Tuesday, December 31, 2013

OT #2: "Thou Wast Chosen Before Thou Wast Born"

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #2: “Thou Wast Chosen Before Thou Wast Born.”

You can read my rather extensive 2010 Old Testament lesson #2 here: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/01/lds-gospel-doctrine-class-old-testament_07.html 

The lesson focuses on the Book of Abraham 3, and the Book of Moses 4:1-4. Both are “translations” from Joseph Smith, wherein the term “translation” is used differently than we use it today. Joseph often used extant texts or items to as catalysts to receive revelation. In studying the Bible, he received a revelation on the Creation that we now have as the Book of Moses. In studying an ancient (2oo AD) Egyptian papyrus that we now know included portions of the sensen or Book of Breathings, Joseph received what we now have as the Book of Abraham.

The Premortal Existence
The concept that God was not alone prior to earth can be a stunning revelation to many Jews and Christians. The concept of God creating everything from nothing (creation ex nihilo) has been a belief of many Jews and later Christians since at least the times of the Maccabbees (200 BC). Yet Joseph Smith taught that matter is eternal, co-eternal with God. Even Spirit is made of purely fine matter. One form of spirit, the Light of Christ, flows through all things (D&C 88, 93, 130). This creation of the spirits of men and women from pre-existing matter means that while there is the hand of divinity in our making, so too is there something independent of God in each of us. It is possible that this duality is what provides us with individuality, freedom to choose, and even choose to reject God and the things of our Creator. This opens up the ability to have “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2), which is necessary for life to exist.

Many Bible scholars now accept the concept of God having a divine council or assembly prior to the earth’s creation. These were angels, cherubim, seraphim, and archangels that stood in God’s presence, worshiping and counseling with God (see Isaiah 1:1-6 for an example). This assembly included holy beings that resembled God, including Jesus Christ. It must have been a great surprise to Abraham to find out he was in that special group at the very beginning. We find that God is surrounded by the “intelligences that were organized”, later calling them spirits.

The question here is: what kind of organization? Were they organized as a special group of angels/divine beings, or were they initially unorganized intelligence/matter that was later organized into sentient spirits? Or both?

The Fall of Lucifer: Two Stories
As we will see next week with the Creation, we often try very hard to reconcile differing stories, or to ignore the differences. Yet, there are differences in the two stories we receive in regards to Lucifer’s fall from grace.

In Moses 4:1-4, we see a contest of wills between Jesus and Lucifer occur:
“And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: 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. 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. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down.” (Moses 4:1-3).

Here we see a classic stand-off between hero and villain. Each presents a plan, but somehow Satan’s plan leads to a rebellion that we do not get clear details on. In what way did Satan rebel? The story is not exactly clear on this. When Lucifer came before God to share his plan, were his followers standing behind him ready to overthrow the kingdom? Was his plan asked for, or did he put it forth as a demand, rather than as an option? Why is offering to “redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost” an effort to destroy agency? Wouldn’t everyone want to be saved? And does “saved” mean exalted, or just an escape from death and hell? Or does it mean something entirely different?

Satan demanded God’s glory and power, while God gave his glory and power to Jesus. Is such an attitude all it requires to be in rebellion? Or was something more going on here?

Then, we go to the story in the Book of Abraham. In Abraham 3, the Lord doesn’t ask for options, but just explains the plan of salvation:
“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.” (Abraham 3:24-26)

There is no second plan offered. The only question left open for discussion by God was: “Whom shall I send (to be the Savior)?” Lucifer does not provide an alternative plan. It does not seem like he may have stepped forward with a demand to take God’s place. He simply offers himself to go. It is only when God chose Jesus as the Savior that we see Satan become angry, rebel and cast down.

We do not know how long of a time it required for this rebellion to occur. It could have been minutes, days, or years in the preparation stages of the world, before the war in heaven finally occurred, according to Abraham’s account. But in Moses’ story, it seems that the encounter between God and Satan immediately created an impasse that caused a rebellion that was probably already in the planning stages.

Why two stories?
So, why are there two stories? Because Abraham and Moses come from different cultures and belief systems, and each were given a different revelation that was adapted to the symbolism and “history” of his day.

Moses was only given a revelation of this earth, because to see more would bring too much glory upon him and cause him to cease being mortal. Abraham was not only shown this earth, but the Sun and many other suns and planets that led to Kolob and the throne of God, yet he continued in the flesh!
According to the early Jewish historian Josephus, Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians. If so, that knowledge of astronomy may have been passed down through several centuries to the days when Moses would walk the courts of Pharaoh as a child. Would Moses have recognized that it came from Father Abraham?

Perhaps it falls into the needs of the two patriarchs. Abraham needed to share great wisdom with Egypt, to gain its trust and power, as an ally and friend. He had but a few hundred servants and followers in his group that wandered wherever there was pasture for the flocks. Teaching the Egyptians from Pharaoh’s throne gave him power and access to teach God’s word to the most powerful people on earth. There probably was no major competition between Abraham and Pharaoh when he received the revelation.
On the other hand, Moses was establishing the new kingdom of Israel from Egyptian slaves. Instead of an ally of Pharaoh, Moses was an enigma and threat to the power and supremacy of Pharaoh and Egypt. His revelation of Christ and Satan would symbolize Moses against Pharaoh: one offering freedom and salvation to Israel, the other offering slavery and death. One represented God and sought the glory of God, while the other held a false priesthood power and used it to build vast cities and monuments to praise and empower himself. Pharaoh was Lucifer to Moses’ Jesus!

Through the 10 Plagues, Pharaoh’s power would be unable to save Egypt, while Moses would deliver chosen Israel through the power of God. One could think that in the premortal existence, God would ask, “Whom shall I send?” and Moses would have answered, “Here am I, send me!” as a symbolic foreshadowing of the coming Messiah to save all of Israel (compare with Isaiah 1:1-6).


Loving Brother said...

Hi Joel I am curious as to why you feel there are 2 different stories being told here? The consistent truth being told is that God the Father laid out his plan of salvation to his children - from that you see the personality of Lucifer vs. Christ - Gods plan was to give his children the opportunity to gain a body and use their agency which all of his spirit children had and used in the pre-existence. God the Fathers plan of salvation would give his children the opportunity to progress (there were not 2 plans presented only the fathers plan) - Lucifer looked at God the Fathers plan and said “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 or in other words give me the - High respect, Recognition, Esteem, Fame, Credit, Special Merit, Admiration. Christ on the other hand said “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” There is no revelation that tells us how long this rebellion was in the works we can assume from modern day prophets that it was over some period of time as modern day prophets have stated Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "There were many meetings, conferences, councils and schooling sessions held among the Gods and their spirit offspring in pre-existence. Among other things, at these various assemblages, plans were made for the creation and peopling of this earth and for the redemption and salvation of the offspring of Deity." – what we do know is that Some of God the Father’s children used their agency to follow Lucifer so he must have been pretty convincing with his argument that not one soul would be lost if he was sent and our agency forfeit – a lot of our Brothers and Sisters must have been very afraid to leave the Father and trust in what he had taught them in the pre-existence and trust themselves that they could make it through this probation. The story as you put it goes on to tell us – “And the asecond was angry, and kept not his first bestate; and, at that day, many followed after him” – “Wherefore, because that aSatan brebelled against me, and sought to destroy the cagency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be dcast down;.” - this is the same truth reveled only one story –

rameumptom said...

Loving Brother,
They are similar stories in many ways. But they are also different. Consider the two main stories of Christ's birth in the New Testament: Luke discusses shepherd and angels and mangers, while Matthew talks of wise men, a star, and a house. Scholars seek to understand a story, sometimes by seeing not only the similarities, but also the differences; and then try to understand the differences.
There are some key differences between the two pre-mortal existence stories that we get from Moses and Abraham. My blog tries to look at some of those differences. Your explanation includes a lot of suppositions that are not apparent in either story.
The reason for my blogging, is so we might see deeper into the scriptures, and not do a quick cursory reading, make some assumptions, and use those assumptions as our doctrine. Such has troubled the Church in the past, when even GAs have turned guess work into doctrine (curse of Cain, for instance).
You'll notice that much of what I wrote were questions, questions without answers. These are to give the reader the chance to consider things in a new light, without providing an answer (often because there is no definite answer, only possibilities).
Keep reading and considering. There's a lot to learn in the gospel from a variety of sources, including modern scholars, who use many techniques to find possible answers and understanding.