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 : )

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Like Nephi, Suran teaches his family about the future Messiah directly from the ancient records and quotes teachings and prophecies of Isaiah and other ancient prophets. He begins with what we know as Isaiah 53:2-11, the fourth and last of the Songs of the Suffering Servant (the first three are 42:1-4; 49:1-6; and 50:4-9), the One who will intercede for others, bear their punishments and afflictions, and be rewarded with exaltation. (This passage is also quoted by Abinadi in Mosiah 14 during his confrontation with the priests of King Noah.) Suran also ends his instruction with Isaiah (7:14). (Although, I should say it is Ruman who narrating, and thus, possibly including these specific passages.)

However, what we have here is the first part of an interesting situation with regard to the Aklatan's inclusion of these Messianic passages (and it's the same issue the Book of Mormon runs into). Isaiah 53 belongs to what modern Biblical scholars call Deutero- or Second-Isaiah. However, this isn't a recent division--it was first advanced by rabbinical scholars almost 1000 years ago--and it's based on observed differences in the language, style, themes, etc. within the various chapters of Isaiah. The theory postulates that the "real" Isaiah wrote what are now the first 39 chapters, where his name is used frequently, he is prophesying of a future destruction, etc. Chapters 40-55, then, are written by an anonymous author during the Babylonian exile, since Isaiah is no longer named, and it mentions a Jerusalem already destroyed, a current captivity, Cyrus the Great, etc. (There's also a Trito- or Third-Isaiah, but we'll leave that for now.)

However, alternative explanations for these differing sections exist. For instance, working under the presumption of Isaiah as an actual prophet (since, you know, the "real" First-Isaiah foresaw the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by Assyria, the return of Israelite exiles to Jerusalem, etc.), the possibility remains that this "real" First-Isaiah could've also foreseen the destruction of Jerusalem, the Babylonian captivity, the release of the Jews by Cyrus, etc. described in Second-Isaiah. My personal opinion is that Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah represent exilic and/or post-exilic tweaks of Isaiah's pre-exilic prophecies (e.g., hindsight insertion of the name Cyrus to clarify who they thought Isaiah was describing) and those Jews not understanding the multi-layered complexity of Isaiah's writings, that he prophesied of their time, the time of Christ, and the last days--often within the same passage. Nephi understood this, which is why he included Isaiah's writings in his personal record. The Lord understood this, when he taught the descendants of Lehi, "Great are the words of Isaiah" (3 Nephi 23:1-3). Deutero-Isaiah was part of that pre-exilic Isaiah collection Nephi possessed on the Brass Plates and not a post-exilic addition, and the Aklatan is a second witness of that.

Addendum: I did a comparative analysis of the Isaiah passages found in Suran 3 and over thirty of the more popular English versions of the Bible. There are phrase matches here and there between Suran 3 and these several versions (e.g., the Isaiah 7:14 verse resembles that of the Wycliffe Bible, the 53:2 verse resembles the International Standard Version, etc.), but Suran 3 offers a unique rendering of the majority of these verses separately and the passage as a whole.


- Suran was a smart guy who wanted to believe but still had doubts and second-guessed his spiritual experiences. (Strike a chord with anybody out there?) Yet, in spite of this, he pushed forward in faith, hoping that the good fruit he found came from a good tree. A wonderful example for all of us searching for truth.

I mentioned this at the end of the introductory post (HERE), but Mormon gives a good recipe (that Suran seemed to follow) for discerning good fruit in Moroni 7:13-14,16. He says that which is inspired of God invites, entices, and persuades to:
1) do good continually
2) love God
3) serve Him
4) believe in Christ
Also, notice how there is no coercion with God, only invitation, enticement, and persuasion.

- Suran also learned and taught his family that a primary purpose of the Fall was "that there might be weakness and imperfection in the world," as both are necessary in this life to test us, humble us, manifest God's works through us, and ultimately bring us to Christ, as Moroni learned (Ether 12). In Arakim 7, Kodan will learn this, too.

- Suran calls Shem, "the great king," and later the high priesthood is referred to as the Order of Shem. It seems the Aklatan, then, is confirming the Shem-as-Melchizedek hypothesis.

- In Suran 6, we'll discuss the travels and captivities of the branches of Arpaksad and Levi (and the "large men" in the west), who eventually mix together with the indigenous islanders.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


(This post has been a long time coming...)

Quick thoughts:
- Who is the voice testifying to and teaching Suran? The Lord, the Spirit, an unseen angel? (Maybe Ngameke could throw his voice ; )
- I like the simple twofold purpose of baptism given here -- to be cleansed and to witness acceptance of God's teachings.
- Suran is baptized by immersion, initiated into the Order of God (Melchizedek Priesthood), and appointed to be a prophet, priest, and king. Does this last part represent the endowment rites, too?

Foreordination & Premortal Existence
This chapter tangentially touches on one of the great theological and philosophical debates--that of free will versus determinism. I had a well-written exposition on the subject, but it was conveniently deleted when my computer crashed back in Jan. (Hence the long delay of this post.) So, I'll just state briefly that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its associated plan of salvation, as taught in the LDS standard works (Jeremiah 1, Alma 13, Abraham 3, etc.) and now the Aklatan, strike a balance between these two seemingly opposing perspectives through the clarifying doctrines of eternal agency, premortal existence, foreordination, etc. Within the Grand Plan, both free will and God's omniscience coexist--but both set within their own bounds and in compliance with their own laws.

According to this paradigm, eternal progression through the wise exercise of agency is the essential core of human existence--to go from grace to grace, intelligence to intelligence, from lower rungs of the ladder to higher ones (as Joseph Smith illustrated it). Not only do we pass through stages of progression during this earth life, but mortality is just one of many larger stages extending forward and backward through our eternal existence (see D&C 93:29), each previous stage affecting the next. Therefore, knowledge of our premortal state is key to a fuller understanding of our current mortal (and future immortal) one, with its inherent trials, suffering, etc. (We'll delve deeper into the issue of theodicy--or why bad things happen to good people--later.)

In essence, all mankind lived with God before coming to earth, and each person was appointed (and I believe chose) to live at a certain time in a certain place. This is foreordination: a premortal setting apart or appointment to undertake mortal missions or experience specific trials--all within the grander perspective of our eternal progression. However, this does not mean we are predetermined to act a certain way or choose a predefined path. We are not guaranteed to make the right choice nor destined to make the wrong one; foreordination neither precludes nor violates the exercise of agency. Through transgression, sin, or rebellion, we may fail in our foreordination and surrender promised blessings. Hence, "many are called but few are chosen." Free will is an eternal characteristic of intelligent beings.

Foreordination, then, is based on both our agency and God's omniscience and foreknowledge. As all things are present before him (see D&C 88:41; 130:7), He anticipates our choices but does not make them for us. In the Grand Council before the world, we elected and agreed to enter into this plan set up by God to bless all His children and provide opportunities and challenges for their growth, development, and progress. He knows our potential and foreordains us to help bring about His eternal purposes, as with Suran.


Sometimes I like to think of this whole life of ours from the perspective of chaos theory, which describes systems of deterministic chaos. Within such a system, apparent randomness leads to an overall pattern. (This is where we get fractal geometry. The image above is an artistic depiction of a fractal pattern.) However, just because a chaotic system has a predetermined outcome doesn't mean it's predictable. One needs to know the precise initial conditions of the system in order to predict that outcome. Therefore, an all-knowing observer, like God, who is outside of the system and at the start of it, could then specify or measure those precise initial conditions, and in doing so would then be able to know and predict with certainty the final outcome, as well as any point along the way.

Is our free will just an illusion, then? No, we are still able to make choices on our level, though we are still bound by certain laws. This idea of illusion, which still baffles philosophers, shouldn't be an issue since all "true" randomness in any system is still bound by some law or rule.