Life is a search for meaning. We constantly speculate about “what might be” out there. Have you ever mentioned a speculative thought and heard someone say not to delve into the mysteries? Has that shut you down and caused you to just “stick with the basics?” What are the basics and what are the mysteries?
In the last study topic, we saw that when we are thirsty, the living water Christ offers is the mysteries of eternity. This study topic will open the door to what the greatest mysteries are as defined in the scriptures and by modern prophets.
Perhaps you have heard this statement by the prophet Joseph Smith which he gave in a discourse on April 8, 1843:
“Declare the first principles, and let mysteries alone, lest ye be overthrown. Never meddle with the visions of beasts and subjects you do not understand. Elder Brown, when you go to Palmyra, say nothing about the four beasts, but preach those things the Lord has told you to preach about-repentance and baptize for the remission of sins.”
Some, upon reading this statement, are under the assumption that we should only focus on first principles and not seek for mysteries. That is a fallacy caused by reading this statement out of context. In the same sermon Joseph said this:
“I make this broad declaration, that whenever God gives a vision or an usage, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof, otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don’t be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject.” (History of the Church, 5:339-345)
What Joseph was saying was when you go out on missions, don’t get into discussions about things you don’t have a firm grasp on. Teach the basic principles of the gospel. Never did he say we shouldn’t be seeking the mysteries. If he had, it would have contradicted both the scriptures, and his own statements:
“God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 149)
The gospel isn’t an exclusive club for a privileged few, but anyone who will be obedient can obtain all the promises in scripture.
What isn’t typically connected with that quote, is Joseph was teaching the doctrine of resurrection and election. Immediately following this statement, Joseph launches into the doctrine of the first two comforters. He talks about the effect of the Holy Ghost acting as the first comforter, to enlighten us, and purge us to make us the seed of Abraham.
He then identifies the second comforter as a visitation by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, quoting from John 14:16-23. He tells us:
“then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter…and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions-Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 150-151)
These statements by the prophet bring to mind two recent statements modern day prophets have made.
“Brethren, we are faced with a choice. We can be satisfied with a diminished experience as priesthood bearers and settle for experiences far below our privileges. Or we can partake of an abundant feast of spiritual opportunity and universal priesthood blessings.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2011 GC, “Your Potential, Your Privilege“)
“Why would any man waste his days and settle for Esau’s mess of pottage when he has been entrusted with the possibility of receiving all of the blessings of Abraham?
I urgently plead with each one of us to live up to our privileges as bearers of the priesthood. In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity.” (President Russell M. Nelson, GC April 2016, “The Price of Priesthood Power“)
The ultimate mystery is being brought into the presence of the Lord to see him and be taught by him. Unless we realize the amazing privileges that are ours to grasp, and move toward them, we will be forever stuck in Babylon as a result of our unbelief and false traditions.
What is taught in these encounters are “mysteries” to those that do not receive them. They are the “unspeakable things” Paul and others mention (2 Corinthians 12:4) because those that experience them are laid under a strict command not to reveal them (Alma 12:9-11). This doesn’t mean they can never reveal them though. When prompted, an individual can and should “cast their pearls” to those who don’t mock sacred things. Doing so elevates the desires of the listeners both to believe, and to seek for and experience those things for themselves. The scriptures aren’t just a book of others’ experiences, but a menu of options for us to experience for ourselves.
The scriptures are full of references to mysteries and that’s what we’re here to study, so lets dive in.
Open Scripture Notes and do a new search for:
This will find all verses with variations of mystery. Create a collection note from the 72 results.
Note there are no verses in the Old Testament that use a variation of this word. It’s a New Testament word, however, it was used in the Book of Mormon prior to the time of Christ’s birth (ie. Old Testament times). So where did those instances go in the Bible??? Prophets have received the mysteries since the days of Adam, and we see obvious examples in the Old Testament such as Moses being taught by the Lord “face to face.” (Exodus 33:11) However, in the Old Testament, the word secret is used a few times which has a similar meaning. I’ll put these verses at the end so you can add them to this note.
Since we have New Testament verses that contain “mystery” and “mysteries”, we can look for meaning in Strong’s concordance.
Click this link to open the Greek definition of mysteries.
The link should activate the Strong’s concordance numbers and you can see all uses of the word mystery in the N.T. are from the same Greek word.
Clicking the link to G3466 we get to the word and definition.
The Greek word is “mysterion” but the pronounciation is more like moostarion. If you want, go to the page for the word and click the little speaker icon to hear it pronounced. Try staying it a few times for fun. 🙂
Now look at this:
We also find something else of interest. It says this mysterion comes from a derivative of the Greek word “mýō” meaning to shut the mouth. This brings a couple things to mind.
One, the statement by Paul that there were unspeakable things which could not be uttered. Your mouth is shut both by virtue of the inability to explain the experience and what you learned, and/or being laid under the command not to reveal those things as I mentioned above in Alma.
In the LDS Bible Dictionary under the topic “Mystery” it says:
“Denotes in the New Testament a spiritual truth that was once hidden but now is revealed and that without special revelation would have remained unknown.”
This page lists a variety of usages of this word in scripture. It includes:
hidden thing, secret, mystery
generally mysteries, religious secrets, confided only to the initiated and not to ordinary mortals
a hidden or secret thing, not obvious to the understanding
a hidden purpose or counsel
of God: the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous, which are hidden from ungodly and wicked men but plain to the godly
in rabbinic writings, it denotes the mystic or hidden sense
of an OT saying
of an image or form seen in a vision
of a dream
You could copy/paste that into your collection note or just summarize them.
Review the verses you’ve found and make notes in your collection note about what you see. Ask questions. Write them in your verse notes and pause to pray about them. Some of the mysteries deal with different things like “mystery Babylon” which is mentioned in Revelation, and will take some pondering and additional study. As you go, watch for opportunities to add previous and next verses such as Romans 15:25 which ends with a comma and needs to have the next verse read with it. Then also look for when two verses are in the same chapter like bookends and you need to read the verses in-between. In those cases it will be better to open the chapter up in a new pane by clicking on the first verse and then read the whole section of verses. For example, Ephesians 3 and D&C 42. You also need to look close at D&C 76:7. It starts “and to them,” and the “them” is in the prior verses, while the promises continue in the next verses through verse 10. D&C 76:114 also needs through verse 118 to get the full picture.
As you read, look for patterns. Look for laws that govern the revealing of mysteries. While seeking the mysteries, notice how Nephi and others obtained them. Note your findings. Each new item you learn about becomes another study topic. This is “searching the scriptures.”
1) Feel free to copy/paste any of the quotes or information above into your master collection note. Or create multiple collection notes into topics and sub-topics. Remember to create a sub-topic you just use a colon in the tag like “Mysteries:Of Godliness” or whatever subtopic title you want to create.
2) There are other verses that don’t use the word mystery that can be added to this note as well. You could search for:
milk and meat
secret* (doing this search on the Blue Letter Bible site with the wildcard will show you a variety of Hebrew words in the Old Testament. If you click into the meaning for “secret” in Amos 3:7, you will find other meanings for the word that broaden your understanding. Sometimes the word is used for counseling with the Lord in an intimate way (ie. being personally taught), or being part of the “assembly” which Joseph mentions in one of the quotes above as the “general assembly”.)
A few important verses you can add are:
2 Nephi 27:22 (more scriptures will come forth and reveal all things (the mysteries))
Deuteronomy 29:29 “Secret things belong unto the Lord”
Psalms 25:14 “secret of the Lord is with them that fear him”
Daniel 2:28 “God in heaven that revealeth secrets”
Amos 3:7 “revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (and not only prophets, but those that obtain the spirit of prophesy and have the necessary faith as you’ll see in #5.)
3) After you have finished with the items above, read the account of the Brother of Jared in Ether 3 where he has his face-to-face encounter with the Lord. Continue into Ether 4 through verse 15. Verse 7 is the great promise to all people that when anyone comes to the Lord as the Brother of Jared did, and sanctifies themselves through faith in Christ, they will also receive the same amazing experiences and knowledge that the Brother of Jared received. Verse 13 mentions the greater things are knowledge hid up because of unbelief. You may want to add Ether 4:7 and 4:13-15 to your collection note as these are prime promises of receiving the mysteries of godliness.
In your master note, consider answering these questions from the verses you read, or create your own headings as you organize the information you glean from these verses.
1) What are mysteries?
2) Do the scriptures teach us to seek for the mysteries?
3) What do you learn about obtaining the mysteries from the New Testament vs. the Book of Mormon? What does knowing that tell you about the Book of Mormon’s purpose?
4) Can anyone obtain a knowledge of the mysteries?
5) Is there any reason we would not receive the same blessings if we follow the same path of righteousness?
6) Is there any evidence we are commanded to pursue this path? (D&C 101:38)
7) Who teaches us the mysteries?
8) What are the “riches” of Christ? (See Ephesians 3:8; Colossians 1:27, 2:2; D&C 6:7, 11:7)
That’s it for this time. Happy studying. Leave a comment below about something you learned in your study. We’re all here to gain insight from each other and everyone’s experience is unique.
(image from Alphaspirit © 123RF.com)