Latter-day Saints have, in addition to the biblical Genesis, two modern restorations
of ancient scriptural accounts of the Creation in the Book of Moses and the
book of Abraham. Related authoritative information also appears in the Book
of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the LDS temple ceremony. Drawing
on this wealth of creation literature, Latter-day Saints understand that Jesus
Christ, acting under the direction of God the Father, created this and other
worlds to make possible the immortality and eternal life of human beings who
already existed as spirit children of the Father. This understanding differs
from both scientific and traditional Christian accounts in that it affirms God´s
purpose and role, while recognizing creation as organization of preexisting
materials, and not as an ex nihilo event (creation from nothing). Furthermore,
these accounts describe an active role for God´s spirit children in the Creation
and include a more detailed version of the origins of evil.
The frequent occurrence of creation accounts in LDS scriptures and sacred ceremonies
reflects a pattern of the ancient world generally, and ancient Israel in particular,
where the Creation was regularly recited or reenacted. The Creation-including
its ritual recitation and reenactment-was viewed by the Israelites and other
peoples of the ancient Near East as possessing a dynamic, not a static, quality.
According to Raffaele Pettazzoni, a noted historian of religions, "What
happened in the beginning has an exemplary and defining value for what is happening
today and what will happen in the future" (p. 26).
Creation plays a central theological role in the Book of Mormon. The events
surrounding creation are linked with the fall of that angel who became the devil
(2 Ne. 2:17; 9:8). His fall, in turn, led to the Fall of Adam; opposition as
a feature of mortal existence; and, ultimately, the need for a divine redemption
of mankind (2 Ne. 2:1827). Book of Mormon prophets invoked the Creation
as a symbol of God´s goodness and a touchstone of human stewardship: "The
Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created
his children that they should possess it" (1 Ne. 17:36). Those who reject
God´s goodness, as symbolized by the Creation (and the Atonement), will inevitably
be judged and punished (cf. 2 Ne. 1:10).
The creation account in the Book of Moses (revealed in 1830 as the beginning
of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible) provides several insights in addition
to those found in Genesis.
First, the Book of Moses establishes Mosaic authorship of its creation account
indicating explicitly that it resulted from a revelation given to Moses sometime
between the time of the burning bush and the exodus (Moses 1:17, 25).
Second, it clarifies the role of Jesus Christ in the Creation: "By the
word of my power have I created [these lands and their inhabitants], which is
mine Only Begotten Son" (Moses 1:3233); "I, God, said unto mine
Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our
image" (Moses 2:2627); "And I, the Lord God, said unto mine
Only Begotten: Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil"
(Moses 4:28). This is consistent with the teachings of John and Paul in the
New Testament (John 1:3, 10; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:1316; Heb. 1:2, 10).
Third, the Creation is placed in a much larger context of ongoing creations
of innumerable inhabited earths with their respective heavens (in all of which
Christ played a central role): "And worlds without number have I created
mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten
And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another
come; and there is no end to my works" (Moses 1:33, 38; see also Worlds).
Moses is given details of the creation of "this heaven, and this earth"
only (Moses 2:1; cf. 1:35).
Fourth, the origin of evil is traced back to the rebellion of Satan, who sought
(1) to replace God´s Beloved Son, who had been "chosen from the beginning,"
and (2) to receive and use God´s own power to redeem all humans by destroying
their agency (Moses 4:14). The importance of human agency is reaffirmed
in the command to Adam and Eve concerning the tree of knowledge of good and
evil: "Thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself,
for it is given unto thee; but remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou
eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Moses 3:17).
Fifth, the account in Moses makes clear that there was a spirit creation of
all living things in heaven before they were created physically upon the earth:
"I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually,
before they were naturally upon the face of the earth
. And I, the Lord
God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground;
for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither
in the water, neither in the air" (Moses 3:5).
Certain LDS commentators have explored the possibility that the Moses account
could resolve the apparent conflict in the order of God´s creative acts between
Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 by treating the first as a spirit creation (O. Pratt,
pp. 2122; Roberts, pp. 26468; cf. DS 1:7476, which
explains a different view). Later revelations make it clear that mankind´s spirit
creation had taken place long before the events described in any of the accounts
of the earth´s creation. God, our Heavenly Father, is literally the "Father
of spirits" (Heb. 12:9). "Man as a spirit was begotten and born of
heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father,
prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body" (see First Presidency,
"The Origin of Man," Nov. 1909 [Appendix]; see also Spirit Body).
The Abrahamic account is distinctive among creation accounts. It describes
a structured cosmos, with many stars, one above another, with their different
periods and orders of government (Abr. 3:110). Within this context Abraham
also learns about eternally existing spirits, one above the other in intelligence,
all the way up to "the Lord thy God," who is "more intelligent
than they all" (Abr. 3:19; see speeches cited in bibliography). He is shown
a group of organized intelligences (or spirits, or souls-the words are here
used interchangeably), over whom God rules and among whom he dwells, and is
taught that "in the beginning" God came down in the midst of them,
and said of some who were "noble and great": "These I will make
. And he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast
chosen before thou wast born" (Abr. 3:1823). A purpose of this premortal
assembly in heaven is explained by "one among them that was like unto God,"
who says to those who are with him, "We will go down
and we will make
an earth whereon these may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if
they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them"
(Abr. 3:2425). This is followed by a pronouncement of the glory to come
upon those who prove worthy, the choosing of one "like unto the Son of
Man" (who is to be sent to bring this about), and the rejection of Satan-all
done by "the Lord," who is identified elsewhere as Jehovah (Abr. 3:25-28;
cf. Abr. 1:1516; 2:78). Thereafter, "the Lord said: Let us
go down," whereupon the Gods "organized and formed the heavens and
the earth" (Abr. 4:1). A significant feature of this revealed account is
that both the space and the materials for the earth explicitly existed before
Within this context of the divine assembly, or Council in Heaven, Abraham´s
account of the Creation proceeds, generally following the structural outline
of Genesis. By the time Joseph Smith published this "translation"
in 1842, he had gained a much deeper understanding both through additional revelation
and some through study of Hebrew. In light of the doctrine of the Council in
Heaven, Joseph Smith had pointed out that the Hebrew term Elohim, a plural
form, should be rendered the "Gods" in the creation account, not as
the traditional "God" (WJS, p. 379). It is so rendered throughout
Abraham´s account. In light of the doctrine of the eternal nature of matter,
the word traditionally translated as "created" becomes "organized."
The phrase "without form and void" (Hebrew tohu wa-bohu) is
rendered, quite properly, "empty and desolate" and describes the condition
of the earth after it was organized, not before (Abr. 4:2).
The term "day" (Hebrew yom) for the seven "days"
of creation is given as "time," a permissible alternative in both
Hebrew and English; and it is explicitly pointed out that the "time"
in which Adam should die if he partook of the forbidden fruit "was after
the Lord´s time, which was after the time of Kolob [a great star that Abraham
had seen nearest to the throne of God, whose revolution, one thousand years
by our reckoning, is a day unto the Lord]; for as yet the Gods had not appointed
unto Adam his reckoning" (Abr. 5:13; 3:24).
On the basis of the above passage, which clearly excludes the possibility of
earthly twenty-four-hour days being the "days" or "times"
of creation, some Latter-day Saint commentators have argued for one-thousand-year
periods as the "times" of creation as well as the "time"
of Adam´s earthly life after the fall; others have argued for indefinite periods
of time, as long as it would take to accomplish the work involved. Abraham´s
account does contain the interesting passage, in connection with the "organizing"
of the lights in the "expanse" of heaven, "The Gods watched those
things which they had ordered until they obeyed" (Abr. 4:1418). Abraham´s
account actually includes twelve different "labors" of the Gods, divided
up among the "days" in the manner of Genesis. The later temple account
of creation gives an abbreviated version of those labors, divided up differently
among the seven days while retaining the same order, suggesting that it may
not be significant which labor is assigned to which day.
Abraham connects the seemingly differing accounts of Genesis 1 and 2 within
the context of the Council in Heaven. Abraham´s seven-day account proceeds through
the work of the first five creative times and part of the sixth as the physical
creation of the earth and its preparation to support life before life was actually
placed upon it. Thus, during the third time, "the Gods organized the earth
to bring forth grass
and the earth to bring forth the tree from its own
seed" (Abr. 4:12; emphasis added). And during the fifth time, the Gods
"prepared the waters that they might bring forth great whales, and every
and every winged fowl after their kind" (Abr. 4:21).
Similarly, on the sixth time "the Gods prepared the earth to bring forth
the living creature after his kind
. And the Gods saw they would obey"
(Abr. 4:2425). Then upon the sixth time, the Gods again took counsel among
themselves and determined to form man, and to give them dominion over the plants
and animals that should come upon the earth (Abr. 4:2629). "And the
Gods said among themselves: On the seventh time we will end our work, which
we have counseled; and we will rest
. And thus were their decisions at
the time that they counseled among themselves" (Abr. 5:23). The account
paralleling Genesis 2 then follows smoothly as an account of the actual placing
of life upon the earth: "And the Gods came down and formed these the generations
of the heavens and of the earth, when they were formed in the day that the Gods
formed the earth and the heavens, according to all that which they had said
concerning every plant of the field before it was in the earth" (Abr. 5:45).
Several themes in other ancient creation accountspremortal conflict in
heaven, divine victory over the opposing powers of chaos, and the promulgation
of law at the time of creationare also familiar from creation accounts
in LDS scripture and theology (2 Ne. 2:17; 9:8; Moses 4:34; Abr. 3:2728;
see also War in Heaven; Pre-Existence). These ideas are alluded to in several
places in the Bible (cf. Ex. 15; Job 38-Isa. 4042; Ps. 18; 19; 24; 33;
68; 93; 104; Prov. 8:2233; Hab. 3:8; Rev. 12:712). From the early
Christian era until the end of the nineteenth century, traditional Christian
interpretation has generally treated these biblical texts allegorically or has
not considered them at all in discussions of the Creation. A profound transformation
in the Christian interpretation of these passages took place during the latter
part of the nineteenth century with the discovery and translation of creation
accounts from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. While these accounts vary considerably
in detail, they usually mention premortal combats, the establishment of the
divine order before creation, and creation from chaos. The biblical passages
mentioned above are now often understood in light of these descriptions of extrabiblical
The doctrine of ex nihilo creation has been the traditional Christian explanation.
In recent discussion of the subject, many Jewish scholars agreed that the belief
in an ex nihilo creation is not to be found before the Hellenistic period, while
Christian scholars see no evidence of this doctrine in the Christian church
until the end of the second century A.D. The rejection of ex nihilo creation
in the teaching of the Latter-day Saints thus accords with the evidence of the
earliest understanding of the Creation in ancient Israel and in early Christianity.
Similarly, Latter-day Saints have understood such biblical passages as John
9:2 and Jeremiah 1:45 to refer to individual premortal existence, with
implications for subsequent earthly existence. In support of this, it may be
pointed out that various Christians and Christian groups in the early Christian
centuries taught the same doctrine (cf. Origen, De principiis 1:7; 2:8;
4:1), and that it is also to be found in Jewish belief of the same period, including
Philo (De mutatione nominum 39; De opificio mundi 51; De cherubim
32); in some apocryphal writings (Wisdom of Solomon 8:1920; 15:3); and
among the Essenes (Josephus, Jewish War 2.8.11, as well as in the Jewish
Talmud and Midrash).