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Ancient Testaments: 'Before His Manger,' Ch. 48: 'Blessed art thou among women'

In Chapter 47, we read of Mary's betrothal to Joseph, though their marriage itself was planned for a later time. And we read of Mary, at home at the close of a Sabbath Day, in earnest study and prayer. Gabriel, one of the mightiest of angels, came and offered her the privilege of bringing forth a divine son. Now, in Chapter 48, she determines to go visit her cousin, Elisabeth, who is also carrying a child miraculously conceived. The time is mid-summer, some nine months before the Birth.

Chapter 48 — "Blessed Art Thou Among Women"

Ehud could anger his father in many ways. One of these was to forget to put the simple little filters into the winepress before beginning to tread the grapes. A collection of thorns along with straws of hay would be placed in each of the two drain holes at the end of the stone basin. As the juice passed through those holes into the large stone cistern below, seeds, skins and other matter was automatically filtered out.

But what also happened automatically was the frequent clogging of the filters. That meant blocking off the flow of juice while cleaning the filters or replacing them. Ehud's big toes were large enough to plug. He would stand there, his legs well apart, his toes tight against the holes, and pick away at the thorny strainer, blowing hard on it now and then. When it was clean, he would poke each one back in place where a toe had been.

Of course, Ehud hated this part of his job. For one thing, it slowed his progress, and often meant he would have little or no time to converse, flirt and boast, and to check on afternoon gossip down in the village. It also made a mess of his clothes and stained his hands, which did not add to his charm when he did at last get into the pathways of Nazareth.

And tending the filters made it hard to keep his eye on those pathways from his hilltop workplace.

The grapes coming to his father's processing business were not very sweet at mid-summer, but they were much sweeter than Ehud himself. For several days, he had been nursing a huge wound — Mary, the one he was determined to make his wife someday, had been betrothed to another man — Joseph, son of the famous builder, Jacob, who had recently died.

Why didn't Ehud see this betrothal coming? Of course, the real question was not how it happened, but how Ehud might undo it. How could he make sure that Joseph doesn't actually go through with the marriage?

Ehud had just put the strainers in place, and was trudging again with his great legs, when his searching eyes caught sight of Mary and her family stepping out of their home and heading toward the village gate. None of this was a typical scene. At the gate was a fabric merchant who had come to do business with Heli. The man had his wife with him. They had spent a long time at the home of Heli.

All this Ehud knew from careful observations. But now he was baffled. And he would yet be more so as Heli's family arrived at the gate, bidding Mary farewell.

With all his watching and supposing about people of interest in the village below him, there was more he could not guess. He could not imagine that this girl had recently visited with the mighty angel known as Gabriel. It had happened just two days before, after sunset had ended another Sabbath day, she had been presented with an invitation — a crucial part to play in the Father's plan to save all mankind.

Ehud could not have understood the import of that sacred invitation, nor could he have comprehended the settled courage and measureless loyalty that was embodied in her answer. Simple as the answer was, it rose up from unusual depths. It could be understood only by those who possessed a similar depth of faith. "Be it unto me," she had said, "according to thy word.""

On that Sabbath day just passed, Shushan, Mary's mother, had been confined to her bed by severe illness. Heli was away for a few days. Boaz and Yael were occupied in quiet Sabbath day conversation outside. For Mary, this afternoon was a time of spiritual longing, particularly to understand more of the Messiah.

Then, as the sun set and the Sabbath closed, Shushan had found herself feeling quite well. She arose from her sickbed, lighted an extra lamp and walked with it into the room where Mary had been studying and praying. Her daughter was now sitting very still upon the floor.

Shushan wanted to say something about making a special meal tomorrow for Heli's return. But before she could speak, she noticed a difference in Mary.

It was not only the motionless calm, although that was peculiar for this daughter who was normally quick to acknowledge anyone entering her presence. There was something else.

Shushan studied her daughter for a moment, and said, "Mary, are you alright?"

Mary's head rose slowly, as if she were having to pull away from distant thoughts. It was when her face was clearly visible that Shushan saw the great difference.

Mary was affectionately known to some as Karen — "the Sunbeam." But her countenance now held more than the usual sparkle. It was a radiance Shushan could see and feel.

Mary at last answered, "Yes, Mother, I am well."

Her eyes suddenly brimmed with tears, the moisture streaming gently down cheeks that were drawn into a pleasant smile. Shushan knew that these were tears of certainty and joy.

Then Mary added, "Rabbi Shayah is right. The Anointed One will come soon."

The angel had informed Mary of the exceptional blessing that had now come to cousin Elisabeth. He had not said that Mary should pay this cousin a visit. But angels, good teachers that they are, give no more direction than is needed. There are times when a faithful person need no commandment.

To be separate from her cousin at this special time was simply unthinkable. "She hath conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her," the angel had said. The sixth month! Surely the angel meant to suggest that the timing was urgent.

There was such a thing as a written message, of course, carried by a friend or hired currier. But, no, not in this case. Mary must go herself, immediately.

Heli arrived home the next day, Sunday — the day after the Sabbath. On Monday, his distributor came through, on his way to Jerusalem. He wanted to hire some custom work done while in that area. Did Heli know of an expert seamstress and weaver who could supervise the work?

Somehow, Heli agreed with Mary that she should take this opportunity, especially since she could stay in the home of Shushan's cousin Elisabeth.

The merchant was traveling with his wife, a quiet woman. Contrary to usual, a quiet person was just the kind of companion Mary would prefer at a time like this.

Gathered by appointment at the village gate were Heli's family and the merchant with his wife, along with the merchant's pack animals. Joseph was there as well. And there was one other — Yetsiv, who Joseph insisted should carry Mary's belongings.

"I was going to make you something this week," she said apologetically, "a warm head covering . . . ."

Joseph grinned and looked around at the landscape shimmering in the summer sun. "I think I shall be warm enough without it for now."

Then his grin quickly disappeared. "This is sudden — this going away," he said. " Are you sure . . . ?"

Mary sighed heavily. She looked up into his eyes, said, "I am sure, but I shall miss you more than you can know. . . ."

He responded that the marriage was still many months away, but he hoped she would not be gone that long.

"No," she said. "Of course not. But, . . . ."

She searched his face, and at the same time she searched within. She sought permission from the spirit of God to share some portion of her holy secret with Joseph. She had wanted that permission often recently — in speaking with her mother, her father, her sister, Shayah, Tova — but now, most of all. However, it was now, with Joseph, as it had been with the others. She was not even to hint at the wondrous thing that was coming to pass.

No other explanation would be very convincing, so she did not offer one.

Her espousal and her coming marriage — how would these be affected by her new mission? To ponder this, she would need time, probably weeks, and far from here.

Joseph saw in her eyes the discomfort of some dilemma, the search for words. Then into those eyes he saw something he had never known in this sunbeam of Nazareth, this princess in Israel, this giant soul in a small and delicate body. Tears.

At first, a few tears, as one might expect at a farewell. But suddenly those few tears became many, and Mary was sobbing in the arms of her betrothed husband, embraced also by her father and mother.

This was all Yael needed. "Mary! Are you sure?" she blurted out. "You don't have to leave us, do you know that? You don't have to go and do this work. Does she, Father?" Yael said this as she too began to cry. "You are my precious Mary," she sobbed, "the most wonderful and most beautiful person in the world. How shall I survive without you? You don't have to go!"

Amid these perplexing emotions, Joseph looked down at his beloved. In himself, he sensed that Mary did have to go, though he could not imagine why. He stepped back, holding her gently by the shoulders and said to her, "What say you, my havruta" (a word that means "my companion in seeking the truth"), "what say you? Shall you go or not?" And this he said with a solemn countenance, bearing just the slightest hint of a smile.

Mary felt a bit embarrassed before God that she had broken down so in trying to do his will. But she lifted up her face, which was red and moist from her weeping. She took a breath and looked at each of these loved ones and said, "I must go. Good bye. May God be with you constantly. . . ."

Then she looked at Joseph and added, ". . . .May he be with you as constantly as I shall be thinking of you, my havruta."

She turned and led Yetsiv through the gate, and after going some distance, stopped. With an enthusiastic, Mary-like smile she looked at the merchant and his wife, who had been staring at these events with fascination. "Well," she said, with the barest tremble in her lips, "are you coming with me?"

Nearly thirty-two years before, Mary's grandfather Addi had left from the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth in Ein Karem and found his way to Nazareth. This he had done with Joseph's great-grandfather Eleazar and grandfather Matthan. These had all passed away now.

But there was one in that exploratory group who still lived — Yetsiv.

Mary wondered what stories Yetsiv could tell of those days. She wondered how the old donkey would feel, returning for another visit.

For the fruit-bearing vineyards, the summer had been wonderfully warm. For everyone else, it was hard to bear. This was especially true of travelers following the Jordan River to Jericho — the lowest place on earth, and one of the hottest. This was the route Mary and her companions followed southward before turning west to climb the long barren canyons leading to the hills of Jerusalem. Among those hills, just west of the holy city itself, nestled the ancient little village known as Ein Karem.

But Mary's thoughts — and there were many of them, spurred by the recent visit of Gabriel — distracted her from the heat. Thus it was that the time passed quickly during those days of travel.

Each morning as she awoke, she had to ask herself if these improbable events — not only the ministering of an angel, but the grand news of the coming Messiah, and the choice heaven had made of her to be the very mother of the Holy One — she had to wonder if these things could really be happening.

Each unfolding day would bear witness that this was no dream. The solid ground beneath her feet, the occasional bouts of thirst before reaching the next well for replenishing water skins, and the other harsh conditions of travel — these would reconnect her with the inerasable realness of her new calling.

By the time they reached Ein Karem, the "chosen vessel" had very little need to be re-convinced. The holiest undertaking in history had begun.

The hard and jagged terrain that covered the hills west of Jerusalem seemed to vibrate under the blistering afternoon sun. How sudden it was, and pleasant beyond words, to suddenly leave the upper road and descend a trail into the forested canyon where lay Ein Karem.

As her kinsmen had decades before, Mary immediately wondered which of the stately stone homes was that of Zacharias and Elisabeth. It was the intent of the merchant and his wife to make inquiry at the first home they saw. But Yetsiv did not stop there. He walked straight to the largest home of them all, surrounded by tall trees. Mary followed the donkey, curious to see if he remembered.

On a porch in front of the home sat an old man, writing at a little table. He had been quite busy, entirely focused, as if his were a work of importance. But now his attention was drawn to this group of travelers. Or, rather, drawn to the approach of the young lady and her donkey. He set his pen into its holder and sat more upright on his little bench.

Yetsiv stopped near the porch, lowering his head as donkeys will do when they feel it is time for a break.

Mary ventured to the porch and asked, "Sir, might you be Zacharias the high priest, husband of my kinswoman, Elisabeth?"

Mary was surprised that the man did not respond. He only looked at her in a serious way, without acknowledging her question.

"I'm sorry to have interrupted you, sir," she finally said, and began to turn away.

But the man rose up and cleared his voice. She turned back, expecting him to speak, but he only smiled and pointed at the door of the home.

"Should I go and knock at the door?" she wondered. "Perhaps Yetsiv is right. Perhaps Zacharias does live here, and this man who does not speak is his guest. Yes, that is possible," she thought.

The merchant and his wife, who had stopped some distance away, watched as Mary went to the door. The man opened it, stood back and motioned with his hand that she should enter. Warily, she did so. Her attention first rested upon a little cradle in the center of a large room. Next in the dim light, she saw, seated near the cradle, a who was carefully admiring a little blanket. The woman rose and began to fit the blanket into the cradle. But there was no child there. It seemed that the cradle held only the woman's hopes.

The woman seemed to hear or sense someone behind her. She stood and turned, and was surprised to see someone small and very young, instead of her tall and very old husband.

Her eyes at first squinted in confusion, and then lighted up with recognition. She knew that lovely face. It was Mary, the daughter of her cousin Shushan. It had been a few years since seeing this child. The child had become a young woman.

Mary's face had already broken into a great tearful smile. "Oh Elisabeth, it is you. Shalom, dear cousin. I know of your great blessing, . . . ."

Mary halted in her salutation, for Elisabeth, who had stepped forward, now stopped. Her eyes suddenly grew large with a yet greater surprise. She placed a hand upon her stomach, looking down momentarily and then back at Mary again. She spoke.

Outside, Yetsiv's head came up in curiosity as Elisabeth's voice rose in joy.

The merchant and his wife could not make out the words, though they could hear Elisabeth speaking within the house. They knew that Mary had found her lodging and left for their own destination, knowing that they would soon return to begin the work which Mary would oversee.

Zacharias stood just inside the door, beholding though not hearing as his wife proclaimed to Mary, "Blessed art thou among women." She paused, tears upon her cheeks, her heart thrilling. She looked at Mary carefully. There was no profile of an expectant mother there. And yet, by the distinct impressions of the Holy Ghost — which she and Zacharias had received often of late — Elisabeth knew.

"Blessed . . . ," she said, thinking of the magnificent Messiah-to-be, the one her own son-to-be would herald to the world, ". . . blessed is the fruit of thy womb."

With her hand still upon her abdomen, Elisabeth was joined by her unborn son in honoring, worshipping, acknowledging, rejoicing.

"As soon as I heard your voice in salutation," she testified, "the babe leaped in my womb for joy."

The silent, holy contemplations of her heart could be spoken at last. Elisabeth would understand. How grateful she was that she had made this long journey to be with her cousin. Her cousin? Yes, and now more than a cousin. A sister in sharing this incomparable moment in history, a companion in the raising up of men who would change the course of history for all eternity.

But Mary did more than speaking her heart. She uttered words given by the power of heaven, the power that had prompted the prophets before her, and would yet prompt the son of Elisabeth again and again, the power that would accompany every utterance of her own son.

"My soul doth magnify the Lord," she said, telling of the adoration that had filled her to overflowing. "My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. . . . All generations shall call me blessed. . . ."

Next she bore witness of the Great One himself, the Perfect One who would be just like his Father, the one who was to be her own flesh. Soaring in revelation, learning from her own words, speaking that which would yet be pondered by billions, Mary testified while Elisabeth, listening in wonder, believed the testimony. And God's unhearing high priest looked on in humility and awe.

In the quiet confines of that ancient stone home, Mary spoke such things as these:

"He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. . . . His mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm. . . . He hath . . . . exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things."

This was the princess in Israel's house of prophets and kings. She had the larger view that normally eluded even the most astute scholars. She knew, better than any living soul, that the long expected savior was at hand. She knew that he would keep all the promises.

She looked over at Zacharias and back at Elisabeth. She thought upon the people of Nazareth, and upon the many — her fellow Jews and all manner of others — whose faces she had looked upon during her journey.

"He hath helped his servant Israel," she declared, "in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever."

Read Chapter 49.

Notes to Chapter 48

Regarding Mary's place in the great plan —

Mary, having been seen by prophets down through the tunnel of time, was a key figure in earth history — in the history of all our Father's creations. She had a vital role — the role of a crucial trustee — in making the great Plan of Salvation possible. From her, the very Son of God received his power to die, to finish His offering. Among the myriad of mortals, she is in a category of her own. We do not know how many other women might have been worthy and capable of her task, but she was the one and only chosen by the infinite wisdom of God to carry it out.

Regarding being "highly favored" (Luke 1:28) —

This does not have to mean that she has won first place. To receive the greatest blessing does not require us to be ranked above our fellow beings. It is a time of wonder and gratitude that need not be tainted with any sense of victory or superiority. "Blessed art thou among women" invites Mary to consider the blessing rather than to see other women in some new condescending light. No, she will keep all her old feelings of camaraderie, and affection for others, even if she is to be blessed with a singular privilege. The privilege calls for humility rather than pride, a new level of effort rather than elitism, consecration rather than competition. "This," she might have realized, "is not about my worth, but about my work. It is not about my ranking, but my role."

The mission comes to her in the incredible announcement that her son would be known someday as the "Son of the Highest." There is only one way to interpret that. She may not yet grasp it, and so Gabriel will help her understand that the conception will not be normal. Mary will soon realize that her son will have none other than a divine Father. To be able to fill his measureless mission, the Son must be conceived by heavenly, rather than earthly, means.

(Luke 1:35) In consequence, the son will be "that holy thing" — or holy being — "the Son of God."

Regarding Gabriel's reference to an endless kingdom (Luke 1:33) —

This daughter of kings is aware of royal history, one king going down to the grave, largely ignored while the next comes along, none of them pre-eminent in the long run. Even the throne, the office of Kingship, is of questionable importance over time. Yet Mary, who has the purview of history past to clearly see this sober view of things, is told that her son will transcend all these limits. He will take up the scepter once held by King David, he will sit upon the throne occupied by dozens before him, but the old cycle of obsolescence and replacement will stop with Him. The Kingdom he sets up will last forever, and so will all its worthy citizens. In fact, it will be a kingdom in the ultimate sense, for her son will groom all his followers to be more than citizens, but kings and queens themselves, every one of them. They in turn will have everlasting kingdoms of their own.

(Luke 1:34) True to life, however, is Mary's first reaction to all she has heard so far. She might indeed focus upon her son's kingdom or His name or even the strange reference to His divine paternity. But there was that intensely jarring and very personal matter of conceiving in her womb. (See verse 31.) "How shall this be?" That is, 'Before going any further with this list of unimaginable privileges and history-shaking events, I wish to know more about how I shall become a mother if I am not married. You have not mentioned Joseph, my intended husband. Am I to have a child by some other than he to whom I am engaged, some other than my beloved?'

"David himself was the first to receive the prophetic word that the Seed of Israel's temporal king would be her Eternal King. 'I will set up thy seed after thee,' was the Lord's word given by Nathan the prophet, 'and I will establish his kingdom. . . . And I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.' In substance and thought content Gabriel reaffirmed this same truth to Mary when he said in Luke 1:33, 'And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.' (Bruce R. McConkie, "The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ," p. 189.)

Regarding God's "condescension" (1 Nephi 11:14-22)—

This is his willingness to enter upon a lesser plane in order to help his children.

Regarding Mary's reaction to the annunciation (Luke 1:38) —

So different from Zacharias was Mary, either in her faith or her mission, that she did not ask for a sign. No doubt it was asking a lot for her to comprehend her new role, not to mention the role her new son would play in history. But one thing she could do with her stunned thoughts was to simply bow before the will of God. And surely this bowing was necessary before anything else in this wondrous story could go forward. Gabriel came not only to inform her of her favor before God, her impending motherhood and the preeminence of her son to be, but also to get her permission. So, after giving her a summary of what was to be, and concluding with the simple, persuasive testimony that "with God nothing shall be impossible" (see verse 37), the great Gabriel, grandfather to her and to all others on the face of the earth, ended his message and waited silently for her reaction. It was necessary now for her mind to move from absorbing the news to deciding her will, to go from learning to believing and obeying. Perhaps some moments elapsed as she passed through these stages. But so instinctively had she learned in life to respond to her Father's will, so often had she been immediate and enthusiastic in not only accommodating the truth but going right to work, that we do not imagine that she struggled. The silence did not last long. Nevertheless, those seconds in which she thoughtfully turned herself to a lonely and peculiar path, were crucial to the history of all our Father's creations. In those moments, he did not pressure her. He gave her notice, then gave her reassurance, and then gave her space. In that space, the heart of one of His children was permitted to decide whether His plan might go forward another step. And, so, to the wise and ancient grandfather who stood graciously awaiting her decision, she announced that she would be, in this adventure, what she had always been: "the handmaid of the Lord." According to the angel's words, incredible as those words sounded to mortal ears, let it come to pass. Her answer was perfectly patterned after all the responses of all the noble and great ones in moments of course-creation: "Thy will be done."

Regarding finding favor with God —

Gabriel said (Luke 1:28-31) that she had found favor with God. How had she found favor with God? Valiance, purity, honesty, inquiry, mighty and steady faith.

Her reaction, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word," was an established reflex with Mary. It gives us a window on the habits of her heart. It is clear that she had that noble tendency that her Son would later request of all of us, a broken heart and a contrite spirit. She was really saying, "Not my will, but thine be done." Did she like the idea? Did she want to be in a class by herself? Did she consider herself right for the job? Surely there were a thousand reasons to be frightened and unwilling. But perhaps these concerns made little headway in her thinking. The objection and hesitation and recoiling was all short-circuited by her inborn desire to do the Father's will.

Regarding the knowledge prophets had of Mary —

"He shall be born of Mary, . . . she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God" (Alma 7:10).

"A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

Immanuel: "God (is) with us."

Regarding Mary as the ideal mother symbol —

She was a princess in Israel, and more than that. In spite of her tender age, she was a queen of the first order. Her character was embodied in the law — she was a demonstration of how the laws were to be lived.

Like the law given to Israel, she brought into this world the most important life and light it would ever host. Yet, neither the law nor Mary was sufficient to do so alone. It would take the Father's power to complete the gift given through Mary, to raise us into a much higher world than this one.

Regarding Mary's temporal condition (Luke 1:48) —

"For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."

This suggests that Mary may have been among the poorest of the poor.

The "low estate" she speaks of may refer, however, to more than economic condition. It may be what Solomon had in mind in using that same term: the second estate, the mortal descent to this dark, probationary world.

That she made the prediction about herself so boldly and certainly suggests that she had the spirit of prophecy, and made neither apologies nor boasts about it.

Regarding the encounter between Elisabeth and Mary —

See Luke 1:39-55.

Regarding their "cousin" relationship (Luke 1:36) —

The footnote cautions us that "cousin" means "relative," and so the relationship may be more distant than first cousin. On the other hand, it was close enough that this one description was enough for Mary to know just who the angel was referring to. Evidently, she knew Elisabeth well enough to go directly to her distant home in order to pay a surprise visit.

Regarding Elisabeth's reaction to Mary (Luke 1:44) —

"Blessed art thou among women" suggests that God notices unassuming people.

"For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy." This implies that, whatever may be the mental capacity of unborn children, they are capable of joy.

Regarding the subsequent life and martyrdom of Zacharias —

"When Herod's edict went forth to destroy the young children, John was about six months older than Jesus., and came under this hellish edict, and Zacharias caused his mother to take him into the mountains, where he was raised on locusts and wild honey. When his father refused to disclose his hiding place, and being the officiating high priest at the Temple that year, was slain by Herod's order, between the porch and the altar, as Jesus said" ("Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith," p. 261).

During the ministry of Jesus — well over three decades after the birth of John, and probably not much less than that amount of time after the martyrdom of Zacharias — he declared to the corrupt Jewish leaders: "That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar" (Matthew 23:35).

It would seem that Zacharias could not have been killed as he was without the complicity (if not the planning) of the temple authorities. Thus, Jesus accuses these men of the deed as if they had done it, though it happened some thirty years before. They were guilty because they would have done it. Men who believed and lived just as they did were the perpetrators.

Jesus is careful to specify the spot of the slaying of this latter martyr, for the temple is the place where God desires to dwell with his people, and the altar is the place where they accept him and commit themselves to be his people indeed. Of all places to shed the blood of God's ambassador, they chose to permit it to be so at the place of their holy covenant.

Perhaps they permitted this holy man to be killed there so that it might seem to the people that something was wrong in the life of Zacharias, and in turn that his testimony of an emerging messenger and an imminent Messiah would not have to be taken seriously. They had been left out of the whole process, so they surely did not want their admirers to be taking this messenger seriously.

Regarding the ministry of John —

"This miraculously-born son of Zacharias was the last legal administrator of the old dispensation, the first of the new; he was the last of the old prophets, the first of the new. With him ended the old law, and with him began the new era of promise. He is the one man who stood, literally, at the crossroads of history; with him the past died and the future was born. He was the herald of the Messianic age, the messenger, fore-runner, and Elias who began the great restoration in the meridian of time and on whose secure foundation the Son of Man himself built the eternal gospel structure. His ministry ended the preparatory gospel; Messiah's commenced again the era of gospel fulness" (Bruce R. McConkie, "Doctrinal New Testament Commentary," 1: 113).

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