Friday, April 8, 2016

The Hidden Book

2 Nephi 27 is likely the deepest chapter in the Book of Mormon, but I wonder if we Mormons have sufficiently appreciated its importance. True, it's famous as a Book of Mormon "midrash" (a Hebrew literary form), but its significance goes far deeper than that. In fact, I'd say that 2 Nephi 27 tells us more about God's long-term plans behind the Book of Mormon than anywhere else does. And I believe that this long-term plan has to do with another book: one hidden within the Book of Mormon.

The chapter says this clearly in verse 7:

"And behold the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the end thereof."

The Book of Mormon isn't just a "single-layered" text. "Within" the literal events on the surface, there is a deeper meaning with a deeper significance. This deeper meaning is a revelation of the whole world from the beginning to the end, but one that is still hidden. Verse 10 goes on to say that this revelation is "hidden in plain sight," so to speak, since it's right there "inside" the Book we're commanded to read every day: "the revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the own due time of the Lord, that they may come forth; for behold, they reveal all things from the foundation of the world to the end thereof."

To put it another way, I think that the Book of Mormon is only the "surface" of a deeper, more expansive, and more sacred book. And this book isn't just a series of words. The book won't "reveal all things" the way an exposé or a news report does; I believe that this "book of books" will actually show us the true nature of all things as we see them around us. The book will "peel back" the outer layer of the world (or at least our perception of it). In a flash of meaning, we'll suddenly see through the people, trees, and mountains as if they were words whose meaning we were only just beginning to understand. The words hiding within everything will speak and "shall be read upon the house tops" (verse 11). And when everything has been thus rendered transparent to its inner meaning, the world will have become glass (D&C 130:9).

Lest you think me crazy, know that other religious teachings say that this will happen in the near future. The Ismaili sect of Islam teaches that the last of the Imams--those spiritual figures who complement the prophets' work by leading us into the hidden sense of their teachings--embodies and will reveal the inner meaning of all things. The Ismaili Shaikh Abu'l Qasim Khan Ibrahimi explains that their "hidden Imam" will reveal himself to us like the Biblical Joseph does to his brothers in Pharaoh's court. Moreover, I think that the spiritual reality they call the hidden Imam is what we call Christ. When the sacred book hidden within the Book of Mormon becomes revealed, I think that Christ will step forth from among us where he had been all along, hidden like Joseph among his brothers. After all, He Himself said that "I am in your midst and ye cannot see me" (D&C 38:7).

Others have said much the same thing, namely the eighteenth-century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, who taught that the Second Coming would occur as the revelation of scripture's internal meaning and that, with it, the ancient perception of heaven in the world will be restored. But more importantly, as I have pointed out here, the Book of Mormon itself says this. And more than that, it shows this to be true. Who has read the Book of Mormon prayerfully and hasn't felt intimations of something greater and more profound than the words written on the page? Moreover, who among those hasn't felt God's influence or even presence hidden just beneath those pages?

He's breaking through. Sometime soon, Christ will show Himself to us where He has always been: in the Word, the divine truth within everything which the Book of Mormon declares. Then the dark veil covering everything will be sundered; light will break through. And then, as if waking up from a bad dream, we will truly know what it means to "awake, and arise from the dust" (Moroni 10:31).


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