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:
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.

No comments: