For Our Profit and Learning: The Value of Studying the Old Testament

Bible open to Genesis

(1-1) Introduction

It would probably not be incorrect to assume that for many members of the Church the Old Testament is the most neglected book of scripture. This neglect is not difficult to understand. The Old Testament is the longest of all the scriptures, being about twice the size of the Book of Mormon. Its history and culture are farthest removed from our day. The Old Testament contains a precise and involved description of the Mosaic law, some ordinances of which have now been fulfilled and replaced by the ordinances of the restored gospel. Consequently, some parts of the book, such as lengthy genealogical lists, numerical censuses, and detailed descriptions of obsolete rituals, may seem unimportant compared to other scriptures. And sometimes the language of the translation of the Old Testament is archaic and difficult to follow. Little wonder, then, that many in the Church, though familiar with some of the Old Testament stories, have never read the entire book. Yet the prophets, both ancient and modern, have stressed the priceless value of the Old Testament in assisting men to know God.

The Apostle Paul commended Timothy, saying, “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures” (2 Timothy 3:15). As far as we know, the only scriptures available to Timothy were what we know today as the Old Testament. Note what Paul said about these holy writings:

1. They are able to make one wise unto salvation (see 2 Timothy 3:15).

2. They are given by the inspiration of God (see v. 16).

3. They are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (see v. 16).

4. They help the man of God become perfect and fully equipped for every good work (see v. 17).

When the prophet Nephi’s rebellious brothers ridiculed the idea that Nephi could build a ship to take them to the promised land, he confounded them with examples from the brass plates (see 1 Nephi 17:17–43). These plates contained writings we have today in the Old Testament. Later Nephi explained that he read many things to his people from the brass plates, including the writings of Moses and Isaiah, in order to—

1. Help them know the doings of the Lord in other lands among people of old (see 1 Nephi 19:22).

2. More fully persuade them to believe in the Lord, their Redeemer (see v. 23).

3. Liken (or apply) the scriptures to themselves for their profit and learning (see v. 23).

Think for a moment about yourself. Does your motivation to study the scriptures come from a desire to learn more about God and His dealings with His children? Are you seeking to draw power from the scriptures in order to perfect your life by coming to Christ? Paul and Nephi have said that, like all other scriptures, the Old Testament will help you accomplish these goals. Do you want to learn more of God and those who were faithful to Him? Then search the stories of the prophets and patriarchs. Would you be inspired by examples of men and women who overcame their weaknesses and went on to perfection? Read of Joseph and Abraham and Sarah and Job and dozens of others. Would you like to find principles of daily living that bring you closer to God? They are there in abundance. Would you like to better know Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to earth as our Redeemer? Then turn to the Old Testament, for, like the other scriptures, it is a witness of His divinity, His love, and His mercy.


(1-2) The Old Testament, Like All Scripture, Was Given by God for Our Benefit

“The Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants . . . are like a lighthouse in the ocean, or a finger-post which points out the road we should travel. Where do they point? To the fountain of light. . . . That is what these books are for. They are of God; they are valuable and necessary: by them we can establish the doctrine of Christ.” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 8:129.)

(1-3) Like All Scripture, the Old Testament Is Edifying and Has Great Benefit for Us Today

“The Bible presents a total picture of the life of its characters. We can thus expect human frailties to appear. However, many of these human elements reveal genuine religious purposes when they are understood in terms of the social standards of their own day.

“The student who truly seeks to appreciate the Bible will study it always for the contribution of its message to our religious life today. It is not enough to be entertained by its stories unless these stories can reach deep into our souls to make better persons. The accounts in the Bible were preserved for the help which they can give to man in developing his faith in God and in following His teachings. The reader who misses the significance of Bible stories in present life is not a true student of the Bible.” (Larsen, in Jacob, The Message of the Old Testament, pp. xxxv–xxxvi.)

(1-4) Like All Scripture, the Old Testament Is Christ Centered

“As Jesus testified of Moses, so likewise did Moses testify of Christ, although much of his testimony is not in our present-day Bible. But obviously it was in the scriptures available to the people of Jesus’ day.

“It is faith-promoting indeed to note how consistent the various books of scripture are, one with another; how the revelations in the various ages all harmonize; and how the words of the prophets, no matter when or where they lived, testify of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“When critics attacked him, the Lord responded by saying to them: ‘Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.’ (John 5:39. Italics added.)

“He never would have said that if the scriptures available to the people of that day did not testify of him. He urged them to read the scriptures that they might see how the prophets whom they adored, but now long since dead, actually did foretell his coming. They testified of him—the Savior. And Moses was one of them. . . .

“Note that the Lord quoted both Moses and the other prophets expounding ‘in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.’” (Petersen, Moses, pp. 148–49.)

Mark E. Petersen

Elder Mark E. Petersen testified that all scriptures point to Christ.

(1-5) Being Christ Centered, the Old Testament Reveals Many Things about His Mission

“Properly understood, the Scripture is all full of Christ, and all intended to point to Christ as our only Saviour. It is not only the law, which is a schoolmaster unto Christ, nor the types, which are shadows of Christ, nor yet the prophecies, which are predictions of Christ; but the whole Old Testament history is full of Christ. Even where persons are not, events may be types. If any one failed to see in Isaac or in Joseph a personal type of Christ, he could not deny that the offering up of Isaac, or the selling of Joseph, and his making provision for the sustenance of his brethren, are typical of events in the history of our Lord. And so indeed every event points to Christ, even as He is alike the beginning, the centre, and the end of all history—‘the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ One thing follows from this: only that reading or study of the Scriptures can be sufficient or profitable through which we learn to know Christ—and that as ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ to us. And for this purpose we ought constantly to ask the aid and teaching of the Holy Spirit.” (Edersheim, Old Testament Bible History, pp. 2–3.)

(1-6) Though Many Plain and Precious Parts Have Been Taken Away, the Old Testament Is Still Remarkably Intact and Valuable

“The vision of Nephi as recorded in the early part of the Book of Mormon explains that many plain and precious parts of the Bible as it was written originally were taken from that sacred volume before it was circulated among the Gentiles.

“What was it like before it was stripped of so many precious parts? And what made those teachings so precious?

“Certainly the Old Testament was not as fragmentary as it is today. When we look at the volume of information in the present Bible we wonder how it could have contained more, for already it is a library in itself.

“Yet as originally written it did contain vastly more, and made the Gospel so plain for those ancient peoples that a wayfaring man, though a fool, could not err therein.

“What was it like?

“We cannot fully answer that question, of course, but we can find much of the answer in a careful reading of both the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

“The most striking thing about it was that, as originally written, the Old Testament WAS A TESTIMONY AND WITNESS FOR CHRIST!

“It told the story of the preaching of Christ’s Gospel to ancient peoples of all dispensations.

“If we had the Old Testament as it was originally written, mankind would have a most powerful—an infallible—witness that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Christ, that He gave the Law to Moses, that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that His coming into mortality was plainly foretold in a detailed manner, in holy writ.” (“Christ and the Old Testament,” Church News, 22 Jan. 1966, p. 16.)

“The hand of the Lord has been over this volume of scripture nevertheless, and it is remarkable that it has come down to us in the excellent condition in which we find it” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:191). His hand prepared a way to preserve the essence of its sacred message despite the attempts of men and Satan to destroy it. The Lord did this by cloaking profound truths in the spirit of prophecy (see Alma 25:15–16). In other words, the Lord cloaked much spiritual truth in symbolic and figurative imagery, which can be interpreted only through the spirit of prophecy, which is “the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 19:10). Many of the most precious truths were not stated in plainness so that those who would have tampered with them did not sense their significance and thus left them alone.

In this way a large part of the testimony of Christ was hidden from the enemies of God because the natural man does not have access to “the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The man of evil might set out to pervert the gospel of the Lord and even may be able to remove many scriptural marks which clearly identified Jesus as the Christ, yet that which requires the Spirit—the symbolic, the subtle, the powerful—would elude him. Therefore, as Elder Mark E. Petersen suggested:

“Regardless of all its problems in the making, the Bible should not be disparaged in any way. It is the word of God, and even though translations have dimmed some of its meaning, and many ‘plain and precious parts’ have been deleted, it still is an inspired and miraculous guide to all who will read it.

“When augmented by modern scripture as the Book of Mormon indicates would be the case, it can direct us into the paths of eternal salvation.” (As Translated Correctly, pp. 16–17.)


(1-7) Key 1: Constant, Diligent, and Prayerful Study Is the Major Factor in Understanding the Scriptures

“Search the scriptures—search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them. Then again we say: Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 11–12.)

(1-8) Key 2: Coupled with Prayerful Study Must be a Commitment to Live the Commandments

“But reading and knowing the scriptures is not sufficient. It is important that we keep the commandments—be doers of the word and not hearers only. The great promise that the Lord has given us should be sufficient incentive for us to acknowledge him and do his will:

“‘And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

“‘And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

“‘And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

“‘And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.’ (D&C 89:18–21.)

“May this glorious promise be fulfilled in our behalf as we search the scriptures and find the way to eternal life.” (N. Eldon Tanner, “Right Answers: First Presidency Message,” Ensign, Oct. 1973, p. 6.)

(1-9) Key 3: Latter-day Scriptures Give Many Insights into the Old Testament

“Latter-day revelation is the key to understanding the Old Testament, because it still retains its own original flavor and intent. That is, we can be certain that the text of latter-day revelation gives the inferences and understandings that the Lord wishes this generation to have. The revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith that have direct application to the Old Testament are of at least three different types:

“1. The restoration and translation of ancient documents, such as the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. These two books had their origin in the same environment and milieu of the ancient world as the Bible and have been translated for our use in this dispensation by a prophet of God. Therefore, we are assured that we have a correct translation.

“2. A restoration of the writings of certain Old Testament prophets, but without Joseph Smith’s actually having the ancient documents in his hands. These writings include the Book of Moses, which contains the visions and writings of Moses and a prophecy of Enoch, revealed to the Prophet Joseph, though not translations of ancient documents in the same sense as were the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham.

“3. Divine revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith about Old Testament events and/or personalities. Many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, though not translations of biblical documents, comment upon and illumine our understanding of biblical personalities and events. These include sections 84, 107, and 132, revelations that give us much assistance in understanding the Old Testament.

“Thus the Latter-day Saint has a great deal of recorded information at his fingertips relative to the Old Testament, and he is unfair to himself if he fails to utilize all of these sources in his study.

“The revelations given to the Prophet Joseph bear record that the biblical story is essentially correct, although not complete.” (Robert J. Matthews, “Modern Revelation: Windows to the Old Testament,” Ensign, Oct. 1973, p. 21.)

(1-10) Key 4: Knowledge That the Gospel Was Known to the Ancients Provides the Means for Accurate Interpretation of Their Teachings

“Some persons believe that the Old Testament teaches and demonstrates some rather crude theological concepts and ethics. This may seem logical to those who believe that religions are mere social institutions that have evolved and developed over the centuries. But to those who see religion as revealed theology and a divine code of ethics with absolute truths and eternal rights and wrongs, such an estimate of the Old Testament is neither logical nor acceptable. . . .

“. . . great principles are taught in the Old Testament. During his earthly mission Jesus used them, cited them, and commended their use by others.

“For example, recall the situation when he had just finished chastising some Sadducees for not knowing the scriptures. (See Mark 12:24.) Another interrogator arose ostensibly to find out how Jesus would evaluate the teachings in the Law of Moses, asking, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?

“‘And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

“‘And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

“‘And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.’ . . .

“Those great principles of love were found in the Old Testament. They are still found in our versions, in Deuteronomy 6:4–5 and Leviticus 19:18. See further pronouncements of them in Deuteronomy 10:12 and 30:6 and in Leviticus 19:34. . . .

“Many today, however, think of these commandments as New Testament teachings. Jesus did indeed originate them, but much earlier than in New Testament times.” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, “The Unchanging Gospel of Two Testaments,” Ensign, Oct. 1973, pp. 24–27.)

(1-11) Key 5: Understanding the Nature of God Provides Special Insight

Many people feel uncomfortable with the God of the Old Testament. They see Him as vindictive, revengeful, and unmerciful, not the loving God of the New Testament. Yet the supposedly harsh deity of the old covenant is the same Person as the forgiving Jesus of the new covenant. The reconciliation of this seeming paradox is that He is the same God, and God does not change. He is the same today as yesterday and will be so forever (see D&C 20:12). He Himself has declared that He “doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he has said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round” (D&C 3:2; see also James 1:7). Therefore, the Old Testament God is just as kind, just as merciful, just as loving as the God of the New Testament; yet, on the other hand, the God depicted in the New Testament is just as firm and angry at sin as the God of the Old Testament. Why? Because They are the same Being! If we keep this fact in mind, we will be better able to interpret the commandments, actions, and motives of the great Jehovah.

While many modern Bible scholars say that such events as the Flood or the command to destroy the Canaanites when Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land prove that the Old Testament deity is harsh and vindictive, the Latter-day Saint can say instead, “I know that Christ has perfect love for all. What can I learn then about His dealings with people in the time of the Flood or from this commandment?” This learning process becomes very productive in the attempt to come to know God better. (See Enrichment Section A, “Who Is the God of the Old Testament?”)

(1-12) Key 6: The Nature and Purposes of God’s Covenants with His Children Are Important

Many of God’s dealings with the Old Testament people centered in making and keeping covenants. Because He loved righteousness, He extended to Abraham’s seed the covenant with all its obligations, rights, and powers. Through this covenant they could separate themselves from worldliness, thus becoming holy, or godlike. By keeping the covenant, and extending its blessings to others, they were assured of God’s blessings and protection. Because of God’s mercy, the righteous were promised that the covenant would be maintained if they kept its terms.

On the other hand, if they violated the covenant and rejected God, they not only forfeited blessings but also suffered the wrath of the Lord. It is not surprising, then, to find the prophets continually reminding Israel of their covenants and admonishing them to be faithful to them. This concept becomes a critical key to understanding much of what happens in the Old Testament. (See Enrichment Section B, “Covenants and Covenant Making: Keys to Exaltation.”)

(1-13) Key 7: Putting Ourselves in the Place of the Ancients As We Read the Scriptures Is an Important Part of Studying the Old Testament

“Do you read the Scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though you were writing them a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who wrote them? If you do not feel thus, it is your privilege to do so, that you may be as familiar with the spirit and meaning of the written word of God as you are with your daily walk and conversation, or as you are with your workmen or with your households. You may understand what the Prophets understood and thought—what they designed and planned to bring forth to their brethren for their good.

“When you can thus feel, then you may begin to think that you can find out something about God, and begin to learn who he is.” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 7:333.)


(1-14) A frequently quoted scripture is Isaiah 55:8–9. Many times, however, we stop at those two verses and do not read them in their full context. Read now verses 10 and 11. What does the Lord mean when He says His way of doing things is not like man’s? (Note especially v. 11.) What does He mean when He says that His word “shall accomplish that which I please,” and how does that relate to the Old Testament? How would you now answer someone who says, “The Old Testament is too difficult; it needs to be simplified and made more plain”?

(1-15) Read again the second paragraph of Reading 1-3 and all of Reading 1-13. Ponder for a moment how we put ourselves in the place of the ancients and let the scriptures “reach deep into our souls” (Larsen, in Jacob, The Message of the Old Testament, p. xxxvi). List some practical things you can do to apply this concept in your own life as you study the Old Testament. Is this application what Nephi meant by “liken[ing] all scriptures unto us” (1 Nephi 19:23)?

(1-16) Moroni requested those who want to know for themselves the truthfulness of the gospel to “remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam” (Moroni 10:3). Why did he make this request? What is there in the Old Testament message that is important for a person striving for a personal testimony? List four or five major practical concepts you could take from the Old Testament to learn to be a better Christian.

(1-17) President Spencer W. Kimball admonished:

“I urge all of the people of this church to give serious attention to their family histories, to encourage their parents and grandparents to write their journals, and let no family go into eternity without having left their memoirs for their children, their grandchildren, and their posterity. This is a duty and a responsibility, and I urge every person to start the children out writing a personal history and journal.” (“The True Way of Life and Salvation,” Ensign, May 1978, p. 4.)

If you have not already begun to keep your personal journal, now is an excellent time to do so. Make your study of the Old Testament a part of your journal. Record special insights, things that impress you, or just the feelings you may have as you study. You will find your study of the Old Testament greatly enhanced by your journal keeping and your journal keeping greatly enhanced by your study of the Old Testament.

Genesis 1–2
The Creation

the earth from space

(2-1) Introduction

Adam and Eve were the crowning point of the Creation, but pause for a moment to think of the Creation itself. It was the Father directing the creation of a home for His children. When it was finished, the record states with beautiful simplicity, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). And so it has been in the thousands of years that have elapsed since. The earth is a place of beauty and abundance, a place of self-renewal and constant re-creation. It has been the mortal home for billions upon billions of people, and yet still it is capable of sustaining billions more.

Ponder for a moment your own relationship to Adam and Eve—your ever-so-great grandparents. Have the ensuing millennia made them seem unreal to you, like fictional characters in a novel? They are real and they are alive. Adam will return to earth prior to the Millennium to preside under Christ at the great council of Adam-ondi-Ahman (see Daniel 7; D&C 116), and he will lead the armies of the Almighty God to battle against the assembled hosts of Satan in the last great battle of the earth (see D&C 88:112–15).

The world would have you believe that Adam and Eve were primitive and superstitious, that they brought about the Fall through immorality, or even that they are imaginary, mythical persons. But as you read about them remember how the Lord views these two great souls. Think of what special qualities they must have possessed to have been chosen to lead the way.

You have probably read the account of the Creation before, perhaps many times. But as you read and study it now, ponder its real significance for you today.

Instructions to Students

1. Use Notes and Commentary below to help you as you read and study Genesis 1–2.

2. Because the parallel accounts in Moses 1–3 and Abraham 4–5 contain valuable insights and additions not found in Genesis, they should be read and studied in connection with the Genesis account. (The books of Moses and Abraham are studied in detail in the Pearl of Great Price course, Religion 327.)

3. Complete Points to Ponder as directed by your teacher. (Individual study students should complete all of this section.)


(2-2) Genesis 1:1. When Was “In the Beginning”?

At least two important points should be made about these opening words of the Bible:

First, beginning is a relative term and does not mean the starting point of all eternity, if indeed there can be such a thing. The Lord told Moses that He would speak only concerning this earth (see Moses 1:40). The creations of God are too many for man to number (see Moses 1:37; 7:30), and many other worlds have already “passed away” (Moses 1:35). Thus, “in the beginning” refers only to this world’s beginning. President Brigham Young explained:

“When was there a beginning? There never was one; if there was, there will be an end; but there never was a beginning, and hence there will never be an end; that looks like eternity. When we talk about the beginning of eternity, it is rather simple conversation, and goes far beyond the capacity of man.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 47.)

Second, the creation of this world was not the real beginning for those who would come to live here. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, we lived as spirit children of heavenly parents in a premortal state of existence. President Joseph F. Smith said:

“Where did we come from? From God. Our spirits existed before they came to this world. They were in the councils of the heavens before the foundations of the earth were laid. . . . We sang together with the heavenly hosts for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid and when the plan of our existence upon this earth and redemption were mapped out. . . . We were unquestionably present in those councils when that wonderful circumstance occurred . . . when Satan offered himself as a savior of the world if he could but receive the honor and glory of the Father for doing it. . . . We were, no doubt, there and took part in all those scenes, we were vitally concerned in the carrying out of these great plans and purposes, we understood them, and it was for our sakes they were decreed and are to be consummated.” (In Ludlow, Latter-day Prophets Speak, pp. 5–6.)

Thus, all men had existence for an unknown length of time before the world was ever created (see D&C 49:16–17). President Spencer W. Kimball explained:

“Life was to be in three segments or estates: premortal, mortal, and immortal. The third stage would incorporate exaltation—eternal life with godhood—for those who would fully magnify their mortal lives. Performance in one estate would vitally affect the succeeding estate or estates. If a person kept his first estate, he would be permitted the second or the mortal life as a further period of trial and experience. If he magnified his second estate, his earth experience, eternal life would await him. To that end men go through the numerous experiences of earth life—‘to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.’ (Abraham 3:25.)

“We mortals who now live upon this earth are in our second estate. Our very presence here in mortal bodies attests the fact that we ‘kept’ our first estate. Our spirit matter was eternal and co-existent with God, but it was organized into spirit bodies by our Heavenly Father. Our spirit bodies went through a long period of growth and development and training and, having passed the test successfully, were finally admitted to this earth and to mortality.” (Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 4–5.)

This “long period of growth and development” must surely have had a great influence on what man is now. For example, President Brigham Young pointed out that all men know there is a God even though some have forgotten that they know. He said:

“I want to tell you, each and every one of you, that you are well acquainted with God our Heavenly Father, or the great Elohim. You are all well acquainted with him, for there is not a soul of you but what has lived in his house and dwelt with him year after year; and yet you are seeking to become acquainted with him, when the fact is, you have merely forgotten what you did know.

“There is not a person here to-day but what is a son or a daughter of that Being.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 50.)

(2-3) How Old Is the Earth?

Even when it is realized that chapter 1 of Genesis does not describe the beginning of all things, or even the starting point of mankind, but only the beginning of this earth, it cannot be said definitively when that beginning was. In other words, the scriptures do not provide sufficient information to accurately determine the age of the earth. Generally speaking, those who accept the scriptural account subscribe to one of three basic theories about the age of the world. All three theories depend on how the word day, as used in the creation account, is interpreted.

The first theory says that the word day is understood as it is used currently and therefore means a period of 24 hours. According to this theory, the earth was created in one week, or 168 hours. Thus, the earth would be approximately six thousand years old. (Many scholars agree that there were approximately four thousand years from Adam to Christ and that there have been nearly two thousand years since Christ was born.) Very few people, either members of the Church or members of other religions, hold to this theory, since the evidence for longer processes involved in the Creation is substantial.

A second theory argues that Abraham was told through the Urim and Thummim that one revolution of Kolob, the star nearest to the throne of God, took one thousand earth years (see Abraham 3:2–4). In other words, one could say that one day of the Lord’s time equals one thousand earth years. Other scriptures support this theory, too (see Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8; Facsimile No. 2 from the book of Abraham, figures 1, 4). If the word day in Genesis was used in this sense, then the earth would be approximately thirteen thousand years old (seven days of a thousand years each for the Creation plus the nearly six thousand years since Adam’s fall). Some see Doctrine and Covenants 77:12 as additional scriptural support for this theory.

mural of newly-formed earth
Creation room in the Los Angeles Temple

Although the majority of geologists, astronomers, and other scientists believe that even this long period is not adequate to explain the physical evidence found in the earth, there are a small number of reputable scholars who disagree. These claim that the geologic clocks are misinterpreted and that tremendous catastrophes in the earth’s history speeded up the processes that normally may take thousands of years. They cite evidence supporting the idea that thirteen thousand years is not an unrealistic time period. Immanuel Velikovsky, for example, wrote three books amassing evidence that worldwide catastrophic upheavals have occurred in recent history, and he argued against uniformitarianism, the idea that the natural processes in evidence now have always prevailed at the same approximate rate of uniformity. These books are Worlds in Collision, Ages in Chaos, and Earth in Upheaval. Two Latter-day Saint scientists, Melvin A. Cook and M. Garfield Cook, have also advocated this theory in their book Science and Mormonism. A short summary of the Cooks’ approach can be found in Paul Cracroft’s article “How Old Is the Earth?” (Improvement Era, Oct. 1964, pp. 827–30, 852).

A third theory says that the word day refers to a period of an undetermined length of time, thus suggesting an era. The word is still used in that sense in such phrases as “in the day of the dinosaurs.” The Hebrew word for day used in the creation account can be translated as “day” in the literal sense, but it can also be used in the sense of an indeterminate length of time (see Genesis 40:4, where day is translated as “a season”; Judges 11:4, where a form of day is translated as “in the process of time”; see also Holladay, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, pp. 130–31). Abraham says that the Gods called the creation periods days (see Abraham 4:5, 8).

If this last meaning was the sense in which Moses used the word day, then the apparent conflict between the scriptures and much of the evidence seen by science as supporting a very old age for the earth is easily resolved. Each era or day of creation could have lasted for millions or even hundreds of millions of our years, and uniformitarianism could be accepted without any problem. (For an excellent discussion of this approach see Henry Eyring, “The Gospel and the Age of the Earth,” [Improvement Era, July 1965, pp. 608–9, 626, 628]. Also, most college textbooks in the natural sciences discuss the traditional dating of the earth.)

While it is interesting to note these various theories, officially the Church has not taken a stand on the age of the earth. For reasons best known to Himself, the Lord has not yet seen fit to formally reveal the details of the Creation. Therefore, while Latter-day Saints are commanded to learn truth from many different fields of study (see D&C 88:77–79), an attempt to establish any theory as the official position of the Church is not justifiable.

(2-4) Genesis 1:1. Who Created the Earth?

While the record indicates that God created the heavens and the earth, there is additional information as to exactly who that was. The Prophet Joseph said:

“I shall comment on the very first Hebrew word in the Bible; I will make a comment on the very first sentence of the history of creation in the Bible—Berosheit. I want to analyze the word. Baith—in, by, through, and everything else. Rosh—the head. Sheit—grammatical termination. When the inspired man wrote it, he did not put the baith there. An old Jew without any authority added the word; he thought it too bad to begin to talk about the head! It read first, ‘The head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods.’ That is the true meaning of the words. Baurau signifies to bring forth. If you do not believe it, you do not believe the learned man of God. Learned men can teach you no more than what I have told you. Thus the head God brought forth the Gods in the grand council.

“. . . The head God called together the Gods and sat in grand council to bring forth the world. The grand councilors sat at the head in yonder heavens and contemplated the creation of the worlds which were created at the time.” (Teachings, pp. 348–49.) The Abraham account of the Creation reflects this idea of the plurality of Gods (see Abraham 4).

Although it was the council of the Gods that supervised the Creation, numerous scriptures indicate that Jehovah, the premortal Jesus Christ, was actually given the responsibility for carrying out the work of the Creation, not for this earth alone but also for innumerable others. To Moses God explained: “And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten” (Moses 1:33; for an extensive list of other scriptures showing that Jesus is the Creator, see “Jesus Christ, Creator” in the Topical Guide).

Jehovah, or Christ, had the assistance of Michael in creating the earth. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained who Michael was:

“Our great prince, Michael, known in mortality as Adam, stands next to Christ in the eternal plan of salvation and progression. In pre-existence Michael was the most intelligent, powerful, and mighty spirit son of God, who was destined to come to this earth, excepting only the Firstborn, under whose direction and pursuant to whose counsel he worked. ‘He is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men.’ (Teachings, p. 157.) The name Michael apparently, and with propriety, means one ‘who is like God.’

“In the creation of the earth, Michael played a part second only to that of Christ.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., p. 491.)

Abraham records that in the midst of “many of the noble and great” premortal spirits was one “like unto God,” who said to them, “We will go down . . . and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (Abraham 3:22, 24; emphasis added). This passage suggests that others besides Adam may have assisted in the Creation. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

“It is true that Adam helped to form this earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong view or conviction that there were others also who assisted them. Perhaps Noah and Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed? [Abraham 3:2–4.]” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:74–75.)

(2-5) Genesis 1:1. What Does the Word Create Mean?

The Hebrew word translated as “created” means “shaped, fashioned, created; always divine activity” (Genesis 1:1c). The Prophet Joseph Smith explained:

“You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing: and they will answer, ‘Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?’ And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end.” (Teachings, pp. 350–52.)

(2-6) Genesis 1:2. Why Was the Spirit “Moving” upon the Earth Which Was “without Form and Void”?

“The earth, after it was organized and formed was, of course, not ‘without form and void,’ but rather as understood from the Hebrew and as read in the Abraham account, it was ‘empty and desolate.’ Indeed, at the point that the description of the preparation of the earth to be an habitable abode for man begins, it was enveloped in waters upon which the ‘Spirit of God’ moved or brooded. (The latter two words are both attempts to translate a Hebrew word which depicts that which a bird or hen does in incubating and guarding her eggs in the nest!)

“The creative force here called the ‘Spirit of God,’ which acts upon the elements to shape and prepare them to sustain life on earth can be the same as is termed in the Doctrine and Covenants in one context the ‘Light of Christ.’ (See D&C 88:7–13.) That that power was exerted by the Son, under the command of the Father, is evident also in such scriptures as John 1:1–4 and Hebrews 1:1–2. (See also the Book of Mormon, Helaman 12:8–14 and Jacob 4:6–9.)” (Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1:11.)

light divided from darkness
“And God divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:4).

(2-7) Genesis 1:6–8. What Is the “Firmament” and What Are the Two “Waters”?

The word translated as “firmament” in the King James Version of the Bible comes from the Hebrew word meaning to stretch or spread out. Many modern versions translate the word as expanse. (This word is used in Abraham 4:6–7.) The division of the waters under and above the firmament, or expanse, is explained simply as the natural phenomena of the earth.

“The waters under the firmament are the waters upon the globe itself; those above are not ethereal waters beyond the limits of the terrestrial atmosphere, but the waters which float in the atmosphere, and are separated by it from those upon the earth, the waters which accumulate in clouds, and then bursting these their bottles, pour down as rain upon the earth. . . . If, therefore, according to this conception, looking from an earthly point of view, the mass of water which flows upon the earth in showers of rain is shut up in heaven [cf. Genesis 8:2], it is evident that it must be regarded as above the vault which spans the earth, or, according to the words of [Psalm 148:4], ‘above the heavens.’” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 1:1:53–54.)

(2-8) Genesis 1:11–12, 21, 24–25

The basic principle of genetics was revealed in all three Creation accounts. In each account (Genesis 1; Moses 2; Abraham 4) the phrase “after his kind” is used several times. Abraham added emphasis in Abraham 4:11–12. Also, Abraham 4:31 seems to emphasize the immutability of the laws the Lord gave to this kingdom (see D&C 88:36–38, 42–43). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:

“God has made certain decrees which are fixed and immovable: for instance, God set the sun, the moon, and the stars in the heavens, and gave them their laws, conditions and bounds, which they cannot pass, except by His commandments; they all move in perfect harmony in their sphere and order, and are as lights, wonders and signs unto us. The sea also has its bounds which it cannot pass. God has set many signs on the earth, as well as in the heavens; for instance, the oak of the forest, the fruit of the tree, the herb of the field, all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there; for it is a decree of the Lord that every tree, plant, and herb bearing seed should bring forth of its kind, and cannot come forth after any other law or principle.” (Teachings, pp. 197–98.)

(2-9) Genesis 1:21

The word whales used in this verse translates the Hebrew word tannanim, which comes from the verb meaning “to stretch” and means “the long-stretched ones.” This word probably applied to other large sea animals or reptiles such as the dolphin, shark, and crocodile, besides the animal we actually call the whale. (See Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 1:1:60; Clarke, Bible Commentary, 1:37.)

(2-10) Genesis 1:26–27. “Let Us Make Man in Our Image”

President Brigham Young said:

“Man is made in the image of his maker, . . . he is His exact image, having eye for eye, forehead for forehead, eyebrows for eyebrows, nose for nose, cheekbones for cheekbones, mouth for mouth, chin for chin, ears for ears, precisely like our Father in heaven.” (In Ludlow, Latter-day Prophets Speak, p. 278.)

Though President Young spoke of man, this word applies to both male and female. Latter-day prophets have commented on the existence of a mother in heaven. The First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) stated this doctrine in 1909 in the following words: “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.” (In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:203.)

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, after quoting Genesis 1:26–27, also said, “Is it not feasible to believe that female spirits were created in the image of a ‘Mother in Heaven’?” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:144).

(2-11) What Was the Basis of Adam’s Dominion over the Earth?

“The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26, 27, 28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 157.)

(2-12) Genesis 1:28. What Does “Replenish” Mean?

“It is true that the original meaning of the word replenish connotes something is being filled again that was once filled before: Re—again, plenus—full. Why the translators of the King James Version of the Bible used the word replenish may not be clearly known, but it is not the word used in other translations and is not the correct meaning of the Hebrew word from which the translation was originally taken. It is true that the Prophet Joseph Smith followed the King James Version in the use of this word, perhaps because it had obtained common usage among the English-speaking peoples. Replenish, however, is incorrectly used in the King James translation. The Hebrew verb is Mole [pronounced Mah-lay] . . . meaning fill, to fill, or make full. This word Mole is the same word which is translated fill in Genesis 1:22, in the King James Bible, wherein reference is made to the fish, fowl, and beasts of the earth.” (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:208–9.)

(2-13) Genesis 1:27–28. “Man,” As Created by God, Refers to Male and Female

“‘And I, God said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man [not a separate man, but a complete man, which is husband and wife] in our image, after our likeness; and it was so.’ (Moses 2:26.) What a beautiful partnership! Adam and Eve were married for eternity by the Lord. Such a marriage extends beyond the grave. All peoples should call for this kind of marriage. . . .

“This is a partnership. Then when they had created them in the image of God, to them was given the eternal command, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it’ (Gen. 1:28), and as they completed this magnificent creation, they looked it over and pronounced it ‘good, very good’—something that isn’t to be improved upon by our modern intellectuals; the male to till the ground, support the family, to give proper leadership; the woman to cooperate, to bear the children, and to rear and teach them. It was ‘good, very good.’

“And that’s the way the Lord organized it. This wasn’t an experiment. He knew what he was doing.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Speaking Today,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, p. 71.)

(2-14) Genesis 1:28. “Be Fruitful and Multiply”

Knowing that the primary work of God is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39) and knowing that without a physical body man could not have a fulness of joy (see D&C 93:33–35) and knowing that coming to earth to prove oneself is a prerequisite to eternal progression (see Abraham 3:25), one could safely say that bringing children into the world is one of the high priorities in the Lord’s plan.

President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of the importance of having children:

“The first commandment recorded seems to have been ‘Multiply and replenish the earth.’ Let no one ever think that the command came to have children without marriage. No such suggestion could ever have foundation. . . .

“I have told many groups of young people that they should not postpone their marriage until they have acquired all of their education ambitions. I have told tens of thousands of young folks that when they marry they should not wait for children until they have finished their schooling and financial desires. Marriage is basically for the family, and when people have found their proper companions there should be no long delay. They should live together normally and let the children come.

“There seems to be a growing feeling that marriage is for legal sex, for sex’s sake. Marriage is basically for the family; that is why we marry—not for the satisfaction of the sex, as the world around us would have us believe. When people have found their companions, there should be no long delay. Young wives should be occupied in bearing and rearing their children. I know of no scriptures where an authorization is given to young wives to withhold their families and to go to work to put their husbands through school. There are thousands of husbands who have worked their own way through school and have reared families at the same time. Though it is more difficult, young people can make their way through their educational programs.” (“Marriage is Honorable,” in Speeches of the Year, 1973, pp. 262–63.)

(2-15) Genesis 2:5. Is the Genesis Account a Record of the Spiritual Creation?

“The account of creation in Genesis was not a spirit creation, but it was in a particular sense, a spiritual creation. This, of course, needs some explanation. The account in Genesis, chapters one and two, is the account of the creation of the physical earth. The account of the placing of all life upon the earth, up and until the fall of Adam, is an account, in a sense, of the spiritual creation of all of these, but it was also a physical creation. When the Lord said he would create Adam, he had no reference to the creation of his spirit for that had taken place ages and ages before when he was in the world of spirits and known as Michael. [Moses 2:26–28; Genesis 1:26–28.]

“Adam’s body was created from the dust of the earth, but at that time it was a spiritual earth. Adam had a spiritual body until mortality came upon him through the violation of the law under which he was living, but he also had a physical body of flesh and bones.

“. . . Now what is a spiritual body? It is one that is quickened by spirit and not by blood. . . . After the fall, which came by a transgression of the law under which Adam was living, the forbidden fruit had the power to create blood and change his nature and mortality took the place of immortality, and all things, partaking of the change, became mortal. Now I repeat, the account in Genesis one and two, is the account of the physical creation of the earth and all upon it, but the creation was not subject to mortal law until after the fall. It was, therefore, a spiritual creation and so remained until the fall when it became temporal, or mortal. [D&C 77:6.]” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:76–77.)

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

(2-16) Genesis 2:7. Adam Was the “First Flesh” upon the Earth

Moses 3:7 adds a significant phrase to Genesis 2:7: “And man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also.” President Joseph Fielding Smith explained what was meant by the term flesh.

“So, Adam was the first man upon the earth, according to the Lord’s statement, and the first flesh also. That needs a little explanation.

“Adam did not come to this earth until it was prepared for him. The animals were here. Plants were here. The Lord did not bring him here to a desolate world, and then bring other creatures. It was all prepared for him, just according to the order that is written in our scriptures, and when it was all ready for Adam he was placed upon the earth.

“Then what is meant by the ‘first flesh’? It is simple when you understand it. Adam was the first of all creatures to fall and become flesh, and flesh in this sense means mortality, and all through our scriptures the Lord speaks of this life as flesh, while we are here in the flesh, so Adam became the first flesh. There was no other mortal creature before him, and there was no mortal death until he brought it, and the scriptures tell you that. It is here written, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Seek Ye Earnestly, pp. 280–81.)

animals in garden
God made the animals.

(2-17) Genesis 2:8. Where Was the Garden of Eden?

“In accord with the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we teach that the Garden of Eden was on the American continent located where the City Zion, or the New Jerusalem, will be built [see D&C 116; History of the Church, 3:35–36; Dyer, The Refiner’s Fire, pp. 17–18]. When Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden, they eventually dwelt at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman, situated in what is now Daviess County, Missouri. Three years before the death of Adam he called the righteous of his posterity at this place and blessed them, and it is at this place where Adam, or Michael, will sit as we read in the 7th chapter of Daniel. [Daniel 7:9–14, 21–22, 26–27.]” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:74.)

The Flood and subsequent cataclysms drastically changed the topography and geography of the earth. The descendants of Noah evidently named some rivers, and perhaps other landmarks, after places they had known before the Flood. This theory would explain why rivers in Mesopotamia now bear the names of rivers originally on the American continent. It is also possible that some present river systems are remnants of the antediluvian river systems on the one great continent that existed then.


(2-18) In Genesis and the parallel accounts in Moses and Abraham is a brief record of the creation of the earth and of man who would dwell on it. It is a simple and straightforward account. Although we are not told exactly how the Lord brought about the creative processes, we are taught several essential concepts:

First, God, the Father of all men, instituted the creation of this world as a place for men to come to mortality and progress toward their eternal destiny.

Second, man is the offspring of deity.

Third, the world was not created by chance forces or random accident.

Fourth, Adam was the first man and the first flesh on the earth (see Reading 2-16 for a definition of “first flesh” [Moses 3:7]).

Fifth, Adam fell from a state of innocence and immortality, and his fall affected all life upon the earth as well as the earth itself.

Sixth, the Atonement of Jesus Christ was planned before the world was ever created so that men could come to a fallen earth, overcome death and their sins, and return to live with God.

In the world another theory of how things began is popularly held and widely taught. This theory, that of organic evolution, was generally developed from the writings of Charles Darwin. It puts forth different ideas concerning how life began and where man came from. In relation to this theory, the following statements should help you understand what the Church teaches about the Creation and the origin of man.

“It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was ‘the first man of all men’ (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race. It was shown to the brother of Jared that all men were created in the beginning after the image of God; and whether we take this to mean the spirit or the body, or both, it commits us to the same conclusion: Man began life as a human being, in the likeness of our heavenly Father.” (First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund], in Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:205.)

“Any theory that leaves out God as a personal, purposeful Being, and accepts chance as a first cause, cannot be accepted by Latter-day Saints. . . . That man and the whole of creation came by chance is unthinkable. It is equally unthinkable that if man came into being by the will and power of God, the divine creative power is limited to one process dimly sensed by mortal man.” (Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, 1:155.)

“I am grateful that in the midst of the confusion of our Father’s children there has been given to the members of this great organization a sure knowledge of the origin of man, that we came from the spirit world where our spirits were begotten by our Father in heaven, that he formed our first parents from the dust of the earth, and that their spirits were placed in their bodies, and that man came, not as some have believed, not as some have preferred to believe, from some of the lower walks of life, but our ancestors were those beings who lived in the courts of heaven. We came not from some menial order of life, but our ancestor is God our heavenly Father.” (George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1925, p. 33.)

“Of course, I think those people who hold to the view that man has come up through all these ages from the scum of the sea through billions of years do not believe in Adam. Honestly I do not know how they can, and I am going to show you that they do not. There are some who attempt to do it but they are inconsistent—absolutely inconsistent, because that doctrine is so incompatible, so utterly out of harmony, with the revelations of the Lord that a man just cannot believe in both.

“. . . I say most emphatically, you cannot believe in this theory of the origin of man, and at the same time accept the plan of salvation as set forth by the Lord our God. You must choose the one and reject the other, for they are in direct conflict and there is a gulf separating them which is so great that it cannot be bridged, no matter how much one may try to do so. . . .

“. . . Then Adam, and by that I mean the first man, was not capable of sin. He could not transgress, and by doing so bring death into the world; for, according to this theory, death had always been in the world. If, therefore, there was no fall, there was no need of an atonement, hence the coming into the world of the Son of God as the Savior of the world is a contradiction, a thing impossible. Are you prepared to believe such a thing as that?” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:141–42.)

(2-19) But what of the scientific evidence that supposedly contradicts these statements? Isn’t the evidence that all life evolved from a common source overwhelming? Harold G. Coffin, Professor of Paleontology and Research at the Geoscience Research Institute, Andrews University in Michigan, presented one scientist’s view of how life began. The following excerpts are from a pamphlet on the Creation written by Dr. Coffin.

“The time has come for a fresh look at the evidence Charles Darwin used to support his evolutionary theory, along with the great mass of new scientific information. Those who have the courage to penetrate through the haze of assumptions which surrounds the question of the origin of life will discover that science presents substantial evidence that creation best explains the origin of life. Four considerations lead to this conclusion.

“1. Life is unique.

“2. Complex animals appeared suddenly.

“3. Change in the past has been limited.

“4. Change in the present is limited.

“Anyone interested in truth must seriously consider these points. The challenge they present to the theory of evolution has led many intelligent and honest men of science now living to reevaluate their beliefs about the origin of life.” (Coffin, Creation: The Evidence from Science, p. [1].)

President Joseph F. Smith and Counsellors
The First Presidency (1901–1910): John R. Winder, President Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund

Life Is Unique

“Scientist Homer Jacobson reports in American Scientist, January, 1955, ‘From the probability standpoint, the ordering of the present environment into a single amino acid molecule would be utterly improbable in all the time and space available for the origin of terrestrial life.’

“How much organic soup, the material some point to as the source of the first spark of life, would be needed for the chance production of a simple protein? Jacobson answers this question also: ‘Only the very simplest of these proteins (salmine) could possibly arise, even if the earth were blanketed with a thickness of half a mile of amino acids for a billion years! And by no stretch of the imagination does it seem as though the present environment could give even one molecule of amino acid, let alone be able to order by accident this molecule into a protoplasmic array of self-reproducing, metabolizing parts fitting into an organism.’ [Homer Jacobson, “Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life,” American Scientist, Jan. 1955, p. 125.]

“Another scientist, impressed with the odds against the chance formation of proteins, has expressed his opinion as follows: ‘The chance that these five elements [carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur] may come together to form the molecule, the quantity of matter that must be continually shaken up, and the length of time necessary to finish the task, can all be calculated. A Swiss mathematician, Charles Eugene Guye, has made the computation and finds that the odds against such an occurrence are 10160 to 1, or only one chance in 10160; that is, 10 multiplied by itself 160 times, a number far too large to be expressed in words. The amount of matter to be shaken together to produce a single molecule of protein would be millions of times greater than that in the whole universe. For it to occur on the earth alone would require many, almost endless billions (10243) of years.’ [Frank Allen, “The Origin of the World—by Chance or Design?” in John Clover Monsma, ed., The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, p. 23.]” (Coffin, Creation, pp. [3–4].)

Complex Animals Appeared Suddenly

“In 1910, Charles Walcott, while riding horseback across the Canadian Rockies, stumbled onto a most interesting find of sea fossils. This site has provided the most complete collection of Cambrian fossils known. Walcott found soft-bodied animals preserved in the very fine-grained mud. Many different worms, shrimp, and crablike creatures left impressions in the now hardened shale. The impressions include even some of the internal parts such as intestines and stomachs. The creatures are covered with bristles, spines, and appendages, including marvelous detail of the structures so characteristic of worms and crustaceans.

“By examining the visible hard parts of these fossils it is possible to learn much about these animals. Their eyes and feelers indicate that they had a good nervous system. Their gills show that they extracted oxygen from the water. For oxygen to have moved around their bodies they must have had blood systems.

“Some of these animals grew by molting, like a grasshopper. This is a complicated process that biologists are still trying to understand. They had very intricate mouthparts to strain special kinds of foods out of the water. There was nothing simple or primitive about these creatures. They would compare well with any modern worms or crabs. Yet they are found in the oldest rocks that contain any significant number of fossils. Where are their ancestors? . . .

“What you have read so far is not new. This problem has been known at least since the time of Charles Darwin. If progressive evolution from simple to complex is correct, the ancestors to these full-blown living creatures in the Cambrian should be found; but they have not been found. . . .

“On the basis of the facts alone, on the basis of what is actually found in the earth, the theory of a sudden creative act in which the major forms of life were established fits best.” (Coffin, Creation, pp. [5–6].)

Basic Kinds of Animals Have Not Changed

“Scientists who study fossils have discovered another interesting piece of information. Not only did complicated animals appear suddenly in the lower Cambrian rocks, but the basic forms of animals have not changed much since then. . . . To put it more plainly, this is the problem of the missing links. It is not a case of one missing link. It is not even a case of many missing links. Evolutionists are confronted with the problem of whole sections of the chain of life missing. . . .

“G. G. Simpson, quite aware of this problem also, says, ‘It is a feature of the known fossil record that most taxa appear abruptly. They are not, as a rule, led up to by a sequence of almost imperceptible changing forerunners such as Darwin believed should be usual in evolution.’ [The Evolution of Life, p. 149.]

“Thus we see that not only is the sudden appearance of complete and intricate animals a problem for evolution, but the absence of change from one major type into another is equally serious. Again we can say that this is no new problem. Soon after collectors started accumulating fossils, it became obvious that fossils belong in the same major categories as do modern animals and plants. A number of scientists have commented in recent years about the lack of change and the absence of connecting links for specific kinds of animals. . . .

“Every high school student has seen pictures, perhaps in his own biology textbook, of a scantily clad and hairy Neanderthal man with low-slung neck, stooped shoulder, bowed legs, and bestial appearance. Such pictures grew out of the original description of Neanderthal man given by the Frenchman Boule in 1911–1913. [Marcellin Boule, Fossil Men.] The picture has passed unchanged from book to book, year to year, for nearly sixty years. But Boule based his description originally upon one skeleton whose bones have recently been shown to be badly deformed by a severe case of arthritis.

“William Straus and A. J. E. Cave, the two scientists who discovered this situation, declared, ‘There is thus no valid reason for the assumption that the posture of Neanderthal man of the fourth glacial period differed significantly from that of present-day men. . . . Notwithstanding, if he could be reincarnated and placed in a New York subway—provided that he were bathed, shaved, and dressed in modern clothing—it is doubtful whether he would attract any more attention than some of its other denizens.’ [William L. Straus, Jr., and A. J. E. Cave, “Pathology and the Posture of Neanderthal Man,” Quarterly Review of Biology, Dec. 1957, pp. 358–59.] That was written some years ago. Neanderthal man might attract less attention today if he were not shaved!” (Coffin, Creation, pp. [6, 10].)

Change in the Present Is Limited

“On a television panel celebrating the centennial of Charles Darwin’s book Origin of Species, Sir Julian Huxley began his comments by saying, ‘The first point to make about Darwin’s theory is that it is no longer a theory, but a fact. No serious scientist would deny the fact that evolution has occurred, just as he would not deny the fact that the earth goes around the sun.’ [Sol Tax and Charles Callender, eds., Issues in Evolution, p. 41.] This is a confusing statement that tells only part of the truth. First, the word evolution must be defined.

“The word itself merely means ‘change,’ and on the basis of this definition, evolution is a fact. However, most people understand evolution to mean progressive change in time from simplicity to complexity, from primitive to advanced. This definition of evolution is not based on fact. The study of inheritance has revealed principles and facts that can prove evolution—if we understand the word evolution to mean ‘change.’ But the obvious minor changes occurring to living things today give no basis for concluding that limitless change has happened in the past. . . .

“Yes, new species of plants and animals are forming today. The almost endless intergradations of animals and plants in the world, the fantastic degeneration among parasites, and the adaptations of offense and defense, lead to the inevitable conclusion that change has occurred. However, the problem of major changes from one fundamental kind to another is still a most pressing unanswered question facing the evolutionist. Modern animals and plants can change, but the amount of change is limited. The laboratories of science have been unable to demonstrate change from one major kind to another, neither has such change happened in the past history of the earth if we take the fossil record at face value.” (Coffin, Creation, pp. [13, 15].)


“Constant exposure to one theory of origins, and only one, has convinced many that no alternative exists and that evolution must be the full and complete answer. How unfortunate that most of the millions who pass through the educational process have little opportunity to weigh the evidences on both sides!

“Examinations of the fossils, stony records of the past, tell us that complicated living things suddenly (without warning, so to speak) began to exist on the earth. Furthermore, time has not modified them enough to change their basic relationships to each other. Modern living organisms tell us that change is a feature of life and time, but they also tell us that there are limits beyond which they do not pass naturally and beyond which man has been unable to force them. In consideration of past or present living things, man must never forget that he is dealing with life, a profoundly unique force which he has not been able to create and which he is trying desperately to understand.

“Here are the facts; here are the evidences; here, then, are the sound reasons for believing life originated through a creative act. It is time that each individual has the opportunity to know the facts and to make an intelligent choice.” (Coffin, Creation, p. [15].)

Genesis 3
The Fall

Adam and Eve at altar

(3-1) Introduction

Perhaps no other biblical account has been debated more and understood less than that relating to Adam and Eve. Elder Mark E. Petersen wrote:

“Adam, the first man, is a controversial figure in the minds of many people. So is Eve, his wife. Together, they probably are the most misunderstood couple who ever lived on the earth.

“This is hardly to be wondered at, though. Misconceptions and far-out theories have been bombarding the public concerning our first parents for centuries past. Probably the most to blame are teachers of religion themselves. Not knowing the facts about Adam and Eve, they have foisted their own private notions and uninspired creeds upon the people, with the result that a mass of confusion has mounted year after year.” (Adam: Who Is He? p. 1.)

One reason the accounts of the Creation and the Fall are misunderstood and misinterpreted is the willful removal of plain and precious things from the Old Testament (see 1 Nephi 13:25–29). Members of the Church have much of what was lost, which was restored in the books of Moses and Abraham, but the world has only the Genesis account in the present Old Testament, which treats the Fall as an event but does not discuss the doctrine of the Fall. In other words, the reasons why the Fall came about and what it meant for mankind are not discussed in the Old Testament the world has today. Some light is shed on this matter in the New Testament, but it is limited. Actually, the doctrine of the Fall is taught most clearly in the Book of Mormon. Thus, it is not surprising that the world should have misconceptions about the Fall when they do not have latter-day scripture to help them. The purpose of the events discussed in Genesis 3 was summed up by Lehi when he taught, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Let’s thank the Lord, when we pray, for Adam. If it hadn’t been for Adam, I wouldn’t be here; you wouldn’t be here; we would be waiting in the heavens as spirits. . . .

“We are in the mortal life to get an experience, a training, that we couldn’t get any other way. And in order to become gods, it is necessary for us to know something about pain, about sickness, and about the other things that we partake of in this school of mortality.

“So don’t let us, brethren and sisters, complain about Adam and wish he hadn’t done something that he did. I want to thank him. I am glad to have the privilege of being here and going through mortality, and if I will be true and faithful to the covenants and obligations that are upon me as a member of the Church and in the kingdom of God, I may have the privilege of coming back into the presence of the Eternal Father; and that will come to you as it will to me, sons and daughters of God, entitled to the fullness of celestial glory.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1967, p. 122.)

Instructions to Students

1. Use Notes and Commentary below to help you as you read and study Genesis 3.

2. Moses 3–4 contains valuable insights and additions not found in Genesis. Although this parallel account in Moses is studied in detail in the Pearl of Great Price course (Rel. 327), these chapters should be read and studied in connection with the Genesis account. Also, Enoch gives important insights into why the Fall came about. Read also Moses 5:4–12; 6:45–62.

3. Complete Points to Ponder as directed by your teacher. (Individual study students should complete all of this section.)


(3-2) Genesis 3. The Fall of Man

Before reading the account of the Fall, consider the following basic principles or doctrines outlined by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith concerning Adam and Eve and the Fall of man.

“When Adam and Eve were placed in Eden they were not subject to the power of death and could have lived, in the state of innocence in which they were, forever had they not violated the law given them in the Garden.

“The earth also was pronounced good, and would have remained in that same state forever had it not been changed to meet Adam’s fallen condition.

“All things on the face of the earth also would have remained in that same condition, had not Adam transgressed the law.

“By partaking of the forbidden fruit, and thus violating the law under which he was placed, his nature was changed, and he became subject to (1) spiritual death, which is banishment from the presence of God; (2) temporal death, which is separation of spirit and body. This death also came to Eve his wife.

“Had Adam and Eve not transgressed the law given in Eden, they would have had no children.

“Because of this transgression bringing mortality, the children of Adam and Eve inherited mortal bodies and became subject to the mortal death.

Adam and Eve with animals in garden
“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man” (Genesis 2:8).

“Because Adam transgressed the law, the Lord changed the earth to suit the mortal condition and all things on the face of the earth became subject to mortality, as did the earth also.

“To defeat the power which death had gained it became necessary that an infinite atonement be offered to pay the debt and thereby restore Adam and Eve and all of their posterity, and all things, to immortal life through the resurrection.” (Man, His Origin and Destiny, pp. 50–51.)

(3-3) Genesis 3:1. The Serpent Was More Subtle Than Any Other Beast of the Field

In the Genesis account the serpent speaks to Eve and tempts her to partake of the fruit. The more complete account in the book of Moses points out that Satan is the one speaking, although he does so through the serpent (see Moses 4:6–7). Also, Satan is symbolized elsewhere by the image of a serpent (see Revelation 12:9; D&C 76:28; 84:72; 88:110).

(3-4) Genesis 3:3. Adam and Eve Were Not Mortal in the Garden and Did Not Fully Comprehend Good and Evil

“Adam’s status before the fall was:

“1. He was not subject to death.

“2. He was in the presence of God. . . .

“3. He had no posterity.

“4. He was without knowledge of good and evil. He had knowledge, of course. He could speak. He could converse. There were many things he could be taught and was taught; but under the conditions in which he was living at that time it was impossible for him to visualize or understand the power of good and evil. He did not know what pain was. He did not know what sorrow was; and a thousand other things that have come to us in this life that Adam did not know in the Garden of Eden and could not understand and would not have known had he remained there. That was his status before the fall.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:107–8.)

(3-5) Genesis 3:4–5. Ye Shall Be As Gods

“The devil in tempting Eve told a truth when he said unto her that when she should eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they should become as Gods. He told the truth in telling that, but he accompanied it with a lie as he always does. He never tells the complete truth. He said that they should not die. The Father had said that they should die. The devil had to tell a lie in order to accomplish his purposes; but there was some truth in his statement. Their eyes were opened. They had a knowledge of good and evil just as the Gods have. They became as Gods; for that is one of the features, one of the peculiar attributes of those who attain unto that glory—they understand the difference between good and evil.” (Cannon, Gospel Truth, 1:16.)

(3-6) Genesis 3:6. Why Did Adam and Eve Partake of the Fruit?

The accounts in both Moses and Genesis state only that Satan approached Eve, but latter-day revelation records that he first approached Adam and was refused. Eve, however, was deceived by Satan and partook. Knowing that she would be driven out and separated from him, Adam then partook. Paul the Apostle wrote of the Fall, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14).

Elder James E. Talmage explained how, even in her being deceived, Eve still brought about the purposes of the Lord:

“Eve was fulfilling the foreseen purposes of God by the part she took in the great drama of the fall; yet she did not partake of the forbidden fruit with that object in view, but with intent to act contrary to the divine command, being deceived by the sophistries of Satan, who also, for that matter, furthered the purposes of the Creator by tempting Eve; yet his design was to thwart the Lord’s plan. We are definitely told that ‘he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world’ [Moses 4:6]. Yet his diabolical effort, far from being the initiatory step toward destruction, contributed to the plan of man’s eternal progression. Adam’s part in the great event was essentially different from that of his wife; he was not deceived; on the contrary he deliberately decided to do as Eve desired, that he might carry out the purposes of his Maker with respect to the race of men, whose first patriarch he was ordained to be.” (Articles of Faith, pp. 69–70.)

Brigham Young said that “we should never blame Mother Eve,” because through her transgression, and Adam’s joining her in it, mankind was enabled to come to know good from evil (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 103; see also Reading 3-12 for a discussion of the greatness of Eve).

tree in garden
“And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree” (Genesis 2:9).

(3-7) Genesis 3:6–7. The Transgression of Adam and Eve Did Not Involve an Offense against the Laws of Chastity and Virtue

Speaking of the transgression of Adam and Eve, Elder James E. Talmage said:

“I take this occasion to raise my voice against the false interpretation of scripture, which has been adopted by certain people, and is current in their minds, and is referred to in a hushed and half-secret way, that the fall of man consisted in some offense against the laws of chastity and of virtue. Such a doctrine is an abomination. . . . The human race is not born of fornication. These bodies that are given unto us are given in the way that God has provided. . . .

“Our first parents were pure and noble, and when we pass behind the veil we shall perhaps learn something of their high estate.” (Jesus the Christ, p. 30.)

(3-8) Genesis 3:15. What Is the Meaning of the Curse Put on Satan?

Since Satan has no body and therefore can have no literal children, his seed are those who follow him, both the one-third he led away in the premortal existence and those who follow his enticements in mortality until they come under his power. The seed of the woman refers to Jesus Christ, who was the only mortal born of an earthly mother and a Heavenly Father.

President Joseph Fielding Smith referred to what the Apostle Paul wrote:

“Near the close of his epistle to the Roman saints, he said: ‘And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.’ [Romans 16:20.]

“The ‘God of peace,’ who according to the scriptures is to bruise Satan, is Jesus Christ.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:3.)

The promise concerning the bruising of the heel and head means that while Satan (as the serpent) will bruise the heel of the Savior by leading men to crucify Him and seemingly destroy Him, in actuality that very act of Atonement will give Christ the power to overcome the power that Satan has over men and undo the effects of the Fall. Thus, the seed of the woman (Christ) shall crush the head of the serpent (Satan and his kingdom) with the very heel that was bruised (the atoning sacrifice).

(3-9) Genesis 3:16. What Is the Significance of the Pronouncement upon Eve?

“The Lord said to the woman: ‘. . . in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.’ I wonder if those who translated the Bible might have used the term distress instead of sorrow. It would mean much the same, except I think there is great gladness in most Latter-day Saint homes when there is to be a child there. As He concludes this statement he says, ‘and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’ (Gen. 3:16.) I have a question about the word rule. It gives the wrong impression. I would prefer to use the word preside because that’s what he does. A righteous husband presides over his wife and family.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, p. 72.)

Adam, Eve, and children
Adam and Eve made all things known unto their sons and daughters.

(3-10) Genesis 3:16–19. Were Adam and Eve “Punished” for Their Transgression?

“We can picture the plight of Adam and Eve. They had been condemned to sorrows, woes, troubles, and labor and they were cast out from the presence of God, and death had been declared to be their fate. A pathetic picture, indeed. But now a most important thing happened. Adam and Eve had explained to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. What would be their reaction? When the Lord explained this to them, that a redemption should come through Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, Adam exclaimed: ‘Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh shall I see God.’ (Moses 5:10.)

“And what was the response of Eve, his wife? She ‘heard all of these things, and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and . . . eternal life.’ (Ibid., 5:11.)

“There is the key to the question of evil. If we cannot be good, except as we resist and overcome evil, then evil must be present to be resisted.

“So this earth life is set up according to true principles, and these conditions that followed the transgression were not, in the usual sense, penalties that were inflicted upon us. All these that I have named to you that seem to be sad inflictions of punishment, sorrow, and trouble are in the end not that. They are blessings. We have attained a knowledge of good and evil, the power to prize the sweet, to become agents unto ourselves, the power to obtain redemption and eternal life. These things had their origin in this transgression. The Lord has set the earth up so we have to labor if we are going to live, which preserves us from the curse of idleness and indolence; and though the Lord condemns us to death—mortal death—it is one of the greatest blessings that comes to us here because it is the doorway to immortality, and we can never attain immortality without dying.” (George Q. Morris, in Conference Report, Apr. 1958, p. 39.)

(3-11) Genesis 3:19. The Fall of Adam Introduced Two Kinds of Death into the World

“Because of Adam’s transgression, a spiritual death—banishment from the presence of the Lord—as well as the temporal death, were pronounced upon him. The spiritual death came at the time of the fall and banishment; and the seeds of the temporal death were also sown at that same time; that is, a physical change came over Adam and Eve, who became mortal, and were thus subject to the ills of the flesh which resulted in their gradual decline to old age and finally the separation of the spirit from the body.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:111; for further information on the principle that spiritual death also resulted from the Fall, see D&C 29:40–41; Alma 42:7.)

Many people of the world teach that physical death has always been here and therefore could not have begun with Adam and Eve. President Joseph Fielding Smith commented regarding this idea:

“Modern education declares that there never was such a thing as the fall of man, but that conditions have always gone on in the same way as now in this mortal world. Here, say they, death and mutation have always held sway as natural conditions on this earth and everywhere throughout the universe the same laws obtain. It is declared that man has made his ascent to the exalted place he now occupies through countless ages of development which has gradually distinguished him from lower forms of life.

“Such a doctrine of necessity discards the story of Adam and the Garden of Eden, which it looks upon as a myth coming down to us from an early age of foolish ignorance and superstition. Moreover, it is taught that since death was always here, and a natural condition prevailing throughout all space, there could not possibly come a redemption from Adam’s transgression, hence there was no need for a Savior for a fallen world.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:315.)

Adam and Eve cast out
Adam and Eve were cast out of God’s presence.

(3-12) Genesis 3:20. “She Was the Mother of All Living”

“Scant knowledge is available to us of Eve (the wife of Adam) and her achievements in pre-existence and in mortality. Without question she was like unto her mighty husband, Adam, in intelligence and in devotion to righteousness, during both her first and second estates of existence. She was placed on earth in the same manner as was Adam, the Mosaic account of the Lord creating her from Adam’s rib being merely figurative. (Moses 3:20–25.)

“Eve was the first woman; she became the mother of the whole human race, her very name signifying ‘mother of all living.’ (Moses 4:26; 1 Ne. 5:11.) . . .

“Before the fall Eve was sealed to Adam in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, a ceremony performed by the Lord before death entered the world and therefore one destined to last forever. (Moses 3:20–25.) . . .

“. . . Indeed, Eve is a joint-participant with Adam in all his ministry, and will inherit jointly with him all the blessings appertaining to his high state of exaltation.” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 242.)

(3-13) Genesis 3:24. Cherubim and the Flaming Sword

For an explanation of why the Lord barred Adam and Eve from the tree of life, read Alma 12:21–27; 42:2–12.


(3-14) Perhaps you have wondered about things which are the result of the Fall. Why should you be born into a world filled with both good and evil? Why is there suffering in the world? Why do all men have to die? What about the spiritual death and its effects? These and many other problems are directly related to the Fall. On a separate sheet of paper answer the following questions after carefully reading the scriptures given.

1. What was Satan’s intent in tempting Eve to partake of the fruit?

Read Moses 4:6–12.

2. How does Doctrine and Covenants 10:43 apply in this case? Was Satan successful? (See also the statement by Elder Talmage in Reading 3-6.)

3. What positive effects resulted immediately from the Fall?

Read 2 Nephi 2:19–23.

4. What did Adam and Eve say about the Fall once they were taught the plan of salvation?

Read Moses 5:10–11.

5. Do the effects of the Fall affect all men?

Read Alma 42:9.

6. If the plan of salvation, through which Christ atoned for Adam’s transgression as well as our own, had not been brought about, what would have been the result for all men?

Read Alma 12:21–27; 42:2–5.

7. What then is the purpose of mortality?

Read Alma 12:21–27; 42:2–5.

(3-15) How do you now feel about the Fall? Can you see how a correct understanding of the Fall gives purpose and meaning to mortality? Lehi said, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Each of us is a spirit child of God. This earth was organized as a place for us to continue our learning and progression. Adam and Eve opened the door to mortality for us and for all of God’s children who earned the right to come here. In the premortal life we shouted for joy at the possibility of experiencing mortality (see Job 38:7). But once we come here great things are expected of us. Mortality is a proving ground. The Fall did not open to us the door to Eden; it opened the door to a knowledge of both good and evil. The experience of mortality is a great blessing for each of us.

Enrichment Section
Who Is the God of the Old Testament?

the Christus statue

(A-1) Who Is the Lord?

The hardhearted pharaoh, impudent and proud, asked, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice . . . ? I know not the Lord” (Exodus 5:2). Many people today are just as ignorant of the God of the Old Testament as the pharaoh was. They regard Him as a being created by the minds of the ancients, a God of wrath and low religion who would destroy people with floods and plagues. Could this be the same God as the being of love in the New Testament revealed through the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ? Others contend that the Jehovah of Old Testament times was the same as God the Father in the New Testament. Why all this confusion? Who, really, was the God of Adam, of Enoch and Abraham, of Israel and Moses?

(A-2) Jehovah, or Christ, Is the God of the Old Testament

Although for many it seems a paradox, Jehovah of the Old Testament was none other than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He created the world under the authority and direction of God the Father. Later, Jehovah came to earth as the Savior and Redeemer of the world. This truth is one of the most misunderstood doctrines in the history of the world, despite the fact that the Old Testament and the other standard works are filled with evidence to support it.

Before looking at the scriptural evidence, it may be wise first to better understand the names and titles for God the Father and His Only Begotten Son. Generally, two Hebrew words for God are used throughout the Old Testament. These are Elohim and Jehovah, as it is presently pronounced. (Since the original Hebrew was written without vowels, scholars disagree on the original pronunciation of the name written YHWH in Hebrew. In modern revelation, however, Jesus accepted the title Jehovah [see D&C 110:3].)

Jehovah was the premortal name-title given to the Firstborn Son of God. He is now referred to as Jesus Christ. The meaning of the name Jehovah was explained by Elder Talmage:

Jehovah is the Anglicized rendering of the Hebrew, Yahveh or Jahveh, signifying the Self-existent One, or The Eternal. This name is generally rendered in our English version of the Old Testament as LORD printed in capitals. The Hebrew, Ehyeh, signifying I Am, is related in meaning and through derivation with the term Yahveh or Jehovah.” (Jesus the Christ, p. 36.)

The Jews regarded the name of Jehovah as so sacred that it could not be spoken. Instead, they substituted for Jehovah the word Adonai, which signifies “the Lord.” (See Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 37.) The King James translators followed the same practice out of respect for the Jewish custom. Sometimes the word lord, however, is used to refer not to God but to royalty or other important people. To distinguish the sacred name from common usage, the translators capitalized lord when it referred to Jehovah and left it in lower case letters otherwise. (See 2 Samuel 15:21 for an example of both uses of the word lord.)

The word Elohim is a plural form of the Hebrew word for God, although modern scholars agree that it should be taken as a singular noun even though the im ending is a plural form. Joseph Smith, however, indicated the significance of the plural form:

“If we pursue the Hebrew text further, it reads, . . . ‘The head one of the Gods said, Let us make a man in our own image.’ I once asked a learned Jew, ‘If the Hebrew language compels us to render all words ending in heim in the plural, why not render the first Eloheim plural?’ He replied, ‘That is the rule with few exceptions; but in this case it would ruin the Bible.’ He acknowledged I was right.

“In the very beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation. It is a great subject I am dwelling on. The word Eloheim ought to be in the plural all the way through—Gods. The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us; and when you take [that] view of the subject, it sets one free to see all the beauty, holiness and perfection of the Gods.” (Teachings, p. 372.)

Elder James E. Talmage explained the special significance Elohim has for Latter-day Saints:

“The name Elohim . . . is expressive of supreme or absolute exaltation and power. Elohim, as understood and used in the restored Church of Jesus Christ, is the name-title of God the Eternal Father, whose firstborn Son in the spirit is Jehovah—the Only Begotten in the flesh, Jesus Christ.” (Jesus the Christ, p. 38.)

It is vital to remember the place of God the Father: He is the Father of our spirits (see Hebrews 12:9) and is our God. The existence of other Gods cannot alter that fact. He is the author and sponsor of the eternal plan of salvation. It is equally essential to note, however, that the agent by whom He administers His affairs on this earth is His Firstborn Son, known as Jehovah in the Old Testament. He gave Jesus the full “Fatherly” authority to organize and govern the earth, then through the Atonement Jesus became the Father of the faithful. The Savior thus became the chief advocate of the Father’s plan.

Because Jesus is one with God and is also God, the Old Testament prophets sometimes referred to Him as “Jehovah Elohim,” which the King James translators rendered “LORD God.” To avoid awkward repetition, “Lord GOD” was used to translate the Hebrew phrase “Adonai Jehovah,” which otherwise would translate as “Lord LORD” (see Genesis 15:2, 8; Deuteronomy 3:24). Thus, in the King James Version of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for Jehovah is almost always translated just this way: LORD or GOD.

One other name or title of Jesus needs explanation. He is known as Jesus the Christ. The word Christ comes from the Greek word christos, which means “the anointed one.” The Greeks used the title Christos to translate the Hebrew word meshiach, which means “the anointed one.” The Hebrew word has been anglicized into messiah. Jesus the Christ means “Jesus the Messiah.”

(A-3) Jesus Christ: The God of This World

There was confusion in the minds of the later Jews, Jesus’ own people, regarding the identity of their God because they no longer understood their own scriptures. That is likewise the problem today with most of the Christian world. The mystery of understanding the identity of the God of the Old Testament arose in both cases because of wickedness and the loss of many plain and precious truths from the scriptures. By contrast, Jesus said that life eternal consisted of gaining a full knowledge of the Father and the Son (see John 17:3). In the final analysis the individual comes to know the true God through experiences that train him to be like Him, and thus he understands, or knows, Him (see 1 John 2:3; 3:1–2; Ether 2–3).

By the time Christ came, the Jews had lost the knowledge of the three distinct members of the Godhead. They had lost the truth that Jehovah, who had given them the law of Moses, would come into the world as the Redeemer of all mankind, even though the prophets had clearly taught this principle (see 1 Corinthians 10:4; 3 Nephi 15:10; Isaiah 41:14; 44:6). They yearned for the appearance of the promised Messiah as a political savior to free them from Roman rule. But Matthew testified that John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, was “he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, . . . Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:3). This is a reference to Isaiah 40:3, where the word LORD is used to mean Jehovah. Christ Himself told the Jews in Jerusalem that “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The people considered this blasphemy and picked up stones to kill Him, because they realized that His using the phrase I am in this way was another way of saying “I am Jehovah” (see v. 59).

All scriptures point to Christ.

(A-4) Scriptural Evidence That Jesus Christ Is the God of the Old Testament

Abinadi, testifying before the court of the wicked King Noah, bore witness that all the prophets from the earliest times had testified that God (Jehovah) would “come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man” (Mosiah 13:34; see also v. 33). Latter-day Saints, who have the benefit of additional scripture, are taught this truth very clearly. For example, the Doctrine and Covenants shows that Jesus Christ is Jehovah and the great “I Am” (see D&C 110:3–4; 29:1).

But many in the Christian world have not carefully considered the evidence found in the Bible, which clearly teaches that Jehovah is the premortal Jesus. The following scriptures are only a sampling of the biblical evidence. (Remember that LORD means that Jehovah is the Hebrew word used.)


Old Testament

New Testament

1. Jesus (Jehovah) was the Creator of the world.

“Thus saith the LORD, . . . I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded” (Isaiah 45:11–12).

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1, 3.)

2. Jehovah is the Savior.

“Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me” (Hosea 13:4).

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

3. Jehovah is the Redeemer.

“Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 43:14).

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13).

4. Jehovah will deliver men from death.

“I [Jehovah] will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction” (Hosea 13:14).

“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22.)

5. The Jews will look upon Jehovah who was pierced.

“And I [Jehovah] will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).

“But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. . . . For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.” (John 19:34, 36–37.)

6. Jesus followed Israel in the wilderness during the Exodus.

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: he took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:21–22).

“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4).

7. Jehovah is the husband or bridegroom.

“For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called” (Isaiah 54:5).

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Revelation 19:7–8.)

8. Jehovah is the first and the last (alpha and omega).

“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

(A-5) The Importance of Knowing the Identity of the God of the Old Testament

Many people, including numerous Bible scholars, have concluded that the God depicted in the Old Testament was the product of the superstitions and primitive beliefs of a primitive and superstitious people. They come to this conclusion because they see things that seem contradictory to their conception of the God of the New Testament. To know that the Lord of the Old Testament was the premortal Jesus Christ has tremendous implications, however, not only for a correct understanding of the Old Testament and the New Testament, but also for a correct understanding of the nature and purposes of God and of man’s relationship to each member of the Godhead.

For example, the same Person who said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), said of the Canaanites in the land of promise, “Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: but thou shalt utterly destroy them” (Deuteronomy 20:16–17). The same Savior who said to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22) destroyed the entire population of the earth with the exception of eight souls (see Genesis 7–8).

On the other hand, the Jesus of the New Testament who said that one who refuses to forgive another’s trespasses will be “delivered . . . to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due” (Matthew 18:34–35) is the Lord of the Old Testament who said, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). And the Christ depicted in the book of Revelation, who is shown with the great sickle ready to reap the grapes of the earth and tread them in the winepress (see Revelation 14:14, 20), is the same God of the Old Testament who said to Micah, “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).

There is no inconsistency in the nature of God. He is always perfectly merciful and loving, but He is also perfectly just and will not “look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (D&C 1:31). As He said to Joseph Smith, “God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, . . . his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round” (D&C 3:2). In the Old Testament is the same perfectly consistent God found in all scripture. In the Old Testament great richness is added to the understanding of God and how He deals with His children, blessing them according to their obedience and receptivity, or punishing them for rebellion and wickedness. If one would get to know Christ better, one must study the Old Testament, for in His role as Jehovah He permeates the whole record. Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament just as He is the God of the earth today. Keeping this important fact constantly in mind is one of the keys to understanding both the Old Testament and the nature of God.