Three factors came together last Sunday that strengthened my testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith. The first was that our Sunday meeting schedule, in its bi-annual cycle, reverted to the hours 2 to 5pm providing myself and my household with a morning of spiritual, or otherwise, self-indulgence.
The second was my self-indulgence indeed, namely Elgar’s pouring out of his soul in the form of his 2nd symphony, which though it may have interfered with the mornings extended nocturnal habits of others in the house, I received no complaints.
The third was the focus of my attention which was the opening reading for this year’s Sunday School curriculum, the first chapter of the Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1. With the aid of an essay by Hugh W Nibley on that same chapter, my mind and heart was caught up in the drama that the chapter unfolds.
Nibley is passionate in his praise for the Book of Moses which he points out was published in the same year as the Book of Mormon (1829, before the church was organised) and chapter 1 in the same month. But this document is so different in content, style and depth from the Book of Mormon. He also expounds on how the theme of the chapter is commonly found in the writings of those of ancient times, that of God revealing Himself to a humble soul by revelation, who is then left to be tested by Satan, who he defeats and so passes the test, after which God reveals Himself again this time to call him to his life’s mission before finally endowing him with a depth of knowledge that only He, the creator of all, can reveal.
As well as describing this ritual, the cosmology and the glorious declaration of His work and glory, which is why God continues to expand the universe, Moses 1 is also prophetic, held in reserve for an age when God’s words would by most be taken as naught. It is a gift from the past to those who believe in Him as the creator when current understanding of time and space can so easily leave us with little to support our belief. While Genesis is great poetry, in the face of the discoveries of today, which cannot be discarded and ignored, its content is certainly flawed and lacking. Surely those who believe deserve a lift, some encouragement in their beliefs, a reward for loyalty and trust. When read carefully, Moses 1 is that reward, but only for those who believe.
So why am I writing this? It is simply to share my experience of that morning. In reflection, though certainly not in anything like the same degree, I realise I went through a small Moses chapter 1 experience myself that day. Firstly, with the aid of Nibley and Elgar, and it was the second movement of that symphony that particularly enhanced the cosmology of Moses 1, that morning I had an existential experience; but then came the test. A whisper in my head said, ‘you should go see sister C in the nursing home and if she asks for it, give her the sacrament. She was not expecting me; no one had asked me, I just knew I should do it. But it was warm dry and cosy indoors. The visit was done, the sacrament was asked for and I was prepared.
In the fast and testimony meeting I bore testimony to the Prophet. Then it was the Sunday school lesson in which I participated, but there was no time to share what was revealed to me at the end, which is simply this. Moses 1 ends with the prophecy, ‘behold, I will raise up another like unto thee’ which of course was Joseph Smith, but the question is, how was Joseph raised up? The answer is this, in just the same manner, in every detail, as Moses was.
As a boy Joseph received the first vision, face to face with the Father and Son in answer to his prayer. He was then tried and tested in many ways, but before his mission formally began, which was to organise the church and kingdom of God on the Earth, he needed to be endowed with greater knowledge than he had, even greater than that contained through the translation of the Book of Mormon. But first came THE crucial test which is only briefly referred to, but nevertheless it is recorded, in Doctrine and Covenants 128. I underline the event I refer to:-
20 And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!
I quoted the whole verse because it puts in chronological sequence the time when Satan tried to deceive the young prophet. Though no details are given I have little doubt that Satan revealed himself for the same purpose as he did to Moses, to persuade Joseph to worship him and after all Satan is the God of this world who could no doubt have endowed Joseph and his family with all they could ever need in this life. But in this case Michael came to the rescue and Joseph was soon endowed with the knowledge and power (Moses 1 replayed) required for him to fulfil his mission.
Consider this intervention of Michael, who we know is Adam, as I include the following. In Nibley’s essay on Moses 1 he also writes about an event shortly after the time when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden. I quote from his essay,
‘Perhaps the oldest of Adam traditions are those collected from all over the ancient East at a very early time, which have reached us in later Ethiopian and Arabic manuscripts under the title of, ‘The combat of Adam and Eve against Satan’. Nibley then quotes side by side references from the book of Moses and paraphrased quotations from these manuscripts. Those I quote here are just from these other writings which are particularly interesting to us.
‘Satan, seeing them at prayer, appears to them in a great light and sets up his throne on the site, thus claiming the earth as his kingdom while his followers sing hymns of praise.
Adam, puzzled, prays for light, asking: Can this be another God here hailed by his angels? An angel of the Lord arrives and says: Fear not, Adam, what you see is Satan and his companions who wish to seduce you again. First he appeared to you as a serpent and now he wants you to worship him so he can draw you after him away from God.
Then the angel exposed and humiliated Satan in Adam’s presence and cast him out saying to Adam: God who created you will strengthen you.
The next morning as Adam prayed with upraised hands, Satan appeared to him saying: ‘Adam, I am an angel of the great God. The Lord has sent me to you.’ (It was his plan to kill Adam and thus remain sole master and possessor of the earth.) But God sent three heavenly messengers to Adam bringing him the signs of the priesthood and kingship. Adam wept because they reminded him of his departed glory, but God said they were signs of the atonement to come, whereupon Adam rejoiced.
Okay, that will do for now, though there is more that indicates that Adam was shown how blood sacrifice was in the similitude of the great and last sacrifice that God himself would make.
I conclude with my testimony of the prophet Joseph and of how God raises up men and women to achieve his purposes. No matter how he may be maligned and discarded, Joseph was God’s prophet for the latter days. He came at a time when the world would begin to discard the words of God as ‘of naught’ and when moral agency would have no eternal significance or foundation other than man’s rationale. I echo John Taylor who said,
‘Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.’
I believe this to be true.
God works the same way now as in ages past, sending from his presence those chosen before the world was and then raising them up when they are born into mortality. He does this now by the same process as for Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joseph Smith and all others including ourselves. I repeat the stages in this process.
Stage 1, a revelation opens the mind of one who until then is just going about his earthly business.
Stage 2, he or she is tested by Satan and passes the test.
Stage 3, he or she is called to a specific mission for life.
Stage 4, he or she is endowed with extended knowledge and power from Him that will sustain him throughout their mission.
How blessed we are in this knowledge and how marvellous it is that by small and simple things, God fulfils His purposes in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Now, a brain teaser question for those interested.
Who connects Hugh W. Nibley with Preston and Napoleon Bonaparte? First to answer will receive an Amazon voucher!