Note: In the years I have spent studying the profound words of Isaiah, two people have been instrumental in my research: W. Cleon Skousen and Avraham Gileadi. The events that brought Gileadi from New Zealand to Israel to Utah are more than coincidences and that is why I would like to share his experience in this entry. Avraham Gileadi is a Hebrew scholar and literary analyst specializing in the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible.
A New Life
In 1968 I left my New Zealand home to settle in Israel. I just came, without great means and not knowing what conditions to expect in this land. The Spirit of God pressed upon me to come here, and being unmarried, I undertook the journey alone.
But before coming to Israel I searched a map of this land for a place where I might go to stay, for I had no relatives here to welcome me. The only map of Israel in my possession was an old biblical map, and on it I found a place by the name of Zerin.
After arriving in Israel I discovered that a kibbutz was built next to the ruins of Zerin and that this was the ancient town of Jezreel, which name the kibbutz had adopted anew. Upon joining this kibbutz I was questioned as to why I chose that place rather than another, but at that time I was at a loss for an adequate reply.
For a few years I worked on the kibbutz, or farming commune, milking cows and helping to build up the land. I began to observe the laws of Moses, and I studied the Bible a great deal, although until I came to Israel I had no background in Judaism.
One day, while I was looking for a book to read in the kibbutz library, the librarian, who was nonreligious, handed me the Book of Mormon and said that I should read it. It had once been left in the library by a young Mormon volunteer worker who had spent a few months on the kibbutz. I was not interested in the Book of Mormon, but this lady, knowing I was spiritually inclined, was insistent that I read it, and so out of curiosity I took it with me.
When I began to read it, I greatly wondered at its contents, as I read of things that I had never supposed existed. I prayed about whether the things contained in the Book of Mormon were true, and indeed, just as promised in the admonition in the book, the Holy Spirit witnessed very strongly in me, and I began to take these writings seriously.
I read the Book of Mormon twice and then sent a letter addressed to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, asking for further information. Back came a reply from the Missionary Department, with tracts and a letter of encouragement.
Through the tracts I learned of the existence of two books called the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, and I immediately sent for these also. Many things were pressing to be clarified to my mind, and I desired to have all the scriptural material that was available.
I began to accept the land of America as being a special land of inheritance for the tribe of Joseph since there is scriptural evidence for this in the Torah itself. But several other interesting things began to appear, which till now have been great stumbling blocks to Jews and sectarian Christians alike.
For instance, religious Jewry cannot accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah because he did not accomplish the specific tasks by which the Jewish Messiah may be identified. These tasks or missions are (1) the establishment of the kingdom of heaven, or the political rule of God on the earth, beginning in Israel, (2) the building of the holy temple in Jerusalem, and (3) the restoration of the lost tribes of Israel and the gathering of the covenant people of the Lord out of all the world—in that respective order.
But from the Book of Mormon I learned that the mission of Jesus Christ was to effect an atonement for sin and establish the law of mercy, thereby removing the “curse” (or the strict justice) of the law for all those who accept that atonement.
There exists a Midrash, or handed-down tradition, in Jewish literature that speaks of one man who would die for all mankind; but I ask, how could such an act be valid except by a covenant made with God on behalf of all men? And again, to be valid, witnesses were necessary who should testify concerning the event. The prophet Isaiah actually distinguishes three separate messianic personages when he writes: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Isa. 11:1.) Doctrine and Covenants, section 113, explains that the Stem of Jesse is Jesus Christ. [D&C 113]
From a careful identification of the subject of verse 4 (D&C 113:4), I learned that the “rod spoken of, that should come out of the Stem of Jesse,” is the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that he may fit the description of “Messiah the son of Joseph,” concerning whom there is an ancient but well-known tradition in Judaism, that he will precede “Messiah the son of David” and be slain in a war against the forces of evil.
But from various Latter-day prophets I learned of a “son of Jesse” who is still to come and who in the above scripture is identified with the “root of Jesse,”—“unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign and for the gathering of the people in the last days.” (D&C 113:6.)
Again I read that “he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne.” (Zech. 6:13.) Thus, herein lies a most significant point of reconciliation between Jews and Latter-day Saints and one deserving of primary clarification in any spiritual encounter between the two peoples.
From studying these things in the light of the Mormon scriptures, I became increasingly convinced of the truth of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Within a year I earnestly sought to be baptized, but I was unable to locate any Latter-day Saints. At the government information services I was told that the Church had no presence in Israel; and when I followed up addresses of Saints forwarded to me by the Switzerland Mission, I received no answer. It was not until three years after first reading the Book of Mormon that I met any Mormons.
While studying Oral Law in a yeshiva, or Jewish Talmudic school, on Mount Zion, I came across an advertisement of Latter-day Saint services on a torn piece of newspaper. Immediately I contacted the brethren of the Jerusalem Branch, which before President Harold B. Lee’s recent visit to the Holy Land was still called the Israel Group, a non-Israeli congregation of about thirty souls, the majority being children.
For some weeks I secretly attended meetings and further studied the gospel through the favor of the presidency of this branch. Early one morning, the day I left the yeshiva, some brethren gathered at the Pool of Shiloam, and there I was baptized. The day following, at the house of the branch president, I was ordained a priest, both these ordinances having been carried out by President David B. Galbraith and his first counselor, Elder John Tvedtnes, from whom I took further instruction in the gospel.
The Laws of Moses are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In Judaism it is taught that all the law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai and that, therefore, any other law is quite unacceptable.
From the Church’s viewpoint this is correct; but even as is taught in the Kabbalah, or the handed-down, secret teachings of the Laws of Moses, there was a higher law revealed at Sinai that was rejected by the nation of Israel as a whole. It is presumed that this higher law will again be learned in a future day, in the days of Messiah.
Joseph Smith also teaches that Moses, together with Aaron and a few others, did receive the higher law of the gospel but that the rest of the people were cursed with a law or carnal ordinances. Interestingly, it is generally accepted in Judaism that even when the temple will be built again there shall be no more animal sacrifices made therein, at least not as in ancient times.
But what are we to understand from Jesus’ admonition to his fellow Jews when he said: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they observe, that observe and do”? (Matt. 23:2–3.) And has this commandment any application to Jews today?
There appears to be a link between the coming of Elijah the prophet and a renewal of the teachings of the Laws of Moses. We read in the writings of the prophet Malachi: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” (Mal. 4:4–5.)
Thus we find that in the Doctrine and Covenants all of the Ten Commandments are reiterated by the Savior, some repeatedly; and again, several statutes such as tithing and the marriage laws, are also taught therein. Moreover, we know that the prophet Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836, in direct fulfillment of Malachi’s prediction. Incidentally, that date was the feast of the Passover, on which day the Jewish people expect the coming of Elijah, even going so far as to leave a vacant seat for him at the Passover supper held in every religious Jewish home.
From the Book of Mormon we learn that the Nephites, after receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ, “did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God. …” (4 Ne. 1:12.) Here then we see the setting aside of the carnal rites and ordinances of the law, which, in the words of Paul, served as a schoolteacher until the higher law was accepted—the conclusion being that the carnal law consisted of sacrificial ordinances and other temporal performances, which things Paul likened to “dead works” by which one cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
On the other hand, the Ten Commandments and the statutes that were given to Moses in Horeb (or on Mount Sinai) are actually a part or the beginning of the higher law itself, for they are taught in the gospel. Malachi speaks of these statutes and judgments as given to all Israel, and it is the teaching of Judaism that all Israel were present at the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, some being present in body and others in spirit. Indeed, the Ten Commandments were given to the whole nation of Israel by their Lord and their God himself in a show of power and might, whereupon the people fled, not being able to bear the presence of God for want of faith and sufficient sanctification. Instead they appointed Moses as their mediator, whereupon the Lord gave them the law of carnal performances and ordinances through him.
To an Israelite, therefore, who has not yet entered the covenant of the atonement of Jesus Christ and accepted the higher law of the gospel, these carnal laws are actually still binding, as far as he is able to perform them. Far be it from us, then, to discourage a Jew from his observance upon any other premise than his entry into the new and everlasting covenant. For to one living the law of the celestial kingdom, or the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the carnal or temporal laws become surpassed and are no longer binding, even as one may surpass and no longer be bound by the law of gravity when applying the law of space dynamics to fly to another planet.
In Christ we fly, and carnal things have an end; and inasmuch as we fulfill the celestial law, so far shall we ascend to a higher spiritual plane until we attain to the presence of God.