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For patterns of righteousness, Latter-day Saints can look to two couples from our scriptural canon: Adam and Eve and Abraham and Sarah. Standing at the head of two gospel dispensations, these noble and great ones fulfilled their divine charge to bless humankind in matters of mortal and eternal life — and thanks to the Restoration, the light they brought to the world now shines brighter than ever.
In this volume, noted gospel scholar E. Douglas Clark leads readers on a fascinating journey from the Garden of Eden to the Arabian desert to the land of Canaan as he explores sacred writ — including a variety of ancient texts relating to these exemplary couples, which affirm and illuminate the rich treasures restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Along the way we learn priceless truths about the Creation and the Fall, about life and love, about mortality and marriage, and about the Savior and His Atonement— life lessons that can guide us to a joyful reunion with our first parents, in that celestial paradise where families truly are forever.
- Size: 6" x 9"
- Pages: 256
- Published: 2010
- Book on CD: Unabridged
About the Author
E. Douglas Clark is an attorney who has consulted at numerous United Nations conferences in New York and around the world on family policy issues. His published works include: The Blessings of Abraham: Becoming a Zion People; Standing as Witnesses: Powerful Missionaries through the Ages; The Grand Design: America from Columbus to Zion; “Abraham” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism; “A Prologue to Genesis: Moses 1 in Light of Jewish Traditions” in BYU Studies (2006); Foreword for Hugh Nibley’s Abraham in Egypt; and “Cedars and Stars: Enduring Symbols of Cosmic Kingship in Abraham’s Encounter with Pharaoh” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant. He and his wife, Mila, are the parents of three children.
Adam and Eve: Chapter 1
The Real Beginning, Lost and Restored
In the beginning,” declares the opening line of Genesis, “God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). But was it really the beginning?1 Not according to Margaret Barker, prolific author and former president of the Society for Old Testament Study, who insists that “the first stage of the story is missing”2 and quotes another scholar to the effect that “the original version . . . must have had a more extended introduction, probably telling of the creation of the gods.”3 (The word gods is used in our Book of Abraham to describe premortal spirit children of God.)
The other missing component in Genesis is an account of the war in heaven, an omission pointed out by Nahum Sarna, author of the commentary on Genesis for the Jewish Publication Society: “The story of Creation . . . that opens the Book of Genesis differs from all other such accounts that were current among the peoples of the ancient world” in its failure to mention the “strife of the gods,” which is an “inherent characteristic of all other ancient Near Eastern” creation accounts. The surprising thing, as noted by Sarna, is that ancient Israel possessed that larger account, but it somehow did not survive in the version of Genesis that has come down to us.4
All this accords precisely with what the Prophet Joseph Smith gave the world a century and a half earlier when he restored ancient creation accounts containing lost passages about the premortal realm and a war in heaven (Moses 4:1–4; Abr. 3:22–28), and also restored God’s words in a revelation to Moses—the author of Genesis—warning of “a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write” (Moses 1:41).
That same revelation further discloses the breathtaking fact that the Creation of the world was nothing new for God. “Worlds without number have I created,” He told Moses (Moses 1:33). If this truth did not survive in the Genesis text as it was edited and handed down through the generations, yet it may have remained encrypted in that text: one rabbinic tradition holds that certain Hebrew letters in Genesis are a code indicating that “the Lord formed the worlds.”5
But the omission of this truth in the Genesis story certainly diminished the world’s understanding of the cosmic majesty of God. And the omission of Satan’s rebellion and fall certainly played into Satan’s plan to deceive mankind whereby “he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Ne. 28:22).
Another insight provided by the Prophet Joseph concerns the Bible’s first word, bereshit, traditionally translated “In the beginning.” Joseph explained that it had long ago been altered from the original, which had read, “The head God brought forth the Gods in the grand council.”6 It would be a century and a half before the luminary German scholar Claus Westermann would analyze the first line of the Hebrew Genesis account and conclude that in its current form, it is grammatically impossible and “completely outside” the normal structure of Ancient Near Eastern creation accounts, and “does not fit the pattern; it was prefixed later.”7 It is but one of the numerous corroborations of Joseph Smith’s work, calling to mind Hugh Nibley’s statement that time vindicates the prophets.8
The Great and Glorious Principle of Marriage
Thanks to what the Lord restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, we know that in the premortal realm Adam was “a pre-existent spirit”9 who “attained a stature and power second only to that of Christ, the Firstborn. None of all the billions of our Father’s children equaled him in intelligence and might, save Jesus only. He sat in the council of the gods in the planning of the creation of this earth.”10 This echoes what the German scholar Hermann Gunkel discovered about the creation account presumed in the book of Job, in which “the primal man . . . was born before the world, listened in on the heavenly council,” and possessed “wondrous wisdom,” being “considered the model of all wisdom.”11
We know further that Adam “was foreordained to come to earth as the father of the human race, and when Lucifer and one-third of the hosts of heaven rebelled, Adam (with the exalted title of Michael the archangel) led the hosts of the righteous in the war in heaven. (Rev. 12:7–9.)”12 Then “under the direction of the Father and Jehovah, he assisted in the creation of the earth.”13
Likewise “Eve—a daughter of God, one of the spirit offspring of the Almighty Elohim—was among the noble and great in the pre-existence. She ranked in spiritual stature, in faith and devotion, in conformity to eternal law with Michael,” and “was at Michael’s side before the foundations of the earth.”14 They were there together when the divine call came to create the earth.
Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and a host of mighty men and equally glorious women comprised that group of “the noble and great ones,” to whom the Lord Jesus 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. 3:22–24)15
If this foundational truth is absent in Genesis, it was preserved in a rabbinic tradition that speaks of “the souls of the righteous with whom He [the Holy One] took counsel before creating the world.”16
This “doctrine of pre-existence,” says a First Presidency letter, “pours [a] wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man’s origin.”17 Our birth as spirit children to heavenly parents, with all it implies about marriage and our own divine potential, is one of the crowning truths of the Restoration and certainly part of what the Prophet Joseph Smith called “the great secret,” as he insisted that if people “do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. . . . It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God,” who “was once as we are now, and is an exalted man.”18 And clearly not alone, as attested in Eliza R. Snow’s famous hymn.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.
How did Eliza know? This “great and glorious principle that we have a mother as well as a father in heaven,” explained President Joseph F. Smith, was revealed by God to Joseph Smith and from him to Eliza Snow.19
For those who have eyes to see, the truth that we have heavenly parents is evident even in Genesis. “Deity consists of man and woman,” declared Apostle Erastus Snow. “How do you know? I only repeat what he says of himself; that he created man in the image of God, male and female created he them. . . . There can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way.”20
No wonder that, as modern-day apostles explain, “Our theology begins with heavenly parents,” and “our highest aspiration is to be like them,”21 which means that “there is nothing in this world as important as the creation and perfection of family units.”22
In sum, everything begins with marriage, without which one cannot understand God, Creation, or oneself. Marriage was not just Creation’s crowning event; it was the very thing that made Creation possible in the first place. No wonder that marriage, as stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, is “ordained of God” and “essential” to His eternal plan.
In fact, marriage is the plan. A Jewish mystical teaching tells that “cosmic marriage underlies the whole of existence.”23
The Creation of Adam
The same might be said of love, a principle so pervasive that the Apostle John could write that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The Proclamation’s repeated charge that husband and wife love each other and their children seems but an extension of the divine and perfect love of heavenly parents, not only for each other but for their beloved spirit sons and daughters. In the words of Beverly Campbell, “Loving parents in heaven prepared Eve and Adam for their roles in mortality.”24 Then, according to a Jewish source, “with love abounding” God created Adam.25 An early Christian text likewise mentions “the Lord’s loving kindness” in creating Eve.26
But not before first creating everything else, which included, as described in latter-day revelation:
the fulness of the earth, . . . the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth; yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth . . . made for the benefit and the useof man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made. (D&C 59:16–20)
The first-century Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria wrote,
The Ruler of all things . . . desired that on coming into the world man might at once find both a banquet and a most sacred display, the one full of all things that earth and rivers and sea and air bring forth for use and enjoyment, the other of all sorts of spectacles, most impressive in their substance, most impressive in their qualities.27
And the Creator’s grand motive in all of this was love, declares Jewish tradition. One of the Psalms states that “the world is built on hesed,”28 a Hebrew word meaning “loving-kindness,” while the learned Jewish scholar Maimonides taught that “the universe has come into existence only by virtue of God’s abundant grace or loving-kindness.”29 In the panoramic view of premortality provided in the Book of Abraham, Creation was part of the larger plan that called for one of Father’s children to come as the suffering Savior (Abr. 3:22–28). At the core of this plan was love, both of the Father and of Him who agreed to suffer: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), who “loved the world, even unto the laying down of [his] life for the world” (Ether 12:33).
Accordingly, if God, as He Himself declares in latter-day revelation, is “in the sun” and “in the moon” and in His other creations (D&C 88:6–13), then surely His love is also. According to M. Catherine Thomas, “God’s love streams through the myriad forms of Nature.” Indeed, “how could it be any other way than that God would fill his creation with His tender Love and . . . would cause the very trees, the flowers, and the sky itself to radiate this Love into Man’s soul?”30
All of these creations were ready and waiting when, as told in Genesis, “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7). The imagery is powerful but allegorical. God “breathed the breath of life” into Adam by putting Adam’s “spirit . . . into [his] body,” as told in the Book of Abraham (Abr. 5:8). Similarly, the first-century historian Josephus wrote that when God fashioned the first human, He “instilled into him spirit and soul,”31 or, as told in Islamic tradition about Adam’s spirit, God “commanded it to enter Adam’s body.”32
A Jewish source adds another detail: speaking of each spirit that comes from the premortal realm and enters its earthly body, the text says, “It then forgets whatever it had seen.”33 So it happened with the newly created Adam: he had no idea, as he tells in Milton’s Paradise Lost, “who I was, or where, or from what cause.”34 He had forgotten everything. Michael the archangel had become Adam the human being, oblivious to his former life and glory.
If God’s breathing into Adam the breath of life is allegorical, so is Adam’s formation from the dust of the earth, as one would shape a brick. “When you tell me,” said Brigham Young, “that Father Adam was made as we make adobes from the earth, you tell me what I deem an idle tale. . . . There is no such thing in all the eternities where the Gods dwell,”35 for Adam “was made as you and I are made, and no person was ever made on any other principle.”36 God “created man, as we created our children.”37 President Joseph F. Smith and his counselors likewise declared that Adam “was not fashioned from earth like an adobe, but ‘begotten by his Father in Heaven.’”38
Similarly in the Book of Abraham and other ancient sources, Adam is described as the “firstborn,”39 while several early Christian writers report that he was created as an infant.40 This truth about Adam’s creation by procreation may possibly be encrypted in the biblical narrative itself, including the Hebrew verb bara (translated in the Genesis phrase “God formed man”): one of the possible translations of bara as used in the Old Testament is “to beget.”41
But even translating bara as in “God formed man from the dust of the ground,” the language may carry multiple meanings, appearing to unenlightened readers as “inexplicable, indescribable and wonderful,” while signifying to enlightened readers the meaning that it had in ancient Egypt: there the creator god is depicted as fashioning the king’s son on the potter’s wheel, a metaphor for “the birth and coming into being of the royal child.”42
Up to the appearance of Adam, the work of Creation had been directed by Christ under the Father’s direction. When the time came to create Adam, the Creator was the Father Himself. In the words of an Armenian source, “The Father created man first, the Son redeemed him.”43
But if Adam was begotten by God, how is it that Jesus is God’s “Only Begotten”? Elder Bruce R. McConkie explains:
Adam was created in immortality, but . . . Christ came to earth as a mortal; thus our Lord is the Only Begotten in the flesh, meaning into this mortal sphere of existence. Adam came to earth to dwell in immortality until the fall changed his status to that of mortality.44
In all of God’s Creation, then, Adam stood unique, for his creation was nothing less than procreation by his Heavenly Father. And, of course, his Heavenly Mother, as may possibly be hinted at in—and perhaps even the point of—the allegory of Adam being formed from the dust of the earth. In this famous Hebrew wordplay, Adam—’adam—is made from the earth—’adama. The words are similar but differ in gender, ’adam being masculine, ’adama feminine. Biblical scholar Phyllis Trible finds deep significance in this distinction:
Not only does the feminine ’adama exist in the story prior to the masculine ’adam, but also the latter comes out of the former. From this perspective the “female” both precedes the “male” and provides the material from which he is formed.45
Adam’s birth is attested in the Book of Moses, which speaks of “the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God” (Moses 6:22). And as reported by Benjamin F. Johnson, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “God was the great head of human procreation,” and “was really and truly the Father of both our Spirits and our Bodies.”46
We literally are of the race of the Gods, beginning with Adam, who, according to early tradition, was created “youthful, beautiful, wonderful”47 and was clad in a garment of light,48 being “luminous in appearance.”49
The “Help Meet”—A “Corresponding Strength”
Finally, Creation included God’s own offspring. If God had found Creation “good” from day one and through each new level of complexity and grandeur (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), surely Adam’s appearance was the pinnacle, the best of all. How surprising, then, to suddenly read that for the first time God finds something that is not good. Stranger still, the assessment was not of something that had been created, but of the lack of something. “It is not good,” God declared, “that the man should be alone. I will make an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18).
God Himself was not alone when He said this. Several ancient versions of Genesis, including the Septuagint (Greek) and the Vulgate (Latin), read not “I will make . . .” but “Let us make . . .”50 a reading found also in the much older Book of Abraham (Abr. 5:14). To whom was God speaking? Not only to the premortal Christ, but also necessarily to God’s own “Help Meet,” for together they would be the parents of the earthly “help meet” they were about to create. As it was in heaven with God, so would it be on earth with man: Adam was not to be alone.
God’s determination to make a companion for Adam came none too soon, for already Adam was feeling lonely. Jewish tradition tells that when the animals were brought to him to be named, they came in pairs, leaving him with “a feeling of isolation.”51 In the words of one scholar,
Man was in need of the companionship of an equal. By presenting him with all of the animals of Nature, God was telling Adam that here were all of the beings that he was meant to rule, yet none of these creatures which were subservient to him could dispel his loneliness.52
The meaning of the King James “help meet” remains obscure for many modern readers, especially since the adjective “meet”—meaning “suitable, fit, proper, or appropriate”53—is nearly extinct in modern English. Compounding the confusion is the frequent conflation of the two English words into one, “helpmeet,”54 masking the fact that the Hebrew has two words, each with an important meaning: ‘ezer knegdo.55
The word knegdo means “corresponding to him,”56 or “alongside him,”57 while the noun ‘ezer means “helper” or “one who helps.”58 The King James translation of ‘ezer knegdo as a “help meet”—or, as it came to be updated in more modern translations, a “helper suitable”59—has been widely thought to mean that woman is inferior to man. In contrast, Jewish tradition from ancient times has maintained that the words ‘ezer knegdo connote that “a wife is not a man’s shadow or subordinate, but his other self,”60 and that there is “complete equality between man and woman.”61
What Jewish tradition knew all along, biblical scholarship has caught up to in the last several decades. Writing in 1978, Phyllis Trible insisted that the word ‘ezer carries no implication of inferiority.
The English word helper suggests an assistant, a subordinate, indeed, an inferior, while the Hebrew word ‘ezer carries no such connotation. To the contrary, in the Hebrew scriptures this word often describes God as the superior who creates and saves Israel.62
Other scholars continued where Trible left off. A 1983 article in Biblical Archeology Review pointed out that ‘ezer appears to be closely related to the root oz, which means “strength” or “power,” and proposed that ‘ezer knegdo be translated “a power equal to him.”63 A 1988 article in the scholarly journal Judaism offered the translation “a helper equal to him,”64 while a book published the same year by biblical scholar Walter Kaiser suggested “a power (or strength) corresponding to him.”65 In 2000, the prominent Dutch scholar Ed Noort66 insisted that the phrase “implies neither superiority nor inferiority” but “helping each other as equals.”67
In 2001, the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament—the definitive scholarly resource for every significant Hebrew word in the Old Testament—published its eleventh volume, in which it analyzed the word ‘ezer and the related root oz. It found that in Hebrew and even related languages, the meaning of oz “is essentially constant: ‘be/become/make strong, powerful,’ ‘strength, power.’” In the Old Testament, the various Hebrew nouns derived from the root have the meaning of “strength,” “power,” “might,” “refuge,” “protection,”68 mostly used to refer to God, who is repeatedly described as an ‘ezer, the mighty Helper of Israel.69 In the Dead Sea Scrolls, God is even mentioned as an ‘ezer in the benediction in the marriage ritual: “blessed by the God of Israel, who helps.”70 Nothing could be more telling of the role of Eve, the first bride, who was the ‘ezer God prepared for Adam.
But the most authoritative translation of the biblical phrase ‘ezer knegdo came in another 2001 publication: Richard Elliot Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation, the most highly acclaimed Torah translation of modern times.71 His rendering of ‘ezer knegdo appears in Genesis 2:18: “And YHWH God said, ‘It’s not good for the human to be by himself. I’ll make for him a strength corresponding to him’” (emphasis added). Friedman then comments,
Woman is usually understood to be created as a suitable “helper” (Hebrew ‘ezer) to man in this account. The Hebrew root, however, can also mean “strength.” This was first proposed by R. D. Freedman. See cases of ‘ezer in parallel with oz, another word for “strength,” as in, for example, Ps. 46:2. . . . The Hebrew phrase ‘ezer knegdo therefore may very well mean “a corresponding strength.” If so, it is a different picture from what people have thought, and an intriguing one in terms of recently developed sensitivities concerning the sexes and how they are pictured in the Torah. In Genesis 1, man and woman are both created in the image of God; in Genesis 2, they are corresponding strengths. However one interprets subsequent stories and laws in the Torah, this essential equality of worth and standing introduces them.72
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