This is Scripture Roundtable 69 from The Interpreter Foundation, in which we discuss the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #19, The Reign of the Judges, focusing on scriptures in Judges 2, 4, 6-7, and 13-16, bringing in various insights to help us better understand the scriptures. These roundtables will generally follow the 2014 Gospel Doctrine schedule of scriptures, a few weeks ahead of time.
Panelists for this roundtable include Martin Tanner, Daniel Peterson, and Craig Foster.
This roundtable is also available as an audio podcast, and will be included in the podcast feed. You can listen by pressing the play button or download the podcast below:
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It is obvious to find relation to the story of Samson from the Bible and Porter Rockwell of Mormon history. Both were strong and invincible characters from religious histories, the source of which it seems long locks of hair. However, one must look at their true histories to find they really couldn’t be more different.
Cleon W Skousen writes in his book The Third Thousand Years, “The student will find some statements in the scriptural account of Samson which are completely inconsistent with the rest of the scriptures. This is because Israel had just passed through three centuries of apostasy and we have learned from experience that periods of apostasy do not usually produce good historians. There is not the same sense of sacred responsibility associated with the keeping of records in that which prevails during a period when men are in close communication with God.
“This point is especially evident when we compare the biography of Samson with that of Saul. Actually, the lives of these two men were very similar, but they are not written in the same. Both of them started out as favored servants of God. Both were extremely well-endowed physically. Both apostatized and betrayed their calling. Both committed suicide.
“Nevertheless, the unknown writer who left us the history of Samson seemed anxious to present him as a great hero of Israel whom God favored in spite of his apostasy. The author may have thought that by taking this approach he was doing a favor to Samson. But it was certainly no favor to God. It made the Lord a partner to all the stupid antics of a willful, defiant spirit who had abandoned his calling and betrayed his God.
“In contrast to this, the biography of Saul was written at a time when inspired prophets of the Lord were back in the earth, and this account is far more discerning. It points out that the moment Saul apostatized and betrayed his calling, the spirit of God was offended and departed from him. His subsequent career, like that of Samson, led down the deep dark road toward failure and oblivion.
“Keeping this point in mind will be helpful to the student who is reading the scriptural account of Samson for the first time. Had it been written up by a prophet of the Lord it undoubtedly would have been interpreted with deeper insight.
Skousen continues, “It was not Samson’s growing hair that brought back his strength but Samson’s growing capacity to pray. His uncut hair had only been a token of his vow as a Nazarite. His miraculous strength had been a gift from God. If he were to receive it back again it would have to come through the beneficence of the same source from which it had come through initially.
“. . . Underneath it all was Samson, the son of Dan, the servant of God, who first lost his way, then lost his eyes and finally lost his life. It was the painful and sorrowful conclusion to a violently hazardous life that could have been the most brilliant and successful career between Joshua and David. It lacked only one thing – a willingness to obey God.”
Furthermore, Jewish tradition add that it was not Samson’s hair that brought back his strength, it was deep humility and anguish of having been put under the thumb of his enemies, imprisoned for months, and having his eyes gouged out that brought on repentance and restoration of his need for faith in the Lord.
Having now established the story of Samson for what it truly is, let’s establish a true story of Porter Rockwell from the facts – and not those of historians in apostasy. We know that the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith promised him that so long as he never cut his hair, no enemy shall have power to overcome him. At no time is it apparent that Rockwell rationalized that his power came from his hair, it seems he saw it as a symbol of his faith and his devotion to the Lord’s anointed Prophet on the earth. We see this evidenced by this simple fact that he, willfully, at one time did cut his hair. While visiting the widow of Don Carlos Smith in California, who had just recently recovered from a nearly fatal bout with typhoid fever, she had lost all of her hair, and Porter had his hair cut to make her wig. We know that Samson lost his strength after his hair was cut and was able to be captured and tortured by his enemies, but there is not one single account of Porter Rockwell having succumbed to his enemies during the time that required for his hair to grow back to its required long luxurious state. Why? Because Porter Rockwell was not an apostate, as Joseph F. Smith stated in eulogy, that Porter, “had never once forgot his obligations to his brethren or his God.” Not to mention, how could the Lord revoke a blessing by such a great act of charity and love, if anything, such an act of pure Christlike love would only heap open the blessings of heaven upon a mortal soul, not revoke them.