Moses 6:51-55

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The Pearl of Great Price > The Book of Moses > Chapter 6

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Verse 53

  • Adam asks the Lord why we must repent and be baptized. The Lord's answer extends to 63. Why does the answer start by telling Adam that he has been forgiven of his transgression in the Garden of Eden?

Lexical notes

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In the middle of a much longer sermon, Enoch here suddenly reports a conversation between God and Adam. Though he has, to this point in the sermon, already mentioned Adam several times (see verses 45 and 48), here he launches into a detailed discussion of an encounter between Adam and God, a discussion that runs to the end of the chapter. In the commentary that follows, attention will be paid to the original manuscripts from the New Translation, because a number of important variants can be found there. (There are, it should be noted, two surviving original manuscripts from the project of producing the New Translation. OT1—Old Testament Manuscript 1—represents the earliest dictated version of the text, though changes were made to the text right on the manuscript. The entirely of OT1 was subsequently copied, thus producing OT2—Old Testament Manuscript 2—which second manuscript copy was in turn altered. The references to these two manuscripts in the commentary on the remainder of Moses 6 should be understood in light of this explanation.)

It is curious that this story appears only in Enoch's sermon in the Book of Moses and not at all in the earlier, actual narrative concerning Adam. This is a point that deserves careful attention.

Verse 51

With this verse, Enoch turns from the "our fathers" in general of verse 50 to "our father Adam." The whole of verses 51-68 thus appear to be Enoch's explanation and expansion of his claim that "God hath made known unto our fathers that all men must repent." That he focuses specifically on Adam in his exposition suggests that he intended not only to justify his general claim, but that he desired to trace the original introduction of the idea of universally necessary repentance into the world.

And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice

The Book of Moses has a good deal to say about God's voice before this point in the text. It first appears in the Adam-and-Eve story in 4:14-16, just after Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the forbidden tree. There the voice leads Adam and Eve to hide themselves from the Lord. Later, in 5:4, reverse their relationship to the voice: by then they are outside the Garden, calling on the name of the Lord, but only hearing God's voice "from the way toward the Garden of Eden." Where the voice had before been an indication of God's presence, and so the very thing that drove their desire to hide, now the voice took the place of God's presence, and marked their definitive separation from the Garden. The importance of this voice—this singular tie to God after the loss of Eden—becomes strikingly visible when the difference between Cain and Abel becomes a question of whether each "hearken[s]" or "listen[s]" to "the voice of the Lord" (5:17 and 26). And this becomes especially dire when the children of Adam and Eve generally decide "not [to] hearken unto his voice, nor believe on his Only Begotten Son," bringing a curse on themselves (5:57). Despite this general situation, however, the narrative explains that God did speak in the meanwhile to Adam and Eve, because "the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost" (5:58). And Adam and Even, despite the disobedience of their children, did listen to that voice: "Adam hearkened unto the voice of God, and called upon his sons to repent" (6:1). Somewhere in the thick of these last passages, something like the story Enoch is telling seems to have taken place: Adam and Eve seem to have heard the voice of the Lord, and to have recognized that it enjoined them to call upon their children to repent.

saying: I am God

The communication with Adam begins with the not entirely uncommon phrase "I am God." The phrase appears a number of times in scripture (both in Old and in New World scripture; both in ancient and in modern scripture), and it usually indicates God's sovereignty—a kind of reminder that God has power. The present text is no exception: God goes on to describe His own creative power, as well as His sovereign relationship to human beings. Of particular interest, though, is the fact that this same phrase appears two other times in the Book of Moses, first in Moses 2:2, and then in Moses 7:35. The result is that, in the course of eight chapters, one finds God saying "I am God" to Adam, Enoch, and Moses. This is likely of significance.

I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh

As already noted, there seems to be a strong emphasis on sovereignty here, perhaps particularly because the words God goes on to say in the following verse are separated or distinguished from these (by the phrase "And he also said unto him"), making this statement a kind of stand-alone announcement, an inaugural establishment of God's relationship to human beings. That relationship is one of unquestionable sovereignty. Not only did God make "the world," He also made "men before they were in the flesh." Interestingly, the phrase "in the flesh" did not appear in the originally dictated-and-transcribed version of this text, in OT1. The text was copied without the phrase into OT2, but the phrase was then added at some subsequent point above the line in OT2. Thus, the text "originally" read: "I made the world, and men before they were." At first, the change seems only meant to clarify. What else could the text have meant? But on closer inspection, things may be more complicated. If God "made men before they were," then a stronger sense of sovereignty is at work in this first word: that God can make things before they are is a bit surprising, and one can be forgiven for thinking that there is a hint here of a more traditional kind of theism in the earlier version. At any rate, the addition of "in the flesh" introduces the idea of a premortal existence into the text. To say that God "made men before they were" is to say that God has an absolute relationship to His creation; but to say that He "made men before they were in the flesh" is to say that He has created them twice, once in a premortal setting, and once in a mortal setting. Which of these readings is preferable remains an open question.

Verse 52

And he also said unto him

As already noted, this verse seems to turn from a kind of stand-alone announcement about the sovereign relationship God has to His creatures to a more dialogic communication. Here God's nature seems to have been established, and on that established ground, other questions can be addressed. There is also a sense of distance between this communication and the one in the preceding verse because only the preceding verse describes its communication as a question of God "call[ing] upon" Adam. Here it is only a question of saying.

If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice

Somewhat surprisingly, the "if thou wilt turn unto me" phrasing here is relatively unique in scripture. While the language of "if thou wilt turn away from me" is quite common, something like the present phrasing appears only six other times (Deut 4:30; 30:10; 2 Chr 30:9; Neh 1:9; Mosiah 7:33; and 3 Ne 16:15). Nonetheless, the verb "to turn" in especially the Hebrew tradition has a strong theological sense: it generally refers to repentance or conversion. Here it seems best to take it as a kind of inauguratory move, an initial moment of conversion of sorts, since it will be followed by faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. It thus appears first and foremost to refer to a kind of deliberate or intentional act of attunement: in "turning unto God," Adam orients himself and the whole of the world as he inhabits it to God.

That this attunement is followed by a "hearkening" is not at all surprising. Indeed, it is perhaps only possible to hearken once one has fully attuned oneself to the source of instruction. But what is striking is that Adam is told to "hearken unto my voice," that is, to the voice already mentioned and, indeed, highlighted in verse 51 ("And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying"). God's "voice" here moves from its position in Enoch's narrative into the actual discourse between God and Adam. The effect is important. Adam is not only to orient himself to God and to obey what he learns after that attunement; he is to orient himself to the thing precisely that marks his privileged relationship to God.

and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions

Following the double call to attunement and orientation, faith and repentance become the focus: "and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions." Interestingly, the phrase "thy transgressions" appeared as "their transgressions" in the original manuscript. This is peculiar, given that the phrases immediately preceding are all in the second person ("If thou wilt turn unto me," etc.). One could, of course, play around with the possibility that "their" was meant to refer back to "men before they were [in the flesh]" in verse 51, but this seems unlikely. It seems most likely that "their" was simply a mistranscription, one that was corrected later.

It is perhaps peculiar that the Lord here speaks of "all thy transgressions" in the plural. The next verse goes on to record God as telling Adam he had been "forgiven" of his "transgression in the Garden of Eden." But peculiarly, the word "transgression" there was originally (in OT1) in the plural ("I have forgiven thee thy transgressions in the Garden of Eden"). Is there supposed to be some kind of a connection between "all thy transgressions" in the present verses and "thy transgressions in the Garden of Eden" in the next verse? The possibility is intriguing but problematic: the most straightforward interpretation would be that "all thy transgressions" would include all transgressions that had occurred after leaving the Garden.

At any rate, the emphasis is clearly on total repentance ("all thy transgressions").

and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son

Not surprisingly in light of the fourth article of faith (which would not be written until more than a decade after the translation of the present passage), faith and repentance are followed by water baptism. (The phrase "in water" appears in OT1 as "by water," and it was copied that way into OT2, though it was changed in OT2 at some subsequent point.) It is difficult to know how Adam would have responded to a commandment to be baptized. There is some evidence (in D&C 128 and the first verses of Moses 6) that the ordinance of baptism for the dead preceded the ordinance of baptism for the living. If that was the case—and it would seem to imply that Adam had been baptized for Abel before he was baptized for himself—then Adam may well have been shocked that he himself had to be baptized. Of course, the present passage does not record any such shock.

As for the phrase "mine Only Begotten Son," it should be noted how frequently it appears in the Book of Moses. While it appears only a total of thirty-six times in scripture, fully twenty-two of those are in this short book! (See, in addition to the present verse, Moses 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 32, 33; 2:1, 26, 27; 3:18; 4:1, 3, 28; 5:57; 6:57, 59, 52; 7:50, 59, 62.) Interestingly, it is only in the present passage that the Book of Moses has God speaking directly to Adam about the Only Begotten, though. Most often—at least apart from the prologue of Moses 1—the Only Begotten comes into the story only through the narration. Given the crucial role the term plays in Moses 1 (in Moses' encounter with God and Satan), it would seem to have come into through the narration because of Moses' influence and interest.

At any rate, the Only Begotten clearly plays a significant role in the present passage, since it is in this name that Adam is to be baptized. The significance of this will have to be spelled out in the commentary on subsequent uses of the phrase further along.

who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ

the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men

ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost

"ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" does not appear in OT1. The change was made to OT2.

asking all things in his name

"asking all things in his name" appears as "& ye shall ask all things in his name" in OT1. The change was made to OT2.

and whatsoever ye shall ask it shall be given you

"given you" appears simply as "given" in OT1. The change was made to OT2.

Verse 53

Again, "in water" appears as "by water" in OT1. The change was made to OT2. "transgression" appears in the plural in OT1. The change was made in producing OT2.

Verse 54

"the Son of God" appears as "Christ" in OT1. The change was made to OT2.

Verse 57

"in the meridian of time" does not appear in OT1. The change was made to OT2. OT2 originally read "the son of man even Jesus Christ a righteous Judge which shall come." It was changed in the ms to "the son a man a righteous Judge who shall come in the meridean of time."

Verse 58

"Therefore" does not appear in OT1.

Verse 59

"by reason of transgression cometh the fall" appears as "inasmuch as they were born into the world by the fall" in OT1. "which fall" appears simply as "which" in OT1. "and inasmuch as ye were born into the world" does not appear in OT1. "blood and" is inserted only above the line in OT1. "into the kingdom of heaven" does not appear in OT1. The phrase "into the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven" appears after "Only Begotten" in OT1.

The "corrected" version of OT1 was originally copied directly into OT2. "reason of" was then added after "born into the world by" above the line. Then the whole thing was crossed out and replaced by a pinned note that reads mostly like the current version. The differences: "the" appears crossed out before "transgression"; "ye were born" appears as "they were born"; "dust" was written originally as "death" and then corrected; "ye must be born again" appears as "ye must be born again," then as "they must be born again," then as "ye must be born again" and then simply as "must be born again"; "the" appears crossed out after "cleansed by"; "of" appears crossed out before "even the blood."

"ye" in "ye might be sanctified" is changed to "they" and then back to "ye" in OT2.

Verse 61

"Therefore it is given to abide in you" appears as "that in you is given" in OT1. The changes were made to OT2. "peaceable things of immortal glory" is crossed out in OT2 and replaced with "keys of the kingdom of heaven." "justice" was only inserted above the line in OT1. It was copied into OT2.

Verse 62

The word "through" is not in OT1. The change was made to OT2.

Verse 63

"beneath" appears crossed out after "on the earth" in OT2.

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