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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