Replies to Thomas

Five-hundred Miles Per Hour at Thirty-thousand Feet

Dear Joseph,

I want to return to the subject of information missing from scripture. Even including The Book of Mormon, there’s still a big chunk of really important stuff missing, confused, contradicted, and inaccurate. I understand humans are responsible for the current state of scripture, and we’re supposed to have free-will and all, but you’d think God would draw the line at messing with the one and only means we have of knowing what He wants out of us. Unrestricted freewill itself strikes me as a foolish notion anyway. That’s just bad parenting! I don’t let my kids do whatever they want, consequences be damned and the kids too. There’s a degree of responsibility God seems to be neglecting here.

—Thomas

P.S.

One of the things I’ve learned since my last missive is that in the 1970’s a manuscript dating back to around 400 AD was found, which was itself a translation of another manuscript from 200 AD. In 2006 National Geographic did a cover story on it. I’m guessing it was because the translation had just been finished, but I don’t know; it seems like a long time to wait around for that. Anyway, the writing is what would have been the Gospel of Judas IF the powers that be (or were) had decided to include it. So now I’m very interested in tracking a copy of this down to see what is has to say.


Dear Thomas,

“…Humans are responsible for the current state of scripture….”

I’m glad we seem to share the belief that the word of God, or scripture, as we have received it is subject to the failings of mortal men. I know many who profess that the Bible is word for word exactly what God spoke. My questions then are, to whom? And for what purpose? I’m not asking to destroy faith, of course, but to bring up realistic questions concerning the origin of scripture. With that said, you’re exactly right that there are holes and contradictions, etc., that make the scriptures imperfect. Though the Book of Mormon stands out for claiming to contain the whole of the Gospel of Christ (and it does), you’re also right in saying that there is other information that is just not there—questions that are not answered.

“[Scriptures are] the one and only means we have of knowing what He wants out of us.”

To most Christians, humanity is consigned to deal with what scanty direction the scriptures provide. But unique among Christians, Mormons believe in modern revelation, that each person has a right and a responsibility to seek after the revelations of God for his or herself, and we believe that God will answer each person’s honest seeking.

The Book of Mormon describes what state that the heart of such an one ought to be like in order to receive revelation. Not surprisingly it’s not just wanting it or waiting for something to hit you in the head. It requires humility, belief, and a true heart—a willingness to live up to what you receive—among other things. Through personal revelation, and revelation for the world through the prophet and the apostles, the holes in our understanding of God can be filled. This might sound idealistic—that God may speak to man in our day—but it’s true! You’re hearing it from someone who knows His voice.

“Unrestricted freewill itself strikes me as a foolish notion anyway…. There’s a degree of responsibility God seems to be neglecting here.”

Why does God allow us to do anything we want, let alone tamper with His revealed word so that generations of people are walking in darkness? Why does he grant us freewill and free agency? It is because He loves us and honors our value, which value He esteems as equal with His. (You read that right: equal!) He is giving us the absolute choice to have what He has but never through force. The principles of revelation outlined in the above paragraph means that we can access Him directly. His answer will most likely not be a pillar of light we see with our eyes, but one we feel with our hearts. His answer may take the form of placing others in our path so that we have contact with the truth (hint, hint). Perhaps if you have recently even prayed in your heart to know more about God and His will for you, I have been prompted by His Holy Spirit to speak thusly with you. Whatever the form—even silence—He listens and knows how to answer us in the best way possible. (And remember, we who measure time with wristwatches don’t know anything more about good timing than He who uses galactic clocks and planetary cycles.)

But if scripture has left many in the dark for generations of time, why would God allow His children to wade without light for so long? I think it is partially an action of mercy on His part. “What? Denying people the word of God as mercy? What kind of blasphemy is this?” My favorite kind: truth. Or in other words, blasphemy against false doctrine (I thought that the former sounded cool though).

First of all, remember how I said that the lowest station a soul can reach in the final judgement is still way better than our current one (the telestial kingdom)? Well there’s that. But also, we believe that mankind will be judged according to the light they received in this life. If some middle-of-nowhere, yak-herding child dies without ever hearing the word of God, is he damned? If so, that’s what I call bad parenting, reprimanding a child for doing something he didn’t know was wrong.

I heard a story once of a mother who severely scolded her boy for going past the corner of the block one day, and in the midst of the boy’s sobs and anguish he said, “Mom, what’s a corner?” God, our perfect Father, will never be guilty of such a cold action. If we see Him this way in scripture, we are missing an important element of the true story, and so the emphasis is on our need to seek out revelation to learn who the whole truth of who He is and what He is like. He will not punish the African child who knew no law, but He will give the child a glorious resurrection and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. The same is true for all who possess any degree of truth: if you have been told that lying is bad but fighting is good, your sins will be composed of the lies you told and not the fights you started (this would be a brilliant place to bring up the doctrine of the Light of Christ, by the way).

So when generations have wandered without the whole truth of God, they are in some ways being shown mercy in that they will not be held responsible for the greater light they may otherwise have sinned against. Those who have the greater light revealed to them, accept and understand it, and then reject it have a fate much worse than those who never knew it. That is why the unpardonable sin is called “the sin against the Holy Ghost” and not “the sin against Dave” (where ‘Dave’ is someone that everyone knows).

If knowing something can potentially be worse than not knowing, why would God teach us anything at all? Isn’t that bad parenting if He is to judge us accordingly? No, because to become as He is and enjoy the life He enjoys requires us to be clean and keep certain laws no matter the light received. Just as an airplane has safety protocols and operating instructions specific to its proper usage and prior to its enjoyment that are more thorough than those of an automobile, even so entering the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom requires a specific knowledge and lifestyle prior to entering and inheriting it.

So back to the yak-herding child who dies without the law, he will be held guiltless before God at the last day and counted worthy to enter the Celestial kingdom IF he chooses to observe the “safety protocols and operating instructions.” Again, no compulsion, for if he would be happier not knowing those things, then he will not be forced to know them, BUT he will never know the thrill of flying at 500 MPH at 30,000 FT next to driving a nice sports car. Likewise, though we will be judged by the light we receive or didn’t receive in this life, the truest happiness—the happiness that our Heavenly Father knows—can only come to us if we obey Him, and we will all have this choice.

—Joseph

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Accepting Christ and Glory, by Degrees

Dear Joseph,

That’s the sort of perspective that makes more sense to me. However, it does bring up some interesting possibilities. If a child being raised to believe something is right, or even holy, excuses their ignorance of the sinfulness of the act (or neglect of the act) then even murder could be done without judgement, right?

Another implication/question: does one need not necessarily accept Christ as their savior to enter one degree or another of Heaven so long as they were never taught that doing so was necessary?

What if a person is taught two mutually exclusive doctrines—one true and one false—but the argument for the false doctrine is more convincingly presented so it is more easily believed, and the person dedicates himself wholly to the false doctrine thinking all the while that he has made the correct decision, even though he actually has not. Remember, he was technically also presented with the true doctrine but chose not to heed it. Does he still get judged according to the truth he was presented but ignored?

—Thomas


Dear Thomas,

Very good questions. Sorry for taking so long to reply, life is catching up with me here and there; I’ve been busy with job interviewing and anniversary planning. But I have finally found some time to answer your questions.

“Another implication/question: does one need not necessarily accept Christ as their savior to enter one degree or another of Heaven so long as they were never taught that doing so was necessary?”

I want to answer this question about “accepting” Christ to get into heaven, but in so doing answer all your other questions too. The quick answer is this: yes, someone who has not accepted Christ as their Savior can enter one degree or another of Heaven, especially if they were never taught that it was necessary to do so. To explain this, I will provide a break down of the requirements or general dividing qualifications between the three degrees of glory in Heaven:

The highest degree of heaven is called the Celestial Kingdom. This is the eternal destination of those who have accepted the baptismal covenant by those having authority to perform the ordinance (the priesthood, another good subject for further discussion). Baptism isn’t a guarantee of course, but it is the minimum requirement to go there since baptism should be the beginning of the disciple’s path—a path of dedication. The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, as found in The Book of Mormon, says that Christ’s Gospel is to have faith in (importantly) Jesus Christ, repent of one’s sins, be baptized (again, by authorized servants), and then endure to the end. These are the terms Christ has set forth for salvation through His grace. Note that though there are still two glories of Heaven yet to describe, salvation is defined as being saved in the highest degree of glory.

This highest degree of glory is where our Heavenly Father dwells. As the creator of our spirits and our world, our Heavenly Father intends to bestow those who return to live with Him all that He has, creative authority and all (Revelations 21:7). Hence Christ is His heir and we may become “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) if we follow Christ by the terms He has set (the terms of the Gospel mentioned above). That means we too can receive all that our Heavenly Father has. To fall short of this destination is to have one’s creative potential cut short—no eternal increase, a full stop—in other words, damnation (to actually be prevented from progression, not some arbitrary punishment, though this can truly be seen as a punishment).

So then the next degree of glory, the Terrestrial glory of Heaven, is—though a wonderful place beyond our ability to imagine—a destination of “damnation,” technically. Here all those go who believed in Christ but did not accept baptism by authority. Also those who lived without law in this life go here (scripturally termed “the heathen”). Essentially, it is the people who were just and good but chose not to be baptized by authority. They are the people that Joseph Smith spoke of when he said, “I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the smooth-faced hypocrite.” (To get a feel for the character of Joseph Smith, I’ll provide the rest of the quote, which goes on to say, “I do not want you to think that I’m very righteous, for I am not. There was one good man, and his name was Jesus.”)

“What if a person is taught two mutually exclusive doctrines—one true and one false—but the argument for the false doctrine is more convincingly presented so it is more easily believed… Does he still get judged according to the truth he was presented but ignored?”

The Lord included these types as those who inherit Terrestrial glory when He said: “These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:75, emphasis added).

Finally, the lowest degree of glory in Heaven is called the Telestial kingdom. Here go the “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:103). They’re the type most Christian doctrines usually associate with being destroyed in Hell, but in reality they actually receive glory for having once chosen Christ before the world was and for being put through the grimy test of mortal life (remember, none of us would be here if we hadn’t chosen Christ as our savior once). Into this degree of glory go also those who rejected Christ. And that rejection, it’s important to note, has to have occurred once they had the opportunity to cleanly reject the true doctrines of Christ—whether in this life or in the next.

But again, yes, ‘someone who has not accepted Christ as their Savior can enter one degree or another of Heaven, especially if they were never taught that it was necessary to do so.’

“If a child being raised to believe something is right, or even holy, excuses their ignorance of the sinfulness of the act (or neglect of the act) then even murder could be done without judgement, right?”

The murder discussion will be a lengthy one to pursue at the moment. But suffice it to say—again, for the moment—that our conscience is God-given. The first time you do something that is even minutely wrong, you can feel it, but if you ignore that feeling and continue to sin more and more, that feeling will become numb to you. We call this guiding feeling “the light of Christ,” and it is part of our doctrine that every person who is born receives this light. When we “sin against the light,” as it’s been said, we begin to lose it (but don’t worry, you can get it back!). Sinning can only be sinning if it is against the light we have or receive, and some things are basic to the light we all carry with us to earth. In other words, no matter who raised you, there will be an urge not to take the life of another person and the murderer must act against that urge, or have it buried long ago along with their conscience.

So it is that God has not left us absolutely alone to figure out what is right and wrong when we are introduced at the Earth. Perhaps you can recall what it feels like to do something your conscience told you was right or wrong (maybe a small voice like Jiminy Cricket to Pinocchio, but less cricket-y). That sensation was in fact a spiritual one.

—Joseph

P.S.

Another factor to consider, without delving deeply for the moment, is that if a child is obeying a parent to do something wicked, the sin will be upon the head of the perverse parent. In the eternal scheme, parents will be able to receive some of the greatest glory, and the greatest condemnation, that Heaven can give. The responsibility to raise children in righteousness is one of the most important charges God has put into the hands of mankind.

Wild Beasts That Are Past Feeling

Dear Joseph,

“The murder discussion will be a lengthy one to pursue at the moment. But suffice it to say—again, for the moment—that our conscience is God-given. The first time you do something that is even minutely wrong, you can feel it, but if you ignore that feeling and continue to sin more and more, that feeling will become numb to you.”

I’m thinking of cultures with human sacrifice as a part of their religious rituals. The Aztecs, for instance. By all accounts, even the sacrificial humans themselves were honored to be chosen as a sacrifice. A person born into this culture and trained in the priesthood (or whatever they called it) would have no compuctions against taking a human life under the right circumstances. And I don’t think the concept requires that extreme an example. Take, instead, the Hashashin (the organization from who’s name the modern word “assassin” is derived). These assassins were trained from childhood into an ideological belief system wherein killing specific people for specific reasons was considered a god-mandated assignment. Having not been raised in such a way, I can only take a guess, but it seems to me that if one were trained to murder by professional murderers, that one wouldn’t have the usual hesitations about taking human life.

In my Psychology 101 class oh-so-many years ago, we learned about an illegal study that was done by an self-proclaimed scientist who raised his own child from infancy in his attic without ever allowing the child any human contact at all. I Googled for the specific case, but there were a shocking number of similar stories and, without being able to recall names, dates, or locations, I had no idea which one was the one we were told about in my class. Anyway, by the time he was arrested and the then-adolescent child rescued, the poor kid was irreparably psychologically damaged. He was no different from a wild animal, but without the benefit of the more advanced instincts most animals are born with. So, the point is, very much of what we take for granted about our human nature is actually learned from those around us. If those around us are teaching us that typically taboo things are not just okay but even encouraged, it would be almost certain that we would not have any inner-turmoil over doing those things.

You know, nobody around here wants to talk theology with me because they assume I’m implacably opposed to it just because I dare to ask questions that cast doubt. And if they can’t save my soul, they figure there’s no point talking to me about it. Well, how’s “because it’s fascinating” for a reason? So, thank you again for taking the time to actually write to me about things others dare not approach. It’s been fun! Why don’t we continue our discussion around the theology of the creation? That one there’s a tricky one to approach without finding loop holes at every turn of God’s thinking.

For example, I saw a humorous meme recently that depicted God as a cartoonish caricature with the caption: “Create the entire universe out of nothing; need Adam’s rib to make one more thing.” That made me wonder, how can God get away with that one? Can’t exactly say that Genesis had a typo there.

—Thomas

P.S.

I like that Smith quote, I’ve never heard that before.


Dear Thomas,

We have a lot to cover here, and it would be perhaps better to split the content I have in mind into two letters, but I really cannot wait to broach the subject of the creation, so I might just touch upon it at the end of this letter.

“[There was an] ideological belief system wherein killing specific people for specific reasons was considered a god-mandated assignment…. If one were trained to murder by professional murderers… one wouldn’t have the usual hesitations about taking human life.”

This may be true, but I am sure that the first murder committed by an apprentice of such a society would still be accompanied by instinctual remorse. This is the light of Christ being extinguished by the mind raised to ignore it. In The Book of Mormon, the entire society of the Nephites (the people who once considered themselves to be the people of God) descends into a pitiful shadow of its former self. In their wickedness, these Nephites become a murderous and blood-thirsty people. The prophets of God, who once could preach with great efficacy to call the people to repent from their sins, found themselves unable to even stir the hearts of their audiences, who naturally proceed to try and kill these holy men. The term one prophet uses to describe the state of these people is “past feeling,” in other words, they collectively extinguished the Light of Christ.

I guess that the point I want to bring up here is that the topics of judgement—as in final judgement—and wickedness may be two slightly different topics. Let me elaborate: are the criteria by which God will finally judge our hearts the same as the criteria by which His standards and commandments are measured? The answer is actually yes, so far as one is aware of the criteria. This means that though a man may not be held accountable for the laws he did not receive in his life, those laws still exist to define happiness and wickedness; and wickedness never was happiness.

With this understanding, a society of murderers that raises little murderers is truly a wicked society if murder is a sin, but at the judgement bar they will not be judged for that wickedness like those who knew murder was sin. In this assassin society’s case, the greatest condemnation will be heaped upon the heads of those who started the society since they made the decision to break away from a standard of righteousness (assuming they were exposed to such, as these kinds of societies often are [again, this kind of thing is in The Book of Mormon]).

But there’s a another issue at hand:

When the judgement is passed and the time to return to God’s presence has come, will the society of murderers feel very comfortable in the Celestial Kingdom, where no unclean thing can bear to remain? Not unless they repent—and I don’t mean in an accountability kind of way, but in a change of heart kind of way. This re-emphasizes the need to be taught God’s principles and laws during this life when it is easiest to prepare for the lifestyle of Heaven (you can repent after this life, but it is much harder to do without your body as it turns out).

The subject here then becomes one of paradisiacal culture shock. A quote from the famous writer C. S. Lewis may serve to explain this idea further:

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

It is easier to be lustful and appetite-satisfying than it is to reign in those passions. Those passions are part of what makes our bodies powerful tools to the soul, when harnessed appropriately. As I wrote to you a while ago, part of what separated us before this life, as spirit children, from our Heavenly Father was the fact that He had a body and we did not. He has perfect control of His body, and if we are to have the ‘infinite joy’ He experiences, we are required to learn how to control our bodies like He does.

Unfortunately, God’s enemy, the devil, knows all too well what we are capable of experiencing, and he seeks (as he has ever sought) to use the tool of our very exaltation to bring about our damnation. Simply put, his strategy is to keep us out of Celestial glory by getting us to let loose of the reigns of the body, to go from being ‘half-hearted creatures’ to full-hearted wild beasts. The devil’s secret weapon is the fact that he can easily confuse us to recognize all pleasure as happiness. This is Hollywood’s message: letting loose the reigns feels good; wickedness is happiness.

“… Very much of what we take for granted about our human nature is actually learned from those around us. If those around us are teaching us that typically taboo things are not just okay but even encouraged, it would be almost certain that we would not have any inner-turmoil over doing those things.”

Inner-turmoil aside, you’ve hit the nail on the head here. The question to consider then is this: if our environment can totally affect our lives, what can save us from becoming ‘full-hearted wild beasts’ that are ‘past feeling’? What can save us from becoming finer society for the devil and his angels than for gods?

I have heard of cases of total child neglect similar to the one you mentioned in your letter. I can recall a case or two of children who wandered into the forest as toddlers and wandered back out as adolescents but, like you said, almost “no different than a wild animal.” It is absolutely true that an environment can dictate, to a great degree, who someone may become as a person. I don’t think it will affect every part of a human’s nature, but the evidence is there to show us that environment is pivotal to human development.

What comprises environment then? Among many things, and perhaps foremost among them, is parenting. You may recall my words at the end of my last letter, but now add to it the emphasis of the evidence you bring to witness here: “The responsibility to raise children in righteousness is one of the most important charges God has put into the hands of mankind” for without it mankind would descend into a savage state. A state where murder becomes acceptable, as also, like you said of the Aztecs, offering human sacrifices to idols (which the Nephites in their depraved and wicked condition did also).

Though a man in such society may somehow avoid all contact with truth and God’s laws all of his life, it cannot be said that in the end he is righteous according to Heaven. He will not be judged for breaking a rule he didn’t know, but he will still have to set aside his ‘mud pies’ if he is to go on to that great ‘holiday at the sea’ with God. And he will have the opportunity to do so if he desires it. That decision may look like a no-brainer from here, but approaching God requires sacrifice (not the Aztec kind), and it’s much easier and much more appealing to stay in the mud when faced with true, sanctifying sacrifice (a great topic for a future missive).

“You know, nobody around here wants to talk theology with me because they assume I’m implacably opposed to it just because I dare to ask questions that cast doubt. And if they can’t save my soul, they figure there’s no point talking to me about it. Well, how’s ‘because it’s fascinating’ for a reason?”

That’s as worthy a reason as any if you ask me. Lucky for you, I do like to ‘talk theology,’ as you know.

“Why don’t we continue our discussion around the theology of the creation? That one there’s a tricky one to approach without finding loop holes at every turn of God’s thinking.”

As I said at the start of this letter, I will only dip into this subject for the length and the heaviness of the topic so far. Nevertheless, let’s take a short peak at the beginning (if there is one…):

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)

Mormon theology correctly recalls the seldom recognized fact that the original Hebrew word for ‘created,’ as found in the verse above, does not actually mean “to make” as we often assume it does. It means “to organize” (see the Wikipedia article for Genesis 1:1 and look under “bara”). As such, it is important to first recognize that there is no such thing as a creation “ex nihilo” but that such a notion is a man-made concept, and that it is not true to say that God ever made something from nothing.

—Joseph

The Devil Told the Truth

Dear Joseph,

“…The original Hebrew word for ‘created,’ as found in [Genesis 1:1], does not actually mean ‘to make’ as we often assume it does. It means ‘to organize.'”

Very interesting, I had never heard this before.

I’m also interested to learn from that Wikipedia article about Genesis 1:1 that the Hebrew word “Elohim” is closer to the English word “god” than the English word “God.” This translation fits in better with the God-was-an-ancient-astronaut theory that’s become popular lately, what with those Ancient Aliens-type shows on TV and all.

Kind of makes me wonder about who Adam and Eve were too. Why doesn’t God want us to learn deeper truths? Is He afraid that if we find out the truth we won’t respect him the way he wants us to? If we find him out he won’t be able to control us anymore? It’s these kinds of shady wordings that make me wonder if he’s just trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

You know, I can’t read Hebrew (yet…), but you’d think that in the couple-thousand pages of The Bible we’d find some other passages to explain what was happening during the first couple pages. Someone could have at least tried to tie it in to the big Bible-thumping topics of death, Hell, or maybe even Jesus Himself, maybe?

—Thomas


Dear Thomas,

Yes, knowing a bit of Hebrew can be very enlightening. There’s a lot more to learn as one considers upon all of the implications that the word “Elohim” brings to our interpretation of the creation, but it would take several more letters to properly introduce the subject. It is an important one though, so I will be sure to bring it back up if we get away from that topic in our future discourse. Suffice it to say for now that you are straddling some deep truths, one of which is the fact that it is not only more similar to the English “god” rather than “God,” but that it is actually plural, therefore meaning “gods.”

“I saw a humorous meme recently that depicted God as a cartoonish caricature with the caption: ‘Create the entire universe out of nothing; need Adam’s rib to make one more thing.’ That made me wonder, how can God get away with that one?”

I want to return to this idea of Eve being created from Adam’s rib. In my last letter to you I explained that God does not create from nothing but organizes from preexisting matter. So what are the implications with the creation of Eve? How did God make an entire person from a rib?

But before I continue, I want to be sure of one thing: your kids were delivered by a stork like mine, right?

When we as parents tell our children that they were delivered by a stork, what we are really doing is speaking to a child about a subject that we cannot fully explain without a much deeper conversation that would get their little minds focused on a subject far outside what we want them to be focused on, right? Likewise, when God explained to Moses, the author of Genesis, how the world was created, He explained it in terms the mind of man could comprehend—for now. If Jesus Christ taught in parables to reach multiple levels of comprehension at once, would we not expect the premortal Jehovah to also so teach?

Was the world created in six days, as we know them, or were there six generally-divisible periods that Moses used the word “day” to describe? The geologic record, so far as it is interpreted correctly, seems to indicate the latter.

Were the heavens and the earth created at the same time, the “beginning,” or have the “heavens” been around a lot longer than the earth? The cosmic record, so far as it is interpreted correctly, seems to indicate the latter.

God knows the answers to such questions as these, and He also considers them to matter less to us, His children, than the clearer fact that He was at the head of it all.

It’s not that God doesn’t “want us to learn the deeper truths”—He desires to share with us greater truth and light on the subject—but He must wait until we are prepared. The fact that the Hebrew version of the creation makes bare some of the deeper truths by virtue of the language itself should be evidence enough that God is not arbitrarily “pulling the wool over our eyes.” The same goes for the creation of Adam and Eve: there is a deeper understanding (that, frankly, is slightly clearer in the original Hebrew), but, like the truth behind the stork that delivered you and me, it is meant for spiritually matured minds.

Most of Christianity looks down upon Adam, and especially Eve, for committing the first sin, the “original sin,” and believes that life wouldn’t be so hard for the rest of us if it wasn’t for their introduced of sin into the world. This is an old sectarian notion and is false. In all actuality, this couldn’t be further from the truth: “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Nephi 2:25, emphasis added).

If you’ve come to know the devil and his tactics in your life (and we all have by virtue of being on earth), I will open your eyes to the fact that he hasn’t changed his ways in the five- or six-thousand years since the day he tempted Eve: the devil will tell nine truths to get someone to accept one lie. “What!” the world will exclaim, “the devil tell a truth?” Yes, if that’s what he must do tell a lie—one more lie than God would ever give. In Genesis 3:4-5 we get to hear Satan do just that:

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

The one lie here was that neither Eve nor Adam should “surely die;” the rest was true. Let me give you some context: Adam and Eve were created in the Garden in a state of innocence and, well, we’ll call it ignorant bliss—like someone who eats only ramen noodles every day, it’s not until they taste filet mignon that they realize just how good something can taste; conversely, it’s not until they taste dirt and crab grass that they realize just how good ramen noodles can taste. In other words, we cannot know the sweet until we taste the bitter. God designed the mortal experience that we each go through (not just Adam and Eve) to be the bitter, that we might become like Him (and “the gods,” as the devil mentioned [think Elohim here]), “knowing good and evil.”

That’s what this life is about: we are on to the next stage of becoming like our Father in Heaven, the father of our spirits. Adam and Eve didn’t make a mistake, they made a decision.

Note, for instance, in the next verse, Genesis 3:6, it doesn’t say that Eve “fell for the serpent” or “was deceived in that moment” or something, but that she “saw” that what the serpent said was mostly true, meaning that she logically analyzed her situation and made her own decision. In our doctrine, we praise Eve for making the decision that would allow us the opportunity to not only know the sweet, but to receive a physical body at all. There is an even deeper layer of symbolism we could delve into with respect to this decision, particularly pertaining to why Adam and Eve could not create children before it, but suffice it to say that, like them, it is crucial that we are introduced to a fallen world—something far different than the Garden of Eden—to take that next step towards becoming like our Father in Heaven (recall the council in Heaven).

However, the fall of Adam truly brought sickness and death and sin into the world, which could truly be considered as a step away from God, but without it—without opposition—we could not be tested to progress in an eternal sense. You wouldn’t take a test with the a copy of the answer key open on every student’s desk (at least, that wouldn’t be much of a test), and likewise we cannot be tested within the confines of the Garden of Eden—a place where God Himself could come and walk about; life is a closed-book test, and we are separated from God by the very nature of this sinful world.

So, if a fall away from God was needed to get the test started, and we have Adam and Eve to thank for that, how do we un-fall if we pass the test? How can Adam’s decision be praiseworthy when all we’ve got to show for it now is death, disease, and sin?

Actually, this—the nature of our current fallen state and all—was known from the “beginning.” In the council of “the gods” before the world was (the afore mentioned council in Heaven), a plan was presented whereby we could return to God’s presence—with Adam and Eve too—despite all of our unworthy, mortal baggage. The central figure of that plan is none other than Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer.

Christ was chosen in the premortal council in Heaven to be the “Atoning One,” the person who could bring us back “At-one” (atone) with God—the only one who had the power to swallow up our death, disease, and sin. For that reuniting with and inheriting of the Father and His glory to be complete, it was known far in advance that we would need bodies of flesh and bone (like the Father has) and no uncleanliness (like the Father is). Adam and Eve then came to get the process started whereby we could do just that, and in so doing they become archetypes of the journey we are all taking:

  • They forgot all, and we have forgotten all;
  • They came to a fallen world to know good from evil, and we come to a fallen world to know good from evil;
  • They gained bodies of flesh and blood (which blood is signified in scripture as a symbol of “corruption”), and we now have bodies of flesh and blood;
  • They will be resurrected to immortality and bodies of flesh and bone (without blood, or a body of “incorruption,” like the father), and we too shall be resurrected to the same;
  • They had their sins remitted through obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we too may so choose to become clean and thus enabled to enter into the Father’s presence.

“…You’d think that in the couple-thousand pages of The Bible we’d find some other passages to explain what was happening during the first couple pages. Someone could have at least tried to tie it in to the big Bible-thumping topics of death, Hell, or maybe even Jesus Himself, maybe?”

Maybe with the context I have laid, these words of Paul, found in 1 Corinthians 15:45-54, will perhaps make more sense to you than they have in the past:

“The first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy: the second man [Jesus Christ] is the Lord from heaven….
“And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
“So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

With this doctrinal foundation laid, we can talk in a little more depth about what really happened during the creation.

—Joseph

Deep Admissions of the Creator

Dear Joseph,

“With this doctrinal foundation laid, we can talk in a little more depth about what really happened during the creation.”

Yeah, go ahead.

—Thomas


Dear Thomas,

As a reminder, you said:

“… The Hebrew word “Elohim” is closer to the English word ‘god’ than the English word ‘God.'”

And then I added:

“… [‘Elohim’] is not only more similar to the English ‘god’ rather than ‘God,’ but… it is actually plural, therefore meaning ‘gods.'”

Well, who was creating this earth anyway? To answer this question, let’s begin by looking at the full Hebrew version of our beloved Genesis 1:1:

Hebrew: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ

Hebrew romanization: Bereisheet bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz

English: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Some rabbis would teach that the first letter in the whole verse, the letter ב “be-“ of “bereisheet” (literally, the preposition “in/at” as found in the adverbial phrase “in/at the beginning”), is fundamental to understanding the Torah—that there is deep significance to the first letter being ב bet (the “t” is pronounced when the letter is read in isolation). This is because ב bet is a pictograph and symbol meaning “house” or “home,” therefore implying that our world that God was creating in Genesis 1:1 is the house of God.

But we have to discard these teachings in order to dig up a great clue as to the identity of “the gods” who created this world. This clue can be found if we accept a surprising fact: the letter ב bet was an unauthorized addition to the original first verse of the Torah. Lest you think that this idea is actually an unauthorized one itself, know that it comes from The Zohar, a group of books that Wikipedia calls “the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought….” The Zohar teaches that the first phrase that should be read in the account of the creation in Hebrew should not be Bereisheet bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz, but Reisheet bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz (noticeably missing the “be-” from the first word).

To actually understand the full implications of this mere change of spelling, let’s take a look at the meaning of the new first word of our Hebrew verse: ראש rosh-/reish-. Though commonly translated as “beginning,” this word has a more literal translation as the word “head,” which would be synonymous with “beginning” if it is assumed that a reference to time is intended by this phrase. But there is no explicit reference to time with which to make such an assumption, and once we remove the preposition ב bet “in/at” from our verse, the previous adverbial phrase of “At the head of [time]” (“In the beginning”) ceases to modify the verb ברא bara “to organize” (not “to create,” remember?) and instead becomes an adjectival phrase modifying the noun אלהים Elohim “the gods”!

Got it?

That was a mouthful, so let me boil it down for you: the Hebrew no longer literally translates to “At the head of [time] the gods organized…,” but instead “The head of the gods organized….” And herein lies the answer (or a step to the final answer) to our original question: “Who was creating this earth anyway?” Answer: someone identified in scripture as the “head of the gods.”

So there you have it, when incorrect changes to the scriptures are removed, and the true meaning of the scriptures is restored, revelation occurs before our eyes. Genesis 1:1 now makes three very deep admissions:

  1. There are multiple beings designated as “gods;”
  2. There is a being among them designated as the “head” of these beings;
  3. There is no indication that the organization of our world took place at the beginning of all time.

It becomes difficult to tread in these deep waters without the aid of direct revelation from Heaven itself. After all, if unauthorized changes to scripture led us away from the truth in the first place, we ought to be very careful to try and not interpolate our own unauthorized changes as well. It becomes expedient, then, that we seek further revelation from Heaven on the subject. Luckily for you, I am a believer of modern revelation and am aware of many such revelations that have come through God’s authorized servants in our day that would help us better understand the three “deep admissions” above.

A lot of what has been revealed on this subject has come to us through Joseph Smith, the first prophet of this dispensation (Do you know what a dispensation is? If not, it’s a topic for another time, I’m sure), but somewhat has been added to his revelations by his successors in the years since his martyrdom. For instance, the prophet Lorenzo Snow wrote a famous couplet of poetry that may expand your thinking on the subject a little (think of a family with a “head” while you read this):

“As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.”

Curiosity piqued? I will give you another hint of where I am going with this, also from modern revelation: there is an interesting verse of scripture that we have from God that is found in the book of The Doctrine and Covenants (modern scripture composed of new revelations [new relative to the books of The New Testament, that is]), which reads:

“This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent…” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:24).

In The New Testament, there is a similar verse found in the book of John whose only difference is the word “life” instead of “lives.” This change is crucial. The implication of the version restored by Joseph Smith (quoted above) is that those who go on to the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven (the highest degree of glory in Heaven, remember?) will go on to become like our Heavenly Father—in a very literal sense to become an heir with Christ of the Father’s lifestyle and authority. That means that those who inherit this glory will go on to inherit ‘eternal lives,’ a continuation of what we now recognize as the human family—parents begetting children who themselves become parents who beget children, and so on. The difference is that this pattern will take place on an eternal scale, but only by those who prove themselves capable (we’ve already written at length about the test of this life).

The fact is that the seed of an oak tree does not produce a cow, neither a chicken’s egg, a dog; a man begets a man, and a god begets a god. We are the children of God—man is a god in embryo—we’ve simply forgotten that we are the same race as that being who organized our world. In other words, a god begets a man that becomes a god, but we’ve forgotten that we’re part of this chain. As I wrote in my last letter, Adam and Eve also had forgotten everything, and they are the pattern for this test of mortality that you and I are currently taking. The forgetting is necessary, but just as an absence of evidence cannot be held as evidence for anything, let alone that something does not exist, we must realize and awaken to the fact that, although forgotten, God is in actuality a living being who we are more closely tied to than we know. Said Joseph Smith:

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man….”

So it is then that our Father in Heaven has children who grow up to become like Him, just as we do—just as we are doing. Would it not be true to call them also “gods” (“deep admissions” point 2)? We are not grown up to that full stature (yet), but if we are not His first creation—if there is no scriptural indication of a beginning of all time (point 3)—then surely others of His children have so matured to become like Him in all ways. He sat at the head of His family (point 1), the “gods,” and counseled with them about the next world He was to organize and, after the premortal Christ was chosen as Savior, got to work.

That is what really happened during the creation.

—Joseph