Come Follow Me: Moses 1, Abraham 3
This year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will focus its Sunday School and home scripture study on the Old Testament. These lessons will also include additional revelation given to Joseph Smith regarding early prophets, such as Moses and Abraham. These two chapters in the Book of Moses and Book of Abraham help us understand things that occurred prior to the Creation, as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2.
Some of the material I'll use in these classes will come from previous Gospel Doctrine class lessons I did in 2010, etc. I will add other things that I've learned through my studies over the past 12 years.
The children of Israel were in bondage to the Egyptians. After the death of Joseph, son of Jacob, 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 of the Creation story, nor of Adam and Eve. Nor did Moses yet understand man's true nature and relationship with God.
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. Moses is brought back into the presence of God/Christ in what would resemble the Latter-day Saint 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 (Shekinah, 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 then only 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 in the Book of Mormon, we don't bother asking God nor seek 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 explains to Moses that 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 own temple endowment experience.
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 these lessons, will show that without the Creation and the Fall, there would be little need for an atonement.
All of this sets up a real understanding of Creation. It has everything to do with relationship. God called Moses his son, while Satan tried to change the relationship: "Son of man, worship me!"
God invites us to become part of his family. Satan seeks to control us by establishing an entirely different relationship: sovereign and servant. In his view, we are not children of God, but are just mortals, descended only from other mortals, below the angels.
So, when we view the story of Creation, which we will in detail in later lessons, we will find that it may not be a literal, historical story. Rather, it will display God's work and glory, perhaps in a symbolic way, to restore the ancient parent/child relationship we once had with God in the Premortal World.
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. As an aside, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians.
Abraham proved him self worthy of God by his faithfulness when the Priest of On attempted to sacrifice him to the Egyptian gods. Though far outside of Egypt, the reach of Pharaoh extended as far as Ur of the Chaldees. Abraham not only prays for God to save him, he insists on being saved by Yahweh himself (represented in papyri fragment #1 as the bird, according to Joseph Smith). Yahweh or Jehovah is the Angel of the Lord's Presence, the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The Lord prepared 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. It also explained to him his relationship to God. In this vision, he would see his place in the premortal existence, while the wicked priest would symbolize Moses' Satan, seeking to slay Abraham for refusing to accept a new relationship as a servant to Pharaoh and his gods.
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."
The Book of Mormon tells us that the Urim and Thummim, or Interpreters, are given for the translation of ancient records. Also,
|"...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. |
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.
And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet. 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." (Mosiah 8:13-16)
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. For example, our planets rotate around our sun, which rotates around the Milky Way Galaxy. 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 theorize 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.
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 explained the prophet's theophany and the beginning of his endowment, and we see this with Abraham, also. 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 experience.
Part of Abraham's endowment is the promise and covenant made to him. God promised in the Abrahamic covenant: "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. Again, the relationships between God and man, as well as that between men, is established.
In the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (D&C 84:33-42), we read how we tie in to the Abrahamic covenant: "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. All of this as we continue our relationship as children of God.
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 400 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 even larger Andromeda galaxy. Galaxies move about the expanding universe. At the center of most galaxies is a quasar or black hole (a singularity in time/space), 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:
|"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. |
"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." (Abr 3:16-17)
|"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." (vs 19) |
The glory of God is intelligence. (D&C 93) The term "intelligence" takes on a few meanings in Latter-day Saint 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 apostle Orson Pratt's theory that intelligence is matter that is filled with the light of Christ, which light fills all of space. Particles are filled with 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. With this theory, we can see how Creation and relationships between God and his creations are so very important, even crucial to the Lord.
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 and relationship on how the stars, planets, and we are governed and given power/life.
The Great Council of Heaven
Prior to the physical Creation, God created all things spiritually. This includes creating our spirits from "organized intelligence."He is truly the "Father of our spirits" (Hebrews 12:9). In time, our spirits sought greater growth, which required physical abilities. Hence, 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.
The traditions show that not all the divine sons were as true and powerful as Jehovah, but some attempted to overthrow one another. For example, in the land of Canaan, Yam was overthrown by Baal. The Lord Jehovah told Israel when this occurred that "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 was planned and organized. Heavenly Father's plan for his spirit children was set forth: all will come to the formed earth and be tried to see if they will be faithful. Only one plan was ever really considered. The only issue brought up is: "Whom shall I send?" Or, who shall be the Savior of mankind? (compare with Isaiah 6:1-8_
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. Instead, spirit children of God 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:
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
"And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
"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." (Rev 14:4-9)
Satan and his devils were spirit children of God, who lost their inheritance through rebellion. 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. This is why Satan seeks to twist our understanding of relationship with God and each other, so he can dupe us into thinking less of ourselves, of each other and of God - and more of Satan himself.
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. For those who kept the first estate of premortal existence, they maintained the relationship between themselves and God.
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). They embrace the fullness of the relationship with God. Even as God, Christ and the Holy Ghost are intimately bonded in love within the Godhead/Trinity, so we can equally bonded to them and each other in an eternal Celestial relationship of love.