, he did the right works, he taught the right doctrines, and he died the violent death anticipated by the traditions. All of this he did without ever hearing of the legends of which we speak, and in doing so he stood singularly and uniquely alone among the religious leaders of the world. Not since the days of the Bible has there been one like him, and from among the world's religious leaders none have sought association with him.

In such legends and traditions we find fuel for testimony, but only if the fire of testimony already burns brightly. Such things can add to the burning fire but have no power in themselves to kindle that fire. They are not the source of testimony and thus have no profitable place in the proselyting efforts of the Church. They will not convert the Jew, though they may serve as an additional anchor to the converted Jew. They do not prove the verity of the Restoration and the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith, though as all things bear record of Christ, so they sustain our revealed testimony of the great Prophet of the Restoration. We would not and do not expect the world to see in these  traditions that which we see in them. As the scriptures were used anciently to reject the living Messiah, so they are used today to reject the message of the Restoration. We cannot expect others viewing the distant horizon of legend and tradition, and doing so without the light of the new day, to see what we have seen. The wealth of Messianic prophecies has not converted the Jew, and the thousands of prophetic passages describing the Apostasy and Restoration have not dissuaded the Christian. The Sadducees and Pharisees are alive and well. But surely it does not remain for people who have denied the Christ by tradition, by creed, or by deed, and who have sealed the heavens, professing that they cannot speak, to sit in judgment on those who have found him and have heard his voice. As Joseph Smith asked, "Does it remain for a people who never had faith enough to call down one scrap of revelation from heaven … to say how much God has spoken and how much he has not spoken?" (History of the Church 2:18). Such traditions are but the rags of the past, yet the rags evidence the whole cloth. They are but ashes, yet the ashes evidence that once things burned with fervent heat. They are but a skeleton, yet the skeleton evidences that there was flesh and blood and spirit.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 September 2012 10:48  

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