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The Book of Moses
by Bruce T. Taylor
The Book of Moses is an extract of several chapters from Genesis in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST) and constitutes one of the texts in the Pearl of Great Price. The Prophet Joseph Smith began an inspired revision of the Old Testament in June 1830 to restore and clarify vital points of history and doctrine missing from the Bible.
As for other ancient books, the original title of the first chapter of Moses may have been its opening line, "The words of God" (Moses 1:1). The account deals with Moses' revelation, and beginning with chapter 2 largely parallels Genesis 1:1-6:13. The revelation came to Moses after his call to deliver the Israelites from bondage in Egypt (Moses 1:26). Much of it concerns God's dealings with Adam and Eve and their immediate posterity following their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, a topic on which the current text of Genesis is silent. Structurally, a series of orienting visions (chap. 1) is followed by a revelation of the Creation and its aftermath (2:1-8:1). Embedded within this revelation is an extended account of Enoch (6:25-51; 7:1-8:1), which itself quotes from a record of Adam (6:51-68). A narrative concerning Enoch's descendants, chiefly Noah, appears next (8:2-30).
An outline of the Book of Moses follows:
Chapter 1. God reveals himself and his creations to Moses; Satan tries to deceive Moses; God's work and glory are characterized.
Chapter 2. God reveals to Mosesand commands him to writethe creation of the heavens and the earth; man has dominion over other living things.
Chapter 3. All things were created in a spirit state before being created naturally on the earth; man and woman are created in God's image.
Chapter 4. Satan, who had rebelled in the pre-earthly council, tempts Eve; Adam and Eve transgress and are expelled from the Garden, becoming subject to death (see Devil).
Chapter 5. Children are born to Adam and Eve; Adam offers animal sacrifice as a type and shadow of the anticipated Savior's atoning sacrifice; the gospel of the future Jesus Christ is preached; Cain rebels, and wickedness spreads.
Chapter 6. Adam and his faithful posterity have a "pure and undefiled" language, both written and spoken, and keep records (see Adamic Language); Enoch preaches the word of God and proclaims that the Plan of Salvation was revealed to Adam; faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are taught.
Chapter 7. God reveals himself to Enoch, who preaches and establishes the city of Zion; Enoch foresees the coming of Christ, his Atonement and his resurrection; Enoch foresees the restoration of the gospel in the last days, the New Jerusalem, and the second coming of the Savior.
Chapter 8. Great wickedness arises at the time of Noah; he and his sons preach the gospel, but it goes unheeded; all flesh is destroyed by the flood.
A comparison of the Book of Moses with Old Testament pseudepigraphic texts shows parallels not found in the present text of Genesis. For example, Adam and Eve were to offer sacrifices to God after being driven from the Garden (Moses 5:5-7; cf. Life of Adam and Eve, 29.4), and Satan rebelled against God and was expelled from heaven (Moses 4:3-4; cf. Life, 12-16).
A major point of doctrine restored by the Book of Moses is that the gospel of salvation was preached "from the beginning" (Moses 5:58), an idea echoed both by Paul's statement that the gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8) and by the Book of Mormon (Jacob 4:4-5; 7:10-11; cf. D&C 29:41-42). Similarly, Eusebius (c. A.D. 263-339) maintained that the teaching of Christianity was neither new nor strange and that the religion of the Patriarchs was identical with that of the Christians (Ecclesiastical History 1.2.1-22).
In this connection, the Book of Moses clarifies the fact that Adam and Eve understood the coming mission of Jesus Christ (Moses 6:51-63). Sacrificial offerings, Adam learned, were "a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten" (5:6-8). Further, Adam was baptized in water, received the Holy Ghost (5:9; 6:64-68), and was taught the Plan of Salvation (6:62). Adam and Eve and their posterity were also taught the purpose of the Fall and rejoiced in the Lord's plan for redemption (5:10-12).
The Book of Moses augments the biblical account of Enoch, who is briefly referred to in Genesis 5:22-24 as one who "walked with God." This restoration of Moses' account includes the fact that Enoch beheld in a vision the Savior's ministry (Moses 7:55-57), the spirit world (6:35-36; 7:56-57), the restoration of the gospel in the last days (7:62), and the second advent of the Savior (7:60, 65). Enoch's importance in the Book of Moses parallels his significant role in other Enoch texts (Nibley, p. vii).
(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page; Scriptural Writings home page)
Charlesworth, James H. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 2, p. 285. Garden City, N.Y., 1983, 1985.
Nibley, Hugh. Enoch The Prophet. In CWHN, 2. Salt Lake City, 1986.
Reynolds, Noel B. "The Brass Plates Version of Genesis." In By Study and Also by Faith, ed. J. Lundquist and S. Ricks, Vol. 2, pp. 136-73. Salt Lake City, 1990.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Book of Moses
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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