Hebrew Midrash and The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon is a Hebrew book written in the “Manner of the Jews”.  It is  often difficult for those who are not familiar with the Jewish culture, traditions and mannerisms to understand or appreciate the  complexities and subtleties of this amazing witness of Christ.  We will see that the Hebrew Midrash is an extremely important methodology going back thousands of years for the Hebrew culture.  Understanding the Tree of Life is one of the great benefits.

Torah and Talmud

The Manner of the Jews – Let’s begin here:

What is the difference between the Torah and Talmud?  Torah:  It is the Hebrew Bible which includes the first Five Books of Moses.  Talmud: The Rabbis, wanting to amplify and better understand the Torah wrote  the Talmud. It is collection of the writings of the wisdom of the rabbis over many millennia discussing or debating what the Torah means, which covers Jewish law and traditions.

What is a Methodology?

In the case of the Talmud, it is the method by which the research was done. In other words, it is about the principles that guided the research.  Midrash is one of the methodologies used by the Rabbis to amplify the texts of the Torah in the Talmud.  I learned last year from two of our Jewish convert friends, Robert Kay and David Doane, that the Book of Mormon has some great examples of the “Manner of the Jews” using the Hebrew Midrash methodology, the amplification or enlarging upon or adding details to a story.

 The Tree of Life

The importance of the Tree of Life in world culture dates back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  In Chapter 8 of First Nephi, the prophet Lehi has a profound vision of the tree of life and its importance.  Lehi’s son, Nephi, “desired to know the things that my father had seen…” (1 Nephi 11:1)

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… I… was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost… For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost.  (1 Nephi 10:17-22)

In answer to Nephi’s prayer and supplication the Holy Ghost, personally, gave Nephi a visual Midrash explanation of the vision his father had.  Our great blessing is that Nephi explains this to us in great detail with highly relevant significance to our day and time in Chapters 11 through 14 of First Nephi.

Nephi is shown the end times, as described by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelations, but the Lord – knowing the Bible would go to the world – told Nephi to not repeat those, but he writes many other jewels of information complementing John’s revelations in these chapters.  Here, I only touch on a few for emphasis:

We learn that the tree represents the “Love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things… and the most joyous to the soul.” (1 Nephi 11:22-23) The Savior’s infinite atonement is God’s manifestation of His infinite love for us (John 3:16), and should be the primary attribute we foster in our lives as we exemplify the Savior’s perfect love for all of Heavenly Father’s children.

We see that the First Law of Heaven is love bathed in obedience, as defined by the Lord.  Chapter 4 of my book explains this in detail.  We do things because we want to please the Lord because we love Him, not because we have to or else, but because we want to – bringing joy to our ever-loving Father-in-heaven, and His Beloved Son.

The prime motivation of the Savior’s life was love, as it was for Joseph Smith and with President Russell M. Nelson, today.  So, should it be with each of us.  We live the Law of Love as we live and share His glorious gospel.  “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

As a scientist, I am greatly concerned that a recent poll showed 93% of the leading American scientists believe the Bible to be a myth.  Nephi gives us great hope to the non-believers in his Midrash amplification — showing those who want to think about it the validity of the scriptures:

And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb, and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.

And it came to pass that I beheld the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the book of the Lamb of God, which had proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew [Bible], that it came forth from the Gentiles unto the remnant of the seed of my brethren [North American Indians {Lamanites} as confirmed by their Israel DNA and the words of the prophets].

And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books [The Book of Mormon: the small plates of Nephi, Mormon’s abridgement of the large plates of Nephi, Moroni’s abridgement of the Jaredite record, Mormon’s writings, Moroni’s writings, and the Title page]… which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first [Bible].  (1 Nephi 13:37-40)

I say, “Hallelujah” to my non-believing Friends

In addition to the Hebrew Midrash methodology, I have found 1,800 phrases in our scriptures that tie back to the language of Adam and their usage is a direct validation of the truth of our scriptures and manifests profoundly the finger print of the Lord.  LDS Living picked up on this phraseology tying back to the Adamic language.  And the Lord further promises in Nephi’s Midrash of Lehi’s vision:

And the time cometh that he [Christ] shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews [Old Testament] and also unto the Gentiles [New Testament]; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles [Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith] and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. [Great gathering of Israel; President Russell M. Nelson says this is the most important work we can do.  New scriptures to come forth when we are worthy to receive them, after we have internalized the glorious messages, we have already been given in those scriptures we have already received that we may get out from under the Lord’s condemnation.] (1 Nephi 13:42; D&C 84:54-58)

Nephi further gives us great insights and hope – complementing Revelations Chapter 17:

Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the  of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory. (1 Nephi 14:10, 14)

A whole book could be written amplifying further the great insights Nephi shares with us.

South Korea and the Talmud

I was fascinated to learn that the South Koreans reportedly hope to emulate Jews’ high academic standards by studying Jewish literature. Almost every household has a translated copy of a book they call “Talmud”, which parents read to their children, and the book is part of the primary-school curriculum. In 1974, Marvin Tokayer, an Orthodox American rabbi, produced in South Korea the first collaborative book, 5,000 Years of Jewish Wisdom: Secrets of the Talmud Scriptures, which they call the Talmud. It is especially interesting to me that South Korea probably has the strongest economy on the planet, and per-capita they visit my book’s website more than any other country.  The conversion of the South Korean, Dr. Kim, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is  remarkable story.

How blessed we are to have these Hebrew Midrash insights given Nephi by the Holy Ghost, as well as the entirety of the Book of Mormon – along with all our other sacred scriptural writings — to bring us to Christ and the fountains of living water leading to the “Tree of Life” with the fruit of God’s love, which is most desirable to the soul.  I pray that we may be filled with God’s love and have great joy therein.  If we desire, as Nephi did, we can rejoice in partaking of the fruit – being filled with God’s love – and share it with as many as choose to come unto Him.  If we are filled with God’s love, we will  be sharing the gospel, and if we are sharing the gospel, we are living the gospel.  It is not only the “good news,” it is the BEST NEWS!

David W. Allan