Why has God ceased to be a God of miracles?

When true servants of the Lord Jesus Christ walk the earth among people of faith, miracles happen. The scriptures are quite clear that these men work signs, wonders, and miracles among the people. Let’s review some of the signs of true servants of Jesus.

Acts 5:12, 15-16
12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people…Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

Think about this. Peter didn’t even have to touch the people he healed, merely his shadow passing over sick persons would heal them. And they were healed every one. That doesn’t mean they took months to recuperate, or were buoyed in their spirits for a short while before succumbing to their illness. They were healed. Every one. And it wasn’t just one or two people, it was multitudes of sick people.

Paul, despite not having been with Jesus during his ministry, also turns it up to 11 with his miracles. Just having a piece of cloth that had touched Paul was enough to heal the sick and cast out devils.

Acts 19:11-12
And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

Acts 9 and Acts 20 record Peter and Paul individually raising the dead. Both of these apostles performed the same miracles that Jesus performed during his ministry. Now perhaps those were extremely rare circumstances. What about common everyday healing?

Acts 3:2-9
And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.

Acts 14:8-10
And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

In both these cases, Peter and Paul healed crippled men. They immediately jumped up and walked. No physical therapy necessary. Maybe  Peter and Paul were the exceptions. Maybe God never expected all his servants to do those things. What about the twelve disciples that were called among the Nephites?

4 Nephi 1:5
And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.

Well, they don’t appear to be any different from Peter and Paul. It wasn’t just the apostles. Prophets worked miracles too.

Helaman 16:4
For behold, Nephi was baptizing, and prophesying, and preaching, crying repentance unto the people, showing signs and wonders, working miracles among the people, that they might know that the Christ must shortly come—

3 Nephi 7:19-20
And in the name of Jesus did he cast out devils and unclean spirits; and even his brother did he raise from the dead, after he had been stoned and suffered death by the people. And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power; and he did also do many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus.

We know Elijah and Elisha raised people from the dead also. And even Steven and Philip from the New Testament got into the miracle act:

Acts 6:8
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Acts 8:6, 13
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did…Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

It’s interesting to note the effect these miracles have on the non-believers:

4 Nephi 1:29, 31
And again, there was another church which denied the Christ; and they did persecute the true church of Christ, because of their humility and their belief in Christ; and they did despise them because of the many miracles which were wrought among them…Nevertheless, and notwithstanding all these miracles, the people did harden their hearts, and did seek to kill them, even as the Jews at Jerusalem sought to kill Jesus, according to his word.

3 Nephi 7:20
And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power; and he did also do many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus.

Even though performing miracles brings persecution, Jesus commands his servants to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out devils. Performing healings and other miracles isn’t an option for these servants – it’s a commandment!

Matthew 10:5-10
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying…go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Mark 16:15-18
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

The Lord repeated these same commandments through Joseph Smith.

D&C 84: 64-72
Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost. And these signs shall follow them that believe—In my name they shall do many wonderful works; In my name they shall cast out devils; In my name they shall heal the sick; In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf; And the tongue of the dumb shall speak; And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them; And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.

D&C 124:97-100
Let my servant William Law also receive the keys by which he may ask and receive blessings; let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say. And these signs shall follow him—he shall heal the sick, he shall cast out devils, and shall be delivered from those who would administer unto him deadly poison; And he shall be led in paths where the poisonous serpent cannot lay hold upon his heel, and he shall mount up in the imagination of his thoughts as upon eagles’ wings. And what if I will that he should raise the dead, let him not withhold his voice.

Now we have a conundrum. The commandment was issued, but we don’t have the same results as the ancient saints. We don’t have paraplegics leaping out of their wheelchairs and running around the temple immediately upon being touched by an apostle. Diabetics don’t throw away their insulin after attending General Conference. We don’t have people being raised from the dead. The only good news is that we don’t have people trying to kill us because of our many miracles. The scriptures tell us why this is, but it isn’t a pretty answer.

Moroni 7:37
It is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.

2 Nephi 27:23
For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.

2 Nephi 26:13
And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.

If we don’t have miracles, it’s because we don’t have true faith. We may have faith in a some correct principles mingled with some precepts of men, favorite false doctrines, and trust in the arm of flesh, but we can conclude we do not have true faith in the true God. If we did, we’d have the miracles the scriptures talk about. Because we don’t have the fruit, we know something is amiss. Before we look to blame certain individuals, we need to remember that it is our collective iniquity that causes this situation.

Mormon 1:13
But wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.

Ether 12:12
For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.

3 Nephi 19:35
And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying he came again to the disciples, and said unto them: So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief.

If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we do not have the signs of them that believe. Individuals do have miraculous healings in their lives on occasion, and that is truly praiseworthy. But collectively the LDS do not appear to have them at any higher rate than other Christians. Nor do we have the miraculous healings at the hands of the apostles we have been promised. As a collective body, we don’t have the fruit. Therefore, as a collective body, we must not be doing what God says.

God has promised us miracles, literal miracles! But there are conditions.

D&C 35:8-9
For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name. And whoso shall ask it in my name in faith, they shall cast out devils; they shall heal the sick; they shall cause the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk.

D&C 82:10
I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

3 Nephi 8:1
…for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—

The Lord has promised us that if we have true faith, we will have these miracles. Because God cannot lie, and we do not have the results of the promise he has made, we must conclude that we are not asking in true faith. We are not doing what he has told us to do. We still have unresolved iniquity.

Mormon 9:18-20
And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles. And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.

The first step is admitting we have a problem.

 

 

 

Data mining the Doctrine and Covenants

A few years ago I was sitting in Gospel Doctrine class talking to a ward member. I don’t remember how we got onto the topic, but we were looking in the Doctrine and Covenants at the Chronological Order of Contents, just before D&C Section 1.

D&C Chronological Order

We noticed how few revelations were received after Kirtland. I remember the other person saying, “I wonder why that is.” I wondered too. The traditional story is that Joseph received further light and knowledge right up until the end – but the canonized data doesn’t support that. That curiosity drove me to do a lot of research, and continues to drive me to this day.

One problem with the table above is that there is no scale. It’s tough to really understand how the revelations are distributed through time. Here it is in a graph. (I didn’t include Sections 136 and 138 because they were outside the time period I was concerned with).

1981 D&C

When viewed this way, you can see a concentration of revelatory activity in the early years of the church, with a burst in 1831. By 1834 this flow of revelation had slowed to a slow trickle compared to previous years. Specifically, there were 6 times more revelations per year in the six years before January 1835 than in the 10 years after January 1835. In 1838 Joseph wrote what became the 9th Article of Faith that said that God “will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” The data shows that God hasn’t done that yet.

This data is actually overly optimistic. Not all of these sections in the D&C were revelations.  Section 135 was written after Joseph’s death as a type of eulogy. Sections 129-131 weren’t even written by Joseph, but were someone else’s writings of what they heard Joseph say in conversation. Joseph didn’t review these for accuracy. In a court of law this would be considered “hearsay” and inadmissible. I removed some of these from the data but realized it was highly subjective as to what stayed and what was removed. Then the thought hit me: use the 1844 Doctrine and Covenants!

The 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was prepared by Joseph shortly before his death. The first copies returned from the printer about two months after his death. This would give us a very good indication of what Joseph considered to be the essential revelations up until a few months before his death. In the current version, the last published revelation before his death was in 1843, so there was plenty of time between that last revelation and when Joseph sent the 1844 version off the printer. Here’s what that 1844 version looks like:

1844 D&C

D&C ratesWow! Only 6% of the revelations came in the 10 years after 1834. 94% came within the first 6 years. This is a staggering disparity. The first six years averaged 17 revelations per year, while the remaining decade averaged less than one revelation per year! What was only a 6:1 ratio between the early years and the later years in the 1981 edition explodes to a 26:1 ratio with the 1844 D&C.

The slow trickle depicted in the 1981 edition becomes almost nothing in Joseph’s 1844 compilation. If you’re familiar with Watcher’s or Searcher’s blogs, you know that in April 1834 the Lord stated that the church had broken the covenant (Section 104) and by December declared the church to be under condemnation. Joseph’s final compilation of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1844 supports this condemnation and that the church did not come out from under it during the next 10 years.

Side note:
With only one canonized section received after 1847, the flow of further light and knowledge as measured by canonized scripture has effectively stopped completely. That averages 0.006 revelations per year for the last 171 years. The revelatory rate between 1829-1834 was 1,500 times higher than since the death of Joseph!

October 1918 was the last canonized revelation. Next month we will mark 100 years with no new published revelations. That’s a sobering thought.

Revelation Rate

 

The first question that comes to mind is what are these five revelations after 1835 that Joseph did choose to include? Those are probably significant.

Section 112
The command for the Twelve to go abroad among the nations. This was received less than two months after Joseph said “God has revealed to me that something new must be done for the salvation of His Church.”

Section 119
The revelation on tithing.

Section 124
This revelation was packed full of critical information. The commandment to build the Nauvoo Temple and Nauvoo House and the consequences if it wasn’t done on time. Confirmation that the fulness of the priesthood had been lost and needed to be restored. Anything more or less than the Book of Mormon and the published revelations comes of evil and will be attended with cursings. Commandment to publish the new translation of the Bible. Calling of Hyrum to be a prophet, seer, and revelator.

Sections 127 and 128
Not a revelation, but letters from Joseph explaining baptism for the dead.

There were also two revelations from 1834 that weren’t in the 1835 edition but Joseph added to the 1844 edition: Sections 103 and 105. These deal with organizing Zion’s camp and disbanding it.

Those are some significant topics. What are the revelations that are now canonized but weren’t chosen by Joseph Smith in 1844? Why wouldn’t Joseph canonize them but Brigham would? Here they are with a brief description:

Section 2
This was already recorded in Joseph Smith History, but added as a section in 1876. No new information.

Section 13
This too was already in the Joseph Smith History, but added as a section in 1876. No new information.

Section 85
Received in November 1832, this section sets forth some rules for living under the law of consecration and contains the well-known “one mighty and strong” prophecy. By 1835 the church had broken the covenant and was no longer living the law of consecration, possibly explaining why Joseph didn’t include it in either the 1835 or 1844 editions. It was added in 1876.

Section 87
The prophecy on war received in December 1832. It was added in 1876.

Section 108
A revelation for Lyman Sherman in December 1835. Added in 1876.

Section 109 and 110
Section 110 remained unknown to the church until 1852. What’s interesting is that Joseph also chose not to put Section 109, the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, into the 1844 edition either. There was no scriptural record of the Kirtland Temple events left by Joseph. These sections were added in 1876.

Section 111
Dealing with Joseph’s trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Added in 1876.

Section 113
Answers to questions about Isaiah. Added in 1876.

Section 114
Instructions for David Patten. Added in 1876.

Section 115
Commandment in 1838 to build the Far West Temple. This had been abandoned over five years before the 1844 edition was compiled. Added in 1876.

Section 116
One verse about Adam-ondi-Ahman. This area had also been abandoned years before 1844. Added in 1876.

Section 117
Commandments to William Marks and Newel Whitney to leave Kirtland and move to Missouri in 1838. The Saints had abandoned Missouri by 1844. Added in 1876.

Section 118
Command for the Twelve to depart from the Far West temple site to preach in Europe. Added in 1876.

Section 120
One verse about disposition of tithes. Added in 1876.

Sections 121-123
Excerpts from a letter written from Liberty Jail. Added in 1876.

Section 125
The will of the Lord concerning the saints in Iowa. Added in 1876.

Section 126
Three verses for Brigham Young. Added in 1876.

Sections 129-131
These were remarks made by Joseph and recorded by various people. There are inconsistencies between versions that someone resolved before canonization 30 years after the fact. There is no indication that Joseph reviewed these or that they accurately capture what he said. Added in 1876.

Section 132
The problematic revelation on celestial polygamy. Discovered in 1852. Added in 1876.

Section 135
Announcing the death of Joseph Smith. Not a revelation. Added in 1876.

Section 137
Received in 1836, this record of a vision about those who die without a knowledge of the gospel was not added until 1981.

What does it all mean?

I don’t have any definite conclusions about the sections that were added after Joseph’s death. Some were incredibly significant, like Section 110, but likely were intentionally held back. Some repeated information Joseph had already published (Sections 2 and 13). Several contained hearsay of conversations, not revelations. There doesn’t appear to be one consistent reason for Joseph not publishing these in 1844. (If you have a theory, please share it.)

What we can definitely conclude is that the church has never again experienced a revelatory period like it did from 1829 to 1834. Sadly, the revelatory doldrums the church experienced from 1835 to 1844 look like a Category 5 hurricane compared to what the church has experienced over the nearly 175 years since Joseph’s death.

Something changed after 1834. And it changed even more after 1844. We should all ponder why that is.

 

 

Birth of Christ (Possible) Timeline

Just as we have a lot of false traditions about the timeline surrounding the death of Christ, we have the same problem with the birth of Christ. News flash: it wasn’t December 25! The scriptures don’t give us enough detail to pin down exact dates, but we can determine the approximate months and then use the seven feasts incorporated into the Law of Moses as a guide. This timeline is more speculative than the timeline for the death of Christ, so feel free to take this with a few grains of salt. I have read other proposed timelines that support different dates and their arguments are possible. I currently think this one fits best with the scriptures.

Zechariah and Gabriel – Pentecost

Luke 1:5, 8-10
There was in the days of Herod, king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia, and his wife, being of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elizabeth…

And while he executed the priest’s office before God, in the order of his priesthood, according to the law (his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord), The whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

During the time of King David, the priests of the family of Aaron were divided up into twenty-four courses. (See 1 Chronicles 24:1-18). Each course would serve for eight days in the temple, overlapping on the sabbath so there were twice as many priests for sabbath services. The schedule started at the beginning of the year, about two weeks before Passover. During the three major feasts of the year (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles) all the priests would work in the temple, pausing the normal rotation for that week. The course of Abia was the 8th course, which meant they began work on the ninth sabbath and worked through the tenth sabbath of the year (shifted back one week because of everyone working during Passover), and then repeated again ~24 weeks later (plus time for the fall feasts). These verses in Luke narrow down the range of time for the visit of Gabriel to two weeks during the year: Week 9 (~early June) or week 35 (~early December). Because of the lunar calendar, the exact dates would vary from year to year but this gets us close enough for now.

If you remember from the Passion Timeline, Pentecost is celebrated seven weeks and one day after the feast of Firstfruits, which is the day after the first sabbath after Passover. The Passover lamb is killed on the 14th day of the year, at the end of the second week. This appears to put Pentecost (one of the three feast mandating attendance in Jerusalem) either during Zechariah’s temple service schedule or right next to it, depending on the year. Because “the whole multitude of the people were praying without”, it’s possible that it was the day of Pentecost when Gabriel tells Zechariah about the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist. Nine months after this would place the birth of John the Baptist in the spring.

Luke 1:23-25
And as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days, his wife Elizabeth conceived and hid herself five months.

Mary and Gabriel – Hannukah

Luke 1:26-27, 36
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

Six months after the announcement to Zechariah, we have the announcement to Mary. Six months after Pentecost puts us into December, which is the time of Hannukah, or the festival of lights. If there ever were a symbolic time to announce the coming of the Light of the World into the world, the festival of lights would be it.

Mary and Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-40, 56
39
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

Mary would have stayed with Elizabeth during Mary’s first trimester and Elizabeth’s third trimester. This timeline would have her returning to Nazareth in the early spring just before Passover, with Elizabeth close to giving birth. Shortly after Mary’s return is probably when Joseph discovered that Mary was with child.

The Birth of John the Baptist – Passover

The tradition of the Jews at Passover is to set a place at the table for Elijah when he comes. The angel Gabriel said that John would go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah. The JST version of the Bible reveals an even stronger linkage between John the Baptist and Elijah. If you’re unfamiliar with this, read Searcher’s explanation here. While I can’t prove this with scripture, it seems probable that John was born on the night of Passover when all the Jews were waiting for the return of Elijah. Prophecy was fulfilled but missed by those who were going through the motions of watching for it.

The Birth of Jesus – The Feast of Tabernacles

Six months after this puts us into the fall. This is the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast, the Jews would spend a week living in a temporary shelter called a sukkah, or tabernacle. Here’s what the modern-day Feast of Tabernacles looks like:

Sukkot

The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the three annual feasts that all males were required to come up to Jerusalem for. It’s also in the fall, when farmers would have money from their harvest. This would be a logical time for the Romans to conduct their census and collect taxes.

Luke 2:1-7
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now let’s look at the Greek. The word “inn” is κατάλυμα (kataluma). This doesn’t mean “Holiday Inn”, but guest room. This same word is used in Mark 14:14 to mean guestchamber, which was the room Jesus used for the Last Supper.

And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?

Women, especially when pregnant, were not required to stay in the sukkah during the Feast of Tabernacles. But this time the guestchamber at their relatives’ house was already full, so Mary appears to have slept in the sukkah with Joseph, and that is where she gave birth to Jesus. (It’s possible that the Greek word translated into “manger” was actually an attempt to describe these tabernacles and time and tradition have turned it into a stable and feeding trough.) Symbolically, Jesus assumed a tabernacle of flesh in a tabernacle of wood during the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Interestingly, the first and eighth day of Feast of Tabernacles are days of rest. If Jesus was born on the first day of the Feast, he would have been circumcised on the eighth day of the feast, both days being holy days. I can’t prove it, but it would fit the pattern.

The fall feasts symbolize the coming of the Lord, both his first and second coming. While we can’t pin down an exact date for Christ’s birth, scripturally the Feast of Tabernacles in September/October seems to fit.

What about April 6?

Those of us raised in the LDS tradition have been taught that April 6 was the day that Christ was born. There are several problems with this theory. The first is that it wasn’t taught until the 1900s when James Talmage wrote about it. If this was a revealed truth, we should have a record of Joseph teaching it. We don’t.

Secondly, the basis for Talmage’s April 6 date is the opening line in D&C Section 20.

The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April—

Thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers project, we now know a lot more about this phrase than Brother Talmage knew. We now know that John Whitmer, Joseph’s scribe at the time, wrote those first few lines as an introduction – they did not come from Joseph. Also, John Whitmer used that fancy date terminology several times in other writings, like this:

“It is now June the twelfth, one thousand eight hundred and thirty one years, since the coming of our Lord and Savior in the flesh.”

If we apply the same logic to this writing of John Whitmer as we apply to D&C 20:1, then Jesus must have been born on June 12 as well as on April 6! We can therefore assume the April 6 wording was used in the same manner as the June 12 wording, just a fancy 19th century way of stating the date. Trying to interpret that to identify the date of birth of Jesus is a stretch.

A final reason we can discount the April 6 date is that it does not line up with the scriptural record. If Jesus were born on April 6, and John the Baptist is 6 months older than Jesus, then Gabriel must have appeared to Zechariah about fifteen months earlier in January. But we know from the priestly courses that Zechariah didn’t work in the temple in January. We also know this doesn’t line up with the prophetic symbolism of the feasts of the Law of Moses. God instituted these feasts to point toward and symbolize Christ. We ignore them at our own peril.

Final Thoughts

In the grand scheme of things, knowing the date of Christ’s birth probably doesn’t matter much. Far more important is the process we use for accepting data. If we believe something simply because we’ve been taught it for a long time, or been told to respect those doing the teaching, and we never question it, we have a problem. But if we follow the example of the Bereans, we’ll be fine.

Acts 17:10-12
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

 

Passion Timeline: Reconstructed

Now that we’ve corrected some of the erroneous traditions and reviewed the spring feasts, we’re ready to recreate the timeline based on the scriptures.

Determining Crucifixion and Resurrection Days

We have several facts from the scriptures we can use to pin down these days of the week. We know from Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1 that by Sunday morning at sunrise Christ had already been resurrected and left the tomb. That marks the very latest that Jesus could have been resurrected.

We know from the Gospels that Jesus died shortly after 3:00PM (the ninth hour). We also know that after Jesus died, Joseph had to visit Pilate, Pilate then summoned the centurion to confirm Jesus was dead, then Pilate released the body to Joseph who then had to take the body from the cross to the garden and perform a quick preparation of the body before sealing up the tomb before sunset.

We know from Matthew 12:40 that Jesus would spend three days and three nights in the tomb. Using those data points we can construct the first part of the timeline. Using the evening entombment, three days and three nights in the tomb, and a Sunday morning resurrection, we get this:

Timeline 3-4

A Sunday morning resurrection breaks Jesus’ own prophecy of three nights in the tomb. The scriptures don’t say Jesus was resurrected in the morning, only that by morning when the disciples showed up Jesus had already risen. In order to fulfill prophecy, he had to have arisen Saturday at sunset. Here’s what a scripturally correct timeline looks like:

Timeline 3-3

In this model, Wednesday afternoon the Passover lambs would have been sacrificed and eaten that night after sunset. Wednesday night and Thursday day would have been a holy day or high sabbath in which no work was done. Friday would have been a regular day to prepare for the weekly sabbath on Saturday.

Now that we have the day of Passover pinned down, let’s back up and follow the scriptures through the last week of Jesus’ life to see how everything fits together.

Six days before Passover

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John 12:1
Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

Luke 19:29-32
And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, The Lord hath need of him.

Jesus is traveling towards Jerusalem for the last time. During this last week he will travel into Jerusalem during the days but stay in Bethany at night. Arriving on the day before the weekly sabbath, Jesus sends two disciples to find and bring a colt which had never been ridden. (This will be important soon).

Five days before Passover

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On the fourteenth day of the month the Passover lamb is killed shortly before sunset. On the tenth day of the month the Passover lamb is selected. This weekly sabbath day happens to be the tenth day of the month, the day the Passover lamb is selected.

John 12:12
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

Mark 11:7-11
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Luke 19:35-38
And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

Now a savvy reader may object to this happening on a Saturday. Jesus was riding an animal on the sabbath. The law of Moses specifically states that animals are to do no work on the sabbath.

Deuteronomy 5:12-14
Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.

Has Jesus just broken the sabbath? This incident shows not only how well Jesus knows the law of Moses, but also that this event did happen on a sabbath. Remember that when Jesus sent the two disciples to get the colt, he specified that it would be a colt “whereon yet never man sat”. That colt had never worked in its life. The law of the sabbath states that there are six days of work followed by a sabbath. Had that colt ever worked a day it would have been required to obey the sabbath and Jesus would have violated the sabbath by riding it. Because that colt had never worked, it had not yet met the requirement to have a sabbath day. Jesus could ride that colt on the sabbath day to fulfill the prophecy while obeying the sabbath laws. If this didn’t happen on a sabbath, there would have been no need for the colt to have never been ridden before. (That’s the kind of expert lawyer I want as my advocate with the Father!)

At the same time the Passover lambs were being brought into Jerusalem for the people the select, Jesus, The Passover Lamb, was being brought into Jerusalem. Not only was he acclaimed by the people, but also selected by the voice of his Father:

John 12:27-33
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was directly linked to the choosing of the Passover lamb.

Four days before Passover

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Mark 11:12-19
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city.

Three days before Passover

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Mark 11:20-23
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

Once Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, he has a busy day. The scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees all try to find fault with him.

Mark 11:27-33
And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?

And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.

And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.

This coincides with the inspection of the Passover lamb. While the Jews were inspecting their lambs, looking for any blemish, Jesus was in the temple being inspected by the scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees as they tried to find fault in him. Here are the key tests:

  • Pharisees: Rendering unto Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:20-26)
  • Sadducees: Marriage and the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, Luke 20:27-39)
  • Scribes: What is the primary commandment? (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 20:40)

After this inspection, Jesus delivers prophecies and sermons for his disciples:

Destruction of the Temple: Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6
The Last Days: Matthew 24:3-14, Mark 13:3-13, Luke 21:7-19
The Abomination of Desolation: Matthew 24:14-31, Mark 13:14-27, Luke 21:20-28
Faithful Servants: Matthew 24:45-51, Mark 13:34-37, Luke 21:34-36
Parable of Wise Virgins: Matthew 25:1-13

After this busy day, Jesus then returns to Bethany where he is anointed in preparation for his death and burial.

Matthew 26:1-13
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

Two days before Passover

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Tuesday night is when the Last supper occurs. We’ve covered that in a previous post, so we won’t rehash it here.

One day before Passover

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During the night Jesus is tried and then delivered unto Pilate in the morning. This is the final inspection of the Passover lamb, and He is declared to be without blemish.

John 19:4-7
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

By 9:00am, he is hanging on the cross. By 3:00pm, when it is time to sacrifice the Passover lambs, Jesus gives up the ghost. He is hastily buried before sundown and the start of the Passover holy day.

Passover

Passover

There is no manner of work to be done this holy day. Despite that, having already eaten their Passover dinner, the scribes and Pharisees don’t appear to worry about defiling themselves any more and go unto Pilate:

Matthew 27:62-66
Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

This is the first night and day in the tomb.

First day after Passover

P+1

With the Passover holy day over, Friday is available to do work before the weekly sabbath. Mary Magdalene and Mary use this day to buy the things they will need to anoint the body of Jesus on Sunday morning.

Mark 16:1
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

This is the second night and day in the tomb.

Second day after Passover

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This is now the weekly sabbath. The scriptures tell us that after preparing the spices, they rested on the weekly sabbath.

Luke 23:56
And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

(Note how this sequence would have been impossible with the Friday-Sunday tradition. Jesus would have been buried at sunset on Friday, meaning the sabbath would have started right then, yet somehow these women were able to buy spices after the sabbath in Mark and before the sabbath in Luke!)

Third day after Passover

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At sunset on Saturday evening, Jesus has completed three days and three nights in the tomb and was resurrected. It is now the beginning of the day after the weekly sabbath after Passover, which means it is the day of the Firstfruits.

Leviticus 23:9-11
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

While the priests at the temple were harvesting the firstfuits of the barley harvest from the field and preparing them overnight for the firstfruit offering in the temple in the morning, Jesus THE Firstfruit, had risen from the tomb and was preparing himself to show himself unto the Father:

1 Corinthians 15:20
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

2 Nephi 2:8-9
The Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God.

By Sunday morning, when Christ meets Mary at the tomb, he indicates that he was just about to fulfill the feast of the Firstfruits by presenting himself before his Father:

John 20:17
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

We don’t know what Jesus had been doing for approximately twelve hours between his resurrection and his conversation with Mary, but it all fits in with the symbolic feasts that the Jews were commemorating at the same time.

3 Nephi 15:17-18
Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil; For verily I say unto you, one jot nor one tittle hath not passed away from the law, but in me it hath all been fulfilled.

Jesus not only fulfilled the atonement and sacrifice portions of the law, he also fulfilled all the symbolic portions of the spring feasts including the Firstfruits.

Moses 6:63
And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me.

All things, even the feasts of the Jews.

Conclusion

Timeline 3-3

With this new timeline, we can see how beautifully the last few days of Jesus’ life fulfilled the Old Testament foreshadowing of the Messiah. The feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits were instituted to witness of Christ. Jonah’s experience in the belly of the fish was fulfilled completely and accurately. Just as the Jews 2,000 years ago missed the connection between Jesus and these feasts, many Christians today miss these same connections.

Having now seen these connections, it should cause us to wonder just how many other aspects of the Old Testament are we ignorant of? If these spring feasts and their rituals were a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice for us, how much are the fall feasts a foreshadowing of his Second Coming? What are we missing? How many false traditions are we carrying that prevent us from seeing just how intricate all these things of God are?

“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.” Happy hunting!

Post-Script

In the comments, Nathan brought up the timeline of what was happening in the Americas while Christ was dead. I hadn’t even thought of linking the two. Assuming an 8-hour time difference between Jerusalem and the Americas, the sun would have just been rising in the Americas when Jesus died on the cross.

Helaman 14:20
20 But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead.

We know there were three days of darkness and in the morning of the fourth day the darkness dispersed.

3 Nephi 10:9
And it came to pass that thus did the three days pass away. And it was in the morning, and the darkness dispersed from off the face of the land, and the earth did cease to tremble, and the rocks did cease to rend, and the dreadful groanings did cease, and all the tumultuous noises did pass away.

Christ’s resurrection at 7:00 PM in Jerusalem would be 11:00 in the morning in the Americas! Americas

The Biblical and Book of Mormon accounts line up perfectly! The Book of Mormon also disproves the Friday-Sunday timeline – there would only be two days of darkness in the Americas. This is an amazing second witness.

Passion Timeline: The Spring Feasts

Paul tells us that the feasts of the law of Moses were a shadow or preview of things to come (Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:16–17). Specifically, the spring feasts foreshadowed Christ’s his atoning sacrifice and the fall feasts first and second comings. In this post, we’ll discuss the spring feasts. Once we have this knowledge, we’ll be ready to start building a proper timeline.

Passover & Unleavened Bread

We’re likely already familiar with some of the symbolism of this event. A sacrificial lamb is offered up and its blood saves the lives of the believers.

The lamb was selected on the 10th day of the month of Aviv (or Nisan using the Babylonian names). Because Israel used a lunar calendar, the beginning of Aviv varies from year to year, but it is during March or April (which is why the dates of Passover and Easter change every year).

Exodus 12
3
Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

With every household needing its own sacrificial lamb, this would be a major endeavor to bring in enough lambs for the entire city of Jerusalem. Remember that every male in Israel was commanded to come up to Jerusalem for three feasts each year, one of them being Passover. That’s a lot of lambs.

From the tenth day to the fourteenth day, the lamb would stay at the house with the family where it could be inspected to ensure it was without blemish.

On the fourteenth day, final preparations began. All leaven needed to be purged from the house by sunset. The lamb needed to be certified to be without blemish and then sacrificed before sunset and placed into an oven to cook in time for the Passover meal that night. Josephus tells us the lambs were killed in the late afternoon.

War 6.9.3 422-427
So these high priests did so upon the arrival of their feast which is called the Passover. On this day they slay their sacrifices from the ninth hour [3 PM] until the eleventh [5 PM].

Once the sun set, the 15th day began and the Passover meal was eaten. No leavened bread was allowed for the next week. The day of Passover was a holy day, or a high sabbath. This didn’t necessarily fall on on Saturday. It was a separate sabbath from the weekly sabbath.

Exodus 12
16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.

Firstfruits

At the same time as the Feast of Unleavened Bread is going on, we also have the Firstfruits. This is when the spring crop of barley was ready to be harvested. Before anyone can eat of the new grain, a firstfruits offering must be made. This is to be made after the first weekly Sabbath after Passover. Depending on the year, that could be anywhere from one to seven days later.

Leviticus 23
10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:
11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

14 You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

Because Firstfruits happens after Passover, the Passover meal is required to use grain from the previous season for its unleavened bread.

Because of Israel’s lunar calendar, the calendar can quickly get out of sync with the seasons unless something is done to correct it. Israel used the ripening of the spring barley. If the lunar cycle was causing the calendar to creep too early into spring, the barley wouldn’t be ready to harvest and an additional month was added to the calendar. After this additional month, the barley would be ready to harvest and the Passover could begin.

Pentecost

It is from the Firstfruits, not Passover, that the counting of weeks begins to determine the 50 days until Pentecost. Firstfruits is always the day after the weekly Sabbath, whereas Passover can fall on any day of the week. Linking the date to Firstfruits ensures that Pentecost is always on the first day of the week, or Sunday.

Leviticus 23
15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.

There is a popular idea that Pentecost commemorates the day God spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. There is no scriptural basis for this—nowhere in the scriptures are these two events linked. But it was one of the three feasts that all Israeli men were commanded to journey to Jerusalem to attend, so it appears to have had a larger significance than what our current scriptures indicate.

Next Steps

The next post will show how the final days of Christ’s life fulfilled the events of these spring feasts. We’ll use a close reading of the scriptures combined with our knowledge of these spring feasts to build a scripturally accurate timeline of the last week of Christ’s life.