Scriptures That Nobody Understands

October 30, 2008

Do you understand all the scriptures that you read?  If you do, you are a better man than I am because much of the Word of God is utterly opaque and confusing to me.  And I have learned that none of the scriptural commentaries, even those most admired, are able to shed enough light on some of them to enlighten me.  I guess I am just dense.  Or perhaps it is true that we learn line up line…, etc.  And I have many more lines and precepts to learn before I can understand them.

For instance, what does this passage in D&C 64 mean:

37 Behold, I, the Lord, have made my church in these last days like unto a judge sitting on a hill, or in a high place, to judge the nations.

38 For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion.

39 And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known.

40 And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their stewardships shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead.

41 For, behold, I say unto you that Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her;

42 And she shall be an ensign unto the people, and there shall come unto her out of every nation under heaven.

43 And the day shall come when the nations of the earth shall tremble because of her, and shall fear because of her terrible ones. The Lord hath spoken it. Amen.

Who or what are these terrible ones that will strike fear in all the nations of the earth?  And why would Zion want to strike fear in other nations?  Verse thirty-seven seems to suggest that the day will come before the Second Coming when Zion will be a sovereign and independent nation.  How can that be?  Aren’t we just a church?  Sure, we are the Kingdom of God on earth, but that is a heavenly kingdom only.  Isn’t that right?  Perhaps some might sugggest that this describes a period of Zion’s history after the Second Coming and during the Millennium.  But are there going to be nations of the wicked upon the earth during the Millennium that Zion will have to strike fear in them?  This is just a very puzzling scripture.  And when I go to the commentaries, nearly all of them just skip over this passage when they are commenting on D&C 64. I don’t understand it.

Here is another one in 3 Nephi 20:

43 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
44 As many were astonished at thee—his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men—
45 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

It is repeated in the next chapter, 3 Nephi 21:

10 But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.

I have never heard an explanation of these passages that satisfied me.  Some say the “marred servant” is Jesus.  But that makes no sense because it is Jesus that is speaking here and when has he ever referred to himself as his own servant?  It is clear to me that he is referring to a prophet.

Others say this is a reference to Joseph Smith.  But Joseph Smith was never so marred in his visage that he astonished others because of his appearance.  And the use of the word “visage” connotes and denotes a man’s face.  It calls to mind a horribly disfigured face.  Does that describe Jesus or Joseph Smith?  I don’t think so.

Still others suggest that this refers to a future prophet, one that has yet to make his appearance upon the world scene, one that will come before the Second Coming.  This explanation does not seem to contain any unnacceptable inconsistencies, but perhaps that is because it is the most open ended, the most vague.

So which is it?  I just don’t understand the passage, and it has occurred to me that perhaps no one else does either.  But I’m sure that won’t stop some from explaining it to me.  It never has in the past.  One thing that may be relied upon is the pride of those who imagine that they know a great deal more than they really do.  Ask a question on the Internet and it will always be answered regardless of whether or not the answering person has any knowledge of the subject.

Of course, my own ignorance is great too.  I simply do not understand these two passages and have been unable to obtain that understanding in spite of the efforts that I have made to do so.  Furthermore, the scriptures are full of passages like these, passages that no one knows the meaning of.  These are the passages that are the most interesting to me.  I collect them.  I find the scriptures that I do not understand to be far more interesting than those that I do.  After all, if I already understand a thing, there is no way that I can learn it, is there?  To learn, I must focus upon the unknown.  Otherwise, the concept of line upon line, precept upon precept doesn’t have any meaning.

I hope to share some of the other scriptures that puzzle me on this blog from time to time.  Are there any that puzzle you?