The first time I encountered the idea of the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem being translated was in John Pontius' book The Triumph of Zion.
It was 2016 (maybe I'd been living under a rock) and I was reading John's book at the local Taco Bell during my lunch break between court sessions.
It took me a long time to warm to the idea.
Why? Because the whole notion of there being another box to check depressed me. I was resistant because there seems to be so many spiritual "hurdles" already: "Get your baptism of fire; get the priesthood; get your calling and election; get your second comforter. . . ." Get, get get.
*Sigh* And now I was supposed to "get" translated? Come on. So I tucked the idea away. Years went by; I occasionally pulled the idea out and looked at it, wondering if a Zion people needed to undergo a change similar to Enoch's city?
I suppose my reluctance was finally (grudgingly) set aside because who can argue with the fact that the residents of the latter-day Zion will actually walk with God; and wasn't Enoch and his people translated when they walked with God?
And Enoch and all his people [so this wasn't just for the spiritually-elite, super-righteous folks] walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, ZION IS FLED.
But don't worry: despite all that, translation is optional. Let me explain.
Initially I was reluctant to write about the doctrine of translation (we're talking about Enoch and the Three Nephites here, not turning French into Chinese) for two reasons:
(1) Uninitiated. It goes without saying, I am not translated (hey, why are none of you surprised?!). I'm just an average pony running in this telestial derby we call life, so who am I to speak about the principles of "tarrying"?
(2)Uninterested. Some of you may find the subject to be esoteric, wondering how this knowledge will help us be better disciples here-and-now?
Response: These are valid objections. It never ceases to amaze me how gung-ho we are to learn the meaning of Ezra's eagle, or where the Lost 10 Tribes are located, or when the Big Earthquake will hit, or how to obtain the third heaven ― when none of that matters!
(Don't feel bad; we are all guilty of looking beyond the mark. Welcome to the club).
Practice Pointer: The measure of a thing's value is in its ability to increase our capacity to love one another.
I have no desire to itch our curiosity if we're just going to return to business-as-usual. So let's run the doctrine of translation through the gauntlet:
What about it makes us more charitable?
Keep Your Arms . . . in the Ride at All Times
Remember the Sons of Mosiah?
Whatever possessed them to go on a mission to reclaim their Lamanite brothers and sisters instead of chilling at the castle waiting to become king?
They were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish.
Unlike the 14-year mission to the Lamanites the Sons of Mosiah served, those who become translated beings have no release-date; they're on the clock until the world ends.
Which sounds awesome, right? Sign us up! I bet the angels have a great retirement plan and get to eat in Kolob's cafeteria for Taco-Tuesdays.
But before we get too excited, I think we should count the cost (Luke 14:27-28). Have we really considered the toll on their mental and spiritual health, "sorrowing for the sins of the world" (3 Nephi 28:9)?
The role of translated beings is to minister to and make intercession for a fallen people. Watching the 10 o'clock news, I'm guessing they are perpetually heartbroken.
So it's easy to think of these angels as supermen and superwomen who never bleed, who never catch a common cold, who never have to take medication for high cholesterol.
But guess what? There's a trade-off. Their ascent to a terrestrial state necessitates a descent of a commensurate amount. They "suffer pain [and] sorrow . . . for the sins of the world" (3 Nephi 28:38).
Look, I can barely manage to juggle the headaches that accompany having a regular family and a few friends ―imagine carrying a cross so big it extends over the "sins of the world."
Be Careful What You Wish For
Did these ministering angels of flaming fire (D&C 7:6) understand when they enlisted that they would be walking in the Savior's footsteps by taking upon them "the pains . . . of the people" (Alma 7:11)?
Yes. Yes they did.
But why, then? Why did they choose this particular path, filled with so much sorrow and suffering? What possessed them to jump head-first (!) into the lion's den?
Let me rephrase that question: Why do you want to become a savior on Mount Zion? What would cause you to jump between the hungry lions and your loved ones?
And they were cast into a den of wild beasts [and that's just referring to my Elders Quorum] and behold they did play with the beasts as a child with a suckling lamb, and received no harm.
(3 Nephi 28:22)
No harm, Mormon? Okay, sure; but I would wager their ministry stretched their hearts from here to heaven, and that's gotta hurt.
Do's and Don'ts of Translation
First ─ and this is the important part to remember ─ people are not translated because they're righteous.
No, really. When people flatter the Relief Society President by telling her, "Watch out Sister Jones or you might be translated," they entirely miss the point.
We shouldn't think of translation as a status conferred on some few, super holy individuals. Adam and Peter and Joseph and Isaiah were good men, but they weren't translated. Neither were Rebekah or Rachel or Ruth.
Which begs the question, why were Moses, Alma, John, Nephi and Enoch translated?
Ah, now we're beginning to see that translation is not the rule, but the exception. In order to be translated, we must be translated for something. It is quite simple: translation is reserved for those who need to keep their bodies to minister to those on earth (who, yes, have bodies themselves) throughout future generations of time.
Joseph Smith taught this doctrine as plainly as humanly possible:
"Translated bodies are designed for future missions." (TPJS, 191; HC 4:425).
So before you head to the recruiters office, you better formulate a business plan for what, precisely, you'd like to be translated to do.
Second ─ and here we'll find there's absolutely no pressure ─ translation is always elective (like shop class or jazz band) and is never mandatory.
Translation is not part of the core curriculum required to graduate to the Celestial Kingdom.
So does it even matter, if it is not necessary? Fair question.
The Lord faults none of us who wish to "speedily come" unto Him after we die (3 Nephi 28:2). In fact, He hallows that desire with a formal beatitude:
Blessed are ye because ye desired this thing of me; therefore, after that ye are seventy and two years old ye shall come unto me in my kingdom; and with me ye shall find rest.
(3 Nephi 28:3)
That sounds good to me! Those who love the Lord surely want to be with Him again. Sooner the better.
So why would anyone want to delay that happy reunion? Why would any of us volunteer to extend our tour of duty in the deserts of Afghanistan until the Second Coming?
To the Three Nephites the Lord said:
More blessed are ye. . . . and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand.
(3 Nephi 28:7, 9)
The "fulness of joy" the Lord promises them (3 Nephi 28:10) comes with a steep price.
That unspeakable joy is accompanied by unspeakable anguish, for opposition is balanced upon the blade's edge.
So is it worth it? Do we choose A or B? That's entirely a personal decision, and one we should take up with the Lord.
John the Beloved
In 1834 Oliver Cowdery wrote to his friend W. W. Phelps and recounted some of what the angel instructed Joseph on the hill Cumorah during their tutoring sessions.
"[When] all things are prepared, the Ten Tribes of Israel will be revealed in the north country, whither they have been for a long season." (Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, no. 13, p. 200.)
Wait a minute: what do the 10 Tribes have to do with John? Well, quite a lot, actually.
Levi Hancock recorded that on June 4, 1831 Joseph said, "John was to tarry until Christ came. He is now with the ten tribes preaching to them and when we can get ready for them they will come." (Autobiography, 1803-1836.)
Do we see a theme emerging? The Ten Tribes are waiting on us. Why aren't we ready? (Or maybe I should be asking, why are the Ten Tribes ready when we're not?)
Well, they've had help:
Q. What are we to understand by the little book which was eaten by John, as mentioned in the 10th chapter of Revelation?
A. We are to understand that it was a mission, [ah, now we see why John needed to be translated] and an ordinance, [ah, now we see how he was translated] for him to gather the tribes of Israel; behold, this is Elias, who, as it is written, must come and restore all things.
This may sound confusing, because we've all been taught that Joseph Smith (not John) was the restorer-of-all-things (see, D&C 132:40, 45).
Okay, let's not get distracted; for now, remember that in the context of D&C 77 John = Elias. This is important because we read:
The angel ascending from the east [this is referring to John] is he to whom is given the seal of the living God over the twelve tribes of Israel;
wherefore, he crieth unto the four angels having the everlasting gospel, saying: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
And, if you will receive it, this is Elias which was to come to gather together the tribes of Israel and restore all things.
Is it crazy to suppose that just as we needed a Restoration through Joseph Smith, the Ten Tribes also were given a Restoration wherever they are?
Or that just as we received the record of the Book of Mormon regarding the descendants of Lehi, the Ten Tribes had restored a record of the Lord's ministry to them?
Jesus said to the Nephites:
I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.
(3 Nephi 17:4)
I wonder if their Restoration is going any better than ours. Because it gives new meaning to the Savior's words when we consider a parallel Restoration occurring among the Ten Tribes:
And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. [that's our Restoration]
Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost. [that's their Restoration]
(3 Nephi 21:26)
One final verse to shed a light on this mystery, describing the return of the Ten Tribes:
And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; [these are the Ten Tribes] and their prophets [not our prophets, no; these are "their" prophets] shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.
And they shall bring forth their rich treasures [their treasures, not ours; could this refer to their sacred records?] unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.
(D&C 133:26-27, 30)
Practice Pointer: We're going to see there are three main groups which converge in establishing Zion-on-earth, and they each have translated beings helping things along. They are:
(1) The Ten Tribes (John); and
(2) The Lamanite remnant and latter-day Saints (Three Nephites); and
(3) Enoch's City (well, all of them).
Each of the three groups has a dispensation (an appointment) granted them in the Restoration of All Things preparatory to the earth receiving the presence of the Father.
Don't you love Eliza R. Snow? (I sometimes wish she had been President of the church instead of her brother.) Eliza was a prophetess who had many spiritual gifts, including the gift of tongues and prophecy. She wrote a hymn that was published in 1856. In it she taught doctrines she had received from Joseph Smith.
The hymn appeared in the LDS Hymnal until 1912, so an entire generation of Church members had these ideas as part of their cannon. What does this have to do with Enoch? You'll see:
1. Thou, Earth, wast once a glorious sphere Of noble magnitude, And didst with majesty appear Among the worlds of God.
2. But thy dimensions have been torn Asunder, piece by piece, And each dismember’d fragment borne Abroad to distant space.
3. When Enoch could no longer stay Amid corruption here, Part of thyself was borne away To form another sphere.
4. That portion where his city stood He gain’d by right approv’d; And nearer to the throne of God His planet upward mov’d.
5. And when the Lord saw fit to hide The "ten lost tribes" away, Thou, Earth, wast sever’d to provide The orb on which they stay.
6. And thus, from time to time, thy size Has been diminish’d, till Thou seemst the law of sacrifice Created to fulfil.
(LDS Hymns: Sacred Hymns & Spiritual Songs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Liverpool: England, 1856.)
I give it as my opinion that the Lost Ten Tribes were taken north ─ that is, far (!) north ─ and they are not presently on the earth-as-we-know-it, but shall be rejoined at a future day similar to Enoch's city ("planet") so the earth may be RESTORED as she was in the beginning, preparatory to her receiving her crown.
At their return, the earth shall open to receive them, causing water to flow down at their presence, irrigating the deserts so they may blossom as a rose, and Zion shall be birthed.
In the apocrypha we read:
"And the Lord said to Michael: Go and take Enoch out from his earthly garments, and anoint him with my sweet ointment and put him into the garments of my glory. And I, Enoch, looked at myself, and was like one of his glorious ones" (Secrets of Enoch, 22:8)
"My spirit was translated, and it ascended to heaven; and I saw the holy sons of God and with them the Head of Days" (1 Enoch 71:10, 11).
"And the Lord called Berebel who was skilled in writing down all the works of the Lord. And the Lord said to Berebel: Take a book from the deposit and give a pen to Enoch, and explain to him and dictate the books to him. So the angel taught Enoch all the works of the heavens and the earth and the sea and all the elements and time-periods and commandments and instructions and he wrote down all the signs" (Secrets of Enoch 10).
"Hear, Enoch, for not to my angels have I told my secret, nor have they understood my creating, which I tell thee today. For I alone used to go about the invisible things, and I conceived the thought of placing foundations and of creating a visible creation" (Secrets of Enoch 24:3-5).
"The Metatron [Enoch] said: God made for me a throne modeled after the Throne of Glory, I being clothed upon with glory and Light [Zohar] and beauty and mercy like that of the throne of thy glory. And he caused me to sit upon it, and a herald proclaimed in all the firmament of firmaments, saying, Enoch is proclaimed as a divine King!" (BHM 5:174).
"This is about the Elect; receive my parable about them; and my Great Holy One will come out of his dwelling-place, and the God of the Age shall walk upon the earth, even upon Mount Zion, and he will appear in the power of his might from the heaven of heavens. And all shall be afraid, for great trembling and fear shall seize them, and the mountains shall be shaken down and dissolve and the earth shall be rent" (Gizeh 1:3).
The above quotations I took from Hugh Nibley's work, Enoch the Prophet. Let me conclude with Brother Nibley's words:
"Once established in her place, Zion serves as a sort of bridgehead, preparing the way for the return of Enoch’s Zion, when the two shall fuse. "And it shall come to pass in those days that the elect and holy children will descend from the high heavens, and their seed will become one with the children of men" (1 Enoch 39:1)."