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Relationship to Section 93. The relationship of Verses 93:1-5 to the rest of Section 93 is discussed at D&C 93.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Verses 93:1-5 include:
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- D&C 93:1-20: Outline. The key to understanding these verses may be verse 19 (discussion), which provides a basic outline for the first twenty verses of this revelation, and indicates that these first twenty verses teach us three things: (a) "how" to worship (93:1), (b) "what" we worship (93:2-18), and (c) "why" we worship (93:19-20).
- D&C 93:1: How to worship. This first verse describes five things that one does in worship, five things that describe "how" one worships. Each deserves careful attention.
- (1) Forsake sin. To forsake is to totally abandon, leave behind, renounce, move away from. The first step in worshiping is to renounce our sins and to leave them behind.
- (2) Come unto Christ. We often read this as meaning something like "be good" or "do His will," etc., but it can also be read quite literally: to come unto Christ by personally, physically, and really approaching him and entering his presence. We most obviously do this through partaking of sacred ordinances--such as baptism, the sacrament, and temple worship--all of which require us to forsake sin before fully participating. When we abandon or forsakes our sins, we turn away from them and move toward Christ. These first two parts of worship, then, constitute a kind of movement away from sin and towards Christ.
- (3) Call on His name. This can simply refer to the act of prayer, but might more explicitly refer to the act of citing or summoning someone's authority: in an argument, one can call on the name of this or that thinker or scholar. If calling on the name of Christ refers to an act of prayer, it might be understood as a prayer spoken in Christ's name, rather than to Him. In our worship we worship the Father in the name of the Son, and that seems to be what it means to "call on His name."
- At the same time, there is certainly merit in understanding "call on His name" as a direct summons. After we leave sin and physically come to Christ, we call on His name as we arrive. This second way of reading this phrase need not oppose the first: might one come to Christ and address Him directly so as to approach the Father in/as the Son? That is, might one call on His name (summon Him) by calling on His name (praying as authorized by Him)? Ultimately, it seems one does precisely this in many acts of worship: in the sacrament, one physically experiences Christ and calls on Him for salvation, but only by addressing "God, the Eternal Father" in the name of His "Son, Jesus Christ."
- A third and related way to read this might be to call on His name as an authorized servant performing saving ordinances in His name. In this sense, we worship Him by helping to perform saving ordinances for others.
- (4) Obey His voice. Is there a difference between obeying His voice and that which follows--keeping His commandments? Obeying the Lord's voice seems to evoked here an actual encounter, the reality of communing with the Savior--either directly in person, or through the Spirit. Obeying His voice would seem to refer to obeying the whisperings of the Spirit, which is promised to us after baptism, and which Nephi taught would teach us all things what we should do.
- (5) Keep His commandments. Rather than obeying the whisperings of the Spirit, keeping the commandments may refer to the day to day living of those commandments that have been recorded for us through the scriptures or through the teachings of the prophets. While we worship by doing what the Lord tells us personally through the Spirit, we also do so by walking uprightly in obedience to the commandments, and treasuring them in our lives (see lexical note above). In Judaism, each commandment (mitzvah) is an obligation or responsibility that forms the basis for maintaining a relationship with God. We worship by keeping the commandments, by living in a way that maintains our relationship with the Lord. Sacred ordinances form the foundation for this worship by requiring us to commit to keep the commandments. By doing so, we follow through on that personal commitment and maintain our relationship with to the Lord.
- Conclusion. In the end, these five points convey a story: one leaves off sin in order to come physically to Christ, where one calls upon His name, hears His voice in response, and then leaves the worship experience with specific commandments to obey. This pattern is present in most any worship experience in the LDS tradition. To participate in the sacrament of the Lord's supper, one begins by forsaking one's sins in advance, and then one comes to the table to experience Christ physically through the tokens of the bread and water/wine, where one calls upon His name (even takes His name); then through the Sacrament Meeting speakers who are, ideally, blessed with the promised Spirit one hears His voice, before leaving the meeting with specific commandments to obey. The same can be read into the temple experience: certainly one must forsake sin to enter the temple, and there one comes to experience Christ quite directly, and even to call on His name (to take upon His name in the most amazing way possible, but also to learn to pray for the first time); finally, at the veil and in the celestial presence, one hears His voice, and then one leaves the temple with very specific commandments (covenants) to keep.
- In short, these five points beautifully describe the process of worship.
- D&C 93:1: Two promises. Finally, this first verse also makes two promises to those who worship this way: they will see His face, and know that He is.
- The first promise points to the manifest "power of Godliness" in the ordinances of worship, especially in the temple where this phrase might be taken quite literally (D&C 84:22). Since the glory of the Lord is so bright, it can be difficult to actually see His face. To see His face we have to share the same glory or have Him unveil it to us (D&C 88:68). Otherwise his countenance is so bright (Rev 1:16), that we can't actually see His face.
- The second promise is a bit more nuanced, but it might be read in terms of the Old Testament name for Jesus: YHWH ("He is"). It is one thing to see the face of the Lord, it is another to know that he is YHWH ("He is"). The following seventeen-verse stretch outlines some of what that means, by describing characteristics of the Lord--the "what" of worship.
- D&C 93:2. The double promise of verse 1 is extended and clarified in this and the following verse. This is ultimately quite important to the structure of the first twenty verses, because verses 4-18 function almost as a parenthetical explanation of verse 3. Thus verses 19-20 ultimately pick up from verse 3, continuing the discussion that is at work in the extended promise of verse 1.
- It is of course significant that this extension of the promise (and the second extension in verse 3) is a fleshing out of the same second promise of the first verse: to know that He is. That His "being" is now clarified and extended is doubly important because it confirms the importance of the "I am" of verse 1: His "is-ness" is of the utmost importance. But the point of the present verse is to take things beyond that simple "is-ness": He is "the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." This certainly calls for comment.
- This verse undeniably echoes John 1:9: "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." But as soon as one draws the connection, one recognizes how suddenly such a rich statement is thrust upon the reader in the present revelation: the "light" business in John 1 is built up over the course of several verses, giving it a richer context and meaning. This suddenness could be read in two different ways: on the one hand, it may be that the Lord is simply highlighting the Johannine text, perhaps suggesting that the present verse should be read as approval of the Johannine text, though as will become obvious only a few verses later in the revelation, the Lord seems to be alluding to or quoting a text still more original or primary than the text in the KJV of John 1; on the other hand, the suddenness might be connected—and this seems to be the better reading—to the future fact of the promised revelation, or, in other words, because one is only to know that He is the true light inasmuch as one worships, the present verse is hardly meant to be some kind of definitive statement of what it means to say that He is the "true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
- But if the second of these two readings is the better, it nonetheless presents a difficulty: if this promised revelation is, for the moment, simply unreadable, why would the Lord bother to say anything about it all, especially in light of verse 19, where the Lord explains that there is some purpose to explaining all of this. But perhaps it is precisely verse 19 that opens up the possibility of interpreting the present verse: verses 19-20 make worship (in its purpose) a question of grace. In other words, there may be reason to read this verse in terms of grace, rather than in terms of John 1.
- And as soon as this is said, it becomes clear how this verse might well be a curious way of stating the very idea of grace: the light comes as a gift, and one that seems here to be universally given. But, in light of the above, if it is universally given, it is nonetheless not universally known: only those who worship in truth and Spirit will know that the Lord is this light. In other words, only in worship can one come to know how universal and how broad the grace of Christ is. This sets up a kind of irony: the light by which one sees is something one can only grasp in the act of worship. But even to state things this way is to begin to clarify the meaning of this verse: worship is essentially an act that allows one to see, for the first time, how it is that one sees.
- Perhaps here then the word "true" ought to be highlighted: the occurrence and placement of this word in this verse makes it sound as if one must come, in the act of worship, to recognize that light has always been, to that point, misunderstood. In a sense, there seems to be implied that in worship one forgoes the "scientific" for the "religious," the "temporal" for the "spiritual": in worship one recognizes how limited one's take on the world has been.
- It might be worth mentioning, then, in all of this that a rather pre-scientific (or simply non-scientific) understanding of light may well be at play here: in the Bible (as in other ancient cultures), the eye was believed to be the "light of the body," often called a lamp (the seven burning lamps of the menorah were refered to, in fact, as Jehovah's seven eyes). If this way of thinking is read into this verse, one can recognize in it the difference expressed elsewhere in the scriptures between one's "natural eyes" and one's "spiritual eyes." In worship (which must be in truth and in Spirit), one sees for the first time with one's spiritual eyes, and so seeing, one is able at last to recognize what the light really is, and that that light is available to all, that it "lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
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