(The beautiful region of Dhofar in Oman)
1) Only Matthew tells the story of the visit of the wise men (2:1-12). Although in traditional Nativity scenes, we usually find the wise men and the shepherds adoring the infant Jesus together, Matthew tells us that the wise men arrived only after Jesus had been born (Matthew 2:1), not on the actual night of his birth. In other words, the visitation of the angels and shepherds seems to have occurred on the night of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:7-8, 12), while the wise men must have arrived some days, or even months later.
Who were these “wise men”? Unfortunately, the New Testament is rather vague, although this has not prevented later legends and traditions from filling the gaps in Matthew’s account.
The King James Bible calls the visitors “wise men,” which translates the Greek term “magos” (plural “magoi”). The Latin Bible transliterates this term into the Latin plural “magi,” by which they are also frequently known in English. The Greek word “magos”/“magoi” is an interesting one. Linguistically, it is a transliteration of the Persian term “magush,” referring to the ancient Zoroastrian priestly caste. In Greek, the term “magos” had become a much broader word for a person learned in arcane lore, hence “wise men.”
2) The Book of Jasher is a secular history covering a period from the creation until the period of the Judges in Israel, and a work that is referenced in the Holy Bible twice by two different authors. Three purported copies of this ‘Lost Book’ have been translated, but only one is looked upon as authentic. The Prophet Joseph Smith quoted from it in Times and Seasons as a source which had “not been disproved as a bad author.” Certain members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints secured the copyright and republished the work in 1887 in Salt Lake City.
The Book of Jasher is almost certainly authentic, as it contains many specific details which are in agreement with modern revelation (i.e. the Book of Moses) that was published before the Book of Jasher became available on the American continent). However, it is also almost certain that it contains modifications from its original form. When studying it, the Lord’s advice in Doctrine and Covenants 91 still stands.
“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha — There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men. Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated. Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated. Amen.”
3) Salalah is the capital city of the Dhofar region in Southern Oman, and it was once called the land Bountiful. Salalah is the original location for the land Bountiful. It’s still a very beautiful environment, considering Oman is predominantly desert.
4) “Sacrament tablecloths should be white, nontransparent, clean, and pressed. Sacrament trays should be kept clean.”
Strictly speaking, the cloth is not absolutely required as we’re instructed in the Articles and Covenants of the Church (D&C 20). If you are ever asked by your bishop to take the sacrament to a shut in, you will find that the tablecloth, trays, and cups are superfluous. You simply need to break the bread, kneel as you say the prayers, and substitute “water” for the word “wine” in the second prayer.
I appreciate that our leaders have included this standard of white tablecloths for the sacrament. As I look at the table where the young priests bless the sacrament, the white cloth draped over the emblems of the Lord’s Supper remind me of the linens draped over His body, broken for my sake.