“Moses with the Tablets,” detail from a stained glass window in the Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Seattle Washington
What an unforgettable experience Israel had at Mount Sinai, near the beginning of their journey to the promised land! Like Nephi in the land of Bountiful, Moses ascended the mountain multiple times to receive knowledge from God on their behalf. (See Exodus 19:3, 20, Exodus 24:12-18, Exodus 34:4-5, 1 Nephi 17:7, 1 Nephi 18:3.) They received instructions about their behavior (Exodus 20-23) and also about how to worship and draw closer to God (Exodus 25-31). They made covenants to obey God’s laws (Exodus 24), broke those covenants (Exodus 32), and after Moses pleaded with God on their behalf (Exodus 33), they received a new set of instructions to help them get back on track (Exodus 34:1-2, Joseph Smith Translation). The overarching message to Israel from Mount Sinai is that God is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).
As Moses descended from the mountain with the second set of tablets, his face shone, just as Abinadi’s did as he taught King Noah and his priests (Exodus 34:29-35, Mosiah 13:5-6). The people were frightened to approach him, so Moses wore a veil over his face as he taught the people. The apostle Paul considered that veil to be a metaphor for our unwillingness to fully receive knowledge from God. (See 2 Corinthians 3:12-16.) Twice in the Book of Mormon, we read that we need to remove the “veil of unbelief” which covers our mind and heart and prevents us from fully receiving God’s light. Here is a blog post on that topic: That Veil of Unbelief – Ether 4:15.
Here are some other lessons I’ve learned from these chapters, with relevant blog posts:
- God not only sends us helpers, but He is also personally involved in our lives: “Mine Angels…and Also My Presence”.
- Spiritually mature people pay attention to what is going on around them and make well-informed decisions: They Do Walk Circumspectly Before God – Helaman 15:5.
- God provides structure for our worship in order to help us build a more holy life: Patterns.
- Being a good borrower is part of God’s law: Borrowing.
- Sometimes, we need to continue participating in preparatory activities even after we feel that we are ready to move on to greater things: Until the Law Shall Be Fulfilled – 2 Nephi 25:30.