Book of Moses

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The Book of Moses is an excerpt from Joseph Smith's inspired revision of the Holy Bible, intended to correct things that have been lost through translation errors or deliberate changes made throughout the centuries. The Book of Moses covers the period from Adam through Noah, including the ministry of Enoch and the building up of Zion. It is widely used in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--or Mormon Church--as part of the Church's Standard Works of scripture and makes many doctrinal contributions. It can be read free online here.

History of the Book of Moses

The Book of Moses was written by Joseph Smith from June 1830 to February 1831 as the beginning of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. It was published as part of the Pearl of Great Price in 1851 at the request of new Latter-day Saint converts in Britain. The Pearl of Great Price is one of the four works that compose the scriptures of Mormonism, including the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants.

Contents of the Book of Moses

The Book of Moses is Joseph Smith's inspired translation of Genesis chapters one through five, as well as half of chapter six.

Chapter One: Moses' Vision

The first chapter of the Book of Moses centers around a vision that Moses had and recorded, but which was lost to mankind because of their wickedness. We learn more about the relationship between God and man. Moses sees the entire world in vision. For a time, God departs from Moses and allows Satan to tempt him. Moses commands Satan to depart in the name of the Only Begotten. Satan leaves, God returns, and the vision continues as Moses asks God questions.

Chapters Two and Three: The Creation

Here the Creation story is repeated, basically the same as in the King James version of the Bible.

Chapters Four and Five: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel

Here the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve, as well as the deeper fall of Cain and the murder of Abel, are told with a little more detail than in other translations of the Bible. For example, they make it clear that Adam and Eve were noble and righteous, and that they repented once they left the Garden of Eden. Speaking of a time "many days" after Adam left the Garden, the book reads: "And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will" (Moses 5:9). The tragedy of Cain also shows that he started a secret combination or secret criminal organization, which is also a theme in the Book of Mormon.

Chapters Six and Seven: Enoch and Zion

In one of the most fascinating portions of the scripture revealed through the prophet Joseph Smith, Enoch's ministry is portrayed in far more detail than in the traditional Bible. These chapters of the Book of Moses show that the ancient prophets knew that a Redeemer would come, and Enoch even calls him by his name, Jesus Christ. Enoch and his converts build a city, "And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness, and there was no poor among them" (Moses 7:18). 365 years after Enoch begins preaching, Zion reached a point of righteousness such that God took them up into heaven.

Chapter Eight: Methuselah through Noah

The final chapter of Moses leads up to the story of the Flood, mostly the same as in the King James translation. However, there are a few additions and modifications that add clarity.

Doctrinal Contributions

Jesus Christ was known to Old Testament Prophets

Mormonism teaches that truth is eternal, that we existed and dwelt with God before we were born on earth, and that God's great Plan of Salvation was instituted before the world was, with Jesus Christ chosen as the Savior of the World. The Pearl of Great Price teaches that God taught Adam of the coming redeemer by name, and that all the prophets after Adam also knew and taught of the Savior and Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Building Zion

Perhaps the most prominent contribution of the Book of Moses is the explanation of how the ancient people built up Zion, the city of righteousness. This has been an important theme throughout the history of the Mormon Church. The early Latter-day Saints were promised that they would build Zion in Jackson County, but the Lord postponed that blessing when the people were not faithful enough. However, the theme of gathering the Saints together lasted for a long time, culminating in the gathering to Utah. Today, however, Mormon leaders encourage the Church to build up Zion-like societies wherever they live. One important principle that can be learned from the Book of Moses is that a utopian society does not just come from an ideal system. It comes by the power of the Holy Ghost as each person individually accepts Jesus Christ (see Enoch's sermon in Moses 6:48-68).

The Fall of Adam

While the most important Mormon scripture on the Fall of Adam and Eve is found in the Book of Mormon, in 2 Nephi chapter 2, the Book of Moses is also a very important source to understand Mormon beliefs on the Fall. First, it shows that God recognized their freedom to choose whether or not to obey his commandments. Second, it shows that Adam heard the gospel from angels, repented, offered animal sacrifice, was baptized by water and by the Holy Ghost, was fully forgiven, and taught the gospel of Jesus Christ to his children. As Mormons, we honor Adam and Eve as our noble and righteous first parents.

Resisting the Devil

The Book of Moses provides some of the best examples in all of scripture how temptation works, with the exception of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness. First, and most dramatically, Moses resists the devil by asserting his personal identity as a son of God, refusing to believe Satan's lies, praying for help, and casting out Satan in the name of Jesus Christ. Second, Eve gives in to partaking of the fruit step by step--first she looks at the fruit, then she wants it, then she touches it, and then she eats it. Third, Cain is deceived by the devil when he offers a sacrifice to the Lord for the wrong reasons. Finally, Enoch and his people escape the power of Satan through faith and unity.

Children of God

In Moses' personal interactions with God, God tells him, "Behold, thou art my son... And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten..." (Moses 1:4,6) Like other Christians, Mormons believe that every person is a child of God. This means that every person has something of the divine within them. Prominent Christian theologian C. S. Lewis wrote, "It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit... Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” [1]


  1. C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1980), pp. 18–19

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