Jacob, the brother of Nephi, was one of the all-time most powerful prophets of God. Having been born in a wilderness of affliction, he grew up in the protection and blessings of his brother Nephi to fully trust God.
“Thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain. Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men. And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory.” (2 Nephi 2:2-4)
Like Nephi and Isaiah and other prophets, Jacob saw His redeemer.
“And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him. And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.” (2 Nephi 11:2-3)
Jacob accepted the consecration of his life to the service of God and His people.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did consecrate Jacob and Joseph, that they should be priests and teachers over the land of my people.” (2 Nephi 5:26)
It is therefore appropriate that Jacob spent so much time at the temple and so often taught the people at the temple and of temple using temple language.
What is the language of the temple? The Old Testament Psalms.
The Old Testament book of Psalms is a composition of ancient Israelite temple hymns. What are the doctrines expressed in temple language? Among other doctrines, these hymns extol the grandeur and kingship of God, His creative nature, His salvific power, His enduring goodness, love, kindness, and strength, His mercy and tenderness, and that He is the foundation and rock of our salvation.
Anciently those who served in the temple sung and preserved temple hymns as a way to teach the doctrine of God. Of all the prophets in the Book of Mormon who quote from the Psalms, Jacob is one of the most prolific. And should we be surprised? Of all the Book of Mormon prophets, he may have spent more time serving in the temple than any of the other prophets. So Jacob may have been particularly attuned to the power and beauty contained in the Old Testament hymns.
In fact, it appears that Jacob regularly employed words and phrases from the Psalms to support his teaching (see the table below)
Book of Jacob
Jacob 1:7 “That they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.”
Book of Psalms
Psalm 95:8, 11 “as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness…Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.”
Jacob 4:10 “in great mercy, over all his works”
Psalm 145:8–9 “of great mercy … and his tender mercies are over all his works.”
Jacob 4:15–17 “they will reject the stone upon which they might build … how is it possible that these, after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?”
Psalm 118:22 “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”
Jacob 6:6 “Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts”
Psalm 95:7–8 “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart”
(I express gratitude to my friend David Larsen and our colleagues at Book of Mormon Central who shared these insights with me. Learn more about Jacob’s use of Psalms by reading Book of Mormon Central’s KnoWhy #62 “Why Does Jacob Quote So Much from the Psalms?”)
Jacob served God and His people diligently.
“And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.” (Jacob 1:19)
And Jacob used the ancient temple hymns (as found in the Old Testament Psalms) to teach people of God and their duties for covenantal loyalty to Him.
Call to action: How have the Psalms or other hymns of the Church taught you of the temple, taught you about God, or otherwise blessed your life?
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In today’s temple, 99% of the singing/hymn music is done either by workers in their preparation meetings before beginning their shift, or as it is quietly played in the chapel as patrons wait to begin their service. I discovered a few years ago that not everything in the hymnbooks is approved for use in the temple. I asked for and was given a copy of the current “Approved Temple Hymns” list from a member of a temple presidency. Almost every Sacrament hymn, as well as hymns that focus on the Savior or the temple, are included. Interestingly, “The Spirit of God” is not approved for normal usage, perhaps for being too rousing, or wanting to limit it to dedications. I can only speculate. Anyway, here’s the list:
Abide with Me, 166
Abide with Me; ‘Tis Eventide, 165
Again, Our Dear Redeeming Lord, 179
As I Search the Holy Scriptures, 277
As Now We Take the Sacrament, 169
As the Dew from Heaven Distilling, 149
Be Still, My Soul, 124
Be Thou Humble, 130
Because I Have Been Given Much, 219
Behold the Great Redeemer Die, 191
Come, Follow Me, 116
Come unto Jesus, 117
Come, We That Love the Lord, 119
Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd, 221
Dearest Children, God is Near You, 96
Did You Think to Pray?, 140
Each Life That Touches Ours for Good, 293
Families Can Be Together Forever, 300
Father in Heaven, 133
Father in Heaven, We Do Believe, 180
Gently Raise the Sacred Strain, 146
God Bless Our Prophet Dear, 24
God Is Love, 87
God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son, 187
God, Our Father, Hear Us Pray, 170
Guide Me to Thee, 101
He Died! The Great Redeemer Died, 192
Help Me Teach with Inspiration, 281
Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth, 298
How Beautiful Thy Temples, Lord, 288
How Gentle God’s Commands, 125
How Great the Wisdom and the Love, 195
How Great Thou Art, 86
I Am a Child of God, 301
I Believe in Christ, 134
I Know My Father Lives, 302
I Know That My Redeemer Lives, 136
I Need Thee Every Hour, 98
I Stand All Amazed, 193
In Humility, Our Savior, 172
In Memory of the Crucified, 190
In Remembrance of Thy Suffering, 183
Jesus, Lover of My Soul, 102
Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King, 181
Jesus, Once of Humble Birth, 196
Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me, 104
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee, 141
Joseph Smith’s First Prayer, 26
Keep the Commandments, 303
Lead, Kindly Light, 97
Lead Me into Life Eternal, 45
Let the Holy Spirit Guide, 143
The Light Divine, 305
The Lord Is My Shepherd, 108
Lord, I Would Follow Thee, 220
The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare, 109
Love at Home, 294
Love One Another, 308
More Holiness Give Me, 131
My Redeemer Lives, 135
Nearer, Dear Savior, to Three, 99
Near, My God, to Thee, 100
O God, the Eternal Father, 175
O Love that Glorifies the Son, 295
Oh, May My Soul Commune with Thee, 123
O My Father, 292
Our Savior’s Love, 113
A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief, 29
Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire, 145
Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer, 103
Redeemer of Israel, 6
Rise, Y Saints, and Temples Enter, 287
Savior, Redeemer of My Soul, 112
Secret Prayer, 144
Sweet Hour of Prayer, 142
Sweet Is the Peace the Gospel Brings, 14
Sweet Is the Work, 147
Teach Me to Walk in the Light, 304
There Is a Green Hill Far Away, 194
Though Deepening Trials, 122
‘Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love, 176,177
Upon the Cross of Calvary, 184
We Ever Pray for Thee, 23
We Love Thy House, O God, 247
We’ll Sing All Hail to Jesus Name, 182
Where Can I Turn for Peace?, 129
While of These Emblems We Partake, 173,174
With Humble Heart, 171
There are also some seasonal approved hymns, as well as some taken from the Children’s Songbook:
Away in a Manger, 206
The First Noel, 213
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear 207
O Little Town of Bethlehem, 208
Once in Royal David’s City, 205
Silent Night, 204
With Wondering Awe, 210
Beautiful Savior, 62
Father, I Will Reverent Be, 29
The Hearts of the Children, 92
I Feel My Savior’s Love, 74
I Love to See the Temple, 95
I Need My Heavenly Father, 18
I Thank Thee, Dear Father, 7
I Think When I Read That Sweet Story, 56
The Lord Game Me a Temple, 153
Reverence is Love, 31
Reverently, Quietly, 26
When He Comes Again, 82
Where Love Is, 138
You are amazing, Chris!