Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. (Malachi 3)
Their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing (2nd Nephi 28).
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25).
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we are told that the ancient Israelites at the time of Moses were taught the gospel (Heb 4:2), but it didn’t profit them:
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
The gospel in a condensed form is found in the 4th Article of Faith:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The claim in Hebrews is not unfounded. By looking at details of the Exodus, we can see how God taught the gospel to His covenant people using Moses.
The children of Israel were in bondage to the king of Egypt, Pharaoh. If you have a basic understanding of Egyptian mythology, you’ll understand Pharaoh claimed to be a God.
Everyone in this life is in bondage to sin and needs redeeming. You cannot free yourself from the opposition of the devil, who, like Pharaoh, claims the title and role of God. Both oppressors’ claims are false. Like the children of Israel we need and are sent a Redeemer from God.
The children of Israel were sent Moses. We are sent God’s son Jesus. ‘Moses‘ is actually an Egyptian name which means ‘begotten of‘ or ‘Son of‘ or simply for our purposes Moses means ‘the Son‘ (also see Moses 1:6). [As an interesting aside, the common royal Egyptian name Ramses/Ramesses is a hyphenated name-title meaning ‘Son of Ra‘/’Ra-M(o)ses‘]
After being freed from the bondage of Pharaoh by their deliverer Moses, the children of Israel are set on a course to return to their promised land. Repentance can be defined as a turn or a return to God. The children of Israel were repenting or returning to their former home – the land of their father Abraham (whose name means ‘father of a multitude‘).
In that return journey they are brought to the Red Sea. We will be brought to waters as we repent. Paul in 1st Corinthians 10:2, says passing through the Red Sea was the baptism of ancient Israel:
[They] were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
They pass through the waters, which washes away their oppressors – Pharaoh and his armies – just as baptism washes us of our sins.
God’s work doesn’t end at baptism. He leads them by a pillar of fire in the wilderness. The gift of the Holy Ghost is sometimes called the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. He leads, guides, teaches us through revelation, and brings us into greater contact with God.
God feeds them with manna and water. In John 6, Jesus uses this food and drink as a sacrament symbol.
The fiery pillar leads to Mount Sinai. Which represents the temple. Some think God prefers buildings to mountains. I think the literal presence of God is more important than either. For example in Revelation 21:22, John writes about the New Jerusalem: “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”
Moses prepared them to enter the literal presence of God, but they failed to obtain that blessing (also see D&C 84:19-25). The gospel which God and Moses dramatically allowed them to experience “did not profit them” because it was not “mixed with faith.”
There is significance that in this enactment of the gospel Moses and the children of Israel are meant to enter into the presence of the Father and see His face at Sinai before they return to their homeland. And by failing to do so, they provoke the Lord who bars them from returning (the next generation under a different messianic figure, Joshua, finally complete the journey).
The law of Moses was given as a “curse” for their “stiff necks” (see Mosiah 3:14 and Joseph Smith’s 27 Aug 1843 sermon). Moses was never meant to bring the law down from Sinai; his purpose was to bring the people up the mountain. Just as ‘the Son‘ may wash us and feed us in this life’s wilderness, we should recognize these things only serve to bring us to the mountain. The climb up Sinai is one so seldom taken, I doubt there are any well worn paths.
The gospel is everlasting. It was taught before Christ as the New Testament claims. Joseph Smith restored a deeper understanding of the gospel through the Book of Mormon and other revelations which further validate the New Testament claims.