Sunday, June 8, 2014


 1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.  3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.  4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before thewoman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.   5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. (Revelations 12:1-6)
So, did you get that?

This past summer I attended a class titled "Sometimes I Don't Get It: Dealing with Symbolism in the Scriptures" during Education Week at BYU-Idaho. I have since found the information I recevied there to be so helpful in my personal scripture study that I wanted to share some of my notes from that class with you, my readers.

One of the "first keys" to understanding scriptural symbolism, our teacher, Brother Michael Weir Allred, said, was to look for obvious and simple meanings for those images. He then, as an example, gave us a brief list of some common symbols and what they can mean. (Note: sometimes the images are literal, so be careful not to confuse the two.)
four=earth (4 corners) or maybe man
six=falling short (see seven)
seven=complete, whole, perfection
ten=organizational order
twelve=divine government
fourty=a long time

*If something is said three times, it represents the superlative of that word, such as "Wo, Wo, Wo" and "666."

white=purity, exaltation
black=death, evil, bad
blue=heaven or Godliness
red=sins, blood
Body parts:eye=perception or light
shoulder=strength or effort
forehead=mind or loyalty
ears=obedience and hearing
right hand=covenant
left hand=not covenant
bowels=compassion, love, mercy
loins=posterity or offspring
foot=path, direction
fingers/hands=knows what they're doing
Miscellaneous:keys=priesthood authority
child=kingdom of God
fire=God's presence

Now that you have that info, go back and reread the scriptures I added at the beginning of this blog (Brother Allred also used this example.) It makes sense now, doesn't it?

A second key is to refer to footnotes, the Bible Dictionary, other scriptures, and some doctrinal books for greater insight. This is a key I have regularly implemented throughout my life, especially in relation to footnotes and the Bible Dictionary, but I would like to say again, as I have in a previous blog, how much I appreciated John Bytheway's book, "Isaiah for Airheads." I've read it two times now, along with another somewhat helpful "about Isaiah" book, and while I still can't say I "know it all," I do feel more confident, and I even somewhat anticipate reading Isaiah. Amazing.

However, the "key" that most touched my understanding was that we need to look beyond the symbol to the feeling the symbol illicits:

"Symbols are the universal tongue," Joseph Fielding McConkie and Donald W. Parry said in,Guide to Scriptural Symbols. "Symbols bring color and strength to language, while deepening and enriching our understandings. Symbols enable us to give conceptual form to ideas and emotions that may otherwise defy the power of words. They take us beyond words and grant us eloquence in the expression of feelings. Symbolic language conceals certain doctrinal truths from the wicked and thereby protects sacred things from possible ridicule. At the same time, symbols reveal truth to the spiritually alert."

Perhaps, I've sometimes thought, the reason was so drawn to this final step was for this very reason; because, as a sometimes poet, I tend to see things in an emotionally symbolic way. But on further reflection, I believe it's because I'm human, and because God's prophets, when they included these symbols in their writings, were trying to convey to other humans not only what they knew, but also what they saw and felt.

In closing, I'll leave you with a few scriptures which have taken on deeper meanings to me now that I've received these three keys. I hope they'll bless you, too. 

"And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook." (Moses 7:41, 48)
"Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart." (Ps. 119: 2)
"And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his mercifularm which he extended towards me. (Alma 29:10)

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