Moses 2: Image and Likeness


Having been shown that all things were prepared and declared good, Moses next beholds the focal point of God’s work and purposes as stated in Moses 1:39—his children. It was one thing for Moses to see in vision what God was trying to accomplish with his children; now he will see and understand exactly what our creation means, the relationship we have to God, and how that relationship helps us better comprehend why God is trying to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Through these revelations, Moses is beginning to see and comprehend the details of his own life and mission from God’s own perspective.[1] These are lessons Joseph Smith would also learn through the revelations he received in relation to the New Translation of the Bible.[2]

When the earth is prepared and ready, the crown jewel of God’s creation (his children) will enter the picture, and this is “a moment that God and all of creation have awaited.”[3] On April 15, 1842, the Times and Seasons recorded this statement widely attributed to the Prophet Joseph Smith:

The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever the “morning stars sung together for joy,” the past, the present and the future, were, and are with him one eternal now; he knew of the fall of Adam, the iniquities of the antedeluvians, of the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family; their weakness and strength, their power and glory, apostasies, their crimes, their righteousness, and iniquity; he comqrehended the fall of man, and their redemption; he knew the plan of salvation, and pointed it out; he was acquainted with the situation of all nations; and with their destiny; he ordered all things according to the council of his own will, he knows the situation of both the living, and the dead, and has made ample provision for their redempton, according to their several circumstances, and the laws of the kingdom of God, whether in this world, or in the world to come.[4]

With so much at stake for humankind, and with so many preparations for this divinely ordained work of salvation now completed, God would introduce his children into mortality so they could choose to pursue a path whereby they could eventually attain to the full measure of their creation. Such a glimpse into God’s eternal purposes must have infused Moses’s life with newfound meaning and direction and empowered him in carrying out the seemingly impossible tasks of his prophetic calling. Having come to understand these sacred, ennobling truths himself, Joseph Smith was moved to declare, “You have got to learn how to be a god yourself in order to save yourself— to be priests & Kings as all Gods has done— by going from a small degree to another from exaltation to ex[altation]— till they are able to sit in glory as doth those who sit enthroned.”[5] He further stated, “[W]herefore as it is writen they are Gods even the sons of God wherefore all things are theres whethe[r] life or death or things present or things to come, all are thers and they ar[e] christs and christ is Gods and they shall overcome all things.”[6]

“Let Us Make Man”

God revealed his involvement in creation in very deliberate and defining ways.[7] The revelation is set up with the familial reintroduction of the Father and the Son: “And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man . . .” (Moses 2:26).[8] The first-person narrative is strikingly personal as we see the Father immediately involved in this stage of creation. The language of creative endeavors shifts here: whereas God previously spoke the commands “let there be,” “let the waters be gathered together,” and so on, he now says, “Let us make,” indicating multiple beings involved in creation.[9] As Bruce Waltke observes, “The impersonal ‘let there be’ (or its equivalents) of the seven preceding creative acts is replaced by the personal ‘let us.’ Only in the creation of humanity is the divine intent announced beforehand. The formula ‘and so it was’ is replaced by a threefold blessing. In these ways, the narrator places humankind closer to God than the rest of creation.”[10] The language thus focuses our attention on God’s greatest creation. The switch from the singular “God” who has dominated the Genesis account to an apparent plurality has caused considerable difficulty for exegetes attempting to interpret the passage. However, biblical scholars have increasingly recognized the presence of a divine council directed by God in this passage.[11]

Of chief importance here is the fact that the apex of creation has arrived,[12] and Moses has learned significant truths about creation and our personal relationship to our Heavenly Father. At this stage, God the Father became directly involved in creating humankind:

From other sacred sources we know that Jehovah-Christ, assisted by “many of the noble and great ones” (Abr. 3:22), of whom Michael is but the illustration, did in fact create the earth and all forms of plant and animal life on the face thereof. But when it came to placing man on earth, there was a change in Creators. That is, the Father himself became personally involved. All things were created by the Son, using the power delegated by the Father, except man. In the spirit and again in the flesh, man was created by the Father. There was no delegation of authority where the crowning creature of creation was concerned.[13]

The Father’s personal involvement in the creation of humankind gives us some idea of the worth that we, his children, have in his sight (compare Doctrine and Covenants 18:10). This final phase warranted his direct participation, a point further emphasized by the ensuing language.

Image and Likeness

The concept of divine corporeality in Moses’s day would not have been particularly unique in the ancient Near East. Evidence of this concept remains in the Hebrew Bible:

No one disputes the presence of an embodied God in portions of the Old Testament. . . . The Genesis account of the creation of man “in the image and likeness of God,” according to some scholars, already represents a movement away from an older, even more anthropocentric tradition. In Genesis, for instance, no actual description of the Divine is given. [Joseph] Smith was not privy to recent scholarship that has uncovered an extensive history of divine anthropomorphism in early Christianity, but his own experience in the New York grove of trees was sufficient warrant for him to embrace and expand the Bible’s references to a walking, talking God.[14]

This conception of an anthropomorphic God dates all the way back to antiquity, well beyond early Christianity. In Joseph Smith’s day the notion of a corporeal God had diminished, was resisted, and needed restoration. Givens and Hauglid observe, “[Joseph Smith’s] first such clarification comes with the creation itself, where he inserted a crucial addition to Genesis 5:1–2: “in the day that God created man (in the likeness of God made he him) in the image of his own body, Male & and female, created he them & called their names Adam.”[15] The authors then cite David Paulsen: “Evidently, Joseph added the clarifying phrase, ‘of his own body,’ to distinguish his understanding of the text from any incorporealist construction. From Joseph’s revision of these biblical texts, it appears clear that in 1830 he understood that both the Father and Son are embodied and that man’s body was made in their image.”[16]

This was not just about what Joseph learned through his own experience. His experience had been Moses’s experience. These prophets came to understand the bodily nature of God and conveyed that knowledge by recording their revelations. This concept of an embodied God was vital to understanding God’s nature, and the antiquity of these truths is clearly brought out in the above-mentioned description. What Joseph Smith learned through revelation and visions about the physical nature of God had been removed from conventional thought through the centuries. Nevertheless, Genesis 5:1–4 is the textbook case in scholarship for defining the Hebrew word for “image” as a physical appearance, describing Seth as being physically similar in appearance to his father, Adam.[17] The revelations emphasize how God is attempting to help his children understand that just as they are similar in features and appearances to their earthly parents, so are they similar to him. Quoting Parley P. Pratt, Terryl Givens has further noted the following regarding this restored knowledge of our familial relationship to God and its significance:

“God, angels and men are all of one species,” thus diminishing the ontological distinction between the human and the divine. Whereas Augustine recorded that he was ashamed of once having believed that he was of the same nature as God, Latter-day Saints were by 1838 coming to embrace an essential, primordial kinship with God. And the doctrine was clearly indicated in, and expressly developed from, the prophecy of Enoch emerging out of Joseph Smith’s New Translation.[18]

Joseph Smith helped recover the paradigms of the past that had been overcome by the theologies of the present. Scriptural reference to “image” and “likeness” in connection with the creation of humans once again claimed the meaning given them by God.

“Before undertaking [this] next act of creation God took counsel,” notes scholar John Hartley. “This unique reference to God’s reflecting in community before making something underscores both the importance and the uniqueness of what God was about to create. . . . Humans, bearing the image of God, therefore are truly like God, but they are not identical to God.”[19] For this purpose the earth had been created and prepared for Adam, Eve, and their family to be.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image,[20] after our likeness:[21] and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:26–27)

26 And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so. And I, God, said: Let them have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. (Moses 2:26–27)

What Does It All Mean?

There have been many debates about whether it is possible to distinguish between image and likeness in the creation accounts. It seems possible, based on ancient inscriptional material and linguistic usage, that they do at times carry different nuances.[22] Scholarly views vary, but there does seem to be a general consensus that image and likeness in Genesis 1:26–27 collectively include the idea that humans reflect the character of God as his representatives, a conceptualization usually associated with kings in the ancient Near East. However, Gordon Wenham notes that in Genesis the statement that humans are created in God’s image “affirms that not just a king, but every man and woman, bears God’s image and is his representative on earth.”[23] In other ancient Near Eastern sources, image is generally assigned to kings and royal ideology. In Genesis, image thus finds its theological and ancient historical parallels rooted in kingship, attempting to portray Adam and Eve as king and queen, in the similitude of the heavenly King and Queen. By extension, this would also include their family, who had all been created in the image and likeness of God. Richard Middleton writes, “As the imago Dei, then, humanity in Genesis 1 is called to be representative and intermediary of God’s power and blessing on earth.”[24] Image-of-God language is found in the New Testament as part of the “Christian’s responsibility to imitate Christ, who is the image(r) of God par excellence.”[25]

While the world was trying to ontologically separate humans from God during Joseph Smith’s time, God was working through Joseph to unite humans with him.[26] Through the revelations received by Moses and subsequently by Joseph Smith, God was helping his children understand their divine and royal relationship to him, reflecting the ancient conception of the biblical terminology and how to understand it, bridging the gap caused by a worldview that had separated humans from their divine relationship to God. Humankind’s becoming like the Father, rather remaining separate from him, was the objective from the beginning. The language of the revelations solidifies God’s views and invites us to view ourselves the way he does.[27] Bruce Waltke expands on this idea: “Understanding that we are made in the image of God is essential for understanding our destiny and relationship to God. . . . Without revelation humans become confused or deprecate themselves. Emil Brunner says, ‘The most powerful of all spiritual forces is man’s view of himself, the way in which he understands his nature and his destiny, indeed it is the one force which determines all the others which influence human life.’”[28] Revelations given to Moses, and later to the Prophet Joseph Smith, caused this conception of humankind created in God’s image to burst forth upon the world after centuries of confusion and error.

Some modern scholars and theologians glean similar meanings from image and likeness in Genesis 1. The Prophet Joseph Smith remarked on the implications of this knowledge from the revelations revealed to him:

If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink, sleep, and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, the beast comprehends the same thing; it eats, drinks, sleeps, knows nothing more; yet knows as much as we, unless WE are able to comprehend by the inspiration of Almighty God. I want to go back to the beginning, and so lift your minds into a more lofty sphere, a more exalted understanding; that what the human mind generally understands. . . . If the vail was rent to-day, and the great God, who holds this world in its orbit, and upholds all things by his power; if you were to see him to-day, you would see him in all the person, image and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion and image of God; Adam received instruction, walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another. [29]

Joseph further summarized the value of having a knowledge of God’s nature and Adam’s creation in his “very fashion and image”:

Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to come to us.”[30]

But to be “in the very fashion and image of God” and to walk and converse with him and have a knowledge of him and an understanding of his character do not amount to being God. Catherine McDowell explores the implications of this truth:

How, then, does Gen 9:6 illumine our understanding of what it means that humankind is created beselem ‘elohim (in the image of God)? It clearly demonstrates that humans are not God nor are they the ultimate lawmakers. However, it does indicate that there is a profound level of correspondence between God and humans. That is, humankind acts on God’s behalf, in the capacity of a divinely appointed judge and administrator and as one who obeys and enforces the divine law authored by God. Thus, being created in the image (selem) of God has something to do with representing him in the realm of law and justice, but it is clearly distinct from being God himself.[31]

As mentioned earlier, being in the image and likeness of God entails having the physical characteristics and features of God as well the capacity to develop the same types of feelings, emotions, desires, and behaviors that God himself possesses. As his representatives and children, these attributes could be developed through the life he has designed that we live. Adam and Eve essentially were to carry out God’s functions by doing his work on earth.[32] Such an enlightened perspective on godly purpose in creation must have informed Moses’s view of the work God had called him to do.

Blessing and Dominion

At this point the creation narrative describes in some detail a magnificent blessing that God bestows upon his children:

28 And I, God, blessed them,[33] and said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish[34] the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion[35] over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 And I, God, said unto man: Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the which shall be the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein I grant life, there shall be given every clean herb for meat; and it was so, even as I spake.

31 And I, God, saw everything that I had made, and, behold, all things which I had made were very good; and the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Moses 2:28–31)

By receiving a blessing and having been given dominion, Adam and Eve are presented in terms of kingship. The language of the text highlights the great significance God’s children have in his eyes. Moses had been called to watch over, lead, and establish God’s covenant with them, just as God was attempting to elevate, deliver, and save the people through his covenant, a covenant that was to be viewed through the lens of creation.

Implications of Image and Likeness

Being created in the image and likeness of God includes a physical creation based on the physical stature of God himself, wherein his character becomes the epitome of everything we can become.[36] This concept has been summarized thus:

Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so that undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.[37]

Moses would learn that Adam and Eve were to become the physical representatives of God on earth. They looked like him and were to act as he would, a role that by extension pertains to all of us. They were to become the head of God’s human family on earth. Adam and Eve were to be given dominion over other creations, reflecting the figure of kingship and the charge of priestly duties. They were endowed with the ability to develop godly attributes throughout the course of their lives. These responsibilities would further involve priestly roles assigned to Adam and Eve and their posterity. The terms likeness and image used in Genesis 1 additionally established a filial relationship with God highlighting very personal and tender associations with him, perhaps intonated later in the etiological explanation of marriage in which spouses would leave their father and mother to enter into their own marriage covenants with one another.[38]

Considering the concepts of image and likeness and the implications in the creation accounts, the two terms may have been chosen not only for their “royal and cultic overtones, but because they also convey a filial relationship.”[39] Perhaps Adam and Eve are described in terms of cult statues and religious functionaries in order “to present the divine-human relationship in terms of kingship, specifically as one of sonship. . . . They were designed to operate in a cultic environment, specifically the world (Gen 1:1–2:3) and the garden of Eden (Gen 2:5–3:24).”[40] The relationship and responsibilities are thus extremely personal and are presented in terms of familial ties to God (more about this terminology of creation, kingship, and cultic worship will be discussed in the next chapter when God breathes life into Adam and Eve and places them in the garden). President Gordon B. Hinckley addressed this theme of filial relationship to God:

In the account of the creation of the earth, “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

Could any language be more explicit? Does it demean God, as some would have us believe, that man was created in His express image? Rather, it should stir within the heart of every man and woman a greater appreciation for himself or herself as a son or daughter of God.[41]

Adam and Eve were symbols of God’s presence and acted on his behalf as his earthly representatives. The implications here are staggering and can instill in us unparalleled feelings of self-worth. All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.[42]

These are part of the lessons Moses was learning after God called him to participate in the salvific work of bringing to pass the eternal life of humankind. Thus instructed, Moses could better understand what he was being asked to do and could then teach others why they had been created, by whom, and what the Creator could do for them. The words of Clement of Alexandria (AD 150–215), who was borrowing from the Apostle John’s description of Christ as the Word, are apropos here: “Yea, I say, the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.” And further illustrating the principle: “If one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God. . . . Heraclitus, then rightly said, ‘Men are gods, and gods are men.’ For the Word Himself is the manifest mystery: God in man, and man God.”[43] The physical nature of God would have later theological significance in Exodus 24:9–10 when seventy-four of the camp of Israel would see and witness God with their own eyes. It would be later in Jewish thought, and in the Nicene Creed (fourth century) in early Christianity, that Jesus’s being “from the substance of the Father” would crystalize and take shape as a doctrine, abandoning the corporeal nature of God. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland cites the story, recounted disapprovingly by the incorporealist church writer John Cassian,[44] of Serapion, a monk in the fourth century AD who felt like his God had been taken from him at a time when the noncorporeal nature of God began to prevail as the orthodox belief among Christians, as later codified in the Athanasian Creed:

We agree with our critics on at least that point—that such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. With such a confusing definition of God being imposed upon the church, little wonder that a fourth-century monk cried out, “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me, . . . and I know not whom to adore or to address.” How are we to trust, love, worship, to say nothing of strive to be like, One who is incomprehensible and unknowable? What of Jesus’s prayer to His Father in Heaven that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”?[45]

The Lord, working through the Prophet Joseph Smith in his inspired revision of the Bible, was restoring this ancient conception of God, thereby helping people to more fully understand their identity and purpose in relation to creation.


[1] A tender appeal found in an August 1842 account reflects, as with Moses, Joseph Smith’s need to come to understand himself and the purposes of God to be accomplished through him: “thou Eloheem, that sitteth, as sayeth the psalmist, enthroned in heaven; look down upon thy servant Joseph, at this time; and let faith on the name of thy Son Jesus Christ, to a greater degree than thy servant ever yet has enjoyed, be conferred upon him; even the faith of Elijah; and let the Lamp of eternal life, be lit up in his heart, never to be taken away; and let the words of eternal life, be poured upon the soul of thy servant; that he may know thy will, thy statutes, and thy commandments, and thy judgements to do them.” Reflections and Blessings, 16 and 23 August 1842, p. 181, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[2] The effect that revelatory texts such as the Book of Moses had on Joseph Smith was profound: “This divine presence came through texts, and it also came through the humans that [Joseph] Smith increasingly saw as divine. This merger of texts and humans in the context of a metaphysically thick cosmos draws toward the possibility that humans might obtain direct contact with God. Such contact would require transformation—in Smith’s phrase near the end of his life, if his disciples “wish to go whare God is” then they “must be like God.” Brown, Joseph Smith’s Translation, 9. The revealed concept of humankind’s creation in the “likeness,” “image,” and “similitude” of God, as introduced to Moses in Moses 1:6 (compare vv. 13–16) and reiterated in Genesis 1:26–27 (Moses 2:26–27), would flesh out these details.

[3] Arnold, Genesis, 44.

[4] Times and Seasons, 15 April 1842, p. 760, The Joseph Smith Papers. The publication addressed baptisms for the dead and how they fit into the larger picture of God’s eternal plan of salvation for his children.

[5] Discourse, 7 April 1844, as Reported by William Clayton, p. 14 [26], The Joseph Smith Papers.

[6] Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76], p. 6, The Joseph Smith Papers. The Prophet Joseph Smith would additionally teach, “[W]e shall stand approved in the sight of heaven and be acknowledged ‘the Sons of God’ Let us realize that we are not to live to ourselves but to God by so doing the greatest blessings will rest upon us both in time and in Eternity.” Letter to Quorum of the Twelve, 15 December 1840, p. [6], The Joseph Smith Papers.

[7] “With the creation of man the creation account reaches its climax. We have observed how the acts of creation most germane to human existence—the earth, man’s home (vv 9–13), the sun and moon that determine his life cycle (vv 14–19)—were described more fully than other less vital aspects of the created order. But now with man’s creation, the narrative slows down even more to emphasize his significance.” Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 27.

[8] Genesis 1:26 simply states, “And God said, Let us make man. . . .

[9] Early Christian interpretations from Philo onward saw this plural expression as referring to God speaking to his heavenly court or, as in the Epistle of Barnabas 5:5 and Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, 62), describing the Father speaking to the Son. See Westermann, Genesis 1–11, 144–45; Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 27–28; and Hamilton, Book of Genesis, 132–34. These similar interpretations appear to reflect a truth later restored in early Christianity.

[10] Waltke, Genesis, 64.

[11] See Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament, 58–59, where he cites divine beings present at creation in Job 38:7 and a celestial court in 1 Kings 22:19–22; Isaiah 6:8; Psalm 29:1–2; Psalm 82; Psalm 89:6–7; and Job 1:6; 2:1. Philo and Ibn Ezra say the plural Hebrew noun ʾĕlōhîm is “the plural of majesty,” but this grammatical form does not occur until much later in Jewish literary history; and Rashi says ʾĕlōhîm refers to the heavenly court (compare 1 Kings 22:19–23; Job 1:6–12; 2:1–6; Isaiah 6:8). See Utley, How It All Began, 33; and Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 27–28.

[12] “The last stage in the progress of creation being now reached—God said, Let us make man—words which show the peculiar importance of the work to be done, the formation of a creature who was to be God’s representative and who, “clothed with authority,” would “rule as visible head and monarch of the world.” Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory, 18.

[13] McConkie, Promised Messiah, 62.

[14] Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 73. See Smith, Early History of God, 140; and Paulsen, “Early Christian Belief in an Embodied God,” 40–79.

[15] Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 73.

[16] Paulsen, “Early Christian Belief in an Embodied God,” 21.

[17] “Since Seth was made in Adam’s image, and Adam was made in God’s, the image of God becomes an actuality for all humans.” Arnold, Genesis, 86. “Traditionally, for many centuries in Christian theology it was believed that the image implied a spiritual likeness between God and humanity. However, the word ṣelem, ‘image,’ is characteristically used of physical images in the Old Testament. . . . [T]he Hebrew word for ‘image’ is also employed by P of Seth’s likeness to Adam (Genesis 5.3), following a repetition of Genesis 1’s statement that humanity was created in the likeness of God (Genesis 5.1), which further supports the notion that a physical likeness was included in P’s concept.” Day, Studies in Genesis 1–11, 13–14. P in this quotation represents a compositional strand that scholars often employ to describe the redaction history of the Bible.

[18] Givens, Pearl of Greatest Price, 54. This knowledge of familial relationship to God is revealed earlier in the translation of the Book of Moses and, of course, was understood even earlier in Joseph Smith’s first vision. Long before Joseph Smith and even Moses, the brother of Jared also learned through personal revelation and the Lord’s manifestations the principle of being created in the image of God (see Ether 3:15).

[19] Hartley, Genesis, 47. “Allowing for the ontological equivalence of humans and God along with the afterlife persistence of human identity—as the temple and other sacred texts obviously did—necessarily meant that [Joseph] Smith was teaching that what Protestants called God was fundamentally plural. There was no logical way around it—every deified human added to the number of gods.” Brown, Joseph Smith’s Translation, 265–66. This is not to suggest that deified humans can ever displace God as their Father and Creator; they remain his children forever.

[20] Hebrew צֶ֫לֶם denotes an image (something cut out) or likeness. See Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, 853–54. It often refers to a physical image that is fashioned and is sometimes used in comparison to gods. See Keel and Schroer, Creation: Biblical Theologies, 142–44. In “the ancient world an image was believed to carry the essence of that which it represented.” Walton, Old Testament, 29. “The creation of humankind is set apart from the previous acts of creation by a series of subtle contrasts with the earlier accounts of God’s acts. First, in v. 26, the beginning of the creation of humans is marked by the usual, ‘And God said.’ However, God’s word that follows is not an impersonal (third person) ‘Let there be’; rather, what is used is the personal (first person) ‘Let us make.’ Second, throughout the previous narrative each creature is made ‘according to its own kind’ (lemînāh). But the account of the creation of humankind specifically notes that the man and the woman were not made ‘according to their own kind.’ Rather, they were made ‘in [God’s] image’ (beṣalmēnû). They are not merely like themselves, they are also like God; they share a likeness to their Creator.” Sailhamer, Genesis, loc. 2833–40. “What draws the idol imagery and the child imagery together is the concept that the image provides the capacity not only to serve in the place of God (his representative containing his essence) but also to be and act like him. The tools he provided so that we may accomplish that task include conscience, self-awareness and spiritual discernment.” Walton, Old Testament, 29. “The image of God imprinted on human nature provides the basis for our supernatural vocation, the life in Christ that is greater than any possibility resident in our natural powers, but which is nonetheless a genuine exercise of our natural powers. In this sense, the theological concept of the imago dei presumes both a nature and a future, both a capacity to do what God intends for us as the consummating vocation of humanity and the actually doing of what God intends.” Reno, Genesis, 53. “In view of the visual referent of [צֶלֶם, tselem], Genesis 1:26 may have informed readers that human form was similar to the deity’s own form.” Heiser, “Image of God,” in Barry et al., Lexham Bible Dictionary. Image typically refers “to a concrete object made of metal, painted stone, or human flesh, which is a representation, likeness, or copy of an original.” McDowell, Image of God in the Garden of Eden, 119. This is the ancient implication of the term.

[21] The Hebrew word דָּמָה means “to be like, resemble, imagine, form an idea, liken, compare” and “can refer to an external appearance; דְּמוּת likeness, similitude.” Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, 197–98. The term seems to carry implications of similarities of qualities, thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. “Being created in the image of God distinguishes people from all other earthly creation. God’s image is not described as being possessed in part or given gradually; rather, it is an immediate and inherent part of being human.” Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible, at Genesis 1:27. Image is in contrast to likeness; the latter can refer to physical descriptions but tends to represent characteristics, behavior, and thoughts—what is inside the image. In the book of Ezekiel, where nearly two-thirds of the occurrences of the word likeness (dǝmût) are situated, it is used to describe the content of the visions. See McDowell, Image of God in the Garden of Eden, 124. Likeness thus may accentuate our ability to think, feel, and desire in the way God thinks, feels, desires, and ultimately behaves and acts. The creation accounts challenge us to comprehend this about ourselves.

[22] The Prophet Joseph Smith appeared at times to distinguish between the concepts of “image” and “likeness.” He discussed their interrelatedness within the framework of the Creation while addressing how God is an “omnipresent being” as well as a “personage of Tabernacle,” despite using the word image in both contexts: “After God had created the Heavens and the Earth. He came down and on the sixth day said let us make man in our own image [i.e., physical image]. In whose image[?]. In the [physical] image of Gods created they them. Male and female: innocent, harmless, and spotless, bearing the same image as the Gods [The words male and female denote physical characteristics, but the other attributes appear to better reflect the Hebrew word likeness]. And when man fell he did not lose His image [i.e., His physical image], but [only] His character [i.e., a reflection of “likeness”], still retaining the [physical] image of his maker Christ who is the [physical] image of man is also the express [physical] image of his Fathers person so says Paul. For in him Christ dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Why because He was the brightness of his glory; and the express [physical] image of his person. Ques. What person Gods person. Hebrews 1st chap 3 verse. And through the atonement of Christ, and the resurrections and obedience in the Gospel, we shall again be conformed to the image [i.e., spiritual “likeness”] of his Son Jesus Christ, then we shall have attained to the image glory, and character of God. [i.e., physical image and spiritual likeness].” Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 231 (9 July 1843). The concepts of image and likeness appear to be conflated in the description of both the physical and spiritual restoration that comes through the atonement of Christ to those created in the image and likeness of God and explained in terms of “image.”

[23] See overview in Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 29–32. The religious and ritual language of the text also argue in favor of Adam and Eve as priestly and royal figures. In the Restoration, “the temple’s male focus changed dramatically in the 1840s, as the system took on an overwhelmingly familial aspect. Within the Nauvoo Female Relief Society under the leadership of Emma and Joseph Smith, women emerged as priestly figures. Smith’s March 30, 1842, lecture to the Relief Society urged that ‘the Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood, hence there should be a select Society separate from all the evils of the world, choice, virtuous[s] and holy’—Said he was going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests a[s] in Enoch’s day—as in Paul’s day.” Brown, Joseph Smith’s Translation, 240.

[24] Middleton, Imago Dei in Genesis 1, 121.

[25] Heiser, “Image of God,” in Barry et al., Lexham Bible Dictionary.

[26] “Incidentally, many later biblical scholars have suggested that [Joseph] Smith was in the ballpark of correct about divine plurality, given evidence for a Council of Gods in early Hebrew and other West Semitic religious traditions, including textual hints in the Hebrew Bible itself—most famously Psalm 82. The Israelites were ultimately (mostly) monotheists, but lesser gods worked in close cooperation with the head God, ultimately Yahweh (himself probably merged with the Canaanite head God El in the biblical text).” Brown, Joseph Smith’s Translation, 266. Anciently, the concept of humans being ontologically related to God was not as foreign as it was in the time during which the revelations were revealed and recorded by the Prophet Joseph Smith. For an example of Joseph’s teaching on the subject, see Minutes and Discourses, 6–9 April 1844, as Reported by Thomas Bullock, p. 16, The Joseph Smith Papers; and Discourse, 7 April 1844, as Reported by William Clayton, p. 13 [25], The Joseph Smith Papers.

[27] Scriptural language of kingship and godlike physical image applied to humans implies representing God in action, behavior, and purpose. Later stated to have dominion over other creations, men and women were to represent, stand in place for, and become agents of God as royal figures of kingship. Each person was created to reflect the ultimate king (God) and to fulfill that role on earth as his steward, his son or daughter, his priestly figure—all replications of God himself albeit in imperfect human form. See Arnold, Genesis, 45. “All human beings are created ‘in the image of God’; each person bears the stamp of royalty.” Sarna, Genesis, 12. “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.” First Presidency, “Origin of Man,” 78. Egyptian and Israelite literatures portray the deity giving the breath of life to mundane materials, invigorating them to serve in the role of divine images.” Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 210.

[28] Waltke, Genesis, 69.

[29] Minutes and Discourses, 6–7 April 1844, as Published by Times and Seasons, pp. 613, 614, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[30] History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844], p. 1972–73, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[31] McDowell, Image of God in the Garden of Eden, 122–23.

[32] “The main import of the statement about the imago Dei is not just to define human nature in relation to God but to accent the special function that God has assigned human beings in the creation. Human beings, male and female, are designed to be God’s representatives, for they are created and commissioned to represent or “image” God’s rule on earth. To be made in the image of God is to be endowed with a special task.” Anderson, From Creation to New Creation, 14. See also Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament, 59–60.

[33] The blessing here appears to express God’s approval of Adam and Eve as his representatives on earth, as well as their authorization to exercise “dominion” as his representatives. See Mitchell, Meaning of BRK “to Bless,” 62–63, 165–66. The commands in these verses along with the blessing imply that Adam and Eve can accomplish these things, including the creation of life and procreation. See Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 24. “Such a word of blessing expresses God’s intention for the future welfare of these creatures. . . . Growth and living space are blessings from God, and express his desire for the welfare of all beings he has created, including humanity.” Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament, 58. “Made in the likeness of this holy Lord of Glory, man was invested with dominion (like the angels, cf. Psalm 8:5), moral excellence (cf. Ephesians 4:24; Galatians 3:10), and the prospect of glorification (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:49ff.” Kline, Genesis, 13.

[34] Literally, “to fill up the earth.” “He commanded them to reproduce themselves. They too would bring forth only ‘after their kind.’ It could be in no other way. . . . The fact that we know of our own form and image and the further fact that we are God’s offspring give us positive knowledge of the form and image of God, after whom we are made and of whom we are born as his children.” Petersen, Moses, Man of Miracles, 162–63.

[35] Hebrew kbš (“subdue”) and rdh (“have dominion over”) continue the theme and language of kingship and stewardship. The word rdh is used in the Hebrew Bible to describe the dominion of the king (see 1 Kings 5:4; Isaiah 14:6; Ezekiel 34:4; Psalms 8:6; 72:8 110:2), and the two words used here (kbš and rdh) reflect similar terminology in Egypt and Babylon to describe the kings’ royal duties. An examination of the precise meanings of these terms further helps us to see that image and likeness in Genesis 1:26–27/Moses 2:26–27 reflect royal ideology and terminology. See McDowell, Image of God in the Garden of Eden, 2. “The characterization of humans as being in the image of God and the functions listed here reflect a royal role for people since these descriptions would most frequently be applied to kings.” Walton, Genesis, loc. 1489. See Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament, 59–60.

[36] This story of creation is not just about Adam and Eve; it is about all of us. As the posterity of Adam and Eve, the “entire race collectively stands vis-à-vis God in the same relationship of chosenness and protection that characterizes the god-king relationship in the more ancient civilizations of the Near East. . . . Genesis 1:26–27 . . . appoints the entire human race as God’s royal stand-in.” Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil, 114, 116. See the discussion in Moberly, Old Testament Theology, 53.

[37] Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, in Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 5:243–44.

[38] Bernhard Anderson, in From Creation to New Creation, 25, notes that “creation provides the background and setting for the vocation of God’s people.”

[39] McDowell, Image of God in the Garden of Eden, 3.

[40] McDowell, Image of God in the Garden of Eden, 3.

[41] Hinckley, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” Ensign, March 1998, 2.

[42] See Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund, in Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:203.

[43] Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, chap. 1, p. 7; and Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor 3.1.

[44] Cassian, Conferences of John Cassian, 321.

[45] Holland, “Only True God and Jesus Christ,” 40–42.