01 November 2010

Dundee Scotland Stake Fireside

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw has been invited to speak with colleague David Larsen (of the Heavenly Ascents blog) at a Dundee Scotland Stake Fireside.

Date: Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Time: 7:15pm to 9:00pm
Location: Bingham Terrace Stake Centre (map)
Speakers: David Larsen ("Entronement Rituals in the Ancient Temples"), Jeffrey M. Bradshaw ("Temple Themes in the Book of Moses")

Although the subject matter is about temples, this fireside is suitable for all members, including youth.

03 September 2010

Temple Themes in the Book of Moses: Jeffrey M. Bradshaw Answers Questions About His New Book

Interview by David Larsen:

Almost nine months ago I had the great opportunity of interviewing author Jeffrey M. Bradshaw about his outstanding (and very large) book, In God’s Image and Likeness (you can read that multi-post interview starting here). It is now my great pleasure to present to you my brief interview with Dr. (Bishop) Bradshaw regarding a new book of his that has just been released, entitled Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. I have had the privilege of having a look at this new book and I can tell you that it is exciting, inspiring, and contains many new and fresh insights that will greatly enhance your understanding of the temple and its purpose, as well as give you a richer appreciation for how much the Book of Moses really has to offer us.

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02 August 2010

PDF, ePub, and Softcover Editions of "Temple Themes in the Book of Moses"

Update: The PDF and softcover copies are currently available. The ePub version will not be released in the near future due to technical issues. More information is available at www.imageandlikeness.net.

Both a softcover and a digital version (PDF and ePub) of a new book, "Temple Themes in the Book of Moses", are also scheduled to appear in early August 2010. This large-format book of over 400 pages contains much additional material not found in the book of Moses commentary, along over a hundred full color images. The ePub version will contain live hyperlinks, but will be formatted more simply to accommodate the flexible text sizing and page flow of this standard for phones and tablet computers.

PDF and Softcover Editions of "In God's Image and Likeness"

Update: The PDF and softcover copies are currently available. More information is available at www.imageandlikeness.net.

The first (hardcover) printing of "In God's Image and Likeness" is now sold out, though a few can still be found online for a higher-than-retail price. A second (softcover) printing, with many corrections, is currently being shipped to Eborn Books and should start to be available in stores and online (e.g., Eborn Bookstores, FAIR LDS Bookstore, BYU Bookstore, Amazon) by the first week in August. A digital version of the book in PDF for computers and tablets is currently available from the FAIR Bookstore, the BYU Bookstore, and on the official site as well. The PDF version is formatted identically to the paper version of the book and will include bookmarks and live hyperlink cross-references throughout. An ePub version is not practical for this book, given the complexity of the formatting.

Upcoming Presentations

  • August 4, 2:00-2:50 PM: The Tree of Knowledge as the Veil of the Sanctuary: Reflections on Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library.
  • August 5, 2:30-3:30 PM: The Apocalypse of Abraham: An Ancient Witness for the Book of Moses. Invited presentation at the 2010 FAIR Conference, South Towne Exposition Center, 9575 South State Street, Sandy, Utah 84070.
  • August 22, 7:00-8:00 PM: The Book of Moses: A Surprising and Neglected Treasure. Stake Fireside, Seattle North Stake Center, 5701 8th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105.

22 April 2010

The Five Celestial Laws

This carefully conceived scene, executed in grisaille to decorate the top of a niche containing a portrait of Adam, is part of a set of large altarpiece panel paintings in the Joost Vijdt chapel in the Cathedral of St. Bavon at Ghent, Belgium. The portrayal of Abel lifting up the lamb “prefigures both the sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharist.” The contrasting choices of Cain and Abel with respect to their covenantal obligations typify the account of the parting of the ways of righteousness and wickedness that begins in Moses 5. Of those who follow the way of wickedness, Jude wrote: “Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain.”

Relating the themes of opposition and agency that are portrayed in the story of Cain and Abel, Hugh Nibley frequently wrote about “the inescapable choice between Two Ways.” This ancient doctrine “proclaims that there lie before every human...two roads between which a choice must be made. The one is the road of darkness, the way of evil; the other, the way of light. Every man must choose between the two every day of his life; that choosing is the most important thing he does... He will be judged by God in the proper time and place. Meantime he must be free, perfectly free, to choose his own way.

In this article, I will outline the five celestial laws of the New and Everlasting Covenant, first revealed in the days of Adam. During periods of darkness, the glorious ordinances
associated with these laws were generally withdrawn from the earth, however their shadows have persisted in religions and cultures the world over. Nowhere in scripture are these teachings better preserved than in the book of Moses. Not only do we find each law there in proper sequence, but also, in every case, we discover stories that illustrate their application, both positive and negative. Indeed, it almost seems as if the stories of Moses 5-8 were deliberately structured in order to highlight the contrast between those who accepted and those who rejected the laws of heaven...

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Scripture in Depth: Moses 2:14-15

It is the earth, not heaven, that requires illumination provided by God's light. Likewise, modern temples are made to brilliantly shine so as to light their nighttime surroundings, while at the same time being furnished with opaque windows that restrict outside illumination (see Doctrine and Covenants 43:15). Thus, the temple's function is symbolically portrayed as giving light, not necessarily receiving it from elsewhere. The Bible says Solomon's Temple was constructed with "windows of narrow lights."

"The ancients said: 'Whoever builds windows in his house, makes them wide outside and narrow inside, that they should bring in the light,'" wrote the late Israeli geographer Zev Vilnay in his book "Sacred Land." "'Not so in the Temple; because there the light was within, and shone forth onto the whole world.' 'As oil gives light -- so the Temple gives light to the world.'"

And Elder John A. Widtsoe said, "Spiritual power is generated within temple walls, and sent out to bless the world ... Every home penetrated by the temple spirit enlightens, cheers, and comforts every member of the household. The peace we covet is found in such homes. Indeed, when temples are on earth, the whole world shares measurably in the issuing light; when absent, the hearts of men become heavy, as if they said, with the people of Enoch's day, 'Zion is fled'" (See Moses 7:69).

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15 April 2010

Adam, Eve, and the New and Everlasting Covenant

While the importance of the account of the Creation and the Fall in Moses 1-4 cannot be overstated, a careful reading of Moses 5-8 is required to see the prior material in its overall context. Reeves observes:
"Most modern students of the Bible fail to discern the pivotal significance which [the tale of Cain and Abel] plays in the present narrative structure of Genesis because of the enormous religious significance with which ancient, medieval, and modern Christian interpreters have invested the immediately preceding story of Adam and Eve in the Garden...I would like to suggest that while admittedly the episode of disobedience in the Garden was not a good thing, the story of Cain and Abel introduces something far worse into the created order...It represents a critical turning point in antediluvian history, and is...the key crime which leads ineluctably to the Flood."
Foreseeing the similar rise of alluring wickedness in our own time, the Savior warned that "as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man."

The illustration above is taken from Stephen Vincent Benét’s 1936 story The Devil and Daniel Webster, made into a popular film in 1941. Piazza characterizes the latter as “a fascinating allegory, filmed on the eve of World War II, of a society gone mad with materialism, a premonition of the opportunities and dangers awaiting the United States as it recovered from the Great Depression.” Old Scratch is portrayed as polite, refined, and soft-spoken—and as usual, he “gets the best lines” as he preaches his gospel of cold cash to a down-on-his-luck New Hampshire farmer. Warned Benét: “[I]f a smooth-spoken and businesslike stranger should appear at your door and offer you all that money can buy in exchange for your freedom of soul, it might be well to look him over rather carefully. I seem to have heard that there are such people abroad in the world, even today.” ...

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08 April 2010

The Prayer of Adam and Eve

Moses 5:4 tells us that Adam and Eve offered prayer after they left the Garden of Eden:

"And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence."

In answer to their petitions, Adam and Eve heard the Lord’s voice calling them back from their place of exile on the fallen earth. Later, He gave them additional instruction and commandments in order to set their feet back on the way toward the Garden of Eden which is, of course, the path that terminates in “the way of the Tree of Life." In a passage from the Midrash Tehillim, the Hebrew term teshuvah, which denotes "return" but scripturally means "repentance" or "conversion," is used to describe the way back to the Garden, signifying "the movement that brings every thing and every being back to its supernal origin," the "return to the celestial abode." The spiritual movement of turning away from the sinful world and back toward mankind's heavenly origins is mirrored in the layout of ordinance rooms in some modern temples.

In this article, I will explore sources that purport to give details about ancient forms of prayer rooted in the experiences of Adam and Eve. Notable features of such prayers include uplifted hands, introductions spoken in an unknown language, repetition, and the veiling of the face by women...

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01 April 2010

Three Perspectives on the Atonement

In William Tyndale's 1526 version of the New Testament, he gave an English translation of Romans 5:10-11 as follows:
For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son: much more, seeing we are reconciled, we shall be preserved by his life. Not only so, but we also joy in God by the means of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received this atonement.
Like many others of Tyndale’s memorable translations of scriptural phrases, this version becamethe basis for the historically dominant rendering of the text into English. In the English Bible, "atonement" is "the single word of Anglo-Saxon origin that describes a theological doctrine; other doctrinal words come from Latin, Hebrew, or Greek."

Tyndale’s use of the term “atonement” in his Bible translation was consistent with his theological view that the central mission of Jesus was:
“... to make us one with God: “One God, one Mediatour, that is to say aduocate, intercessor, or an atonemaker, between God and man.” “One mediatour Christ, ... and by that word understand an atonnemaker, a peacemaker.”
Gallagher further explains:
The original meaning also comes through in the various early Bible commentators. Note Udal’s comment on Ephesians 2:16 which makes the intended meaning of “atone” crystal clear: “And like as he made the Jewes and Gentiles at one betwene themselfes, euen so he made them bothe at one with God, that there should be nothing to break the attonement, but that the thynges in heauen and the thinges in earth should be ioined together as it wer into one body.”
In this article, I will examine three inseparable perspectives on the oneness made possible through the Atonement of Christ—viewing this central event of human history as a “happy homecoming,” as the “whole meaning of the law,” and as the means of becoming a “partaker of the divine nature.” ...

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25 March 2010

Adam, Eve, and the First Easter

Among the most venerated sites in all Christendom is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, reputed by many to be the place where the Redeemer was crucified and buried. Under an 1852 agreement called the Status Quo, the administration of each area of the Church is divided among several Christian communities. The sole exception is the main entrance. To avoid the possibility of sectarian quarrels, the key to this entrance has been under the care of two Muslim families since 1192. A close-up of one of the massive doors is shown above.

The site of the Church has a long and complex history. Following the Bar Kokhba revolt that ended in 135, the Roman Emperor Hadrian expelled the Jews from Jerusalem and commenced a new building program for the Roman city of Aelia Capitolina. This move was seen by the fourth-century Christian Bishop Eusebius to be motivated by a desire to eradicate remains of the Holy City’s sacred sites. Eusebius claimed that a cave, reputed to be the location of the Savior’s tomb, was deliberately covered over by Hadrian with a pagan temple:
It was this very cave of the Savior that some godless and wicked people had planned to make invisible to mankind, thinking in their stupidity that they could in this way hide the truth. Indeed, with a great expenditure of effort they brought earth from somewhere outside and covered up the whole place, then leveled it, paved it, and so hid the divine cave somewhere down beneath a great quantity of soil. Then as though they had everything finished, above the ground they constructed a terrible and truly genuine tomb, one for souls, for dead idols, and built a gloomy sanctuary to the impure demon of Aphrodite; then they offered foul sacrifices there upon defiled and polluted altars. They reckoned there was one way alone and no other to bring their desires to realization, and that was to bury the Savior’s cave under such foul pollutions.
In about 325, Constantine, the first Roman Emperor favorable to Christianity, razed and re-excavated the site. The accounts of the Bordeaux Pilgrim (333) and Egeria (381-384) provide early firsthand perspectives from lay Christians about the progress of the building program, whose centerpiece became the edicule that covered over the cave where Jesus was thought to have been buried. The entire complex was destroyed in 1009, but rebuilt to reach more or less its current form by the mid-twelfth century. The photograph above shows Catholic clergy with lighted candles moving in a circle around the rectangular edicule, recalling the ancient form of the prayer circle...

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18 March 2010

The "Temple Work" of Adam and Eve

Though Biblical commentaries often derive the name "Eden" from the Sumerian edinu (i.e., "a plain"), a more likely meaning, based on an Aramaic-Akkadian bilingual description, is "luxuriance" or "abundance"—more specifically referring to an abundance of life-enriching water. The idea of luxuriance brings to mind the prominent place-name "Bountiful" in the Book of Mormon—in fact, one proposed region for the Old World Bountiful was reputed to have been a place of such great plenty that its inhabitants were denounced by Islamic Hud traditions for their "attempt to create an earthly replica of Paradise."

Given the picture of the naturally-growing, life-sustaining yields of the Garden of Eden, coupled with the absence of any troublesome weeds, students of the Bible have made various attempts to understand how Adam and Eve managed to stave off the “curse of idleness” during their sojourn in that happy place. For example, thinking that the daily labors of the first parents must have somehow mirrored our own, Matthew Henry imagined that the man and the woman were placed in Eden to improve somehow on God’s arrangements for the beauty and productivity of the fruit trees placed there. He reasoned that: “Nature, even in its primitive state, left room for the improvements of art and industry.” Supposing that the “husbandman’s calling... was needed even in Paradise,” he drew out the lesson from God’s instructions to Adam and Eve to “dress” and “keep” the Garden that “[s]ecular employments will very well consist with a state of innocency and a life of communion with God.”

In contrast to attempts to draw parallels between “secular employments” and the work of the first couple in Paradise, I believe that the very point of the scriptural injunction is to inform Adam and Eve that no labor of the ordinary kind was required so long as they qualified to remain in that place. On the other hand, any conception that they were to focus their energies on digging and pruning the trees of Eden is surely mistaken, since the account makes clear that “man’s food was ever ready at hand.” ...

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17 March 2010

Scripture in Depth: Moses 2:3

The nature of the light referred to in this verse is not explained. Several possibilities have been suggested.

Some see this event as consonant with the prevailing scientific view that describes the birth of our universe as a sudden burst of light and energy of an unimaginable scale. Others see this phrase as referring to a "local" event whereby the natural light of the sun was created.

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11 March 2010

Stand Ye in Holy Places, and Be Not Moved

In his characteristic epic style, Thomas Cole depicted Adam and Eve being driven from the lush garden to live in the relative wilderness of the mortal world. The exit of the Garden—and presumably the only means of access—is on the east side, at the end farthest away from the mountain of God’s presence. The image of the tiny couple is almost lost in the wide expanse of the landscape, emphasizing the greatness of the power of God and the grandeur of His Creation as compared with the forced humility of fallen mankind. The light emanating from the Garden contrasts with the darkness of the way ahead for Adam and Eve.

Their expulsion is described twice in Moses’ account, with different terms used in each case. The Hebrew word geresh (“drove out”), used in Genesis 3:24, is harsher than the term shillah (“send him forth”) in verse 23. Significantly, the same two terms are used in the same order by the Lord to describe how Pharaoh would drive Israel away from the familiar comforts of Egypt, suggesting that we are not meant to read Adam and Eve’s exit from Eden as depicting a unique event but rather as demonstrating a repeated type of mankind’s difficulty, in its fallen state, to “stand in holy places” and not be “moved.”

Though the scriptural admonition to “stand in holy places and be not moved” is a familiar one, the relevance of its symbolism to the story of Adam and Eve has been underappreciated. In this article, we will explore how one’s fitness to stand in holy places was understood in ancient sources, showing the paramount importance of this idea in the Old and New Testament—and its particular relevance for our own time. Indeed, Avivah Zornberg has argued that to “hold [one’s] ground” in sacred circumstances is the meaning of being itself—“kiyyum: to rise up (la-koom), to be tall (koma zokufa) in the presence of God.” ...

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10 March 2010

Scripture in Depth: Moses 2:26

The plural form of the expression "Let us make man" has long been an interpretive problem for commentators looking at the Old Testament through the lens of strict monotheism. Such scholars often explain the phrase by way of analogy to the "royal we" used by a king or queen in self-reference; however, this does not explain why it occurs only in the early chapters of Genesis and nowhere else.

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04 March 2010

The Nakedness and the Clothing of Adam and Eve

Western art typically portrays Adam and Eve as naked in the Garden of Eden, and dressed in “coats of skin” after the Fall. However, the Eastern Orthodox tradition depicts the sequence of their change of clothing in reverse manner. How can that be? The Eastern Church remembers the accounts that portray Adam as a King and Priest in Eden, so naturally he is shown there in his regal robes. Moreover, Orthodox readers interpret the “skins” that the couple wore after their expulsion from the Garden as being their own now-fully-human flesh. Anderson interprets this symbolism to mean that “Adam has exchanged an angelic constitution for a mortal one”–in other words, they have lost their terrestrial glory and are now in a telestial state.

The top panel of the figure above shows God seated in the heavenly council surrounded by angels and the four beasts of the book of Revelation. The second panel depicts, from left to right: Adam and Eve clothed in heavenly robes following their creation; then stripped of their glorious garments and “clothed” only in mortal skin after eating the forbidden fruit; and finally both clad in fig leaf aprons as Eve converses with God. The third panel shows Adam conversing with God, the couple’s expulsion from the walled Garden through a door showing images of cherubim, and their subsequent hardship in the fallen world. Orthodox tradition generally leaves Adam and Eve in their aprons after the Fall and expulsion, seeing them as already having received their “coats of skin” at the time they were clothed in mortal flesh...

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25 February 2010

Was Eve Beguiled?

Whether earnestly promoted as Christian theology or merely mentioned in tasteless jest, Eve is too often painted in the colors of Pandora, a mythological figure whose unbridled curiosity unleashed a long train of potent ills against mankind. This is not the view of the Latter-day Saints.

In light of the LDS understanding that the Fall was a necessary prerequisite for mankind’s further progression and our rejection of the generally negative portrayals of Eve in historical Christianity, Mormon authors typically emphasize her perceptiveness and interpret her role as ultimately constructive. A few have, however, taken this view to what I take to be an untenable extreme, not only rightfully exonerating her from full accountability for her transgression and honoring her lifelong faithfulness, but in addition arguing that, for various reasons, she was not actually “beguiled” by Satan in her decision to take of the forbidden fruit.

Such a view goes well beyond the settled LDS doctrines that the Fall was an essential part of the divine plan from the beginning and that Adam and Eve did not commit a sinful or otherwise blameworthy act. Though it is easy to see how such views might arise from honest misunderstanding, a careful analysis will show that they should be no more a part of the beliefs of well-informed Latter-day Saints than the notion that Eve was a prototype of Pandora...

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19 February 2010

A Curse for the Serpent and Blessings for Adam and Eve

Jewish pseudepigraphal texts tell of how, after Adam and Eve’s transgression, God’s “chariot throne [descends and] rests at the Tree of Life and all the flowers come into bloom.” Of this painting, Conisbee writes:
The Rebuke of Adam and Eve perfectly illustrates Domenichino’s classical style at the peak of his career... The group of God and the angels is derived directly from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam... and should be read as an homage by the seventeenth-century painter to his great predecessor... Following Italian tradition, Domenichino shows the Tree of Knowledge as a fig tree, rather than the apple tree which was more usual in northern European art. In a clear narrative sequence, God the Father, borne by cherubim and angels, descends to rebuke Adam, who blames Eve, who in turn points to the serpent as the cause of their fall from grace. Animals still roam freely in their earthly paradise, but the lion at the right is already metamorphosing from a friendly feline to an aggressive beast.
The change in God’s initial question from the KJV “Where art thou?” to the JST “Where goest thou?” emphasizes the fact that the Lord is not assessing Adam’s location but rather requesting him to reflect openly on his intentions—in view of the fact that his feet are now pointed toward the exit of the Garden. Dennis Rasmussen observes: “From man God does not need information. Man’s response must be man’s own self.” Umberto Cassuto further explains:
The commentators who consider the question to be aimed at discovering where the man was hiding have overlooked the words “[and said unto] him”... The query... resembles the question the Lord God asks Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” when Abel’s body is lying on the ground beneath the open sky, and no attempt is made to conceal it... We may compare the case to that of a man who comes to chide his little son who misbehaved himself and then hid himself behind the door in order to avoid looking at his father’s angry face; the father who is well aware of the child’s hiding- place, calls out to him, “Where are you?” meaning: Why are you there? Is that where you should be? Come out and face me! [Adam’s] answer is in keeping with this interpretation; he does not reply, “I am in such-and-such a place,” but he explains why he is concealing himself.
God’s call, of course, is not issued as an angry threat, but rather as an invitation for Adam to account for his stewardship of the Garden. To accomplish His objective, God seeks to “draw rather than drive him out of hiding.” Elder David A. Bednar observed that God did not merely lecture Adam, but instead made every effort to help him learn and wisely exercise his agency. According to Chrysostom, God here “demonstrate[s] his own loving kindness, and... invites [Adam and Eve] to make admission of their faults.” ...

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12 February 2010

The False Apron and the Tree of Death and Rebirth

We read in Moses 4:13 that after Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, "the eyes of them both were opened." In other Old Testament instances, this phrase connotes a sudden vision of hidden things. By this change they realize that they "had been naked." The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob equates a "perfect knowledge" of "nakedness" with "guilt" and "uncleanness" while associating the perfect knowledge of the "righteous" with "enjoyment" and "being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness."

Partaking of the fruit of the tree allowed Adam and Eve to begin to experience and distinguish good from evil—the “opposition in all things” described in 2 Nephi 2:11. In demonstration of her new capacity for discernment, Eve immediately “sees through Satan’s disguise of clever hypocrisy, identifies him, and exposes him for what he is.”

Unlike the richly-described, finely-nuanced account of the temptation dialogue, the tightly-coupled chain of verbs that follow it (“took,” “eat,” “gave,” “eat”) “indicate rapid, single-minded action”—nothing more is said, seen, or felt until the moment we are told that the eyes of Adam and Eve are opened. Then, at once, the hurried action restarts (“sewed,” “made”)—all the frantic movements proclaiming loudly, by their silent execution, the anguished undertone of shame and fear—“the physical act... as an expression of an inner state of an alarm.” The desired effect of this economical yet artful mode of narrative construction is to help the perceptive reader understand that the Lord God, Adam and Eve’s benevolent provider, who has been absent from their minds throughout the previous episode, has now reentered their thoughts with painful effect...

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04 February 2010

The False and the True "Keeper of the Gate"

In the Prophet Joseph Smith’s teachings and revelations, Lucifer is described as "a son of the morning" and "an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God" who "rebelled...and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ." He was jealous, "selfish, ambitious, and striving to excel," and "became Satan" as he wickedly sought that God should give him His "own power."

Consistent with the Prophet’s character sketch of this arch criminal and deceiver, William Blake’s image of Lucifer emphasizes his original glory while subtly conveying his consuming ambition to usurp God’s throne. Lucifer’s overall appearance is inspired from the Latin Vulgate translation of Ezekiel 28:14 that sees him as the “cherub with extensive wingspan.” The orb and scepter symbolize the power and authority from God given him before his fall from heaven.

To highlight Lucifer’s perversity, Blake has conspicuously reversed the hands in which the emblems of monarchy are normally held. For example, in British coronation ceremonies, the sword is meant to be held in the right hand so that it may be used “to stop the growth of iniquity, protect the Holy Church of God and defend widows and orphans.” The Orb—a late replacement for the original symbolism of the incense offering of temple priests in Israel—is to be held in the left hand in order to signify “the domination of Christ over the whole world.” ...

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28 January 2010

The Tree in the Midst of the Garden and the Temple Symbolism of the "Center"

One thing that has always perplexed readers of Genesis is the location of the two special trees in the Garden of Eden. The Hebrew phrase corresponding to "in the midst" literally means "in the center." Although scripture initially applies the phrase "in the midst" only to the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge is later said by Eve to be located there, too.

Elaborate explanations have been advanced as attempts to describe how both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge could share the center of the Garden. For example, it has been suggested that these two trees were in reality different aspects of a single tree, that they shared a common trunk, or were somehow intertwined.

The subtle conflation of the location of two trees in the Genesis account seems intentional, preparing readers for the confusion that later ensues in the dialogue between Eve and the serpent. The dramatic irony of the story is heightened by the fact that while the reader is informed about both trees, Adam and Eve are only specifically told about the Tree of Knowledge. In the story of the Fall, Satan exploits their ignorance to his advantage.

A brief review of the symbolism of the “center” in ancient thought will help clarify the important roles that the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge played “in the midst” of the Garden of Eden...

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21 January 2010

The Temple Symbolism of the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge

A mural from the Court of the Palms at Mari dated to 1750 BCE is an example of how temple and garden themes were combined anciently, even outside of Judaism. J. R. Porter writes of how the scene depicted above “strikingly recall[s] details of the Genesis description of the Garden of Eden. In particular, the mural depicts two types of tree,” one type clearly being a date palm, “guarded by mythical winged animals[—the Assyrian version of the] cherubim.” In the symmetrical side panels at the far left and right of the mural, two men climb each of the two date palms; the tree on the right can clearly be seen as harboring a dove.

“The lower half of the central panel shows figures holding jars from which flow four streams,” with a seedling growing out of the middle, recalling the streams that flowed out from underneath the Tree of Life in the Garden. The streams originate in a basement room that might be seen as providing an ideal setting for ritual washings. “The upper scene may depict a king being invested by the Mesopotamian fertility goddess Ishtar: Eve has been associated with such divine figures.” Note the king’s raised right hand, perhaps an oath-related gesture. His outstretched left arm receives the crown and staff of his office.

In many traditions, sacred trees are identified with a human king, or with the mother of a king, whether human or divine.10 Like the two figures witnessing the investiture, two others near the trees raise their hands in worship and supplication, suggesting a parallel
between the tree and the king himself. Like the tree, the king is an “archetypal receiver and distributor of divine blessing.” ...

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14 January 2010

The Creation and the Garden of Eden as Models for Temple Architecture

The descriptions of the days of creation in Genesis and the book of Moses differ from those found in the book of Abraham and in modern temples. In contrast to the latter accounts, Moses’ version seems to have been deliberately shaped to highlight resemblances between the creation of the cosmos and the building of the temple. Such a view helps explain why, for example, in seeming contradiction to scientific understanding, the description of the creation of the sun and moon appears after, rather than before, the creation of light and of the earth. A close examination of scripture reveals that the Garden of Eden also seems to have provided a model for temple architecture.

The nature of the light referred to in Moses 2:2 is not explained. Several possibilities have been suggested. Some interpreters see this event as consonant with the prevailing scientific view that describes the birth of our universe as a sudden burst of light and energy of unimaginable scale. Others see this phrase as referring to a “local” event whereby the natural light of the sun was created. It is, of course, a given that the sun was created prior to the fourth day, though from the vantage point of earth no light will “appear in the firmament” until that later time.

In contrast to such naturalistic readings, Hugh Nibley’s interpretation seems more consistent with related scriptural passages—namely, that the light referred to was the result of God’s presence: “All this time the Gods had been dwelling in light and glory, but the earth was dark... This was not the first creation of light. Wherever light comes into darkness, ‘there is light.’” Consistent with this view, President John Taylor wrote that God
... caused light to shine upon [the earth] 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 are made.”
D&C 88:12-13 continues this description to make it clear that this light is something over and above mere physical light as generally conceived, since it not only “enlighteneth your eyes” but also “quickeneth your understandings,” governs and “giveth life to all things,” and “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.” As Isaac Watts expressed in one of his hymns: “In vain the bright, the burning sun / Scatters his feeble light; / ’Tis Thy sweet beams create my noon; / If Thou withdraw, ’tis night.” ...

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13 January 2010

Interview with David Larsen: Conclusion

And now for part 5 (the exciting conclusion) of this series. We delve into Dr. Bradshaw’s background as a scientist, and his ideas on the topics of Mormonism and Science, the Origin of Man, the literalness of the Bible, Scripture reading techniques, and other poignant topics. Dr. Bradshaw’s answers are simply fascinating.

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07 January 2010

Interview with David Larsen: Part 4

[David] You make some interesting comments in your Preface regarding the opinion of many people in modern society concerning Mormonism, which would presumably apply to the Book of Moses as well. Specifically, that Mormons seem to be a very superstitious people from the perspective of our modern, scientific world, with our beliefs based, as author J. Hannay once charged, on "the absurdity of seeing visions in the age of railways." The Book of Moses, I would think, would be a prime example of this supposed fault: a book produced in modern times that contains a very traditional view of the Creation, very literal descriptions of Satan and of God's corporeality, etc. It has a number of visions in which Moses and Enoch actually see God. It contains quite fanciful accounts of the Earth speaking and mourning and even God himself weeping. Do these elements and others in the Book of Moses lend support to a negative perception of Mormonism as outdated and what Mormons say as "mostly nonsense"? What weight should Latter-day Saints place on the Book of Moses as a part of their personal beliefs?

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06 January 2010

The Vision of Moses as a Heavenly Ascent

One of the most remarkable chapters in scripture is Moses. Though it serves as a superb introduction to succeeding chapters that describe the Creation and the Fall, its separate prologue1 and epilogue signal its status as a revelation that can stand apart on its own. The events described apparently took place sometime after Jehovah called Moses out of the burning bush but before he had returned to Egypt to deliver the children of Israel.

Though several of the individual episodes in the chapter are very well known—Moses’ confrontation with Satan, his comprehensive vision of the earth and all its inhabitants, and God’s declaration about his “work and glory”—how all these pieces join beautifully into a coherent whole has been underappreciated in the past. It is now quite evident, however, that the outline of events in Moses 1 fits squarely in the tradition of ancient “heavenly ascent” literature and its relationship to temple theology, rites, and ordinances. It is significant that this account was revealed to Joseph Smith more than a decade before the full temple endowment was administered to others in Nauvoo.

Although the stories of heavenly ascent are similar in many respects to temple practices, they make the claim of being something more. While ancient temple rituals dramatically depict a figurative journey into the presence of God, the ascent literature tells the stories of prophets who experience actual encounters with Deity within the heavenly temple — the “completion or fulfillment” of the “types and images” in earthly priesthood ordinances. In such encounters, the prophet may experience a vision of eternity, participation in worship with the angels, or the conferral of certain blessings that are “made sure” by the voice of God Himself. Consistent with the basic temple pattern and stories of heavenly ascent, Moses descends from his first home in the spirit world and then undertakes a step-by-step return to the Father.

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