Moses 2: The Purpose and Logistics of Creation


As covered in the preceding chapter, Moses 1 narrates the prophet’s conversation with God and the answers he received about the divine purposes of creation and the holy ministry he was being called to undertake. Of particular interest in this chapter is how the nature of Moses’s questions (v. 30) and request (v. 36) and God’s responses to them (vv. 31–35, 37–41 and moving forward into Moses 2) reflect the ancient nature of the text and its context.[1] They are typical of how ancient peoples pondered and responded to creation.[2] As an introduction to the creation chapters in the Book of Moses, this chapter treats ancient conceptions about creation conveyed by the text and focuses on what it says about the purposes behind creation and the origins of life (i.e., its cosmological origins).[3]

The Lord helped Moses understand the answers to such questions through a series of visions and revelations leading to the purpose behind creation and “by what/whom” all of it was deliberately done (see Moses 1:30–39). With the question of what constitutes existence (creation ontology), ancient cultures appeared to see the world through a “function-oriented” ontology.[4] This will be reflected in the language of the creation accounts that revolve around assigning purpose to God’s creations.

In Moses 2/Genesis 1 we begin to receive details on how God is going to accomplish his work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of his children. Here the Creation takes center stage, facilitating his work for our benefit (see Moses 2–4/Genesis 1–3).[5]

Moses 1 as a Preface

Moses 1 has been described by some as a “preface” to the Bible and the book of Genesis.[6] Moses 1 enables us to properly view the biblical creation accounts within the restored context of God’s eternal purposes for humankind. Moses’s conversations with the Lord offer us perhaps our greatest theological glimpses of the ancient biblical text and Joseph Smith’s understanding of it.[7] They deal with fundamental questions pertaining to the purposes of creation and existence and thus align with the ancient conception of creation ontology articulated by John Walton as we attempt to understand it:

In a discussion of origins we need to focus on the ontology of the cosmos. What does it mean for the world or the cosmos (or the objects in it) to exist? How should we think about cosmic ontology? When we speak of cosmic ontology these days, it can be seen that our culture views existence, and therefore meaning, in material terms. Our material view of ontology in turn determines how we think about creation, and it is easy to see how. If ontology defines the terms of existence, and creation means to bring something into existence, then one’s ontology sets the parameters by which one thinks about creation.[8]

That perspective helps us better grasp the significance of Moses 1 as a preface to the revelations on creation that follow in Moses 2/Genesis 1. Its ontological character orients the reader by addressing fundamental questions and setting the stage for the creation account that follows. This pattern is seen in other truths revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Indeed, the unfolding Restoration entailed a process of revelation that brought the eternal nature of the gospel much more clearly into focus. This is seen by the fact that the restoration of Moses’s revelations, while presented as a thing of the past, is still relevant in the present.[9]

Moses 2/Genesis 1: Functional Nature of Creation

As the opening book of the Old Testament, Genesis 1 is undoubtedly significant, as is its equivalent text in the Pearl of Great Price, Moses 2. Bill Arnold offers this observation:

The uniqueness of Gen 1 lies not in its literary style or content but in this simple fact: it has no preceding literary context. Contemporary studies in literary theory have taught us that a passage’s context is the most important determining feature of interpretation, and especially the immediately preceding unit of text; that which comes prior to a text assists most in our interpretation. Gen 1 is the only passage of the biblical canon without such an immediately preceding context. Its position at the head of the Bible means it charts the course for the reader.[10]

The clear identification in Moses 1 of purpose within the framework of creation illuminates what Genesis 1/Moses 2 as an ancient text is attempting to convey but does not explicitly state. Keeping in mind the ancient cultural context of Genesis 1, John Walton observes that

people in the ancient world believed that something existed not by virtue of its material properties, but by virtue of its having a function in an ordered system. Here I do not refer to an ordered system in scientific terms, but an ordered system in human terms, that is, in relation to society and culture. In this sort of functional ontology, the sun does not exist by virtue of its material properties, or even by its function as a burning ball of gas. Rather it exists by virtue of the role that it has in its sphere of existence, particularly in the way that it functions for humankind and human society. . . In a functional ontology, to bring something into existence would require giving it a function or a role in an ordered system, rather than giving it material properties. Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not “exist” if it has not become functional.[11]

Of course, the physical constituents of God’s creations are important and highlight his greatness and power. It was a growing awareness of God’s greatness that moved young Joseph Smith to seek truth—a quest that would eventuate in the First Vision and the subsequent events of his prophetic ministry:

I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday today and forever that he was no respecter to persons for he was God for I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and marvilous even in the likeness of him who created him <them> . . . my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when <I> considered all these things and that <that> being seeketh such to worshep him as worship him in spirit and in truth [see John 4:23] therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy.[12]

One can sense Joseph’s yearnings to know the why and how of worship as he pondered his own existence in relation to creation. Joseph would learn through the revelations of the Book of Moses what Moses had learned in his own lifetime—namely, what God intended to accomplish through his work, not just the fact that God was all-powerful.[13]

As we will see, God is both the spiritual and physical creator of all things. The point of the emphasis on the functional aspect of creation is not just that something has come into being, but why God has brought it into being: the purpose behind its physical existence and what it is meant to do (“to fulfill the measure of its creation”).[14] This concept underscores Moses 1 as a preface to the creation accounts in Genesis 1/Moses 2, giving us the context and focus of creation: time, space, and a world by which God intends to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of his children (see Moses 1:39). The creation accounts will regularly witness God declaring things “good” until an environment is created that will enable him to accomplish his purposes for his children. This emphasis on the goodness of God’s creative enterprise can instill within us a reverence for God, self, and our relationship with him.

The Purpose and Function of Creation

Elder Bruce R. McConkie described three “pillars of eternity” in relation to the function and purpose of creation:

God himself, the Father of us all, ordained and established a plan of salvation whereby his spirit children might advance and progress and become like him. It is the gospel of God, the plan of Eternal Elohim, the system that saves and exalts, and it consists of three things. These three are the very pillars of eternity itself. They are the most important events that ever have or will occur in all eternity. They are the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement.[15]

Moses 1 has set the stage for us to behold how these pillars will play out, and Moses 2–4/Genesis 1–3 will offer the details.[16] Elder McConkie also suggested that immortality and eternal life were the “children of the Atonement” (a cumulative focal point of these chapters of creation and origins), and he further taught that

the revealed accounts of the Creation are designed to accomplish two great purposes. Their general purpose is to enable us to understand the nature of our mortal probation, a probation in which all men are being tried and tested “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:25.) Their specific purpose is to enable us to understand the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.[17]

This functional concept of creation places significant weight on the revealed text and on us as readers to glean crucial messages from it. Moses learns these concepts in very personal and profound ways as the Lord reveals to him the purposes behind the Creation. These revelations will help situate the role of Christ in the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement.

A topic that always seems to be at the forefront of God’s purposes for creation is encapsulated in the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

All men know that they must die; and it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life, and of death; and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other;— we ought to study it day and night; for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for any thing, it is for knowledge on this important subject.[18]

God reveals this knowledge to Moses, and, as will be seen in the introduction of the Sabbath in Moses 3/Genesis 2, the Exodus account carefully links Sabbath-day worship to remembering the Creation and its purposes.[19]

Creation is inextricably linked to life and will be a theme that runs throughout scripture: God as a creator of life. Thus it appears that the creation accounts, in part at least, are meant to evoke feelings about why we are here on the earth and how the atonement of Jesus Christ helps answer that question. In this way the creation accounts become informative and sacred texts that resolve significant questions about the depth of God’s love for us and his purposes for his children. This all seems to be part of Moses’s education, and throughout his ministry as prophet, lawgiver, and implementer of religious ritual, he appears to have drawn on his understanding of creation as a means to salvation and the Only Begotten as the only means to that end.

We conclude, that whenever the Lord revealed himself to men in ancient days, and commanded them to offer sacrifice to him, that it was done that they might look forward in faith to the time of his coming, and rely upon the power of that atonement for a remission of their sins. And this they have done, thousands who have gone before us, whose garments are spotless, and who are, like Job, waiting with an assurance like his, that they will see him in the latter day upon the earth, even in their flesh. We may conclude, that though there were different dispensations, yet all things which God communicated to his people, were calculated to draw their minds to the great object, and to teach them to rely upon God alone as the Author of their salvation, as contained in his law.”[20]

Creation implies, even exudes, purpose and the need of one to redeem it—a Messiah, a topic that will come to permeate the Old Testament.[21]

Personal Nature of the Creation Revelations to Moses

The creation narrative of Genesis 1:1–2:3 has been described as “utterly devoid of sensory detail. This eerie abstractness, combined with the highly schematic and formulaic structure of the narrative, conveys a sense of the awe-inspiring majesty and inviolable sovereignty of the God on whom the narrative is unswervingly focused.”[22] Creation leaves us with a sense of awe about it. Moses 1 amplifies these feelings leading into the creation accounts (Genesis 1/Moses 2) with its concentration on humankind and the personal manner with which God is communicating these revelations to Moses: face-to-face or in the form of revelations. Moses 2 begins with the description that the Lord is speaking to Moses and tells him he is “revealing” (Moses 2:1) what follows. If this revelation is in line with Moses 1, then “seeing” may have been a part of the sensory experience and personal nature of what and how Moses was learning and experiencing the revelations.[23] “The repetition of the phrase ‘I, God’ throughout the chapter also emphasizes its firsthand nature.”[24]

As described in the previous chapter, Moses 1 unfolds to Moses the general purpose of the Creation and its subsequent accounts (Genesis 1/Moses 2) and gives insight as to why he, and subsequently each of us, is here on earth. Thus, through the lens of Moses, God is not the focus of creation; his work and purposes are (we are).[25] This prelude to the Creation with the focal point on God’s purposes to bring to pass our eternal life and salvation is the lens through which the creation accounts are viewed.[26] Chapters 2–3 of Moses record the specifics of creation and introduce us to the planned, orderly fashion in which these creative endeavors accomplished God’s goals. They present a logical series of creative activities that culminates in the universe’s readiness for God’s crowning achievement and glory: the creation of his children and the environment that will provide the opportunity and growth that will enable their exaltation and eternal life with him.[27] Subsequent chapters in the Book of Moses also reference a spiritual creation and define the physical creation within that framework. They describe the planting of the Garden of Eden and the creation of Adam and Eve, all in preparation for the divine purpose of creation as presented to Moses as described in chapter 1, a heritage and purpose we all carry with us into this life.[28]

The Reception of Moses 2

For the Prophet Joseph Smith and early Church members who were preparing for their second conference (to be held on September 26, 1830), it was a time of receiving much revelation. Within about three months after receiving Moses 2 and its account of creation, Joseph Smith received additional revelations about the Lord’s spiritual and physical creations (see Doctrine and Covenants 29:31–48; Moses 3–5:48).[29] These revelations solidified the precious truths already found in Genesis and Moses 1–2 and revealed additional truths.[30] Joseph later described the outpouring of visions and revelations in this fertile period as an “overflowing surge” before his mind.[31] Also during this time, the Lord would give the Prophet other revelations pertaining to Moses 2–4 that are now recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.[32] These revelations flesh out important details pertaining to creation and covenants, and they perhaps began to give the Prophet early intimations, information, and doctrine pertaining to ordinances and ritual that would be performed in future temple worship.[33] These revelations included teachings and themes pertaining to creation, its language, the creator, and celestial objects described in creation accounts to be used as signs that will announce the second coming of Christ and a new creation to come (see Doctrine and Covenants 29:11, 14; 23–26; 27:4). They address overcoming adversity through seeking for that which is eternal, provided by our “Maker” beyond the things of the earth (see 30:2), and laying aside “the things of this world and seek[ing] for the things of a better” (25:10). They describe the spiritual, physical, and eternal nature of creation and God’s children (see 29:30–34). They reveal hope in gaining, through faithfulness and the proper exercise of agency, an eternal inheritance in God’s kingdom when all things are made new and immortality and eternal life are given to the righteous who are crowned in his kingdom (see 25:1, 15; 27:4; 30:8). Many of these principles are articulated in the context of Satan’s rebellion in the premortal existence and his tempting of our first parents in the Garden of Eden and define the pattern of agency in fulfilling the purpose of our creation and enabling progress toward eternal life (see 29:34–43). Joseph Smith would continue receiving revelations that would better equip early Church members to comprehend the purposes of creation, including the revelations that Moses had been privileged to behold. This restoration of truth honed in on God’s vision for his children—a culminating feature of Moses 2 and the revelations and explications that would follow as Joseph came to know that one cannot understand one’s own nature without understanding the nature of God.

Moses 2—Creation

In Moses 2, Moses receives the revelation on the physical creation[34] and verse 1 provides eternal truths about creation that are missing from the Genesis account, laying out details about who was involved in the process. This revelation builds on Moses 1:39 by fleshing out some of the details about where and how the objectives of God’s work—human immortality and eternal life—would be met. This work would be carried out on an earth that had been carefully and lovingly prepared by God for his children and their development in order that they might fulfill the measure of their creation. Moses learns that the God who had addressed him as son, along with his Only Begotten Son, oversaw and delegated the creative endeavors. These revelations, in conjunction with others received about this time, clarify important details about God and creation that led Joseph Smith to greater understanding about our Creator and his creations. The account begins thus: “And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this heaven, and this earth;[35] write the words which I speak. I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest” (Moses 2:1). This verse clearly defines that this is a revelation to Moses, and Moses here learns of the relationship between the “Almighty God”[36] and his “Only Begotten” and the part they played in creation, a revelation Moses is commanded to write. In light of Moses 2:1, where God refers to himself as “the Beginning,” the wording “In the beginning” in Genesis 1:1 bears examination. In fact, the first word in the Hebrew Bible (Bәrē’šît) is grammatically incorrect—a misspelling, misnomer, or aberrant form that is difficult to explain.[37] The prepositional phrase translated in the KJV as “In the beginning” does not carry the proper vowel under the preposition and thus is not definite (“In beginning,” not “In the beginning”), causing many commentators to view this as a temporal clause expressing “when God created” or “at a time when God created.”[38] This may seem insignificant, but the interpretation of the word has an enormous impact on what the Hebrew text is saying. In Moses 2 we see God introduced as the Head.[39]

In Moses 2, we thus see two important ideas being introduced: (1) a reference to God as the Beginning/Head and (2) the notion of measurable time. Beginning, as well as End, used as referential titles for God are important because they help us see the close relationship between the Creator and his governance over the entirety of creation and temporality. Thus the very first verse of Moses 2 provides essential insights into the eternal nature and power of the Creator vis-à-vis the temporal nature of the Creation which has its “beginning” and “end” only in its Creator. These temporal and authoritatively expressive titles, then, portray God as everything to us and vice versa[40] and emphasize that he knows and has power over the end and the beginning, something Moses is beginning to learn himself. In Moses 1:11 the reception of this knowledge causes Moses to declare, “Now I know man is nothing.” God is the beginning, the end, and everything in between.[41] It must have been comforting for Moses to learn that an omniscient God, the very one responsible for creation, was the same one commissioning him to do the impossible in leading Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness to receive the covenant.[42]

Genesis 1:1 appears to present a straightforward statement of fact but leaves some important questions unanswered. The “account opens with a clear, concise statement about the Creator and the creation. Its simplicity belies the depth of its content. These seven Hebrew words are the foundation of all that is to follow in the Bible. The purpose of the statement is threefold: to identify the Creator, to explain the origin of the world, and to tie the work of God in the past to the work of God in the future.”[43] However, the opening line of Genesis as it now stands might raise questions in the polytheistic world wherein Moses was raised. Defining who the God of creation is thus becomes an important issue. The identity of this God would become particularly important in the life of Moses because he would have to confront Pharaoh and his gods (see Exodus 7–10).[44] Moreover, he would have to teach the Israelites about the God who is behind their deliverance and exodus (see Exodus 3:14), vis-à-vis the gods of Egypt. If “the Bible begins with creation not to tell us about the creation, but to introduce us to the Creator,”[45] what Moses 1 and now Moses 2 further offer is God’s own explanation of who he is, how he is involved, and why he is involved.

Moses 2:1 then clarifies an important truth—“by mine Only Begotten I created these things”[46]—and it is at this point in the text where this relevant information rejoins the Genesis account in stating, “in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest.” Of this profound statement of the Father and Son’s shared role in creation, Elder James E. Talmage remarked:

The Father operated in the work of creation through the Son, who thus became the executive through whom the will, commandment, or word of the Father was put into effect. It is with incisive appropriateness therefore, that the Son, Jesus Christ, is designated by the apostle John as the Word; or as declared by the Father ‘the word of my power.’ The part taken by Jesus Christ in the creation, a part so prominent as to justify our calling Him the Creator, is set forth in many scriptures.[47]

Elder Marion G. Romney summarized this vital truth this way: “In short, Jesus Christ, through whom God created the universe, was chosen to put into operation throughout the universe Elohim’s great plan “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”—the gospel of Jesus Christ—the only way whereby man can obtain eternal life.”[48]

The Logistics of Creation

For Moses, who had been shown “the world . . . and the ends thereof, and all the children of men” (Moses 1:8) and had learned of “worlds without number” (v. 33) and many earths (v. 29), the power and purposes of God would begin to make more sense in light of additional revelation. One poignant example is when Moses learned that God had not only commanded the waters and they obeyed but also promised him that same power (see v. 25). From a latter-day vantage point, these revelations become all the more powerful when we realize that they constitute what God showed Moses in vision[49] and that Moses was evidently seeing a visual enactment of God exercising his power over the elements—a power Moses now possessed and would need to draw on when leading the children of Israel in the exodus from Egypt. The first-person description in God’s own voice must have been personal and inspiring to the Lord’s new prophet and helped him understand the care, efforts, and concerns of the God who was doing all this “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of his children (v. 39).

The power of God is highlighted next in the account: “And the earth was without form, and void; and I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep; and my Spirit moved upon the face of the water; for I am God” (Moses 2:2) The description of the earth as “without form, and void” [50] can be more precisely understood as “undeveloped and empty. This describes a formed sphere, but yet as unproductive. This description contrasts with the later stage when the earth teems with life, plants, animals, and people when God fills them with life.”[51] The concept of divine creation by filling emptiness with purpose would become central to Moses’s prophetic calling as it pertained to gathering, organizing, delivering, and creating Israel as a covenant people. During Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, wherein God would establish the covenant after the Exodus, God would use the language of creation as found here in Moses 2/Genesis 1 to help the people understand that he had delivered them from the wasteland of the desert (see Deuteronomy 32:10) and created for them an identity and purpose through the ordinances of the tabernacle and his covenant with Israel. Gordon Wenham explained this concept as follows:

Desolate, empty, lacking, unorganized. These terms are later used in connection with Deut. where God is depicted as organizing the camps of Israel and setting up the tabernacle in their midst with the intention of developing them with covenants and the order presented in the covenantal system. The concept is taking an undeveloped environment and organizing and preparing an environment where something can thrive, develop, and teem with life. Tohu, ‘waste’ has two main senses, either ‘nothingness’ (e.g., Isa 29:21) or, as here, ‘chaos, disorder,’ most frequently of the untracked desert where a man can lose his way and die (Deut 32:10; Job 6:18). This frightening disorganization is the antithesis to the order that characterized the work of creation when it is complete.[52]

As Moses witnesses this organization in creation, he will also witness it—and participate in it—in the Lord’s creation of covenant Israel.

Moses will also learn of the contrast between light and darkness, something with which he had become frighteningly familiar as recorded in Moses 1. Moses will begin to understand God’s power over the darkness. Wenham highlighted the theological significance of the light-and-darkness dichotomy in the context of creation:

If light symbolizes God, darkness evokes everything that is anti-God: the wicked (Prov 2:13), judgment (Exod 10:21), death (Ps 88:13). Salvation is described as bringing light to those in darkness (Isa 9:1, etc.). But whereas darkness is opaque to man, it is transparent to God (Ps 139:12). Indeed, God can veil himself in darkness at moments of great revelation (Deut 4:11; 5:23; Ps 18:12). There is therefore an ambiguity in this reference to darkness covering the deep. Prima facie, it is just another description of the terrible primeval waste, but it could hint at the hidden presence of God waiting to reveal himself.[53]

Moses had experienced the darkness after he experienced light, but calling upon God earlier in his life had delivered him from that darkness and brought him to receive more light (see Moses 1:12–26).[54] What Moses learns next is the revelation of God’s power in creation.

God reveals to Moses that “my Spirit moved upon the face of the water.”[55] This “hovering over the waters announces God’s presence on the scene, anticipating God’s dramatic decree in v. 3 [Gen 1:3]”).[56] Bradshaw points out that “W. W. Phelps equated this term [Spirit = Hebrew rûaḥ] to ‘the life organizing power of the Gods,’ seemingly referring to priesthood”[57] (compare “the Spirit of the Gods” in Abraham 4:2). The Prophet Joseph Smith expounded on the revelation of the power of God and his presence via the priesthood since the time of creation:

Its institution was prior to “the foundation of this earth, or the morning stars sang together, or the Sons of God shouted for joy,” [see Job 38:4–7], and is the highest and holiest priesthood and is after the order of the Son of God, and all other Priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers and blessings belonging to the same, and are held controlled and directed by it. It is the Channel through which the Almighty commenced revealing his glory at the beginning of the creation of this earth and through which he has continued to reveal himself to the children of men to the present time, and through which he will make known his purposes to the end of time.[58]

As the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water, Moses was seeing the Creator in his majesty in the act of creating. The Hebrew of the Genesis account for “moved upon” uses a word meaning to “hover over” or “to brood and fertilize.” [59] It conveys the sense of God taking an active part in creation and watching over and tending to it until it was “good.” The language of the text implies the presence of God, his constant work, and his efforts to instill everything with life and for life. We get a clearer picture of this concept in Abraham 4:18—“And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.” Creation was a process that required much effort, and these passages portray the creators taking an active part in the organized creation and its execution. Scholars have noted that “the Creation accounts in Abraham, Moses, and Genesis make it clear that the Creation was not simply a mechanistic unfolding of events driven by ‘natural law.’ On the contrary, they show that God played an intimate, integral, and continuous part in the Creation—He didn’t just ‘wind the clock’ at the beginning, stand back, and let things develop on their own.”[60] With such godly care and concern evident in the creation of the earth, Moses could place confidence that God would use similar care and oversight in accomplishing his purposes for organizing Israel and establishing his covenant with them.

The description of the “face of the deep” and the “waters” is intriguing, suggesting an ancient conception underlying the text, perhaps one with which Moses was familiar given his ancient Near Eastern background and upbringing. As a product of his day, Moses may have recalled stories of the gods overcoming the mysterious waters of chaos to accomplish their purposes.[61] However, the creation accounts revealed to Moses appear to paint a contrasting picture with those of other ancient Near Eastern origins: God is in total control, has never lacked that control, and is never in danger of losing his power. He is supreme, and the creation accounts put this into vivid focus for Moses as he sees “Elohim transforms a dark, watery chaos into the cosmos, an orderly system characterized by predictability and harmony.”[62] In fact, as John Tullock and Mark McEntire note, “there seems to be a conscious effort to counter the Near Eastern Creation Myths. In contrast to the struggle waged between Marduk, God is in complete control of Creation.”[63] Along this same line, John Walton observes, “The Genesis account portrays God’s creation not as part of a conflict with opposing forces but as a serene and controlled process.”[64]

Moses next hears God speak, “And I, God, said: Let there be light; and there was light” (Moses 2:3). Once again Moses comprehends the power of divine speech.[65] He will also behold the power of the light and the source whence it emanates.[66]

Throughout the ancient Near East and the Bible, the presence of light indicates the presence of the deity. Moreover, the role of light in ritual processes throughout the ancient Near East suggest that light was understood as an energizing or vitalizing agent as well as a purifying one. These associations suggest that the creation of light can indicate direct, divine activity or the creation of an environment in which the divine may be directly and always present, an aspect of the cosmos necessary for the fulfilment of the plan of salvation.[67]

The Egyptian environment in which Moses was raised would help him comprehend that God, as the source of light, would illuminate the way before him in his prophetic ministry, through revelation, and at times with his divine presence. The added knowledge of God as the source of light and salvation would instill hope in him and enlighten his understanding when God would eventually direct him to set up the tabernacle in the wilderness for sacred worship.

The Prophet Joseph Smith would receive other revelations defining the multifarious conceptions of light beyond illuminating the luminaries created for that purpose during the Creation, taking an understanding of light into a realm beyond physical descriptions of light we see with the eye and into a broader conception of light that illuminates the soul, gives life, provides understanding and instruction, and enlightens the heart and mind, reminding us of how the light of Christ gives life to all of God’s children (see Doctrine and Covenants 50:24; 88:7–12), and also reminding us of his physical presence. It is interesting to consider that the “light of the first three days is of a different order from what we know. . . . Other ancient Near Eastern myths similarly assume the existence of light before the creation of the luminaries.”[68] Of this concept, John Taylor remarked that God

next caused light to shine upon it before the sun appeared in the firmament; for God is light, and in him there is no darkness. He is the light of the sun and the power thereof by which it was made; he is also the light of the moon and the power by which it was made; he is the light of the stars and the power by which they were made. He says it is the same light that enlightens the understanding of men. What, have we a mental light and a visual light, all proceeding from the same source? Yes, so says the scripture, and so says science when rightly comprehended.[69]

Importantly, Moses was learning what other New Testament apostles would come to understand about creation. For example, “the Gospel of John, in its profound reworking of Genesis 1 in light of Jesus Christ, reflects on the fact that although darkness is not abolished by light, and thus endures, it does not have the ability to abolish the light: ‘[T]he light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5). The way in which light overcomes darkness is then expounded in the rest of the gospel as a whole.”[70]

As the revelation continues, Moses begins to learn the principles of dividing and naming, and he hears again that this was done by “the word of [God’s] power”:

4 And I, God, saw the light; and that light was good. And I, God, divided[71] the light from the darkness.

5 And I, God, called[72] the light Day; and the darkness, I called Night; and this I did by the word[73] of my power, and it was done as I spake; and the evening and the morning were the first day.”[74] (Moses 2:4–5)

Kent Jackson has described the power exhibited by God in creation and the effect and purpose it continues to have today:

The initial burst of divine power with which the Creation began still burns today as it illuminates the trillions of stars and galaxies and provides the energy for every molecule of matter. All of these bear testimony to God’s creative majesty, because “the elements are the tabernacle of God” (D&C 93:35). Modern revelation speaks of the light of Christ which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:12), and his light illuminates the sun, the moon, the stars, and even us (see D&C 88:7–11). His is the light “which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:13).[75]

Sources for light and darkness were caused to appear, a light source that springs from God and that would eventually be required to illuminate in the absence of his physical presence. Light as the mechanism of life illuminates creation.

6 And again, I, God, said: Let there be a firmament[76] in the midst of the water, and it was so, even as I spake; and I said: Let it divide the waters from the waters; and it was done;

7 And I, God, made the firmament and divided the waters, yea, the great waters under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament, and it was so even as I spake.

8 And I, God, called the firmament Heaven; and the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 And I, God, said: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and it was so; and I, God, said: Let there be dry land; and it was so.

10 And I, God, called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, called I the Sea; and I, God, saw that all things which I had made were good.[77]

11 And I, God, said: Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, the fruit tree yielding fruit, after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed should be in itself upon the earth, and it was so even as I spake.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, every herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed should be in itself, after his kind; and I, God, saw that all things which I had made were good;

13 And the evening and the morning were the third day. (Moses 2:6–13)

Having witnessed creation set in motion and guided on its course toward achieving God’s overall objectives, Moses will now learn important concepts that will inform the religious practices God will eventually introduce in relation to service and worship in the tabernacle and temple.

14 And I, God, said: Let there be lights[78] in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons,[79] and for days, and for years;

15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth; and it was so.

16 And I, God, made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night,[80] and the greater light was the sun, and the lesser light was the moon; and the stars also were made even according to my word.

17 And I, God, set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

18 And the sun to rule over the day, and the moon to rule over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and I, God, saw that all things which I had made were good;

19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 And I, God, said: Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl which may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21 And I, God, created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind; and I, God, saw that all things which I had created were good.

22 And I, God, blessed them, saying: Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the sea; and let fowl multiply in the earth;

23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 And I, God, said: Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind, and it was so;

25 And I, God, made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything which creepeth upon the earth after his kind; and I, God, saw that all these things were good.[81] (Moses 2:14–25)

At this stage in the creative process Moses witnesses that God has accomplished all that was necessary to bring into existence his greatest creation: his children.

Just as God is the One who set time in motion and set up the climate, he is likewise responsible for setting up all the other aspects of human existence. The availability of water and the ability of the land to grow vegetation; the laws of agriculture and the seasonal cycles; each of God’s creatures, created with a role to play—all of this was ordered by God and was good, not tyrannical or threatening. This reflects the ancient understanding that the gods were responsible for setting up a system of operations. . . . They described what they saw and, more important, what they experienced of the world as having been created by God.[82]

Moses now saw God from a new perspective and recognized that all things necessary had been done on earth with the purpose of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of God’s children. With this preparation in place, Moses is set to more fully comprehend the greatest of all God’s creations, the focal point of God’s plan that had been shown to him in visions and face-to-face theophanies with God (see Moses 1:6, 13, 16)—namely, what it means for human beings to be created in the image and likeness of God. As before, this great truth would be taught to Moses through a vision, teaching him what God’s children mean to God himself and what and who they are in relation to him. All of this would accord with the precious lesson Moses had learned when God addressed him as “Moses, my son” (Moses 1:6–7, 40; see v. 4).


[1] For refutations of claims that the Book of Moses is of modern origin, see, e.g., Bradshaw, “Book of Moses Textual Criticism 3.” For the antiquity of the Book of Moses, see Bradshaw, “Sorting out the Sources in Scripture.”

[2] For discussion on how ancient Israel and ancient cultures in general approached creation narratives and cosmologies, see Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 179–99; and Keel and Schroer, Creation: Biblical Theologies.

[3] Cosmology can refer to “the Bible’s picture of the universe.” Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament, 55. “If we are to understand ancient views about bringing the cosmos into existence (creation cosmology), it is essential that we understand ancient views about what constitutes existence (creation ontology).” Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 179–80. “The mythology of the ancient world encapsulated contemporary thinking about how the world worked and how it came to work that way. It features the gods prominently because the ancients found the answers to their questions about the world in the divine realm. . . . Contrary to the divine orientation of the ancients, our scientific worldview is naturalistic and empiricist.” Walton, Genesis, 1101. For modern readers, whose modern preconceptions lead them to ask questions of the creation accounts that ancient peoples never would have asked, “the first book of the Bible presents several challenges when approached from the perspective of history and historiography. First and foremost among those problems is that the opening chapters describe characters and events in a world dramatically different from our own.” Arnold, “Genesis Narratives,” 23. “The biblical text, in other words, formulated its discussion in relation to the thinking found in the ancient literature.” Walton, Genesis, 183. The Book of Moses witnesses Moses asking questions that an ancient person likely would have asked.

[4] Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 180.

[5] The Bible’s creation accounts show similarities with other contemporary creation narratives, but there are important differences. “While the organizational or functional focus of the account may have similarities with the ancient Near Eastern perspective, the reason for it all is quite different. In the ancient Near East, the gods created for themselves—the world was their environment for their enjoyment and existence. People were created only as an afterthought, when the gods needed slave labor to help provide the conveniences of life (such as irrigation trenches). In the Bible the cosmos was created and organized to function on behalf of the people that God planned as the centerpiece of his creation.” Walton, Old Testament, 29. We see this as the focus in Moses 1:39.

[6] See Clark, “Moses 1 in Light of Jewish Traditions,” 129–42; and Jackson, “Visions of Moses,” 161–66. Jackson, in “Joseph Smith Translating Genesis,” 12, describes the “Visions of Moses” as a “prologue to the biblical Creation account.”

[7] For Moses 1 as a lost prologue reflecting the characteristics and content of an ancient religious document, see Johnson, “Lost Prologue,” 145–86. Approaches attempting to ascribe the Restoration and the revelations Joseph Smith received, as well as any actions he took in behalf of the Church as a result of that knowledge, to his own creations (i.e., his own ideas, his work, his authorship, his crafting of a new Christianity, his efforts to Christianize the text, or his rewriting, reworking, or invention) inaccurately take the restoring out of the Restoration. Modern applications and interpretations of the events and revelations are helpful and useful for comparative purposes in highlighting contemporary historical context, but any efforts to apply those to the revealed ancient texts is robbing them of their own historical context, resulting in misapplication, and highlighting the very purpose for which God was trying to restore them in the first place. Joseph Smith received what was in the texts or in the theological structure of ancient religion, not what had become of those texts. Reinstating those truths invited resentment and persecution toward Joseph and, indeed, any other religious figures in history who had attempted to do such. See Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 28–29; and Freedman, Murderous History of Bible Translations.

[8] Walton, Lost World of Genesis, 24.

[9] Regarding the ancient world and context in which Moses received his revelations, “the Bible claims that Moses received a new revelation, but even a new revelation was of necessity expressed in language and imagery that was already current.” Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, 45. It is essential to look at this ancient perspective of creation, something Joseph Smith seemed acutely attuned to as he received the revelations restoring the Lord’s doings in the past.

[10] Arnold, Genesis, 29. The word Genesis means “origin” in Greek (Lawrence, IVP Atlas of Bible History, 14), and “the title Genesis means ‘Beginnings,’ and this book is indeed about beginnings: the beginnings of the cosmos, human beings, sin, a people chosen by God, and much more” (Longman, Introducing the Old Testament, 11).

[11] Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, 26.

[12] History, circa Summer 1832, pp. 2–3, The Joseph Smith Papers. See Letterbook 1, p. 2, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[13] See, e.g., Letter to the Church, circa February 1834, p. 136, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[14] Fulfilling the end or measure of our own human creation is linked to the divinely ordained purposes of marriage, procreation, and families, placing humankind within the framework of creating. See Revelation, 7 May 1831 [D&C 49], p. 81, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[15] McConkie, “Christ and the Creation.”

[16] Genesis contains the most famous references of the creation accounts, however, passages redirecting the reader back to creation are also scattered throughout the Old Testament in Psalms, wisdom literature, and prophecy (Psalm 33; Proverbs 8:22–31; Job 38–41; Isaiah 40:12–31), highlighting its importance throughout the biblical corpus. See Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament, 52. As will be seen, creation is also tied to temple and tabernacle construction, architecture, and worship. Subsequently, these narratives will act as the foundation for dramas enacted within temple worship by 1841–1842, as they ritually, and by covenant, help individuals understand their purpose in God’s creations.

[17] McConkie, “Christ and the Creation.”

[18] History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844], p. 1750, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[19] See Bowen, “Glossing of the Lord of Sabaoth in D&C 95:7,” 51–77.

[20] Joseph Smith, Letter to the Church, circa March 1834, p. 143, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[21] A basic definition of Messiah is “a future deliverer and savior who would rescue his people and usher in a time of prosperity and blessing. Depending on the context, this concept could be interpreted eschatologically or spiritually, in addition to real world perceptions.” Witthoff et al., Lexham Cultural Ontology Glossary, s.v. “Messiah.” M. L. Strauss further elucidates: “Messiah (מָשִׁיַח, mashiyach; ‘anointed’ or ‘an anointed one’; ‘messiah.’ Rendered into Greek as Χριστός (Christos), cognate to the verb χρίω (chriō, “to anoint”). In this sense, it is essentially the same to say that Jesus is the ‘Messiah,’ or the ‘Christ.’ In contemporary Bible translations, the former is sometimes used when the term is functioning as a title (the Messiah) and the latter when the term is functioning as a name (i.e. Jesus Christ).” M. L. Strauss, “Messiah,” in Barry, Lexham Bible Dictionary. Messiah can have reference to a king or a high priest and is reflected in the messianic expectations found throughout the prophets in the Old Testament. See John J. Collins, in Sakenfeld et al., New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 59–60. “The Septuagint uses Christos forty times to translate the Hebrew māshîah. . . . The Messiah is the king of this future kingdom to whose political and religious domination the other nations will yield. His mission is the redemption of Israel and his dominion is universal. This is the clear picture of the Messiah in practically all of the OT passages that refer to him. . . . The NT conception of the Messiah is developed directly from the teaching of the OT. The essential features of the OT picture of the Messiah are in the person of Jesus.” Douglas and Tenney, “Messiah,” in New International Bible Dictionary. These early episodes in the life of Moses are establishing the foundation of Messianic conceptions and purposes found throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament.

[22] Zornberg, Genesis, 12.

[23] It has been said that the earliest events of creation “had no human eyewitnesses.” Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament, 50. “We have to face the fact that no human being was a witness to creation. Whether we accept it or not, Genesis claims to be God’s own account. It is this account that gave birth to the biblical world-view, a view we must attempt to understand if we are to understand the Bible.” Lawrence, IVP Atlas of Bible History, 14. Importantly, Moses 2 begins with God speaking in the first person, reflecting that this is his account and perspective and suggesting that we must look through his eyes if we are to understand it. Subsequently, this underscores the nature of revelation, the pulling back of the veil to see what is on the other side, a process that only God can facilitate. This concept emphasizes and solidifies the revelations Moses is seeing and experiencing, accounts that he could not have known in any other way except through those revelations. Even the language of the text is attempting to reveal creation in terms of a revelation as it speaks of land appearing. “The verb ‘to appear’ in the clause ‘cause dry land to appear’ may also be translated ‘be revealed.’ ‘The Niphal form of this verb used here is used elsewhere when God or an angel of God is revealed or ‘appears’. In Gen. 18.1, ‘Yhwh appeared to Abraham’ (cf. Gen 12.7; 35.1). The language of God’s theophanic appearances to humans is here, in Gen. 1.9–10, associated with the appearance of Erets [land], highlighting the climactic significance of the event.’ In creation, God is revealing his purposes.” Belnap, “Genesis 1–3 and Its Significance.” See Habel, Ecological Reading of Genesis 1–11, 31–32.

[24] Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 1:83.

[25] “Among the many things that the image of God may signify and imply, one of them, and probably the main one, is that people are delegated a godlike role (function) in the world where he places them. It has already been mentioned that whereas in the rest of the ancient world creation was set up to serve the gods, a theocentric view, in Genesis, creation is not set up for the benefit of God but for the benefit of humanity—an anthropocentric view. Thus we can say that humanity is the climax of the creation account. Another contrast between Genesis and the rest of the ancient Near East is that in the ancient Near East people are created to serve the gods by supplying their needs. That is, the role of people is to bring all of creation to deity—the focus is from inside creation out to the gods. In Genesis people represent God to the rest of creation. So the focus moves from the divine realm, through people, to the world around them.” Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, 68–69. See Keel and Schroer, Creation: Biblical Theologies, 122–24. “Furthermore, man’s purpose is not to glorify God; rather, God’s self-declared purpose is to immortalize and glorify man.” Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 42.

[26] Seth Postell, in Adam as Israel, 97, discusses “a confirmation that Gen 1:2 anticipates redemptive themes.” Flake, in “Translating Time,” 514, asserts that “God’s goodness and sovereignty is measured by the power to redeem human agents in extremis, not the power to create them ex nihilo.”

[27] In an 1844 discourse, the Prophet Joseph Smith described God’s pleasure in exalting his creations and what the end objective for his children is: “I saw the father work out his kingdom with fear & trembling.—— god is gra[ti]fied in <salvati[o]n> Exaltation— of his creati[o]ns &c— not all to be comprehedd [comprehended] in this world—— the head.— the head one— The head one of the God[s], brought fo[r]th the Gods.” Discourse, 7 April 1844, as Reported by Willard Richards, p. 68, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[28] “This interest is part of functional origins. Humankind is connected to the ground from which we are drawn. Womankind is connected to mankind from whom she is drawn. In both male and female forms, humankind is connected to God in whose image all are made. As such they have the privilege of procreation, the role of subduing and ruling, and a status in the garden serving sacred space (Gen 2:15). All of these, even the last, were designed to be true of all human beings. Neither the materials nor the roles are descriptive only of the first individuals. This creation account gives people their identity and specifies their connectivity to everything around them.” Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, 71. In essence, the story of Adam and Eve is our story as well.

[29] Moses 2 was received sometime in June 1830, and Doctrine and Covenants 29 was received at the September conference, where the Lord revealed important details about both the spiritual and physical creations: “for by the power of my spirit created I them, yea all things both spiritual and temporal firstly spiritual secondly temporal which is the beginning of my work, and again firstly temporal and secondly spiritual which is the last of my work.” Revelation, September 1830–A, as Recorded in Hyde and Smith, Notebook [D&C 29], p. [35], The Joseph Smith Papers. According to John Whitmer, the revelation was given to those of the conference who came prepared to “see eye to eye,” a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy of Zion’s unity in the last days. See the historical introduction to Revelation, September 1830–A [D&C 29], p. 36, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[30] See Bowen, “Functions of the Divine Word in the Book of Moses,” 139–92.

[31] History, 1838–1856, volume D-1 [1 August 1842–1 July 1843], p. 1534, The Joseph Smith Papers. See Muhlestein, “Revelations Surrounding the ‘New Translation,’” 40–65.

[32] Muhlestein outlines and describes the subsequent revelations accompanying the New Translation of the Bible. After Moses 1 was recorded, “sections 24–26 were received in July, section 27 in August, sections 28 and 29 in late September, sections 30 and 31 on September 28, and section 32 in mid-October. . . . During the same months these revelations were given (June–October), the prophet also received the revelations that became Moses 2–5:48.” Muhlestein, “Revelations Surrounding the ‘New Translation,’” 43; see pp. 40–65 therein for an expanded list and description of the timing of the reception of the revelations.

[33] See Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 2:519, and Temple Themes in the Book of Moses.

[34] The scriptures, including the books of Moses and Genesis, refer to a spiritual creation before a physical creation but omit specifics about logistics. We address spiritual creation more in chapter 10. “The account of the creation of the earth as given in Genesis, and the Book of Moses, and as given in the temple, is the Creation of the physical earth, and of physical animals and plants. . . . There is no account of the Creation of man or other forms of life when they were created as spirits.” Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:75.

[35] Heaven and earth form a merism, a literary device encapsulating two extremes to suggest entirety, circumscribing the entire world and universe. See Westermann, Genesis 1–11, 101; Sarna, Genesis, 5; Keel and Schroer, Creation: Biblical Theologies, 126; and Waltke and Fredericks, Genesis, 59. Moses is about to have the enormity of God’s works and creations revealed to him, a portion of which he has begun to experience with the revelations in Moses 1.

[36] “Almighty God” seems to refer to the Father, while “Only Begotten” refers to the Son. See Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 93. Joseph Smith explained that “everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organizations of the earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth, these personages according to Abraham’s record, are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer, and God the third, the witness or Testator.” Discourse, circa May 1841, as Reported by Unknown Scribe–A, p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers. In the early chapters of Genesis, it is interesting that the names Elohim and Yahweh are used in a manner that has caused confusion in interpreting the names of God in these episodes (אֶלֹהִים יְהוָה, Yahweh ʾĕlōhîm). On the use of Elohim in the Old Testament, “Hebrew אֱלֹהִים (elohim) is by far the most common member of a small group of Hebrew and Aramaic words used to refer to God and other deities. This word is plural in form, but is most often used with singular meaning as a name for the one God of Israel; in this meaning, it occurs with singular verbs (e.g., Genesis 1:1).” Klippenstein, “Names of God in the Old Testament,” in Barry, Lexham Bible Dictionary. Elohim is “the generic term for the one deity. It is used so frequently that it virtually functions as a name.” Hartley, Genesis, 42–43. Joseph Smith referred to God the Father as Elohim. See History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844] [addenda], p. 3 [addenda], The Joseph Smith Papers. Additionally, “Jesus is quoted as using a form of the name on the cross (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34.” Douglas and Tenney, New International Bible Dictionary, 309. While Elohim, Yahweh, and Yahweh Elohim are conflated throughout the early chapters of the Bible, Moses 2 helps clarify the participation of both the Father and the Son in the acts of creation.

[37] See Moberly, Old Testament Theology, 44.

[38] See Holmstedt, “Restrictive Syntax of Genesis i 1,” 56–67. To alleviate the problem, “Westermann offers a thorough discussion of the issues and concludes in favor of reading Genesis 1:1 as an independent clause functioning as a heading summarizing the content of the entire narrative in one line (1994, 93). Speiser argues for the dependent clause interpretation, but he takes Genesis 1:2 as a parenthetical statement, with Genesis 1:3 acting as the actual main clause (1964, 12).” Mangum, Custis, and Widder, Genesis 1–11, at Genesis 1:1–2:3.

[39] The larger grammatical discussion is beyond the scope of this chapter. However, Joseph Smith explained that this prepositional phrase never actually initiated this opening clause of the Bible but simply contained the word Head as the subject, making the sentence begin “The Head” rather than “In the beginning” (head and beginning come from the same root רֹאשׁ, rōʾš), and also that the preposition in was perhaps absent but later added at some point because it was thought “too bad to begin to talk about the head.” History, 1838–1856, volume E–1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844], p. 1972, The Joseph Smith Papers. The Prophet would later explain that God (The Head) would organize the creative council and describe multiple individuals involved in this creative council: “In the beginning the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods, and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it.” History, 1838–1856, volume E–1, p. 1972, The Joseph Smith Papers. The theological ramifications are significant since the concept of a divine council reflects a planning stage and governing body, under the direction of God the Father, that was responsible for planning and executing creation. These details seem to be fleshed out in more detail after Joseph translated Abraham 3–5. Brigham Young would later teach that “the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Elohim, [Je]hovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum, as in all heavenly bodies, and in organizing element.” Discourses of Brigham Young, 51 (9 April 1852). Moses 2:1, however, at the very least, describes the Father and the Son as being involved in creation.

[40] See, e.g., Mosiah 2:21 and 4:21 (and broadly vv. 19–21).

[41] Similar language will be used in describing Christ, particularly as Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. “Alpha and Omega (τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ, to alpha kai to ō). The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, symbolically representing the beginning and the end. The book of Revelation uses the phrase ‘alpha and omega’ to describe both God (Rev 1:8; 21:6) and Jesus (Rev 22:13). The Greek expression uses a figure of speech called a merism (or merismus), where opposites are used to express totality, fullness, or completion.” J. D. Douglas, “Alpha and Omega,” in Barry, Lexham Bible Dictionary. This idea is also encapsulated in John 1 when Jesus is described as the “word.” “The word λόγος (logos) evolved from a primarily mathematical term to one identified with speech and rationality. At a basic level, logos means ‘to pick up, collect, count up, give account [in a bookkeeping sense]’—the act of bringing concrete items into relation with one another. Mathematicians used it to describe ratios, mathematical descriptions of two measurements in relationship to each other.” Brann, Logos of Heraclitus, 10–11). Logos eventually came to communicate the idea of “giving an account” in the sense of explaining a story.” B. K. Gamel, “Logos, Greek Background,” in Barry, Lexham Bible. Describing Jesus as the “Word”—a term with numerous meanings and applications, including “reckoning, reason, treatise, explanation”— seems to be John’s intentional way of using an all-encompassing term to describe Jesus as everything in God’s equation, the reason for it all, the way that it all works. Jesus is everything.

[42] In the creation account, God is portrayed as the Head of creation and Jesus is designated as a creator. We see a personal component developed between the Father and the Son that will continue throughout the life of Jesus. Jesus will be our mediator with the Father and will maintain on numerous occasions his intimate relationship with him as the one who was sent to do the will of his Father (see John 1; 3; 14). As the Son of God doing his Father’s work, Jesus would become the father of our salvation, the one through whom, and only by whom, we come to the Father (see John 14:6). He would be the beginning and end of the Father’s work. See Isaiah 53/Mosiah 13–14. Moses has already been told in Moses 1:6–7 that he is to work in similitude of the Only Begotten, a figure with whom he is becoming intimately acquainted through the revelations, and Moses will have to see himself as a participant in God’s creation of Israel through the covenant.

[43] Sailhamer, Genesis, 2242–43.

[44] See discussion in Muhlestein, “Divine Confrontation with Pharaoh.”

[45] Mangum, Custis, and Widder, Genesis 1–11, at Genesis 1:1–2:3.

[46] When it comes to understanding the verb create, it “does us no good to know what ‘create’ literally means—we have to know what bārāʾ literally means.” Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, 39. The verb bārāʾ (בָּרָא, “shape, create”) reflects how God shapes and brings order to his creations. God’s creative initiatives can include things like the hosts of heaven (Isaiah 40:26) and the creation of Israel as a nation (Isaiah 43:1, 15;). The verb does not imply creation ex nihilo, a concept that derives from the time of Aristotle and finds its historical origins recorded in relation to Genesis 1 in the second century A.D. “Whenever it is used, [bārāʾ] recognizes God’s deeds as unparalleled creation. The agent is God, and there is never a mention of material from which God creates. Nor, then, in Genesis 1 can the intent of what follows be to mention materials.” Keel and Schroer, Creation: Biblical Theologies, 139–40. The Prophet Joseph Smith translated the word as “formed, or organized,” and the word “does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize, the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter.” History, 1838–1856, volume E–1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844], p. 1973, The Joseph Smith Papers. In Moses 2:1 we seem to witness God organizing and shaping existing materials into objects that can function and fulfill a purpose, and God throughout Genesis is usually the subject of the verb, reflecting divine activity. Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, 40.

[47] Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 31.

[48] Romney, “Jesus Christ: Lord of the Universe,” 48.

[49] “LDS teachings and scripture clearly imply that Moses learned of the Creation and the Fall in vision and was told to write it.” Bradshaw, “Sorting Out the Sources in Scripture,” 243. Other ancient writings affirm what the book of Moses says about how the stories of the Creation and the Fall were revealed in vision. For example, the book of Jubilees prefaces a recital of the Creation and other events of Genesis with the Lord’s instructions to Moses to record what he would see in vision. See Wintermute, “Jubilees,” 2:52, 54.

[50] The Hebrew words tōhû and bōhû convey the meaning of “nothingness; fig. of what is empty, unreal; a thing of nought; worthlessness; emptily, to no purpose.” Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, 96, 1062, s.v. “תהו.” “Tohu means “emptiness” or “futility,” and in some contexts it is associated with the trackless vacancy of the desert.” Alter, Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, 17.

[51] Arnold, Genesis, 38. “No one suggests that this verse indicates that matter had not been shaped or that the cosmos described in verse 2 is empty of matter. By logic alone the words could be seen to concern functionality, and analysis of the Hebrew confirms the conclusion that these terms indicate that the cosmos was empty of purpose, meaning, and function.” Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 187. The Prophet Joseph Smith seemed to embrace this concept as well. See Minutes and Discourses, 6–7 April 1844, as Published by Times and Seasons, The Joseph Smith Papers. Some have seen the Greek translation of the Bible as straying away from the more ancient nuances of the phrase: “The origin of the English translation is to be found in the ancient Greek version (LXX) that translated tōhû with ἀόρατος (aoratos, ‘unseen’) and wābōhû with ἀκατασκεύαστος (akataskeuastos, ‘unformed’). Since both terms played an important role in the Hellenistic cosmologies at the time of the translation, most likely the choice of these terms, and others within the LXX of Genesis 1, was motivated by an attempt to harmonize the biblical account with accepted cosmologies of that day rather than by adhering strictly to the sense of the Hebrew text.” Schmitt, “Interpretation der Genesis, 150–51; and Sailhamer, Genesis, 2477–83.

[52] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 15–16. God was organizing an environment wherein his children could thrive. For Egyptian parallels with tōhû and bōhû, see Walton, Old Testament, 28–29.

[53] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 16. “The creative force here called the ‘Spirit of God,’ which acts upon the elements to shape and prepare them to sustain life on earth can be the same as is termed in the Doctrine and Covenants in one context the ‘Light of Christ.’ (See Doctrine & Covenants 88:7–13.) That that power was exerted by the Son, under the command of the Father, is evident also in such scriptures as John 1:1–4 and Hebrews 1:1–2. (See also the Book of Mormon, Helaman 12:8–14 and Jacob 4:6–9.)” Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1:11.

[54] The entire passage appears to be expressing the revelation and presence of God in creation, along with the very personal and active role he took in it. The entire purpose of creation, as described in Moses 1 and later in Genesis 1, was to create an environment wherein God’s children could be nurtured in a covenantal relationship that engenders in them the ability to become inheritors of immortality and eternal life. Darkness and chaos may temporarily exist, but creation foreshadows a time when God will put an end to the darkness and chaos. This leads to many of the eschatological passages in the Book of Moses and throughout other scripture. The creation account is a way for God to commence a history with his people and prepare “the way for the consummation of that history at the ‘end of time’ as He creates ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’” Sailhamer, Genesis, 20–23).

[55] Genesis 1:2 reads the “the Spirit of God.” רוּחַ can mean “wind” or “spirit” and can represent “God’s presence as the wind accompanying his person (‘wind’ in this sense is also used in Gen. 8:1 when God blows the wind to still the flood waters and in Ex 14:21 to part the waters of the Re(e)d Sea), or depicts the literal presence of God’s spirit on the scene, anticipating his words in v. 3 ‘and God said.’” Arnold, Genesis, 38–39. The image of רוּחַ is “breath of mouth or nostrils (fig. of king); as word of command: (1) of God; (2) of Messianic king; as sign and symbol of life.” Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, 924–25, s.v. “רוּחַ.” “In Genesis, the potentiality in the primeval condition is represented in the presence of the spirit of God. Since Mesopotamian sources often feature a wind that stirs up or roils the primeval waters as a prelude to creative acts, many interpreters have translated this phrase as ‘mighty wind.’ Note how in this verse the wind/spirit stands in parallelism to the darkness and is therefore part of the chaotic landscape. Although it is true that the Hebrew word rûaḥ can refer to either ‘spirit’ or ‘wind,’ whenever the word appears with ‘God’ it refers to ‘spirit.’ . . . In some late Egyptian texts the wind is a manifestation of the creator god, Amun, and serves as a catalyst for creation.” Walton, Genesis, loc. 1265–83. “Thus the phrase must be taken to involve some manifestation of God.” Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 17. See Day, Studies in Genesis 1–11, 10.

[56] Arnold, Genesis, 38–39. “The rûaḥ ʾelōhîm of Genesis 1:2c refers to the impending creative activity of the deity,” and “the rûaḥ ʾĕlōhîm, the ‘spirit of God,’ implies in some way the presence of God within this barren world and so sets the scene for its imminent transformation in 1:3.” Moberly, Old Testament Theology, 44.

[57] Bradshaw, Image and Likeness, 98.

[58] History, 1838–1856, volume C–1 [2 November 1838–31 July 1842], p. 16 [addenda], The Joseph Smith Papers.

[59] רָחַף “hover; move gently, also cherish, and brood, Dt 32:11 (poem) of vulture hovering over young; (v. Syriac) brooding (and fertilizing).” Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, 934. “The phrase really does express the powerful presence of God moving mysteriously over the face of the waters.” Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 17. See also Sarna, Genesis, 7. Some have compared the language here to God’s building a temple out of the earth. The Spirit of God, “hovering eagle-like (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11) aloft in the invisible heavens was the Architect of creation, his Glory filling, indeed constituting, the celestial temple. This Glory, manifested on earth as the Shekinah-cloud, is called the Spirit (see Nehemiah 9:19, 20; Isaiah 63:11–14; Haggai 2:5). Here was the omniscience and omnipotence to turn dark deep into cosmic house of God (cf. Isa 66:1) and habitat for man, to bring infinite construction to Sabbath consummation.” Meredith G. Kline, in Genesis, 32, connects the Spirit’s role with God’s building of a cosmic temple (compare Psalm 104:1–3, 30). See also Waltke and Fredericks, Genesis, 60. Later, in the translation account found in Abraham 4:2, the translation includes the word brooding instead of moving, reflecting that aspect of the Semitic nuance and domain of the word.

[60] Draper, Brown, and Rhodes, Pearl of Great Price, 178–79.

[61] As described in ancient Near Easter literature, the Creation was seen as part of the process to expel chaos. “In the ancient Near East, however, to say that a deity had subdued chaos is to give him the highest praise.” Sarna, Genesis, 13. “The imagery of creation coming from chaotic waters is abundant in the earliest parts of the Creation narrative.” Muhlestein, Essential Old Testament Companion, 6. Ancient Near Eastern creation accounts depict such conflicts and usually involve overcoming the dangerous primeval waters of chaos. Later Canaanite stories would extend this conflict with water to deities within their pantheon who were named “Sea” (Yam) and “Death” (Mot). These stories find echoes in prophetic and poetic texts such as Isaiah 51:9–11, which describes Israel’s ransoming or redemption in terms of Yahweh’s defeat of Egypt (Rahab) and the sea as in the Exodus. During the Exodus, after Moses parts the sea, the Israelites sing a song of deliverance—the Song of the Sea (see Exodus 14). On the basis of linguistic characteristics and conventions, Exodus 14 is often dated as the oldest material in the Bible.

[62] Harris and Platzner, Old Testament, 108.

[63] Tullock and McEntire, Old Testament Story, 41.

[64] Walton, Old Testament, 29. See Hartley, Genesis, 43.

[65] “The word of God alone causes the act of creation and its result, so that the phrase ‘God made/created’ that follows in several cases is not a secondary event but rather has the sense ‘and so (in this way) God made/created’; it contains the result of the preceding ‘God said.’” Keel and Schroer, Creation, 141. Reference to God speaking here “is used here in a more pregnant sense than usual. It is a divine word of command that brings into existence what it expresses. Throughout Scripture the word of God is characteristically both creative and effective: it is the prophetic word that declares the future and helps it come into being.” Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 17–18. Divine speech and creation by the word of God’s mouth also figures in other ancient Near Eastern creation stories. Here in Moses 2:3 it highlights that God’s speech is bringing into existence something that did not have an organized existence before, especially in the sense of having no purpose and function until God imbues it with such. See Arnold, Genesis, 39.

[66]אוֹר (ʾôr) in Hebrew means “light”—“light as diffused in nature, light of day, morning light, dawn, light of the heavenly luminaries; moonlight & sunlight, stars of light, luminaries of light, light of instruction, Yahweh as source of enlightenment & prosperity; light & salvation, light to guide, everlasting light of Zion.” Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, 21, s.v. “אוֹר.” “Light is the first of the creator’s works” and “manifests most adequately the divine operation in a world which, without it, is darkness and chaos. . . . Though it is not itself divine, light is often used metaphorically for life, salvation, the commandments, and the presence of God (Ps 56:14; Isa 9:1 Prov 6:23; Exodus 10:23).” Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 18. See Westermann, Genesis 1–11, 110.

[67] Belnap, “Genesis 1–3 and Its Significance.”

[68] Sarna, Genesis, 13 (see p. 6). See also Day, Studies in Genesis 1–11, 11; and Jackson, Restored Gospel and the Book of Genesis, 69.

[69] John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 18:327.

[70] Moberly, Old Testament Theology, 45.

[71] The action of dividing and separating often implies a specific purpose. This creative action is done by God, and the concept echoes priestly functions, for “division and separation are priests’ business (e.g., Lev 10:10; 11:46–47). So in bringing the world into being, as well as thinking like a planner, speaking like a monarch, . . . Yhwh was involved in dividing like a priest.” Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, 94. “The general concept of separation during creation seems clear with the broad function of establishing a sacred space wherein God and his creations will dwell in order to fulfill his purposes.” Belnap, “Genesis 1–3 and Its Significance.” “Elsewhere separation almost becomes synonymous with divine election (Lev 20:24; Num 8:14; Deut 4:41; 10:8; 1 Kgs 8:53). And Israel is expected to become as discriminating as her Lord in distinguishing between clean and unclean, holy and profane (Lev 10:10; 20:25).” Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 18. The root bdl, meaning “divide,” is also found describing holy places such as the veil of the temple between holy places. See Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 101. See also Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 189–91. The concept of dividing adds a sacred, intentional element to creation.

[72] Giving something a name was the process of instilling it with identity, purpose, and meaningful existence. “The function of names themselves is more significant in ancient cultures than today because the giving of names was more than a mere identification tag. Names were sometimes seen as a hypostasis, or the very essence of a thing.” Arnold, Genesis, 40; see Waltke, Genesis, 61. With the name in place, the creative endeavor was complete and the reason for the earth’s existence could now be pursued, fulfilled, and accomplished. The “Creative fiat, ‘let there be,’ was accompanied repeatedly by authoritative naming. Existence and meaning thus were given together as the Creator executed his eternal counsel. The world comes into existence fully interpreted, with no mysteries for its Maker.” Kline, Genesis, 11. This would come to an apex with God’s naming of his children, who could fill the measure of their creation once the name, stated purpose, and identity were set and in place. “This act of naming may be understood as much a part of the creation process as the physical separation, as defining and naming provides order and meaning, as well as assigning purpose in individualizing each aspect from the others, as more than physical events. This two-fold process of separating or distinguishing followed by the naming or identification of the object is repeated throughout the creative process and is often concluded with God’s declaration that the creation to this point is ‘good.’ More than merely an acknowledgment of what has happened, the declaration that the aspects of the creation as good represents a fundamental and crucial observation that the objects noted are fulfilling their divine purpose and function. It represents the intrinsic integrity making up the cosmic entities and thereby the underlying order and organization of the cosmos as a whole.” Belnap, “Genesis 1–3 and Its Significance.” For the ancient equating of naming and existence in other ancient texts, see Smith, Ugaritic Baal Cycle, 322–23; and Pardee, “Baʿlu Myth,” 248–49.

[73] Word is capitalized here in OT1; see Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 86. The phrasing “by the word of my power” seems to describe the work of the Son under the direction of the Father, a connection made in Moses 1:32.

[74] Some scholars see the function of day one as establishing time. “Since ‘day’ is a period of light, and ‘day’ is the name given, we conclude that we are dealing with a rhetorical device called metonymy in which a noun can reasonably be extended to a related concept. In this case then, the author intends for us to understand the word ‘light’ to mean a period of light. Otherwise the verse would not make sense. As a result, ‘God called the period of light “day” and the period of darkness he called “night.”’ . . . Since what is called into existence is a period of light that is distinguished from a period of darkness and that is named ‘day,’ we must inevitably consider day one as describing the creation of time. The basis for time is the invariable alter[n]ation between periods of light and periods of darkness.” Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, 54–55.

[75] Jackson, Restored Gospel and the Book of Genesis, 69–70.

[76] Firmament (רָקִיעַ, rāqîaʿ) means “extended surface, expanse” and acts as a support (i.e., supporting God’s throne); the vault of heaven, or ‘firmament.’” Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, s.v. “רָקִיעַ,” 956. The term “suggests a hammered-out slab, not necessarily arched, but the English architectural term with its celestial associations created by poetic tradition is otherwise appropriate.” Alter, Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, 17. See Arnold, Genesis, 41. “The Hebrew rāqîaʿ is of unspecified material, but in at least one text it refers to something solid (cf. Ezek. 1:25–26). It is the boundary between heaven and earth, and its main function is to hold back the waters above.” Walton, Genesis, 1316.

[77] “This evaluation of light as ‘good’ implies that it, and the rest of creation, are precisely what God had in mind.” Arnold, Genesis, 40. The word is “an affirmation that the functions were set to operate according to their design.” Walton, Ancient Cosmology, 16. “Every object was in its right place, every vegetable process going on in season, every animal in its structure and instincts suited to its mode of life and its use in the economy of the world. He saw everything that He had made answering the plan which His eternal wisdom had conceived; and, ‘Behold it was very good’ [Ge 1:31].” Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory, 18.

[78] Lights here carries the meanings of “light, light-bearer, luminary, lamp, the lamp-stand of the luminary or light (sum of seven sacred lamps on golden lamp-stand); the luminary of the eyes; gives the light of joy to the heart; the luminary of thy face (thy face as a lamp) in the light of which the secrets are exposed.” Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, s.v. “מָאוֹרַ,” 22. Outside of Genesis 1 the Hebrew word for “light/lamp” is “always used in the Pentateuch to refer to the lamp in the tabernacle. Only Ezekiel 32:8 and Psalms 74:16 use this term as heavenly lights.” Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 22. In this way lights were often associated with objects in the temple, becoming a formal part of worship and reminding the ancient Israelites of the Light they were to follow.

[79] “Complementing their function as time measures, the astronomical objects also function as ‘signs’ . . . useful primarily to mankind and highlights the anthropocentric purpose of the cosmos within this narrative. Humans would thus constitute the main purpose behind the Gods’ creations.” Belnap, “Genesis 1–3 and Its Significance.” “The Hebrew word used for “sign” (ʾôt) has a cognate in Akkadian that is used for omens, but ʾôt has a more neutral sense. . . . W. Vogels has convincingly argued that the word translated ‘seasons’ here never refers to seasons of the year (e.g., summer) in its 160 occurrences in the Pentateuch. It refers rather to a fixed time, usually for an announced event or for the celebration of a liturgical festival. In this verse the functional aspect of creation is more evident than anywhere else and the functions are relative to human existence and use. The functionaries here have their destinies decreed and operate in relation to the function of time established in Day 1.” Walton, Genesis, 1411. Thus môʿădîm, meaning “seasons,” may imply more than just establishing the four seasons; the heavenly lamps would help establish a religious (cultic) function dealing with “appointed festivals” that revolve around those luminaries (e.g., the new moon festival (cf. Psalm 104:19). Indeed, môʿădîm is translated as “appointed festivals.” See Arnold, Genesis, 42; and Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 23. “The bodies of light have a ruling and regulating function. They determine the calendar and the seasons, . . . affirming the orderliness of the created world; religious life was organized around a cyclic series of holy days and festivals, all determined by the course of the sun and the moon.” Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament, 57. For further discussion see Walton, Genesis, NIV Application Commentary, 122–23; and Vogels, “Cultic and Civil Calendars,” 163–80. The seasons will help regulate agricultural activities, which in turn are linked to religious festivals and days of worship. Everything revolves around the recognition of God as provider and returning thanks to him.

[80] Greater and lesser lights appear to be a purposeful avoidance of the terms sun (šemeš) and moon (yārēaḥ). See Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 23; Lipinski, “Shemesh,” 764–68; and Schmidt, “Moon,” 585–93. Because the sun and moon were ancient Near Eastern deities (Shemesh and Yarikh), a disassociation with idolatry may have been the intention here. See Arnold, Genesis, 43. Rather than the sun and the moon constituting gods themselves, they are portrayed in the text as lunar objects created by the one true God, and they receive their existence by him. “This may be an implicit polemic against the worship of astral deities (see 2 Kings 23.5).” Sarna, Genesis, 13. See Waltke, Genesis, 61.

[81] “Immediately following the emergence of this original triad of moving life, another triad is described consisting of the ‘beasts of the field,’ cattle, and non-mammals that walk on land (reptiles, amphibians, etc.). While ‘creeping things,’ or the non-mammals that walk on land, suggests differentiation of type, the other two suggest differentiation by function, i.e., non-domesticated vs. domesticated, again highlighting the anthropocentric purpose of the creation. With these two orderings, life is now present in the three environments of the cosmos: the sky, the earth, the sea, and all of it is functioning properly and differentiated one from another, thereby receiving the divine acknowledgment that it is ‘good.’” Belnap, “Genesis 1–3 and Its Significance.”

[82] Walton, Old Testament, 28–29.