Moses 1: The Work and Glory

Aaron P. Schade and Matthew L. Bowen, "Moses 1: The Work and Glory," in The Book of Moses: from the Ancient of Days to the Latter Days (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book), 91‒106.

The Encounter of Moses with the Adversary

Amid the theophanies and experiences of Moses, we see the Lord guiding him along the way as he learns important truths that would better prepare him to embark on his prophetic ministry. During his recovery from the effects of his transfiguration, Moses learns the sobering reality described by the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes.”[1] Moses would now be directly confronted by the adversary himself.[2]

Satan is not an edifying topic, but the inclusion of the following episode in the Book of Moses seems to function as a warning that will help us detect and expose him for the enemy that he is. It will also help us overcome his evil influence as we rely and call upon God and the power of Christ’s atonement when faced with trials and temptations. Elder James E. Faust offered the following cautionary counsel:

I feel impressed to sound a warning voice against the devil and his angels—the source and mainspring of all evil. I approach this prayerfully, because Satan is not an enlightening subject. I consider him to be the great imitator.

I think we will witness increasing evidence of Satan’s power as the kingdom of God grows stronger. . . . In the future the opposition will be both more subtle and more open. It will be masked in greater sophistication and cunning, but it will also be more blatant. We will need greater spirituality to perceive all of the forms of evil and greater strength to resist it.[3]

The scriptures of the restoration confirm his existence and help us understand how to combat him. The following episode in Moses 1 demonstrates this.

12 And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.

13 And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said:[4] Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

14 For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?

15 Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.

16 Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten.

17 And he also gave me commandments when he called unto me out of the burning bush, saying: Call upon God in the name of mine Only Begotten, and worship me.

18 And again Moses said: I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.

Moses seems to learn a few important truths from this experience. First, he learns of the existence of the adversary and how he blatantly tries to make us feel ordinary. He attempts to knock us off the covenant path leading to God, and he will do so despite our sacred, spiritual experiences by blatantly counteracting them with the intent to destroy their effects. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “But Moses’ message to you today is, ‘Don’t let your guard down.’ Don’t assume that a great revelation, some marvelous illuminating moment, or the opening of an inspired path is the end of it. Remember, it isn’t over until it’s over.”[5]

The adversary refers to Moses as “son of man,” but the Lord has already told Moses that he is a “son of God.” The foundational truth that we are sons and daughters of God is what Moses clings to when he is confronted with his bitter trial. He knows who he is and recognizes that the glory of God cannot be imitated by impostors. Despite the visitation from the adversary, Moses recalls his transfiguration experience and realizes that the devil lacks the glory of God. Moses cries out, “Deceive me not,” and in this moment of confusion embraces the truths that he had been taught by God himself. [6] Moses perceives that deception is a very real danger posed by the adversary, but also that it can be effectively counteracted by the magnificent doctrine “I am a son [or, more generally, child] of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten.” Moses holds fast to the concept “If we do not understand who we are, then it is difficult to recognize who we can become.”[7]

Another important truth revealed in this episode is that Moses was completely aware of the concept of the Godhead, since all three members are mentioned in these passages and he recognizes their distinctive roles and functions.[8]

This doctrine of three separate personages composing the Godhead is significant. Moses is told to call upon God in the name of the Son, and he is reminded to worship no other god but the God of glory (see Moses 1:17). He also learns that a role of the Spirit is to help us discern between good and evil and between truth and error (see v. 15), a theme the Lord fleshes out in a revelation given to Joseph Smith less than eight months after the reception of Moses 1 (see Doctrine and Covenants 46). The Spirit also bring things to our recollection (see John 14:26), truths that have never changed. Moses blesses the name of God as he recognizes that it is only by the power of the Spirit that he can judge between the imitator and God himself. Moses also came to understand that when he had questions he could rely on the Spirit to deliver the answers he sought and that the Lord alone is the source of that truth. When we can see the Lord clearly, we see ourselves better and our own potential is brought to light. Moses had seen God and recognized his own true nature and potential: “And again Moses said: I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me,[9] wherefore I can judge between him and thee” (Moses 1:18).

As Moses holds fast to these truths and attempts to endure through the ordeal, resolution is not in sight and things are about to get worse before they get better.

What happened to Moses next, after his revelatory moment, would be ludicrous if it were not so dangerous and so absolutely true to form. In an effort to continue his opposition, in his unfailing effort to get his licks in later if not sooner, Lucifer appeared and shouted in equal portions of anger and petulance after God had revealed himself to the prophet, saying, “Moses, worship me.” But Moses was not having it. He had just seen the real thing, and by comparison this sort of performance was pretty dismal.[10]

The following is the scriptural account of the terrifying experience Moses will encounter:

19 And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted[11] upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

20 And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.[12]

21 And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten,[13] depart hence, Satan.

22 And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not.

Clinging to God, Moses ultimately endured this trial. Among other things, he learned that the adversary’s tactics can involve deception and also be downright frightening. He also learned that fears can be overcome when one calls upon God. Although Moses saw and felt the bitterness of hell, he also tasted the sweetness of the divine. This would not be his last trial, but it signaled a new path of reliance on the Lord during trials. On this theme of opposition, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland remarked:

So Satan left, always to come again, we can be sure, but always to be defeated by the God of Glory—always.

I wish to encourage every one of you today regarding opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose. In his letter to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul was trying to encourage new members who had just joined the Church, who undoubtedly had had spiritual experiences and had received the pure light of testimony, only to discover that not only had their troubles not ended, but that some of them had only begun.[14]

Moses learned that no matter how bad his trials were, relief and deliverance were well within reach when he called upon God.

Moses’s experience illuminates what it means to have a Savior, and it leads him closer to comprehending the overall message that the Lord will help him participate in saving souls as His prophet and mouthpiece on earth. Moses is now better aware of the opposition and resistance he will face as the Lord’s prophet, an opposition that he will eventually encounter standing face-to-face with Pharaoh. While considering these events as they were revealed to him, Joseph Smith, who had gone through a similar ordeal before his first vision, must have felt great relief because he could comprehend in some measure what Moses had experienced. Joseph later gave a detailed description of his own experience of being nearly overcome by a significant power of darkness:

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. (Joseph Smith—History 1:16)

In both of their prophetic ministries, Moses and Joseph Smith learned early that the adversary would fight to deceive them and thwart the work of God to which they had been called. With the adversary and his methods exposed, they knew the Lord could deliver them from evil influences when they called upon him in faith. They could prepare and rely on the Lord in all they did and move forward without fear, although at times the way would be difficult and often frightening. It may be that Moses learned another important concept through the fears he experienced just before he hit a low point and saw the bitterness of hell, perhaps the cause-and-effect relationship described by President David O. McKay:

Your greatest weakness will be the point at which Satan will try to tempt you, will try to win you; and if you have made yourself weak, he will add to that weakness. Resist him, and you will gain in strength. If he tempts you in another way, resist him again, and he will become weaker. In turn, you become stronger until you can say, no matter what your surroundings may be, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Luke 4:8) . . . Remember, you cannot tamper with the evil one. Resist temptation, resist Satan, and he will flee from you.[15]

Moses seems to have learned that fears can be conquered with faith. He recognized that God saw divine potential in him, and this assurance strengthened his faith so he could act appropriately in the face of opposition. In attempting to retain in remembrance all that God sees in us, including the great potential we have been endowed with in this life, we too can hold fast to our identity as daughters and sons of God.

The Lord’s Deliverance of Moses

It is at this juncture in the story that Moses is prepared to receive a glimpse into “the book of [his] possibilities,”[16] a concept described by President James E. Faust thus: “If, through our priesthood blessings, we could perceive only a small part of the person God intends us to be, we would lose our fear and never doubt again.”[17] Through a process that leads Moses from receiving the manifestations of the Holy Ghost to beholding the glory of God by hearing a voice and then standing in his presence, Moses is about to find out more specifically who he is and what he will accomplish in his life if he will but stay close to the Lord:

24 And it came to pass that when Satan had departed from the presence of Moses, that Moses lifted up his eyes unto heaven, being filled with the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son;

25 And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.

26 And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen.

Moses’s reliance on God is strengthened following his adversity. He has now gone from being called (note the burning bush experience as well as the Lord’s words “I have a work for thee,” Moses 1:6) to being chosen (v. 25). Moses has had to endure “the bitterness of hell” to get from being called to being chosen, highlighting how difficult the path of discipleship can be.[18] However, Moses continues to lift “up his eyes unto heaven” and is “filled with the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son.” Moses knows what he knows, and God will continue to strengthen him with further revelation while the Holy Ghost continues to strengthen this prophet’s testimony of God.

By the witness of the Holy Ghost, Moses comes to know with absolute certainty that God the Father lives and his Only Begotten will be the Savior (see v. 6). Moses was coming to know the Lord—a process that began modestly with his experiences while still in Egypt and progressed through the years to heavenly visitations as he persisted in looking to heaven. The spiritual development of Moses had progressed beyond the earthly to the heavenly realms in a way encapsulated in the following statement from Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s concluding testimony in general conference just prior to his passing:

He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person. I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way. God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin.[19]

Moses has come to know God. It will be his life’s work to deliver Israel out of bondage and to bring them to that same knowledge.

The Revelation of the Lord’s Purposes and the Future of Moses

Moses had been given some insight into the events that would transpire in his life. He was told he would be made stronger than many waters and that they would obey his command as if he were God. The Lord’s comments to the Prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation puts this into perspective and makes clear the power that God bestows on his servants: “How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:33).[20]

Moses almost certainly did not comprehend at the time what the Lord’s promise meant in its entirety, and the whole encounter must have nearly overwhelmed him.[21] What a staggering and humbling experience to be told you would speak as if you were God, despite the inevitable questions about how this would materialize. Perhaps focus should be drawn to the power of the priesthood, as described by Joseph Fielding Smith: “[The priesthood] is nothing more nor less than the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.”[22]

The question arises as to whether Moses held the priesthood at this stage in his life. The answer is most likely yes. Doctrine and Covenants 84:6 tells us that he received the Melchizedek Priesthood from his father-in-law, Jethro. Exodus 2:16 and 3:1 state that Jethro was “the priest of Midian.” Midian was the son of Abraham and Keturah (see Genesis 25:2) and the geographic location where Jethro had settled. As previously discussed, several hundred years later we find Midian’s descendants in the desert holding the Melchizedek Priesthood and exercising it (an interesting glimpse into the dissemination of the priesthood through the centuries, as people other than the family of Isaac were claiming these blessings, were receiving the priesthood, and were using those keys and powers). Thus Moses had access to the priesthood and possibly had it bestowed on him before his experience with the burning bush (see Exodus 3), what seems to be almost forty years after he had originally fled Egypt, decades during which he had been in contact with the priestly figure of Jethro.

If we fast-forward to the time of the Exodus, when the people of Israel have marched into the desert and are camped by the sea, we begin to see the fulfilment of God’s promises to Moses:

8 And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt [JST Exodus 14:8, And Pharaoh hardened his heart], and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.

9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-zephon.

10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.

11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?

12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever.

14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. (Exodus 14:8–14)

They are trapped with no apparent way forward, and the armies of Pharaoh are behind them and the sea in front of them. The children of Israel have walked as far as they could on their own. At this point we witness the great faith of Moses. He recognizes the situation and tells the people to fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. Moses, knowing he has done all he can do, is thoroughly ready to allow the Lord to work miracles for them. However, what Moses expects to happen is different from what the Lord has in mind: the Lord instructs the Israelites not to sit and stand still but to get up and move forward.

15 And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:

16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. (Exodus 14:15–16)

Whatever Moses thought the Lord was going to do to deliver Israel, he learns that “standing still” (v. 13) was not going to last long, and it certainly was not the final answer. He is told to stop “crying” unto the Lord and to get everyone moving. He was to go forward and command the waters to divide. It was a time for action, not inert faith. Moses goes to work, and it causes one to wonder if at any point during these miraculous events when Moses is stretching forth his hand over the waters that he recalled the words he had heard earlier in his life: “thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God“ (Moses 1:25). The text does not directly answer this question, but the Lord’s words in Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3 seem to indicate the course of action came in the form of a revelation to Moses:

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

The revelation came, instructing Moses to move forward, and he responded. When it was all over and Israel was safe on the other side of the sea with Egypt and captivity behind them, one further wonders if in a moment of humble and reverent reflection, Moses finally realized the fulfillment of that previous pronouncement of power. We can learn from these events in the life of Moses that we will all walk to the waters of our own personal seas, and when we can go no further, the Lord opens “a way for the ransomed to pass over”[23] as we trust and follow him, for he fulfills his promises. But once the way is open, the Lord does not always lift us up over the obstacle and drop us safely on the other side. We are still required to get up, move forward with faith, and finish the difficult journey, trusting that God will give us the needed strength and deliver us safely to our destination.

According to Elder Mark E. Petersen, the purpose for this grand and miraculous deliverance was twofold: “Moses had two missions. One was to rescue Israel from Egyptian bondage, restoring the nation to the Land of Promise. The other was to convert the tribes to the worship of the true God. In both of these missions he was constantly taught and directed by the Almighty himself; he had such a close relationship with the Lord that it even approached being a companionship.”[24] As miraculous and difficult as delivering Israel from Egyptian bondage may have been, this was really the easy part for God. He has command over the elements, and they obey him, as in the Creation. The Lord’s servants may also be given this authority and power, just as God promised Moses (see Moses 1:25). Daniel Belnap has observed that “God’s power over water is also demonstrated in the Creation of the earth, . . . thereby beginning the means by which Moses can truly understand his work.” The Lord also promised Moses: “thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen” (v. 26).[25] But Israel would be recalcitrant. For Moses after the Exodus, the real work was about to begin—the Israelites’ spiritual deliverance.

Returning to Moses 1, we learn that Moses was about to be shown truths and perspectives that would enable him to more clearly view God’s children as He views them, leading up to the revelation of what God was attempting to do for them:

27 And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the Spirit of God.

28 And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless[26] as the sand upon the sea shore.

29 And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.

By the spirit of God, Moses discerns all the earth and the souls upon it.[27] Awestruck, and apparently a bit confused, Moses asks some important questions: “And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me,[28] I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?” (Moses 1:30).

After seeing God’s creations, the first thing Moses wanted to know is the point of God’s handiwork. The Lord apparently deemed it necessary to explain this to Moses in person: “The glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me” (Moses 1:31).

At first glance, the Lord’s response may seem a bit shocking: “Why?” “For my own purpose, and it remains in me.” Moses had been shown all of God’s creations, and if he was to do the work the Lord had called him to do, he would need to know the “why” of creation. Yet there was something Moses needed to recognize before he could understand why—it was the answer to his second question, “by what thou madest them?” The answer: “By the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth. And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son [29] I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many“ (Moses 1:32–34). Creation by divine word, Christ as the divine Word, and the efficacy of divine words once spoken will constitute a dominant thread in the Book of Moses.[30]

It is not clear what Moses expected to hear when he asked “by what” the Lord had made the earth and its inhabitants, but the Lord told him the most important truth he needed to know: “by whom.”[31] Moses was not told that the earth was created by accumulating hydrogen gas pockets and dust, by nuclear fission and collapsing supernovas, or by prokaryotic cyanobacteria, eukaryotic cellular organisms, ferns, and flatworms (though such events and processes may have constituted important parts of the process of creation). Rather, he learned that the Creation was deliberate, had a grand purpose, and was all orchestrated by God. He discovered that the Son of God, referred to as the “word of my power,” created all things under the direction of his Father. John 1 (including the Joseph Smith Translation) makes it clear that Jehovah’s role extended into the realms of the premortal world and would continue into mortality. Moses learned that God created the first man of all men and named him Adam (a personal name), “which is many” (the actual meaning of the Semitic word adam is “humankind” or “people”—reflecting the “many” people and generations stemming from Adam, the father of all humans, that Moses had just been shown in vision). Moses may have been tempted to inquire about the “worlds without number,” being distracted by the implication of it all, but the Lord kept him on track: “But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man;[32] but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them” (Moses 1:35). Moses’s work was here, not on other earths, and the Lord told him what he needed to know about “this earth” to help him successfully accomplish that work.

Amid this discussion between Moses and the Lord, Moses comes to understand the Creator and that there is a purpose behind his creations. At this point Moses is desperate to know what that purpose is: “Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content” (Moses 1:36). Moses does not need to know about other earths, but he does need to know about this one. He is finally ready for the answer of the purpose of creation, and it has been given to him line upon line to prepare him for the ultimate explanation:

37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.

38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

The personal side of the God comes out. Countless according to human reckoning are his creations; however, they all belong to God and he is intimately acquainted with them and knows them individually. None escape his eye or personal attention. Earths pass away and the works of God continue, but this passing away is not about an end—it is about a beginning:

This passing away does not mean that earths grow old and die, becoming cold, lifeless bodies, wandering through space, perhaps to disintegrate, be broken up and in some unknown manner be recreated, by some natural force working on the energy in the universe. We have every reason to believe that the passing away of an earth simply means that it will undergo, or has undergone, the same definite course which is destined for our earth, and the Lord has made that perfectly clear. This earth is a living body. It is true to the law given it. It was created to become a celestial body and the abode for celestial beings.[33]

Seeing the passing away and the celestial transformation that the earth will undergo, Moses learns that people will also experience such a transformation. President Wilford Woodruff commented on this concept:

The Lord Almighty never created a world like this and peopled it . . . as he has done, without having some motive in view. That motive was, that we might come here and exercise our agency. The probation we are called upon to pass through, is intended to elevate us so that we can dwell in the presence of God our Father.[34]

This was the goal—to take these mortals Moses had witnessed and make them immortal, to take these imperfect beings and perfect them. God’s work is to prepare his children for eternal life, and as far as Moses was concerned, “this earth” was where that process was taking place. This is what Moses needed to know and what Joseph Smith would later teach:

Here, then, is eternal life, to know the only wise and true God. You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves; to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done; by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory, as doth those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.[35]

With the understanding of the general purpose of the Creation, and the knowledge that we are children of God possessing the potential to become like him, Moses could perform his duties with greater conviction and devotion. The Lord had extended the call and explained why his work was so important. He had given Moses revelations, communicated with him, and supplied the proper encouragement and support for him to succeed. The pattern for us, as described by Elder Henry B. Eyring, is similar:

First, to the newly called: Confidence depends on your seeing the call for what it is. Your call to serve is not from human beings. It is a trust from God. And the service is not simply to perform a task. Whatever name it has, every call is an opportunity and an obligation to watch over and strengthen the children of our Heavenly Father. The Savior’s work is to bring to pass their immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39). He called us to serve others so that we could strengthen our own faith as well as theirs. He knows that by serving Him we will come to know Him. . . . The Savior will let you feel the love He feels for those you serve. The call is an invitation to become like Him.[36]

Imagine how our personal ministries and callings to represent Christ could be magnified if we could catch the vision of what our service means to ourselves and to others. Moses learned that the Savior’s mission originated long before he lived on this earth, linking premortality with mortality and the eternities. As it was the work of God to bring to pass the immortality of his children, an aspect of the work that only the Savior could bring into effect, Moses understood that the other component of God’s work, to bring to pass their eternal life, was now also his work. What he could help with was their journey toward eternal life, a journey that would lead him and the people out of Egypt and into the wilderness to receive the covenant. Elder John A. Widtsoe taught concerning our part in God’s work:

In our preexistent state, in the day of the great council, we made a certain agreement with the Almighty. The Lord proposed a plan, conceived by him. We accepted it. Since the plan is intended for all men, we became parties to the salvation of every person under that plan. We agreed, right then and there, to be not only saviors for ourselves but measurably, saviors for the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord. The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work.[37]

The glorious theophanies and visions of eternity Moses saw on this occasion taught him the purpose of life as God tenderly helped him understand what he was preparing him to do. With the significance of these revelations, the Lord spoke to Moses: “And now, Moses, my son, I will speak unto thee concerning this earth upon which thou standest; and thou shalt write the things which I shall speak” (Moses 1:40). These revelations remain crucial for all of us to understand. Although at one point removed from the book that Moses wrote, thankfully, these truths have now been restored (v. 41). The subsequent chapters in this volume will begin to focus on the specifics of the plan of salvation revealed to Moses, and subsequently to the Prophet Joseph Smith. When we view all that Moses endured and learned throughout the account given in Moses 1, we can constantly refer back to what President Faust taught, “If, through our priesthood blessings, we could perceive only a small part of the person God intends us to be, we would lose our fear and never doubt again.”[38]


[1] Joseph Smith, as quoted in Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 32.

[2] A major contribution of the revelations in the Book of Moses is the confirmation of Satan’s existence. It is often assumed in scholarship that Satan is a late invention from the third through the first centuries BC onward (see David Seal, “Satan ,” in Barry et al., Lexham Bible Dictionary). This is in part because, despite numerous references to demons and even Satan in the Old Testament, the frequency of the proper name increases during the later intertestamental and New Testament periods. It seems to be a philosophical impossibility that the devil was invented relatively late in world history in efforts to explain evil, as if such questions were never a concern before that time or ancient societies lacked the ability to articulate the concept. Throughout the earliest history of ancient cultures (in texts, iconography, amulets, curses, and incantations), depictions and descriptions of demons and evil forces have always been a part of ancient literatures and belief systems. Satan as an evil spirit would have been a part of this system. “Frequently other names or descriptions are applied to the being known as Satan.” Gardner, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters, 585. The lack of specific names attached to him does not constitute his nonexistence in early times, and his name does in fact occur in the Old Testament. Moreover, he has parallels in Babylonian creation stories and is often seen as the point of reference in the earliest stories of the Bible with the serpent in the Garden of Eden following creation. W. A. Elwell and B. J. Beitzel, “Satan,” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. As will be seen in the Book of Moses, Satan was always part of the equation, and the word “satan occurs as a noun at various points in the Old Testament to designate a human opponent. . . . In the Old Testament, the word ‘satan’ is also used in association with a supernatural figure. . . . Two Old Testament texts (Isaiah 14:12–15 and Ezekiel 28:11–19) could be a description of Satan’s rebellion.” Seal, “Satan .” “While many theologians refuse to apply the far-reaching prophecies in Isaiah 14:12–14 and Ezekiel 28:12–15 to Satan, contending that these passages are strictly addressed to the kings of Babylon and Tyre, conservative scholars generally hold that they contain a clear revelation of Satan’s origin. These profound prophecies seem clearly to go much beyond any earthly ruler and harmonize with the scriptural picture of Satan’s close relations with world governments (Dan 10:13; John 12:31; Eph 6:12). These passages picture Satan’s prefall splendor as well as his apostasy through pride and self-exaltation against God. A consuming passion of Satan is to be worshiped (Isa 14:14; Matt 4:9; 1 Cor 10:20; Rev 13:4, 15). In his fall Satan drew a vast number of lesser celestial creatures with him (Revelation 12:4). . . . Satan was the seducer of Adam and Eve (Gen 3:1–7; 2 Cor 11:3); he insinuated to God that Job served him only for what he got out of it (Job 1:9); and he stood up against Israel (1 Chron 21:1) and God’s high priest (Zech 3:1–2). Under divinely imposed limitations he may be instrumental in causing physical affliction or financial loss (Job 1:11–22; 2:4–7; Luke 13:16; 2 Cor 12:7).” Douglas and Tenney, New International Bible Dictionary , 899–900. In scholarship, Satan is an enigmatic figure that seems to have a theologically ancient origin but is elusively difficult to historically pinpoint. Revelation and ancient scripture provide answers. Through revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned of Satan’s nature and origin.

[3] Faust, “Forces That Will Save Us,” 5. There are numerous images attached to the adversary throughout the scriptures. The word Satan occurs eighteen times in the Old Testament, fourteen of which are in the book of Job. Some dismiss Job as a fictional character, an unprovable supposition in any case. Job is mentioned as a real person in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 14:14, 20) and is assumed to be real in the New Testament (James 5:11) and in the Doctrine and Covenants (121:10). In addition, he may be quoted in the Book of Mormon (e.g., 2 Nephi 9:4) and is referenced throughout the revelations of the Restoration.

[4] OT2, in the handwriting of Sidney Rigdon, reads here “Moses lifted up his eyes and looked.” Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 60, perhaps emphasizing the visual part of the experience.

[5] Holland, “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” 2.

[6] “The devil is the enemy of righteousness and of those who seek to do the will of God. . . . Latter-day revelation confirms the biblical teaching that the devil is a reality and that he does strive to lead men and women from the work of God. One of the major techniques of the devil is to cause human beings to think they are following God’s ways, when in reality they are deceived by the devil to follow other paths. . . . All of this is his scheme to make man miserable like himself. Protection against the influence of the devil is found by obedience to the commandments and laws of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Devil.”

[7] Johnson, “Power to Overcome the Adversary.”

[8] It is sometimes assumed that the concept of the Godhead is a later invention. However, beyond the clarity of prophetic revelations, scholarship also compares the concept of a triad of deities in relation to ancient pantheons. “The doctrine of the Trinity relies mostly on the New Testament, but certain groundwork is implicitly present in the Old Testament. This does not reflect a change in the Godhead, but rather a change in how God chose to reveal Himself before the ‘fullness of time’ (Galatians 4:4) and how pre-Christian worshipers observed God’s activity in the world.” C. Meeks, “Trinity ,” in Barry et al., Lexham Bible Dictionary. “The Old Testament contains elements of (orthodox) Israelite theology and worship that New Testament writers would much later recognize as a Godhead—the view that God comprises more than one personage, each of whom is identified as the presence of Yahweh. Israel derived their understanding of the Godhead from their version of the divine council, or pantheon (i.e., God and His heavenly host), and the binitarian (two persons) language used for Yahweh and other figures that the OT writers identify so closely with Yahweh that they are inseparable, yet distinct.” Heiser, “Old Testament Godhead Language ,” 1. Other ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, Assyrians, Mesopotamians, and Phoenicians had similar conceptions of a triad of deities. This not to say that these peoples did not worship other gods, but groupings of three were common throughout history. See, e.g., Younger Jr., “Ninurta-kudurrī-uṣur,” 313; Beaulieu, “Ziggurat of Ur”; “Mother of Nabonidus,” in ANET, 560; and Parpola, Assyrian Prophecies, xviii. The Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is recognized throughout Christianity, and the revelations given of God to Joseph Smith reveal that this same type of concept existed from the beginning. It was thus not invented by early Christians but restored to them, once again through the Prophet Joseph Smith in the restoration of the truths now recorded in these scriptures.

[9] The current edition of the Pearl of Great Price (v. 18) follows the 1843 publication in the Times and Seasons, “for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee.” However, OT1 and OT2 read, “his glory has been upon me and it is glory unto me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee” (Jackson, Book of Moses, 41). Perhaps this emphasis reflects the gratitude of Moses, as well as the recognition of the assistance he received as coming directly from God. His ability to judge and his desire to continue to inquire of the correct sources (God) have come from his previous spiritual experiences with God and the discernment between the real thing from the cloaked counterfeit. Moses’s statement is also a railing accusation and declaration of the fraud and deceit of Satan, resulting in the Devil’s outburst and anger in verse 19.

[10] Holland, “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” 2.

[11] OT1 and OT2 use the term wrent here. Jackson, in Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 50, believes ranted is derived from rent, meaning in contemporary language of the time something along the lines of “to tear,” reflecting that Satan went about “tearing up the earth.”

[12] Bradshaw, in In God’s Image, 1:44, points out that “the term ‘glory’ is repeated twelve times within the chapter, serving to make the contrast between God’s splendor and Satan’s pale imitation blatantly apparent.”

[13] This verse as it now stands is a combination between the various manuscript traditions of OT1, OT2, and the RLDS Church’s publication of the 1867 addition of Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible. Those manuscripts vary in the name by which Satan is expelled, ranging from “Jesus Christ” and “in the name of the Son” to “Only Begotten.” See Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 1:58, each instance highlighting the power coming from Christ as the Son of God. This underscores the entire nature of the episode with God’s power exceeding all others.

[14] Holland, “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” 2–3. Rather than “Depart from me, Satan,” OT1 and OT2 use “Depart hence, Satan.” Kent Jackson, in Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 41, suggests that the OT 1 and 2 wording may reflect a broader and more permanent expulsion, not just from the immediate situation but from Moses’s life. Moses 1:22 ultimately reports that Satan “departed hence, even from the presence of Moses.” See Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 84, 593, offering a combination of these readings. The current reading is from the 1843 Times and Seasons publication. See Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 17, 63.

[15] McKay, “Temptations in Life,” 3.

[16] Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, 117.

[17] Faust, “Priesthood Blessings,” 62.

[18] See Doctrine and Covenants 98:11–15.

[19] McConkie, “Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” 9.

[20] Subsequently, verses 34 and following describe being called versus being chosen, something Moses was just recently told as he was given power over the waters.

[21] Moses’s power to command the waters “as if thou wert God” reflects OT1. See Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 85. OT2 reads that the waters shall obey Moses’s command, “even as my commandments”—rather than “as if thou wert God.” See Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 63. These variations highlight an important principle: when people work under the power of God, their words and the power behind them are the same as if they were God’s (see Doctrine and Covenants 1).

[22] Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 139–40.

[23] Isaiah 51:10 (2 Nephi 8:10). See Isaiah 43:16.

[24] Petersen, Moses, Man of Miracles, 154.

[25] Belnap, “Moses 1,” 171–79.

[26] OT2 reads “even as numberless.” See Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 593–94. The use of the adverb as to create a simile may help underscore the vastness of God’s creations and keep in perspective that each one is numbered and known by God.

[27] The current reading of verse 27, “even all of it,” dates to the 1902 edition of the Pearl of Great Price. See Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 45. OT1 and OT2 read “even all the face of it,” perhaps emphasizing the extent of what Moses had seen and describing the way ancient Semites expressed such concepts in their languages (e.g., “the face of it,” Hebrew pānêhā), which may reflect the ancient nature of the expression within the translation. See Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 85, 593.

[28] OT2 reads “shew me” here, possibly emphasizing “the visual nature of Moses’ experience.” Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 64.

[29] OT2 reads “by the same.” “By the Son” first occurs in Times and Seasons in 1843. See Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 27. Perhaps the change emphasizes the role of Christ in creation as well as his relationship to the Father, under whose direction he worked in the endeavors and purposes of creation. “Both ancient and modern scriptures testify that Christ was the Creator (cf. D&C 38:1–3). . . . Moses gained a clear view of the role of Christ in the Creation while he was shown God’s work in a glorious vision.” Jackson, Restored Gospel and the Book of Genesis, 9.

[30] Bowen, “Functions of the Divine Word in the Book of Moses.”

[31] The reading “by what” follows OT1, while OT2 reads “by whom.” See Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 85, 594. The answer Moses receives is to the question “by whom?” This may have been his original intent in asking the question in the first place: How did this all happen, and by whom did it happen. The answer to “why?” will flesh out those details.

[32] Innumerable follows the 1843 Times and Seasons account. OT1 and OT2 read “numberless.” See Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 17. Moses appears to be delving into quantities and things that are far beyond his finite comprehension. He is assured, however, that God is well aware of each of his creations and numbers and knows them all. This becomes a lesson in how extremely personal God’s creations are to him, including each of his children. This is leading to the climax of the chapter: God’s work and glory.

[33] Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:72. See Smith, Man: His Origin and Destiny, 391; and Pratt, Masterful Discourses and Writings, 71.

[34] Wilford Woodruff, in Journal of Discourses, 25:9.

[35] Discourse, 7 April 1844, as Reported by Times and Seasons, p. 614, The Joseph Smith Papers. The language of the following creation accounts will also accentuate God’s purposes in creating his children in his image and likeness.

[36] Eyring, “Watch Over and Strengthen,” 66.

[37] Widtsoe, “The Worth of Souls,” 189–90.

[38] Faust, “Priesthood Blessings,” 62.