JEF Sunday School Lesson #1

December 29, 2005 | 15 comments
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Moses 1

For a variety of reasons, including having been heavily involved in BYU’s London Study Abroad program, I’ve been without the time to generate study questions for the Sunday School Lessons. As a result, I’ve not posted any for some months. I’m back and expect now to post on a regular basis.

Verses 1-2: Of what significance are mountains in scripture? For example, why do revelations so often occur on mountains? Why is it important that we know Moses spoke with God face to face? What does it mean to say “the glory of God was upon Moses”? What is his glory? What does verse 5 tell us about what we read here? How about verse 39? Do D&C 29:36 or 88:19 help us understand these verses?

Verse 3: Why does the Father tell Moses his name? He has many names, why does he here use this particular name, Endless?

Verses 4-5: In what sense or senses are the works of God without end? In what sense or senses are his words without end?

Verse 6: Why does the Father tell Moses that Moses is in the similitude of the Only Begotten? In what way or ways is he in that similitude? Why does the Father say that the Only Begotten “is and shall be the Savior” (italics added)? The Father says that the Only Begotten is and will be the Savior because he is full of grace and truth. Can you explain that? What does it mean to be full of grace and truth? Why does being full of them make one the Savior? Why does the Father add “but there is no God beside me” immediately after telling Moses of the Savior? What does it mean to say that all things are present? What does it mean for something to be present? The last clause of the verse says that Father’s knowledge makes all things present to him. To say that knowledge is what makes things present is an unusual way to speak. What do you make of that. Does it suggest anything about how things are present before God?

Verse 7: What is the “one thing” that the Father shows Moses? Why does he explain what he shows Moses by saying, “For thou art in the world”?

Verse 8: The word “end” can mean “final point” and it can also mean “purpose.” Which meaning do you think is used here when the scripture says that Moses beheld the ends of the world?

Verse 9: What does it mean to say that Moses was left to himself?

Verse 10: Can you explain what Moses means when, having had this vision of the ends of the world and all the children of men, he says, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed”?

Verse 11: Does this verse help answer the question about verse 10?

Verse 12: Why do you think Satan addresses Moses as “son of man”? Under the circumstances, why does Satan even try to get Moses to worship him? After all, Moses has just seen a vision of the Father.

Verses 13-14: Why does Moses say “I am a son of God”? How is this related to what he learned in verse 10? When Moses asks “Where is thy glory?” what is he asking about? In other words, what is missing in his encounter with Satan?

Verses 15-16: How does the fact that Moses is in the similitude of the Only Begotten help Moses deal with Satan in this encounter?

Verses 17-18: Why does Moses tell Satan that he has other things to ask of God? What standard does Moses use to distinguish between Satan and the Father? Can we apply the same standard if we have not had Moses’s experience?

Verse 19: Compare Moses 4:1 and Moses 5:13. What do we learn here about Satan’s methods?

Verses 20-22: Why did Moses begin to fear? Why is it important to Moses that the Father is “the God of glory”? What does “glory” mean here? How many times does Moses have to command Satan to depart? Why so many? How does Moses last command to Satan differ from the other two? What does that teach us?

Verse 23: Why would this record be withheld from humanity because of their wickedness? Notice that this gives an additional explanation for why the Bible doesn’t contain some things that are revealed in the Joseph Smith revision.

Verses 24-25: First Moses was filled with the Holy Ghost. Then he called upon God. Then he beheld God’s glory again. Is that order of events significant? What does it mean to say that Moses was chosen by God? What might it have meant to Moses? What does it mean to us? Why is the blessing that he will be stronger than many waters important to Moses?

Verse 26: What does the promise that God will be with Moses mean? Why are the two clauses of this verse connected by the word “for”? What does that connective tell us?

Verses 27-29: In verse 24 Moses lifted up his eyes to heaven. Now he turns them toward the earth. What does this detail tell us? How does it help us understand the story we are reading? What does it mean to say that there wasn’t a particle of the earth that Moses did not behold? Why is “spirit” uncapitalized at the end of verse 27 and capitalized in verse 28? Presumably the two phrases refer to different things. To what might each refer?

Verse 30: When Moses asks “Why these things are so,” what is he asking? Why does Moses ask about what God has made them rather than how he has made them?

Verse 31: When the Father says, “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me,” which of Moses’s questions is he answering? How would you put his answer in your own words? To what does the word “it” refer in “it remaineth in me”? to “wisdom” or to something else?

Verses 32-33: Why does the Father describe the Only Begotten as “the power of my word”? Notice that the phrase is not capitalized, so it isn’t another name for the Only Begotten. It is a description of him. How is Christ the power of God’s word? In both verse 31 and in verse 33, the Father says that he created the worlds for his own purposes. What do you think that means? Why does he tell us that he did so?

Verse 34: The name “Adam” is Hebrew for “man.” It is probably from a root meaning “red” (‘dm), and since the word for “earth, ground” is adama (which may also have ‘dm as its root), many believe that Adam’s name is a play on words: Adam :: human being :: earth. In some places (for example, Genesis 1:26-28) the word refers to human beings in general. In other places (such as in Genesis 5:3-5) it refers specifically to an individual. In each case, however, the writer probably intends us to remember each of the meanings: the person Adam, made from the dust of the earth, represents all human beings. The word play of the Hebrew cannot be translated, but it is important to understanding the story. Given that word play, why does this verse end with the phrase “which is many”?

Verse 35: Why does the Father tell Moses about other worlds? According to a common Jewish understanding of the story of Creation, the purpose of that story is to teach us that the world and everything in it was created by the word and will of God rather than by some other being or by chance. How might this verse fit into such an understanding of the creation story?

Verse 36: Why does Moses ask the Father to be merciful to him? How would an answer to his question be an act of mercy? Why does Moses feel compelled to ask this question? Why is it important to him?

Verses 37-38: This is essentially a repetition of verse 4. Why was that repetition necessary?

Verse 39: Given what was said in verses 37-38, why does this verse begin with “for behold”? In other words, how does this verse explain what was said in those verses? Does this verse equate the work and the glory of the Father?

Verse 40-41: Can we infer from these verses and the first part of verse 35 that the creation of this earth might have been different from the creation of other worlds? Why or why not? What do these verses tell us about the origin of the account that Moses writes? In what ways have people taken words from the Bible? We usually compare Brigham Young to Moses, but here the Father compares Joseph Smith to Moses? How was Joseph Smith like Moses?

Verse 42: Why is the name of the mountain kept secret? What does the commandment not to show these things to any but believers mean to us?

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15 Responses to JEF Sunday School Lesson #1

  1. Jeremy on December 29, 2005 at 10:05 pm

    You raise one of my favorite points in this chapter: God repeatedly refers to Moses as “my Son,” then Satan comes along and calls him “Son of Man.” Despite recognizing his “nothingness,” Moses still recognizes his lineage, even though Satan tries to make him forget it.

  2. Robert C. on January 1, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    Jim, in several questions you assume Moses is speaking with the Father. Is this just because he refers to Moses as his son, or are there other reasons? I always had the impression that God in the Old Testament times is Jehovah who is Christ (I’m not sure where I got this impression–some modern revelation I presume, I’ll have to study up on this…).

    It seems these verses could also be read as Jehovah speaking, referring to Moses as his son in the same sense Abinadi refers to Jesus as the Father in the first several verses of Mosiah 15. I’ve thought that Abinadi’s unusual description of the relationship of the Father and the Son is somehow related to Jesus being Jehovah before his birth.

    I’d love to hear any thoughts, insights, or references on better understanding Jehovah, Christ, the Father, and the God of the Old Testament.

  3. Julie M. Smith on January 1, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    Robert C.–

    The teacher’s manual makes a big, big point of the idea that, despite v6, this is very much Jehovah(=premortal Christ) speaking and not God the Father. These debates have never been terribly important or illuminating to me personally, but I was surprised at the vehemence of the manual in making this point.

  4. DavidH on January 1, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    I agree with Julie. Our class, thanks to the manual’s making a big point of who is speaking, ended up with a contentious discussion of this issue (I sat quietly, and let others “duke it out”). Verse 6, in particular, does make it quite odd, to say the least, to consider that this is Jesus speaking.

    In any event, whether it was Jesus in his pre-earthly spirit body, or God the Father in his physical body, speaking with Moses face to face, verse 6 strongly indicates that these are words of the Father, whether actually spoken by God the Father to Moses here, or spoken to Moses through Jesus on His Father’s behalf. So I think it is proper to refer to these as the Father’s words as Jim does. For this reason, I am mystified by the manual’s making a big deal of the issue.

  5. Jim F. on January 1, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    Luckily, the question didn’t come up in our class. Given the unity of the Father and the Son, there is a strong sense in which it doesn’t matter which is speaking, but I find it difficult to read the text itself as saying anything but that the Father is speaking. Perhaps, however, revelation tells us that the Father is speaking through the Son–I don’t know about that.

  6. Robert C. on January 2, 2006 at 12:41 am

    Thanks for the thoughts. Interesting that the manual makes this claim so unequivocally without really supporting the claim:

    “Class members should understand that Jehovah, not Heavenly Father, appeared to Moses in this vision.”

    The manual then cites Talmage discussing Jesus as our spiritual father and divine investiture of authority, but that’s it.

    Although I agree that the distinction isn’t that important, I think it’s a good example of how there are mysteries about the Godhead that we don’t understand. It’s a pet peeve of mine when members talk condescendingly about other faith’s conception of the trinity, as though the LDS conception is cut and dry without any mystery to it….

    If anyone’s interested, I wrote up some notes of what I read and found on LDS teachings of Jehovah as Christ at: http://feastupontheword.org/User:RobertC/Jehovah_and_Father .

  7. Jim F. on January 2, 2006 at 1:34 am

    RobertC: Thanks for the reference to your notes. They are helpful (as is the whole Feast Upon the Word site). I share your peeve and I’m equally mystified by the insistence of the manual. As David H pointed out and as you know well, verse 6 says “thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten.” I don’t understand how to make sense of that if Christ is speaking. Of course, not a lot about the Gospel follows from “I don’t know how to make sense of that.” It is a comment about me rather than about doctrine.

    I should probably edit the questions so that they refer simply to “God” rather than to “the Father.” That would take care of the possible conflict with the manual without trying to resolve the question one way or the other.

  8. Jonathan Green on January 2, 2006 at 11:57 am

    When I taught this lesson a couple Olympiads ago, I suggested to the class that the confusion resulted from our having only the text of the conversation, and not the sound, or the images, or all the rest of what was a multisensory experience that apparently didn’t leave Moses confused as to who was speaking to him.

    Mostly, though, I find this kind of question an annoyance, one of a number of doctrinal and pseudo-doctrinal hangups that don’t seem to justify the intensity with which some people espouse them: that the dove that descended on Christ was not a dove, that Gethsemane was more important than Golgotha, that the rock upon which Christ would build his church was not repeat not Peter, and pretty much anything having to do with blood in the afterlife.

  9. Russell Arben Fox on January 2, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    “I find this kind of question an annoyance, one of a number of doctrinal and pseudo-doctrinal hangups that don’t seem to justify the intensity with which some people espouse them.”

    That’s a good way to put it, Jonathan; I couldn’t agree more. It seems to me almost more paranoid than anything else that various church curricula and members and leaders become fixated on certain points of quasi-doctrine as crucial to understanding our own faith’s contribution to Christianity.

  10. Jim F. on January 2, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    I share the annoyance. However, for what is, I assume, a good discussion of some of this, see David Paulsen, “The Earliest Mormon Understanding of God: Modalism and other Myths,” Farms Review. I’ve not read it, but David is a careful thinker and clear writer, so I don’t hesitate to recommend it.

  11. DavidH on January 2, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    David Paulsen seems to think, or at least implies, that it is the Father speaking, as he uses this chapter, and the later creation account, to disprove allegations that Joseph taught modalism in the early church, i.e., Paulsen uses it to prove that Joseph thought that God and Jesus were to separate beings.

    “God then appears again to Moses and shows him many earths and their inhabitants. The narrative continues:

    “‘And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. . . . And by the word of my power, haveI created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth. (Moses 1:31–32)’

    “In this passage, God clearly confirms that his “Only Begotten Son” was an active agent in creation, and he reiterates this point in the creation narrative that follows:

    “‘And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this heaven, and this earth; . . . by mine Only Begotten I created these things; . . . And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so. . . . And, I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.(Moses 2:1, 26–27)’

    “As indicated by the plural pronouns, God is here obviously addressing a second person, his Only Begotten Son, or our Savior Jesus Christ, as the narrative has already made clear. He continues this address: “And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him” (Moses 3:18).

  12. Julie in Austin on January 2, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Re #8–

    Amen and amen.

  13. BrianJ on January 15, 2006 at 10:52 pm

    I realize that I have come to this post late and so I risk not being answered, but I have a question. Elder Scott, in the Oct. 2005 General Conference (“Truth Restored,â€? Sunday AM session), makes a comment about God the Father appearing to Joseph Smith. He refers to this visit of the Father to a mortal as the “only one supernal, singular instance of which we have knowledge that God the Father Himself appeared in person”. Does that give importance to the discussion of who appeared to Moses? Do you draw a distinction between “appear in vision” and “appear in person”? Do you think this is merely Elder Scott’s interpretation?

  14. Jim F. on January 23, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    BrianJ: I take it that the question is one of certainty: we are certain that the Father appeared to Joseph in the Sacred Grove. We are not certain that he appeared to Moses.

  15. Carol Walters on February 26, 2006 at 9:58 am

    Jim’s comment on verse 23 assumes that Moses’ testimony of this event is not had in the Old Testament because it was withheld because of wickedness. I have always assumed it was not had because it was lost after Moses clearly testified of it, in the same way that other plain and precious things were removed from the scriptural record, either inadvertently, or deliberately by “the wicked” for their own purposes.

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