Wonder Woman is Basically Eve

Wonder Woman is a great movie, but I couldn’t help noticing how much it fits a scriptural template for Latter-day Saints:

(wee bit spoiler-y folks; you’ve been warned)

This movie is about a demi-goddess who’s the only one to recognize her evil demi-god brother. He’s trying to force humanity into his vision of paradise, but she ultimately realizes that all individuals are both good and bad and must choose love on their own. There are a lot of speeches about what we “deserve” vs. what we “believe” (with object lessons in justice vs. mercy). She and the man she loves inspire each other and set an example for others. She is part of the confrontation where the power of the gods casts her evil brother out. Then, she stays in the world of mortals to serve them and show them the way to love.

I wonder if the screenwriter consulted the Pearl of Great Price, or if this is just a coincidence!

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The Book of Moses: Dramatized Audio with Illustrations

This is a complete dramatized reading of the Book of Moses, from the Pearl of Great Price, with various pictures and study aids. The Book of Moses really is a little masterpiece, hidden in plain sight. It’s wise, beautiful, and leads directly to Jesus Christ–a scripture classic!

Complete Chronological Standard Works

UPDATED 12.4.2017  Here is a PDF of the newest revised draft–it still isn’t complete, but it’s a huge improvement over the original.

Chronological Standard Works

 

Original post:

This graphic is a rough draft of a project I’m working on—organizing all the standard works of the LDS Church into a single timeline. I think this will be a valuable scripture study tool because it will help us see these writings outside of their monolithic arrangement in our books, and inside their chronological contexts.

For example, instead of seeing the Old Testament as the law, and then the writings, and then the prophets—where the timeline actually ends halfway through the Old Testament and then doubles back to fill in the narrative with the writings of the various persons in that narrative—we can read it in the order in which all of its contents occur. It will aid understanding and appreciation. This makes sense.

Not only the Bible benefits from this, though. By integrating its unique scriptures into this timeline, we can really see just how much time the book of Ether occupies, and how much the early Book of Mormon authors were in tune with the events of the end of the Old Testament.

We can see Book of Mormon stories filling in the gaps between the two testaments, and continuing the tragic legacy of the earliest Christian era after the New Testament ends.

We can see how complicated the “flashbacks” in the books of Mosiah and Alma are.

Much of this is speculative. I’m happy to hear from anyone with refinements. I intend to keep revising it, myself. As I said, this is only a draft.

Narratives that take place at the same time—or nearly so—are presented next to each other. This is most important in the four gospels.

I’ve used the gospel harmony available here at lds.org for this, as well as the chronological order of the Doctrine and Covenants, available here. These are both products of the LDS Church, not mine, and they belong to the Church.

The Bible chronology is one that is widely available online (for example, here, here, and here); I have modified it only very slightly where I thought useful.

The color coding should help us all to follow the flow and see the connections between the various bodies of scripture. The first three—the law, writings, and prophets—are traditional divisions of the Old Testament (see Luke 24:44).

The Five Missions In the Scriptures

A scripture study exercise: if we wanted to summarize the overall message of major collections of scripture, what might they be?  We’re probably familiar with the “missions of the Church” formula–preach the gospel, perfect the saints, redeem the dead, care for the poor and needy–so, can we find similar missions communicated in books of scripture?

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, with comments below:

 

Old Testament : Obey the law

New Testament : Perfect the saints

Book of Mormon : Learn the gospel

Doctrine and Covenants : Build the kingdom

Pearl of Great Price : Seek the Lord

 

Old Testament: I also considered “keep the commandments” and “follow the prophets.”  The first is similar to “obey the law,” but not as inclusive–there’s more to the Old Testament than the “thous shalts” and “thou shalt nots.”  Saying to “follow the prophets” resonates with us today, and certainly encompasses a major theme, but the largest idea in the Old Testament is that conforming to God’s whole system of living will bless us.

Continue reading

Two Things Joseph Smith Got Right About the Book of Abraham Facsimiles

I’ve been studying up on the Book of Abraham a bit lately, and as fascinating as all the scholarly, arcane parallels are, it’s even more exciting to see that some of Joseph Smith’s explanations of these symbols are easy to confirm in accessible pop culture. 

While critics have often had to come up with convoluted theories as to how Joseph got so many plausible details into the Book of Mormon, his equally startling “guesses” in the Book of Abraham are usually ignored…maybe because they are even more shocking.  How could Joseph have known what any of these old Egyptian hieroglyphics meant?  He didn’t know ancient Egyptian–hardly anybody in the world did!  The Rosetta Stone itself had barely been translated around the time that Joseph first started producing the Book of Abraham. 

And yet, what should have been wild shots in the dark hold up remarkably well nearly two centuries later, when the basics of Egyptian are so widely available, that a major hotel here in Las Vegas, the Luxor, makes them into a cute and easily recognizable theme. 

In Facsimile 1, there’s a weird creature shown near the bottom. 

The text defines it as “the idolatrous god of Pharaoh.”  Look closely–it’s a crocodile in the waters of the Nile.  So, did the Egyptians of Abraham’s time really identify Pharoah with a crocodile-god? 

They sure did.  His name is Sobek, Continue reading

The Purpose of Astronomy In the Book of Abraham

This post is not meant to explain the many astronomical references in the Book of Abraham.  I’m not a scientist; I’m an English teacher.  My interest is in analyzing why those astronomical references are there: what function do they serve?  After studying them, I find that they consistently testify of the doctrines of Christ.

The Pearl of Great Price itself is a fascinating text, and ironic.  By far the smallest of the standard works, this tiny anthology is not a series of testimonies, a record of covenants, or a detailed collection of exegesis and exhortations, like most other scriptural works are.  No, The Pearl of Great Price is far too ambitious for that.  Just about the only thing it does is reveal the most important saving truths of eternity, connecting us directly to the Lord. 

Consider that the Bible Dictionary identifies seven major dispensations throughout world history: those begun by Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and Joseph Smith.  Now glance through The Pearl of Great Price and notice whose records it amplifies: in order–Moses, Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jesus Christ, and Joseph Smith.  

Consider that in the Doctrines of the Gospel manual for church classes, the Pearl of Great Price, which comprises less than 2½% of the standard works (61 out of 2475 pages), represents about 10% of the scriptures cited in the index (nearly a whole page out of nine and a half printed pages), an impressively disproportionate total.  If The Pearl of Great Price were a basketball player, it’d be one foot tall and five times better than Michael Jordan. 

I labor this point because it relates directly to the use of astronomical information in The Pearl of Great Price’s Book of Abraham.  These often confusing ideas about space and time are not a primer for astronomy as much as they are meant to add to our understanding of those massive spiritual truths with which this volume was designed to enlighten us.

First, in Abraham 3:12-13, God shows Abraham an expansive vision of the physical universe Continue reading

Abraham 1:2

One of my favorite scriptures is Abraham 1:2, which I think lays out a great plan for a life well lived, a life of active holiness.  Here’s the text:

And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

 

There is an awful lot in there.  Consider the nature of the things Abraham set as his goals: he wanted emotional blessings (happiness and peace and rest), physical blessings (numerous posterity), mental blessings (great knowledge), and spiritual blessings (to be a follower of righteousness and a prince of peace). 

He tells us in this verse that he specifcally worked on these goals with certain activities that were designed to help him accomplish what he wanted, and that those exercises all boiled down to two things: keeping the commandments, and growing in the priesthood by utilizing it to perform ordinances for others (to “administer the blessings of the fathers”).  Continue reading

Book of Moses Commentary Part II: The First Two Laws

As soon as Adam and Eve had been cast out of the Garden of Eden, Moses 5:1-4 tells us, they set about the work of providing for their temporal needs according to the order given by God, started raising a family, and called on God. 

Verse 5 says that God responded to their prayers by giving them commandments, to which the text explicitly goes out of its way to inform us that Adam was obedient

Immediately after stressing Adam’s obedience to the commandments (presumably, yes, all of them), verse 6 begins the well known story of Adam being visited by an angel who teaches Adam the meaning of his ritual sacrifices.

I find it intriguing that the Book of Moses mentions that very early after the Fall, Adam is described as learning obedience, quickly followed by learning sacrifice.  Note that the footnotes to verse 5 direct us to the Topical Guide entry for “obedience,” and the footnotes for verse 6 lead to the entry for “sacrifice.”

Book of Moses Commentary Part I: In Praise of Adah and Zillah

[For an introduction to the Book of Moses, please read this.]

Genesis 4:19-24 tells the story of Lamech, who had “slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.”  Other Bible translations I looked at word this declaration to say that Lamech killed the young man because the young man had inflicted an injury on Lamech.  A footnote in the NIV Study Bible explains these verses as a cautionary tale about revenge. 

But where Genesis moves on to another story in the next verse, the Book of Moses continues further.  And that’s where his wives Adah and Zillah shine.

Moses 5:49-59 adds material that says that Lamech killed the young man (named Irad, this text tells us) because the young man had learned the secret oaths that Satan had taught Cain, and which Lamech had also learned, but Irad had exposed those oaths, spreading them to the general public. 

But that’s not my focus here.  What impresses me most about this story is the reaction of Lamech’s wives to his confession to them of his infernal conspiring and homicidal treachery.  Continue reading

Dispensations In The Pearl Of Great Price

When I joined the LDS Church, my initial understanding of the Pearl of Great Price was that it was a hodgepodge of random, “left over” little scriptures that got stuffed in the back.  It wasn’t until later that I read from Hugh Nibley about how it was a collection of restored records from the major dispensations. 

Look up “dispensation” in the LDS Bible Dictionary and you get this: “A dispensation of the gospel is a period of time in which the Lord has at least one authorized servant on the earth who bears the holy priesthood and the keys….The Bible suggests at least one dispensation identified with Adam, another with Enoch, another with Noah, and so on with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus with his apostles in the meridian of time…. the final dispensation…began with the revelation of the gospel to Joseph Smith.”  Though other prophets began the work of bringing God’s truth back into the world again in their own times, these seven men are typically identified as the leaders of the seven major dispensations of Earth’s history (roughly equivalent to the seven seals in the Book of Revelation).  Certainly Jesus Christ is not “just another prophet,” like the other six, but did  establish his Church in his day, as they also did. 

Looking at the Pearl of Great Price through that lens, we see that it is a record of the initital calling and/or early ministry of Adam (Moses chapters 3-5), Enoch (Moses 6-7), Noah (Moses 8), Abraham (Book of Abraham), Moses (Moses chapter 1), Jesus Christ (Joseph Smith–Matthew), and Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith–History).  Not only does this give the “hodgepodge” Pearl of Great Price a coherent structure, it helps us see the regular, balanced nature of God’s work among mankind throughout history. 

To further illustrate the power of the Pearl of Great Price (and thus explain the appropriateness of the title), consider the Church’s student manual Doctrines of the GospelIts appendix lists all of the scriptural citations used in the text to illustrate the principles considered.  Though the Pearl of Great Price, at only 61 pages, constitutes less than 3% of the total body of scripture in the Standard Works, references to it add up to nearly 10% of all verses used in Doctrines of the Gospel.