Abraham 3

Introduction

William W. Phelps

If you could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward with that same speed to fly,
D'ye think that you could ever, through all eternity,

Find out the generation where Gods began to be?

Or see the grand beginning, where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation, where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers, No man has found "pure space,"

Nor seen the outside curtains, where nothing has a place.

The works of God continue, and worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter; there is no end to space
There is no end to spirit; there is no end to race.

(Hymn #284, verses 1-3)

Abraham 3:2-3 I saw the stars, that they were very great

Joseph Fielding Smith

It was in the night time when the Lord spoke these words to Abraham and revealed to him, in vision and by the Urim and Thummim, the greatness of the stars. As he gazed upon them-for his eyes were opened-they greatly multiplied before him so that he could not see the end thereof, for the stars were without number.

Here was a wonderful lesson to be learned by Abraham. In this vision the wonders of the universe were made plain to him. It was not merely a lesson in astronomy given under the tuition of the Master Astronomer, who built these vast worlds and knew them all by name. There were other and deeper meanings in this lesson. Abraham learned that the works of the Almighty are endless. He discovered that they are created as habitations for man. These glorified worlds are abodes of righteous celestial beings-the children of our eternal Father. Moreover, he learned that there is an eternal purpose in all the works of God, that many worlds have gone through their probation and on to eternal glory. And as one world passes on to its exaltation, so shall another come, for there are many worlds that have passed away and many more to come as habitations for men yet unborn. The vastness and glory of the universe to Abraham was overwhelming. Then the Lord promised: "I will multiply thee, and thy seed after thee, like unto these, and if thou canst count the number of sands, so shall be the number of thy seed." (The Way to Perfection [Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1949], 94)

Abraham 3:3 Kolob... is near unto me, for... I have set this one to govern

Kolob is not the name of the planet upon which God resides.  It is assumed to be the sun or one of the suns pertaining to the throne of God.  It is the governing body, presumably the central star for our order, but what is our order?  What is meant by "the same order as that [planet] upon which thou standest"?  Is Kolob part of the Milky Way Galaxy? Or is it near the center of the entire universe?  Hugh Nibley said, "Notice, Kolob doesn't govern all the planets in the universe, only those of the same order that concern Abraham. So he is shown Kolob for that purpose, because it concerns him." (Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], 5.)

"The movements of all stars in their orbits, and the revolving of one system around another center, were unknown to modern astronomers at the time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham. But since Kirchhoff more perfectly discovered (1859) the principle of spectrum analysis, 'astro-physics has advanced by leaps and bounds.' It is now known that each star not only revolves around some center, but groups of stars revolve around a common center...

"Isn't it very startling to think that Joseph Smith could have known such far-reaching truths concerning the infinite deeps long before they were discovered by the aid of the spectroscope and astrophotography; especially since some scholars are claiming that he was a deceiver, totally unacquainted with the significance of those hieroglyphics; and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing? Pray, tell me by what law of mind an ignorant deceiver can project a system of truths which antedates the discoveries of modern science." ("Astronomy Attests the Truth of the Book of Abraham," Improvement Era, 1916, Vol. Xix. May, 1916 No. 7)

Abraham 3:4 one revolution was a day unto the Lord... it being one thousand years

The planet upon which God resides rotates more slowly than planet earth.  It takes 1000 years complete one revolution about its axis.  That is 365,000 times longer than our planet. It must be part of a system that is not moving very quickly which makes sense if it is near the center of a large system.  Wikipedia says the Milky Way Galaxy "rotates once every 15 to 50 million years," but that is the whole galaxy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_Way).  The rate of rotation of a particular planet near the center of that galaxy might be much faster than 50 million years.  Just as the earth rotates on its axis 365 times for every single rotation around the sun, God's planet would rotate every 1000 years, even if the rotation of the whole system was slower than that. 

Eldred G. Smith

So according to this, 1000 years of our time is equivalent to one day with the Lord. If you were to live to be 100 years old on earth, that would be 1/10 of one day with the Lord... So according to this, if you live to be 100 on this earth, that would be equivalent to 2.4 hours in the Lord's time calendar. If you live to be 75, that would be one hour and 48 minutes. Fifty years of this time is equivalent to one hour and 12 minutes in the Lord's time.

Imagine yourself for a moment back in the spirit world before you came to earth... You knew from firsthand experience the fullness of the glory of God. You knew you could not participate in his glory, or become as he is, because you were only a spirit; you didn't have a physical body. Now the opportunity comes for you to go to earth where you can receive such a body and become as he is. Of course, you shouted for joy! Then let's assume that you were instructed that you would be allotted 100 years of mortal time. To you there and then, that would be two hours and 24 minutes. That would be the only time calendar you would be familiar with-only about 2 1/3 hours.

Only 2 1/3 hours to earn such a great reward-and some may not live 100 years; most of us will not. So we will assume about two hours time in the Lord's time is allotted to us in this life... We have in this life two golden hours.

Wouldn't you promise to endure almost anything for two hours to get the blessings that the Lord has promised of eternal life and to become as he is? He has promised that all that the Father has shall be given unto you. Then suppose you were instructed that you would have much to endure in this life on earth. Nothing would be too great to endure for two hours, would it? (Conference Report, April 1966, Afternoon Meeting 41 - 42)

Abraham 3:6 the set time of the greater light which is set to rule the day

Of course the greater light which is "set to rule the day" is the sun.  Its "set time" is one year, right?  Well, you have to take into account the effect of a leap year every 4 years so it is closer to 365.25 days.

"A sidereal year is the time taken by the Earth to orbit the Sun once with respect to the fixed stars. Hence it is also the time taken for the Sun to return to the same position with respect to the fixed stars after apparently travelling once around the ecliptic. It was equal to 365.256363004 days at noon 1 January 2000."  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidereal_year)

Abraham 3:6 the set time of the lesser light which is set to rule the night

The set time of the lesser light, or the moon, must of course be faster than that of the sun because it belongs to a lesser order.  Just as a month is less than a year, the moon is less than the sun.  To be exact, the set time of the moon is not precisely one month.

"All lunar months approximate the mean length of the synodic month, or how long it takes to pass through each phase (new, half, full moon) and back again. It takes 29.53059 days (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds). Interestingly, the moon finishes its orbit around the earth in 27.3 days, but it has not finished a full cycle until it reaches the point in its orbit where the sun is in the same position." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_month)

Abraham 3:7 the time of the earth upon which thou standest

Finally, the set time of the earth is a mere 24 hours.

"The average of the true solar day during the course of an entire year is the mean solar day, which contains 86,400 mean solar seconds. Currently, each of these seconds is slightly longer than an SI (International System of Units: abbreviated SI from French: Système international d'unités) second because Earth's mean solar day is now slightly longer than it was during the 19th century due to tidal friction. The average length of the mean solar day since the introduction of the leap second in 1972 has been about 0 to 2 ms longer than 86,400 SI seconds." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_rotation)

Abraham 3:5-7 the set time of the lesser light is a longer time... [than] the time of the earth

The sun is greater than the moon; the moon is greater (in order of time) than the earth; the earth is least of all.  The heavens themselves are symbolic of the three degrees of glory. The celestial is greater than the terrestrial.  The terrestrial is greater than the telestial. Do we see the symbolism?  We should.  It is inscribed on the Salt Lake Temple, "The temple's east facade includes stones of emblematical design and significance. From the ground level ascending upward are the earth stones, moon stones, sun stones, star stones, and Saturn stones. The earth, moon, and sun motifs represent the 'three degrees of glory,' the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial kingdoms of heaven." (Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, "Every Window, Every Spire 'Speaks of the Things of God,' " Ensign, Mar. 1993, 16)

Indeed, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork" (Ps. 19:1) From the Book of Mormon, "all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion; yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form, doth witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44)

Joseph Smith

A moment's reflection is sufficient to teach every man of common intelligence, that all these are not the mere productions of chance, nor could they be supported by any power less than an Almighty hand...[such a man] can mark the power of Omnipotence, inscribed upon the heavens. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 56)

Abraham 3:9 there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, unto thou come nigh unto Kolob

The greatness of planets depends upon the rate of rotation around its axis.  This description of the stars is confirmed by astronomers.  The stars all have different rotational speeds, with the galaxies revolving around a central point.

"The Milky Way, or simply the Galaxy, is the galaxy in which the Solar System is located. It is a barred spiral galaxy that is part of the Local Group of galaxies. It is one of billions of galaxies in the observable universe.

"The stellar disk of the Milky Way Galaxy is approximately 100,000 light-years (9.5×1017 km) in diameter, and is considered to be, on average, about 1,000 ly (9.5×1015 km) thick.  It is estimated to contain at least 200 billion stars and possibly up to 400 billion stars, the exact figure depending on the number of very low-mass stars, which is highly uncertain. This can be compared to the one trillion (1012) stars of the neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_Way)

Joseph Fielding Smith

Modern astronomers have confirmed the teachings of Abraham and Moses in relation to the greatness of the universe and the innumerable stars extending in all directions as far as telescopes, and other instruments of man's invention, are able to reach. (The Progress of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964], 495 - 496)

Abraham 3:10 it is given unto thee to know the set time of all the stars

Joseph Fielding Smith

The Lord showed Abraham the great heavenly bodies. He saw them in their majesty revolving through space in perfect order. Some were set to govern; others to obey; but there was a relationship between them. He was taught by the Divine Teacher to comprehend their times and their seasons and the purpose of their creation. (The Way to Perfection [Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1949], 26)

Abraham 3:10 the stars are set to give light

Perhaps a few pictures of God's handiwork are in order.

A-Andromeda Island Universe.jpg

Andromeda Island universe

A-Lagoon Nebula.jpgA-Lagoon Nebula.jpg

Lagoon Nebula

A-Intermediate Polar Binary System.jpg

Intermediate Polar Binary System

Abraham 3:11 I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another

"From such testimony we conclude that the God of the ancients was a personal being who thought it not beneath his dignity to appear to his prophets and instruct them face to face. He had body, parts, and passions. He had gender, speech, and family, of which he claimed us to be a part. In textual restorations given us through the Prophet Joseph Smith, we learn that God is an exalted, glorified, resurrected man." (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Here We Stand [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 166 - 167)

Spencer W. Kimball

It is noteworthy that the Father, God, Elohim came to the earth upon each necessary occasion to introduce the Son to a new dispensation, to a new people; then Jesus Christ, the Son, carried forward his work...

Jesus Christ is the God of this world. He has made it very plain in his many self-introductions.

The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed to Abraham, "My name is Jehovah." (Abr. 2:8.)

And Abraham declared, "Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made." (Abr. 3:11.)

And Moses said concerning his Maker: "And he [Moses] saw God face to face, ... and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

"And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name. ..." (Moses 1:2-3.) ("Jesus the Christ," Ensign, Nov. 1977, 74)

Abraham 3:12 My son, my son... behold I will show you all these

Neal A. Maxwell

The Lord teaches us much about Himself through His "tender mercies." He also teaches us much about that which we may become, as we confront, on our scale, the individual curricula of our lives. His most apt pupils, of course, are the men and women of God. In those instances of record, the Lord has displayed much gentleness and tenderness in His tutoring of such individuals. The pattern usually involves His disclosing more about Himself and about His work, thus expanding the horizons of the person being tutored...

We see the same pattern of tutorial tenderness and the same divine disclosure with Abraham: "Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made; and he said unto me: My son, my son (and his hand was stretched out), behold I will show you all these. And he put his hand upon mine eyes, and I saw those things which his hands had made, which were many; and they multiplied before mine eyes, and I could not see the end thereof." (Abraham 3:11-12.)

Once again, it is noteworthy how the outreaching Lord addressed Abraham as "my son, my son" and how Abraham was given such stunning promises.

The same pattern is there with regard to the prophet Moses, whom the Lord also repeatedly addressed "my son." Having called Moses to deliver His people from bondage, the Lord shared and disclosed the workmanship of His hands on this planet, showing Moses many lands with inhabitants "numberless as the sand upon the sea shore." He called Moses to perform a work even as He expanded Moses' horizon by displaying some of His handiwork. Though overwhelmed, Moses, with presence of mind, asked the creating Lord why these things were so, evoking the spectacular summation of Divine intent: "For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1.) (Meek and Lowly [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 115)

Spencer W. Kimball

Abraham was protected so that he not only could withstand the glory of the Lord, but he could see and comprehend. The visions which Abraham saw at this time before his sojourn in Egypt were beyond all description. Perhaps no soul even with the strongest telescopes has ever seen the thousandth part of what Abraham saw as to this universe with all its limitless parts and functions. He also saw the creation of this earth, and the Father is quoted:

"And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son." (Moses 1:33.) (Conference Report, April 1964, Afternoon Meeting 96)

Abraham 3:12 I saw those things which his hands had made... and I could not see the end thereof

Hugh Nibley

It has been commonly held that the mere idea that there are other worlds, or planets or people besides this, and that there are other worlds greater and that our sun is a small star-that would wipe out the whole foundation of Christianity and Judaism. In fact, it would wipe out the whole foundation of religion if we once discovered that there were other planets. That idea has been commonly held by scientists and churchmen alike for the obvious reason, to begin with, their definition of creation. Creation is just once for all, everything out of nothing. Well, there are a lot of things to be accounted for. Philosopher Baillet said in 1954, "He sees the plurality of worlds. What a mockery of human design. What an annihilation of human vanities." A plurality of worlds is a mockery of human design. What we do here is nothing. If you want eloquent passages on the subject, all you would have to do is go to early Christian literature. It tells us in a Coptic Christian writing that when you approach the throne of God, the sun is as small as a grain of flour. It is absolutely lost.

It disappears in the multitude of stars, and it looks about the size of a grain of flour when you get that far away. That's an early Christian writing. (Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], 7)

Abraham 3:13 This is Shinehah, which is the sun. And he said unto me: Kokob, which is star

Hugh Nibley

In verse 13 it talks about Abraham's local system: This is Shinehah, which means in Egyptian, one eternal round. Shenha means to go around forever. This is the sun, and that is what the Egyptians call it. "And he said unto me: Kokob..." That's the Hebrew word for a star. It's a very interesting word, the same as the Babylonian word and the Arabic word also, Kakkabum and Kawakibu "And he said unto me: Kokaubeam, [that which is the plural of Hebrew], which signifies stars, or all the great lights, which were in the firmament of heaven." (Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], 5)

Abraham 3:14 I will multiply thee, and thy seed after thee, like unto these

Muslims, Jews, and Christians all call Abraham their father.

"The vast population of the Arab, Moslem and Jewish world, which claim to be descendants of Abraham, number more than one hundred million. When one adds to that figure, the deceased ancestors, and the estimated future posterities of those groups, plus other descendants of Abraham such as the past, present and future members of the Nephite-Lamanite cultures, the lost ten tribes, and the Latter-day Saints, he sees what the Lord meant by the blessing of an innumerable and unmeasurable posterity." (H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1989], 160)

Abraham 3:17 there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it

As the saying goes, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."  What does that mean?  Human nature is full of failings and frailties.  We may have a desire to do something good but fail to do it.  Does that ever happen to God?  Apparently not!  Elder M. Russell Ballard has asked us to emulate the Lord's pattern in following through on our good intentions.  Speaking of standards, he said, "you must determine that you will live by them. This kind of commitment is a fundamental gospel principle. The scriptures teach that 'there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.' (Abr. 3:17.) You must be the same way. (Ensign, Nov. 1990, 37)  Elder Neal A. Maxwell called this "divine determination."

Neal A. Maxwell

We would do well to remember how deep Divine determination really is: "There is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he shall do it." (Abraham 3:17) Having so very long ago set in motion His plan of salvation, God will not revise the structure or the schedule of this second estate just because you and I have a bad day. (We Will Prove Them Herewith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 11)

Jack H. Goaslind

"And there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it." (Abr. 3:17.) Isn't it wonderful that we can trust our Father in Heaven to do what he says he will do?

There are two elements to this principle. First, God takes something into his heart. When we take something into our hearts, it usually means that we feel something. This is the spirit of revelation. (See D&C 8:2-3.) It gives an intense feeling of peacefulness or well-being. President Marion G. Romney said that it "comes into our minds and feelings and induces us to do what is right" ("Ye Are a Peculiar People," Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, Provo, 10 Apr. 1956, p. 8); it leads us to do good (see D&C 11:12).

How many of you have heard an inspiring thought, hymn, or story, and then had a desire to go do something good? This is not unusual; it is a healthy, spiritual feeling that is essential to our progress. But how often have you followed through on those feelings? This brings us to the second part of the equation. When God takes it into his heart to do something, whatever it is, he does it. He simply does it. (Ensign, May 1991, 45-46)

Abraham 3:18 if there be two spirits... one shall be more intelligent than the other

"Significant information about the sun, moon, and stars was obtained through the Urim and Thummim, tools of revelation that Abraham was given while he still resided in Ur. Even a knowledge of the greatest of the governing spheres of the endless universe, Kolob by name (see Abr. 3:3-4), was revealed to the patriarch-a unique contribution in all of scripture. As fascinating as this knowledge of astronomy is, the far more important issue here may be why the information was given. The revelation helped teach Abraham (and thus all who would read his record) the greatness of Jesus Christ-the awesome and premier position of the Only Begotten Son relative to all other beings and objects in the Father's vast kingdom. By explaining to Abraham the truly divine grandeur of something that might engage the mind of any mortal on a clear night-the stars of creation-God could go on to teach the even greater significance of something that one pondering the heavens might consider-the role of the Lord of creation.

"Abraham learned that just as one planet or star is greater than another until one comes to Kolob-the great governing one (see Abr. 3:9)-so, too, one spirit is greater than another until one comes to Jesus Christ-the great governing one (see Abr. 3:19, 24). A careful comparison of the characteristics of Kolob with the characteristics of Jesus Christ demonstrates that Kolob was, and is, a profound symbol of the Savior. We offer a few examples. Just as Kolob is 'the great one' (Abr. 3:3), so Jesus Christ is 'the Great I AM' (D&C 29:1). Just as Kolob is 'the first creation' (Facsimile 2, fig. 1), so Jesus Christ is the first creation-'the firstborn' (D&C 93:21) of our Father's most important creations, his children. Just as Kolob is the source of light for other stars and planets (see Facsimile 2, fig. 5), Jesus Christ is the source of light for the immensity of space, including the sun, moon, stars, and earth (D&C 88:5-13). Truly, the book of Abraham is a remarkable text, preserving a unique testimony of Jesus Christ written in the design of the physical universe and emphasizing again that all things do indeed testify of the Savior (see Moses 6:63)." (Andrew Skinner, "The Book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Book," Ensign, Mar. 1997, 20-21)

Spencer W. Kimball

Is it not thrilling to know that the prophets knew long ago that the earth is but one of numerous planets created and controlled by God! That knowledge came because faith and righteousness opened the door to revelation. It is from this perspective that we teach the truth that the Church is the greatest institution of learning in the world. The Church is designed to enlarge and develop the powers of our spirits, to educate us for eternity and to help us live intelligently and joyfully in mortality. The gospel and its teachings lead us to Christlike living, which in turn leads us not only toward exaltation but toward knowledge.

Of all the treasures of knowledge, the most truly vital is the knowledge of God, of his existence, his powers, his love, and his promises. Through this knowledge, we learn that our great objective in life is to build character. In fact, we learn that the building of faith and character is paramount, for character is higher than intellect, and perfect character will be continually rewarded with increased intellect. ("Seek Learning Even by Study and Also by Faith," Ensign, Sept. 1983, 4-5)

Abraham 3:19 I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all

The metaphor is that some heavenly bodies are greater than others just as some spirits are greater than others.

"The Prophet Joseph Smith taught-and ancient tradition confirms-that Abraham brought his knowledge of the cosmos with him to Egypt and taught the learned and the wise among them of these things (see Abr. 3:15Abr. 3:15; Teachings, p. 251).

"But Abraham's vision was more than an astronomy lesson and a guide to understanding the cosmos; it was a lesson in priesthood government, a testimony of the central role of Jesus Christ (see Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 95). For the God of all creation explained to the father of the faithful: 'I will multiply thee, and thy seed after thee, like unto these' (Abr. 3:14), meaning like unto the planets and stars, a promise God had made before (Gen. 15:5; D&C 132:30). Jehovah stated that one star is greater than another until we come to Kolob, the greatest of them all. Even so, 'These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all' (Abr. 3:19). Consider the following from the third chapter of and facsimile no. 2 in Abraham:

  1. "The name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto . . . God" (v. 3).
  2. Kolob is "after the manner" or in the likeness of the Lord (v. 4).
  3. Kolob is the "first creation" (facsimile no. 2, fig. 1).
  4. Kolob is the "nearest unto the throne of God" (v. 2; see also facsimile no. 2, fig. 1).
  5. Kolob is "first in government" (facsimile no. 2, fig. 1) and is to "govern all those which belong to the same order" (v. 3).
  6. Kolob holds "the key of power" (facsimile no. 2, fig. 2).
  7. There are "many great ones" near Kolob; "these are the governing ones" (vv. 2-3).
  8. Kolob is the source of light for others (see facsimile no. 2, fig. 5).
  9. Kolob is the greatest of all the stars because it is nearest to God (see v. 16).

"We now compare the characteristics of Kolob with scriptural descriptions of the Savior and others:

  1. The Savior is "the Great I AM" (D&C 29:1).
  2. Christ is the "brightness of [God's] glory, and the express image of his person" (Heb. 1:3).
  3. Christ "was in the beginning with the Father" and is "the Firstborn" (D&C 93:21).
  4. Christ is "in the bosom of the Father" (D&C 76:25).
  5. Christ has promised, "I will be your ruler when I come" (D&C 41:4). Prophesying of his coming, Isaiah declared that "the government shall be upon his shoulder" (Isa. 9:6), while John the Revelator spoke of him as "Lord of lords, and King of kings" (Rev. 17:14).
  6. It is Christ who holds the keys of all power. All who hold keys in the kingdom of God here on earth received them under his direction (see D&C 132:45), and an accounting of how all keys and authorities have been used will yet be made to him (see Dan. 7:9-14; Teachings, p. 157).
  7. Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff are specifically mentioned as being "among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God" (D&C 138:55).
  8. Christ is the source of "light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed" (D&C 88:13).
  9. Christ was the greatest of all the pre-earth spirits. He was "like unto God" (Abr. 3:24).

"A revelation on astronomy pales in importance to a revelation setting forth the order and nature of the kingdom of God. Was Abraham to be merely a visiting professor of astronomy, or was he to stand as a significant witness of Christ the Lord not only to the Egyptians but to all people? Further, the latter-day Seer drew upon the message of the Abrahamic papyri to teach another profound lesson from Abr. 3:1Abr. 3, saying that Abraham reasoned as follows concerning the God of heaven:

"Suppose we have two facts: that supposes another fact may exist-two men on the earth, one wiser than the other, would logically show that another who is wiser than the wisest may exist. Intelligences exist one above another, so that there is no end to them."

"If Abraham reasoned thus-If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father [see Rev. 1:5-6], you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? (Teachings, p. 373)"  (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Joseph Smith: The Choice Seer [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chapter 8)

Brigham Young

If we are ever prepared to enjoy the society of Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or of their faithful children, and of the faithful Prophets and Apostles, we must pass through the same experience, and gain the knowledge, intelligence, and endowments that will prepare us to enter into the celestial kingdom of our Father and God. How many of the Latter-day Saints will endure all these things, and be prepared to enjoy the presence of the Father and the Son? You can answer that question at your leisure. Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 345)

Abraham 3:21 I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences

Spencer W. Kimball

God has taken these intelligences, given to them spirit bodies, and given them instructions and training. Then he proceeded to create a world for them and sent them as spirits to obtain a mortal body, for which he made preparation. And when they were upon the earth, he gave them instructions on how to go about developing and conducting their lives to make them perfect, so they could return to their Father in heaven after their transitions. Then came the periods of time when souls were to be placed upon the earth and born to parents who were permitted to furnish the bodies. But no parent has ever yet on this earth been the parent of a spirit, because we are so far yet from perfection. Remember what was said a while ago, that "As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become."They came with the definite understanding that they could return to become like God and go forward in their great development and progress. ("Our Great Potential," Ensign, May 1977, 50)

Abraham 3:23 God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them

Marion G. Romney

One of the great truths of this account is the clear understanding we receive about who we were as pre-mortal spirit children of God. We were individual, separate persons, with agency, being, and names prior to our entry on earth. (quotes Abr. 3:22-23)

You and I were there and so were all the rest of the spirit children of God our Father who were designated for life upon this earth. (Ensign, Sept. 1984, 4)

LeGrand Richards

Isn't that a beautiful thought? The Lord stood in the midst of those spirits, and there were some there who became his prophets here in mortality.

We read about Jeremiah when he was called to be a prophet. He couldn't understand it, and the Lord said: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jer. 1:5.) The Lord couldn't have ordained him if he didn't exist, and he wouldn't have ordained him before he was born if he hadn't done something in that spiritual life to prepare him to become one of the Lord's mouthpieces here upon this earth. The same thing is true with the Prophet Joseph. ("Call of the Prophets," Ensign, May 1981, 31)

Abraham 3:23 These I will make my rulers

Joseph Smith

At the general and Grand Council of heaven, all those to whom a dispensation was to be committed were set apart and ordained at that time, to that calling. (The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 371; standardized)

Joseph Smith

Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council...

I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 365-366)

Brigham Young

It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he, Joseph Smith, should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eyes upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father's father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was fore-ordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 108)

Brigham Young

He knew who would be his anointed; he had his eye upon them all the time, as he had upon Moses, Pharaoh, Abraham, Melchizedek, and Noah, who was a chosen vessel to build the ark and save a remnant from the flood. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 55)

Bruce R. McConkie

And as with Abraham, so with all the prophets, and for that matter so, to one degree or another, with the whole house of Israel and with all the members of the Lord's earthly church-all are participants in the blessings of foreordination. ("God Foreordains His Prophets and His People," Ensign, May 1974, 72)

Bruce R. McConkie

Since men are foreordained to gain exaltation, and since no man can be exalted without the priesthood, it is almost self-evident that worthy brethren were foreordained to receive the priesthood. And so we find Alma teaching that those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood in this life were "called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God." (Alma 13:1-12.) And Joseph Smith said, "Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world," and this includes all who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, "was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council." (Teachings, p. 365.)." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 3, p. 329)

Spencer W. Kimball

Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 316)

Joseph Fielding Smith

Every soul coming into this world came here with the promise that through obedience he would receive the blessings of salvation. No person was foreordained or appointed to sin or to perform a mission of evil. No person is ever predestined to salvation or damnation. Every person has free agency. Cain was promised by the Lord that if he would do well, he would be accepted. Judas had his agency and acted upon it; no pressure was brought to bear on him to cause him to betray the Lord, but he was led by Lucifer. If men were appointed to sin and betray their brethren, then justice could not demand that they be punished for sin and betrayal when they are guilty. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 1: 61)

Abraham 3:24 we will make an earth whereon these may dwell

Barbara Winder

This was to become a testing ground; we would come to an understanding of good and evil, of happiness and suffering, of joy and pain. We knew the plan. We desired it; we endorsed it. We defended it. We even fought for it!

With eagerness and excitement, we came to earth to learn-each of us having our own particular set of circumstances with trials and temptations to overcome.

We were not left without hope. Our Savior, through his atonement, has made it possible for us to obtain salvation. He will not leave us helpless as we struggle to overcome the adversities of this life.

There are so many kinds of challenges: the frustrations and disappointments of disobedient children or a difficult marriage, the loneliness of an empty house when one is so eagerly seeking companionship, the long upward road to repentance, or the difficulty of keeping a positive attitude and counting our blessings even in times of hardship.

The example of the Savior's life and the teachings that he left us are patterns for us to follow. He faced trials similar to those we experience; he handled each situation in a perfect manner. In the wilderness of Judea and the Garden of Gethsemane, we witness two of the most grievous temptations of Christ, but during no part of his days in the flesh was he free from temptation. Otherwise his life would have been no human life at all. We read in Mosiah, "And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer" (Mosiah 3:7).

He knew disappointment, and he knew discouragement... Which of us has not known disappointment, discouragement, and despair? That is one of the tests for all of us. ("Hope in Christ," Ensign, Nov. 1986, 90)

Abraham 3:25 we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things... God shall command them

Of the three big questions, the first two are answered in this chapter:  Where did we come from? And why are we here? In answering the second question, we might quote many scriptures, but this one has to be near the top of the list.  God's intent is to prove us, to see if we will pass the test, to see if we will live by faith and still be obedient. As Rex C. Reeve taught, "Yes, this life is a time of testing. It is not the reward time. That will come later. We are here being tested." (Ensign, Nov. 1982, 26) 

Yet, it is not supposed to be a miserable experience.  Another of the seminal passages on the purpose of life reminds us that man is "that he might have joy" (2 Ne. 2:25).  The journey should be a joyful experience, but the journey is still a test, and not all will reach the coveted destination.

Robert D. Hales

These commandments are loving instructions provided by God our Father for our physical and spiritual well-being and happiness while in mortality. Commandments allow us to know the mind and will of God regarding our eternal progression. And they test our willingness to be obedient to His will.

The commandments are not a burden or a restriction. Every commandment of the Lord is given for our development, progress, and growth. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: "God has designed our happiness. ... He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 256).

How I love the commandments of the Lord! They guide and protect us and allow us to return back into the presence of our Heavenly Father. If we faithfully obey the commandments, we are promised the blessings of eternal life. ("If Thou Wilt Enter into Life, Keep the Commandments," Ensign, May 1996, 36)

Ezra Taft Benson

The great test of life is obedience to God. "We will prove them herewith," said the Lord, "to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them" (Abr. 3:25).

The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it.

The great commandment of life is to love the Lord. (Ensign, May 1988, 4)

Marvin J. Ashton

We are literally the children of our Heavenly Father. We kept our first estate. During our experience in premortality, we lived and were cared for and taught by a loving Father. Among other things, we were schooled in what had to be a perfect spiritual and educational environment. And we rejoiced when told of the plan whereby we could prove ourselves. Hence the day arrived when it was our turn to experience a period of probation and testing, a period during which a veil would be drawn over our memories so that we would be free either to walk by faith and by the Spirit or to forsake our spiritual heritage and birthright.

Now we're here. And I'm sure we would all agree that this second estate has lived up to its billing. It is a time of testing, of probation. The challenges and duties and responsibilities, at times, seem to overshadow almost everything else. Sadly, it's easy to become so encumbered by the press of daily life that we lose our focus. ("A Yearning for Home," Ensign, Nov. 1992, 22-23)

Neal A. Maxwell

In fact, adequacy in the first estate may merely have ensured a stern, second estate with more duties and no immunities! Additional tutoring and suffering appears to be the pattern for the Lord's most apt pupils. (See Mosiah 3:19; 1 Pet. 4:19.) Our existence, therefore, is a continuum matched by God's stretching curriculum. ("Premortality, a Glorious Reality," Ensign, Nov. 1985, 17)

Abraham 3:26 they who keep their first estate shall be added upon

"Abraham was shown the eternal nature of the plan of salvation and was taught that the earth was purposely created as a schooling and testing ground in 'all things' (Abr. 3:25), and learned that rich and everlasting rewards ("glory added upon their heads for ever and ever") are reserved for those who remain faithful to the plan of the Father (Abr. 3:26). It is on this point that Abraham's record makes another singular contribution to our understanding of premortality, clarifying what otherwise would be an obscure phrase found elsewhere in one verse of the New Testament. Only Abraham and Jude speak of our premortal condition as the 'first estate' (Jude 1:6, Abr. 3:26).

"In that one verse, Jude speaks of certain angels not keeping their 'first estate' and thus leaving 'their own habitation.' But only from Abraham do we learn that these angels were in fact spirit children in the presence of God, that the habitation they left was God's presence, that they departed because they chose to follow Satan rather than God and Jesus Christ, and that in this 'first estate' God's children lived as independent identities, exercising moral agency in the Father's presence. Were it not for the book of Abraham, much of our basic understanding of the structure, sociality, and history of our premortal existence would be missing. Only Abraham's remarkable record speaks of mortality's probationary period as the 'second estate,' given as an endowment to all those who kept their first estate (Abr. 3:26)." ("The Book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Book," Ensign, Mar. 1997, 21)

"Having a body is a blessing. It is a gift we received because we kept our first estate in our premortal life. Because we have gained a body, we are now more like God than we were before coming to earth. People who understand these truths understand that the 'real' self, or soul, is both body and spirit. They may feel a oneness, an inner satisfaction, as both parts work together in righteousness. They see their body as a blessing, as a reward for past righteousness. These people are grateful to have the privilege of being able to progress to this second estate to become more like God, and they want to prepare, both in body and in spirit, to live with their Heavenly Father again." (Barbara Lockhart, "The Body: A Burden or a Blessing?" Ensign, Feb. 1985, 57)

LeGrand Richards

I thank the Lord that my church teaches me that I kept my first estate in that spirit world or else I would have been cast down to this earth with Satan and a third of the hosts of heaven. And the cry went out: "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth ... for the devil is come down unto you," and he "walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (Rev. 12:12; 1 Pet. 5:8.) And so the fact that I kept my first estate entitled me to all the beauties and the joys of this world that have been mentioned here in this meeting today. And it gave me the right to have this body. (Ensign, May 1982, 29-30)

Harold B. Lee

The next truth we learn from this scripture is that you and I, having been spirits and now having bodies, were among those who passed that first test and were given the privilege of coming to earth as mortal individuals. If we hadn't passed that test, we wouldn't be here with mortal bodies, but would have been denied this privilege and would have followed Satan or Lucifer, as he came to be known, as did one-third of the spirits created in that premortal existence who were deprived of the privilege of having mortal bodies. These are now among us, but only in their spiritual form, to make a further attempt to thwart the plan of salvation by which all who would obey would have the great glory of returning to God our Father who gave us life. (Ensign, Jan. 1974, 4)

Abraham 3:27 one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me

Henry D. Taylor

Here we observe two different personalities and two different motives of operation. Satan would have removed a person's free agency and he proposed to redeem all mankind by force, for which he wanted the recognition, honor, and glory. The plan of Jesus would allow individuals to make a choice between what they considered to be right and what they felt would be wrong, and recommended that all honor and glory would be attributed to the Father.

One has aptly said: "There is no end to the good that can be accomplished when we are not concerned as to the one who will receive the credit." ("The Right to Choose," Ensign, May 1976, 72)

Marion G. Romney

The gospel plan or program, presented to and approved by a two-thirds majority of the then assembled hosts of God's spirit children, anticipated everything that has occurred or that will occur in heaven or on earth concerning those spirits.

It provided for them to receive physical bodies in a mortal experience where, endowed with free agency and being acted upon by good and evil, they would prove themselves worthy or unworthy to return to the society of God and go on in eternal progress to perfection.

It anticipated the banishment from heaven of Satan and his followers, the creation of this earth, the placing of Adam and Eve upon it, their partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their banishment from the Garden, and the peopling of the earth by their posterity.

It anticipated Satan's diabolical work among men, man's wickedness, and his death, both temporal and spiritual.

It anticipated the need for a Savior to win the victory over death, atone for the sin of Adam, which brought death, and provide the means whereby men, through repentance, may receive forgiveness for personal sins and be readmitted into the presence of God.

All these things and more were anticipated by the gospel plan.

To us the plan is known as the gospel of Jesus Christ because he sponsored it in the heavenly council and implemented it through the atonement which he in the great council voluntarily undertook to make and did come to the earth and make.

The Father's plan was based on the principle of free agency. Lucifer countered with a proposal to substitute force for free agency, and sought honor for himself.

Jesus, of course, was chosen to be the Redeemer. He led the fight for the Father's plan in the War in Heaven. He created this earth. He has watched over it ever since. His role in God's program for bringing to pass "the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39) has been revealed to men in all dispensations. ("Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," Ensign, Nov. 1979, 41)

Abraham 3:28 the second was angry and kept not his first estate

There is so much confusion about Lucifer in the Christian world.  From the meager information available in the Bible, some of the more enlightened Christian scholars have gleaned that Satan was in the beginning with God-then became a fallen angel. Jesus said, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18). But they don't know the story.  Abraham gives us the story.  Why was Satan so angry? Why would anyone rebel against God?  How could Satan have been a "son of the morning" (Isa. 14:12) in the first place?

Of course, we know it was all about a lust for power, glory, and dominion-a lust that could not be satisfied because it sought to infringe upon the agency of man.

L. Lionel Kendrick

Angrily, Lucifer used his divine gift of agency to make a decision that would lead to his eternal damnation. In bold opposition, he rebelled [against God and "kept not his first estate."  "A third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me [the Lord God] because of their agency."  Even with the possibility of their eternal damnation, Heavenly Father would not take their agency from them. To do so would be counter to eternal law. As a result of their rebelliousness, Lucifer and his followers were cast out of heaven and forfeited the blessings of eternal life. (Ensign, Mar. 1996, 30-31)

Eldred G. Smith

Lucifer, who was another of our elder brothers, a son of the morning, must have made a very attractive offer. I can imagine his saying, "Follow me and I will give you a new plan-the old one is outdated; you don't have to take a chance. I'll guarantee that all will return; none shall be lost." He was a good psychologist. He appealed to our desires for security. He made his plan so attractive that a third of the hosts of heaven followed him.

They gave up their right and claim to free agency. They didn't learn of the full consequences of that decision. They lost their right to choose-the right to make their own decisions.

A war in heaven followed, and Lucifer and his followers were cast out. They were put here on earth to test us, and they are doing a good job of it. ("Decisions," Ensign, Dec. 1971, 45)