Thursday, January 07, 2010

LDS Gospel Doctrine Class - Old Testament #2

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


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.

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

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,

"13 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:
"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:
"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

1 comment:

rameumptom said...

An addendum, something I was going to include originally, but I forgot, is in Isaiah 6.

Here, Isaiah has a theophany. He sees God the Father on his throne, with the seraphim (mighty and noble angels) surrounding the throne. They are making big plans when Isaiah shows up.

Isaiah realizes he is not worthy to be a part of this Grand/Divine Council, and proclaims woe on himself, due to his unclean lips. One of the seraphim, perhaps Jesus Christ (as the Angel of the Presence of God), takes coals from the holy incense fire and cleanses Isaiah's lips. Isaiah is now clean to be present before the Council.

Just as in the premortal council in Abraham 3, God asks "Whom shall I send?" Who will be the one who is sent to deliver the message of salvation? Reminiscent of Jesus' acceptance of his divine call, Isaiah responds and is chosen for the task.