“Facsimiles 2–3; Abraham 4–5,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (2017)
“Facsimiles 2–3; Abraham 4–5,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual
The figures in the facsimiles are symbolic. Explanations of the facsimiles other than those provided by the Prophet Joseph Smith, which are printed with the facsimiles in the Pearl of Great Price, are tentative and subject to revision by additional revelation and insight from modern prophets.
The type of drawing depicted in facsimile 2 is known among scholars as a “hypocephalus,” which means “under or beneath the head.” “A hypocephalus is a small disk-shaped object made of papyrus, stuccoed linen, bronze, gold, wood, or clay, which the Egyptians placed under the head of their dead. They believed it would magically cause the head and body to be enveloped in flames or radiance, thus making the deceased divine. The hypocephalus itself symbolized the eye of Re or Horus, i.e., the sun, and the scenes portrayed on it relate to the Egyptian concept of the resurrection and life after death” (Michael D. Rhodes, The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Seventeen Years Later [F.A.R.M.S. paper, RHO-94], 1).
If the hypocephalus represents the eye of God, as explained above, what might be depicted on it? We know that God’s focus and attention are upon bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39). It is not strange, therefore, that the symbolic drawing of the eye of God, as represented by Abraham facsimile 2, shows this great hope for all of His children. Indeed, facsimile 2 contains figures and explanations relating to the Lord’s plan of salvation. For example, the explanations for figures 3, 7, and 8 establish a clear relationship between the contents of facsimile 2 and the ordinances of the temple.
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) taught: “Abraham wrote things and sealed them up that they cannot be read. They cannot be revealed unto the world, but are to be had in the holy temple of God. They are certain keys and blessings that are obtained in the house of the Lord that we must have if we are to obtain exaltation” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 2:253).
The center of facsimile 2 contains a representation of Kolob. In his explanation for figure 1, the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) said that Kolob is “first in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time.” This means that Kolob is the star nearest to the presence of God (see Abraham 3:2–3), is the governing star in all the universe (see verse 3), and that time passes more slowly on Kolob than on any other star in this order (see verse 4). Kolob is also symbolic of Jesus Christ, the central figure in God’s plan of salvation.
Note in the explanation for figure 3 the mention of the crown of eternal light upon God’s head. Note also that the stars represented by figures 22–23 receive their light from Kolob (as given in the explanation for figure 5). Jesus Christ is the source of all light (see D&C 88:7–13).
The drawing shown in figure 5 represents another of the great stars in the expanse of space that help govern with power (see Abraham 3:2, 13). The moon, earth, and sun in our solar system are examples of these kinds of stars. These stars could also be symbolic of other great and noble spirits in the premortal existence (see Abraham 3:22–23). Note how close in this facsimile this “noble and great” one is to the central drawing of Kolob, or Jesus Christ.
Egyptologists suggest that hypocephali contain information to help deceased persons return to the presence of God. Similarly, the Lord has given Latter-day Saints divine help to return to His presence. President Brigham Young (1801–77) taught: “Your [temple] endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 416).
In Abraham 3:15, the Lord told Abraham that he was to teach the Egyptians the things he had learned (see Abraham 3:15). Commenting on this, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The learning of the Egyptians, and their knowledge of astronomy was no doubt taught them by Abraham and Joseph, as their records testify, who received it from the Lord” (“The Government of God” [Editorial], Times and Seasons, July 15, 1842, 856; spelling standardized).
In figure 1 of facsimile 3, Abraham is shown seated upon the throne of Pharaoh, “reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king’s court” (explanation for facsimile 3; see also the explanation for figure 1). It is clear in Abraham 3:1–16 and facsimile 2, figures 1–5, that Abraham gained great knowledge of the principles of astronomy. Figure 1 could also be symbolic of Abraham receiving his exaltation and sitting upon a throne in the presence of God (see D&C 132:37).
There are three accounts of the Creation in the scriptures: Genesis 1–2; Moses 2–3; and Abraham 4–5. Each account contains a portion of the story, varying in some ways from the other accounts (see “A Harmony of the Creation Accounts,” at the end of this manual).
See also Moses 1:31–33; 2:1. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “In the ultimate and final sense of the word, the Father is the Creator of all things. That he used the Son and others to perform many of the creative acts, delegating to them his creative powers, does not make these others creators in their own right, independent of him. He is the source of all creative power, and he simply chooses others to act for him in many of his creative enterprises” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 63).
The belief of traditional Christianity is that God created all things ex nihilo, which means “out of nothing.” The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) taught that “there is no such thing as immaterial matter” (D&C 131:7), and the Lord said that “the elements are eternal” (D&C 93:33). The word create, as found in the Genesis account of the Creation, is from a Hebrew word that has several meanings, including “to organize” (see Genesis 1:1, footnote c; see also Abraham 3:24). Joseph Smith likened the creative activity to the building of a ship (see “Discourse, 7 April 1844, as Reported by William Clayton,” 16, josephsmithpapers.org). Just as a shipbuilder needs materials to create the ship, the Creator made the heavens and the earth out of existing materials.
The Prophet Joseph Smith indicated that the translation “without form, and void” (see Genesis 1:2 and Moses 2:2) should read “empty and desolate” (see Abraham 4:2; see also “Account of Meeting and Discourse, 5 January 1841, as Reported by William Clayton,” 6, josephsmithpapers.org).
“Brooding” is what a hen does with her eggs and chicks; she broods over them, meaning she protects, warms, nurtures, and defends them. Jesus used this analogy of a hen gathering her chicks in His description of what He will do for His followers (see Matthew 23:37; 3 Nephi 10:3–6). In this sense, the Spirit is still brooding over the creations of God.
One of the interesting differences between the Abraham account of the Creation and the other scriptural accounts is the idea found in Abraham 4:5: “From the evening until morning they called night; and from the morning until the evening they called day” (see also verses 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). The other accounts simply refer to each creative period as a day. Additionally, the creative periods in Abraham 4 are called “times,” not days (see Abraham 4:8, 13, 19, 23, 31).
Compared with the book of Moses, the book of Abraham seems to more forcefully state the idea that all beings could only reproduce after their own kind. Speaking of the Creation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “There was no provision for evolvement or change from one species to another” (“Christ and the Creation,” Ensign, June 1982, 12).
On the subject of planning for the Creation, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) said: “Before this earth was created the Lord made a blueprint, as any great contractor will do before constructing. He drew up the plans, wrote the specifications, and presented them. He outlined it and we were associated with him. … Our Father called us all together as explained in the scripture, and plans were perfected now for forming an earth. In his own words: ‘And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: 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; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.’ (Abraham 3:24–25.) That assemblage included us all. The gods would make land, water, and atmosphere and then the animal kingdom, and give dominion over it all to man. That was the plan. … God was the Master-worker, and he created us and brought us into existence” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 29–30; see also Luke 14:28–30).
Moses 3:7 states that God “formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Abraham 5:7 helps us understand that the breath of life was “the man’s spirit” (see also “The Book of Abraham,” Times and Seasons, Mar. 15, 1842, 722). Man is a dual being, made up of mortal flesh and an immortal spirit (see D&C 88:15).
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) stated: “When this earth was created, it was not according to our present time, but it was created according to Kolob’s time, for the Lord has said it was created on celestial time which is Kolob’s time. Then he revealed to Abraham that Adam was subject to Kolob’s time before his transgression” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 1:79).
This helps us understand the Lord’s warning to Adam and Eve regarding their partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:17; see also Genesis 2:17; Abraham 5:13). After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, they did not die physically within a twenty-four hour period, as we now measure a day. Adam did, however, die within the period of one Kolob day (one thousand earth years, as measured after the Fall; see Abraham 3:4; explanation for Abraham facsimile 2, figure 1; see also 2 Peter 3:8). Moses 6:12 indicates that Adam died 930 years after the Fall.