Pearl of Great Price Lesson 01 (Moses 1; Exodus 3–4)
The story of the visions of Moses is one of the most inspiring in all of holy writ. On this occasion, Moses learned what we learn in the temple about the creations of God, which are “without number.” The difference in this case is that he saw the actual universe, not a movie of it. And he was overwhelmed, declaring, “Now I know that man is nothing.” Not allowing him to think this way, the Lord reappeared to Moses as said, “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” In other words, the Lord wanted Moses to understand that man is the purpose of His creations, not the galaxies, stars, and planets he had witnessed. These were the inheritance of man, and would serve only to exalt those who obey His commandments.
The Chain of Events
● Exodus 3:1 Moses is attracted to a burning bush on Mt. Sinai. Moses tended the sheep of Jethro, his father in law. And while doing so, he herded them to “the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.” Mt. Horeb is Mt. Sinai. Moses named it Sinai, which means “bush,” after his experience there with the burning bush.
● Exodus 3:2 Moses receives a vision of Jehovah. The scriptures say that “the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” This manifestation, “given to Moses by a messenger of light, caus[ed] a bush to appear to burn; it was really not afire and was not consumed . . . [The] flame in a bush . . . herald[ed] a message from God.”1. The “fire” Moses observed was the glory of the Lord’s presence, which the ancients often compared to fire in an attempt to describe it.The Hebrew word malkh is usually translated “angel” or “messenger.” JST Exodus 3:2 tells us that it was “the presence of the Lord” Himself. “After Moses’ attention was drawn to the bush, the voice of the Lord Himself spoke to Moses; Moses responded in awe and reverence.”2
● Exodus 3:3–6 Moses is astonished and “afraid to look upon God.” Having seen the curiosity of the non-burning bush, he decided, “I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt” (v. 3). But when the Lord “called unto him out of the midst of the bush, saying, ‘Moses, Moses,’ he was “afraid to look upon God” (v. 6). He answered, “Here am I” (v. 4), whereupon the Lords said, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (v. 7). It was holy because the Lord was there. He identified Himself as “the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (v. 6).
● Exodus 3:7–10 The Lord calls Moses to rescue His people of Israel. He had “seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and [had] heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters” and had, therefore, “know[n] their sorrows” (v. 7). He intended to “deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and . . . bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites” (v. 8). This was the promised land—the land God had covenanted to give to Abraham and his seed. God is a being of truth, and He intended to keep His promises to Abraham. And He had now selected Moses as their deliverer, saying, “I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (v. 10).
Moses’ Three Objections to His Call
● Exodus 3:11 Who am I to challenge Pharaoh? Moses protested his ability to do so great a thing, saying, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (v. 11).
— Exodus 3:12, 19–22 Though Pharaoh will not let the Israelites go easily, the Lord promises Moses that he will be able to set them free. The Lord promised Moses, “I will be with thee,” and gave him a sign whereby he might know it was so—he would be empowered to bring them back to this place and “serve God upon this mountain” (v. 12). He further promised that “I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders . . . and after that he will let you go” (vv. 19–20). And further, the Lord promised that they would “not go empty” when they left, but would bring out “jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians” (vv. 21–22).
— Exodus 3:13–14 Moses was called by “I AM”—Jehovah—who became Jesus Christ. Moses asked, “Who should he say had sent him?” The Lord then identified Himself by saying he was “the God of your fathers” (v. 13). He also said, “I am that I AM,” and said that Moses should tell them, “I AM hath sent me unto you” (v. 14). The literal of meaning of Jehovah is “he who exists” or “he who causes to exist.” This is the same being who appeared unto Abraham (Abraham 1:16). Jesus Christ referred to himself as “I Am” (John 8:58), so we know that our Redeemer is the “I Am”— Jehovah—of the Old Testament (D&C 29:1). Notice that the word “LORD” is frequently capitalized. This was done by the English translators wherever the name “Yaweh” (Jehovah) appeared. By identifying Himself as such, the Lord is leaving no room for doubt as to His identity. He is Jehovah, who is Christ.
● Exodus 4:1 “They will not believe me.” Moses further protested, feeling that the Israelites would not believe him.
— Exodus 4:2–9 The Lord gives Moses three signs of His power “that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee” (v. 5).
First, He commanded Moses to cast his rod (hiking stick) upon the ground, whereupon “it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it” (vv. 2–3). The Lord then told him to pick it up by the tail, which, when he did, turned it back into a rod (v. 4).
Second, He commanded Moses to put his hand into his bosom (under his vest or coat), and then take it back out. When Moses did this, “behold, his hand was leprous as snow” (v. 6). When he did so again, as commanded, “it was turned again as his other flesh” (v. 7). This he was to do if they did not believe the first sign of the rod and serpent (v. 8).
Third, if they did not believe either of the first two signs, Moses was to “take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land” (v. 9).
● Exodus 4:10 “I am not eloquent” and “slow of speech.” Moses was “not eloquent” because he was “slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” The King James version of the Bible later quotes him as saying that he has “uncircumcised lips” (Exodus 6:12, 30) But the JST clarifies this statement by saying that Moses had “stammering lips” and was “slow of speech” (JST Exodus 6:29)—probably meaning that he stuttered, as did Enoch (Moses 6:31–32). These complaints probably mean that Moses was a stutterer, just as the prophet Enoch had been. This may be one reason why Moses related so well to Enoch and included so many of his writings in his own Book of Moses.
— Exodus 4:11–14 The Lord will heal his infirmity .The Lord asked Moses, “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” (v. 11). God was quite capable of healing Moses’ infirmity, and commanded him, “go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (v. 12). Being still afraid, Moses begged the Lord to send somebody else (v. 13), which angered the Lord because of his lack of faith (v. 14).
— Exodus 4:14–17, 30 The Lord provided a spokesman. His brother Aaron would be his “spokesman unto the people” (v. 16). Observing that Aaron “can speak well” and was on his way to Midian “to meet thee,” Moses could “put words in his mouth” and Aaron could then become his spokesman (vv. 14–16). But the relationship was strictly this, “he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God” (v. 16). Moses was the prophet. Aaron was only to speak on his behalf and only what the Lord had told Moses to say. In addition, Moses was to “take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs” (v. 17). So, “Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses,” while Moses “did the signs in the sight of the people” (v. 30).
— D&C 100:5–8 Similar promises to us today. Though we may or may not have speech impediments today, many of us still fear to share the gospel with others. But the Lord has said, “lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men” (v. 5). Furthermore, “it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say” (v. 6). But to obtain this gift, we must “declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things” (v. 7), and if we do “the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say” (v. 8).
● Exodus 3:15–18 The Lord promises Moses success in his mission. Moses is to tell his people that “the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you” and “appeared unto me” (vv. 15–16). He was to quote the Lord as saying to the Israelites, “I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt” (v. 16). “I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites . . . unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (v. 17). And then the Lord promised Moses that, “they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt” and ask that he let the Israelites “journey into the wilderness” and “sacrifice to the LORD our God” (v. 18).
The Role of a Prophet
From this conversation between the Lord and Moses, we learn much about the proper role of a prophet. The prophet speaks “instead of [in the place of] God” (Moses 4:16). When the Lord has something to communicate to His people, he will speak through the prophet. The prophet may then appoint “spokesmen” unto the people, but they must teach only those things that the prophet tells them to teach (Moses 4:15).
● D&C 107:91–92 “The duty of the President [of the Church] is . . . to be like unto Moses”(see also D&C 103:16)—a seer, translator, and prophet, having all the gifts that the Lord “bestows upon the head of the church” (v. 92). Thus, “the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses” (v. 91).
Elder John A. Widtsoe said, “In modern revelation the President of the Church is frequently compared to Moses. . . . The discussion of this question among the Saints, led to the following statement in the Times and Seasons (6:992) by President John Taylor, then the editor, “The President [of the Church] stands in the Church as Moses did to the children of Israel, according to the revelations.’ The man like unto Moses in the Church is the President of the Church.”3
The Visions Recorded in the Book of Moses
Sometime after the initial vision on Mt. Sinai, but before he returned to Egypt, Moses received a comprehensive revelation from God concerning the creation, the inhabitants of the earth, the mission of the Savior, and the purposes of God. This vision or series of visions was similar to the one given to Enoch (Moses 7), and provided Moses with the knowledge he needed as a dispensational prophet to re-establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth. This vision, which we studied in chapters 1–3, is contained in Moses 1–4.
● Moses 1:1–2 The words of God spoken to Moses on “an exceedingly high mountain.” The Prophet Joseph Smith received and recorded “selections from the Book of Moses” (Moses 1), the “words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain” (v.1) We are told that on this occasion, Moses “saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence” (v. 2).
● Moses 1:17, 25–26 The timing of the vision. The vision recorded in Moses 1 took place after Jehovah spoke to Moses at the burning bush (v. 17) but before Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea (vv. 25–26). This means that Moses 1 coincides with Exodus 6. Moses was about 80 years old when he received these visions. He led Israel for 40 more years and died [was translated] at the age of 120 (Deut. 29:5; 31:2).
1. Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 2 vols. , 1:74.
2. Introduction to the Old Testament, 1:74.
3. Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham, 3 vols. in 1 , 248.