Why does the book of Moses end with Noah?
September 1980

“Why does the book of Moses end with Noah?” Ensign, Sept. 1980, 51–52

Why does the book of Moses end with Noah, giving us much valuable information but leaving out much of the history of the earth and the dispensation of Abraham?

Ellis T. Rasmussen, dean of Religious Instruction, Brigham Young University Just after Moses received his call at the “burning bush,” but before he returned to lead Israel out of Egypt, the Lord appeared to him (see Moses 1:2) and gave him further information about the work he was to do (see Moses 1:6). Moses saw in vision “the worlds and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created” (Moses 1:8). In these manifestations Moses saw the earth in great detail and the innumerable concourses of people who would inhabit it. As a result, Moses asked God “why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?” (Moses 1:30). Note the two great facets of his inquiry:

1. Why do the world and its inhabitants exist?

2. How did God make them?

In response, God revealed several great principles about the “why” of creation before giving Moses some information about the “how.” Briefly, the Lord explained to Moses that the Creation was accomplished for His own purposes, which could not be comprehended fully by man. They are understood only by the wisdom residing in God. Worlds without number had been created by God through him whom we know as the Only Begotten Son; some worlds had passed away and some still exist. As some pass on, others come; and the process continues endlessly. The Lord then gave Moses a great summation of his overall purpose: “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

Before responding in more detail to the second part of the inquiry of Moses—revealing to him the steps taken in creating this world—the Lord commanded him to write the revelation (see Moses 1:41). We have much of it now in the book of Genesis; and we are blessed with a restored version of it (see Moses 1:42) in Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of the Bible, the most informative early chapters of which are published in the Pearl of Great Price as the book of Moses.

The items the Lord gave Moses in outlining the great episodes after the Creation included: 1) Adam and Eve and their “fall” into this way of life; 2) the first revelation of the gospel of redemption and atonement; 3) Cain’s and Abel’s experience with temptations and choices; 4) Enoch’s great doctrinal sermons and their effect; 5) Noah’s mission to cry repentance before the baptism and renewal of the earth (Gen. 6:5; Moses 8:23–24); 6) Nimrod’s presumptuous project and the resultant confusion at Babel; 7) deterioration in the patriarchal line ten generations down from Shem’s time in the days of Terah, father of Abram; and 8) the eternal mission of Abram (later Abraham) and Sarah and their seed. Our book of Moses covers five of those great episodes.

This account was recorded in the words of the Lord to Moses. We do not know whether the Lord then made available to Moses some of the accounts previously written in the book of remembrance of Adam and others who wrote by inspiration (see Moses 6:5–6). We know that there were such writings which came into Abraham’s hand, to which he added his own accounts (see Abr. 1:28, 31).

In any case, the revelation and writing of Genesis gave to Moses (and to us) valuable background information concerning God’s project earth and its major accomplishments down to the time of Moses. Without such information Moses could not have known who the children of Israel were and how they got into bondage, why the Lord wanted them saved, what the mission of Israel was (as an extension of the call of Abraham), and how the mission should be implemented in Canaan and indeed eventually among all families of the earth (see Abr. 1:18–19; Abr. 2:6–11; Gen. 12:1–3).

The revelation in Moses 1 is thus an introduction to the revelations on creation provided in Genesis 1 and 2 [Gen. 1–2]. The next chapters provide an introduction to the call and mission of Abraham and his seed recorded in the rest of Genesis. Genesis is in turn an introduction to the remaining books of Moses—Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The books of Moses are historically and doctrinally a base for a better understanding of the writings of later prophets and writers of the Old Testament. And the Old Testament, in turn, is very helpful to our understanding and appreciating the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. All of these scriptures help us know the nature and purpose of our life on earth.

To return to the question with which we began, it appears that we have been provided a selection of some of the first and most valuable revelations given to Moses. These were restored by revelation in this dispensation by Joseph Smith, in the process of his inspired revision of the Bible. In order that they would be conveniently available for the early Church members, they were published in the compilation called the Pearl of Great Price. These, along with the book of Abraham and other scriptures supplementing the Genesis material, prove adequate for most of our needs. The new LDS edition of the Bible makes additional material from the JST conveniently available to us. Short excerpts are printed in footnotes and longer passages are placed in an appendix at the end.