STQ: Translation

December 11, 2003 | 12 comments
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Ever since Nate and Greg started features, I have had my eye out for something that I could contribute. Tonight, as I was preparing my Seminary lesson for tomorrow, I got some inspiration : how about a Seminary Thought Question? OK, let’s try this out. If you like it, we’ll do more. If you don’t like it, we’ll just pretend this never happened. The idea is for me to pose a gnarly question from my Seminary preparation, a question with no obvious right answer, and then allow for discussion. Here goes STQ #1 …

The topic is translation. No, not the translation of the Bible or the Book of Mormon. The translation of Moses. In Deuteronomy 34:5-6, we read:

“So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.”

Despite this description of Moses’ death (placed at the end of the last Book of Moses, but that’s another story), some Jewish traditions hold that Moses never died. We Mormons also have a source for this version of the story. In Alma 45:19, we find the following:

“Behold, this we know, that [Alma the Younger] was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself; and we suppose that he has also received Alma in the spirit, unto himself; therefore, for this cause we know nothing concerning his death and burial.”

The STQ: Why are some people translated?

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12 Responses to STQ: Translation

  1. Adam Greenwood on December 11, 2003 at 8:44 am

    Let’s see:

    I’ve heard that some people were translated in order to physically restore priesthood keys later on. Obviously that rationale is silly post-Resurrection; we know that John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John were able to restore things quite well. But maybe Moses, Elijah, Alma, etc., were needed to restore keys _before_ the Resurrection. Wasn’t it Moses and Elijah that appeared to Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration?

    That probably doesn’t explain the people of Zion, who were translated en masse. Maybe some people are translated because they are to be a part of the millennial community in a way that resurrected beings cannot.

    Maybe translation is a mark of divine favor. Death is an evil, so maybe avoiding it is a blessing. After all, we’re told that being without a body is a form of bondage.

  2. Brent on December 11, 2003 at 10:20 am

    Perhaps further support for Adam’s take is D&C 101:28-31 which describes some of the conditions existing here during the millenium. In that day “there shall be no sorrow because there is no death. In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree; and when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.” (see Isaiah 65:20 as a cross reference placing the age at 100). Some perhaps through personal righteousness mixed with desire have been or will be spared having to taste death. For example, the City of Enoch, 9 of the 12 disciples here in America, etc.

  3. Allen on December 11, 2003 at 12:01 pm

    Let me ask a simpler question. What does it mean to be translated?

    I have often been taught that glorified bodies will consist of flesh and bone, rather than flesh and blood. While I admit this is not essential to salvation, I wonder if this reflects a pre-modern idea that in blood or other humours is found corruption, and therefore glorified bodies must lack these humours.

    Viewed from a modern biochemical perspective, the whole resurrected body thing is rather puzzling. If there is one thing that is clear about animal life, it is that we quite literally burn food to maintain order. Unless the laws of thermodynamics somehow do not apply, some kind of energy will be needed to sustain life. And if we have bodies that look like our current ones, and like our Father’s, it would be very strange if they did not have the same spaciotemporal properties and some inner resemblance–ie a heart, lungs, GI tract and so forth. What would be the purpose of such organs? (remember Christ eating with the apostles post-resurrection, though apparently unnecessarily).

    I apologize for the rampant speculation. I do not intend to say that biochemistry disproves an afterlife. I merely want to point out that we have no coherent picture of what it means to be translated or have a resurrected body.

  4. cooper on December 11, 2003 at 12:17 pm

    I agree with Allen. The reason I do is because there is order in the universe. The same laws that we have to adhere to, God adheres to. Yes, I agree that he knows all and can manipulate energy to meet his needs. However, I don’t think things will be all that different in the next life or post death. There will be a refinement to the process indeed.
    Translation has always been the ultimate goal. To not “taste” death. To be changed in the twinkling of an eye I interpret to be that your spirit and body are not separated for more than just a moment. Even a small time away from the spirit is what could be deemed the “pain of death”. So Enoch and his city and all the others mentioned did not “suffer” death.

  5. Grasshopper on December 11, 2003 at 2:23 pm

    Translation, according to Joseph Smith, is not the same thing as the “twinkling” change from mortality to resurrection. He taught that translated beings are terrestrial and that, as such, they are reserved for a special mission (which Joseph indicated he intended to elaborate on at some point, but never did, to my knowledge).

    I can provide quotes if requested; I’m pretty sure they can be fairly easily found in TPJS.

  6. Grasshopper on December 11, 2003 at 2:26 pm

    Oh, and Joseph also taught that translated beings would have to undergo yet another change to be resurrected.

  7. Adam Greenwood on December 11, 2003 at 3:24 pm

    What makes you think that entropy isn’t part of the fall?

    Is it that we think matter is eternal, and Einsteinian physics show that matter is energy, and vice versa?

    As far as I’m concerned, the jury’s still out on the natural laws appropriate to the celestial realm.

  8. clark on December 11, 2003 at 4:29 pm

    What on earth would it mean to say “entropy is part of the fall?” Does that simply mean there are more ways to be in a fallen state than a terrestrial state?

    BTW – regarding the difference between translation and resurrected. I suspect that it parallels the heirarchy of telestial, terrestrial and celestial. The angels who are resurrected are celestial. The angels who are unresurrected are terrestrial, or like Adam in the garden minus the forgetfulness.

  9. Grasshopper on December 11, 2003 at 4:45 pm

    I understood “entropy is part of the fall” to suggest that entropy is not an eternal condition of things, but is a consequence of the fallen condition of the world, and that in a non-fallen (redeemed?) state, entropy would not exist.

  10. clark on December 11, 2003 at 4:47 pm

    I personally think that entropy is an eternal law. The bigger issue, for me, is when we are in a closed system.

  11. Gordon on December 11, 2003 at 7:17 pm

    Great comments, so far. Here is more fodder for discussion. These excerpts are from Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Thanks to grasshopper for assistance in locating these:

    The Doctrine of Translation

    Section Four 1839-42, p.170

    Now the doctrine of translation is a power which belongs to this Priesthood. There are many things which belong to the powers of the Priesthood and the keys thereof, that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world; they are hid from the wise and prudent to be revealed in the last times.

    Section Four 1839-42, p.170

    Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but his is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead. “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (See Hebrews 11:35.)

    Section Four 1839-42, p.170

    Now it was evident that there was a better resurrection, or else God would not have revealed it unto Paul. Wherein then, can it be said a better resurrection. This distinction is made between the doctrine of the actual resurrection and translation: translation obtains deliverance from the tortures and sufferings of the body, but their existence will prolong as to the labors and toils of the ministry, before they can enter into so great a rest and glory.

    Section Four 1839-42, p.171

    On the other hand, those who were tortured, not accepting deliverance, received and immediate rest from their labors. “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for from henceforth they do rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” (See Revelation 14:13.)

    Section Four 1839-42, p.171

    They rest from their labors for a long time, and yet their work is held in reserve for them, that they are permitted to do the same work, after they receive a resurrection for their bodies. But we shall leave this subject and the subject of the terrestrial bodies for another time, in order to treat upon them more fully.

  12. Grasshopper on December 11, 2003 at 7:52 pm

    Mormon writes of the Three Nephites:

    36 And now behold, as I spake concerning those whom the Lord hath chosen, yea, even three who were caught up into the heavens, that I knew not whether they were cleansed from mortality to immortality—
    37 But behold, since I wrote, I have inquired of the Lord, and he hath made it manifest unto me that there must needs be a change wrought upon their bodies, or else it needs be that they must taste of death;
    38 Therefore, that they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain nor sorrow save it were for the sins of the world.
    39 Now this change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day; but there was a change wrought upon them, insomuch that Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them; and they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy, and that the powers of the earth could not hold them.
    40 And in this state they were to remain until the judgment day of Christ; and at that day they were to receive a greater change, and to be received into the kingdom of the Father to go no more out, but to dwell with God eternally in the heavens.

    (3 Nephi 28:36-40)

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