Scriptures That Nobody Understands

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?


9 Responses to Scriptures That Nobody Understands

  1. Karen says:

    How about the scripture in Revelation 22… “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.”

  2. Nephi said that those that have the spirit of prophecy have no trouble understanding the scriptures.

    Have you asked yourself if you really know that Jesus Is the Chirst? If you do, then you have the spirit of Prophecy. That testimony does not come without revelation. every single person that has that testimony has prophesied from Adam unitl this day. For the testimony of Jesus Chirst is the spirit of prophecy.

    A servant in the hands of Chirst.

  3. I believe I can explain them, but it requires considerable foundational work to get to the answer. Visit my website:, or my blog: You can email me at: I’d be happy help.

  4. Trevor says:

    I have a thought or two about the scriptures referenced above, although I feel a bit censured already since this was included in the above:

    “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.”

    Still I’ll venture onward and see if something positive comes out of it. Several years ago while I was beginning to repent from a particularly grievous sin, I had the experience of reading through the 3 Nephi account where Christ is quoting and expounding on some verses in Isaiah. I literally felt like a fog was over my mind and I could not even begin to understand even a tiny bit of what I was attempting to read. It was like the words went into my brain and bounced off a thick wall without ANYTHING sticking. I think the experience was different from a stupor of thought in that I was impressed with the idea that my soul was closed to spiritual things (recall Isaiah’s their eyes were blinded and ears were stopped up verbiage– that was me). Recently, a couple weeks ago I was re-reading those same passages and realized that the feeling of “blindness” was gone, at least enough for me to understand a little bit more than I ever had before about what was being taught do to the fact that I was actually feeling the Spirit of Truth work in me to crack the door a tiny amount to let a little light into my mind. I might say that I FELT the scales of darkness fall away from my eyes, to use another way of describing that experience. It’s difficult to be more descriptive than that.
    Anyway, I have no insight into D&C 64. I think it is speaking of very important things that happened and will happen but beyond that it is a mystery to me. About 3 Nephi 20 and 21 though… I have this thought. Ch 21’s servant is indeed speaking of Joseph Smith. He was marred by the balls of shot that disfigured his body and face in his martyrdom. He is or will be healed from those marks inflicted on his body upon his resurrection just as all of us will be (The scripture leaves open also that he will be healed in other ways also much sooner than resurrection from the pain of betrayal by apostates or whatever others wounds he suffered as he did according to God’s will). The servant in Ch 20 I believe refers to Christ first and foremost (and possibly other prophets who are a type of Christ to experience the same things He did in some form or fashion). Isaiah writes “the song of the servant” continued in many of his prophesies and they are without doubt about Jesus Christ. Here is the thought that I had this last time reading these verses that I think so worth sharing… Christ appeared to the apostles and followers on at least two continents and showed His body to them— a body that was resurrected and yet still had wounds in his hands and feet and side so that everyone could SEE them and FEEL them in absolute proof that he was the Lamb of God slain on their behalf. Mormon folklore speculates that at some future point those wounds will be taken from His body when they are no longer necessary and He will be just as whole as everybody else will be after resurrection. I think Isaiah may be saying quite truthfully that Christ’s “visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men—So shall he sprinkle [gather] many nations.” The atonement in Eternal right, Infinite right? Why would it ever cease to be necessary as long as their are intelligences progressing in the Plan of Salvation of the Father. What if Christ bears those marks FOREVER!? Wouldn’t that make Him more marred than any man? Wouldn’t that make Him the Savior to all the Children of God FOREVER as well! Even if they are OUR spirit children post-exaltation by the very bodies He created and raised from the dust for us? Now that to me is a wonderful thought and faithful to the scriptural accounts we have. Isa. 49: 16 “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

    • Lloyd Brumbaugh says:

      I am convinced that the marred servant of 3 Ne 21:10 is indeed Joseph Smith and that the phrase, “yet I will heal him” refers to Joseph’s resurrection. But I also have some question about his visage being marred more than any man. Can anyone help by referring me to the best reliable history source to determine just how much Joseph was disfigured by the mob after falling from the window. Could it be that the face mask which was made is not indicative of his true facial injuries? Lloyd

  5. May I humbly suggest that you read my views on the symbolic language of the scriptures? Please, don’t be put off because it seems unfamiliar at first. Stick with it. I think you will find answers to your questions there.

  6. Josh says:

    Just quick thought without looking into the context of the scriptures at the moment, but perhaps the D&C scriptures are a little less positive than they seem.

    The church being like a judge on a hill could mean that the church will isolate itself from the world, thus why it judges anything and everything pertaining to itself. Coming from a rather pessimistic perspective of some things, the proving of liars and hypocrites, even in the offices of bishops, would seem to indicate that the church will weed out all of the bad from itself, if only because everyone will judge each other so much.

    Then the tone shifts at verse 41 with “For, behold,” or, perhaps more clearly, “Because, look,” these things have to happen in order for the church to flourish, and when it does, the example they set (their being an ensign) will draw members from around the world. Then there will come a day where they will be so numerous and so powerful that nations worldwide would actually fear the church.

    Alternatively, you could say this already happened, because we do have members from around the world, governments are already wary of us, we already do judge each other to the point of either changing or leaving, and the best of us do set a great example.

    Honestly, though, without looking at the context and the cross-references, more sleep, and a cure for the flu I’m coming down with, I’m sort of just pulling this out of thin air. Take it as you will.

  7. oliver says:

    Your absolutely right about those scriptures.

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