As many turn to the study of the Old Testament in 2018, Moses 1 is a common starting point. It serves as an introduction to Genesis, which is an introduction to the whole message of the Hebrew scriptures. Moses 1 also has much to say about how we view and understand ourselves—in fact, it can serve as a model for how we might view our own lives in relation to God’s plan for us.
Where Moses 1 came from
Moses 1 was a revelation received by Joseph Smith in June 1830, while living in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Oliver Cowdery was the scribe, and wrote at the top of the first page, “A Revelation given to Joseph the Revelator June 1830.” While we do not know the details behind the revelation, it became the beginning of a work known today as the Joseph Smith Translation: we might even call it Genesis chapter 0 (slotting it in before chapter 1). In this revelation, the Prophet recorded an encounter that Moses had on a high mountain with the Lord and with Satan, sometime between the burning bush incident and his departure for Egypt.
The revelation ended up as Moses 1 in the Pearl of Great Price after Franklin D. Richards published excerpts from it in his collection of important revelations for the British Saints in 1851. He used an incomplete copy of the translation of the early chapters of Genesis published in Church newspapers. In 1877, Orson Pratt made an American edition of the small book, filling in gaps in Moses from the 1867 edition of the Inspired Version, the Bible translation published by the Reorganized LDS Church. It was published in 1878 and was canonized in 1880, along with new additions to the Doctrine and Covenants. In 1900, the First President asked James Talmage, a University of Utah professor, to revise it, which he did. His work is essentially the Pearl of Great Price, including the Book of Moses, that is in use today.
Moses 1:1-5, Some but not all
In the first five verses, the Lord showed Moses “the workmanship of mine hands, but not all.” What Moses saw is not listed, but it would be fascinating if he gained insight into creations in our own solar system, galaxy, or beyond.
Astronomers and other scientists have gained significant understanding of the universe, and yet it is so vast, that we know very little overall. Our own galaxy is about 100,000 light years across (one light year being nearly 6 trillion miles), with our own planet in the Orion-Cygnus arm, about 27,000 light years from the galactic center. The nearest star to our own Sun is about 26 trillion miles away.
Moses 1:7-8, Earth
The Lord also showed Moses “the world and the ends thereof,” as well as all the inhabitants of the earth, past and present for him. Our world includes high mountains, vast deserts, huge oceans, and natural forces such as earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, and more. Moses had seen parts of it in Egypt and the surrounding lands, but this revelation must have been amazing to him. The text records that “he greatly marveled.”
Moses 1:9-10, Man is nothing
After this vision ended and Moses was left to himself, he was so overcome physically, mentally, and spiritually, that he concluded, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” Faced with the absolute power of God and the vastness of his creations, his determined that man was unimportant in the universe.
Perhaps this was similar to how King Benjamin’s people felt after hearing his words. They “had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them. And they viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth” (Mosiah 4:1-2).
However, Moses was not done learning lessons this day, nor are we.
Moses 1:12-22, Satan comes tempting
In that state of mind, Satan came to Moses declaring that Moses should worship him. But Moses recalled something he had been told: He was “in the similitude” of the Only Begotten son of God. He could see that Satan had no glory like the Lord who had appeared to him, so he wondered why he should worship this lesser being. He saw nothing but darkness in him. Moses told him to leave, and Satan became increasingly agitated, even declaring, “I am the Only Begotten, worship me.” After multiple attempts, Moses was finally able to force Satan to leave by calling upon God and commanding Satan “in the name of the Only Begotten.”
Moses 1:25-29, More about earth
With Satan gone, Moses called upon God again, and heard a voice declaring that he was blessed and chosen and “stronger than many waters,” alluding to events yet in his future. He again had a vision of the earth, seeing every “particle of it” and all the inhabitants, such that “there was not a soul which he beheld not.”
Moses 1:30-31, Two questions
Concluding that experience, Moses had two questions for the Lord: First, “why these things are so” and second, “by what thou madest them”? We might rephrase the questions as, ‘Why did you do all this’ and ‘How did you create it all’? The Lord answered the second question first, simply saying “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.” In other words, ‘You wouldn’t understand right now anyway, so lets not waste our time on that.’
The first question, ‘Why?’, was answered in a long explanation that lasts the rest of the chapter. And this is the answer that tells us so much about ourselves.
Moses 1:32-39, Why we are
First, Moses learned that all these were created by “the word of my power,” which is the Only Begotten Son. The creations of God are “without number,” and “there are many worlds that have passed away” already, as well as an “innumerable” numbers of worlds existing still.
A few years ago, NASA scientists aimed the Hubble Space Telescope at an otherwise ’empty’ spot in the sky, only 1/10th the diameter of the moon. During 400 earth orbits over almost four months, Hubble took 800 images of that same spot, then those images were combined for this single composite image.
This small view of an area of space seen as ’empty’ from earth captures over 10,000 galaxies, some relatively near but some so far away that the light we see is an image from billions of years ago when the universe was recently formed.
Scientists estimate that there are about 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. If each galaxy had an average of 100 million stars, and only one out of every 10,000 stars had a habitable planet like earth, that means there could potentially be 1,000 trillion planets capable of human life: that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000 earth-like planets. The Lord summarized for Moses: “The heavens, they are man, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.”
Armed with that vision of God’s greatness and power over the entire universe, the Lord then reveled to Moses the key lesson:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
The Lesson of Moses 1
The creative power of God is incomprehensible to us. Yet with all of that, he teaches us that the most important thing on his daily agenda is the outcome of our lives. His purpose—what brings him glory—is to enable us to live as him, immortal and exalted. There is nothing more important in all the universe to an all-powerful God than us.
The image above is of a galaxy known as I Zwicky 18, the blue-white gaseous object just left of center. It is the youngest known galaxy, being only 500 million years of age. It sits only 45 million light years away from us, surrounded by mature galaxies like our own. It is a mere 3,000 light years across.
I like I Zwicky 18 because to me, it shows that there are galaxies still forming, perhaps being prepared for future inhabitants. In a plan where creation and life is an eternal round, I Zwicky 18 represents hope in God’s promise of who we can become through the Atonement of the Only Begotten. It represents our destiny, if we choose it.
I hope we can recognize our eternal worth to the creators of the universe, a Father who has no higher purpose than our exaltation, and a Son who paid the full price that we might achieve it. We only understand a particle of who we are and what we can become, but that particle is the lesson of Moses 1 and what to keep in mind throughout our study of the Old Testament in 2018.
Seattle temple image from lds.org
Andromeda Galaxy image by Adam Evans – M31, the Andromeda Galaxy (now with h-alpha) Uploaded by NotFromUtrecht, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12654493
Earthrise, Hubble deep space, and I Zwicky 18 images courtesy NASA, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82693&eocn=related_to&eoci=related_image, https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap040309.html, and https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap071017.html