Did I say that this year was on the Old Testament? Well, we can’t start there, instead we detour into our own scriptures first, today Moses 1 in the Pearl of Great Price. Joseph Smith spent a lot of time in the Bible and he took the liberty to come up with some extraordinary re-translations and expansions of Old Testament. The Book of Mose came out of this.
By the way, I have purchased a couple of books to help guide my way through the Old Testament, but they are en route, and we haven’t really started the Old Testament, so what follows is purely my ideas, and I’m taking a lot of liberties here.
A couple of pre-conditions. I’m reading it to optimize its applicability to my own life. I doubt I will ever encounter God face to face as Moses does here, so doesn’t seem relevant to me. I’m assuming a world as I encounter it now.
Re-reading Moses 1, to me it reads like poetry. Some specifics:
Verse 1: Mountains
God speaks to Moses when he “was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain,”
First of all, how did Moses get to the mountain? I’m imagining it wasn’t planned. Maybe he needed time alone, maybe he was trying to find solace or comfort. But whatever the circumstances he was in a situation where his mind was elevated beyond the daily concerns that tend to overwhelm our day. In other words, he was ready to step into deep time.
Verse 4: Eternity
“my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.” God’s words never cease. Most of what we do does end, including and especially our words, the sounds and the music. Daniel Barenboim in his beautiful book on music, talks about the impermanence of sound here:
Sound does not remain, sound has a tendency to drop into silence. Therefore, sound has with silence is the equivalent of life and death. I think the fact that sound is drawn to silence, therefore sound has a tendency to die, that means that every note that you play or sing has a tendency to die puts you in direct contact with the feeling of death more than anything I can think of because its not in your imagination only because its physically in front of you whether you are playing or listening.
But there’s also sometime permanent about it as well here:
Sound is extraordinary because it doesn’t live in this world. Whoever makes a sound, he is literally bringing this sound into the world. And yet when it comes to this world, it suddenly acquires a human dimension, it acquires a dimension that makes humans move. I know know of no other phenomenon that is a purely physical phenomenon that takes another dimension.
If God’s works and words never cease, what specifically does that mean? I can think of experiences and emotions in my life, both good and bad, that etch deep within me. They become part of me and if I’m eternal, and if God’s words can embed within me, they become eternal as well.
Verse 6: Grace and Truth
Let me assume this is the primary substance of God, grace and truth. This is what constitutes divinity, grace and truth. In that sense, God knows us, inside and out, all parts of us, our good and our bad, our darkest secrets and our most proud, public achievements, and most importantly, the broad context of our lives. If this is true, God’s grace means, we are loved anyway. I think this is how we should all aspire to be. To know things as they really are as fully and completely as possible, and then to approach the world with as much compassion and grace we can muster.
Verse 6: All things are Present For I know them all
Imagine that all things are now, present. We’re perfectly aware of everything around us. We ignore nothing. How often do I sleepwalk through my day. Ignore real suffering and especially how often do I miss a problem I’m in a position to solve. Are there people or things calling for my attention that I purposely cast aside?
I’m not sure I’m capable to be in a constant state of presence and awareness. But this is a divine attribute and something I should strive for.
Verse 20: The bitterness of hell
God leaves Moses and he is left alone. In this moment, Satan visits him and demands Moses worship. Moses refuses and in the exchange Satan expresses frustration causing Moses to feel the “bitterness of hell”.
There are two possibilities each of us must reckon with. We can either find connection and solidarity with each other in love and equality and concern. Become present and aware. Or we can withdraw within and demand others to pay attention to us. In other words, we can make everything about ourselves or we can be more concerned with our relationships and our connection.
I have had experiences with both and at times I’ve sought for and received attention and praise. And it’s incredible and fulfilling but temporary and fleeting. There have been times when I’ve wanted it but didn’t get it and I’ve fallen into the bitterness of rejection.
I think God here shows us the better way.
Verse 34: Adam, which is many
“And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.” Ok, this is weird. Adam which is many? This, for me, gives room for Adam as an archetype and not a real person and theological room for evolution – of which Mormonism is officially neutral.