One of the most beautiful and profound passages in Adam Miller’s Letters to a Young Mormon (see my review here, and for heaven’s sake, buy the book here!) is in regards to Science, and the Creation – which also happens to be the topic for this week’s Gospel Doctrine Sunday School Class in many wards.
Miller discusses the Genesis creation account, and notes that it is framed using the cosmology, or ‘world picture’ in the mind of the pre-scientific ancients, and that God spoke their language, and used their imagery to inspire an illustration of His work in their world.
Following a beautiful summary of what this world looked like to the ancients, Miller commented:
“I believe in a literal reading of this text. I believe the Hebrews literally thought the world was like that, and I believe that God literally ran with it and revealed his grace at work in their lives through it. More, I believe that God is just as literally showing himself to us in and through the continually rolling revelation that is science as we know it. The world given to us is not the same world given to them. We have two worlds here. But though our worlds diverge, it is the same God peeping through. Believing that the God of their world is just as surely the God of ours doesn’t commit us to believing in their version of the world. Rather, it commits us to believing in a God whose grace is full enough to fill them both.” (p. 54)
It was with this profound thought in mind, that I read through Moses 1 in the Pearl of Great Price again.
The Lord instructs the prophet,
“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.
And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.
But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.” (Moses 1:33–35)
In this inspired modern introduction to an inspired revised Bible, we are given instruction that what is about to be presented should be interpreted only in the context of a certain single world[view], and that we are to understand that there are so many more world[view]s out there.
Just as the original accounts in Genesis had a specific audience in mind with a specific doctrinal and scientific worldview, Joseph Smith’s 1831 audience, too, had a specific audience in mind with a substantially different doctrinal and scientific worldview than we do now. Genesis and the revelations of Joseph Smith’s Bible Revision speak of different but similar worlds, to inhabitants of different, but similar worlds. The Adam in the stories given to the Israelite monarchy resided in a different world than the Adam given to 19th Century Protestant Christendom. And that’s okay, the text of Moses tells us, because Adam, like the number of world-models, “is many”. Adaptable.
Our world since Joseph Smith has changed again. God hasn’t, but we’re certainly in a different world than Moses, or Joseph Smith. The language and relevant models have changed.
Adam Miller, in his chapter on Scripture, suggests that this is to be expected – and that this gives us work to do.
“Joseph produced, as God required, the first public translations of the scriptures we now share. But that work, open-ended all along, is unfinished. Now, the task is ours. When you read the scriptures, don’t just lay your eyes like stones on the pages. Roll up your sleeves and translate them again…into your native tongue, inflected by your native concerns, and written in your native flesh. To be a Mormon is to do once more, on your own scale, the same kind of work that Joseph did.” (pp. 32-33)
Consider this suggested charge in the context of President Uchtdorf’s observation that:
“Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t seek revelation or answers from the scriptures … because we think we know the answers already. Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?”
I think it’s appropriate to end this post with an affirmation of what is stated in our ninth article of Faith: “ We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
Worlds without end.