Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gospel Doctrine Old Testament Lesson #5

SS lesson #5 - Moses 5-7

Background: Adam & Eve were cast out of the Garden. For decades, they live raising children and making sacrifice to God under their limited understanding. They would not know the fullness of the gospel until an angel explains the atonement. Adam and other believers are baptized as part of the new and higher covenant.

With a greater knowledge of the gospel and its ordinances, Eve bears Cain and Abel with the hope that she can raise them up in the gospel's fullness.

The Fall of Cain - A Study in Rebellion

Cain was the first of Adam's children to be born after the full gospel was on the earth. It seems that for a time, he must have been a faithful follower of God, given that God speaks with him on several occasions and Cain seems comfortable enough to question God. However, Cain became more interested in worldly things. He began to question God's methodology.

Perhaps his younger brother, Abel, was smarter, better looking, and played center on the high school basketball team; while Cain struggled to get "C's", had acne, and sat on the bench. Clearly, sibling rivalry and jealousy played into Cain's fall.

Since Abel excelled in spiritual things, Cain searched for an alternative wherein he could excel. This opened the door for Satan to entice Cain with a new and different philosophy. This new belief system was radical, with Satan slowly guiding Cain away from God and towards worshiping him.

That Satan encouraged Cain to offer sacrifice, suggests the Adversary was carefully guiding him to disappointment. Cain offered the first fruits of the field. While not the normal animal sacrifice expected, it was not the main reason the offering was rejected by God.

God rejected Cain's offering because it was made without the key ingredient: faith and repentance.
In explaining to Adam the purpose of sacrifice, the angel explained it "is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father....do all thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent..." (Moses 4:6-8).

Satan knew that Cain neither had faith in Christ, nor desired to repent.

Somehow it was communicated that Abel's sacrifice was accepted, while Cain's was not. Once again, Abel, the golden boy, triumphed. Cain became angry, and when God attempted one last time to reach out to him, Cain refused. God told him, he could be equal with his brother, Abel. But Cain wanted to best his brother, not just be even.

This was a competition between brothers. Such a competition predated earth life, when Lucifer sought to best Jehovah in a struggle for ultimate power. Lucifer did not want to be equal, but to reign supreme: "...surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor" (Moses 4:1-4, Isaiah 14:12-15).

The story of Cain and Abel is an earthly version of Lucifer and Jehovah. When Cain does something, we see Lucifer doing the same. Both Cain and Lucifer's offered sacrifices were rejected, because they were not done with faith nor real intent, but with a personal and not-so-hidden agenda.

Both "rejected the greater counsel which was had by God" (Moses 5:25), and in a final act of rebellion, both Cain and Satan slew their brother. Each made a human sacrifice of the righteous sons (of Adam and God).

Satan endows Cain in his own apostate endowment. While God's temple involves covenants of love, faith, brotherhood and service to others; Satan makes Cain and his followers make secret oaths, under penalty of death, to promote his apostate combinations (Moses 5:28-30).

In the temple, we are sealed up to be like God in eternal families (D&C 132:19-20).
Lucifer's apostate endowment also offered a special promise. Cain rejoiced in his new title: "Mahan, the master of this great secret" (Moses 5:31).

In his new role as Master Mahan, Cain meets Abel in the field (of battle). Cain seeks to challenge Abel's God and methods with the new secrets he has learned from his new god, Satan.

The meek Abel is no physical match for Cain's trickery. Cain slays Abel. He has finally triumphed over his brother. "I am free!" His sacrifice is acceptable before his new god, Lucifer. And there is a perceived additional benefit: "surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands" (Moses 5:33).

Satan could say the same things, as he sought to defeat the mortal Jesus. In the early Christian book, Gospel of Nicodemus, Satan happily goes to see Death, the guardian of hell/Spirit World. He brags about defeating Jesus, by nailing him on the cross. For a moment, Satan felt free and certain that the "flocks" of Jesus in the Spirit World now belonged to him.

The desire for power and the happiness felt by Cain and Satan was short-lived, as both are shown that their evil acts were temporary victories. They had not succeeded in stopping God's plans. Both were driven out of God's presence. Neither received the flocks of his brother. They were not free, but trapped in an existence built on poor and selfish choices. They lost their own place and standing before God.

The Curse of Cain

Protestant tradition held that Cain's curse was passed down through those with black skin, and justified the trafficking of black Africans as slaves.

There is no evidence that Joseph Smith neither believed nor taught this. In fact evidence shows the opposite. Joseph ordained blacks to the priesthood, including Elijah Abel.

It is possible the issue did not arise until the move West. Near Winter Quarters, a black member began a community where he engaged in polygamous marriages with several white women. Such a 19th century scandal began a big discussion among Church members on what to do. The end result was the priesthood ban with the Protestant belief in the curse of Cain to justify it.

(see more at these websites:
Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog “The Long-Promised Day”
Blacks and the Priesthood | Blacklds.org )


The Watchers

Cain continues to promote the apostate version of things. He even bore a son, Enoch, and established a city named Enoch. But it was not the real thing.

The story of Lamech and his wives continues the secret combination. Lamech boasts that he slew a man who tried to warn the "sons of Adam" about the secret works.

Common in many ancient works is the concept of the "Watchers."

The Watchers are described as fallen angels who stole the secrets of heaven and used them for their own selfish purposes. In LDS views, angels are just another form that spirits and mortals can take along their path of progression. With Satan's help, Cain stole the temple knowledge and used it for evil. Cain, Lamech, and the others who took the evil oath were cast out of God's presence, even as Satan and his devils were cast out, and God "ministered not unto them" (Moses 5:52). From an LDS viewpoint, these are the Watchers.
The Watchers also had other secrets. They were the artisan masters of music, weaving, and metal work (see Moses 5:45-46). As we go along, we’ll see how they greatly impacted today’s lesson in ancient Jewish and Christian belief.

The Promised Land

Adam and his family lived in a "land of promise" (Moses 6:17).
In the early book, Conflict of Adam and Eve, Adam and his faithful children dwell on a mountain (symbolizing the temple) in the Cave of Treasures. Cain dwelt below in the lowlands. In the Second Book of Adam and Eve, we read: “But by the time Enos was eight hundred and twenty years old, Cain had a large progeny; for they married frequently, being given to animal lusts; until the land below the mountain, was filled with them” (chapter 12, vs. 16).

Adam, Seth and the righteous high priests of the day, were worried about the sons of Adam being tempted away from the mountain:

Quote:
1 WHEN Enos was nine hundred years old, all the children of Seth, and of Cainan, and his first-born, with their wives and children, gathered around him, asking for a blessing from him.
2 He then prayed over them and blessed them, and adjured them by the blood of Abel the just saying to them, "Let not one of your children go down from this Holy Mountain, and let them make no fellowship with the children of Cain the murderer" (Book 2, ch 14).
But eventually, the children of Cain find a way to tempt and overcome many of Seth’s children:

13 When, at the end of that year, Genun (a Watcher) saw that they (people living in the lowlands) were being won over to him little by little, Satan entered into him, and taught him to make dyeing-stuffs for garments of divers patterns, and made him understand how to dye crimson and purple and what not.
14 And the sons of Cain who wrought all this, and shone in beauty and gorgeous apparel, gathered together at the foot of the mountain in splendour, with horns and gorgeous dresses, and horse races, committing all manner of abominations.
15 Meanwhile the children of Seth, who were on the Holy Mountain, prayed and praised God, in the place of the hosts of angels who had fallen; wherefore God had called them "angels," because He rejoiced over them greatly.
16 But after this, they no longer kept His commandment, nor held by the promise He had made to their fathers; but they relaxed from their fasting and praying, and from the counsel of Jared their father. And they kept on gathering together on the top of the mountain, to look upon the children of Cain, from morning until evening, and upon what they did, upon their beautiful dresses and ornaments. (Book 2, ch 20).
Cain's children sought to entice Seth's children to leave the safety and righteousness of their mountain promised land. The children of Seth had replaced the fallen angels (Cain and other fallen individuals), who had become the Watchers. In time, the Watchers succeed in overcoming Seth’s children by playing seductive music and showing off their pretty daughters in fine clothing. Just like the Nephites, nice clothing leads to their downfall.

Many ignored the prophetic warnings and left the mountain for what seemed to be greener pastures. Today, many ignore modern prophets and apostles, thinking that the world offers good solutions. While the world does have many wondrous dresses and ornaments, bells and whistles to offer us, they are all temporary comforts that do not bring true joy and happiness.

Adam-Ondi-Ahman

For those who stay in the promised land, they received a particularly marvelous blessing. Three years before his death, Adam called his faithful sons together, where he blessed them. Before them came the Savior, who blessed Adam. Adam had returned into the presence of God, and brought his faithful children with him (D&C 107:53-57).

Enoch the missionary prophet

In Moses 6:25-38, we find Enoch has left the land of promise. He journeyed in the land, where the people grew ever more violent and evil, due to the secret combinations abounding in the world (vs. 15).
God calls down to Enoch from heaven and issues him a mission call. At 65 years old, Enoch still saw himself as a lad. Since he was not doing wicked things, nor was he as eloquent as the Watchers, "the people hate me; for I am slow of speech."

Whom God calls, God qualifies. As with Enoch, the Lord can help us rise above our weaknesses and fears, and cause us to succeed. Even if it means He has to perform mighty miracles through us. Moses would see in this vision that he would be a new Enoch, leading the righteous of his day to a new promised land. Both would perform great miracles against seemingly overwhelming forces. Moses spent 40 years preparing Israel in the wilderness before entering the promised land. Enoch worked 300 years building his promised land.

Enoch is described as both a "seer" and a "wild man" (vs. 36, 38). Just as with Enoch, other prophets have been so viewed. The angel Moroni told Joseph Smith that his name would be held for both good and ill. Many considered him an illiterate fool and fraud for the Book of Mormon, while others, like scholar Harold Bloom, considered Joseph Smith a genius for bringing forth the Book of Mormon.

Mahijah/Mahujah

In the middle of Enoch's story, we find a strange side story that for some reason was added. While in the land of Mahujah, a man named Mahijah questions Enoch (6:40; 7:2).

In his book, Enoch the Prophet, Hugh Nibley notes reading the Book of Enoch fragments in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QEnoch). As he read the last fragment, the name Mahujah jumped out at him as a person asking Enoch questions! In Aramaic, Mahujah and Mahijah are essentially the same word. The Dead Sea Scrolls help demonstrate the validity and truthfulness of the Book of Moses. I’ve yet to see any competent rejoinder from LDS critics on how Joseph Smith would have known to place Mahujah/Mahijah in a story line with Enoch. The claim of “coincidence” can only be used so many times.

Enoch’s Ascension

In Moses 6:35-36 and 7:2-4) Enoch has two major visions. In the first, Enoch beholds the Spirit World, perhaps having a similar vision of the Grand Council in heaven that Abraham had (Abraham 3). From the things revealed to him, he was called a “seer.”
In the second vision, Enoch is told to climb a mountain. Ascension stories often begin on mountain tops, including Nephi, Moses, the Brother of Jared, and the apostle John (1 Nephi 11:1, Moses 1:1, Ether 3:1, Revelation 21:10).

Ascension stories are also tied directly to the temple experience. In the LDS temple, we symbolically experience ascending into God’s presence, which is what each of these individuals sees.

Once upon the mountain, the vision began, and Enoch states, “I beheld the heaven open, and I was clothed upon with glory.”

In the ancient book, Secrets of Enoch, Enoch ascends through the many levels of heaven. Some of these levels include the physical cosmos, as Enoch describes passing by the planets and stars. However, the higher levels are actual heavens in which angels dwell. The higher the heaven, the greater the glory.

Enoch tells us:
Quote:
ON the tenth Heaven, Aravoth, I saw the appearance of the Lord's face, like iron made to glow in fire, and brought out, emitting sparks, and it burns.
2 Thus I saw the Lord's face….
4 And I fell prone and bowed down to the Lord, and the Lord with his lips said to me:
5 'Have courage, Enoch, do not fear, arise and stand before my face into eternity.'
6 And the archistratege (archangel) Michael lifted me up, and led me to before the Lord's face.
7 And the Lord said to his servants tempting them: 'Let Enoch stand before my face into eternity,' and the glorious ones bowed down to the Lord, and said: 'Let Enoch go according to Thy word.'
8 And the Lord said to Michael: 'Go and take Enoch from out his earthly garments, and anoint him with my sweet ointment, and put him into the garments of My glory.'
9 And Michael did thus, as the Lord told him. He anointed me, and dressed me, and the appearance of that ointment is more than the great light, and his ointment is like sweet dew, and its smell mild, shining like the sun's ray, and I looked at myself, and was like one of his glorious ones (Chapter 22).
In the Book of Secrets, Enoch is given a book to read. This also is a common ascension experience, when a person sees God. Lehi was given a book to read and prophesy from (1 Nephi 1:11-12), the apostle John was given a book to swallow and prophesy (Revelation 10:8-11), Isaiah was given a book to read and prophesy from (Ascension of Isaiah 9:22), Moses saw God and was given a book of 10 Commandments (Exodus 20), and Joseph Smith saw God and later was commanded to translate the ancient Book of Mormon.

God then explains the Creation story, the story of Adam and Eve, and the Fall to Enoch. This is a key experience that ties us to our understanding of God. Lehi and Nephi saw a version of this, as they learned of the Tree of Life in vision (1 Nephi 8-15). Lehi clearly explained all of it in 2 Nephi 2. Moses had the Creation revealed to him, as have many other ancient and modern prophets. Joseph Smith designed the temple endowment around the concepts of the Creation and Fall, knowing through divine means that it is intricately tied to the ancient ascensions of Enoch, Moses and others.

Enoch is given the responsibility of being God’s scribe, a position held traditionally by Metatron, one of the archangels. In the tradition, Enoch is clothed in robes of glory and given the name Metatron. He is allowed to sit down on God’s throne– normally only allowed to God, but representing God’s sharing of His divine power with Enoch. Enoch becomes a symbol of God, and equal to God in many respects. Upon returning to earth, Enoch begins to teach the children of men the things he has written down.

Interestingly, Enoch mentions this in talking with God: “Forasmuch as thou art God, and I know thee, and… thou hast made me, and given unto me a right to thy throne, and not of myself, but through thine own grace…” (Moses 7:59).


More on the Watchers

Enoch tells us more about the Watchers in the First Book of Enoch. They are a group of fallen angels who seek to destroy Adam’s children. They use all of their knowledge to cause destruction.

Still, they fear Enoch and ask him to talk to God on their behalf. Enoch returns telling them that their insincerity will do them no good.


Quote:
Before these things Enoch was hidden, and no one of the children of men knew where he was hidden, and where he abode, and what had become of him. And his activities had to do with the Watchers, and his days were with the holy ones. And I Enoch was blessing the Lord of majesty and the King of the ages, and lo! the Watchers (the righteous angels) called me -Enoch the scribe- and said to me: 'Enoch, thou scribe of righteousness, go, declare to the Watchers of the heaven who have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken unto themselves wives: "Ye have wrought great destruction on the earth: And ye shall have no peace nor forgiveness of sin: and inasmuch as they delight themselves in their children, The murder of their beloved ones shall they see, and over the destruction of their children shall they lament, and shall make supplication unto eternity, but mercy and peace shall ye not attain."' (12:1-6, see also ch 15).
The Watchers married women and the women
Quote:
“became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another's flesh, and drink the blood. Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones” (7:1-6)
.

The giants could either be mighty men or war, or as this and other traditions suggest, they were as tall as trees. Interestingly, this is also supported in the Book of Moses, where Enoch fights against the giants of his day (Moses 7:15), and later the giants attempt to assassinate Noah (Moses 8:18).

The Watchers used their secret knowledge to train mankind in the use of weapons, extravagant clothing, and to live excessively and violently (1st Enoch 8).
Enoch Builds Zion

In such a day, God prepares the world for destruction by Flood, which will be discussed in the next lesson. The preparation had to do with preparing a new land of promise, even a holy city, wherein the people of God could dwell in safety.

Enoch was an amazing missionary. He went everywhere, “save it were the people of Canaan” and call them to repentance (7:12). Why not the people of Canaan? Again, some presume they were the cursed race. But a closer reading of the Book of Moses shows that the land of Canaan/Cainan was the promised land of Enoch’s fathers. They were already righteous, and had no need to have missionaries call them to repentance (6:41). The term “Canaan” commonly was used for a group of Semitic people (not black), who lived in Moses’ day, but not in Enoch’s. Enoch could not have been referencing them as the people he did not preach to.

Over several centuries, Enoch was a thorn in the side of the Watchers and their secret combinations. In Moses 7:13-17, we see that Enoch and his righteous people were feared greatly. It was built upon the mountains, as it represented sacred space (a high place). This people, their city and the land they dwelt upon, became Zion. It was a people who had learned to live a Celestial Law, in stark contrast to the wicked individuals living in the land below.

Eventually, God took Zion up and out of the world. Why? Because the world was being prepared for the Flood. Even after Zion’s fleeing from the world, as people repented of their sins and became righteous, they would be translated and lifted up to the holy city, to receive their blessings with Enoch, and to escape the great destruction below (Moses 7:18-21).

Love one another and choose me, their Father

Just as Moses sought to see God a second time, as he had further things to inquire of him (Moses 1:18), so Enoch has more to learn, as well.

God takes Enoch into his confidence, to show him just how much power Satan had over the world. God wept as he pondered the terrible destruction he was about to send upon the earth. Interestingly, the earth also groans and weeps, as it is shown to be a living being. Enoch is at first unsure why God would be so moved by such a small thing as destruction. Remember, Enoch has destroyed armies, and experienced the fear of his enemies in mortality. The Lord explains that these are the “workmanship of mine own hands.” They are his children.

All God has asked of us is that we “should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father….” Sadly, most of the people in Enoch’s day had chosen Satan as their father, and to hate one another as they sought to get gain through their secret combinations, lust, and greed.

Enoch is wholly moved by the tender feelings of the Master. As he looked upon the true misery of mankind, he “wept and stretched forth his arms (towards them), and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook.” Enoch refused to be comforted (Moses 7:23-44). At that moment, there did not seem to be any way to save such a lost group of people. There was no hope for all those who had fallen into Satan’s snare.

Enoch Sees the Redemption

God showed Enoch the hope of mankind. The Messiah is proclaimed. Whosoever comes in through the gate, or climbs up by him “shall never fall” (Moses 7:53). Like Nephi in the Vision of the Tree of Life, Enoch sees the life and death of Christ. As Christ resurrected, many of the spirits in prison (Spirit World) also came forth. The others would await the day of judgment, but would still receive as much blessing as God could possibly give them. Through Christ, God seeks to maximize the blessings, and minimize the punishments. Even those who end up in the Telestial Kingdom, after they have suffered a time for their sins, will be redeemed in Christ in a kingdom of glory and goodness (D&C 76).

Enoch sees the world’s history, including the Restoration of the Gospel in the latter days. He sees that a new Zion will be established on the earth. Finally, he sees “even unto the end of the world; and he saw the day of the righteous, the hour of their redemption, and received a fullness of joy” (Moses 7:62-67).

Bibliography:
Conflict of Adam and Eve With Satan, Book One: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/fbe/fbe005.htm
Conflict of Adam and Eve, Book Two: The Forgotten Books of Eden Index
The First Book of Enoch (Ethiopian): Book of Enoch
The Secrets of Enoch: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/fbe/i...tm#section_002
Ascension of Isaiah: Ascension of Isaiah


On information regarding the priesthood ban:
Ardis Parshall’s lesson: Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog “The Long-Promised Day”
Website for black LDS members run by FAIR: http://www.blacklds.org/priesthood

Addendum: Later, as Enoch continues to preach, he stopped preaching to the children of Cain “for the seed of Cain were black” (Moses 7:22). The term “black” here most likely refers to their wickedness, and not their skin color. Once again, 19th century Protestant beliefs affected the modern Church’s understanding of some verses, causing them to be read in ways that, on the surface, made sense, but in depth study did not agree. The Lamanites had “skin of blackness” as a curse. Yet the American Indian does not have black skin. Once again, it suggests a deeper reading for the actual context is needed. See blacklds.org for more information on this topic.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #4

SS lesson #4 Moses 4; 5:1-15; 6:48-62

These first few lessons all run together in the same chapters, and so it is very tempting to lump them all together, or to run over one lesson and into the next. I’ll do my best to follow the lesson assignments faithfully.

Background: 

The Creation is complete. God has instructed his Only Begotten, Jesus Christ, and other divine sons to create the earth (Abraham 3:24) from materials already present. Once completed, Elohim and Jehovah (Father and Son) form man from the earth. Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, where they live in a state of complete innocence. They are only given a few commandments: to multiply and replenish the earth, and to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The war for simple agency is over, as Satan was cast out of heaven, and mankind was given agency in God’s plan. On earth, the war will be over how each individual uses that agency. This will determine who keeps their second estate (Abr 3), or earth life, and returns in glory to God.

Lesson #4

Since we discussed verses 1-4 of Moses 4 in a previous lesson, we’ll start with verse 5.

What does it mean that Eve was “beguiled”?

We find in the Book of Moses that Satan has corrupted the serpent, and chooses to use the beast for his bidding. Obviously, Satan does not just show up in the Garden, but has spent the time to see what was going on, and determine his best opportunity to destroy Adam and Eve. We see that Satan seeks also to “beguile Eve”, not because she is weaker than Adam, but as we’ll see later, she sees the world from a very different perspective than Adam. Adam is told to obey, and he does so without question. Eve considers each proposition presented to her, and determines what is best.

Was she tricked by Satan? Of course. She was still innocent and na├»ve. His sophistry was very intriguing and tempting, just as it was for the third part of the host of heaven who followed him. The difference is, the spirit children who followed Satan knew things, including the gospel plan. Eve did not know anything, so innocent that she didn’t realize she was naked. How easy is it today to trick a small child, who has yet to understand the importance of wearing clothing in public? So it was for Eve.

Lucifer first questions her (vs 7), to test her knowledge base. She responds with the correct answer, though there is no full awareness of why. Note that in Moses 3:15-25, Adam is given the commandment from the Lord to not partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is not yet formed, until AFTER the commandment is given. I would imagine, if this sequence is correct, that Adam mentioned the warning to Eve, but the command was not as impressed upon her mind by Adam, as it was on Adam by God.

The serpent explained to her that she would not die that day (which we see is true in the physical sense) and that the fruit would bring knowledge, making her as God, knowing good and evil. Still Eve did not take the serpent’s philosophy easily. She researched it, and determined that what the serpent told her was true. In verse 12, she finds that the fruit was “good for food” or that it was relatively safe to eat. It wasn’t bad looking on the breakfast table, and it was a “tree to be desired to maker her wise.”

How would it make her wise? If for no other reason in that it would taste differently than all the other fruits in the garden. It was something different to experience and experiment upon. Adam might not be interested in experiencing something new, but she was. And so she ate of the fruit. And since she was in charge of preparing breakfast, he ate of the fruit she placed on the table. Or she convinced him that choosing wisdom was better than living all alone in ignorance in the Garden.

How did the fruit open their eyes? Perhaps it was just a matter of a big difference. Imagine if all the other fruit in the garden was bland, sweet or sour. Then imagine the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was opposite taste. It would suddenly show them there is a difference, opening the door for learning. In other words, imagine if everything you ate was vanilla flavored. It wouldn’t be a bad existence, but vanilla flavored food for every meal does not provide for any sensory experience. Now, imagine one day having a chocolate, strawberry, jalapeno, or a Rocky Road ice cream. Suddenly there is a major difference in flavor. One can now appreciate the vanilla, because there is something to compare it with.

And they now notice that unlike the animals clothed in fur, they are naked. This new experience somehow gives them the drive and know-how to sew together fig leaves as aprons. Had God taught them how to sew? Did they learn to tie knots and weave by accident? It obviously was not the best sewing job, as God will prepare clothing for them.

Where Goest Thou?
When Adam and Eve hear God’s voice, they hide themselves. In Genesis, God calls to Adam asking, “Where art thou?” Here in Moses 4:15, God asks, “Where goest thou?” This suggests that God knows where Adam is, but wants to know why Adam is walking away from God, rather than towards him. Adam has, after all, heard God’s voice, and in times past would have walked to God.

In answering why they partook of the fruit, no one was anxious to admit blame. Adam blamed his wife. Eve blamed the serpent. In dishing out sanctions, God begins with the one being that is not questioned in the scriptures: the serpent. The serpent symbolizes both the snake and the devil. Traditionally, this is when the snake lost his legs and was left to slither on his belly. It is also the time when God explains the relationship between God, Satan and man. Satan would also slither on the ground as a subspecies, as man walked above the earth in the image of God.

Verse 21 has great symbolism. While the serpent would have seed that would attack people (often biting them on the heel), Satan never would have true seed. He would only have those who would choose evil over goodness, darkness over light, the dirt over the heavens. His followers would be his seed.

It is significant that the verse does not say that the serpent would have enmity with Adam’s seed. Instead, he would have enmity with the woman’s seed. Only one person has ever been born without a mortal father: Jesus Christ. While Satan would have power to bruise Jesus’ heel; Jesus would bruise or crush Satan’s head, providing salvation for all mankind.

Adam and Eve had been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. When they were innocent, they were incapable of having children, if for no other reason than that they didn’t understand. They did not realize they were naked until after partaking of the fruit. Only then were they able to realize that their bodies were different from one another and from the other animals in the Garden.

In being blessed to be the bearer of the Savior, the Lord chose to also make it a great burden for Eve and future women. Childbirth is painful, and is fraught with danger. Many women over the centuries have lost their lives in childbirth. It is painful, draining, and can be affected by a multitude of complications. This, however, is not considered a curse by God. He simply states that since Eve chose a life with knowledge, she would also have the natural consequence of pain in childbirth. When you pick up one end of a stick, you pick up the other end, as well.

For Adam, however, there was a curse. But he was cursed for his sake (verse 23). With struggle comes sorrow, bringing experience and knowledge – the exact things Adam and Eve wanted in partaking of the fruit. Adam would learn to work, fight thorns and thistles, and eventually die. There would no longer be an easy life in the Garden.

The Tree of Life
In the Garden was another tree: the Tree of Life. This great tree is the focus of many ancient cultures and religions in the Middle East, Central America, and other locations. The Tree of Life becomes a major focus for the Nephites, as both Lehi and Nephi receive a vision with the Tree in the center of all things (1 Nephi 8-15). They are both aware of the importance of the Tree of Life, as there was one in Solomon’s Temple, until it was removed during King Josiah’s reign. Lehi would have remembered the Sacred Tree in the temple of his youth. The ancient Tree of Life represented the wife of God, sometimes called Asherah. She represented wisdom, understanding and fertility – all of which point to Eve as the “mother of all living” (vs. 26). In Nephi’s vision, the tree represents Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, and the Savior is the fruit. It is an interesting study to compare Mary, the mother of Jesus, with Eve, the mother of mankind.

In verse 28, God admits that “the man is become as one of us to know good and evil” (see Genesis 3:22). Adam has taken the first step towards being like God. He is no longer forced to stay in ignorance. He has used his agency to choose between two unlikely commandments: not eat of the fruit and remain in eternal innocence, or partake of the fruit to multiply and replenish the earth.

God has not stricken anyone, except the serpent. He has just pronounced upon Adam and Eve the natural consequences of their choice.

Adam and Eve are not ready to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life. They have just disobeyed God and have brought a change to themselves. They are no longer fit to stand in God’s presence. If they remained in the Garden and ate of the fruit of the Tree of Life, they would never have a chance to repent and return to God’s presence. Therefore, they had to be tossed from the Garden.

Conflict of Adam and Eve against Satan
Early Christian texts tell interesting stories regarding Adam and Eve’s experiences once cast from the Garden. In the First book of Adam and Eve (also called: the Conflict of Adam and Eve Against Satan), Adam and Eve are cast out from the Garden. They dwell on a mountain in the Cave of Treasures. The cave becomes the first holy place on earth outside of the Garden of Eden. They experience many things, some very frightening. For example, their first sunrise terrifies them. They’ve never seen a sunrise before, because it was always light in the Garden before the Fall (chapter 16).

Often, they plead with God to return them to the Garden, but to no avail. On a few occasions, they even consider suicide as an alternative to the bleak experience they now are going through. The stark difference between the Garden of Eden and life on the mountain is sometimes overwhelming to them.

After sometime, they begin to accept the new world they live in. But they ask God for some tokens from the Garden as a blessing they can have in the Cave of Treasures. God feels for them and sends three angels to the Garden to get gold, frankincense and myrrh. When the angels (Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael – the three main archangels) come to Adam, they find Satan is with them. Satan is tossed out on his ear, and the angels give the tokens to Adam and Eve. The Lord tells Adam,


Quote:
1 …"You asked Me for something from the garden, to be comforted therewith, and I have given you these three tokens as a consolation to you; that you trust in Me and in My covenant with you.

2 For I will come and save you; and kings shall bring me when in the flesh, gold, incense and myrrh; gold as a token of My kingdom; incense as a token of My divinity; and myrrh as a token of My suffering and of My death.

3 But, O Adam, put these by you in the cave; the gold that it may shed light over you by night; the incense, that you smell its sweet savor; and the myrrh, to comfort you in your sorrow." (Ch 28-31).
Later, the Lord explains to Adam that Satan “has deprived you of the Godhead, and of an exalted state like Me, and has not kept his word to you; but has, after all, become your enemy” (ch 45:5).

Moses 5:1-15

Where did all these children come from?
Here we learn that Adam and Eve had many children prior to the birth of Cain and Abel. Except for a few commandments given in the Garden, Adam and Eve are now on their own. They do not have a fullness of the Gospel yet. They are now “shut out from his (God’s) presence” (vs. 4). They are in a fallen state.

They have many children, who also have children of their own. Their region of the world quickly becomes populated. One of the key commandments God gave Adam was to offer sacrifice, even the firstlings of the flock (vs. 5). Adam was faithful in doing this.

The fullness of the gospel
In verse 6, however, we find something interesting. “After many days,” or decades after they were cast out of the Garden, an angel comes to Adam and asks him “why are you offering sacrifice?” Adam has no idea. He’s been doing this since before his children were born, and now he has grandchildren having children. As in the Garden, Adam tries to obey simply because he was commanded.

The angel explains the fullness of the Gospel to Adam and Eve. They are sacrificing animals as a “similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.” What is “full of grace and truth”? The Father? The Only Begotten? The sacrifice? I would suggest that all three are full of grace and truth.

Christ would become the great sacrifice of all. Through him, mankind would be saved. In the Conflict of Adam and Eve Against Satan, Satan attempts to kill Adam and Eve by dropping a boulder down a mountain on top of them. God saves them by causing the boulder to turn into a cave over them. They are trapped inside for three days, as a symbol of God also being in the sepulcher for three days. In another story, Satan slays Adam as he offers sacrifice on the altar. God raises Adam from death, and tells him that His Only Begotten will be sacrificed in like manner for all mankind.

Adam and Eve prophesy
Clearly, Adam learned about the atonement of God. In Moses 5:9, Adam and Eve are filled with the Holy Ghost and prophesy.

One can see that their perspective on life has not changed much since the Garden. Adam focuses on how the atonement affects him: “because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (vs. 10). He sees the joy he will receive in the resurrection and in this life, because of hope in Christ’s atonement. The Fall, though difficult, was a good thing, because it allowed for the atonement to save Adam.

Eve sees things from her perspective as a mother: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (vs. 11). She sees how the atonement will affect both Adam and her, as well as their posterity.

While much of Christianity condemns Adam and Eve for the Fall, LDS have the perspective that it was necessary. They could not have had children/seed while in their innocent state. They could not have left that state without first falling from God’s presence. With the Fall, the Atonement, which was planned before the creation of the world, could be put in effect for all.

Plan of Salvation

Adam and Eve seek to share the fullness of the gospel with their grown children. Sadly, many listen to Satan, who taught them to not believe in Christ’s atonement. But the Lord also called upon people through the Holy Ghost to repent and believe.

The plan of salvation is based upon 4 key points: Have Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance (vs. 15), Baptism for remission of sins, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost (6:51-61). Nephi and Jesus Christ called this the “doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11).

It is that as we develop faith in Christ, we will desire to repent/change our lives. As we do this, we seek to be born again in Christ, which is done by immersion in water (also represented by the sacrament communion). Finally, we are changed by the Holy Ghost, which fills us from within with a greater infusion of spirituality and righteousness.

Because of transgression, whether Adam’s or our own, comes a fall from innocence and God’s presence. The fall brings death, both physical and spiritual death. And even as we had to be physically born into this earth by water, blood and spirit; so we will have to be born again. The water (baptism) opens the gate to the kingdom of heaven. Christ’s blood cleanses us in the atonement. The Holy Spirit purifies us and makes us holy (Moses 6:59).

In Christ’s blood, we are sanctified, or made clean. The Holy Spirit justifies us, or makes us just/holy. The water represents our portion of the covenant – keeping the commandments through faith on Christ (vs. 60).

This is not something we do just once. It is a cycle. As we develop faith and repent, Christ’s atoning blood cleanses us. We can be baptized or partake of the sacrament as a covenant that we will accept Jesus’ atonement and follow him through faith. The Holy Ghost then becomes our companion, justifying us and establishing us as righteous to the level we have become righteous.
As we seek to more closely follow Jesus, we feel the need to repent of additional things. He then cleanses us again, and we are endowed with spiritual power to live even a higher way of life in Christ. As Jesus prayed to the Father, that his disciples may be one, even as Jesus and God are one (John 17), and that as followers, we may become one with Jesus.

As LDS we believe that Christ fully paid for Adam’s original sin (vs. 54). We will all resurrect and all will stand again before God, because of Christ’s atonement (Alma 11-12). The wicked will be judged, and will not want to stand in His presence, and so will be sent elsewhere. But Christ’s atonement will have paid for Adam’s sin, so that none will forever have to suffer because of it.

Man of Holiness
In Moses 6:57, we find out that God is called, “Man of Holiness.” This explains Jesus’ title of Son of Man (of Holiness). It also explains better our relationship with God. We are made in “his image” (Genesis 1:26-27). It would not do for God to create us in his image, if we did not look like his image. We are his children, because he is our Father. Jesus taught us to call God, “Father” for a reason. The Savior understood our true nature and role as God’s spirit children. Jesus understood that, as Adam and Eve did, we would all fall from God’s grace and presence. And He understood that only through His great and infinite sacrifice could we be brought back into God’s presence and be like Him.

Because we all fall, we know good from evil. And because of our personal falling, we all become agents unto ourselves (vs. 56, see also 2 Nephi 2). Only in experiencing a fallen state, can we realize how much we need the atonement of Christ. King Benjamin stated that because of our fallen state, we are less than the dust (Mosiah 2-4), yet we are also sons of God, because Christ has redeemed us.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help with the Haiti disaster

Here's the LDS Church's statement on how to assist:

SALT LAKE CITY |13 January 2010| The Church released the following statement this morning regarding the earthquake in Haiti:
We express our sympathy and prayers on behalf of the citizens of Haiti following the recent devastating earthquake. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is immediately shipping humanitarian relief, including personal hygiene kits and supplies for newborns. Efforts are underway to determine further humanitarian response in coordination with government and disaster relief organizations. Donations for relief efforts can be made at http://give.lds.org/emergencyresponse.
All missionaries serving in the country are safe, and we continue efforts to account for Church members in the area. 
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The LDS Church does not charge for their services in disaster relief.  100% of your donation will go to the Haiti relief.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

LDS Gospel Doctrine Class - Old Testament #3

Lesson #3 Moses 1:26-42; 2-3, Abr 4-5

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #3, Moses 1:26-42; 2-3; Abraham 4-5

Background:
Moses has recently seen God face to face, then struggled with Satan. He told Satan he had other things to inquire of God, and he believes he will get that opportunity. Because of his faithfulness, he is now worthy to have greater things revealed to him concerning the Creation. In verse 26 of Moses 1, we see that Moses has not yet gone back to Egypt to retrieve Israel, but receives his call to do so. Moses is in God’s glory and hears his voice.

Moses 1:27-42
Moses looks and beholds the earth from atop the high mountain. With spiritual eyes, he is able to discern all of it, even every little particle. We can ponder just what size particles Moses was able to view: did he see particles the size of sand, or even smaller? Atoms or subatomic particles? Would Moses have understood particles that small, given that such science wasn’t available in his day to understand such small things?

The prophet then sees the inhabitants of the earth in his day. Estimates of world population from 1000 to 2000 BC are between 35 and 50 million inhabitants. This truly would have seemed as numerous as the “sand upon the seashore.”

At this point, Moses asks God the why and how of Creation. God then appears to Moses, and the prophet sees Jesus face to face. Such an experience requires “the glory of the Lord” to be upon a person. The individual is transfigured, his body is changed temporarily so as to be able to withstand the level of glory he is about experience. After Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon viewed the vision of the kingdoms of heaven (D&C 76), Sidney was exhausted and pale. Joseph smiled and stated that Sidney was not used to such glory as Joseph was. One must learn to adjust and adapt to glory, so that one becomes comfortable in the presence of angels and God. For us today, we have the temple experience to help us become accustomed to a higher glory. When we enter the temple, we are changed, even if slightly, as we feel the Spirit move within us and raise us to a higher state. Many temple goers can note how they feel differently when within the temple, and can then feel the loss after they reenter the world afterward.

God tells Moses that it is for his own purpose that the earth and man have been made. What is that purpose? Moses 1:39 tells us, “this is MY work and MY GLORY, to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man.” As mentioned in a previous lesson, God is the “most moved mover.” His glory comes from creating and bringing structure out of chaos (more on that later), and in creating sentient beings who can share in the glories, knowledge, and joys of God.

In verse 32, God tells us that it is by his Word, even his Only Begotten that all things are done. In some way we do not understand, the Power and Atonement of Christ reaches all the way back into the premortal existence and the Creation of the world. God has created “worlds without number” – an amazing statement given how little was understood in Moses’ or Joseph Smith’s time concerning the cosmos. Since the early 20th century, we’ve understood that there is more than one galaxy. While mankind has speculated concerning planets outside our solar system, we’ve only begun finding them in the last 20 years. Our galaxy has 100-300 billion stars in it. There are multitudes of galaxies, estimates are over 100 billion galaxies. Given our sun has 8 planets and several dwarf planets circling it, imagine multiplying that number across our galaxy alone, much less all galaxies! Clearly the Lord was correct when he stated there were worlds without numbers.

In verse 34, the Lord states: “And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.” We know this is true of our world, but does this also apply to all other worlds as well? Was the first spirit child/mortal man placed upon an earth, also called “Adam”? In Hebrew, the word Adam means “red” or “man.” A similar root word is Adamah, which means “earth.” So we get a word play on whom Adam was: man made from the red earth.

Of God’s creations, they are continually in flux. Things are created and destroyed constantly. This idea was uncommon in the past, as most thought the heavens were solid and unchanging. Modern science has shown us just how wild the universe can be: super novas, galaxies colliding, stars collapsing into quasars or black holes, etc. Yet, with all the seeming chaos, there is still an order to all things. This order comes from the “light of Christ”:

Quote:
▼ 6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
▼ 7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
▼ 8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
▼ 9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
▼ 10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
▼ 11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
▼ 12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— (D&C 88).
It is by the Light of Christ that all things are organized, given life and structure. Regardless of whether it is a planet’s course, or a newborn’s first breath, it is all directed by the Light that comes from the presence of God. The second of the laws of thermodynamics states that closed systems tend towards entropy, or disorder/chaos. While this law tends true in most instances, God’s light of Christ is able to bring order out of chaos, as we see in the Creation.

Moses asks in verse 36 to not only know of the earth and its people, but of the heavens. God must reject his request, because while Moses has been transfigured to stand in God’s presence, he is still not able to bear all of God’s glory. To see all God’s creations means Moses would have to bear all of God’s glory, as well. In visiting our earth, God must withhold some of his glory, otherwise mankind could not remain in the flesh.

In the early Jewish/Christian text, Ascension of Isaiah , Isaiah sees Jesus descend through the levels of heaven, reducing his glory to a level those in each heaven can bear. We see that with Moses, the Lord has also had to reduce his glory, as Moses does not experience God’s full glory – otherwise he could not remain in the flesh.

The Creation
The Lord commands Moses to write down the vision he is to receive of the Creation. With Genesis 1-2, Moses 2-3, and Abraham 4-5, we have several varying accounts of the Creation.
Many LDS authors have suggested that the difference between Genesis 1 and 2 is that one is a spiritual creation, while the other was the actual physical creation. We definitely see such an event in Abraham. Many scholars, however, believe the difference lies in what is known as the Documentary Hypothesis. The Documentary Hypothesis was formed in the 19th century by German scholars. In studying the Old Testament texts, they determined that our current Bible came through several authors and redactors (editors). The various authors who affected the books of the Moses are known by the following names (Yahwist – J, Elohist – E, Priestly – P, Deuteronomist – D, and Redactor – R). There are good articles and books on these, so I won’t go into depth here, but refer you to the following:
Wikipedia article: Documentary hypothesis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kevin Barney’s LDS discussion on DH: B

The concept is that while Moses may have originally written things down, the oral history continued among the Israelites for centuries, until it was written down by J and E. These were eventually combined and enhanced by P and D. Finally, Ezra the Redactor put it all together in one final series of books. Genesis 1 and 2 end up being two separate Creation stories that represented key components of faith from two of the groups’ (J and P) main views.

Given that all of the Creation accounts, including the temple’s version, have key differences, it is very likely that at least portions of the accounts given us are allegorical. God DID create the earth, but gave us a somewhat symbolic story from which we can gain greater understanding on how God creates and works with his children. Considering that so much creation is covered in just a few verses, lots of details are left out. We cannot tell just how long a “Day” is from the accounts. Were they 24 hours long each, or millions of years each? When Jehovah created the earth, did we help? Or did we stand by and watch? If we did assist, were we able to wave a hand and create entire mountain ranges? Or did we create each flower petal by hand, one at a time?

Creation Ex Nihilo
Unlike most of the rest of Christianity, LDS do not believe God created the earth from nothing (creation ex nihilo). Rather, we believe God formed the earth from matter that already existed. In Moses 2:2, we see that the earth is, but it has no form and is void (empty). The reference to God causing darkness or his Spirit to come upon the waters references an ancient Sumerian belief that God initially had to defeat the great Sea Serpent, Leviathan, in order to bring order to the seas, which were in chaos. Only then was God able to bring greater order to the world (see Job 41:1, Psalms 74:14, Isaiah 27:1).

The Creation is based upon the concept that the earth is in the center of the universe. The model shows the waters being divided between the earth’s center and in the skies or heavens directly above the earth.

Creation of the dry lands is part of bringing order to the void. Once the waters are controlled, the lands can then be organized. Interestingly, in a latter-day revelation, the Lord told Joseph Smith that Satan had power over the waters – a direct tie to the chaos Satan wishes to bring to the world (D&C 61:19).

The Church’s stance on Evolution
Continuing the organization, plants and animals are designed and formed on the earth. These bring greater order from the chaos. Some today argue as to what it meant to create animals and plants that would multiply in their own “kind.” Some mistakenly think this means “species.” We have to be careful not to confuse modern views with ancient ideas. God can form and re-form things as often as he wishes. The Church has no official stance on evolution, as the Lord has not clarified the issue. Some General Authorities have given their opinions regarding evolution in the past, but we see them on both sides of the issue. Elders B.H. Roberts and James Talmage were both open to the idea of evolution. Elders Joseph F. Smith and Bruce R. McConkie were against evolution. The Church stated that the Lord has not specifically stated its position.

Made In God’s Image
Perhaps one of the greatest issues made in the scriptures as regarding man’s relationship with God is found in Genesis 1:26-27 (see Moses 2:26-27). God and Christ made man and woman in their image. Many Christians do not understand this. The concept of Trinity means that God has no shape nor image. There are just representations in art, but the true Trinity has no shape. As described by some Christians, God is large enough to fill the universe, yet small enough to fit in one’s heart. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), the Trinity does not have “body, parts and passions”.

But for the LDS, one of the biggest revelations is that we ARE made of the same stuff as God. We literally are his spirit children, having been created by him prior to this earth. He and Jesus created us in their image, meaning God has a body with parts and passions. What does it mean to be “in his image?” It means that ours looks like his. Granted, God’s body is glorified, and ours is not. Joseph Smith learned that all things are made of matter. Even spirit is made of matter (D&C 93, 88). God is made of the same stuff we are, because he made us from the same stuff he is made of. We are literally his children, and that concept helps us to understand a great paradox: we really are less than the dust of the earth (Mosiah 2-4), yet are God’s greatest creation (Moses 1:39). We come to be proven on this earth (Abraham 3) so that we can go from being just a smattering of matter to God’s masterpiece.

Spiritual Creation
Moses 3:5-7 teaches us that before the physical creation, there was a spiritual creation. Abraham 4-5 expands on this concept. The Great Council is convened, whereupon the “great and noble ones” have gathered with the title of “gods.” This is the Divine Council from ancient Hebrew and Semitic lore, where the sons of Elohim are gathered to be gods in training. They have planned the earth spiritually, with Elohim and Jehovah as the leaders of the group.

Interestingly, the Gods in Abraham’s account use different terminology. In verse 3, the Gods command “Let there be light”, and there was light, but then notes that they “comprehended the light, for it was bright.” There was a learning process for many of the Gods, who had yet to experience physical creation.

In issuing commands, we see that things did not necessarily come to order immediately. Verse 10 notes “and the Gods saw that they were obeyed” suggesting that perhaps they waited to be obeyed, or to see if they would be obeyed! Verse 18 makes this idea even stronger: “And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.” It isn’t until the creatures are formed that the Gods were certain “that their plan was good” (vs 21).

The Work is Finished

With the work completed, God rests (Moses 3:1-3). He blesses the 7th day and sanctifies it. Why? What makes his day of rest more significant than the days in which he created? And how does this apply to us?
For mankind, a day of rest can be a special event. It allows us time to reflect, relax our minds momentarily from the mundane efforts of our own creations, and focus upon the things that matter most. It allows us to pause and consolidate our thoughts. I find in my own life that moments of quiet rest are needed after a busy and noisy period of work, just so my mind can restructure itself.

Once, Joseph Smith was chewed out by a member for playing with kids, rather than acting like a prophet on all occasions. He told the story of an English Duke, who upon returning from hunting in the forest, saw the wisest man in the land sitting under a tree, whittling on a piece of wood, and whistling a silly tune. The duke chastised the wise man, telling him he should be off thinking of important things. The wise man paused momentarily, then asked the duke if he always kept his bowstring taut. The duke said he didn’t, because the string would eventually lose its elasticity. The wise man said, so it is with the mind, if I don’t let it relax on occasion, it will lose its elasticity.

Of course, we need to ensure we focus our day of rest on true spiritual rest. We live in a day where many people seek to entertain themselves even when they should be creating.

The key point of learning about the Creation, in my opinion, isn’t that the Creation was necessarily done in this manner (as each Creation story differs somewhat), but that it shows God in his element, doing his great work. And given we are his spirit children; we need to learn to busy ourselves in the creation process, as well. We need to learn what he knows, then apply it to making the world around us a better place. Do we work solely so we can buy things to entertain ourselves with? Or do we seek to create beauty? What have we done recently that we could then look at and declare it “good”?

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Man and woman are formed and placed in the Garden of Eden. Within the Garden are two special trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve are created in innocence. They do not understand good or evil, even as they do not understand that they are naked. There is nothing for them to compare with their current state of existence.

When woman is formed, the Biblical tradition is that she was made/formed from Adam’s rib. Several General Authorities have stated that this was allegorical. The woman was not literally made from Adam’s rib, but it is a symbol that man and woman were once united in God, and must learn to be one again in God. Just as man was pure and innocent in the Garden, we must seek to return to the purity of the Garden again in our own lives.

Eden was designed as a holy place, a sacred space. It was where Adam and Eve could stand in the presence of God and be like him. In the next lesson, we’ll discuss the Fall, how it was necessary for mankind, and how we must all strive to return to the sacred space God prepares for us.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

LDS Gospel Doctrine Class - Old Testament #2

SS#2 Abraham 3, Moses 4:1-4 - The Great Council in Heaven

Background:

Abraham prepares to enter into Egypt during a severe drought. The Lord will command him to tell the Egyptians that Sara is his sister (a true statement, as she was his niece, which in those days was considered a sister). Sara will go through a test of faith, being approached on various occasions by Pharaoh, but kept safe by God's power, until it is revealed to Pharaoh what Sara's true nature is. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians.

Abraham has proven himself worthy of God by his faithfulness when the Priest of On attempted to sacrifice him. Though far outside of Egypt, the reach of Pharaoh extended as far as Ur of the Chaldees. He not only prays for God to save him, he insists on being saved by Yahweh himself (represented in papyri fragment #1 as the bird).

The Lord prepares Abraham for his entrance into Egypt by teaching him about the Creation of the heavens and of the premortal Great Council in Heaven. This becomes Abraham's endowment as he enters the presence of the Lord.

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Moses' vision of Creation and the Great Council - part of his temple endowment - continues.

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The Lesson

Abraham 3

What is a Urim and Thummim?

In verse #1, Abraham begins by stating he has possession of a Urim and Thummim. Literally, Urim and Thummim means "Lights and Innocence" or "Lights and Perfection." Urim and Thummim - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Book of Mormon tells us that the Urim and Thummim, or Interpreters, are given for the translation of ancient records. Also,


Quote:
"13 ...no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.
14 And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.
15 And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet.
16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God."
Doctrine and Covenants 130 tells us that the earth will become a Urim and Thummim through which those who look into it will see the truths of the lower kingdoms. Each celestial being will also be given a personal Urim and Thummim (white stone) through which they can see the truths of the higher kingdom. This is accessed through the new name, which is the "keyword" or password. Joseph Smith, in essence, described the first computer (including password protection, and access to the heavenly Internet).

Kolob and Einstein

We must realize that the modern concept of the cosmos did not come about until after Joseph Smith's day. Edwin Hubble announced in 1925 the concept of more than one galaxy. To have such a concept of planets/stars "ruling" over other planets and stars was not understood in Joseph Smith's day. In his day, the galaxy was not well understood. Distances were not known, as the concept of red shift/blue shift was not discovered by Doppler until 1842. This concept was first used in 1848 to determine the movement of stars. The earliest use of the term "red shift" in print came in 1908, and it was in the 20th century that red shift became very useful in understanding distances and time in space.

Abraham (and Joseph Smith) foresaw the structure of the universe. Planets are governed by planets/stars in higher orbits around other planets/stars. Interestingly, Einstein taught that time and space are the same, and that the speed of an item changes time (the closer to light speed an item travels, the slower time goes). So we find out from Abraham that Kolob has a different "reckoning" than earth does. Kolob is NOT where God dwells, as some anti-Mormon websites claim, but it is a governing planet near God's heaven.

Comparing our earth's time with Kolob, we see that one day on Kolob is equal to 1000 years on earth. Kolob, then, must be traveling nearer to the speed of light than the earth is. The earth travels 67,000 mph, while the speed of light is almost 670 million mph. Given that such concepts were discovered in the early 20th century, it is then amazing to find such concepts referenced by Abraham almost a century before by Joseph Smith:

"Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God" (vs 9). We can then possibly believe that God dwells at or near the speed of light.

Interestingly, the moon is considered to be on a higher plane of existence than the earth. This may partially be due to the ancient belief of the earth being at the center of the universe. Whether literally or figuratively believed, it helps to create an understanding of the cosmos well beyond what the Egyptians understood.

Abraham's Endowment

This is Abraham's theophany (seeing God face to face) and endowment. He approaches the throne of God after seeing the cosmos/heavens. Many religions do not understand this, but the ancients viewed the cosmos as a literal part of the heavens. Whether we read 1 Enoch or other ancient cosmological/theophanies, most show the planets and constellations as a portion of the literal heavens of God. This fits in with LDS cosmology, where we believe the earth will some day become a part of the Celestial realm, while other planets will be in the lower telestial or terrestrial realms.

To see God "face to face" is the highest of all revelations. Moses 1 displays his theophany and the beginning of his endowment. Both endowments include the creation of the cosmos and of the earth. Today, Latter-day Saints practice entering into God's presence in the Celestial Room of the temple; preparing us for the day when we will have this literal and personal experience.

Part of his endowment is the promise and covenant made to him. The Abrahamic covenant is: "I will multiply thee, and thy seed after thee, like unto these; and if thou canst count the number of sands, so shall be the number of thy seeds" (vs 14). Abraham is receiving God's greatest promise, to have eternal seed and increase.

In the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (D&C 84:33-42), we read how we tie in to the Abrahamic covenant: "34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God." Those who receive the servants of God, those holding the priesthood authority, receive Christ. And those who receive Christ will be presented before the Father by Jesus. At that point, God will give all he has to the faithful: which includes godhood and eternal increase. As God has created worlds without number, so shall we.

Cosmological Structure

As mentioned before, Abraham is shown the structure of the galaxies. Planets are governed by planets/stars, which in turn are governed by other planets/stars, until you get near the throne of God. In our solar system, 8 planets, several dwarf planets, comets and asteroids all revolve around the Sun. Our Sun revolves around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, consisting of about 100 billion stars. Our solar system is situated on the outer edge of one of the galaxy's arms (the Orion Arm). The Milky Way Galaxy belongs to a "local group" or cluster of galaxies that includes the Andromeda galaxy. Galaxies move about the expanding universe. At the center of most galaxies is a quasar or black hole, around which all other planets and stars in the galaxy revolve.

Along the entire way, we see structure that organizes stars and planets. And this structure is also described to Abraham:
Quote:
"16 If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me.
17 Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it; and there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it."
Not only are the cosmos so arranged, but so are spirits:
Quote:
"19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all."
The glory of God is intelligence. The term "intelligence" takes on a few meanings in LDS parlance.

Intelligence = Knowledge. We cannot be saved in ignorance. We can only take a few things with us after we leave this world, and one of them is the knowledge we gain. We learn in D&C 130 that whatever individual gains more intelligence in this life than another will have that much more the advantage in the next life. If we look at this life as just one part of an eternal living, we can see that the person who takes the time to learn in this life will have less to learn in the Spirit World, and possibly also in the heavens.

Intelligence = Spirit. Abraham 3 describes that God is surrounded by the "organized" intelligences, and calls them spirits.

There are some (including me) who hold to the theory that intelligence is matter that is filled with the light of Christ, which light fills all of space. Particles are intelligence. An atom of hydrogen and an atom of oxygen each have special properties, qualities and capabilities. Yet, if you combine hydrogen and oxygen together, you get H2O/water, which has all new properties that neither of the individual atoms had alone. Thus, God organizes/forms things with the power of the Light of Christ, giving greater intelligence to matter. Eventually, intelligence can be formed into sentient and individualized beings called spirits. Spirits can then be organized on higher levels, first with a mortal body, then later with an immortal body.

Intelligence = Light and Truth. In D&C 93 and 88, we read that intelligence is light and truth, and that intelligence cannot be created nor unmade. The Light of Christ fills all of space, giving order to all things. Through the light of Christ, the planets remain in their orbits and natural law works as it does. We exist as sentient beings because of this light. The Savior stated that "the light of the body is the eye, if, therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, they whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23 and 3 Ne 13:22-23). To Joseph Smith, the Lord explained, "And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings....And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things" (D&C 88:11, 67).

In other words, there is a big connection on how the stars, planets, and we are governed and given power/life.

The Great Council of Heaven

Prior to the Creation, there was a gathering to plan our earthly progress. The Lord showed Abraham that he stood in the midst of the "noble and great" spirits/organized intelligences. This suggests that not all spirits were involved in the planning of the earth, but Abraham was.

In early Jewish and Semitic beliefs is found the concept of the Divine Council. It is found scattered throughout the Old Testament. There are many great articles on the Internet concerning the Divine Council. It was headed up by Elohim/El Elyon (God Almighty). He had many divine sons, including Jehovah/Yahweh. Elohim divided up the earth among his sons, so that they could rule and reign over various nations. Jehovah was given Israel, the crown jewel of the nations, as his inheritance.

Not all the divine sons were as true and powerful as Jehovah, but some attempted to overthrow one another. In the land of Canaan, Yam was overthrown by Baal. The Lord Jehovah told Israel when this occurred that "there are before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me" (Isaiah 43:10). He was their first and only God, Alpha and Omega. But he did have challenges. In Job chapter 1, we see that Satan (literally, "Adversary") and other sons of God went to challenge him and his authority over Israel. How best to do that? Challenge his truest believer in Israel: Job.



God's Plan of Salvation

In Abraham's vision of the Divine Council, we see that the earth is planned and organized. Heavenly Father's plan for his spirit children is set forth: all will come to the formed earth and be tried to see if they will be faithful. Only one plan is ever really considered. The only issue brought up is: "Whom shall I send?" Or, who shall be the Savior of mankind?

Two individuals offer their services. The first, "like unto the Son of Man", or Jesus Christ/Jehovah volunteers. Lucifer also volunteers. God the Father selects Jesus. There is no voting for plans or Saviors. What happens is spirits voted with their feet. Lucifer and those who followed him chose rebellion over obedience. Revelation 12:4 tells us that the dragon "drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth." John continues: "7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."

Satan and his devils were spirit children of God, who lost their inheritance. Some would say that Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers. This is not true. At one point, Jesus and Lucifer were created by God as His spirit children. But when Lucifer chose to
rebel, he lost his place as a son of God, shunned and cast out for eternity. All familial relations were cut off for eternity.

In detailing God's plan, Jesus told the spirits that "We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever" (Abr 3:24-25).

The First Estate is the premortal existence. Those who accepted God's plan and Christ as Savior kept their first estate. However, Satan "was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him" (Abr 3:28). They will never have a real earth experience, gain a body, have real agency and choice, nor have the opportunity to gain all God's blessings in the eternities. Jesus explained that those who kept their second estate, or earth life, would have eternal blessings.

This has two components to it. First, those in this life who accept Christ as Savior, regardless of their level of faithfulness, will eventually receive a kingdom of Glory. There are three main levels of heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-4, D&C 76). Prior to resurrection, either in mortality, or during the period prior to resurrection called the Spirit World, a person has to accept the atonement of Christ, in order to be saved and receive a kingdom of glory. The level of faith and repentance given by a person will determine the level of glory one receives. The highest level of heaven, the Celestial Kingdom, is the second component, wherein a person can receive a fulness of God's glory, called exaltation or eternal life. This is given to those who are valiant in their testimony of Jesus Christ (D&C 76).

Moses sees Satan's Apostate Plan of Salvation

Shifting to the Book of Moses 4:1-4, the Lord shows to Moses the Divine Council. In it, God presents his plan, and Jesus offers to be Savior: "But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever" (Moses 4:2). While God asked, "whom shall I send?", he had already decided his "Chosen"from the beginning.


He explains to Moses who Satan really is, as Moses has just struggled with the devil (Moses 1).

"That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor" (Moses 4:1).

In dissecting this statement, we can consider some important issues. First, Lucifer is not giving another plan, but rather is offering to replace God's plan. This plan suggests he will save everyone - a completely universal salvation, where none are lost. Such a plan requires forcing people to be saved. Freedom of choice is replaced with security. Instead of three levels of heaven and Outer Darkness for people to choose, there will be a one-size-fits-all salvation. For 1/3 of the host of heaven, this was tempting. God's plan included tests. Abraham heard the Lord say they would all be "proved" to see where they would end up. Satan was not requiring any trials, temptations, or tests. All would be saved. Period. Such security is tempting even today, as many people here in mortality prefer government security over individual freedom. Satan would offer us vanilla ice cream, regardless of whether anyone wanted chocolate or strawberry (or Rocky Road).

What wasn't understood by Satan's crew is that Christ DID offer security in conjunction with the test. All would be saved in a kingdom of heaven, except for those who totally rejected and rebelled against the plan of God.

In 2 Nephi 2, Lehi explains that opposition is necessary "in all things" so that we have agency. For us to learn and grow, we must have opposition and choices. Without exercise, muscles grow flabby. Without effort and risk of falling, children cannot learn to walk or run. Without trials, we could not learn to be like God. Because I am a parent, I understand in a small way what it must be like for God as parent. Because I have suffered loss, I know in a small way how God feels when he must destroy. Later in the Book of Moses, Enoch will see God weep, because he has to destroy the earth by Flood. While some Christians believe that God is the "unmoved mover", Mormons believe God is the "Most Moved Mover."

In Moses 1:39, God tells us, "This is MY work and MY Glory, to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man." God receives his glory through exalting his children. He wants them to be, even as He is. The scriptures and early Christian Fathers are clear that mankind was meant to be "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:7).

But we could not learn to be like God without opposition. Satan's plan would have left us as little more than saved servants. Since we would not be able to be like God under Satan's plan, Lucifer recommended that he replace God as King of Heaven.

"12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 12:12-20).

While Isaiah directed this statement at the Kings of Babylon (Nimrod/Nebuchadnezzar**), it definitely also symbolized what occurred before the earth was formed. The stars of God and congregation of the north were the Divine Council, or spirit children of Elohim.

Only under God's plan could we have a fullness of joy. "Adam fell that men might be (bringing opposition into the world), and men are that they might have joy" (2 Ne 2:25), as compared to Satan, who "seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (2 Ne 2:27).

As mentioned, Lucifer's plan was not voted upon. Abraham shows us that God chose his own plan and Jesus as Savior. Angered because his plan was not even considered (but probably planning to rebel even with a hearing), Lucifer starts a war in heaven. He and his angels are cast out and become Satan and his devils.

"And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice" (Moses 4:4). God uses Satan's temptations to try us in this earth. Unintentionally, Satan became a key part of our exaltation, as he provides much of the opposition we need to learn and grow up to be like our Heavenly Father.



**Nimrod is traditionally known as the king who built the Tower of Babel, a tower to overthrow God's heaven. Nebuchadnezzar (600 BC) sought to rebuild the great tower and be the second Nimrod.


Additional Reading:

Book of Abraham Project - The Book of Abraham Project®

Kerry Shirt, the Backyard Professor's articles on the Book of Abraham Papyri - The Backyard Professor: Egyptological Analysis

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

LDS Gospel Doctrine Class - Old Testament #1

In LDS Sunday School classes everywhere this year the focus is on the Old Testament. I thought I'd give my thoughts on each class, week by week. The first few lessons include information from the Books of Moses and Abraham, latter-day scripture revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith, which give us greater insight into the Creation.

Sunday School Lesson #1
Book of Moses 1- This Is my Work & Glory

Read the assignment here: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/moses/1
You can read/download the Teacher and Student's manuals here.


- Background
The children of Israel were in bondage to the Egyptians. Israel had been without a prophet for centuries. While slavery kept them separated from their captors, they were heavily influenced by Egyptian culture and religion. Moses was raised in Egyptian tradition, fleeing the land for killing an Egyptian soldier when he was 40 years old.
For the next several decades, Moses would live as a Midianite.
In receiving his prophetic call and leading Israel to freedom, Moses would only see God in a burning bush.
His understanding of the gospel was limited, because he did not know the Creation story, or of Adam and Eve. Nor did Moses yet understand man's true nature and relationship with God.

-Sacred Space
It is in this context that Moses is "caught up into an exceedingly high mountain" (Moses 1:1). Any time in scripture a prophet is on a mountain, you can be assured he is going to have a sacred experience. The mountain represents sacred space, a temple setting, the Mountain or House of God, where man can ascend into God's presence. This is exactly what happens with Moses. In verse 2, he "saw God face to face."

This is a new experience for the prophet. Prior to this event he has only seen a burning bush. Now he must be transfigured, so Moses "could endure His presence" (vs 2).

Jehovah speaks to man face to face. Through the principle of Divine Investiture (also see Wikipedia Divine Investiture). Jesus appears and speaks on behalf of God the Father. Moses is brought back into the presence of God/Christ in what would resemble our temple endowment today - the focus of the endowment is to bring people back into God's presence (also see D&C 84:6-25).

In verse 3-6, God establishes what the relationship is between the two. He is Endless, while Moses is his son and in "similitude of the Only Begotten." Moses has not anticipated the extent of God's creations. Previously, Hebrews believed that Yahweh/Jehovah was the God of the nation of Israel, but no more. Suddenly, Moses now has to take into account that Yahweh is creator of all things on earth and in the cosmos. When God's Presence (a name for Yahweh - Angel of the Lord's Presence) departs from Moses, he realizes how little man is. Moses has seen the splendors of Egypt as a stepson of Pharaoh. Now he sees how little the pyramids and statues really are when compared to God's great creations (vs 10).

Moses' experience is similar to Joseph Smith's First Vision, where after seeing the divine, he is left with no strength. Obviously, being transfigured takes a lot out of a physical body.

Satan then shows up. He demands Moses to worship him, as Lucifer claims to be the Only Begotten. Satan refuses to believe he is not the real Messiah, and steps in to offer his version of salvation to Moses. Imagine what would have happened to the thousands of Israelites had their prophet turned to worshiping a new god. But Moses can contrast the experiences. He knew what it was like to be transfigured, and that while he recognizes Satan is powerful, it doesn't compare to God's power. It requires 4 times for Moses to get Lucifer to depart, and that by calling upon the name of the Only Begotten to do it.

Interestingly, Moses anticipates seeing God again: " I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me" (vs 18). Moses seeks information from God. I wonder how often we lose out on receiving personal revelation, because like Laman and Lemuel, we don't bother asking God nor seeking his answers.

Moses returns into God's presence, and God begins answering his queries, showing him the creation of the earth and the inhabitants upon it. Then God shows him he has other creations and worlds. He introduces the concept of Adam as first man, and begins the introduction of the following chapters. Moses begins his endowment.

God explains his work, which is tied to the creations of the many worlds and heavens: "this is my work and glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (vs 39). Moses had realized how little man is, and now sees that all this giant work was done FOR man. Key parts of man's immortality and eternal life would be accomplished by the Only Begotten. But the Creation, which will be discussed over the next few weeks in Gospel Doctrine, will show that without the Creation and the Fall, there would be little need for an atonement.