Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Understanding Abraham and the Creation – Part II

Continuing with Abraham’s account of the creation and the principles behind it so we can better understand how the Earth was changed during the crucifixion and why it was not merely a cosmetic event, but a change that was extremely complex and performed in a specific and exact manner. 
    To put this in perspective, we need to keep in mind that in Genesis, the Creation is represented as the work of one Personage—God. In Abraham, it is the “Gods” that do all the work. Consider, as an example the wordage used in Genesis: “Let us go down,” suggests at least more than one. Who else, or who were the others involved in the "us" of the organization or creation of the Earth?
Obviously, the plural form, “Let us go down” begs that question—who was involved in the Creation?  In the temple, we learn that Elohim directed the creation of all things, first the spiritual, second the physical. Under his direction, Jehovah and Michael were sent down to oversee the physical creation.
    While some might argue that Michael (Adam) could not be a god before he came to earth as a mortal, we might want to be reminded that Christ or Jehovah did the same thing. He was the God of the Old Testament and the babe in Bethlehem. So the Gods involved in the Abraham rendition of the Creation are Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael.
    Michael was directly involved in the preparation of the physical world in which he and his posterity would undergo a mortal probation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote: “Christ and Mary, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and a host of mighty men and equally glorious women comprised that group of ‘the noble and great ones,’ to whom the Lord Jesus said: ‘We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (Abraham 3:22–24).
    According to Joseph Fielding Smith, “It is true that Adam helped to form this earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong view or conviction that there were others also who assisted them. Perhaps Noah and Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:74–75).
Bruce R. McConkie added, “Our great prince, Michael, known in mortality as Adam, stands next to Christ in the eternal plan of salvation and progression. In pre-mortal Michael was the most intelligent, powerful, and mighty spirit son of God, who was destined to come to this earth, excepting only the Firstborn, under whose direction and pursuant to whose counsel he worked. ‘He is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men.’ (Teachings, p. 157.) The name Michael apparently, and with propriety, means one ‘who is like God.’ And in the creation of the earth, Michael played a part second only to that of Christ.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., p. 491.)
    Brigham Young stated quite clearly, “Though we have it in history that our father Adam was made of the dust of this earth, and that he knew nothing about his God previous to being made here, yet it is not so; and when we learn the truth we shall see and understand that he helped to make this world, and was the chief manager in that operation. He was the person who brought the animals and the seeds from other planets to this world” (Journal of Discourses, 1854-1886], 3: 319).
    It should obviously be understood, that Christ, under the Father, is the Creator; Michael, his companion and associate, presided over much of the creative work; and with them, as Abraham saw, were many of the noble and great ones. The Prophet Joseph Smith thus taught that “the Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26, 27, 28.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Man Adam,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 10).
One of the interesting elements of the account of the Creation as it is given in chapters 4 and 5 of Abraham is the use in chapter 4 of the verb to organize, by which we are given to understand that the Gods formed the heavens and the earth out of preexisting materials. (See Abraham. 4:1, 12, 14–16, 25, 27.) This flies in the face of centuries of Christian tradition, which insists that God created the universe ex nihilo (i.e., “from nothing”).
   Again, current scholarship supports the Book of Abraham in the age-old doctrine of ex nihilo—that is, creation out of nothing. However, such a doctrine cannot be found in Genesis or anywhere else in biblical writing. In fact, we learn from early Jewish writings that God created the universe by giving form to formless matter. It was not until the second century after Christ, and thus after the Apostles, “that Christian thinkers began, under the influence of Greek philosophy, to teach creation ex nihilo, and the doctrine only gradually, over much time, gained acceptance.” (Daniel C. Peterson, “News from Antiquity,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 20)

During the Nauvoo period, Joseph Smith continued to speak about the Creation in terms of organization. His belief that physical matter had an eternal nature (D&C 93:33) was paramount to this belief.
William Clayton (left), the Prophet’s private secretary, reported Joseph Smith as saying in 1841, ‘This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodeled and made into the one on which we live.”
    In the famed King Follett discourse, delivered at general conference in April 1844, Joseph Smith presented an extensive treatise on creation as organization. He told the Saints that the word create comes from the Hebrew word baurau [bara], which means to organize, and that “God had materials to organize the world out of chaos … [which] may be organized and reorganized but not destroyed.”
    As he stated, the word “create” did not mean to create out of nothing; it meant 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, which is element, which element had an existence from the time [God] had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end" (HC 6:308-309).
    In fact, Parley P. Pratt, an apostle and close associate of Joseph Smith, wrote, "Matter and spirit are the two great principles of all existence. Everything animate and inanimate is composed of one or the other, or both of these eternal principles…. Matter and spirit are of equal duration; both are self-existent, they never began to exist, and they never can be annihilated…Matter as well as spirit is eternal, uncreated, self-existing. However infinite the variety of its changes, forms and shapes; …eternity is inscribed in indelible characters on every particle" (HC 4:55).
    Although these teachings were new for his time, Joseph Smith’s ideas received little attention from his non-LDS contemporaries. Members of other sects in the nineteenth century accepted the idea of ex nihilo creation without reservation. Consequently, Christians dismissed any alternative as irrelevant.  
John Rogers Herbert’s painting of the Assertion of Liberty of Conscience by the Independents at the Westminster Assembly of Divines

    Most accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith, a document drawn up in 1643 when the English Parliament called upon the “learned, godly and judicious Divines” to meet at Westminster Abby to provide advice on issues of worship, doctrine, government and discipline of the Church of England. 121 Puritan clergymen participated for the purpose, during the English Civil War, to provide official documents for the reformation of the Church of England. The document, which stated that God made the world ‘of nothing,’ was eventually adopted by Congregationalists in the form of the Savoy Declaration in 1658. Along the same line, the Baptists of England modified the Savoy Declaration to produce the Second London Baptists Confession in 1689. For more than three hundred years, various churches around the world adopted the confession and the catechisms as their standards of doctrine, subordinate to the Bible.
    “To the people of Joseph’s day, steeped in such long-standing traditions, the ideas presented by Joseph Smith must have seemed implausible” (Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, “The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, 32–33).
George Q. Canon (left) stated on this subject, “Another step has been made in advance…which is astonishing; I refer to the doctrine of the eternal duration of matter. When first this was made known it was ridiculed everywhere by religious people, who viewed it as a principle, the teachings of which detracted from the dignity and glory of God. The popular idea was that this earth was created out of nothing. This was the almost universal belief among Christians. Joseph Smith said it was not true. He advocated the doctrine that matter always had an existence, that it was eternal as God Himself was eternal; that it was indestructible; that it never had a beginning, and therefore could have no end. God revealed this truth to him. (Journal of Discourses, 24:61)
    The Confessions start out declaring that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the inspired, written Word of God, and as such, the Bible is considered "the rule of faith and life." The Holy Scriptures are said to possess infallible truth and divine authority, containing "all things necessary for [God's] own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life", so that no new revelations or human traditions can be added to it. With such an adamant approach to religion, Joseph Smith’s pronouncement was more than the average person could manage, while others met the pronouncements with strong resistance and outright blasphemous allegations.
(See the next post, “Understanding Abraham and the Creation – Part III,” for more information regarding Abraham’s account of the creation and the principles behind it so we can better understand how the Earth was changed during the crucifixion and why it was not merely a cosmetic event, but a change that was extremely complex and performed in a specific and exact manner)

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