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How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 3: The Creation

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 10, 2010

The Creation lesson from the 1928 Sunday School manual corresponds very nicely with this year’s manual, but is noteworthy for two reasons:

First, the lesson explicitly makes room for the “testimony of the geological record,” distinguishing between what we know by divine revelation and what we know by human study. Nothing  said here contradicts in the slightest what is presented in the current lesson – but the current lesson stops short with divine revelation and makes no mention of secular knowledge.

Second, when discussing the creation of man, the 1928 manual draws on B.H. Roberts’s writings and his belief that man has existed in three states: as “intelligence,” as spiritual creation, and as physical creation. This is a handy model for making sense of the few scattered details in scripture, and it’s my view mostly because it is comprehensible to me. However, you won’t see this tripartite model taught in current manuals because it goes beyond what is clearly present in the scripture, and alternate models, based on the same scattered details but with the dots connected in different patterns, have been proposed. Without further revelation, we just don’t know enough to teach any model without the clear label of “SPECULATION.”

This may be a good point to repeat my earlier comment: I don’t offer these old lessons as being better but merely different, not a substitute or replacement for the manual but another way of approaching the same material.

—oooOooo—

From the Sunday School course on the Old Testament, taught on 26 February and 4 March 1928:

The Story of the Creation

And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the Beginning and they, that is, the Gods, organized and formed the heaven and the earth.” – Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 4:1.

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this Heaven, and this Earth; write the words which I speak. I am the Beginning and the end, the Almighty God: by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest. And the earth was without form, and void; and I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep; and my Spirit moved upon the face of the water; for I am God. – Pearl of Great Price. Moses 1.

There is a God and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon. – Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2;14.

God created the world. God brought forth material out of which he formed this little terra firma upon which we roam. How long had this material been in existence? Forever and forever, in some shape, in some condition. – Discourses of Brigham Young, page 153.

What do we mean by “creation”? Is it to make the world out of nothing, or to organize a world out of existing matter? Give reasons for your answer. See “Science and Belief in God,” (Pack) page 126.

What is the purpose of the Creation? Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:22-26. Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 17:36.

Having in mind the answers to the two questions above submitted, let us now pass to the actual work of creation.

First, there was the spiritual creation of all things.

Second, the temporal creation of all things.

Concerning the spiritual creation, the following quotations are helpful:

By the power of my spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal; firstly spiritual, secondly temporal. – Doctrine and Covenants 29:31-32. I Cor. 15:16. See also Pearl of Great Price, Moses 3:5-7; Abraham 3:5-7. Numbers 27:16.

By the term “spiritual creation” we mean that as to man, our spiritual tabernacles, or bodies were begotten of God as our father. We have never been told of our heavenly or spiritual mother, but Eliza R. Snow in the hymn ‘Oh! My Father” has set out what we may logically accept, that “truth is reason, truth eternal, tells me I’ve a mother there.”

In the Book of Mormon, Ether 3:9-16, it is revealed to us by Christ Himself, what our spiritual bodies are like. This most wonderful vision was given to the brother of Jared about the time of the building of the tower of Babel and hundreds of years before Christ was born, and yet Christ appeared as a man . In explanation of this fact, the brother of Jared was told (verse 16): “Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” So he did when born to the Virgin Mary many centuries later.

Now as to the temporal creation, the Lord took the materials that as Brigham Young said had been in existence “forever and forever,” and in His own way and in His own time shaped and formed this most wonderful world as a temporal habitation and school for us and all of mankind, his spiritual children.

If we stop but a minute to contemplate all that this world comprehends we cannot but know that God alone could accomplish such a marvelous task. Have this thought in mind as we consider the work of creation step by step as recorded in Genesis.

Think of a mass of matter without form, suspended in space apparently without usefulness or purpose in a condition of darkness, then visualize God bringing out of this chaos a heaven and an earth, with a period of light and a period of darkness, the light which he called day and the darkness night. If you have really lived with God through this accomplishment, you have been with Him during the first day or period of creation. We know not how long that day or period was, but this we know as we know that we live, that the foundation of the world had been laid.

At the beginning of the second day or period, God established the firmament, which he called Heaven. Have you ever thought of the wonderfulness of what is here so briefly stated. Think of the mighty processes necessarily employed in creating an expanse so vast that worlds upon worlds could be placed therein and yet never collide with one another, and in purifying atmosphere so completely that the naked eye may see objects millions and millions of miles away. How can we refrain from joining with David as he sings through the ages, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1.

During the third day we see the waters gathered back and the land called earth appear and then we behold plant life manifest itself in many forms. We could go on from here and spend the entire year in studying the story of the earth and of the plants. We see and read about the mountains, valley, deserts, rivers and oceans and yet we catch but little of the story they tell. We study plant life and yet we understand but few of its secrets. For instance, by what methods do the roots, stems and leaves of different plants produce out of the same plot of ground a beautifully colored rose, sweet pea, or violet, an ear of corn, a potato, a watermelon, a squash, a peach or a walnut?

On the next day, or during the following period, which is the fourth, we behold the appearance in the firmament of stars or worlds, also the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night. We find the seasons established and the days and years fixed. What wonders! Who but God could work out and establish an order of worlds and other celestial bodies in the heaven such as we have. Think of Jupiter with a diameter of 88,392 miles and compare with our earth having a diameter of but 7,918 miles. Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are many times larger than our earth. Venus, the evening star, that we all know, is about the same size, while Mercury and Mars are smaller. Besides these, think of the sun, the moon and the many hundreds of thousands of other bodies that may be seen through telescopes extending out through space for a distance of billions of miles.

With the beginning of the fifth day or period came life in the waters in every form of fish, and then came the fowls of the air, each to bring forth its kind. And so is opened up to us another most wonderful chapter in the story of earth life.

At the beginning of the sixth day or period, God made the beasts of the earth, the cattle and everything that creepeth upon the earth. And then he created man. This part of His work will be the subject of our next lesson.

His work in bringing to earth the higher animal life was a most remarkable epoch and one that is introductory to the crowning achievement of creation – the coming of man.

The following presents the earth’s development according to Genesis as compared with what science has demonstrated.

The Two Accounts of the Creation

By Whom Created

Biblical Record: Created by Deity.
Geological Record: No definite statement regarding a creator.

Manner of Creation

Biblical Record: No evidence of how creation was accomplished.
Geological Record: Full details given.

Time Involved in Creation

Biblical Record: Six days, but meaning of the term “day” is very obscure.
Geological Record: Many millions of years.

Order of Creation

Biblical Record:

Appearance of light.
Segregation of waters above and below the firmament.
Segregation of land and water.
Appearance of plant life.
Appearance of sun, moon and stars.
Appearance of water-living creatures, also birds.
Appearance of land-living creatures.
Appearance of Man.

Geological Record:

Appearance of light.
Clarifying of atmosphere by accretion of particles.
Appearance of continents?
Appearance of plant life?
Sun, moon, and stars first observable from the earth.
Appearance of water-living creatures, also birds.
appearance of land-living creatures.
Appearance of Man.

In conclusion, bear in mind that though throughout life you will meet those who will try to break down the position of God in the work of Creation, that always there will stand out as your support in standing with God, the great fact that the world is, and that its tiniest creation is a secret to the combined wisdom of all men in all time.

The Coming of Man to Earth Life

As the final act of creation God said:

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

“The crowning scene of the great drama of creation was the forming of man in the image of his spiritual Father, God.” – Talmage, Articles of Faith, 6e.

Problems

“What is man that thou art mindful of him?” – Psalms 8:4-5; Job 7:17; Heb. 2:59.

What do we mean by saying that God created man spiritually before He created him naturally or temporally? – Gen. 2:4-5. Pearl of Great Price, Moses 3:5; Abraham 5:4-5. Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 29:20-32. Book of Mormon, Book of Ether 3:4-16.

What do we mean by the expression that God created man temporally?

Comment

Science and Belief in God, chap. 14.

What can we learn of man and his creation?

It is important to have in mind three facts:

1. That God did create man both spiritually and temporally.

2. That God has yet has not seen fit to reveal unto us the means and methods employed by Him in accomplishing such a wonderful work, and therefore in faith we must abide the time when in His wisdom He shall lift the veil from our minds and give us that great knowledge.

3. That whatever the means and methods employed by God in creating man temporally, this much is clearly established by his revelations to us, that Adam was the first man upon the earth in whom God united all that constitutes man “created in the image of God.”

What is man? Man has a physical tabernacle created by or born of our earthly parents through God’s established methods. Revealed to us is the knowledge, that this earthly or physical body tabernacles a spiritual body, like our earthly body, which spiritual body is the offspring of God our Father in the spirit world. But what was the nature of the unit or entity which formed the basis of our spiritual creation? We know, as set out above, that the unit or entity which forms the basis of our temporal creation or physical birth is the spiritual body begotten of God. Just as it is necessary that in being created physically there must be something for the physical body to tabernacle so, also, is it true that in being created spiritually there must be something for the spiritual body to tabernacle.

In answer to our question, President B.H. Roberts, in his Seventy’s Course in Theology (Second year), page 7-9, tells us that intelligence is the entity basic to man; that intelligence is known as “he” rather than “it” because “he is possessed of powers that go with personality.” This intelligence is co-existent with God and is eternal.

“Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” (Doc. and Cov., Sec. xciii, 29.)

“I am dwelling on the immortality of the spirit of man. Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it (i.e., the intelligence) had a beginning. The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were no spirits, for they are co-equal (co-eternal) with our Father in heaven. … Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. it is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. … The first principles of a man are self-existent with God.” – Joseph Smith. (Mill. Star. Vol. 23, p. 262.)

Then man is: First intelligence – that which makes him eternal in nature and co-existent with God, and gives him personality. Second, intelligence tabernacled in a spiritual body begotten of god the Father in the pre-existent spirit world. Third, intelligence as tabernacled in a spiritual body next begotten of our earthly parents and thus tabernacled by an earthly body. In other words, man is intelligence plus a spiritual body plus a temporal or physical body.

This makes clear the creation of man first spiritually and second temporally.

As to the ways employed by God in effecting our spiritual creation, or bringing about our spiritual birth, we know very little, but knowing God and being blessed with faith we do know that after having been born spiritually a time came, after God had created the earth, for man to be born to earth life or created temporally or physically.

In transferring man from spirit life to earth life God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. God in His own way, through processes natural and systematic to Him, brought the first man to the stature and intelligence of a man.

We know so little about the life all around us, that it is not surprising that we may not understand the marvelous phenomenon of the original creation.

Adam was the first being created and recognized by God as, and called, man. About this there can be no doubt. all the revealed word of the Lord to us affirms this fact. A few of the references to this effect which should, and we hope will, be read and studied, are as follows:

Genesis 2:19
Pearl of Great Price, Moses 3:19
Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 5:13
Doctrine and covenants 29:42
Doctrine and covenants 27:11
I Corinthians 15:21-22
Book of Mormon, Mormon 9:12



7 Comments »

  1. I wish I had reference to this 1928 lesson when I wrote up my essay: Biblical Genesis Corresponds with Evolution.

    We Latter-day Saints need never fear truths from other fields, especially science. Continuing revelation means (at least to me) that we will grow in knowledge, which inevitably means that sometimes old ideas have to be thrown overboard or revised.

    Latter-days Saints do NOT argue that the Bible is all we need to know. We do NOT even argue that our LDS scriptures (BofM, D&C, & PofGP) are all we need to know.

    There is a simple beauty to the fossilized Ichthyosaurus that is 200 million years old. It was part of God’s handiwork, and I don’t understand why anyone would insist the facts are otherwise.

    Comment by S.Faux — January 10, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  2. It’s interesting how BRM and JFS get a lot of grief for “taking over” far too many manuals and discussion. I think we forget just how much of Robert’s views and writings did the same…

    Comment by Clark — January 10, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

  3. Hi Ardis, thanks for this post. I really enjoyed reading about this from a historical perspective. I thought this a significant insight about Moses’ experience from Andrew F. Ehat:

    From Moses 1 we learn that Genesis is not merely a general history written by Moses or a pseudepigraphic story of the Hebrews allegedly written in Moses’ name. Instead Moses 1 sets Genesis up as a highly personal revelation to Moses — an essential endowment of knowledge and power given prior to his mission to Egypt to reclaim lost Israel (see verses 25-26). He did not compile history as Elder Richards did: he was shown the history. Moses 1 begins as each endowment begins, with heaven and earth joining. This time, Moses ascended, not by foot but by the transporting power of the Spirit. He was caught up into a mountain the name of which is not now known to us (see verse 42). (What is an Endowment?).

    Comment by Greg — January 11, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

  4. Thanks, Greg. I’m not scheduled to teach this lesson, but reading your comment (well, Andy Ehat’s), I think I know how I would start this lesson if it were mine to teach.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 11, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

  5. Greg, I think the problem with Ehat’s exegesis is that it misses the end of Moses 1 which suggests it’s chapter 1 that is an independent revelation. He takes the mention of Moses in Moses 2:1 to imply continuity with that event but I think that’s unjustified. Still in concert with Moses 4:1 there’s something to his position. Joseph introduces both those sections (Genesis 1&2 – the creation accounts; Genesis 3 – the fall) as if it is the Lord speaking to Moses. So there is a prima facie argument for the unity of Genesis. Interestingly Moses 4:32 has an end that parallels Moses 1:42. So even if one accepts Ehat’s thesis I don’t think that entails much about Genesis as a whole.

    However I think that given the method of translation this might rather suggest that there is a deeper text that was revealed to Moses of which we’re getting only fragments revealed out of the KJV which is based upon a collection of texts about a subject from around 400 BCE.

    Put an other way, I suspect this parallels in some ways the issue of authorship of Abraham.

    Comment by ClarkGoble — January 11, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  6. How does evolution occur if there was no death before the fall of Adam? Wouldn’t death have to be possible for creatures/plants to evolve? Was death confined to outside the Garden of Eden?

    Comment by Joe — January 17, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

  7. Clark – I could see how that could be problematic unless one believes that there is a common vision given to those who seek and receive these blessings as suggested in 2 Nephi 27:7 and Ether 4:15-16.

    Comment by Greg — January 19, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

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