Hello! Shalom! Aloha! Mabuhay!

If this is your first visit to Modern Apocrypha, I have only two recommendations for continuing on with minimal confusion:

1) Please begin with the first introductory post (found HERE) and work your way forward. Almost all the posts on this blog flow chronologically and will make more sense with the background and context of previous ones. Jumping in anywhere might be disorienting.

2) Please read along in the texts posted off to the right. I try not to summarize too much in the commentary and discussion, and being at least somewhat familiar with what we're discussing or I'm commenting on will be most beneficial and edifying for all involved. Plus, going along with the theme of this blog, any hidden truths to be brought to light will be found within the text itself and not necessarily within my ramblings.

Okay, fine, three recommendations:

3) Please read with an open heart, mind, and spirit. See what truths you can find in these works--ones which speak to you. Namaste : )

Monday, June 30, 2014


After this great vision of the kingdom, Elisha is rightfully overwhelmed and concerned that he might not be fully cut out for the task, primarily due to his socioeconomic status; he is neither rich nor powerful. However, the Lord's reply is something that is applicable to all of us in our own personal endeavors and spiritual callings. As we walk in faith, the way is prepared, and we are given what we need to accomplish the task at hand (see 1 Nephi 3:7; 4:6). We are more often than not given spiritual help and guidance, not worldly riches. In fact, like the rich man in Jerusalem who went away sorrowing (Matt 19, Mark 10, Luke 18), the Lord commands Elisha to sell all that he has and give it to the poor. In this way, he will, in essence, be forced to follow the Spirit and rely upon God even for his daily sustenance, just as Christ and His apostles did (Matt 6, Luke 12). If Elisha can't follow through with this, the work will be given to another. God's plan and foresight are perfect enough to bring about His purposes on our behalf--our immortality and eternal life (Moses 1:39)--while still allowing for man's agency in choosing to serve and follow Him.

Elisha is also commanded not to make any money from his endeavors, solely charging publishing costs for the translated record. (The current 2013 version is $18.25 in paperback on Comparing that to the 1829 Book of Mormon, EB Grandin agreed to print 5000 hardback copies for $3000--almost $65,000 today. The first copies sold for $1.50 each, or about $32 in today's money; however, many of them were just given away.)

As for power and influence, the Lord tells Elisha that he will have no power over others except it's given from God. The agency of other's is not to be removed, controlled, or trampled upon. Again, he is not to rely on his own strength nor trust in the arm of flesh, which are weak and will fail, but to trust in the arm of God, which will never fail. He is to spread the work first among weak and poor in the Philippines, and the field is white and ready to harvest there (see HERE). But even though they might seem weak to others and even in their own eyes, they will gather together in great strength because of the Gospel and this work. Then, after this, the pure in heart among the rich will be gathered in.
Once the work has moved forward, Elisha is commanded to appoint leaders over the kingdom from among the believers. However, they should not desire the position or seek power over others; this is a sure sign of wickedness and pride. But they should be humble, meek, and strong in the ways of God; they also shouldn't walk to be seen or praised of men but walk uprightly before God.

This whole section is another lesson on pride and setting our hearts on worldly riches and glory and what it takes to be a humble follower of Christ. We are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God, but much of the time Mammon becomes our master (Matt 6). Jacob echoes the words of Christ as he pled with his people:
Let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!
Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good--to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2:16-19)
How often are the rich humble and the poor proud? Alma the Younger taught that poverty often helps to soften those who might've otherwise been quite hardened.
I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble.
And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.
And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?
Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed--yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.
Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they believe. (Alma 32:12-16) 
As Christ mentions to Elisha (and just as Joseph Smith recorded), it is pride and worldly aspirations that disqualify one for authority and service in His kingdom.
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson--
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile--
Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. (D&C 121:34-46) 
These are the qualities of a true disciple of Christ, a righteous leader in His kingdom, or a humble bearer of His priesthood.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


In the next segment, Christ shows Elisha a vision of the kingdom he will help to establish; He lists the islands and defines the borders. When reading how this vision unfolds, all I could picture was some huge sweeping IMAX-3D helicopter shot of the Philippines : )

In any case, I love maps and geography, so this part was fun--putting the pieces of this kingdom together. So as not to bore all the rest of you, this island kingdom includes the Philippines, Taiwan, Borneo, and all the other small islands in the South China and Philippines Seas, and even farther out into the Pacific. Its borders are the small islands between the Philippines and Indonesia in the south, Taiwan in the north, Micronesia in the east, and the Asian coastal islands in the west. Basically the borders of the island kingdom look pretty much something like THIS.
If you're matching islands to their descriptions in the text:
~ In the Kingdom ~
Luzon = "this land", "this large island"
Taiwan = "large island in the north"
Batan & Babuyan islands = "small islands between these two large islands"
Mindanao = "large island in the south"
Visayas = "many islands between this land and that one"
Palawan = "long thin island in the west"
Spratly & Paracel islands = "many small islands in the west"
Every other small island in the South China Sea = "every small island between the long island and the large island in the north, even every one which is near unto the shore of the Asian Continent"
Borneo = "very large island in the southwest"
Every other Philippine island = "all the islands between this land and the south island"
Talaud & Sangihe islands = "small islands south of the southern island"
Ponape (Pohnpei) = eastern "island where there is an ancient ruin" (Nan Madol, check it out HERE)
~ Not immediately in the Kingdom (may be, if desired) ~
Indonesia & New Guinea = "larger islands in the south"
Also, Christ says that any other land can join if they desire but don't really need to since He will establish many kingdoms in many lands according to the different people there, and they will all be united anyway after He returns.

Christ finishes this segment with a curse upon anyone who keeps the people of this kingdom down, that they will lose their power and be cast down and trodden upon, for all these lands are given to Christ by the Father and preserved as an inheritance for the Gentiles who are bound through the remnant of the Tribes of Israel. God remembers His covenants to Israel and promises to the Gentiles. I think there's a definite distinction between those last two phrases--covenants to Israel and promises to the Gentiles. God has always made personal covenants with His chosen people, but there are none, necessarily, to the Gentiles until they are adopted into the House of Israel and choose Him as their God. At the same time, this was one of the main purposes of the scattering of Israel, that those remnants might become God's salt, light, and leaven to flavor, enlighten, and raise up all the peoples of the earth (see Matt 5, 13). This will also be a theme in the early parts of the Aklatan, as they recount the two primary waves of ancestors arriving in the islands.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Elisha doesn't understand why he is in the presence of Christ and is told that he is being called on a special mission like Paul, who was called as an apostle to the Gentiles separate and apart from the Twelve in Jerusalem. But in this case, Elisha will be an apostle to the isles of the sea. (As an aside, the word "apostle" comes from the Greek apostolos, meaning "a messenger or one sent forth"--in the case of Christianity, to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. It's related to epistle, from epistolos, meaning "a message, letter, etc. sent to someone else".)
I think it's also interesting that Jesus warns Elisha to not claim more authority than he's given and to beware of pride. I can imagine that having seen Christ and been called by Him, one might feel they have carte blanche and potentially overstep their bounds or claim a greater stewardship than they've been given. Paul, it seems, also had to walk this fine line in fulfilling his divine mission to the Gentiles and not overstepping the authority of the Church in Jerusalem. Though he was in contact with the Twelve and sent them aid, Paul's apostolic and missionary efforts throughout the region were almost completely independent from those of the greater Church. Reading between the lines, this also suggests that if Elisha is like Paul with a special mission, then there must be others (i.e., twelve apostles) with authority over Christ's established church.

Christ then tells Elisha that throughout his life he has been and will continue to be prepared for the great work of bringing forth a record of the people of the isles of the sea. In the past, the Spirit has inspired him, and in the near future, special servants will minister to and prepare him (Visions 4). Oleeha will also return to help him translate this ancient record (Visions 5).

Jesus then relates two familiar parables, "Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom" and "The wise man who built his house upon a rock". Throughout the Aklatan, Christ continues to speak in parables, most of them familiar from the record of His ministry in the Gospels, but often with added meaning. The principle remains with His parables: he who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Elisha's mission is to prepare the isles of the sea to become a great and prosperous people according to the Lord's covenant with their ancestors to remember them and make them mighty. He will also establish a kingdom in the islands, and His people will be gathered by the book Elisha will bring forth and his preaching from the Bible and the Lord's other Holy Words. (A short while later, Christ will address Elisha's confusion and teach that the Bible doesn't contain all of God's word.)

[Addendum: 10/13/14]
Early in the history of the LDS Church, the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon were also called as special apostles, or witnesses of Christ, apart from the Quorum of the Twelve, as Paul was:
And now, Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you, and also unto David Whitmer, by the way of commandment; for, behold, I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called. (D&C 18:9)

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Visions 3 contains Christ's visitation to, conversation with, and instructions for Elisha three months after his experience with the vision, cave, and Oleeha. Saturday 20 Sept 1986 fell right around the full moon of the fall equinox (if we want to play that game again), but more importantly, it was the night before the 90th day from Oleeha's promise that if Elisha would keep these things sacred for three months, he would witness the miraculous. Here the Lord tests Elisha's faith to the fulness, to the last minute (ain't that the way it goes). (Why didn't He come on the 23rd--three Julian months later? Maybe He was all booked up that next Tues ; )

On this final night, Elisha is awoken by a light brighter than anything he'd ever seen. Personal experiences in the scriptures talk of the brightness of heavenly beings as brighter than anything they've ever seen. Lehi sees Christ in vision, and
he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day. (1 Nephi 1:9)
In one of his accounts of the First Vision, Joseph Smith says:
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun,... [and] I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description. (Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17)
Joseph also recounts the first visit of Moroni a few years later:
I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday,... [Moroni] had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant.... His whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. (JS-H 1:30-32)
Finally, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery were visited by Christ in the Kirtland Temple in 1836, relating that
his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun. (D&C 110:3) 
I've always wondered how we would describe that brightness nowadays in our modern language--brighter than a 1000 watt floodlight? What's the brightest, whitest thing you can think of?

Elisha cowers in shame because he feels his sins and misdeeds have made him unworthy to be in Christ's presence; however, instead of receiving divine retribution or disgust, he feels an intense love envelop him. This is a depiction of a central aspect of Christ's grace and atonement, that we can be recipients of God's love, Spirit, power, redemption, etc. in spite of our unworthy, sinful, imperfect state. This image of enveloping love is a theme that runs through modern revelation, particularly in the form of the phrase "encircled in the arms of God's love". Lehi testifies to his sons,
But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love. (2 Nephi 1:15)
His son, Nephi, pleads,
 O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! (2 Nephi 4:33)
Ammon is grateful to have been an instrument in God's hands to bring thousands of their brethren to Christ and that
they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love. (Alma 26:15)
Amulek explains:
Mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles [believers] in the arms of safety. (Alma 34:16)
And finally, the Lord promises Oliver Cowdery (D&C 6:20)
Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.
Those who put their faith in Christ and are partakers of His atonement will be enveloped in His love, just as Elisha felt.
And on top of this, not only to prove that this isn't all a dream, and more importantly, so that Elisha can witness to the reality of Christ's resurrection and atonement, he is invited to feel Christ's wounds and know Him. The Lord makes this promise through Joseph Smith:
Every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am. (D&C 93:1)
(There's a great little talk, HERE, by Spencer W. Kimball discussing this promise.) By following these five steps, anyone's faith in Christ can grow into true knowledge of Him, as illustrated with Elisha (and described by Alma in Alma 32). Each of us has the potential to see Christ and know that He is, but those who don't ask, seek, or knock will never receive, find, or have it opened to them.


Now, on to this American, Oleeha. He's an important character and key in understanding Elisha's story, and so the big question is, "Who is he?" From an LDS perspective, he would be considered an angel of some sort, which literally and simply means a "messenger" (from the Greek angelos) from God. About ministering angels, Joseph Smith taught:
There are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it. (D&C 130:5)
So that narrows our search range for Oleeha down to about 100 billion people who have lived on Earth ; ) But it would seem that, from his interactions with Elisha, Oleeha is a physical, tangible being with spiritual gifts and power. Resurrected or translated individuals fit that description. (Although, I guess, Oleeha could still be a spirit since Elisha never really mentions him physically touching things aside from the copper plates in Visions 5. But even then, it turns out to be a visionary experience.) So, if that's the case, that gets our potential Oleeha's down into the thousands, maybe? Elisha describes him as an American based on his appearance (probably tall, white, European looking, etc.) and possibly also his speech or accent. The Philippines is definitely one of those places where Americans stick out in every conceivable way and, because of their historical presence, are easily recognizable as such. However, I can't think of any traditions of righteous Americans who are translated or already resurrected. Also, the name Oleeha is odd for an American of any period or region (at least I've never heard of anyone with that name or something similar), which makes me think it's a pseudonym of sorts to possibly mask his true identity, the knowledge of which would be, at best, irrelevant or, at worst, potentially detrimental to the work at hand. The last main piece of evidence in sorting out who Oleeha is, is that he has been given gifts to translate ancient records and has been sent to help Elisha in his translation work, which will take place in Visions 5.

So here's the working theory: all of these pieces of evidence together point to Oleeha being, in one form or another, Oliver Cowdery. (I'm not the originator of this idea--h/t captmoroni1981--but it's a fun one to chew on, so I'm gonna take it and run with it. A secondary hypothesis is that Oleeha is some other being who possesses the same knowledge, gifts, characteristics, and codename of Oliver Cowdery and acts in that same capacity for Elisha as Oliver did for Joseph Smith.) Let's explain.
First, the name. In the original 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, code names were used for people, places, etc. to protect them and the Church from their enemies. (You can check out all of them HERE and HERE. Joseph Smith had three, btw.) Oliver Cowdery's code name (seen in D&C 88 and 104) was Olihah, which when pronounced as an ancient, non-English word (which is what they were going for) is o-LEE-ha. Elisha's spelling of the name is phonetic, the D&C spelling, not so much. We don't know the derivation of this codename, but it's probably a play on Olea from Abraham 3 and/or Olaha from D&C 117, both meaning or relating to the moon.

Next, let's take a dive into Oliver's spiritual gifts (natural and gained) and God's method of translation, as described by the Lord in D&C 6, 8-9. We'll see that Oliver was indeed a special individual called to the work of bringing hidden things to light. (Did you catch the theme of this blog, there? ; )

D&C 6
v10-12: Oliver has a spiritual gift to know the mysteries of God via revelation and to bring others to the truth through it, but he should only tell believers of his gift of revelation.
v25-28: If he wants, he can be granted, like Joseph, the gift to translate records that contain much of the gospel but have been kept back because of wickedness. If he has righteous desires, he can assist in bringing to light, with this gift, hidden parts of scriptures. He and Joseph are given the keys of this gift of translation to bring to light this ministry.
v37: There seems to have been a visitation, or at least a vision, of Christ accompanying this revelation.

D&C 8
1-11: Oliver will receive knowledge of engravings of ancient records that contain parts of God's scriptures through the spirit of revelation, where the Spirit will tell both his mind and heart. This is his gift, and it will deliver him from his enemies. He also has another gift of "working with the sprout" (or rod), which has told him many things, and there's no other power except God that can cause this "thing of nature" to work for him. He shouldn't doubt this gift of God but hold it in his hands and do marvelous works, for it's of God, and no power can take it out of his hands. Whatever he asks by that means, knowledge will be granted. But he shouldn't do anything without faith, trifle with his gifts, or ask what he shouldn't, rather he should ask to know the mysteries of God and to translate all those ancient, sacred, hidden records.

This whole section refers to Oliver's talent with a divining rod of some sort--the "sprout" and "thing of nature"--which was later changed to "the gift of the rod" and then to "the gift of Aaron". (The original manuscript version can be found HERE.) It seems he used it during his attempt to translate, and the Lord is recognizing it and approving its use as a means of receiving revelation. (An article discussing this can be found HERE.) There is also a fun story from Anthon H. Lund's journal that Oliver's rod (or even a staff) was passed on to Brigham Young and was used to point out where the Salt Lake Temple should be built. Heber C. Kimball's biography also tells that he had been given a staff by Joseph Smith to guide him and help him receive revelation.

D&C 9
1-12: Oliver tried but didn't translate like he wanted to, so he needs to keep writing for Joseph until the Book of Mormon is complete, then he'll be given power to assist in translating other records. (Between June and Oct 1830, he served as Joseph's first scribe for his revision of the Bible--recording Moses 1 and Gen 1-4:18--but didn't participate in translation in any way.) He should be patient since it's not expedient for him to translate at the present time, for he was called to write for Joseph. He didn't continue to translate as he'd begun, and the privilege was taken. He didn't understand the process but supposed the answer would be given by only asking. Instead, he should study out the question in his mind (in this case the symbol or word to be translated) and ask if the answer's right. If it's right, his bosom will burn, and he'll feel it's right. If it's not right, he'll have no such feelings but a stupor of thought that will cause him to forget the wrong answer. One can't write what is sacred except it's given from God. If he'd known this, he could've translated, but it's not expedient for him to translate now. It was expedient when he commenced, but he feared (was afraid/anxious?), the time is past, and it's not expedient now. Joseph is given enough strength to make up the difference, but Oliver is not condemned. (We'll come back to this method of God's translation in our discussion of Visions 5.)

Reading these revelations in their historical context, we see that Oliver was an exceptional individual who played an integral part in the translation process of the Book of Mormon; he wasn't merely a schoolteacher who served as Joseph's scribe. He possessed spiritual gifts of revelation and working with a divining rod of sorts to receive answers from God. Most importantly to our discussion, he was given the keys of translation, and after failing to translate the Book of Mormon, was promised by the Lord that he would help translate other ancient, sacred, hidden records. In Visions 2, the American, Oleeha, says he has been given gifts to translate ancient records and was sent to assist in translating them just as we've seen with Oliver in D&C 6, 8-9. In Visions 5, he will instruct Elisha in God's method of translation, the same way Oliver learned it in D&C 9. Until an explanation comes along that better fits the evidence, Oliver as Oleeha works nicely.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


If you've noticed the lack of posts this last week, hopefully you might've also noticed a new page off to the right at the head of the Aklatan text. I've just finished compiling a chapter-by-chapter outline and summary of the books of the Aklatan for your perusal. Each chapter has a sentence or two describing the gist of its plot and/or teachings (of course, there are many details, etc. left out). I hope, if you haven't begun reading through the complete text yet, that you'll go through and review the chapter summaries. This was my third time reading through the Aklatan (it's both a quick but thought-provoking read), and it's still a very intriguing text and an amazing record. There is truth to be uncovered within it.