Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Time of the Jaredites – Part II

Continuing from the last post, the Prophet Joseph Smith used the dates given by Moses as a basis for one of his lectures. These lessons, popularly known as the Lectures on Faith were originally delivered to a class of the elders in Kirtland, Ohio, in the winter of 1834-35. They consisted of seven theological and doctrinal treatises prepared chiefly by the Prophet Joseph Smith and were written so as to give instruction about faith needed to enable one to obtain the fullness of salvation. The lectures are logically and systematically arranged and scripturally based. Their purpose, as stated in the first lecture, is "designed to unfold to the understanding the doctrine of Jesus Christ" (1:1).

These lectures were then published in the forepart of the Doctrine and Covenants in all editions from 1835 until 1921, at which time they were removed because they are not specific revelations to the Church and were never sustained as such. However, they are profitable for doctrine, for learning, and for instruction.

In the second lesson, referred to as Lesson Second, of this series, delivered by Joseph Smith, dealt with the history of the creation down through the patriarchs to Abraham, at which point the Prophet then enumerated the ages of the ancient Patriarchs, beginning with Adam (2:37) and continuing on down to Noah, in which he said in part,

“So that Noah was 84 years old when Enos died, 176 when Cainan died, 234 when Mahalaleel died, 366 when Jared died, 595 when Lamech died, and 600 when Methuselah died” (2:42), and continuing (2:45), said, “Having traced the chronology of the world from Adam to Noah, we will now trace it from Noah to Abraham. Noah was 502 years old when Shem was born; 98 years afterwards the flood came, being the 600th year of Noah's age. And Moses informs us that Noah lived after the flood 350 years, making him 951 years old when he died” and then Joseph traced the post-flood period up to Peleg, and then down to Abraham (2:52).

The interesting part of this is that after completing this lecture, Joseph Smith then proceeded to test the leaders in attendance on what he has just taught, twice questioning them on the dates of each patriarch given. Obviously, Joseph thought this information important enough not only to make it the basis of his second lecture in the School of the Prophets, but also in a question and answer period following to make sure the elders understood and knew these patriarchs and dates.

Since the lectures have not been included in the Doctrine and Covenants for several years, many members of the Church have not known of their value and hence have not studied their content nor appreciated their doctrinal importance. President Joseph Fielding Smith lamented this condition when he said: "I suppose that the rising generation knows little about the Lectures on Faith…In my own judgment, these Lectures are of great value and should be studied…I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Elder Bruce R. McConkie appraised the lectures as "some of the best lesson material ever prepared…and they can be studied with great profit by all gospel scholars." In a discourse at Brigham Young University, McConkie quoted certain portions of the lectures that dealt with the Deity and praised them as follows: "In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, intelligent, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language…and is written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true…We need to study and ponder and analyze the expressions that are made."

(See the next post, “The Time of the Jaredites Part III to see how all this fits into knowing the time frame of the Jaredites)

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