This Christmas I had some thoughts about the gifts that were given to the young Jesus by the wise men. I haven’t had time to really dig down deep and see what I can unearth concerning gold, frankincense and myrrh but I did have a few unique ideas that I don’t think I’ve ever read about anywhere else so I thought I’d take note of them here.
Gold can be primarily obtained by mining it from the earth or panning it out of rivers in tiny flakes. It is rare and must be sought for diligently and then purified by immense heat to flush the dross out. Gold does not rust under the same circumstances as other metals, it is extremely stable and attractive.
Frankincense and Myrrh
These two I am going to mention together because there are a host of dynamics that they seem to share. Both frankincense and myrrh are tree sap that is obtained by cutting into the trunk and allowing the sap to bleed out; ponder that for a bit.
Though frankincense and myrrh can come in a variety of shades, generally myrrh is darker and frankincense is lighter, even white. Thinking of two trees naturally draws my mind back to the garden of Eden where there were also two trees placed that were essential to the salvation of man. Frankincense and myrrh are not the fruit of trees but the blood of trees.
It is interesting to think about the potential connections.
The dynamics of light and dark also draw the mind back to creation. The dynamic of the number “two” has strong symbolic ties to the act of creation through division and opposites. Read 2 Nephi 2:11-12
11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation…
For those that have ears to hear, recall these words written in the Revelation of John:
Revelation 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Joseph Smith gave some insight on this verse:
D&C 130:10 Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known;
11 And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.
Frankincense forms a hard resin, many times white and almost stone-like. Interestingly, the Tabernacle of Moses was equipped with golden spoons whose purpose was to pour frankincense into the altar.
After the children of Israel left Egypt, Moses called for contributions to build the Tabernacle. The Lord had shown Moses on the mount the pattern of the Tabernacle, with its furnishings, vessels, and rituals. One commandment Moses received from the Lord was, “thou shalt make the…spoons…of pure gold” (Ex. 25:29). In due course, each leader of the 12 tribes donated a golden spoon of 10 shekels weight, filled to overflowing with frankincense (Num. 7:84-86). The spoon was termed kaph in Hebrew, which means literally “hollow of the hand,” or the hand in cupping shape. 1 Moses gave these 12 spoons to his priest-brother Aaron and to Aaron’s descendants, who used them for centuries in the Tabernacle and later in Solomon’s temple for the burning of incense before the Lord (1 Kings 7:50; 2 Chron. 24:14). It is evident from 2 Chron. 4:22 that King Solomon manufactured additional “spoons” of gold, as well as other temple vessels. [Source]
For more information on the subject of cupped hands, check out Bryce Haymond’s article over at TempleStudy. So we have a potential connection between the frankincense used in the temple, the white stone mentioned in Revelation and perhaps some other connections you could make if you continued to ponder.
Since Joseph Smith made a connection between the white stone mentioned in Revelation and a “Urim and Thummim”, there is one other little tidbit to add into the mix. An article over at TempleStudy.com brought to my attention an account of one Fayette Lapham who had apparently interviewed Joseph Smith and gave an account of that interview in 1870. None of what he describes is recorded anywhere in the Book of Mormon but it is suspected that the account he gives was probably contained in the lost 116 pages of the book of Lehi. Here is an excerpt of that interview which contains some very interesting information that one might find interesting.
“When they, the Jews [Lehi and his companions], first beheld this country, they sent out spies to see what manner of country it was, who reported that the country appeared to have been settled by a very large race of men, and had been, to all appearances, a very rich agricultural and manufacturing nation. They also found something of which they did not know the use, but when they went into the tabernacle, a voice said, “What have you got in your hand, there?” They replied that they did not know, but had come to inquire; when the voice said, “Put it on your face, and put your face in a skin, and you will see what it is.” They did so, and could see everything of the past, present, and future; and it was the same spectacles that Joseph found with the gold plates.”
They were truly wise men that gave these gifts to the young Christ. I have only touched on a very small sampling of potential meanings behind these gifts. Feel free to share in the comments below any additional insights you might have.