Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Mission and Roots of The Sign of Jonas

The Mission

            The Mission of The Sign of Jonas Blog, created May 16, 2010, is to increase our secular and religious knowledge, involve others in that effort, collaborate information, and ultimately to fulfill our baptismal covenant: that through Abraham’s seed “shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of... salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:11).
The authors of the Sign of Jonas serve our readers, and each other. What we do for those to enrich their lives is explain the gospel and that which is gospel-related in basic, life-applicable, albeit scholarly terms; in other words, we strive to strengthen and build each other’s and our own testimonies.
We will strive to build an environment that is conducive to having the Spirit in attendance, and promotes open and truthful discussion; one which conveys a sense of openness, that our authors are within reach and can be engaged in a dialogue.
We are on an equal level with each other, and despite our various qualifications, all authors are valued equally for their individual strengths and that which they bring to the Blog. The openness of our environment will ensure that readers can and do play as important a role as our authors – without readers we would lack purpose and our goals would be left unfulfilled.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we will seek to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom,” that we may be “instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for [us] to understand” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-78).

Where did you get the name "The Sign of Jonas," and what does it mean?
The name comes from an incident recorded in the gospels in of New Testament. At this time in history Jesus was in northern Israel, around 100 miles from the city of Jerusalem.  He was ministering to the people in lower Galilee.  This was the area and time where Jesus fed the 5,000, walked on the Sea of Galilee, taught the Bread of Life sermon, healed various people, and fed the four thousand. 
It is at this point that Jesus arrives on the coasts of Magdala or Magadan.  This city was on the south western coast of the Sea of Galilee near the mount of Arbel.  It was a city famed for fishing; the literal translation of Magdala meaning "Tower of Fish."  It is probably most famous for being  the hometown of Mary of Magdalene, a woman who Christ had saved from a demonized life.  
Christ’s reputation had spread throughout Galilee and as he began to minister in the city the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Jewish ecclesiastical leader of time, united despite some conflicting interpretations of the Law and approached Jesus to trap him, and to prove him a false prophet.  They approached Jesus and told him that their desire was that he would show unto them a sign that they may know of the truthfulness of his claims. They wished for a physical manifestation of his heavenly commission. After such, they then would believe that he was who he said he was.
Christ answered them saying:
“When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring, O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.”
(KJV Holy Bible - Matthew 16:2-4, emphasis added)

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of the day for seeking for a physical sign of the truth of the prophets and their messages. He told them that the only sign that was to be given was the sign of Jonas. So who was, and what is the sign of Jonas?
Jonas is the Greek name for the Hebrew name Jonah whose story is found in the Christian Old Testament book of Jonah.  Jonas was a man from Gath-hepher less then a days walk from Magdala, he lived during the 8th century BC and was called as a prophet to the city of Nineveh, which was a historical enemy to Israel. Jonas was not too enthused about his calling so he decided to, in effect, run from his calling and left Israel on a ship to Tarshish (in modern day Spain, or what is alternately thought to be Turkey).
Shortly into the trip, a tempest came upon the boat. The occupants thought it was divine punishment from God, and that someone in the ship had displeased God. Eventually it was known that the perpetrator was Jonas, who came forth admitting that it was he who had upset God, and told them to cast him overboard thereby saving the occupants of the ship. He was thrown over and eaten by a fish.  While he was in the fish he repented and after three days, was consequently spat out onto dry land. At this point Jonas went to preach to Nineveh.
Christ's reference to this event and a future related sign can be seen as a foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ was eventually crucified and laid in a tomb for the space of three days, after which he was resurrected into new life.  This event is the typified, climatic event of the overall Atonement of God and man by and through Jesus Christ.  Through this final event God and men are reconciled and have the ability to coexist together in amity.  The sign of Jonas can be interpreted as the Atonement itself, which Christ says is the only sign that will be given.
In relationship to this blog it is referring to the fact that although it is academic and may be dealing with physical facts, we cannot rely on any of these things to believe in Christ. What we do have is our testimony of the only sign which he gave us to know him by, The Sign of Jonas, the Atonement, breaking the chains of physical and spiritual death.
Jesus demonstrates this later in that same chapter as he inquired of apostles asking:
"Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say aye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
(KJV Holy Bible - Matthew 16:13-18 Emphasis added)

Constantly we are bombarded with like demands as were given Jesus of old.  “Why do we need a prophet today when we have the old prophets?”, “If the prophets today are true, show us a sign and we will believe”, “If the Book of Mormon is true where is the evidence of it?”, “The Bible says this, which proves you wrong”.  There will never be an end to questions or those who ask them in malicious desire to disprove, tear down, and destroy, seeking to justify their own faith and pride rather than build up others. The world has not much changed in 2000 years, and Christ's response says it best when answering these type of malicious questions:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.”
(KJV Holy Bible - Matthew 23:29-32)

There is no hope in finding the truthfulness of this gospel through any other source than the source itself; God. It is not to be found in archaeology, in logic, in philosophy, or in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but in the still small voice of the Holy Ghost in the cavity of your own heart.
 The gospel is true and will go forth, no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

The Sign of Jonas Team

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