Mysteries of God
Most people are inclined to reject the idea that the gospel can be so concisely defined as in the scriptures cited earlier under the Gospel section. How can this be true when we are taught that the gospel contains all truth ever revealed to man? I can only encourage you to make this a matter of prayer and contemplation.
Where do all the precepts of truth then reside if they do not belong in the gospel? This is a legitimate question; one again answered by the scriptures. To find this answer, let's go to the beginning of the book that is billed as containing the fulness of the gospel - 1st Nephi, Chapter 1, Verse 1:
"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."
For many years I read this verse without catching a significant nugget of truth. Nephi explains that he had a great knowledge of the mysteries of God. What are these mysteries? Are we not taught to avoid the mysteries of God and focus instead on the gospel? If one accepts the definition of the gospel as presented in the scriptures and reiterated in this exposition, then there must be a place in our lives for the other precepts and truths that have been revealed to us. These are identified scripturally as the mysteries. Here are some examples.
First, consider Chapter 40 of the Book of Alma:
"1 NOW my son, here is somewhat more I would say unto thee; for I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead.
2 Behold, I say unto you, that there is no resurrection—or, I would say, in other words, that this mortal does not put on immortality, this corruption does not put on incorruption—until after the coming of Christ.
3 Behold, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead. But behold, my son, the resurrection is not yet. Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know—that is concerning the resurrection."
In these verses, Alma is speaking to his son, Corianton and touches on an item of his concern - the resurrection of the dead. Have you ever considered that this topic could be considered a 'mystery?' In the verses and chapters following this introduction in Chapter 40, we gain many insights into the spirit world that we will encounter at death. Has the definition of the gospel and the mysteries of God changed between the time of Alma and today? I think not. I encourage you to read Alma, Chapters 40 through 42, and present yourself with one of the mysteries God has chosen to reveal to us through the Book of Mormon.
Another example comes from another very familiar scriptural quotation, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76. Here we are presented with a glorious vision given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. Prior to the treatment of the vision itself, we are offered some wisdom beginning in verse 5:
"5 For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
6 Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.
7 And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.
8 Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.
9 And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.
10 For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man."
In this scriptural quote, we see the Lord promises to reveal all mysteries to those that serve him. This can be understood as to apply to all of us, not just a prophet or other great leader.
After the vision was unfolded, we find the following information:
"114 But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;"
Here is the acknowledgement that the vision of Section 76 is defined as a mystery. The three degrees of glory, Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial, foundations in our understanding of God's plan for all his children was revealed, again, to us. It is another of the mysteries that God has promised to reveal to us.
You may recall the story of Amulek and Alma and their confrontation with Zeezrom beginning in Alma Chapter 10 Amulek introduces himself and states:
"4 And behold, I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry.
5 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."
Here Amulek states that he has been presented with information he calls the mysteries of God. He then, among other topics, covers the resurrection as found in chapter 11, verses 42 through 44. As Amulek finishes, Zeezrom begins to ask sincere questions as described here in Chapter 12:
"7 Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart; for power was given unto them that they might know of these things according to the spirit of prophecy.
8 And Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God. And he said unto Alma: What does this mean which Amulek hath spoken concerning the resurrection of the dead, that all shall rise from the dead, both the just and the unjust, and are brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works?"
In answer to Zeezrom's question, Alma prefaces his answer with information about mysteries as found here:
"9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell."
Alma then describes the second death or spiritual death in his sermon on the mysteries of God. The message here for us is not just about our probation in this life or the conditions in the afterlife. More importantly, we are encouraged to seek knowledge and wisdom, the greater portion of his word - the mysteries of God. Alma tells us that if we harden our hearts, we will receive less of the knowledge of the mysteries of God to the point that we are captive of the devil. By Alma's words, we must seek the mysteries of God or be lost from God. Have you ever stopped to contemplate what could be contained in the mysteries of God? It is available to you. As we read in the early verses of Section 76, God want to provide this information to those that seek Him.
This message is reinforced in 1 Nephi Chapter 10:
"17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
18 For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
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."
Here is Nephi, probably quite a young man at the time, presented with marvelous revelations from his father. He decides that he wants to know these thing for himself. He also states that this is a template for all of us. If we earnestly seek the mysteries of God, they will be unfolded unto us. This is what God has in store for those that love Him and seek after him.
By applying the gospel in our lives, by repenting and following our Lord into the waters of baptism, then receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, we are purified and sanctified. We then can have Doctrine and Covenants Section 39:6 apply to us - the Comforter will show us all things. The gospel is the gate not only to eternal life (2nd Nephi 31:18) but to all the mysteries of God.