Questions and Answers

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    Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

    Question: What is the symbolic meaning of the term rock in the scriptures?

    Robert J. Matthews, dean of Religious Education, Brigham Young University.

    Experienced builders know that a structure cannot endure unless its foundation is strong. The words rock and stone, referring to the prime elements in ancient foundations, are used in the scriptures as metaphors signifying strength, steadiness, and durability. The prophets used these metaphors in a variety of ways, conveying an impression of the unwavering character of God as well as the need for spiritual solidarity in the foundation and structure of our own lives.

    By looking at the statements of the prophets, we can see how meaningful these symbols are.

    Moses spoke of the God of Israel as a Rock: “Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect, … a God of truth and without iniquity.” (Deut. 32:3–4.) David wrote, “the Lord is my rock, and my fortress, … my shield, … my high tower.” (2 Sam. 22:2–3.) Enoch heard the Lord say, “I am Messiah, the King of Zion, the Rock of Heaven.” (Moses 7:53.) Paul explained that the children of Israel under the leadership of Moses “drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:4.) Nephi praised the Lord as the “rock of my salvation” and the “rock of my righteousness.” (2 Ne. 4:30, 35.) The patriarch Jacob spoke of the Lord as “the shepherd, the stone of Israel.” (Gen. 49:24.) This stone is identified in latter-day revelation as Jesus Christ: “I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall.” (D&C 50:44.)

    Isaiah spoke particularly of the Lord as “a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation.” (Isa. 28:16.) And Paul explained that the faithful Saints belong to the household of God “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Eph. 2:20.)

    The prophets had revealed that Jesus would be rejected of the world, and they declared that even so, he is the only way to salvation. Therefore it is written that “the stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” (Ps. 118:22.) Jesus told the rulers of the Jews that he was that stone, and added that “whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44.) And Peter, declaring to the people that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead, said that “this is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11–12.) Therefore Jesus is called a stumbling stone to those who reject him, “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient.” (1 Pet. 2:8.) The Nephite prophet Jacob explained that “by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation. But … this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.” (Jacob 4:15–16.)

    Not only is Jesus a Rock, but his gospel also is likened to a rock, a sure foundation. To Peter, who had obtained a testimony of Jesus by the revelation of the Holy Ghost, Jesus said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18.) The meaning of this statement is given in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved; and upon this rock I will build my church; yea, upon this rock ye are built, and if ye continue, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.” (D&C 33:12–13.) Likewise, “Build upon my rock, which is my gospel; Deny not the spirit of revelation, nor the spirit of prophecy.” (D&C 11:24–25.) “Behold, you have my gospel before you, and my rock, and my salvation.” (D&C 18:17.)

    The faithful disciple will build his life upon the foundation rock of the gospel of Jesus Christ, rather than upon the shifting sands of man’s wisdom. Such a disciple is “like a man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock; and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.” (Luke 6:48.)

    As the true God is a living God, so true disciples are lively in serving him. Thus Peter has written that unto the faithful, the Lord is “a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious. Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, … [and] unto you therefore which believe he is precious.” (1 Pet. 2:4–7.)

    The power and strength of a stone is also illustrated in Daniel’s declaration that a stone which the Lord cut out of the mountains would roll forth and break in pieces the gold, silver, brass, iron, and clay of the world. Daniel explained that the stone, being the kingdom which the God of Heaven would set in the earth, would outlast all kingdoms organized by the wisdom and strength of men. (Dan. 2.)

    [illustration] Illustrated by James T. Harwood

    Question: I’ve heard that some people have extended their ancestral lines back to Adam. Is this possible? If so, is it necessary for all of us to extend our pedigrees back to Adam?

    Robert C. Gunderson, Senior Royalty Research Specialist, Church Genealogical Department.

    The simplest answer to both questions is No. Let me explain. In thirty-five years of genealogical research, I have yet to see a pedigree back to Adam that can be documented. By assignment, I have reviewed hundreds of genealogical pedigrees over the years. I have not found one where each connection on the pedigree can be justified by evidence from contemporary documents. In my opinion it is not even possible to verify historically a connected European pedigree earlier than the time of the Merovingian Kings (c. A.D. 450 A.D. 752.) Every pedigree I have seen which attempts to bridge the gap between that time and the biblical pedigree appears to be based on questionable tradition, or at worst, plain fabrication. Generally these pedigrees offer no evidence as to the origin of the information, or they cite a vague source.

    The question also asks if it is necessary for us to trace our ancestral line back to Adam. I believe that when the true purpose for which we do genealogical research is understood, one will realize that it is not necessary, at this time, to connect our pedigrees back to Adam. In fact an attempt to do so is probably detrimental to the overall goal of genealogical and temple work—to make available the saving ordinances of the gospel for all the dead.

    It is currently my responsibility to review the records submitted for temple work for those individuals who lived prior to A.D. 1500. I would estimate that 90 to 95 percent of these records are duplicates of work that has already been performed. This does not mean that most of the temple work has been completed for those individuals who lived before A.D. 1500. On the contrary, the great majority of the individuals of that time period still need their temple work done. The problem is that the resource procedures and source materials are of such a nature that members working in this time period end up retracing the paths of many before them, obtaining the same results. A few thousand names are listed over and over, while millions of others remain lost.

    The result is that nearly all the effort expended in the pre-1500 area, and all that expended in attempts to compile pedigrees back to Adam, seems to be a waste as far as accomplishing our true purpose. At the same time, our more recent ancestors, to whom we as individuals have a far greater responsibility, are often ignored—even when many research procedures have not yet been explored.

    I would recommend that no one undertake research prior to A.D. 1500 without first checking with the Genealogical Department, and then only after all avenues of research for more recent generations have been exhausted. The probability of discovering information in the pre-A.D. 1500 time period that would lead to new temple work is practically zero, unless one receives some specific direction.

    In the due time of the Lord we will have our connections back to Adam. Given the current state of our records, I feel that when we attempt to extend pedigrees back to Adam we come dangerously close to ignoring the admonition of Paul: “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions. …” (1 Tim. 1:4.)

    The volume of the work is such that there is a need for every member to be engaged in some aspect of it—but at the same time we must learn to work efficiently and effectively. We do not have time for needless projects that exhaust our time and resources.