A tessera (plural tesserae) is
(in ancient Greece and Rome) a small tablet of wood or bone used as a token.
The word comes via Latin from Greek, neuter of tesseres, variant of tessares ‘four.’
This image of pieces of material used to create a complete picture perfectly describes how I imagine gathering truth and knowledge impacts my faith. When a “true” truth is learned, understood, and applied, it adds to the completeness of the whole picture.
For now we see through a glass
, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
The footnote for “glass” in this scripture is the word “veil.”
“There is no remembrance
of former things,” the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us. We come to Earth with a veil of forgetfulness, a narrowed view through a small tessera. But as Jesus promised, we can, and must, gather tessera until we have the complete picture again!
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
How do we learn precept and line and wisdom? The scriptures overflow with people seeking spiritual tessera with positive results. Here are just a handful that immediately came to mind.
Adam knew God commanded him to sacrifice, but didn’t know why God commanded the sacrifice. Adam continued to obey the commandment regardless. After such obedience, an angel explained the reason for the commandment—the sacrificial act pointed Adam and Eve to the coming Savior. Adam learned how physical ordinances and commandments point to the mission of Jesus Christ.
Ashpenaz cautiously accepted Daniel’s challenge to eat only pulse instead of the King’s meat. He didn’t understand the principles Daniel lived by. But after 10 days, he saw the impact of keeping Jehovah’s commandments.
Lamoni’s father initially resisted learning the Nephites’ faith. But when he decided to listen, truth impacted him so profoundly that he immediately asked his teacher Aaron how he could be born again and gain eternal life. Aaron told the king he needed to repent of his sins and call upon God. The king prostrated himself on the ground in prayer and supplicated God.
God did answer his prayer and one tessera of faith turned into a complete image of the Lord’s plan of happiness.
The Brother of Jared prepared his family to cross the sea on barges the Lord taught him to make. Concerned that they would travel in darkness, the Brother of Jared sought the Lord’s instructions. The Lord asked the Brother of Jared what he’d like Him to do. The Brother of Jared created 16 small stones and asked the Lord to touch the stones so they would shine in the darkness. The Lord touched the stones as requested. The Brother of Jared approached the Lord with such faith that not only did the Lord fulfill his request to light the stones, but his tesserae also was so complete, that his sight rent the veil and he actually saw the Lord!
Joseph Smith wanted to know God and sought to learn of Him by joining a church. Joseph didn’t know which church to join and felt confused by the varying doctrine and administrations. He read in James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God
, that giveth to all men
liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” He decided to ask God which church to join. He prayed in a grove of trees near his home with such faith in God’s word that he saw a pillar of light descending from heaven.
When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name
and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
All Things Are Possible To Him that Believeth
Those who have experienced God teach me how to approach Him for truth. Hundreds of scripture stories show me God hears an answers the seeker of eternal truth. They give me courage and faith to petition Him for light as well.
One father, desperate for the Savior’s help, approached Jesus to exorcise a malicious spirit from his son.
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
I love the man’s honesty. I believe, but not completely. His mosaic lacked tessera and wasn’t complete. The Lord met the man where he was and helped the man’s unbelief.
He answers my petitions for truth, even in the midst of any unbelief mingled with belief. The small glimpses of light and truth fill important spots in my mosaic of eternal comprehension.
I look for the day when instead of looking through a glass darkly,
[W]e all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image
from glory to glory, even
as by the Spirit of the Lord.