“The Pearl of Great Price: A Unique Scripture,” Ensign, Dec. 1972, 26
What do you know about the Pearl of Great Price? Test your knowledge of this smallest standard work by responding to the following questions:
2. Some parts of the Book of Moses are a restoration of material completely missing from the Bible, and other parts are a revision of an existing biblical text.
3. Abraham patterned his records after the patriarchal record.
4. Only part of the Book of Abraham has been published.
5. Satan tempted Moses.
6. Secret combinations had their origin among the people of the Book of Mormon.
7. Great and noble spirits assisted Christ in the creation of this world.
8. Enoch at first resisted the call to serve the Lord.
9. The oldest scripture produced on this earth is Adam’s book of remembrance.
10. The gospel was taught to the first man, Adam, and he was baptized.
11. Although there have been many gospel dispensations, seven major dispensations are referred to in the Pearl of Great Price.
(All of the above statements are true except number 6.)
The text of the Book of Mormon makes it clear that many plain and precious things were deleted from the Bible. (See 1 Ne. 13:26, 28, 32.) Would there be a restoration of the lost material? (See 1 Ne. 13:34.) Would the text of the Bible be restored?
By June 1830, Joseph Smith and the infant church had been the object of considerable persecution. To strengthen and sustain them in their hour of trouble, the Lord gave them a revelation that Orson Pratt later titled the Visions of Moses. This revelation was eventually to have great impact upon the doctrinal development of the Church and had the immediate effect of strengthening the Prophet and his friends amid the trials and tribulations they were called to endure. In his journal, the Prophet prefaced the revelation with these words:
“I will say, however, that amid all the trials and tribulations we had to wade through, the Lord, who well knew our infantile and delicate situation, vouchsafed for us a supply of strength, and granted us ‘line upon line of knowledge—here a little and there a little,’ of which the following [Moses 1:1–42] was a precious morsel.” (DHC, vol. 1, p. 98.)
Soon after this revelation was given, Joseph Smith began a project that was to occupy much of his time, study, and prayerful thought during many years to come. This project was to complete an inspired revision of the Bible. The Book of Moses is an extract from the inspired revision of Genesis, while Joseph Smith 1 [JS—M 1] is the Prophet’s revision of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. The extracts of the Book of Moses were prepared and printed piecemeal during the Prophet’s lifetime. (See chart, based on the research of Dr. James R. Clark.)
Extract from Inspired Revision of the Bible
Date of First Printing
April 1833 (incomplete)
In the eight chapters that comprise the Book of Moses we have large sections that are complete restorations of material not found anywhere else in scripture. The so-called extracts from the Prophecy of Enoch comprise the largest restoration of material in the Book of Moses and possibly in the entire inspired revision of the Bible. Just preceding his journal record of this revelation, the Prophet commented:
“It may be well to observe here, that the Lord greatly encouraged and strengthened the faith of His little flock, which had embraced the fulness of the everlasting Gospel, as revealed to them in the Book of Mormon, by giving some more extended information upon the Scriptures, a translation of which had already commenced. Much conjecture and conversation frequently occurred among the Saints, concerning the books mentioned, and referred to, in various places in the Old and New Testaments, which were now nowhere to be found. The common remark was, ‘They are lost books;’ but it seems the Apostolic Church had some of these writings, as Jude mentions or quotes the Prophecy of Enoch, the seventh from Adam. To the joy of the little flock, which in all, from Colesville to Canandaigua, New York, numbered about seventy members, did the Lord reveal the following doings of olden times, from the prophecy of Enoch.” (DHC, vol. 1, pp. 131–33.)
The Prophecy of Enoch was known to the Church in the meridian of time but lost to modern Christians until it was restored in December 1830. This prophecy provided information that would encourage the Church to build up Zion after the pattern of the Zion of Enoch. Like the restoration of Moses 1:1–42, it served to strengthen the growing Church.
Inspired by the “record of the fathers, even the patriarchs,” which had been preserved and had come into his hands, Abraham explained: “… and I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me.” (Abr. 1:31.)
Everything now published as the Book of Abraham was published in the Times and Seasons at Nauvoo between March 1 and May 16, 1842. In February 1843, John Taylor succeeded Joseph Smith as editor of the journal. Addressing himself to subscribers, Elder Taylor wrote, “We have the promise of brother Joseph, to furnish us with further extracts from the Book of Abraham.” Apparently conditions did not permit this to occur.
What were the contents of the unpublished portion of the Book of Abraham? We can only hazard a guess that they may have been a continuation of the account of Abraham’s experiences in Egypt. Facsimile 1 is an illustration that precedes and relates to the information given in chapter 1. Facsimile 2 precedes and supplements the information found in Abraham 3. It would logically follow that Facsimile 3 should precede a presentation of Abraham’s experiences in Egypt. This facsimile illustrates the missing portion of the Book of Abraham.
How extensive this record may have been is impossible to ascertain. Verse 15 of chapter 3 would indicate that Abraham was called to teach the Egyptians what God had revealed to him. Abraham expounded principles of astronomy, premortal existence, foreordination, and creation. How many more principles of the gospel did he teach? In the explanation of Facsimile 3, we are informed that Abraham carried out the instructions of the Lord by “reasoning upon the principles of astronomy in the king’s courts.” It would be enlightening to know what circumstances led Pharaoh to invite Abraham to sit on his throne and instruct him and his household.
The answer is yes. (See Moses 1:12–23.) It seems curious that such an important and dramatic encounter is not found in the biblical writings of Moses. But a statement in Moses 1:23 explains that this event had been hidden from the world because of wickedness. Now, through the ministry of Joseph Smith, it is had again among the children of men.
Although the name or designation “Satan” or “the Adversary” does not appear in any of the chapters of Genesis, or, for that matter, in any of the five biblical books of Moses, it is found thirty-two times in the first seven chapters of the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. Satan seems to have been known by Adam, Cain, Lamech, Enoch, and Moses, if not to the entire camp of Israel. From the Pearl of Great Price we learn that—
a. Satan was an active and persistent adversary in the life of Moses. (See Moses 1:12–22.) He was commanded to depart four times before he did leave.
b. Satan is a personage of considerable power and can be dismissed only by those who have an unshakable faith in the Only Begotten, Jesus Christ. The commands of faithful Moses did not begin to shake Satan until Moses, through a mighty prayer of faith, was endowed with power from the Lord. (See Moses 1:19–23.)
c. Satan, who fell from heaven, continues in his fallen state, fights the powers of light, deceives men, and tries to thwart every good work and every strengthening, faith-building experience of man. From the days of Adam through every age of the world, Satan has made war with the saints. (See Moses 4:4; Moses 6:49; D&C 76.)
d. Satan was one who became the personification of evil through his own agency, his willingness to defy God. It is clear from the text that Satan offered a counterfeit plan of salvation: “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost.” He continues to preach his counterfeit program through every philosophy, device, or discipline that does not build faith in God. The above text also identifies the origin of evil. (See Moses 4:1–4.)
“As far as men on this earth are concerned, evil had its beginning in pre-[mortal] existence. The Eternal Father begat spirit children, ordained laws to enable them to progress, and endowed them with agency. Disobedience to those laws was in its nature evil, and consequently without the possibility of committing evil there could be no hope of progression toward exaltation. Lucifer and one-third of the spirit hosts of heaven chose evil rather than good, failed to exercise their agency in righteousness, and finally coming out in open rebellion against the Lord, they were cast out onto the earth and denied [mortal] bodies. (Moses 4:1–4; Abr. 3:24–28; D&C 29:36–40; Rev. 12:7–13.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine [Bookcraft, 1966], p. 245.)
Secret combinations were the cause of the destruction of the Nephite and Jaredite peoples. (Ether 8:21.) But they had their origins long before Lehi left Jerusalem, long before the Jaredites colonized the Western Hemisphere.
Where did these combinations begin? Nineteen verses of Moses 5 deal with Cain and the origin of secret combinations, and eleven verses treat the continuation of the combinations in the earth. These combinations were characterized by solemn oaths of darkness made in the name of the “living God” (Moses 5:29–30) and by a tightly disciplined brotherhood, bent on achieving power and gain through violence and fear (Moses 5:51–55).
Great civilizations of the past have fallen under the heel of Cain’s combination. As it happened in the past, it could happen again. The counsel of Moroni to mankind in the latter days is:
“Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.
“Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.” (Ether 8:23–24.)
The Book of Abraham contains what may be the most accurate account of the creation now available in print. The preface to that account is both unique and delightfully informative. From it we read that the Lord had shown unto Abraham “the intelligences that were organized before the world was.” (Abr. 3:22.)
These intelligences (speaking of those who were spirits) were the noble and great ones, those who were potential kings and queens of heaven. Abraham was told that he was one of them, chosen before he had been born into mortality. Among the noble and great spirits was one “like unto God.” This personage said, “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.” (Abr. 3:24.)
“… And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.” (Abr. 4:1.)
These scriptures indicate that noble and great spirits participated in the creation of the earth upon which they would work out their salvation.
The societies of men that surrounded Enoch were steeped in violence and humanism; they “sought their own counsels in the dark” (i.e., did not reason in the spirit) “and in their own abominations have they devised murder.” (Moses 6:28.)
The prospect of doing missionary work among such a people did not seem to appeal to Enoch. He complained that he was slow of speech, relatively inexperienced, “but a lad, and all the people hate me”—so why call me? (Moses 6:31.)
All Enoch’s objections were swept aside with the simple admonition to do what the Lord told him to do. His life would be preserved, his mouth filled with words, and his words fulfilled as mountains, rivers, beasts, and men yielded to the power of God that was in him.
Enoch saw the Lord face to face and viewed the future of mankind down to the end of time. The highlights of his vision are recorded in Moses 7, which is a brief extract of the history of Enoch the Seer, who became a witness of Jesus Christ as he viewed the Lord’s birth, ministry, death, and resurrection.
Enoch described some major events of the latter days, including the return of his translated city to the earth, to be united with the world, which resented his existence and tried to destroy him and his Zion society. Can the Zion-bound Latter-day Saints exercise the same quality of faith?
The ancient patriarchs were among the first authors of scripture, written by them as they were inspired by the Holy Ghost. Their records became the source books used by Father Abraham as he wrote for the benefit of his posterity:
“… I shall endeavor, hereafter, to delineate the chronology running back from myself to the beginning of the creation, for the records have come into my hands, which I hold unto this present time.
“But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore … I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me.” (Abr. 1:28, 31.)
“And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration;
“And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled.
“Now this same Priesthood [patriarchal order of the priesthood], which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also.
“Now this prophecy Adam spake, as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost. …” (Moses 6:5–8.)
Christian doctrines were expounded before the mortal ministry of Christ. God did not wait until the meridian of time before revealing the full program of salvation to mankind. The first man to hear the gospel of Christ was Adam. When Enoch cried repentance unto the people, his discourse included an appeal to the people to honor the teachings of Adam.
In the process, Enoch gave an account of how it was that Adam was baptized and came to understand the fall, the atonement, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, as well as the doctrines of justification and sanctification. Adam’s spiritual rebirth was attested to and his possession of priesthood after the order of the Son of God was announced. (See Moses 6:51–68.)
Details of Adam’s baptism are found in Moses 6:64: “… he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.”
Seven major dispensations are represented in this book of scripture:
b. The dispensation of Enoch—Moses 6:25–8:2.
c. The dispensation of Noah—Moses 8:8–30 and also in part of Enoch’s vision.
d. The dispensation of Abraham—all of the Book of Abraham [Abr. 1–5].
e. The Mosaic dispensation—Moses 1 (and in a more general sense, all of the remainder of the Book of Moses).
f. The dispensation of the meridian of time—Joseph Smith 2 (a narration of Church history) [JS—H 1].
The Pearl of Great Price displays the unity of all dispensations, available to all men according to their willingness to receive its light and truth. This little book spans millennia of divine intervention and condescension to bless the societies and strivings of man. It is, finally and unequivocally, a book with a unique mission. It contains specialized truths and an advanced course in revealed theology.