Monday, June 12, 2017

GOD'S IMAGE: The Full Measure of Our Creation - Chapter 1

“In the image and likeness of God”

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. 
And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day. 
- Genesis 1:31

The creation story in Genesis plays out during six days of work and one day of rest. God considered all the work he had done, whether it pertained to the light, the seas, seed-bearing and fruit-yielding vegetation, the sun, moon and the stars, animals of the sea and earth, to be good[1]. After the sixth day, when he “created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them[2], he said that what he had made was very good[3]. The creation of mankind evidently crowned the creative work of God, which continued with the planting of a garden “eastward in Eden.” In this garden, God made “to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”[4] The last of these two trees, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, came to play a central role to the rest of the creation story, which we all know; the serpent told Eve to eat of the fruit, she did and talked Adam into doing the same, God found out and drove them out of the garden to till the earth, eat bread in the sweat of their brows and bring forth children in sorrow.
This story raises some questions, for sure. First, is it a truthful, but simplified, retelling of actual events? In other words, did this really happen? The scriptures are clear and cannot really be misunderstood–it’s a true story! For example, Nephi reports that the brass plates, among other things, contained an “account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents,”[5] Lehi taught Jacob about the creation and Adam and Eve,[6] Job gave reference to the incident of the fig leaves,[7] Luke gave the genealogy of Jesus all the way down to Adam,[8] Paul gave reference to Adam in his letters to the Romans,[9] the Corinthians[10] and to Timothy.[11] Aside from these examples, we find about a hundred or more references to the creation of Adam and Eve and the trees of life and knowledge of good and evil in the Book of Mormon, Lectures on Faith, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. If we take the scriptures as our standard of what is true there can be no doubt as to the veracity of the story of Adam of Eve. That is, as long as we don’t consider all of scripture as a metaphor and not as something to be taken at face value. As in almost every other thing, it’s hard to take an all or nothing approach to this question; some parts of scripture clearly are allegorical whereas others are historical accounts. The question of the veracity of the scriptures is, in the end, a matter of belief. Much can be said on the topic, but this is not the place where this question will be settled once and for all. In this volume, the scriptures will be my staff and I will lean unto it for truth about the things of God.
A second question that arises from the story of the creation of Adam and Eve is what it means that they were created in the image and likeness of God. The Hebrew words translated as in our image and after our likeness, tselem and demûwth, are defined as in resemblance of something, in this instance, God. The definition of tselem is a phantom that is figuratively illusion hence a representative figure.[12] In other words, there is an element of figurative use in these words. It’s like they were created as the same species as God, but without the full characteristics of a god. Adam and Eve were like God, but not as God. This might seem like a play with words, but consider this. Newly created, Adam and Eve were “good”, “righteous”, and “perfect” enough to dwell with God. They hadn’t yet acquired any knowledge of good and evil, nor did they have experience with bitterness, sin and death with the accompanying appreciation of life, forgiveness and sweetness, and they weren’t fallen (yet) so they were in no need of a Savior or faith in God. Even though they didn’t keep the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth, they were still allowed to be in the presence of God. If Adam and Eve had not eaten of the fruit, they
would not have fallen, but [they] would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end and they would have had no children. Wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.[13]
Adam and Eve would have, as the Book of Mormon informs us, lived on forever as a lone couple in the garden of Eden doing no good nor experiencing joy. We therefore have to ask whether God had to plant a tree with a forbidden fruit? Or, why did he designate the fruit of one of the trees planted in the garden as “lethal”? I guess it depends on whether God was happy with the state of mankind right after the creation. Since he did plant the tree, or said that the fruit was to be avoided, we must conclude that he wasn’t done with his plan when Adam and Eve were safely in the garden. Why then did he do it? God could have not planted a lethal tree, or he could have not forbidden them from eating of its fruit. But, he didn’t. And why is that?
The answer to this brings us back to the question of the qualitative difference between God and Adam and Eve. In the Book of Mormon, we read that
it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. [14] 
Without opposition, earth and mankind would have been “created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation.” A consequence of this would have been a lack of law and sin, sin and righteousness, righteousness and happiness and opposing punishment and misery, and consequently no God, mankind or earth. But, “there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.”[15] This God had a different purpose with his creation than it being a thing of naught and without purpose.
And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.[16]
The opposing forces that are an integral part of God’s purpose in creating the earth and mankind can’t be had unless mankind can act for himself. Or, there is nothing for man to act upon without opposition, for “man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.”[17] In the garden, God needed to create a choice for Adam and Eve. Since God wanted mankind to enjoy his fullness, not only from without but also from within, this was a dilemma he needed to solve. By making the choice to eat of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve opened the door for law, sin, righteousness, happiness, punishment and misery as well as the chance to develop and be transformed into a being not just like God, but to become as God also.
By losing their innocence, Adam and Eve won the chance to continue their journey according to the purposes of God. On this theme, Joseph Smith taught that 
God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest, who were less intelligent, could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.[18]
The Book of Mormon explains that, “all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath [God] created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever.”[19] These commandments are a part of the laws God has instituted whereby which we could have the privilege to advance like God himself. This plan of salvation and attaining of godliness will move us from being in God’s image in appearance only to possessing “the principles which God possesses.”[20] The principles God possesses are an integral part of his image.
What, then, is God that we should desire to emulate him? What principles does he possess and why should we seek them? First, a discussion about the character of God isn’t voyeurism. John reports Jesus as saying, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”[21] This settles that question–we have to know God.  A discussion about who and what God is should therefore be in our deepest interest. Joseph Smith talked about the effort we need to put into this endeavor. He said: 
the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart![22]
The Lectures on Faith further promotes this idea of the need to know God by stating that, “a correct idea of [God’s] character, perfections and attributes” is a prerequisite for “any rational and intelligent [to] exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.”[23] Before addressing (some of) the attributes of God, the Lectures on Faith explains that,
the real design which the God of heaven had in view in making the human family acquainted with his attributes, was, that they through the ideas of the existence of his attributes, might be enabled to exercise faith in him, and through the exercise of faith in him, might obtain eternal life. For without the idea of the existence of the attributes which belong to God, the minds of men could not have power to exercise faith on him so as to lay hold upon eternal life. The God of heaven understanding most perfectly the constitution of human nature, and the weakness of man, knew what was necessary to be revealed, and what ideas must be planted in their minds in order that they might be enabled to exercise faith in him unto eternal life. 
The attributes of God discussed in the Lectures on Faith are: knowledge, faith (or power), justice, judgment, mercy and truth. As God’s offspring, we should seek these attributes, primarily by faith and grace, but also through diligence and discipline. We should understand, however, that we are to be creatures of God and not of our own efforts.
The Lectures on Faith are silent on the love of God. This, however, shouldn’t cause consternation. The scriptures are clear about the fact that “God is love.”[24] Peter states that Jesus “was chosen before the creation of the world”[25] and John adds that the Lamb also was “slain from the creation of the world.”[26] In the revelations of Joseph Smith, we read that, the atonement, the redemption of Christ and the plan of redemption were  prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name.[27] In the Book of Mormon, a pre-mortal Jesus proclaimed,

Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

The scriptures are clear on the point that God didn’t make up Jesus and his redemption after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, but rather something that God had in his heart from the very start, even before the creation of the world. Since God sent Jesus because of his love of his creation,[28] we know that God must have loved us immensely before we ever had a chance to show our devotion to him.[29] The first love we received was totally undeserved. This points us to a beautiful trait of the God–to love where no love is deserved. No one deserves forgiveness and without this unconditional love, there would be none of it. Forgiveness is an enactment of the concept of releasing those who rightfully should be imprisoned. It’s letting mercy reign instead of justice.

[1] Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25
[2] Genesis 1:27
[3] Genesis 1:31
[4] Genesis 2:8-9
[5] 1 Nephi 5:11
[6] 2 Nephi 2:11-25
[7] Job 31:33
[8] Luke 3:23-38
[9] Romans 5
[10] 1 Corinthians 15
[11] 1 Timothy 2
[12] Strong’s No.: H6754
[13] 2 Nephi 2:22-23
[14] 2 Nephi 2:11
[15] 2 Nephi 2:12-14
[16] 2 Nephi 2:15-16
[17] 2 Nephi 2:16; see also Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) 29:39
[18] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS), p. 354; see also Words of Joseph Smith (WJS), p. 341, 346, 352, 360
[19] Jacob 2:21
[20] TPJS, p. 216, WJS, p. 113
[21] John 17:3
[22] TPJS, p. 137;
[23] Lectures on Faith (LF) 3:2, 4; italics in original.
[24] 1 John 4:8, 16
[25] 1 Peter 1:20
[26] Revelations 13:8
[27] Mosiah 4:6-7, 18:3; Alma 22:13
[28] John 3:16
[29] 1 John 4:10

No comments:

Post a Comment