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Sunday, July 11, 2010


D&C 107:2-4 states:
The first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood… because Melchizedek was such a great high priest.
Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.
But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The ancient church renamed their priesthood to avoid the too frequent repetition of the name of the Supreme Being.  BJ and I talked at length about this today and read it two different ways.

1. God, or in Hebrew, Eloheim, held enough reverence to them that they renamed their priesthood to lessen the amount of times it would be said. This makes sense as God is typically the one attributed the title Supreme Being.  Also, because it is the only name actually said in the English translation (which was translated by God into revelation by Joseph Smith) in the phrase, "Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God."  It doesn't make sense because Eloheim is written many times in the scriptures and it never seems to be held in any sort of exceptional reverence like we see here.

2. Perhaps "Son of God" was just a wordy way of saying Jehovah.  Scriptural language tends to say things in a much more wordy way in English than it was said in Hebrew.  (Example: Thou shalt not steal in Hebrew is actually a simple, "Don't steal".)  This would make sense because the name of Jehovah was very sacred in the scriptures.  The word for the Messiah was only said once a year, only by the High Priest, and only in the Holy of Holies.  When it was written in scripture, it was written without vowels (YHWH) so we still don't know for sure the exact pronunciation (though we have a pretty good guess).  In our current scriptures, we see it written as LORD in small caps.  (Now you know!)  Though, we see that written all over in our scriptures, too.  The difference is that Eloheim is allowed to be spoken whereas YWHW* is not.

Which name this is referring to actually has little bearing on the reason for this post.  Mostly it was part of my thought process and discussion and I have soft spot for sharing cultural things for Bible topics.  :)

Really where my thoughts went when I read this was more along the lines of reverence.  Why is it that the name of Deity was so sacred that they would rename their priesthood to make sure they didn't say it too often?  I mean, saying the name of the priesthood is usually in a gospel context.  It's probably not like it was used in casual conversation.  Though, BJ points out that we do use it that way at times.  Like if we talk about a Melchizedek Priesthood Quorum activity or something.  And I suppose that if the ancient church was anything like our current church, it would have been easy to abbreviate the name of it, just to say it faster.  (Home, Family and Personal Enrichment, anyone?)  And that would detract from the sacredness of the name as well.

I find it odd mostly because we don't currently hold names in such a light.  We don't have any names that are too sacred for us to say.  (Or on the other hand, any names that are too feared for us to say.)  I have a hard time relating.  I mean, I don't use the Lord's name in vain.  I don't use it as a swear word or a shock tactic.  But in gospel conversations, I have no problem at all saying God or Jehovah in respect to those beings.  Why is that?

I'm convinced that as a culture at large, we don't give proper respect to deity.  Is it possible that as a church culture we still don't give proper respect?  We understand that we shouldn't use His name in vain (thanks to the 10 Commandments (which the simple fact that it is one of the 10 commandments shows that perhaps the ancient church struggled with the idea of reverencing the name of God as well)), but is that enough?

If the name of God were rarely said, it would draw more attention to His sacred nature.  As it is, has God become more of (for lack of a better term) a household item?  Do we treat him with the reverence that He deserves?

I'm not sure.  I don't want to turn all Pharisaic on you here.  I don't want to grab one verse of scripture and make it out to be a bigger deal than it was meant to be.  But still, it is an interesting thought.  How do I reverence God and Jehovah?  Should I be doing more?  Do they hold a special place in my heart?  Or are they much more common in my mind**?


*Fun fact.  The word Jehovah was actually made up as a name for the Lord based on this word (called the tetragrammaton).  The Hebrew word for lord (like the lord of the vineyard) is adonai.  If you take the vowels from adonai, or lord and add them to the consonants of YHWH, and then say them all like an ancient Jew would have, you'd get Yahowah, which in current English is Jehovah.
** Another fun fact.  I used the word "God" 11 times in this blog post.  Well, make that 12, now.  See?  Totally easy and acceptable to say in a gospel setting.


Tiffany said...

So, this is the main reason that I feel like I can relate to you so much (this and Harry Potter, and the fact that I really like you). Thanks for sharing. The main question that came into my mind was the entire chapter of 3 Nephi 27. Is this a change in doctrine from the Old Testement? It does seem different in the application of the name of God. I understand that the names themselves are different (Jehovah-Christ); however, for all intents and purposes, isn't it the same Being? How often in the name of Christ printed in Church publications??? And we give those out like ... um ... potatoes in Idaho. Or whatever. A lot. So. I have more thoughts on this, especially that actually relate to what you wrote and not my own tangential ramblings. I'm thinking about it still... I'll get back to you...

Cbelle said...

You know, my husband refers to Heavenly Father a lot, and he says God instead of the Lord or Heavenly Father, and it really bothers me. I wonder if it has something to do with this.

Tara said...

I love the sharing of cultural things for biblical topics. They should be shared more often as they always help me understand the scriptures better.

Carly said...

I've actually wondered about this too--the fact that they didn't ever say his name, and we seem to have no problem with it (not in vain, just in general). And I wonder (like you) if we've just become a bit casual. I don't know. The Book of Mormon prophets seems ok with referencing Jesus Christ (by many names) quite a bit... although they OFTEN used other names (Holy One, Lamb, etc.). Hmmm.

Interesting note to Cbelle's comment... I always felt really uncomfortable with people who called Heavenly Father "God." Until I served a mission and used the translation of "God" more than any other reference to Him. And now I'm more comfortable with it in English. It always seemed like a much more secular term for Him.