Perhaps the most under-appreciated part of the LDS canon of scripture is the Pearl of Great Price, and perhaps the most under-appreciated part of the Pearl of Great Price is the Book of Enoch.
By “Book of Enoch” I mean chapters 6-7 of the Book of Moses, where Joseph Smith took only seven verses of Genesis 5 and, by inspired prophetic translation, expanded them into a small but supremely powerful epic.
That small epic has a ton of features that have been confirmed in ancient documents that have since been discovered by non-Mormons, but that’s not the point of today’s post. Today’s post is about how awesome the book’s text is.
After reading it again recently, I wanted to prepare a reader-friendly version of the text, with paragraphs and dialogue marked, akin to Grant Hardy’s excellent “Reader’s Edition” of the Book of Mormon.
So I adapted some punctuation and capitalization a bit–but not the text itself, of course–and put the words of Christ in red, because I think it highlights the most important parts of that text. Christ’s teaching there are some of the most sublime God ever delivered to mankind.
My “Reader’s Edition” of Enoch is here.
Only after doing this, though, did I think to check to see if others had, too. Lo and behold, Nathan Richardson had. His arrangement is similar to mine, though he keeps all original punctuation and capitals, marking text only by color coding. His headings are great, though, and his version offers some other cool features. Actually, overall, I like his better than I like my own. Check it out.
So, what exactly is so great about the Book of Enoch?
I love the structural power: the narrative that builds from humble beginnings to one of the most amazing visions in all of scripture. Really, that last section especially–which in my reader’s edition I call “The Apocalypse of Enoch”–starts with a cosmic overview of good vs. evil, proceeds to the imminent calamities of Enoch’s era (Noah and the flood), and ends with a panorama of Christ’s ministry and triumph–from crucifixion to resurrection to Second Coming and millennial glory. It’s short and quick, but that just makes the punch hit all that much harder.
And that section about the cosmic struggle between good and evil has some of the most emotional writing and vivid imagery in the scriptures. Consider this picture:
And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced. (Moses 7:26)
Which leads to these heartbreaking words:
And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept….
And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood….
But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? (Moses 7:28, 33, 37)
Which builds to this human finale:
And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook. (Moses 7:41)
Where is there more pathos?
Incidentally, all this has gotten me re-reading one of my favorites books, Larry Barkdull’s Zion: Seeking the City of Enoch. Used copies for only a penny? Highly recommended.