Saturday, February 20, 2016

Why I Believe: Evidence Forty-eight: “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 5: "Wo to the Uncircumcised of Heart.”

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was a Prophet

Evidence Forty-eight:
“Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 5:
“Wo to the Uncircumcised of Heart”© 

In the last part of the very doctrinal chapter of 2 Nephi 9, Jacob, Nephi’s brother issues ten wos(1) to those who have the law of God but do not live it. The fifth one, found in verse 33, is:
Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day.
Recently my interest in the idea of the “uncircumcised heart” resurfaced, so I decided to do a bit more study. It was rewarded with some important insights which I document below.  

In ancient Israel circumcision was a “token” of the Abrahamic covenant with God. (Gen. 17:11) A man who was uncircumcised had either not yet entered into the covenant or was breaking it. (Gen.17:11, 14.) According to the LDS Bible Dictionary, it “symbolized some aspects of separation or dedication (1) to God, to whom Israel belonged; (2) from the world, the uncircumcised with whom Israel might not mix; (3) from sin (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:45; 9:25-26; Ezek. 44:7).”(2)  Later in the 9th chapter of Helaman, Nephi speaking to his opponents said, “O ye fools, ye uncircumcised of heart, ye blind, and ye stiffnecked people, do ye know how long the Lord your God will suffer you that ye shall go on in this your way of sin?” (vs. 21, this and emphasis below added.) Here we find the uncircumcised heart associated with the blind eye and the stiff neck, all of which are characterized as sin.
The idea of being uncircumcised in heart is found in both the Old and New Testaments. The Lord told Moses:
41) And that I [God] also have walked contrary to them [the Israelites], and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity; 42)Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob ....  (Lev. 26:41-42.)
Here the concept appears to be born out of pride inasmuch as it is only when the people are humbled that they will be in a state worthy to have the Lord remember his covenant with them.

Jeremiah also accused the Israelites in his day of this condition: “Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” (Jer. 9:26) Ezekiel spoke in similar terms regarding those who were not to be permitted in the Temple:
7.  In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
8.  And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.
9.Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel. (Ezekiel 44:7-9)
It seems both important and relevant to ask why those with uncircumcised hearts would pollute the temple?

In Acts 7, Stephen accused the Jews in the Savior's day of being “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost as your fathers did, so do ye.”  (vs. 51)   Stephen adds “ears” to the list of heart and eyes and neck. These two latter conditions constitute the third and fourth “wo” pronounced by Jacob in verses 31 and 32.  Blind eyes, deaf ears, stiff necks, and hard (uncircumcised) hearts are the tetralogy of characteristics which so often describe and define the proud and rebellious.
Paul wrote: “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.”(Rom. 2:29) Circumcision was the outward symbol of the covenant, but the outward ordinance was supposed to symbolize an inward condition.  On the other hand, uncircumcision refers metaphorically to those whose eyes and ears are covered, whose neck is iron and heart is flint, that is whose soul and senses are closed to divine instruction and admonition. Without the inner conversion, transformation, and commitment, the outward ordinance is more then meaningless, it is a form of iniquity which will stand against us at the “last day.” (2 Ne. 9:33)

Above I spoke of the rewards of my effort to study the concept of the “uncircumcised heart.”  Not the least of those is that this little zinger in the Book of Mormon is totally consistent with similar teachings found in the Old and New Testament. More importantly, it, as do the Biblical references, places the emphasis in the right place.  One must not only be a hearer of the word, but a doer of it as well. One must not only appear to be a Christian, one must love Christ, his gospel, righteousness and holiness. As important as the ordinances are, they are intended to symbolize and facilitate internal spiritual changes and transformations. The sweet spirit and Christian morality of the Book of Mormon is in this instance completely consistent with the Bible.  In this light it is difficult to say with a straight and sober face that Mormonism is not Christian or that Joseph Smith sought to lead people away from Christ.  The evidence in this case suggests just the opposite.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Wos or woes, are often found in groups and sometimes in contrast to a list of “blesseds.”  They are not just indicators of difficulties and judgments to follow; they can be the signal of a curse.

2.  LDS Bible Dictionary, p. 646.