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Book of Moses Essays (Insights)

Essay #77: Noah (Moses 8): Was Noah Drunk or in a Vision? (Genesis 9)

In the image above, we see an industrious Noah diligently tending his vineyard, in striking contrast to a later depiction in the same chapter that describes him as being in an inebriated stupor. Scholars have noted the odd inconsistency between these two scenes. Can these two opposing pictures of Noah be reconciled?...

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Essay #75: Noah (Moses 8): The Sons of God and the Sons of Men (Moses 8:1-21)

The painting by Tissot shown above highlights the great anticipation for Noah’s birth that appears in many ancient traditions. For example, in the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch, Noah’s appearance and actions as a newborn are described in ways that resemble a “‘full-grown’ heavenly being”: “And when the child was born, his body was whiter than snow and redder than a rose, his hair was all white and like white wool and curly. Glorious [was his face]. When he opened his eyes, the house shone like the sun. And he stood up from the hands of the midwife, and he opened his mouth and praised the Lord of eternity.”...

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Essay #73: The Two Ways (Moses 5): The Five Celestial Laws (Moses, chapters 5–8)

This carefully conceived scene, executed in grisaille to decorate the top of a niche containing a portrait of Adam, is part of a set of large altarpiece panel paintings in the Joost Vijdt chapel in the Cathedral of St. Bavon at Ghent, Belgium. The portrayal of Abel lifting up the lamb “prefigures both the sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharist.” The contrasting choices of Cain and Abel with respect to their covenantal obligations typify the account of the parting of the ways of righteousness and wickedness that begins in Moses 5. Of those who follow the way of wickedness, Jude wrote: “Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain.”...

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Essay #69: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): “Stand Ye in Holy Places, and Be Not Moved” (Moses 4:29–31)

In his characteristic epic style, Thomas Cole depicted Adam and Eve being driven from the lush garden to live in the relative wilderness of the mortal world. The exit of the Garden of Eden—and presumably the only means of access—is on the east side, at the end farthest away from the mountain of God’s presence. The image of the tiny couple is almost lost in the wide expanse of the landscape, emphasizing the greatness of the power of God and the grandeur of His Creation as compared with the forced humility of fallen mankind....

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Essay #67: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): Was Eve Beguiled? (Moses 4:5–12)

The scriptures say that Eve was “beguiled” by Satan when she partook of the forbidden fruit. But Latter-day Saints believe she made the right choice. How can both statements be true? The purpose of this essay is to harmonize these seemingly contradictory statements and, along the way, to dispel some common misconceptions....

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Essay #65: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): A Curse for the Serpent (Moses 4:14–21)

Jewish pseudepigraphal texts tell of how, after Adam and Eve’s transgression, God’s “chariot throne [descends and] rests at the Tree of Life and all the flowers come into bloom.” Of this painting, Conisbee writes: The Rebuke of Adam and Eve perfectly illustrates Domenichino’s classical style at the peak of his career. … The group of God and the angels is derived directly from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. … and should be read as an homage by the seventeenth-century painter to his great predecessor....

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Essay #63: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): The False and the True “Keeper of the Gate” (Moses 4:5–12)

The battle begun in the premortal councils and waged again in the Garden of Eden was a test of obedience for Adam and Eve. However, it should be remembered that the actual prize at stake was knowledge—the knowledge required for them to be saved and, ultimately, to be exalted. The Prophet taught that the “principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation,” therefore “anyone that cannot get knowledge to be saved will be damned....

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Essay #61: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): The Tree in the Sacred Center of the Garden of Eden (Moses 3:9)

One thing that has always perplexed readers of Genesis is the location of the two special trees in the Garden of Eden. The Hebrew phrase corresponding to “in the midst” means literally “in the center.” Although scripture initially applies the phrase “in the midst” only to the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge is later said by Eve to be located there, too....

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Essay #59: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): Satan’s Original Glory and the Symbols of Kingship (Moses 4:1–4)

In this Essay, we will explore how William Blake’s masterpiece describes Satan in his original glory. One can see in his perverse appropriation of the symbols of kingship not only his selfish aspiration to God’s own power, but also an anticipation of his ignominious fall from grace. Nowhere are the premortal events related to this theme described more fully and accurately than in Moses 4:1–4....

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Essay #76: Noah (Moses 8): Was Noah’s Ark Designed as a Floating Temple? (Moses 8:22–30; Genesis 6:5–22; chapters 7–8)

Thomas Cole’s artistry evokes poignant emotions as it leads the viewer’s eye from the foreground to the background of the painting. The rough rocks nearby recall recent scenes of cleansing upheaval and destruction; beyond them, the Ark is finally at rest in calm waters, a witness of the divine love that preserved its righteous passengers in their journey through the deep; in the distance, the towering peak is a beacon of hope, a “Sinai” for Noah — presaging new revelation for the faithful remnants of humanity....

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Essay #74: The Family of Adam and Eve (Moses 6:1–12)

Pictured on his deathbed, Adam is supported by Eve and surrounded by a daughter and two sons. In the background, Seth converses with an angel. The scene of the Death of Adam is part of a cycle of frescoes in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo, Italy illustrating the Legend of the True Cross. In this cycle, the classical forms of the quattrocento appear against a “sparse, often surrealist landscape—the pictorial equivalent of silence. To the modern eye, Piero’s paintings show a subdued emotion, where rational theory appears to have overwhelmed naturalism.”...

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Essay #72: The Two Ways (Moses 5): Adam, Eve, and the New and Everlasting Covenant (Moses 5:4–6)

In this unsettling scene, we see God speaking from a cloud to the fleeing Cain as he runs past the still-burning altar. Abel’s lifeless body, dominating the foreground, loudly proclaims the falsity of Cain’s profession of ignorance. The contrast of the skin color to the gray monochroome of the background highlights the link between the three actors....

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Essay #70: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): The “Temple Work” of Adam and Eve (Moses 4:23–25, 31)

Though Biblical commentaries often derive the name “Eden” from the Sumerian edinu (i.e., “a plain”), an alternative meaning, based on an Aramaic-Akkadian bilingual description, is “luxuriance” or “abundance”—more specifically referring to an abundance of life-enriching water. The idea of luxuriance brings to mind the prominent place-name “Bountiful” in the Book of Mormon—in fact, one proposed region for the Old World Bountiful was reputed to have been a place of such great plenty that its inhabitants were denounced by Islamic Hud traditions for their “attempt to create an earthly replica of Paradise...

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Essay #68: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): The Nakedness and Clothing of Adam and Eve (Moses 3:25, 4:13–17, 27)

Western art typically portrays Adam and Eve as naked in the Garden of Eden, and dressed in “coats of skin” after the Fall. However, the Eastern Orthodox tradition depicts the sequence of their change of clothing in reverse manner. How can that be? The Eastern Church remembers the accounts that portray Adam as a King and Priest in Eden, so naturally he is shown there in regal robes. Moreover, Orthodox readers interpret the “skins” that the couple wore after their expulsion from the Garden as being their own now-fully human flesh. Gary Anderson interprets this symbolism to mean that “Adam has exchanged an angelic constitution for a mortal one”—in Latter-day Saint parlance, they have lost their terrestrial glory and are now in a telestial state....

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Essay #66: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): The Challenges and Blessings of Celestial Marriage (Moses 4:22–26)

I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. In the poignant sculpture by Delaplanche pictured here, the vacant, tearless eyes and agonized posture of the solitary slumped figure bespeak the depth of Eve’s utter hopelessness immediately after her transgression. While scripture describes the results of transgression differently for Adam than for Eve, the ultimate effect of these consequences is essentially the same: a mortal life replete with the opposing experiences of good and evil, pleasure and pain....

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Essay #64: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): The False Apron and the Tree of Death and Rebirth (Moses 4:13)

We read in Moses 4:13 that after Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” The ending of the verse implicitly signals to the reader that the making of the aprons is the culminating event in the story. However, Emily Mahan observes that the Old English manuscript shown above punctuates the verse differently, with three dots in triangle form, highlighting the importance of the opening of the eyes of Adam and Eve: “and the eyes of them both were opened .·.”...

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Essay #60: Moses Witnesses the Fall (Moses 4): The Willing and Unwilling Sons in the Council in Heaven (Moses 4:1-4)

After a rapid sweep across the vast panorama of the Creation and the Garden of Eden in Moses 2-3, the scope narrows and the narrative slows to a more measured pace in Moses 4—and with good reason, for it is at this point that the purpose of Creation begins to unfold. John Henry Newman summed up a lesson from the combined accounts of the Creation and the Fall...

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Essay #58: Moses Sees the Garden of Eden (Moses 3): The Symbolism of the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life (Moses 3:9)

The Tree of Life is certainly the most significant object in the Garden of Eden. However, its presence has always been somewhat of a puzzle to students of the Bible because it is only briefly mentioned in Genesis: once at the beginning of the story in connection with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil...

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