(Such are the mercies of the Lord upon me when I do not feel worthy to receive the instruction that He sends me, yet He does it anyways.)
I'm not sure how to get from point A to point B in this explanation, however there are important truths found in the footnotes of this section. I should also preface this study with a reminder that I have recently been impressed with the importance of the heart in discerning spiritual matters, for the Spirit of God communicates through the mind and the heart working together. (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2)
As was mentioned back in Mosiah 21 in the conversation between Ammon the scout and king Limhi, "king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret... engravings."At this point in the record, we learn that king Mosiah had no one to confer the kingdom upon because all of his sons had gone off to preach to the Lamanites. This caused him to prepare the records that he had in his possession to be transferred.
The records that king Mosiah had in his possession included the following:
- the plates of brass
- the plates of Nephi
- "all the things which he had kept and preserved according to the commandments of God"
On this last point, we learn in verse 11 that a part of "all the things" that king Mosiah kept included a record taken from the gold plates that the people of Limhi had discovered.
The following may appear to be a trivial point to the quick reader, but the writer here (probably Mormon) takes a moment to explain the means by which these records where translated. Verses 13-16 explain that the record was translated by the means of two stones that were fastened into the two rims of a bow. It doesn't mention the tool by name here, but there is a footnote that links this with references to the Urim and Thummin which is first mentioned in the Old Testament.
I had never given this much thought before, but the nature and purpose for which the Lord employs this tool is for the interpreting of languages unto the revelation of the iniquities and abominations of his people. It is not a tool that is commonly used. In fact, there is a special title reserved for these that are granted permission of the Lord to use it: seer.
Why would this be important? What does any of this have to do with Jesus Christ? There are a couple of pivotal points worth noting here.
And they have been kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he should discover to every creature who should possess the land the iniquities and abominations of his people; (vs 15)
So it's not the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, or any of the other great civilizations that the Lord is interested in revealing their iniquities, but rather it is the covenant people of God that transgress in serious fashion. That the Savior does have a relationship with his people and that it is a serious matter when they transgress that relationship is perhaps the first point worthy of note in these verses.
There is a footnote that takes us over the first introduction of the Urim and Thummim from the Old Testament.
And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the Lord: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually.
Here we see that the Urim and Thummim was given to Aaron (the brother of Moses) so that he could act as a judge for the children of Israel. It is noteworthy that this tool was given to him to be upon his heart, symbolic of the source of true judgment. There is also a footnote on the name which gives the Hebrew translation of the the name: Lights and Perfections. Given that the Lord's definition of perfection is to be perfect in mercy, not the world's defintion of perfection which is to be perfect in justice, the tool which had been given to Aaron to assist him in using his heart to judge the people afforded him the power to clearly discern with his heart light and truth.
Now I fear that in my zeal for the greater light and understanding that I have received on the subject, I may have gone "beyond the mark" so to speak. Back in Mosiah 28, verse 18, the net result upon the people was a feeling of sorrow, yet they were rejoiced for the "much knowledge" which the record gave them.
None of this makes much sense of is of any worth if we separate ourselves from our personal relationship with the Lord. In the context of that relationship then, the work of a seer and the tool of the Urim and Thummim is to judge by the heart the iniquities of His people. A seer has the advantage of being able to discern what the rest of us cannot so easily see, especially in matters of cause and effect. Seers only exist in societies governed by covenants between God and man.
One final note of personal application, the power by which a seer works can be developed by anyone for personal use - that is the ability to judge according to one's heart. The Urim and Thummin is a tool to help in the educating of the heart to be able to judge accordingly. I now have new horizons to explore, for it is not as I had supposed. I am not to judge according to reason, or logic, or by what I hear and see, alone. For the Lord judges according to the heart, of which thing I have much to learn.