The Old Testament and the Books of Moses and Abraham
The Old Testament teaches about the Creation of the earth and the Fall of Adam and Eve, followed by portions of the history of God’s dealings with His people, covering approximately 4,000 BC to 450 BC, with numerous gaps.
The Bible is a companion witness, with the Book of Mormon, of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel (see Mormon 7:8-9). The Bible is the word of God, “as far as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith 1:8). We may add, “as far as it is transmitted [passed down over time] correctly.” Surely—despite whatever uninspired deletions, changes, or additions that may have affected our current versions of the Bible (see 1 Nephi 13:20-29)—we still acknowledge that the Lord’s hand has been involved in its creation and preservation, even to a miraculous degree.
The beginning of this year’s study includes the Book of Moses, which is the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of Genesis 1:1 through 6:13. It also includes the Book of Abraham, which was translated from ancient Egyptian papyri by the Prophet Joseph Smith; adding abundant new material regarding the prophet Abraham. These two books in the Pearl of Great Price have been part of our canonized scriptures since 1880.
Moses 1:1-7 “I Have a Work for Thee”
In this chapter, Moses’s experience of seeing and learning from God occurred after the “burning bush” experience (see verse 17; see also Exodus 3) and before Moses went before Pharaoh to petition the freedom of the children of Israel (see verses 25-26; see also Exodus 5-11; these events took place about 1,300 years before the birth of Christ).
The God who appeared and spoke to Moses was the premortal Jesus Christ, the Jehovah of the Old Testament (see Exodus 6:2-3, including the chapter heading and JST Exodus 6:3). Although Moses 1:3-7 appears to be Heavenly Father speaking (even referring to “mine Only Begotten” and “the Savior” in the third person), Elder James E. Talmage taught: “Jesus was the Father’s executive in pre-earth life, in mortality, and since his triumphant victory over death. Our Father in Heaven has allowed Jesus to speak to various prophets as if he were the Father…. The First Presidency, in an excellent explanation of this principle, called this authority of Christ to speak for the Father in the first person ‘Divine Investiture of Authority’” (Articles of Faith, Appendix 2, p. 470).
Note the following:
- The Lord spoke to Moses “face to face” (verse 2; see also Exodus 33:11).
- Moses was able to “endure” the Lord’s presence because “the glory of God was upon” him (verse 2). In other words, Moses was “transfigured” (verse 14); without which he would have “withered and died” in God’s presence (verse 11; see also D&C 67:11; presumably this was also the case with Joseph Smith in the First Vision, as well as others who found themselves in the Lord’s presence).
- In verse 3, God calls Himself “the Lord God Almighty” and also declares, “Endless is my name”; which can be coupled with Doctrine and Covenants 19:10-19, wherein the Savior also calls Himself “Endless.”
- In Moses 1:4, 6-7 Jehovah calls Moses “my son.” This is true in the light of Mosiah 5:7, wherein King Benjamin taught that those who are spiritually born again become “the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters.”
- In verse 6 the Lord tells Moses “I have a work for thee.” But first, there is more that Moses needs to learn; thus follows a vision of the Lord’s “workmanship” (verse 4; the vision is recounted in verses 7-8, 27-41; being “interrupted” by an encounter with the adversary).
Moses 1:8-23 Satan’s Attempt to Intrude
In addition to what he learned in Moses 1:4, 6, what else did Moses learn about himself in verses 9-10? However, Moses’s statement in verse 10—“I know that man is nothing”—is not really God’s view of His children on earth. Perhaps Moses came to this conclusion because of what he had just seen of God and His magnificent creations; therefore the Lord corrected Moses’s understanding with His declaration in verse 39.
Next, as a counterpoint to the vision just given Moses, the Lord left him “unto himself” (verse 9; although this is corrected in verse 15, wherein Moses realizes that “his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me”).
- Make a list of things Moses learns about Satan in verses 12-22.
- In these verses, what did Satan try to tell Moses, and try to do to him?
- How many times did Moses attempt to reject and cast out Satan? What finally allowed Moses to succeed?
- What do you learn from these verses about overcoming the influences of Satan? (see also 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Nephi 15:23-24; Alma 13:28; 34:39).
It is important to know that Satan is real and that he tries to destroy us and God’s work. Some truths regarding the devil—lost from the Bible—are restored in these verses as well as in Moses 4:1-12; 5:12-13, 18-31 (see also 2 Nephi 28:19-23).
Consider also the experiences of others to whom Satan appeared in an attempt to thwart their purposes, including Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1-11); Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:6; it may be argued that this was actually a case of the Lord’s will being fulfilled—see 2 Nephi 2:24—but Lucifer was not aware of this); Abraham (Genesis 15:1-12); and Joseph Smith (JS—H 1:15-16). Joseph Smith taught, “The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes” (cited in Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 132). What will eventually happen to Satan? (see D&C 45:55; 76:33, 36).
Moses 1:24-39 The Lord’s Vision Proceeds
After Moses’s horrendous experience with the adversary, the Lord appeared again and taught him more:
- What does the Lord prophesy for Moses in verses 25-26?
- What things does Moses see in verses 27-29?
- What two questions did Moses ask the Lord in verse 30? How does verse 32 answer the second question? (see also D&C 29:30, 36).
- After initially responding, “For mine own purpose have I made these things … and it remaineth in me” (verse 31), how did the Lord later answer the first question? (see verse 39; see also 1 John 5:11; Mosiah 15:22-25). What is your part in fulfilling Moses 1:39?
- How do you think the things Moses experienced in this chapter would help him lead the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, and fulfill all his roles as a prophet of God?
Abraham 3:1-22 Stars and Spirits
The Lord taught Abraham through the Urim and Thummim (verse 1; this is a different set of the Urim and Thummim from that which was possessed by prophets in the Book of Mormon, which set was also used by the Prophet Joseph Smith). Also, the Lord taught Abraham “face to face,” and by putting His hand upon Abraham’s eyes (verses 11-12):
- Abraham learned about the earth, sun, moon, and stars (verses 2-16), including Kolob, the governing star which the Lord said is “near unto me” (verses 3, 9-10).
- These teachings about stars and planets are scientifically accurate, as one scholar wrote: “Abraham 3:2-10 is scientifically correct in terms of modern galactic astrophysics and General Relativity. Yet Einstein did not publish his seminal paper on General Relativity until 1915, 73 years after the first publication of Abraham’s revelation” (in Joseph Callender, “Revelation and Relativity: Modern Science in Abraham 3,” http://www.truthwillprevail.xyz/2019/08/revelation-and-relativity-modern.html; Callender makes numerous points regarding modern science’s agreement with the teachings in Abraham 3).
- These teachings appear to be a pattern and preface to the Lord’s following teachings about spirits, including Jesus Christ (see verses 16-19).
- The Lord’s use of the word intelligent in verses 18-19 can be interpreted as “light and truth” (see D&C 93:28-30, 40).
- The Lord’s use of the words intelligences (verses 21-22) and souls (verse 23) refer to what we usually call “spirits,” meaning pre-mortal spirit children of God (see the chapter heading as well as verse 23: “for he stood among those that were spirits”; in the scriptures, “soul” and “spirit” are sometimes used interchangeably; although not always).
- Just as superior stars and planets govern the lesser ones—Kolob being the greatest of all (verses 3, 9)—so Christ is the greatest of all the spirits created by our Heavenly Parents (verses 19, 21), and we are to allow ourselves to be “governed” by Him, submitting ourselves to His precepts.
Abraham 3:22-28 Pre-Earth Life
Look for the following:
- What do verses 22-23 say about Abraham and other pre-mortal spirits? (see also Jeremiah 1:4-5; D&C 138:55-56).
- What do we learn about the Creation from verse 24?
- What did Abraham see regarding Christ (“one among them”) in verses 24, 27?
- What do verses 25-26 teach about all of us?
- What do verses 27-28 teach about Lucifer?
How blessed we are to have these additional scriptural accounts and teachings, restored in our day through the Prophet Joseph Smith.