The Roar of Lions Heard Out of the Wilderness
"And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him." (Moses 7:13)
This statement always intrigued me since I was young, though I didn't know why until today. Look at it carefully. What does a lion symbolize? Why is it plural? Why is the word "wilderness" used? Does it also have symbolic meaning?
When you look at the societies of Enoch and Melchizedek, there is something curious about them. Where are the people? What are the people who hearkened to the true messenger doing? We have little about them in the scriptural record. There is a reason for that. What is it that is being veiled about the inhabitants of these cities? What is it about the scriptures that are veiled, that we cannot comprehend unless we study them diligently, prayerfully and with real intent? Why is it that the Lord will not open to the wise in their own eyes to the rich who assume they are richly favored with God's blessings, or those who trust in the learning of the arm of flesh?1
The name-title Melchizedek literally means king and priest. When Melchizedek preached to a wicked people2, the scriptures say that they heard him, they rose up and repented, meaning they turned away from whatever it was they were doing because they knew God had much more to offer them. Because when an authorized messenger spoke, he spoke (as do angels) by the power of the Holy Ghost which not only carries his message to the hearts of the children of men,3 but it lifts them. It refines them.4 This is not an involuntary auditory process. Those who heard this messenger had to go to where he was preaching. They had to listen, they had to consider, they had to not cast off things of worth because of their false traditions.3 They had to go home and ponder, their minds became enlightened,5 the Holy Spirit refined their souls, they lost all desire for sin and they rose up. The words of pretenders do not have the same effect, they can be studied in the same manner, all the day long, preached from a pulpit, read in sunday school, carried to homes, and never lead a man out of the bondage of sin. Why is that?
Where else is the word "wilderness" used as a symbol? John the Baptist comes to mind. Enoch comes to mind. The child ruler birthed by the virgin who fled into the wilderness comes to mind.6 Why did they call Enoch a "wild" man? Was there something that John was preaching that came "out of the wilderness"? Was John highly critical of the Pharisaical order?
In Hebrew, the the root meaning of the word we translate as "city" actually means chaos, darkness, enemy. The Hebrews were commanded to flee out of the city during Sukkot and live in the wilderness in tents. The root meaning of the word that we translate as "wilderness" in English actually means natural order, peace.7
When Abinadi appeared to the court of King Noah, could he have been said to be a "wild man" or have come "out of the wilderness"? Who knew him? What was his genealogy or his race, much less his position or title? No one knows. It was deemed unimportant by Mormon to include it. What was important about Abinadi? Is the message that a servant of God delivers always and the only important thing about his ministers?
When Enoch "walked with God" was this in a symbollic wilderness? Were there any others privy to his conversations with the Lord? Did the Lord manifest himself to the rulers of the day? To the official and recognized religions of the day? Or did he reveal himself to a lad who everyone hated?
What is the symbol of the lion? We have scriptures which refer to Christ as the "Lion of Judah." For thousands of years, lions have culturally depicted nobility or kingliness. Lions are a natural symbol of kingship as opposed to earthly. Given this, why do you think in Enoch's day lions were referred to in the plual? Why do you think those lions were heard? Why did their roars come from the wilderness?
If we desire to live in a similar manner, what must we become? What must we take individual responsibility to do?
O, Lord, thank you for hiding these things from the wise and prudent and revealing them unto lads and unto babes who are no one in society, who are not regarded as intelligent or wise in their own families, who have no official position and thus who everyone hateth. Thank you for your mercy and glory which you impart to the humble.
1. "And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them." (2 Nephi 9:28-29)
2. "Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness; But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent;" (Alma 13:17-18)
3. "And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught." (2 Nephi 33:1-2)
4. "We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed in the government and laws of that kingdom by proper degrees, until his mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice, equality, and consistency of the same." (Joseph Smith, HC volume 2, chapter 1)
5. "Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of." (JSH 1:17)
7. Jeff A. Benner, The Living Words, A study of Hebrew words and concepts from the Old and New Testament, Ancient Hebrew Research Center, 2007.
D&C 109:73: "That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." Consider what the moon represents, and who ministers to those who qualify now for its glory, and the sun, and who ministers for heirs of its glory. In this case does darkness mean evil, or does darkness mean something that is veiled and unknown, as in Paul's statement about seeing through the glass darkly?
The reaction of the hearers to the message delivered by King Benjamin, which he was comissioned to give by an angel: "And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." (Mosiah 5:2)