There are 7 thoughts on “The Lost Prologue: Reading Moses Chapter One as an Ancient Text”.

  1. What I like about Mark J Johnson’s article is that although most of these concepts can be found hither-and-yon and most have been mentioned and discoursed over previously in disparate venues, in this exceptional instance, Mark brings them all together under one ceiling and under one umbrella.

    This is an article not only about Moses 1, but it uses Moses 1 as illustrative of the JST as a whole. Is it not interesting that the theophonic journey of Moses as detailed in this narrative is a set of guideposts for each of us; that is for each of us, the every-day man? I believe that Mark is asking us to imagine that if Moses made his journey past Satan to find God, then perhaps we might be so emboldened to try?

    I really appreciate Mark’s intent to show the reader that not only Moses, but all of the JST has patterns, styles and literary accomplishments which are too broadly general to have been included as if Joseph pulled together background material from existing documents aligned with his personal experiences and views of early-day Americana life. Instead, Moses and the rest of the JST altogether represent something more, something prophetic, something divinely bestowed beyond just what some frontier man should have been able to beg, borrow, invent, or manufacture somehow out of whole cloth to weave the tapestry that the JST (not to mention the Book of Mormon) provides so richly to us now.

    The works left to us from Joseph Smith are too vastly articulate, too erudite, too comprehensive, fashioned after too many ancient Hebraic patterns and too spiritually sensitive to have been invented solely by this one uneducated farmboy. There is obviously a whole lot more of the divine at play here, and Mark subtly but succinctly points us to that ultimate conclusion.

    This is a really great reference article for now and future use. Thank you Mark for your own original research, compending of other extraneous authors’ views and then compiling the whole of it for us in this most excellent article!

  2. This is an excellent article – thanks!

    You mentioned the following in relation to Genesis 11: “While an English translation presents a fairly straightforward story, the Hebrew original contains many complexities.” For Moses 1, we have only the English translation. Has anyone attempted to translate this chapter back into a Hebrew original to see if “many complexities” emerge?

    Later in the article, you mentioned that the English word “glory” could have come from several different Hebrew terms. So I can see that we can never truly recover “the original” text. But I wonder if trying to do so wouldn’t produce some insights.

    • Hi Mark, I’m glad you liked the article.

      There has never been an official Hebrew translation of the Pearl of Great Price. And I suppose it may be worth mentioning that even the selections of the Book of Mormon that were translated into Hebrew used the modern form of the language, so relying on it as a guide to recover an original version.

      I’d imagine a “reverse-engineered” book of Moses could be a valuable project, but who ever was doing the translation ought to be careful not to “sweeten” their work so it artificially conforms to their expectations.

      -Mark

  3. Elder Scott received a personal revelation from the Lord that also informed him that he was “nothing” in an of himself, that may contribute to this dialogue:

    The following personal experience integrates several of the points I have attempted to emphasize today. Every time I contemplate this event, I am moved by how kind the Lord is in answering our pleas for help. It occurred some time ago when I had responsibilities in Mexico and Central America that were far beyond my personal capacity to fulfil. I spent much sincere effort in seeking guidance and understanding from the Lord in study, prayer, fasting, and anxious service. Help came unexpectedly one Sunday as I attended a meeting where a humble, unschooled, Mexican priesthood leader struggled to communicate truths of the gospel identified in his lesson manual. It was obvious they had touched his life profoundly. I felt his intense desire to communicate those principles because they would be of great worth to his brethren. In his manner there was evidence of a pure love of the Savior and love for those he taught.

    That love, sincerity, and purity of intent permitted a spirit to envelop the room. I was so touched that in addition to receiving again a witness of the truths he presented, I began to receive some personal impressions as an extension of those principles taught by the humble instructor. These impressions, intended for me personally, were related to my assignments in the area. They came in answer to my prolonged efforts to learn.

    As each impression came, I wrote it down. I was given precious truths needed for me to be more effective. The specific counsel began with this impression: “Continue to build the Church on the foundation of true principles, but with increased expression of love and appreciation for the great Lamanite people.” There followed matters of great benefit to me.

    Next I visited the Sunday School class, where a well-educated individual presented his lesson. That experience was a striking contrast to that of the priesthood meeting. It seemed as though the instructor had purposely chosen obscure references and unusual examples to illustrate the principles in the lesson. I will confess that I had the distinct impression that he was using the teaching opportunity to impress the class with his vast store of knowledge. He did not seem as intent on communicating truth as the humble priesthood leader had been.

    This experience also created an environment where strong impressions flowed. I wrote them down. One paragraph began, “Testify to instruct, edify, and lead others to full obedience, not to demonstrate anything of self. All who are puffed up shall be cut off.” Another signaled, “You are nothing in and of yourself, Richard.” That was followed with some specific counsel on how to be a better servant. The impressions became so personal that I felt it inappropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location. There I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as accurately and as faithfully as possible. After each powerful impression was recorded, I meditated upon it and pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately interpreted them. Then I studied their meaning and application in my own personal life.

    Subsequently I prayed, expressing to the Lord what I thought I had felt. There came a feeling of peace and serenity when it was confirmed. I asked if there was yet more that I should be given to understand. There came further impressions, and the process was repeated until I received the most precious, specific direction for which I will ever be grateful.
    https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/richard-g-scott/acquiring-spiritual-knowledge/

  4. I enjoyed this article. Well done Mark.

    I wonder if you could comment a little more on a contrast that I have always felt was a significant theme in this chapter. In his aside in verse 10 after seeing so much, Moses’ conclusion is that “man is nothing”. Then after the balance of these contests/trials and visionary experiences, he concludes in effect in verse 39, that “man is everything”. You have noted a hint at the “man is everything” idea in verse 5. But is there anyway in which these two contrasting messages (divine paradoxes?) are complimented by the chiastic structure of the whole?

    • Keith,
      Thank you for your kind words! For what it is worth, I thought your paper in apostate religions in the Book of Mormon was terrific. I was re-reading it just a few weeks ago.

      I read your question this morning and I’ve been chewing on it all day. Noel Reynolds has recently discussed parallel elements of a chiasm that relate to each other reciprocally (like a positive paired against a negative) in his article on Alma 36.

      Honestly I do wonder if I have overstated the idea of man and woman becoming everything. It is true from our doctrinal understanding, but I think the narrator still viewed God’s work and his glory in verse 39 as a fulfillment of verse 5, with the emphasis on God being the focus with mankind being a benefactor of God’s eternal works.

      I think the same sentiment is expressed by King Benjamin in Mosiah 2, where we are as the dust of the earth and unprofitable servants. Part of this thinking is also based on some material that I cut out of an earlier version of the paper. I’m happy to discuss it more with you if you wish.

      Is this what you were looking for? I think I understood your question correctly, but I want to be sure.

      -Mark

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