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OT Lesson 1 Study Notes: Moses 1

Posted by Jim F. on December 20, 2009

As the title of this post says, these are notes for studying the lesson rather than for teaching it, though presumably one who studies the lesson will have material from which to teach it.

The notes are mostly questions, thought questions rather than questions that have some specific answerVerses 1-2: A short prologue to Moses begins here. Where does it end? What does it tell us about this book? Of what significance are mountains in scripture? For example, why do revelations so often occur on mountains? Why is it important that we know Moses spoke with God face to face? What does it mean to say “the glory of God was upon Moses”? What is his glory?

In the Old Testament (e.g., Exodus 2:14), the Hebrew word translated glory comes from a root word meaning “heavy,” and it means, figuratively, honor or glory. Often it connotes beauty, and when referring to God it has a visible manifestation, usually overpowering.

What does verse 5 tell us about what we read in these two verses? How about verse 39? Do D&C 29:36 or 88:19 help us understand these verses?

Verse 3: Why does the Father tell Moses his name? He has many names, why does he here use this particular name, Endless? Why does he explain his name with a rhetorical question? What does that question tell us?

Verses 4-5: Why does the Father withhold the vision of some of his works from Moses? In what sense or senses are the works of God without end? In what sense or senses are his words without end? What is God teaching in these verses? How is that relevant to Moses? How is it relevant to us?

Verse 6: Why does the Father tell Moses that Moses is in the similitude of the Only Begotten? In what way or ways is he in that similitude? Is there any connection between Moses being in the similitude of the Only Begotten and the Only Begotten being the Savior? Why does the Father say that the Only Begotten “is and shall be the Savior” (italics added)? The Father tells Moses that the Only Begotten is and will be the Savior because he is full of grace and truth. Can you explain that? What does it mean to be full of grace and truth? Is “grace and truth” a pleonastic pair? (In other words, does it repeat the idea, using two words to mean the same thing?) Why does being full of them make him the Savior? Why does the Father add “but there is no God beside me” immediately after telling Moses of the Savior? What does it mean to say that all things are present to him? What does that have to do with the rest of the verse? In what ways can something be present? The last clause of the verse says that Father’s knowledge makes all things present to him. To say that knowledge makes things present is an unusual way to speak. What do you make of what this verse says? Does it suggest anything about how things are present before God? Are things ever present for us in that way?

Verse 7: What does the phrase “this one thing I show unto thee” suggest rhetorically? In other words, what might a person be implying who says something in that way? What is the “one thing” that the Father shows Moses? Why does he explain what he shows Moses by saying, “For thou art in the world”? What does that clause add to the meaning of the verse?

Verse 8: Moses sees not just the world but “the world on which he was created.” What does the writer (is it Moses or someone else?) put it that way? The word “end” can mean “final point” and it can also mean “purpose.” Which meaning do you think is used here when the scripture says that Moses beheld the ends of the world? Why does the people Moses sees cause him to wonder? Does verse 10 provide any clues?

Verse 9: What does it mean to say that Moses was left to himself?

Verse 10: Why add the phrase “like unto a man” to “natural strength”? What does the addition add to the meaning? Can you explain what Moses means when, having had this vision of the ends of the world and all the children of men, he says, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed”?

Verse 11: Does this verse help answer the question about verse 10? Does it help us understand what transfiguration (literally “changing the figure”) entails?

Verse 12: Why do you think Satan addresses Moses as “son of man”? (See this piece for more on “son of man.”) Under the circumstances, why does Satan even try to get Moses to worship him? After all, Moses has just seen a vision of the Father.

Verses 13-14: When Moses looks at Satan, what does he see? What did he see when he looked at God? Why does Moses say “I am a son of God”? When Moses asks “Where is thy glory?” what is he asking about? In other words, what is missing in his encounter with Satan? How has Moses understood Satan’s address of him as “son of man”? How is this related to what he learned in verse 10?

Verses 15-16: What is Moses doing when he says “Blessed be the name of my God”? Do we do anything like that? If we do, in what way? If not, why not? In vese 15 we could understand Moses to say “his Spirit has not completely withdrawn from me, in other words, where is your glory?” What does the fact that God’s Spirit hasn’t fully withdrawn from Moses have to do with his question about Satan’s glory? How does the fact that Moses is in the similitude of the Only Begotten help him deal with Satan in this encounter? Who else has said to Satan “Get thee hence”? Does this parallel tell us anything about what we are reading?

Verses 17-18: Why is it relevant to Moses’ encounter with Satan that God has commanded him to pray? Why is it relevant that he has been commanded to pray in the name of the Only Begotten? Why does Moses tell Satan that he has other things to ask of God? What standard does Moses use to distinguish between Satan and the Father? Can we apply the same standard if we have not had Moses’s experience?

Verse 19: Compare Moses 4:1 and Moses 5:13. What do we learn here about Satan’s methods?

Verses 20-22: Why did Moses begin to fear? Why might fear cause him to see the bitterness of hell? What is the connection between Satan’s trembling and the shaking of the earth? What is the point of that connection? Did it require strength for Moses to rebuke Satan? Where did he get that strength? Why is it important to Moses that the Father is “the God of glory”? Does “glory” mean here the same thing it meant earlier in this account? How many times does Moses have to command Satan to depart? Why so many? How does Moses last command to Satan differ from the other two? What does that teach us?

Verse 23: Why / how would this record be withheld from humanity because of their wickedness? Does this explain why the Bible doesn’t contain some things that are revealed in the Joseph Smith revision? If so, can you explain that explanation?

Verses 24-25: First Moses was filled with the Holy Ghost. Then he called upon God. Then he beheld God’s glory again. Is that order of events significant? What does it mean to say that Moses was chosen by God? What might it have meant to Moses? What does it mean to us? Why is the blessing that he will be stronger than many waters important to Moses? Is “many waters” a metaphor for the ocean or something else? Is the reference to many waters a reference to the primal chaos over which God is said to have hovered in Moses 2:2 (Genesis 1:2) and which appears also to be the reference in places such as Psalms 18:16 and 29:3? How would you decide these questions?

Verse 26: What does the promise that God will be with Moses mean? Why are the two clauses of this verse connected by the word for? What does that connective tell us?

Verses 27-29: In verse 24 Moses lifted up his eyes to heaven. Now he turns them toward the earth. Does that detail tell us something? How does it help us understand the story we are reading? What does it mean to say that there wasn’t a particle of the earth that Moses did not behold? What does it mean to say that he beheld the earth “by the spirit of God”? Why is spirit uncapitalized at the end of verse 27 and capitalized in verse 28? Presumably because the two phrases refer to different things. To what might each refer?

Verse 30: When Moses asks “Why these things are so,” what is he asking? Why does Moses ask by what God has made them rather than how he has made them? Or are those the same?

Verse 31: Is this a new event, or is the writer going back to the event that opened the chapter, Moses’ encounter with God? When the Father says, “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me,” which of Moses’s questions is he answering? How would you put his answer in your own words? To what does the word “it” refer in “it remaineth in me”? to “wisdom” or to something else?

Verses 32-33: Why does the Father describe the Only Begotten as “the power of my word”? Notice that the phrase is not capitalized, so it isn’t another name for the Only Begotten. It is a description of him. How is Christ the power of God’s word? In both verse 31 and in verse 33, the Father says that he created the worlds for his own purposes. What do you think that means? Why does he tell us that he did so?

Verse 34: The name “Adam” is Hebrew for “man.” It is probably from a root meaning “red” (‘dm), and since the word for “earth, ground” is adama (which may also have ‘dm as its root), many believe that Adam’s name is a play on words: Adam :: human being :: earth. In some places (for example, Genesis 1:26-28) the word refers to human beings in general. In other places (such as in Genesis 5:3-5) it refers specifically to an individual; it is a name. In each case, however, the writer probably intends us to remember each of the meanings: the person Adam, made from the dust of the earth, represents all human beings. The word play of the Hebrew cannot be translated, but it is important to understanding the story. Given that word play, why does this verse end with the phrase “which is many”?

Verse 35: Why does the Father tell Moses about other worlds? According to a common Jewish understanding of the story of Creation, the purpose of that story is to teach us that the world and everything in it was created by the word and will of God rather than by some other being or by chance. How might this verse fit into such an understanding of the creation story? Why does the Father say “there are many words that have passed away by the word of my power” (italics added)? Is it significant that he says “there are many that now stand“? Does the verb stand tell us something that another verb might not?

Verse 36: Why does Moses ask the Father to be merciful to him? Is Moses showing fear? How would an answer to his question about the earth and its inhabitants be an act of mercy? Why does Moses feel compelled to ask this question? Why is it important to him?

Verses 37-38: This is essentially a repetition of verse 4. Why was that repetition necessary? We can see this pattern:

  • Verse 4: God tells Moses that his work is without end.
  • Verse 36: Moses prays that God will tell him about this world and its inhabitants.
  • Verses 37-38: The Lord says that his works are innumerable to human beings, but he knows them.

How does the third part of this patter answer Moses’ question in verse 36?

Verse 39: Given what was said in verses 37-38, why does this verse begin with “for behold”? In other words, how does this verse explain what was said in those verses? Does this verse equate the work and the glory of the Father? Does what the Father says here go further toward answering Moses’ question? Or is what he says in verses 37-39 a preamble to his answer? If the latter, why was that preamble necessary before he could answer Moses question?

Verse 40-41: Can we infer from these verses and the first part of verse 35 that the creation of this earth might have been different from the creation of other worlds? Why or why not? What do these verses tell us about the origin of the account that Moses writes? In what ways have people taken words from the Bible? We usually compare Brigham Young to Moses, but here the Father compares Joseph Smith to Moses? How was Joseph Smith like Moses?

Verse 42: To whom is this parenthetical phrase spoken? To Moses? To Joseph Smith? To someone else? Why is the name of the mountain kept secret? What does the commandment not to show these things to any but believers mean to us?

47 Responses to “OT Lesson 1 Study Notes: Moses 1”

  1. Jacob B. said

    Jim,

    Are you familiar with Dennis Packard’s book about how to study the scriptures? Your methodology (of asking frequent, pertinent questions about what is contained in each verse) seems somewhat similar to his (or vice versa; I’m not commenting on chronology here, nor do I think it is important). If you are familiar with it, I was just curious what you think about it.

  2. Jim F. said

    Yes, Dennis and I have known each other and worked together for many years. I like what he’s done.

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  4. Dennis said

    Jim,

    Thanks for these questions.

    I’m intrigued by your reference to God as “the Father” in this chapter. I’m curious why you do so. Might I be incorrect in my assumption (and biblical teaching) that the Father has never revealed anything personally, except to introduce and endorse His Son? And that even when “God” refers to His Only Begotten, this is actually the Son speaking on behalf of the Father?

    • Jim F. said

      In verse 6, the Being speaking refers to “mine Only Begotten.” I take that to be the Father speaking, though I suppose it could also be the Son (or even another messenger) speaking the words of the Father. I see something similar in verse 13 when Moses says “I am a son of God in the similitude of the Only Begotten.” There the word “God” seems clearly to refer to the Father. But verse 13 echoes verse 4 where the Being addressing Moses says “Thou art my son.”

      If I read the text according to what it most clearly says, without introducing theological assumptions into it that I bring in from someplace else, then it seems to me that the Father is the most likely person speaking here.

  5. James Gartner said

    Same comment as Dennis above. I believe this is Jesus speaking as the Father by divine investiture of authority. -Happens many times in scripture, i.e., D&C 29:1 coupled with 29:42.

    • Jim F. said

      As I said to Dennis, this is possible, but there’s no textual reason to believe so. Besides, if it is the Savior speaking the words of the Father, it isn’t clear that Moses would know the difference or that it makes any difference to what the chapter teaches us.

  6. Aaron said

    Great questions. But, as mentioned by other posters, the God in Moses 1 is Jehovah, not the Father.

    From the Gospel Doctrine manual: “… Jehovah, not Heavenly Father, appeared to Moses in this vision. Jehovah was the premortal Jesus Christ and the God of the Old Testament. He is one with his Father in purpose and represents him in power and authority. His words are those of the Father, and sometimes, as in Moses 1:6, he speaks in the first person for the Father.”

    Elder McConkie: “The God here involved was the Lord Jehovah, though his words were those of the Father; he was, of course, speaking by divine investiture of authority.” (Promised Mesiah, p. 601)

    Still, I appreciate the questions. Too many teachers in the Church try to teach without asking questions. Gospel Doctrine class should not be lecture based, but discussion based.

    • Jim F. said

      I know the manual says that, but I wonder whether that is something that has become generally accepted (based on the authority of thoughtful authorities like Elder McConkie) or something that is doctrinal? I wonder what the writers of the manual took as the basis for their claim?

  7. KirkC said

    Verse 3: Why does the Father tell Moses his name? He has many names, why does he here use this particular name, Endless? Why does he explain his name with a rhetorical question? What does that question tell us?

    Everything spoken about here is of an eternal nature, therefore the title of Endless. The name of God always seems to correspond with what is going on in scripture at the time. God asks Moses a rhetorical question to let him know that even if he answers correctly, he can still not understand all things about Him. The same goes for us, we can learn about God, and give all the right answers, but we still do not “comprehend” the eternal nature of God.

  8. KirkC said

    Verse 19: Compare Moses 4:1 and Moses 5:13. What do we learn here about Satan’s methods?

    In v19 Satan starts ranting and raving, and in v20 Moses “began to fear exceedingly.” Satan works on fear. Although Moses had just talked with God face to face, there is something that is still scary about not following Satan. In our lives, we can have a testimony that fails us if we fear mobs or fall to peer pressure. It’s scary not to follow God, but sometimes we might feel more fearful not to follow Satan. Satan only needs to pressure you by fear once to do something before you are hooked, then he no longer needs fear. Good old fashion temptation works just fine after that.

    In 4:1, Satan wants all the honor himself. This comes today often in the form of church callings. People often lean on Bishops, Stake Presidents, etc. for friendship, doctrine, and many other things. Although this is good in some cases, it is bad if they start to gain a “following.” Satan wanted a following that honored and revered him, and it is easy for us to fall into the same trap if we are in leadership callings. We can demand “honor” and “respect” from those we are supposedly serving. There is something that does not work when thinking about a servant demanding things from those he serves.

  9. sjames said

    #4,5&6

    According to Draper, Brown and Rhodes (2005)the textual basis for the claim is in the use of ‘I am’ in vs 3, as a dramatic reiteration or echoing of the name of Jehovah: ‘I am the Lord God Almighty…'; ‘I am without beginning of days …’, though they belatedly acknowledge that this may be a grammatical rather than a theological rendering.

    Despite this Jim’s point seems a fair one: the Father declares Moses’ status as a likeness to His son: ‘…thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten’ (vs 6); later Satan declares ‘I am the Only Begotten…’ (vs 19), Moses discerns the difference between Satan and ‘the God of glory’ whom he has beheld (vs 20)and calls upon Him, receives strength (in similitude of the Only Begotten) and in the name of the Only Begotten casts Satan out. The logic of the text is that the God of glory that Moses beholds and converses with is the Father, not the Only Begotten.

  10. Robert C. said

    Kirk #7, great point and question regarding “endless”! How would D&C 19:6ff affect your questions, and the way we understand the term “endless” here?

    Kirk #8, this danger of “gaining a following” is a topic we will be addressing in reading Ranciere’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster. The trick, it seems, is to respect the individual autonomy and intelligence of those you are teaching and serving, in such a way that you are anxious to help others think and act for themselves because you sincerely believe that they can teach you something.

    This actually relates to your comment in #7 about “endless.” If we thinking in terms of “endless” possibilities, then we, as teachers or leaders, never hold all of the answers. God’s kingdom is endless precisely because it is continually growing and being built, which means that it significantly depends the participation (or non-participation—which makes God truly mourn, cf. Moses 7:28) of each and every one of us, as his children.

    (Also, since you’re interested in politics, compare these ideas with the participatory democracy movement—this is basically why Ranciere is interested in democracy, because of its egalitarian ideal that respects the intelligence and capability of each and every individual; also, this idea of viewing the infinite potential of others lies at the heart of Levinas’s—and Heidegger’s—critique of much of Western metaphysics….)

  11. Cheryl said

    I’m with Aaron on this particular scripture (v.6). If an apostle says something, we need not doubt. If Elder McConkie was telling us his thoughts, I’m sure they were inspired thoughts. He wrote the book while he was an apostle of the Lord.

    • James Gartner said

      Of course apostle BRM also said blacks were descendants of Cain – would never hold the priesthood in our dispensation – etc.

      • Cheryl said

        I should have stated that apostle’s words when “speaking by the spirit” should be considered scripture. Obviously BRM wasn’t speaking with the spirit. Also we should always pray to know these things are true.

  12. Cheryl said

    In addition to the above, there is this…

    In all of the scriptures, where God is mentioned and where he has appeared, it was Jehovah who talked with Abraham, with Noah, Enoch, Moses and all the prophets…. The Father has never dealt with man directly and personally since the fall, and he has never appeared except to introduce and bear record of the Son” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:27; both quotes cited in The Pearl of Great Price, 73-74). This ability and authority of the Savior to speak as if He were the Father is defined by the First Presidency as “divine investiture of authority” (see James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, 421; citing a First Presidency statement dated in 1916).

    I think these great elders and prophets of the church have answered that question. We should have no doubt who was speaking.

  13. Robert C. said

    Cheryl, haven’t the apostles and prophets also admonished us to study the scriptures, and study these things out for ourselves? I’m afraid that underlying your views is an attitude of complacency that gives us an easy excuse not to carefully read and ponder the text for ourselves.

    If we simply take Joseph Fielding Smith’s interpretation of the verse as absolute and final, what is gained by reading the text for ourselves? The Church has recently warned against taking any single statement by its leaders out of context as an authoritative, final statement of doctrine—see here. I admire your respect for prophetic statements, and I think it is important to study these statements, but surely such study shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to study, pray and ponder the scriptures for ourselves, as I think is being suggested by Jim et al.

    • Cheryl said

      Absolutely, we should study, ponder and pray about these things for ourselves! I just think that when it comes from the mouth of more than one apostle or president of the church, you shouldn’t try to argue the point too much you should have some faith. But of course we shouldn’t stop our study and learning. There are however, too many “learned” people that take subjects too far and start to doubt. Some things are beyond our earthly knowledge. Again, I choose to believe what I am told when it comes from more than one of the Lord’s righteous servants but I still study and pray to know for myself.

  14. NathanG said

    We had a lengthy discussion about this in our lesson today. My take is that the words are clearly those of the Father. The discussion as to which being delivered these words became mildly contentious in our class today. It dominated the discussion so much as to become a distraction to the actual teachings being delivered. The decision has to be regarding how important the answer to this question is. Christ in his mortal life made so many references to the oneness of he and the Father, those who have seen me have seen the Father, that perhaps the question isn’t as important as we (or even the lesson manual for that matter) have made it. As I sat listening to the discussion, I wondered if this discussion seems so important (and I’ve heard it every time Moses 1 is discussed) because we’re sensitive to our views on the Godhead in the midst of other Christiam concepts of the trinity.

  15. aquinas said

    The manual isn’t transparent as to why it includes this note. The manual cites Talmage’s Articles of Faith, but as other have pointed out, it actually refers to an appendix where Talmage includes the “The Father and the Son, a Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve” originally published June 30, 1916 then reprinted in the August 1916 Improvement Era. At this time Joseph F. Smith was the president of the Church with Anthon H. Lund as first counselor and Charles W. Penrose as second counselor. This doctrinal exposition is the origin of the “Divine Investiture of Authority” principle (See item four in the document). However, while the exposition points out that the Son can speak for the Father, but it never demands that such is the case in the Book of Moses, which isn’t cited within the document. Therefore, the manual writers don’t inform the audience of the origin of this doctrine, because it cannot be traced to the exposition itself.

  16. KirkC said

    We had The Father vs. Son debate also in class. But it was put that rather quickly, the instructor was admit on The Father (he acted as if he had never heard of the Son interpretation though). Some say it really does not matter who is speaking. I say it does and it doesn’t. Who we think is speaking greatly dictates how we interpret the text. In one of the accounts of the first vision JS does not say he saw God and the Father, he only cites one being.

    What if that was all we had? Would will still have the Gospel? Sure we would. However, the full account gives as a clearer view of what is going on. We understand the Gospel differently because of the appearance of The Father.

    I am not sure exactly who is speaking, but I lean towards The Father. However, after chapter one it sounds more like the Son. So I have a theory (but I am not stuck on this) that maybe the Father AND the Son are talking with Moses in chapter one. I don’t see chapter one as much of a teaching chapter by God, I think that comes in chapter two, and beyond. Chapter one seems to announce and describe the relationship Moses has to the Son. However, I do realize for this to be true, that there is much more to the text than we have.

    Why would they both appear? I’m not sure. But maybe because of the Law Moses would enact, and the movement he would start. The Father and the Son appeared to both Adam/Eve and JS. So why not Moses? All three were prophets of dispensations that would have profound effects on future generations. It would not at all seem theologically strange to have both appear to Moses in this light. I am right? I have no idea :)

    In any case, I find this text curiously ambiguous.

    #10, Robert, I am looking forward to reading Ranciere’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster. It should be greatly edifying!

  17. KirkC said

    “Kirk #7, great point and question regarding “endless”! How would D&C 19:6ff affect your questions, and the way we understand the term “endless” here?”-Robert #10

    Good question. I have not actually thought about it until right now though. But I will take a crack at it! A thought from off of my head is that endless does not mean “never ending,” it is simply a title for God (as it is in Moses). God says in D&C 19:12, “endless punishment is God’s punishment,” or in other words, “God’s punishment is God’s punishment.” I see the punishment as beyond our comprehension, just as Moses could not understand the things of God.

    Down in v15 of section 19 God tells the people if they will not repent they “know not” how hard will be their sufferings.

    However, one thing about D&C 19 that strikes me is the only time “eternal” has a capital E is at the end of v10 when it actually refers to the name of God. It is lower case in the rest of the section. Maybe this takes away from my argument some?

    Again, I have not really thought this out. I am just kind of thinking out loud. But interesting question nonetheless.

  18. joespencer said

    Kirk #7 and Robert #10,

    I found myself reflecting particularly, during the lesson today, on this question of the name “Endless.” I was struck by the proximity in time between the reception of D&C 19 only a few months before Joseph received (or “translated”) Moses 1 (March 1830 and June 1830). I wonder if this proximity is suggestive at all. I think the two passages certainly need to be thought about side by side.

    I was also struck by the rhetorical question “is not this endless?” to which Jim draws attention. That almost seems to mark this passage as being a kind of inversion of D&C 19. There, no rhetorical question could have worked because the explanation of “endless” is so unanticipated; here, no explanation of a divine play on words is apparently necessary, since I rhetorical question can be asked. There is much to think about here.

    Re: much of the discussion:

    The same silly debate about the Father vs. the Son here came up in our classroom, though it was ousted pretty quickly by our very skilled teacher. In the end, I don’t see the force of the question, unless it is to make sure we all feel pretty comfortable with interpretations offered by past authorities. As Jim says, I’m not sure I see what difference it makes to me, and I’m not sure I see what difference it would have made to Moses.

  19. KirkC said

    Joe, #18, In regards to The Father vs. The Son, “I’m not sure I see what difference it makes to me, and I’m not sure I see what difference it would have made to Moses.”

    As I said in #16, I think it makes a difference. If this is The Father speaking then is the ONLY account in scripture (or otherwise) that we have of The Father personally preaching to a prophet (or anyone) rather than simply announcing Christ.

    To me that is very theologically significant, because it begs the question, “why?” Why would The Father talk to Moses and not Adam, Enoch, JS, Peter, or any other prophet? Any interpretation of The Father as speaker in Moses one must deal with this question.

    And Joe, I had not taken into accounts the dates of sec. 19 and Mos. 1. This might make me reconsider, or at least think deeper, on the Endless issue.

  20. joespencer said

    Kirk,

    Don’t we only assume—for all the same reasons we assume the Son is speaking in Moses 1—that the Father speaks nowhere else? Why, for instance, do we assume that it is the Son and not the Father who does the speaking in the Garden? Nephi, for one, reports words he claims he heard directly from the Father (which he clearly distinguishes from the Son) in 2 Nephi 31. I’m just not sure I see this being so unique a story. Certainly, I think it important to recognize that we assume its uniqueness without getting to work on other texts.

    But perhaps it is unique. (I certainly wouldn’t be offended by that!) But if so, why is that important? (That’s not to say that it isn’t. That’s to ask why it is.) What difference does it actually make about how we read this text?

    And if it is unique, why have people been so apt to dismiss the possibility that the Father speaks uniquely here (as in the manual)? Why not let the text stand in its unicity?

    At any rate, while I don’t think we’ve really begun, as a people, to study texts like the Book of Mormon and the D&C, I think we still decades away from even possibly beginning to think about beginning to study the JST. Though I am interested to know what this recent (enormous) commentary on Moses 1-6 has to say about all this. Anyone purchased it?

  21. KirkC said

    Nice thoughts. The points you raise are valid, and the idea that we assume much of how we read Father/Son in scripture is something I have not thought about. I will have to think on this more.

    However, I still think who is speaking matters! :p

  22. Dennis said

    Wow, quite a discussion on this!

    A few summary thoughts of mine:

    1. I absolutely agree that this issue ought to be pretty low on the radar screen, in terms of things to quibble about. We had a fantastic Sunday School lesson on Moses 1 today, and I’m so glad this issue didn’t even come up. Much better things to talk about.

    2. I am in full agreement with Jim, Robert, Joe, and others about the need to take the text seriously and not be lazy by plugging in boilerplate answers from elsewhere.

    3. Jim’s comments have caused me to return more closely to the text, and this has been helpful for me, and caused me to challenge my previous view. (Interestingly, I used to read Moses 1 as the Father and then became “enlightened” on my mission from all the James Talmage.) I think there are good reasons to consider the possibility that this is the Father. This throws some things out of whack for me, theologically (related to some things Kirk has mentioned), but I’m certainly open.

    4. That being said, I question whether letting “the text stand in its unicity” (in Joe’s terms) is (a) possible concerning Godhead questions and (b) actually points to “the Father” (or the Son). I’ll tackle (b) first. Clearly, if we are concerned with the text’s identification of the person first and foremost, then the most obvious label is “God.” That’s the name used over and over again. If I were teaching this lesson (or others), I would simply refer to “God” or “the Lord” or “the Lord God.” In this sense, I have no problem referring to God without distinguishing the Father or the Son. But this is why I was surprised that Jim made the distinction. If we look at the text alone, “The Father” is used only once and not in a way that unambiguously points to the being’s identity (v. 24).

    This leads me to point (a). To say this is “the Father” seems to be bringing in theological interpretations about the Godhead from elsewhere. Now, this may not be as heavy handed as relying on Talmage and McConkie. I admit that “the Father” is the more obvious choice, at face value, but the only reason I can say that is because of some kind of theological understanding about the Godhead, which comes from outside the text. Moreover, if we consider all of the Book of Moses as the text, there is at least one reason to wonder if Godhood identifications can be taken at face value–in Moses 5:9, the Holy Ghost says, “I am the Only Begotten of the Father.” I suspect others here are not going to “let the text stand in its unicity” and say, “Well, the Holy Ghost must be the Only Begotten.” Moreover, assuming that cross-referencing scriptures can help us interpret a text, the verses Kirk C. cites (D&C 29:1 coupled with 29:42) at least should give one pause about jumping to the conclusion that this must be the Father.

    5. So, my conclusion (for now): Godhood issues are complex in Mormonism, and Moses 1 is good evidence of that. Whether it’s the Father or the Son probably is not all that important (though I probably tentatively lean with the Son for theological reasons). Considering the complexity and the unimportance, I think there is wisdom that the third-person references in the Moses chapters are always “God,” “the Lord,” and “the Lord God.” Considering this, I still question Jim’s use of the term “the Father” (while remaining open that it could be the Father).

    Thoughts?

    • Jim F. said

      Dennis, you’ve done a great job of putting all of this together. I don’t have any critical responses to what you’ve said because I’m pretty much in agreement.

      But perhaps I could add this: as I noted earlier, I’m less concerned about the actual personage speaking than I am about what is said. If someone with authority from someone else speaks in the name of that other person, then it seems that we can refer to the event as the authoritative person speaking.

      An over-simplified example: a priesthood bearer gives a blessing to person Y; Y says, “The Lord promised me that X.” Someone talking about that event could legitimately speak of the Lord (rather than the priesthood bearer) making the promise. He or she could ask “What did the Lord [rather than the priesthood bearer] promise Y?”

      I suppose that’s why I’m not particularly concerned with who the actual speaking personage was yet why I think it makes sense to say that it was the Father since the text identifies the speaker as the Father.

  23. Robert C. said

    Dennis, “boilerplate answers”—that’s the perfect phrase, thanks! (I like your thought and questions, but don’t have anything to add right now.)

  24. KirkC said

    Dennis, #22
    “5. Godhood issues are complex in Mormonism, and Moses 1 is good evidence of that.”

    This is a simple statement, but I like it. In church I often hear members talk about how confusing and illogical the Protestant/Catholic view of God is. However, as you point out, understand the God of Mormonism is no cakewalk either. I think members think God is easy to understand because of the clear doctrinal issues like his body, emotions, etc. As we see from this discussion, there is still much to do in term of developing a clear consensus on a Mormon view Christologicalically.

    Understanding the nature of God and how He works is not easy task (to state the obvious)

  25. joespencer said

    Dennis, fantastic comments. I think they are spot on.

    Incidentally, one of the reasons I said that I think we are still so far out from even beginning to study the JST is because we actually have two very different manuscripts for what is now the Book of Moses. Some of the differences are startling, and the version we have now is the product of an intertwining of the two manuscripts that was undertaken by the Reorganized Church.

    Of course, what we actually have in the published version of the Book of Moses is canon, while the manuscripts are not. But I think we would do well to take a look at the manuscripts when we’re trying to make sense of these kinds of issues.

  26. KirkC said

    Joe, have you read the other versions of the Book of Moses? And you have a good place to find them? I would surly be interested!

  27. Robert C. said

    Kirk, for more on what Joe is referring to, see a description of various editions of the PoGP and the 2 main source manuscripts here, an excerpt from Kent Jackson’s book Book of Moses and the JST Manuscripts.

  28. KirkC said

    You guys are like living encyclopedias! Thanks for the link.

  29. joespencer said

    Kirk,

    Yes, I’ve studied them some, but that project has taken back seat to a few others. The best resource without question is Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, published in 2004 by the RSC at BYU. It is a transcription of the entirety of the JST manuscripts. Of course, it runs $100….

    At any rate, it is, in many ways, the only source.

    The best book to date on the JST is Robert Matthews’s “A Plainer Translation”, which was written decades ago now. It is heavily “doctrinal,” but it contains the best basic history of the JST project and provides some helpful analyses. I’m waiting to see some more productive work done—and if I need to do so, to get some of my own productive work done on it. :)

  30. KirkC said

    I hate how books are so darn expensive. Thank goodness for free library loans from SUMMIT!

  31. KirkC said

    Let me reach back a few post and go back onto the topic of Endless. It seems curious to me that “eternal life,” which is God’s life, is never ending. Yet “endless punishment,” which is God’s punishment (D&C 19), is ending.

    Not sure what to make of this, but it is something to think about for sure.

  32. Thanks for the writeup — I find it very helpful. I’m wondering if you can shed any light on the point of view and voice used in Moses, especially chapter one. In 1:6, Christ says,

    And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.

    Why does Christ refer to himself in the third person in this way? That point of view seems to reveal more about the nature of the godhead than most people consider when reading this chapter. I’ve heard explanations as varied as “they’re one in purpose” to “you’ve got to understand the concept of divine investiture.”

    I know we feel doctrinal clarity about their separate identities of the godhead, but the merged point of view in the scriptures makes those separate identities a little more complex.

    • Jim F. said

      Tom, you might want to read the discussion (above) about whether this is Christ speaking or the Father. I think most people believe it is Christ speaking but speaking the words of the Father. Certainly a number of General Authorities have taught that, though I don’t think it is a belief that is doctrinally binding.

      The first thing to say by way of a possible answer is that if it is Christ speaking of himself, then he does so because he is functioning as a messenger: he says what the Father would have him say, as if he were the Father.

      The second thing to say would be what Robert C has said.

  33. Robert C. said

    Tom, I think you raise a very good question. I wonder if the way to understand all of this is to have a more flexible conception of the father-son relationship. Perhaps Christ is our eldest brother in some sense, but there are so many times in scripture that he acts as our father (cf. “chilren of Christ” in Mosiah 5:7; 4 Ne 1:17; Mormon 9:26), that perhaps we should think more often of him as our father also (e.g., father of our salvation, etc.). In that sense, the work Christ performed in his role as Son of God can be separated (grammatically) from the work he performed as Moses’s father (cf. Moses 1:4)…?

  34. I guess I should read the comment thread before posting a comment. :) Sorry about that. I just read through the comments now and see that practically the entire discussion is about this point. Very helpful. Thanks for drawing my attention to it.

    By the way, this blog is great. I’m so happy to find it.

    Tom

  35. KirkC said

    Tom, did the discussion clear up the matter for you, or just muddy the water even more?

  36. Did it clear the matter up for me? Uhm, maybe a little. It is comforting that I’m not the only one who shares the concerns. On the one hand, the consensus seems to be that Christ has authority to speak as if he is the Father. That’s really the only explanation that seems to make sense in reading the scriptures and following what the general authorities teach. On the other hand, when Christ speaks as if he is the Father, it doesn’t seem as personal. It’s somewhat of an unfamiliar mode for me, but maybe it’s a cultural bias.

  37. KirkC said

    To struggle over a text is a good thing, as long you are doing it for a righteous purpose of course.

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