“To Sit Down with Abraham and Isaac and with Jacob”

Alan C. Miner

In Helaman 3:29-30 Mormon writes the following:

Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked--and land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

Hugh Nibley comments on the phrase "to sit down"--it uses that a number of times in the Book of Mormon. Remember, you're invited to go into the tent and sit down--have place with us. What he's talking about is the old Mosaic law, which was abolished after Lehi left Jerusalem and the temple was destroyed. It was never the same after that. These people were familiar with the old custom--that going in and sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is very important. That's the yeshiva, which is the atonement. Yeshiva means "sitting down." This is a very important part of the atonement, talking about the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. This is the way it's given in Deuteronomy. The Lord parts the veil of the tent, which is the kippur, the covering, and he says he's ready now to converse with Moses. Moses is supposed to come in. After they have conversed and [he has] passed the test, then he comes in and sits down. But the sitting down is very important. That's the yeshiva, and yashav. Yashav means to settle down in a place permanently, and yeshiva means to take a seat by somebody.

The word atonement is only found once in the New Testament [Romans 5:11]. It's found a number of times in the Old Testament. And it's not found at all in the Revised Standard Version. They don't use atonement at all. The word doesn't even appear in the New Testament. They use instead reconciliation, keeping it quite literal from reconcilio. Reconciliation means "to return and sit down beside somebody again." And, of course the yeshiva goes along with the teshuva. Yashuv means "to return." So you have yeshiva and teshuva. You return and then you sit down. You sit down by the side of the Lord, and you sit down again because you've been there before. It's reconciliation. It is redemption. It's the redeeming. This means buying back something that he had before. We weren't just created out of nothing, you see. We are returning to his presence. We've been there before and the whole thing is a sense of returning to his presence. That's what reconciliation, is, which is the equivalent of atonement, and you can see where that comes from. You know this, of course. This is at-one. It is not a Latin word. It's not a Greek or Hebrew word. Atonement is a good old English word, a theological word. At-one-ment, being at-one with the family, to go out no more, as [Mormon] says, "with all our holy fathers, to go no more out." . . .

This is a return to what? Separated from what? It isn't a return to Eden, you see; It's a return to the tent. You have the tent of covenant, and that's what the kippur is. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 214]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary