And the Gods saw that they were obeyed

I thought I would share some things I’ve been pondering on regarding the Creation story in the Book of Abraham (chapters 4-5). While much of the story is similar to the Creation stories in Genesis and the Book of Moses (Pearl of Great Price), there are some significant differences.

First, the BoA account not only mentions God, but the Gods as being involved in the creation.  This ties in perfectly with the ancient Jewish (and early Christian) concept of the Divine Council.  God and his divine children (sometimes called angels) work together to accomplish God’s great work. Margaret Barker, an Old Testament scholar and Methodist preacher, stated that Jesus was considered by the early Christians to be the Messiah, the Angel of the Lord’s Presence.  In LDS theology, many of God’s children (including some/many of us were involved in the Creation.

From this Creation event, we learn some possible things about the divine council, and our premortal existence.  First, we see that the Gods go down together to form the earth. In several ancient texts, such as the Ascension of Isaiah, we see angels and Christ ascending up and descending down through the various layers of heaven  to get to/from the earth.

The earth is described as “empty and desolate” and was dark.  These are descriptions of ancient Semitic stories of the Creation, where the Gods create order out of Chaos.  In this scenario, God even must fight the water dragon, in order to keep Chaos (water and darkness) at bay.

Once brought under control, the Spirit was left to “brood over the waters.” The Spirit may have been the Light of Christ, which penetrates all of space (see D&C 88, 93), as a controlling force.  One thing to consider is that instead of being a controlling force, the Spirit may have been an influencing force. In such a scenario, the Spirit would not force things to occur, but gently guide them to the final goal.

Interestingly, in commanding or pronouncing their divine will, the Gods were able to command the light, earth and waters.  However, when it comes to living things, such as plants, after the command goes forth, we read, “and the Gods saw that they were obeyed” ( 4:12) or in the case of animals, “and the Gods saw they would obey” (4:25).  In other words, the Gods did not have full and absolute power over all their creation, or chose not to impose their will over all of creation..

This suggests a few things.  First, the Gods had to await things to obey their command.  Second, some things (such as humans) would disobey along the way.  Third, this may have been a trial and error learning event for the lesser or younger Gods.

Imagine the patience it would take for Gods to form the earth, and then await billions of years for the particles making up the Earth to cool down and become solid.  Then, to await the first life to form about 2.2 billion years ago. It would take another 2.3 billion years of trying different life forms until mankind is formed.  During those billions of years, the Gods would find out how to put DNA together to form creations that could adapt and survive in varying ecosystems and disasters. Giant destructions would open the door for new species to rule the earth. 250 million years ago, a destruction would wipe out 90 percent of all life forms, opening the door for the reign of the dinosaurs. A destruction 65 millions years ago would wipe out dinosaurs, and open the door to mammals.  The last Ice Age would leave us with one species of human-like beings, removing the failed versions from the genetic pool and prepare the earth for us today.

So, now that we are mortals and trying to learn to be creators, even as God and the divine council, what can we learn from this? First, that God is very patient.  If it takes billions of years to accomplish his goals, then he is willing to wait for it to naturally come to pass. If this is so, then why are we so impatient with ourselves, our children and others?  We are all works in progress.

Second, God avoids forcing his hand unless he has to.  Instead, he guides, influences, and leads by example.  I find the more control we attempt to force upon others, the more they tend to reject what we do.  Control is usually imposed because we either lack patience or there is an urgency to get something done. Perhaps we create too many emergencies that require control, rather than patiently working things through.

Third, as with God and his divine council, we are in a constant struggle against Chaos and entropy.  There is opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2), which puts us directly in the path of Chaos. Our work here is to do God’s work, and that is to create Order out of Chaos.  It is a process that takes time.  Children are not born as a finished product.  It takes a lifetime for each of us to begin to understand who we are and why we are here.  The key is to create order, even as God does, a little at a time, and not increase the amount of chaos instead.

Interestingly, the over-use of control can actually increase chaos. Doing nothing or little also increases entropy and chaos.  In a universe that tends to move towards entropy, only God and his divine children have the ability to hold it at bay, and perhaps increase order in the universe.

So, what do you get out of Abraham’s Creation story?

 

 

13 thoughts on “And the Gods saw that they were obeyed

  1. After I had read and studied the creation story in Abraham, all ther others became unnecessary fables. It clarified that the seeming repetition of Genesis was telling us that there was, first, the spritual creation (or plans), and then, the physical creation. I love that Abraham emphasises that the Gods did it – many in unison. That Abraham uses the word “time” rather than the word “day”. Now one can truly appreciate the effort, and recognize that this was an evolutionary, learning, step-by-step work. My children are all scientists/engineers, and from their early teens, by studying Abraham, are able to readily merge science and faith – there is no putting one before the other, they are one. My son became fascinated with Kolob, and relativity. If one is a god, the billions of years become somewhat meaningless. Not just in relative terms – billions is small compared to infinite, but in relativistic terms – Einstein was able to see into this, with his gift, and help us understand it.

    I love thermodynamics, because the basic equations show that work (service, the Priesthood), and it’s evidence, Order, exist as a means and sign of minimizing, to keeping at bay, chaos, or the influence and power of the devil. Now I come to know that even the little things that serve to preserve or provide order are so important.

    And this shows up in everything we do – even keeping weeds under control in our garden, maintaining our vehicles. Having and living my a schedule, order in our lives, make it so much easier to read and study the scriptures, maintain our health. This is what I get from the creation story in Abraham.

  2. Interesting insights Rame. I like the idea of patience in the creation process. It puts our own growing pains into perspective.

    I think I might have heard somewhere that Cleon Skowsen suggested that nature has some kind of free agency, but that it still obeys God. His ideas probably came from that scripture, “and they saw they were obeyed.”

    My own sense is that the text anthropromorthizes the natural world in order to stress the concept of obedience to its human readers. The natural world becomes an example to follow. Humans are worse than animals because they are the only disobedient creatures.

    But if this was Abraham’s intent, I disagree with it. I don’t see any free agency in animals, or any possibility of disobedience to any command. I prefer the phrase, “that they may fill the measure of their creation” because to me, it is clear that the life of an animal is extremely measured, and bounded. I see no progress, no invention, no aspiration, no sin, no guilt, nothing remotely related to the human experience, other than animalistic passion. Indeed, for me it is the greatest evidence that man is not descended from the apes, at least in his spirit.

  3. I’m glad you liked it, Geoff.

    Nate, I’m not a big fan of Skousen. He was good for his day, but along with many other LDS thnkers of that day, he was not trained in close study of the writing as we see today. The critical thinking and other skills being used today to consider scripture passages is truly remarkable. Just look at what Adam S Miller, Joseph Spencer, James Faulconer and others have provided to us in regards to the BoM and D&C at saltpress.org (PDF downloads are free). With few exceptions (Nibley, for instance), this level of thinking makes the LDS thinkers of 50 years ago look like amateurs.

    I would that more members would learn to develop the skills to do critical studies of the scriptures for themselves. It is too easy to become a student of Skousen, McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, or someone else, and then be stuck on a plateau because they never learned to step outside Brother X’s box.

    So, when I shared these thoughts, I did step out of some boxes. I broached Elder McConkie’s 7 Heresies, stating that evolution could very well have been used by the Gods. After all, why should we limit God, simply because much of traditional Christianity believes in a 6000 year old earth? We’ve just moved past the concept of blacks being the children of Cain, and now we need to be smart enough about the scriptures and continuing revelation ourselves that we allow the Lord to open new paths of understanding to us.

  4. I can see you did step out of some boxes. I hope the day soon comes when weaving Darwinian evolution into the creation narrative will seem natural to all members, because I think evolution is compatible with gospel principles, and has even more beauty to it than the claymation creation paradigm, or Adam in spaceship paradigm.

  5. I suggest all who haven’t seen it check out SteveP’s masterful poem on the Mormon epic of Evolutionary Creation over at BCC. (for the unitiatiated, the ‘Gilda Trillim’ is a fictional framework to introduce the poem. Steve Peck is indeed the author. And yes, in the poem, “Intelligent Design” is the alternate plan proposed by Lucifer that would have taken away agency (!!).

  6. I believe God reveals himself through prophets and through other processes, such as science. How else did Einstein discover his theories of relativity through thought experiments, except that God inspired him?
    I also believe that these processes are not perfect, as mankind is the imperfect interpreter of the data found. We tend to over-interpret the data, or to interpret it according to our own views, rather than finding what is really there and publishing the evidence in its purity.
    Darwinian evolution has changed drastically since Darwin’s day. The later development of “survival of the fittest” flies in the face of revelation we learn of Korihor. The natural man has no choice but to be the fittest to survive. The spiritual man can seek to benefit all of mankind with civlization. This is one of the thiings that separates mankind in Adam’s day from those previous to him: hunter gatherers versus shepherds and farmers. Esau was the old world’s hunter gatherer, who was out of vogue with God and the covenant. Jacob was accepted as the leader of a new world of civilization….

  7. IMO, “the beginning” of Genesis 1:1 is not an absolute beginning of everything, and probably not even the beginning of this planet. I believe it is the beginning of an epoch, perhaps the beginning of “our turn on earth” as it were, where “our” denotes the set of spirits who attended “our” Grand Council in Heaven. For all we know, Heavenly Father could have had Grand Councils with other “sets” of spirit children before ours, after ours, or coincident with ours, but occurring in other universes or dimensions.

    But, there’s a section in the D&C that implies that we only get as much of the big picture as pertains to _our planet_. I think it’s implied in the section that talks about how only the angels who “pertain” to this earth (who were, or are to be born on it) are assigned to minister to it.

    The traditional clash of faith and science, at least in regards to evolution, seems to hinge on parsing “the beginning” of Genesis 1:1 as an absolute beginning.

    Nate: I agree that animals don’t have agency or free will along the likes of man, but I have seen (and read of) many animals with emotions, such as guilt or shame. Many animals do have personalities, and some even have a sense of humor. I think animals can love, too.

    Just about all animals do have some degree of intelligence, so that says something there. We have a vague idea what “spirit matter” is, and even less of an idea of what an “intelligence” is, apart from something that inhabits a spirit body.

  8. Bookslinger, it’s true. I’ve seen my dog cower in shame after peeing on the carpet. And this behavior puzzles me, because my interpretation of Genesis is that shame entered the world because of the forbidden fruit. But I think this is a rather rare behavior, and could be because humans have “infected” dogs with shame by asserting their authority, over them, opposing their natural instincts.

  9. nate, This does not explain the ability of some primates to communicate via sign language, and expressing emotions like love, sorrow, happiness, etc. Nor does it explain why some animals act sorrowful in the face of death, etc. Why do many wild animals protect their young, while others do not? Why do chimps and gorillas gather in groups to groom? Why do different species of animals work together for their mutual benefit? These things cannot be explained away easily, but are best explained by the concept that these have the capacity to think, develop new ideas, experiment, express emotion, etc.

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