Chapter 1 - Perspective
John’s writings, known as the book of Revelation, are written in a deliberate yet curious manner. There can be no doubt that the style and manner of John’s writing are intentional. After all, John stated that he received his vision from Jesus Christ via an angelic messenger. In other words, he wrote what he was told to write. Indeed, the Joseph Smith translation of John’s writing resulted in comparatively few modifications. The modifications that were made were minor in nature. We must, therefore, conclude that the form in which it was recorded is the form in which Jesus Christ intended us to read it.
John’s revelation is the culminating fulcrum of any study regarding the latter days. As such, why was it written in such a cryptic nature? It could have been written plainly, but it was not. Let’s not forget that John was not the only one to witness the events of the last days. Many others saw them as well. Nephi, the Brother of Jared, Ezra, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Joel, Ether, and Moroni all saw these same things, and this is not an exhaustive list.
The writings of some of the aforementioned men are very easy to understand. Indeed, Nephi gloried in plainness. Nevertheless, he was forbidden to expound upon the things which he saw. Consider the instruction that he was given by his angelic guide after he saw the same things that John would see:
It is evident from the passages above that while the Lord showed Nephi the same things he had shown John and others, he did not want Nephi to describe these things to us. The same is true of Moroni, who also saw our day. Consider the following:
Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. (Mormon 8:34-35)
And I was about to write more, but I am forbidden; but great and marvelous were the prophecies of Ether…(Ether 13:13)
There is no doubt that if either Nephi or Moroni would have written about the events that John saw, they would have been plain to understand. They were forbidden to do so. Instead, those who were permitted to write about these things, like Isaiah, Daniel, and John, did so cryptically. This is obviously intentional. WHY?
I have come to believe that there are several reasons for the cryptic nature of this subject matter. FIRST, it was a means of preserving the content for an intended audience. It is clear that someone removed certain plain and precious truths from the Bible. Cryptic writings were much harder to censor because their true meanings were masked. SECOND, the subject matter is of such a spectacular nature that if it were to be written plainly, nobody would believe it anyway. THIRD, the events of the last day are intended to sift people into two groups, wheat and tares. Therefore, the Lord wanted this information to be limited to the wheat. The Lord’s purpose for using parables was similar. It was a way of safeguarding content from passive audiences. Alma explained it best:
If you are not willing to pay the price, you will not receive the information. Doesn’t the Spirit function the same way? The Lord chastised Oliver Cowdery for this same reason. Oliver thought that all he needed to do to receive revelation was to ask, and then it would flow like a spigot, independent of the effort he exerted. This is not how it works.
This is precisely why John the Baptist responded to the Jewish leadership in the way that he did when they came down to hear his preaching.
But when [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Mathew 3:7)
John the Baptist knew that the Pharisees and Sadducees were not truly interested in the subject matter. They were coming to hear his words out of curiosity. It is obvious that the Lord intends to shield His mysteries from such. This is why I feel comfortable sharing these insights in book format. The reader still has to work for it.
FOURTH, the Lord desires to try the faith of His people. Mormon learned this lesson from the Lord firsthand as he was deciding which of Christ’s teaching he should include in his record. Consider the following:
LASTLY. An angel told Nephi that at the time that John wrote these things, they were plain unto the understanding of the saints in his day. How could John’s cryptic writings have been clear to the saints in his day, and so obtuse to the saints of modern times? Consider the following passage:
But without a parable spake [Christ] not unto them [the general populace]: and when they were alone, He expounded all things to his disciples. (Mark 4:34)
Christ’s apostles were instructed in the deeper meaning behind all of the parables that He taught the people. This is how the olden-day saints knew what these things meant. They had additional context that we lack. This is how the Christians fled Jerusalem while the Jews stayed behind. Christ taught His disciples the deeper meaning, and they in turn taught the people. Note that there is a marked difference between disciples and apostles. All of the twelve apostles were also disciples, but not all disciples were apostles. There were 500 disciples present at the time Christ ascended into heaven. The point is, Christ taught the saints about the meaning of His parables, while the world at large heard only the parables themselves.
Nephi was provided a key insight into how the latter-day saints would be able to understand John’s writings. Consider Nephi’s words:
Nephi was shown that other books would come forth in the last days that would validate the original message of the twelve apostles. What are these other books? They include the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and other writings that would be revealed at a future date. Let’s see how these books help us to understand John’s writings.
The Book of Mormon
The people of the Book of Mormon did not know John, nor had access to any of his writings. Nevertheless, its authors reference John three times. This is remarkable if you think about it, and it goes to show how relevant John is to the events of the latter days. Consider the following reference to John by Moroni:
Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief… then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you [be revealed]—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in My name [Christ is speaking], with a broken heart and a contrite spirit… And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. (Ether 4:15-16)
What is the veil of unbelief that we must rend? We must believe that the Lord can speak to us. If we don’t believe that God can do this, we are barred from gaining the further light and knowledge He promised to send us. God wants to speak to us directly. It is His preferred method of communication. Consider the following passage illustrating this point:
If you don’t believe this concept, then you have wasted your money on this book.
Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants clarify many aspects of John’s revelations and provide much-needed insight into its author. It even includes a question and answer section about John’s writings. Surely this is one of the books that Nephi saw would help us to understand John’s writings in the latter days.
The Pearl of Great Price
Within the forty-two pages of the Pearl of Great Price, we have three separate eye-witness accounts of innumerable worlds that are populated with our brothers and sisters in Christ. As we embark on understanding John’s writings, we will find how relevant this knowledge becomes!
Apart from the three books referenced above, we are told of four additional records that we have not yet received. These records are, the scriptures of the Lost Ten Tribes, the Brass Plates, the writings of the Brother of Jared, and the Book of Enoch. Of these four, only the Book of Enoch is now available to us. As such, it will be the only book I will reference. The Lord said the following about the Book of Enoch:
And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation. These things were all written in the Book of Enoch, and are to be testified of in due time. (D&C 107: 56-57)
It should be noted that the above passages were revealed to Joseph Smith in April of 1835. The book of Moses, which includes a brief account of Enoch’s day, was translated in June of 1830, almost five years before the above passages were revealed. Therefore the Book of Enoch and the Pearl of Great Price’s account of Enoch are two separate accounts. The Lord clearly stated that the Book of Enoch would be “testified of in due time”.
The phrase “testified of in due time” is an interesting one. The Book of Enoch was had among the Ethiopian Christians for thousands of years. The early apostles referenced it as well - they would not have done so had they not considered it to be a canonical book. However, the first reliable English translation of the Book of Enoch was not available until 1883.
According to John Strugnell, the chief editor of the official Dead Sea Scrolls project team, a complete Aramaic text of the Book of Enoch was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls. He examined it, but for unknown reasons was not permitted to publish it. No reason was provided as to why.
The Dead Sea scrolls were written between 250 BC and 70 AD and were not original works at that time, but likely copies of earlier manuscripts. Therefore, as the Lord prophesied in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Enoch has been testified of. The Book of Enoch is quoted in the first chapter of John’s revelation, makings it's content extremely relevant. More will be discussed concerning the Book of Enoch as we progress in our analysis.
Let me reiterate that the things I will discuss within this book are based upon my insights and opinions. As such, nothing in this book should be construed to be the official doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed, the church has put forth only limited information regarding John’s writings, as those that have read its official lesson plans on the subject matter can attest. I believe that this is due to the things discussed in this chapter.