5 Fascinating Facts About the Book of Moses that You Probably Won’t Learn in Sunday School

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book of moses

1. The Book of Moses is Supposed to Be in the Bible

bible
via Pixabay

Okay, what we’re trying to say is that the Book of Moses was originally part of the Bible—that is, part of Genesis. According to this Ensign article written by a BYU professor of religion: “The material constituting the eight chapters of the book of Moses is an extract from Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. More precisely, chapter one of Moses is an account of a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph just prior to, or at the commencement of, the translation, while Moses chapters two through eight constitute his translation of Genesis from chapter one through chapter six, verse thirteen.” So, technically, chapter one of Moses should have been the true beginning of the Holy Bible as we know it. Over time, however, it was removed and simply restored when Joseph Smith was given the responsibility to re-translate that book of scripture.

2. There Was No “Book of Moses” in the Original Pearl of Great Price

Elder Franklin D. Richards

Originally published in 1851 by Elder Franklin D. Richards while he was president of the British mission, the Pearl of Great Price was simply a pamphlet used to circulate more of the teachings of the Church that had not previously been accessible to the British saints. This pamphlet included bits and pieces of the Book of Moses, but not in chronological order. It included verses from the current chapters 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8.

In 1878, when Elder Parley P. Pratt oversaw the second publication of the Pearl of Great Price in Salt Lake City, the chapters of Moses were placed in order and the Book of Moses was included in its entirety.

3. The Book of Moses Did Not Become Canonized as LDS Scripture Until Almost 50 Years After Joseph Smith Had Translated It

pearl of great price
via Deseret News

According to research by Church historians, Joseph Smith completed his translation of the Book of Moses in February of 1831. It wasn’t until October 1880 when the Pearl of Great Price was voted by the Church to become one of the standard works. BYU Religion Professor, Robert Mathews, stated, “Some years thereafter, Elder James E. Talmage, working under assignment from the First Presidency, made further contributions. These included putting in cross-references and footnotes and also arranging the material in its present chapter and verse form. The Talmage edition was published in 1902” (Ensign, January 1986).

4. You Can View the ORIGINAL Transcript of Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Book of Moses Online

joseph smith papers
via LDS Media Talk

Although the original transcript of Joseph Smith’s re-translation of the Bible (including what we consider to be the Book of Moses) is owned by the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church), the images can be viewed at the official website for the Joseph Smith Papers. Containing the handwriting of Joseph’s scribes (Sidney Rigdon, Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer), the manuscript shows how the original text was simply a flow of sentences rather than the numbered verses we have today.

5. The Book of Moses Contains Several Doctrinal Insights Not Found Anywhere Else in Scripture

Adam and Eve Teaching Their Children
via churchofjesuschrist.org

Some of the key points brought out in the Book of Moses that are either skimmed over or don’t appear in other scripture are:

  • Adam and his posterity had a “pure and undefiled language” and kept a “book of remembrance” (Moses 6:5-6).
  • The gospel of salvation was preached “from the beginning” (Moses 5:58).
  • Details about Adam and Eve performing sacrifice in similitude of the Savior’s sacrifice, Adam’s baptism, his receiving the Holy Ghost, and knowledge of the purpose of the Fall (Moses 5).
  • Several details about the life of Enoch (i.e. he saw the Savior’s ministry, the spirit world, the restoration of the gospel and the Savior’s second coming) (Moses 7).

Jasmine has degrees in Spanish and International Relations from BYU and has always had a love for writing ever since she penned her first haiku at age 9. She and her husband, Shawn, are the the parents of 8 children, who keep her very busy when she is not writing for Third Hour.