Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Thorny Crown

Leann and I were asked to speak in Church Last Sunday.[1] Leann was asked to speak on how the Atonement of Jesus Christ helps us to overcome our trials and I was asked to focus my remarks on how the Atonement of Jesus Christ helps us to love other people. What follows is the bulk of my talk with a few improvements made here and there. I've also included references and some annotations.

After the Lord confronted Adam and Eve about eating the forbidden fruit and receiving their confession, he pronounced the following:
“Because thou hast […] eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying—Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.” (Moses 4:23–24) [2]
The thorns and thistles are presented in contrast to the beauty and simplicity of the Garden of Eden. Other terms that are used in the scriptures to convey the same idea are “brambles”, “nettles”, “briars”, “cockles”, “pricks”, etc.[3] These are not objects meant “to please the eye and to gladden the heart” (D&C 59:18); they are cruel organs of pain and self-protection. For this reason they are frequently used in the Scriptures as symbols or manifestations of the negative consequences of the Fall. I won’t have time to cover these topics, but thorns and thistles are also used to symbolize apostasy and desolation [4], divine retribution [5], and worldly distractions [6], among other things.[7]

When I think about the negative consequences of the Fall I like to break them down into three categories (though in reality there may be some overlap). First, there are the pains and evils that are a part of existence. You can accidentally stub your toe or skin your knee. You can slip on the ice and break a bone. You can lose your home or a family member in a natural disaster. You can contract a crippling disease or become infested with a worm that renders you blind. You can struggle every day to find enough food to stay alive. You can die.

Second, there are the pains and evils that are the result of others’ actions. You can be crippled by a drunk driver. You can be abandoned by a loved one. You can be swindled out of all your money. You can be picked on and ridiculed. You can be evicted from your apartment because a neighbor lied about you. You can be fired because the boss’s daughter needs a job. You can be betrayed by someone you trusted. You can be raped or assaulted.

Third, there are the pains and evils that are the results of your own choices.[8] Even when it’s our own fault, these things are painful to bear. You can lose your family because of infidelity. You can end up in prison because of criminal behavior. You can lose your job because you sleep in every day. You can contract a deadly disease while using recreational drugs. You can realize, too late, that abortion is the wrong way to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. You can lose a dear friend because you said something cruel. You can lose all your money gambling. This third category can also include the godly sorrow we must experience during true repentance.[9]

All these evils are thorns and thistles in our lives. They are hard and sharp. And we are soft and weak. They pierce us and wound us. In the physical world, when our skin is exposed to frequent irritation, it develops a callus. Likewise, we can develop emotional or spiritual calluses in response to pain and suffering—whether it be our own or that of others. While this makes us more impervious or indifferent to future pain and suffering, it can also have the negative side effect of rendering us insensitive to the Spirit. This simultaneous desensitization to suffering and to the Spirit can eventually erode our testimonies. Many, including some dear friends of mine, have lost their testimonies because they were unable to reconcile a belief in a loving, personal Heavenly Father with the pain and suffering they saw or personally experienced.

But Heavenly Father is neither unaware nor uninvolved. The Scriptures contain repeated acknowledgments of the misery of the human condition but also of God’s supremacy over that condition. Consider, for example, the familiar story of Moses being called as a prophet:
“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And […] God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, […] I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey […].” (Ex. 3:2–8)
The Hebrew word that is translated as “bush” in this passage is sěneh, which can be more specifically translated as “thorn bush” or “bramble”.[10] When the burning bush is referred to in the New Testament, the Greek term bátos is used, which has the same meaning: “thorn bush” or “bramble”.[11] This burning thorn bush was a remarkable sight for Moses. Thorn bushes and brambles are fairly common in that area of the world, and the Bible mentions on several occasions that these thorn bushes were prone to dry up and make good fuel for fire.[12] But even though this thorn bush was burning hotly, the fire wasn’t destroying it.

There are several symbolisms that I think can be gleaned from this passage.[13] First, the Lord acknowledged the fallen state of the world by utilizing a thorn bush. This is reinforced by the fact that the Lord confesses his awareness of the afflictions and sorrows of the captive Israelites. Second, he demonstrated that He has complete control over the fate of the fallen world by having the thorn bush burn, but not be consumed by the fire. Similarly, the Lord could have delivered the Israelites from Egypt at any time, but did not. Third, I see a hint that the fallen world will someday be purified by fire.[14] More concretely, the Lord promises to deliver the people to a promised land—to end their sorrows and afflictions.

Many generations earlier the prophet Abraham was given a sore trial by the Lord. After decades of childlessness, the Lord blessed Abraham and his wife Sarah with a child, Isaac, and Abraham received a promise that Isaac would be the father to a multitudinous posterity. But then we read this:
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did [test] Abraham, and said unto him, […] Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” (Gen. 22:1–2)
Not only was he commanded to give up his child and the blessings the Lord had promised in connection with Isaac, but Abraham was also asked to subject his son to the horrible fate of human sacrifice which he himself had escaped as a youth.[15] You can imagine the many feelings Abraham experienced: pain, sorrow, confusion, doubt, isolation, anger, etc.—all emotions aroused by the buffeting we all individually experience as a result of living in this fallen world. But Abraham chose faith and hope and did as the Lord commanded:
“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and […] took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, […] Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering[…]. […]and Abraham built an altar […], and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham […] took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, […] Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” (Gen. 22:3–13)
There are many notable parallels between this episode and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.[16] Each is spoken of as being the only begotten son of his father.[17] Isaac is believed to have been around thirty years of age—about the same age as our Savior when he suffered and died for us. Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice up the mountain, just as Christ carried his own cross. An angel appeared to Abraham to stop him, just as an angel appeared to Jesus to strengthen him. There is some debate about which mountain this took place on, but it was likely Mount Moriah, where Solomon’s temple was later built.[18] Notably, after the angel stopped Abraham, God sent a ram for the sacrifice. Abraham found it caught in a thicket by its horns. The exact nature of the thicket is not specified, but a thicket of brambles or thorns is a distinct possibility.[19] If this really did take place on Mount Moriah, then it’s possible the thicket where the ram was caught corresponds to the side of Mount Moriah where Christ was crucified [20] or to the location of the Garden of Gethsemane on the nearby Mount of Olives.

And that brings me to the most important example from the Scriptures that God is acutely aware of our suffering: the Atonement of Jesus Christ Just as a lamb was provided to save Isaac from pain and death, the Lamb of God was provided to save us all from pain and death. In an act of mockery, the Roman soldiers charged with carrying out the crucifixion plaited a crown of thorns and mashed it down on Jesus’ head.[21] The Romans (just like the Greeks) distinguished two types of crowns: the royal crown, or diadem, and the civic crown. The royal crown was a bejeweled metal ornament worn by kings and emperors. The civic crown was a wreath or garland woven of leaves—oak, laurel, olive, ivy, or grass, depending on the occasion. It was given to those who had made significant accomplishments in civic leadership, in military leadership (especially saving the life of a Roman citizen), or in athletic games. It was also given to newlyweds or even to attendees at festivals. The mock crown they gave Christ was not a royal crown, but a civic one.[22] Thus not only were the Roman soldiers deriding Christ’s claim to be the King of the Jews, but they were also implying that he hadn’t done anything noteworthy at all—like saving the life of someone important. But their irreverence inadvertently provided us with a powerful symbol: Christ taking upon himself thorns—the pain and suffering of the world.

But the punishment didn’t stop there. Criminals in Old Testament times were whipped with thorn-tipped whips.[23] Likewise, Jesus was scourged by his Roman captors before the crucifixion. And finally, nails and a spear—manmade thorns, if you will—were used to pierce his flesh and fasten him to the cross. In this very real way, Christ interposed between us and the stings of life. Furthermore, I believe that the Atonement fundamentally blunts the pain and suffering we all experience, repentant and unrepentant alike. Without the Atonement, no one on this Earth could bear the undiluted misery that is possible in a fallen world. This is the ram caught in the thicket, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.[24] This is the “lily among thorns” (Song 2:2). This is the Balm of Gilead.[25] This is the bush that burns without being consumed. This is the Fall held in check, but not yet overthrown.


Christ suffered for us because he loves us, but he also loves us because he suffered for us. The prophet Alma taught:
“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11–12)
Through the experience of the Atonement, the Savior both came to know our sufferings and how to ease them. Elder Merrill J. Bateman has an interesting idea about how this was accomplished:
“For many years I thought of the Savior’s experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him. Through the words of Alma, Abinadi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed. Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt ‘our infirmities’, ‘[bore] our griefs,…carried our sorrows…[and] was bruised for our iniquities’.” [26]
In Elder Bateman’s view, we each will pass through Gethsemane and personally relinquish our guilt, our sin, our shame, etc. to the Savior. He will take away all our pain and suffering—whether it be because of the fallen world, the actions of others, or our own choices (if we repent). In this way he will know us perfectly and know how to ease our suffering and heal our wounds. It is not clear to me how this will work, logistically, since we are all alive after the moment in time when the Atonement occurred. But it is a powerful and compelling idea that merits deeper contemplation.

The underlying motive for this sacrificial act was love, both love on the part of the Father [27] and of the Son.[28] In the October 1989 General Conference, Jeffrey R. Holland taught that:
“Life has its share of some fear and some failure. Sometimes things fall short, don't quite measure up. Sometimes in both personal and public life, we are seemingly left without strength to go on. Sometimes people fail us, or economies and circumstance fail us, and life with its hardship and heartache can leave us feeling very alone.

“But when such difficult moments come to us, I testify that there is one thing which will never, ever fail us. One thing alone will stand the test of all time, of all tribulation, all trouble, and all transgression. One thing only never faileth—and that is the pure love of Christ.” [29]
Thus love is the force that opposes pain and suffering, that opposes the thorns of the fallen world. This power of love is not limited to Deity—we can all use it to strengthen those around us.

In 1960 the Christian apologist C. S. Lewis published a book called The Four Loves.[30] In it he identifies four types of love, based on the Greek words used in the New Testament to describe love. The first is storgḗ (στοργή), the affection felt by family members for each other. The second is philía (φιλία), the fondness felt between friends. The third is érōs (ἔρως), the passion and romance felt between lovers. And the fourth is agápē (ἀγάπη), which he defines as ‘divine love’ or ‘charitable love’. This term is usually translated as ‘charity’ in the King James Version of the New Testament; other translations of the Bible simply use “love” to avoid confusion with the modern connotation of giving money to the poor. The Book of Mormon clarifies the Biblical use of the word “charity” as “the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47).

However, there is a fifth ‘love’ in the Scriptures which was not included by C. S. Lewis. He may have overlooked it because there is no specific Greek word used to identify it. Rather, it is based on Hebrew idiom. This love is a covenantal love, the love that a vassal has for his liege lord.[31] In these cases the word ‘love’ signifies a contractual relationship, not an emotional one.[32] Understanding this can clarify or give subtler shades of meaning to many familiar scriptural passages. Consider, for example, the statement in Helaman 15:3–4 that God loves the Nephites, but hates the Lamanites.[33] This does not signify that Heavenly Father feels anger or disgust towards the Lamanites—a notion which is at variance with our conception of God as a loving father. Rather, it is a Hebrew expression that identifies that the Nephites are the covenant people of God and that the Lamanites, by their deeds, have placed themselves outside that covenant.[34]

With this description of covenantal love in mind, consider the following scriptures:
Mt. 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

Jn. 13:34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

Jn. 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

Jn. 21:15–17: “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

Mt. 22:35–40: “Then one of [the Pharisees], which was a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, [testing] him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
There are more [35], but I will leave it to you to find them. I would like to spend a little more time on that last passage. The injunction to love God and love our neighbor constitutes our covenant with God. To gain access to the full benefits of the Atonement, we must enter into a contract with the Lord. According to this contract, the way we show love for Jesus Christ is to have faith in him, to repent of our sins, to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to endure to the end.[36] To endure to the end we must obey the commandments, make and keep temple covenants, and refine our characters to become more like God.

The decision to enter into a covenantal relationship with God does not immediately protect us against the evils of the world. We can still suffer disease, accident, sorrow, and pain. In fact, being a loyal follower of Christ can sometimes incur suffering. The apostle Peter wrote the following to the members of the primitive Church:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” (1 Pet. 4:12–14) [37]
If we bear our suffering well, rather than become callused, it will make us compassionate. And just as suffering for us helped Jesus understand how to succor us, suffering for Christ’s sake will help us draw nearer to him. Elder John H Groberg put it this way:
“When filled with God's love, we can do and see and understand things that we could not otherwise do or see or understand. Filled with His love, we can endure pain, quell fear, forgive freely, avoid contention, renew strength, and bless and help others in ways surprising even to us.” [38]
The Second Great Commandment instructs us to love others. This is not merely a commandment but a fundamental character trait of a godly person.[39] The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that:
“Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” [40]
This, then, is divine love—a genuine concern for the eternal wellbeing of all others. For others to achieve their eternal potential, they must enter into a covenantal relationship with the Lord. Thus by helping others to gain access to the Atonement, we are participating in their salvation, we are becoming saviors on Mount Zion.[41] This can be accomplished through preaching the gospel to those not familiar with our faith, perfecting the saints, performing ordinances in the temple for our kindred dead, and caring for the poor and needy among us.[42]

Divine love is a necessary part of becoming involved in the salvation of others. Just as Jesus Christ suffered for us as a result of his love for us, so we must suffer, in some measure, for those that we love. I think the prophet Alma put it best when he encouraged us “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; […] to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort […].” (Mosiah 18:8–9) [43] We can’t necessarily take away the suffering of those we love, and sometimes we’re not even meant to. But we can mourn with them, we can comfort them, and we can bolster them up and help them through it. As in other cases, this suffering increases our capacity to love. I believe it is for this reason that it is said that “charity suffereth long”.[44] When I hear couples say they are more in love than they were five or ten years ago, I suspect that it is due, in no small part, to the fact that they bear each other’s burdens and share each other’s sorrows. Not only does exhibiting love for others relieve their suffering, it can also ease our own troubles.

As we wade through our trials, our temptations, and our sufferings, we must keep in mind the ultimate outcome. In this, as always, we look to the example of Jesus Christ. He was betrayed, abandoned, and tortured. On top of that he took upon himself all of our sins and suffered the penalty for us.[45] He experienced the thorns and thistles, the hooks and barbs, of this fallen world to a degree that none of us can fathom. And then he died. But three days later Christ shattered the bands of death and returned to life. He overcame all things. The mocking crown of thorns he wore in death has been transformed into an eternal crown of light and glory. The King of Kings has saved us all from death and made it possible for all to overcome sin.

This triumph of Jesus Christ gives us our hope. Someday we will be given an eternal reprieve from our sufferings. Someday we will be delivered out of Egypt. Someday we will die, but that death will not last forever.[46] Someday the Earth will stop producing brambles and thistles.[47] Someday the thorns that torment us will be burned away and we, too, will receive an eternal crown of glory [48][49]—one that has been woven from the leaves of the Tree of Life.


Notes:

[1] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes refered to as the 'Mormon Church') doesn't have a professional clergy. So we all take turns giving talks (i.e. sermons).

[2] In addition to the Bible, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints employs several more collections of scripture, referred to as the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. You can access these additional scriptures online at http://www.lds.org/scriptures/new-edition?lang=eng. I strongly encourage you to read them.

[3] The term “pricks” only appears once in reference to thorns: Num. 33:55. The remaining uses of the term (Acts 9:5; 26:14) refer to a sharp, iron goad used for herding cattle.

[4] See Prov. 24:31; Isa. 5:6 (2 Ne. 15:6); 7:19, 23–25; 32:13; 34:13; Hosea 9:6; 10:8; Zeph. 2:9; 2 Ne. 17:19, 23–25.

[5] See Jer. 12:13; Hosea 2:6; Mosiah 12:12.

[6] See Jer. 4:3; Mt. 13:7, 22; Mk. 4:7, 18; Lk. 8:7, 14.

[7] There is also the case of the “thorn in the flesh” of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 12:7). Opinions are varied as to what the thorn actually was—a physical ailment, such as blindness or epilepsy; the tribulations he’d endured; an evil spirit; or even a ‘pet’ sin; etc.—that I could not define a category for it.

[8] Consider the following ‘thorn’ passages: Num. 33:55; Josh. 23:13; Jdg. 2:3; Prov. 15:19; 22:5; 26:9; Ezek. 28:24; Alma 24:25.

[9] See 2 Cor. 7:9–11.

[10] Hebrew סְנֶה sěneh “thorn bush”, “bramble”. Some speculate that the Egyptian senna (Senna alexandrina) is intended or possibly the holy bramble (Rubus ulmifolius ssp. sanctus); cf. Arab. سَناً sanâʾ “senna”. The name of Mt. Sinai (HEB סִינַי Sînay “thorny”) may be derived from this term. This is rendered in the LXX as βάτος bátos “thorn bush”, “bramble bush”. Found in Ex. 3:2–4 and Deut. 33:16. See http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5572&t=KJV.

[11] Greek βάτος bátos “thorn bush”, “bramble bush”; translated as “bramble bush” in Lk. 6:44 and as “bush” in Mk. 12:26; Lk. 20:37; Acts 7:30, 35). See http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G942&t=KJV.

[12] See Ex. 22:6; Jdg. 9:14–15; 2 Sam. 23:6–7; Ps. 118:12; Eccl. 7:6; Isa. 9:18; 10:17; 27:4; 33:12; 2 Ne. 19:18; 20:17.

[13] There are larger parallels with the plan of salvation to be seen here: The Israelites left the promised land (=the Pre-existence) because there was something they lacked (=a body, experiences, etc.). They came down to Egypt (=the fallen world). While there they became enslaved (=sin). But the Lord provided the way for them to escape (=the Atonement) and return (=the Gospel) to the promised land (=the Celestial Kingdom).

[14] cf. Heb. 6:7–8.

[15] See Abr. 1:5–19.

[16] See Jacob 4:5.

[17] The most familiar instance of Jesus being referred to as the only begotten of Heavenly Father is in John 3:16. Isaac is described as the only begotten of Abraham (Ishmael notwithstanding) in Heb. 11:17.

[18] Artel Ricks. “Mount Moriah: Some Personal Reflections.” Ensign, Sept. 1980. Available online here.

[19] cf. Isa. 9:18 or Nahum 1:10 (with reference to the latter, note that the phrase “folden together as thorns” can be rendered in modern English as “entangled like thorns”).

[20] Ricks, loc. cit.

[21] See Mt. 27:29; Mk. 15:17; Jn. 19:2, 5.

[22] The three accounts of the crucifixion that mention the crown of thorns (Mt. 27:29; Mk. 15:17; Jn. 19:2, 5) all use the Greek word στέφανος stéfanos “crown”, “chaplet”, “wreath”, or “garland” (i.e. a “civic crown”, “victor’s crown”, or “nuptial crown”), not διάδημα diádēma “diadem”, “royal crown”, or “imperial crown”. These correspond to the Latin terms diadēma (“imperial crown”) and corōna (“civic crown”), respectively. See http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/trench/section.cfm?sectionID=23&lexicon=true&strongs=G4735.

[23] See Jdg. 8:7, 16.

[24] See Moses 7:47.

[25] See Jer. 8:22.

[26] Merrill J. Bateman. “A Pattern for All,” Ensign, Nov. 2005. Original scriptural citations have been omitted for clarity. Available online here.

[27] See John 3:16.

[28] See D&C 34:1–3.

[29] Jeffrey R. Holland. “He Loved Them unto the End,” Ensign, Nov. 1989. Available online here.

[30] C. S. Lewis. (1960). The Four Loves, Harcourt, Brace & Co., NY, 192 pp.

[31] Patriotism might be a modern analog.

[32] Bokovoy D. (2002) “Love vs. Hate: An Analysis of Helaman 15:1–4.” Insights 22 (2): 2–3. Available online here.

[33] See also Mal. 1:2–3; Rom. 9:13.

[34] Bokovoy, loc. cit.

[35] e.g. Isa. 29:13.

[36] See Article of Faith 4; D&C 18:22.

[37] See also Rom. 8:1–18; 2 Cor. 1:5–7.

[38] John H. Groberg. (2004) “The Power of God’s Love.” Ensign, Nov. 2004. Available online here.

[39] See Mt. 25:31–46.

[40] Joseph Smith, Jr., quoted in: B. H. Roberts, ed. (1948) History of the Church, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, Co. 4: 227. Available online here (requires some navigation).

[41] See Obad. 1:21.

[42] See Mosiah 4:16; Moses 7:18.

[43] See also 1 Cor. 12:26.

[44] See 1 Cor. 13:4; Moro. 7:45.

[45] See D&C 19:16–19.

[46] See 1 Cor. 15:55–56; Mosiah 16:8; Alma 22:14; Mormon 7:5.

[47] See Isa. 55:10–13.

[48] See 1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10.

[49] Interestingly, the Hebrew term for “crown”, נֵזֶר nezer “crown”, can have the additional connotation of “consecration” or “separation” of a king or a priest, but especially of a Nazarite (which term is derived from this one) and also, by association, “(long, unshorn) hair”. It is translated as “crown” in Ex. 29:6; 39:30; Lev. 8:9; 21:12; 2 Sam. 1:10; 2 Ki. 11:12; 2 Chr. 23:11; Ps. 89:39; 132:18; Prov. 27:24; Zech. 9:16; as “separation” in Num. 6:4–5, 8, 12–13, 18–19, 21; as “consecration” in Num. 6:7, 9; and as “hair” in Jer. 7:29 (but cf. also Num. 6:18–19). See http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5145&t=KJV. This connection between kingship and consecration is in harmony with some of the pronouncements made in LDS temples.

Image attributions:

Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda is by Carl Bloch, painted in 1883. A digital copy is available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ healing the sick.jpg.

Crown of Thorns is by Simon Speed, available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crown of Thorns Bedford Museum.JPG.

Denver Colorado LDS Temple is by Joseph Plotz, available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Denver_LDSTemple2.JPG.

Ecce Homo! was painted by Antonio Ciseri in 1871. A digital copy is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eccehomo1.jpg.

Ethiopian Thistle is by A. Davey, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/adavey/2466921230/.

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane is by Harry Anderson, painted ca. 1964. A digital copy is available at http://store.lds.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product3 715839595 10557 21099 -1  195763.

Moses and the Burning Bush is by the illustrators of the 1890 Holman Bible, available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Holman Moses and the Burning Bush.jpg.

The Sacrifice of Isaac was painted by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn in 1636. A digital copy is available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ofiara Abrahama1.jpg.

The Second Coming was painted by Harry Anderson in 1964. A digital copy is available at http://store.lds.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product3 715839595 10557 21094 -1  195710.

Thorny Branch is by Dûrzan, available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stri.jpg.

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