The first chapter of the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price is dated to June 1830. The Book of Mormon had been published only two or three months before, yet the Book of Moses is strikingly different from that volume — a fact requiring explanation from anybody who regards them simply as the products of the same creative but uneducated mind.
And Moses 1 is rich, densely packed with important teachings that we perhaps now take for granted but that are also remarkably profound.
In this column, I’ll focus on the single most famous verse in that chapter, Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
This declaration offers a radically different view of God than that advocated by many theologies and theologians. Over the centuries, they have tended to portray the Father as a stern, distant, all-ruling monarch. Or, drawing upon Greek philosophy, they have sought to meld the biblical portrayal of Israel’s personal God with Aristotle’s dispassionate, even cold, “unmoved Mover” — a divine thinker thinking about the only object of thought in the universe worthy of its attention: Itself. And yet, in doing so, they have overlooked the clearest and most obvious biblical revelation of God’s fundamental character — Jesus of Nazareth.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (see John 3:16-17).
In John 14, responding to Philip’s request to see the Father, Jesus said “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (see John 14:9).
And Jesus revealed the Father perfectly, not only in the sense that he was “the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3) but in the sense that Jesus did “the works of (his) father” (John 10:37). “I seek not mine own will,” he declared, “but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). “If ye had known me,” he told Thomas, “ye should have known my Father also” (John 14:7).
And what did Jesus do? According to John 13:1-5, just minutes before his arrest in Gethsemane, “when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.”
“He that is greatest among you,” Jesus had taught the disciples, “shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).
Moses 1:39 teaches us with unmistakable clarity that service isn’t just an admission requirement for heaven, merely a test that, once passed, can be left behind. Instead, it’s of the essence of deity, at the very heart of becoming like our Father. And, in its repeated description of Moses as a “son” of God (e.g., at 1:4, 6, 7, 13, 40), distinct from but “in the similitude” of God’s “Only Begotten” (e.g., at 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32-33), the first chapter of Moses plainly teaches the closeness of divinity and humanity.
When, in Matthew 5:48 (compare 3 Nephi 12:48), the Savior counsels his disciples to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” that exhortation concludes and sums up a six-verse passage on loving and doing good even to our enemies “that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:45). “He that loveth not,” says 1 John 4:8, “knoweth not God; for God is love.”
This teaching is perhaps especially appropriate to keep in mind during a week when we commemorate the life and ministry of President Thomas S. Monson, who so wonderfully illustrated the principle of personal service and attention to the needy, the suffering and the lonely. May we all follow his example.