By Eric Johnson
This is the first of a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2022 teachings, click here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)
December 27-January 2 (Moses 1; Abraham 3)
For what is supposed to be an overview of the Old Testament, the first week’s lesson in this new church series deals with two books from the LDS scripture Pearl of Great Price.
As a Christian, I find this approach to be problematic. Neither the Book of Moses nor the Book of Abraham is considered by Bible-believing Christians to be part of the Old Testament canon. Both are nothing more than a compilation of Joseph Smith’s interpretation of what he claimed originated with the patriarchs Abraham and Moses. To cite these books as part of a study of the Old Testament seems misleading, as if these book deserve to belong in the biblical canon. By using two chapters from these two books, the reader is only going to receive the unique teaching of Joseph Smith and the LDS Church, not the authoritative teaching of God’s Word we call the Bible.
The introduction to the curriculum reads:
The Bible begins with the words “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). But what was there before this “beginning”? And why did God create all of this? Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord has shed light on these questions.
For example, He gave us the record of a vision in which Abraham saw our existence as spirits “before the world was” (see Abraham 3:22–28). The Lord also gave us an inspired translation or revision of the first six chapters of Genesis, called the book of Moses—which doesn’t begin with “in the beginning.” Instead, it begins with an experience Moses had that provides some context for the well-known Creation story. Together, these latter-day scriptures are a good place to start our study of the Old Testament because they address some fundamental questions that can frame our reading: Who is God? Who are we? What is God’s work, and what is our place in it? The opening chapters of Genesis could be seen as the Lord’s response to Moses’s request: “Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens” (Moses 1:36).
According to Mormonism, physical matter has always existed. Thus, it is taught that God created the universe by putting eternal elements together to form the universe. The Latin term for this type of creation is creatio ex materia. Contrary to this view, monotheists (including Jews, Muslims, and Christians from the eastern and western traditions) have always taught creatio ex nihilo, or that God created “out of nothing.”
There are many problems with the idea that matter has always existed. As scholars Paul Copan and William Lane Craig explain in their chapter titled “Craftsman or Creator? An Examination of the Mormon Doctrine of Creation and a Defense of Creatio ex nihilo” (found in the book The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002)):
The first noticeable divergence from typical Christian views of creation is the Book of Moses’ claim that God created all things, including every human being, “spiritually” before they were created physically (Moses 3:5,7). Significantly, however, there are no hints that God created out of preexisting matter in these passages from the Book of Mormon, the earliest sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, or the early “translation” of Genesis canonized as the Book of Moses. One could even argue that some of these early passages imply creatio ex nihilo (p. 100).
Chapter 3 in the Book of Abraham–first published in 1842–is cited in support of creatio ex materia. Some of the things taught in Abraham 3 include:
- Verse 3: The star closest to God is called Kolob.
- Verse 11: Abraham talked to God “face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made.”
- Verse 13: The sun is called Shinehah, the star is called Kokob, Olea is the moon, and Kokaubeam are the firmament of heaven.
- Verse 14: Abraham’s seed would be like the sands, which cannot be counted (see Genesis 22:17 where Abraham was told it would be like counting the “sand of the seashore.”
- Verse 22: The “intelligences” “were organized before the world was.”
- Verse 23: Abraham was chosen before he was born.
- Verse 26: Those who keep their “first estate” “shall be added upon” while those who don’t will not.
- Verses 27-28: God asks, “Whom shall I send?” (see Isaiah 6:8). The Son of Man (Jesus) answered, “Here am I send me” while another (Satan) said the same, but God said, “I will send the first,” making Satan angry and many spirits followed him.
Copan and Craig make a great point on page 101,
The Book of Abraham creation narrative implies that the earth was created from preexisting materials, but it does not preclude the possibility that god created this matter ex nihilo at some point prior to the earth’s formation.
Many assumptions must be made in order to accept the idea that creation took place with pre-existing materials, but the main presupposition that must be accepted is that Joseph Smith really is a prophet of God who had the capability to translate the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham found in the Pearl of Great Price. To say that Joseph Smith’s teachings originated with God is an example of circular reasoning that is called begging the question. The real question ought to be, Was Joseph Smith truly a prophet of God? And do his teachings coincide with the teachings of the Bible?
Answering the question “How did we get the books of Moses and Abraham?” the article reports at the very end,
The book of Moses is the first part of Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of the Bible. The book of Abraham was revealed to Joseph Smith during his work with Egyptian papyri. These books, found today in the Pearl of Great Price, provide much information about Moses, Abraham, and other prophets that is not found in the Old Testament.
For those who don’t know better, it might be assumed that the Book of Moses was translated by Joseph Smith from an available manuscript. However, there was no written source for the Book of Moses. It came from Joseph Smith’s imagination and is accepted as scripture because it is presupposed, once again, that Joseph Smith was an authentic prophet sent by God. Meanwhile, the Book of Abraham did have a manuscript source.
Unfortunately for the LDS position, it has been proven that the Egyptian funerary papyrus used by Smith has no correlation with the translation offered by Smith in the Book of Abraham. This has been admitted by the church in its Gospel Topics essay and the claim that the book is a inspired–even though not literal–translation of the papyrus. (We encourage you to watch the History Channel-like documentary below called The Lord Book of Abraham. In addition, the Bible provides absolutely no evidence that either of these books are accurate or that they originated outside the creative imagination of Joseph Smith.
For more on this topic, please visit:
- 10 Reasons Why Joseph Smith is not a prophet of God
- How God Created: Creatio ex nihilo or ex materia?
- The Book of Abraham
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught, “Much of the confusion we experience in this life comes from simply not understanding who we are” (“The Reflection in the Water” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Nov. 1, 2009], ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
The Bible certainly explains “who we are.” Romans 3:23 teaches that “all” have sinned, meaning every single person falls short of God’s glory. And Romans 6:23 adds that the “wages of sin is death.”
Mormon leaders like Uchtdorf minimize this sin problem, instead wanting to emphasize human potential to become gods. Christians reject this concept, realizing that it is only through genuine faith to create a relationship with Jesus that allows for sin to be forgiven. While Romans 3:23 does say humans fall short of God’s glory, verse 24 adds, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” And after Romans 6 says that the “wages of sin is death,” it adds that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
For more, see “Do You Really Believe you Can Become a God?“
Heavenly Father knows this, and so does Satan. God’s first message to Moses included the truths “thou art my son” and “thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten” (Moses 1:4, 6). In contrast, Satan addressed Moses as just a “son of man” (Moses 1:12). How would your life and decisions be different if you thought of yourself like Satan wants you to, as a “son [or daughter] of man”? How does knowing and remembering that you are a child of God bless your life?
What verses or phrases in Moses 1 give you a sense of your divine worth?
As mentioned, there is no evidence that the Book of Moses is an authentic recording of the words of Moses. To use the Pearl of Great Price in a manual that is supposed to cover the “Old Testament” is not acceptable for Bible-believing Christians.
There appear to be a number of anomalies in these books. Consider, for instance, how the Book of Moses has the Father calling Jesus “Only Begotten” (a Greek term only used in the New Testament) and “Savior,” “full of grace and truth” (Moses 1:6). This latter phrase is only found in the Gospel of John (1:14) and is not used in the Old Testament. Since Moses compiled the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), we should certainly expect that these terms would have been used somewhere in his writings. Yet these terms are never used, whether in books written by Moses or anywhere else.
Nowhere does God ever call Moses his “son” in the Old Testament (see Moses 1:7) nor does Moses ever say that he considers himself a “son of God” (see Moses 1:13). Although Jesus was tempted by Satan, nowhere does it teach that Moses was tempted in the same manner (see Moses 1:14).
Finally, the Bible never considers anyone except the Christian to be a “child of God.” For instance, John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Galatians 3:28 says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:14 says, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” I challenge the Latter-day Saint to look throughout the Bible and produce even one piece of evidence that all people (even unbelievers) are considered the children of God. (Hint: It’s not there.)
Why is the first week of this series produced by the LDS Church dedicated to two non-Old Testament books in a series supposedly covering the Old Testament? Without trying to be mean, I need to say that this first lesson is quite a disappointment for anyone who was hoping to study the first 39 books of the biblical canon.
To link to all of the 2022 teachings, click here.