JMS Sunday School Lesson #3


(1) Scan Moses 2 and note the familiar 7-day cycle:

Moses 2//Genesis 1
1st day/night
2nd firmament
3rd land, plants
4th sun, moon
5th fish, birds
6th animals, humans
7th (rests)

(2) Read Moses 3:5, v 7, and v 9.
(3) Scan Moses 3, which tells a very different story.

Moses 3//Genesis 2
–tree of life
–tree of KG& E

(4) The point: ch2 describes a spiritual creation while ch3 describes a physical creation. Note that Genesis 1 and 2 do the same thing, but without the explanation in between.
(5) Note that neither physical nor spiritual necessarily means literal. Pres. Kimball taught that the rib story is figurative—not literal (See Spencer W. Kimball, “The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,� Ensign, Mar. 1976, 70f). So in each case we need to decide whether to read figuratively, literally, or both.

Differences between Moses 2 and 3
(1) In ch2, humans are the culmination of creation but in ch3, man is the precursor. (Or is there another way to explain this?) What might this suggest?
(2) Cf. 2:27 with 3:7: 2:27 emphasizes image of God while 3:7 emphasizes relation to the Earth. Why?
(3) If we read 3:7 figuratively, what would we conclude? (We are of the earth and of God—tension of ‘man is nothing’ and ‘work and glory’ again.)
(4) Male and female: ch 2 has difference without distinction but ch3 has big distinction. What could we learn from this?

Excursus: definition of ‘help meet’:

(not helpmate–makes me think of Gilligan)
–‘help’ in Heb. describes an equal or superior
–usually in OT God is the ‘help’ of humans
– could trans. as ‘strength’ or ‘power’
– ‘meet’ in Heb. only this time in OT
–in later Heb., used to mean ‘equal to’
– possible translation: ‘a power equal to’

(5) Symbolism of the rib? (“I presume another bone could have been used, but the rib, coming as it does from the side, seems to denote partnership. The rib signifies neither dominion nor subservience, but a lateral relationship as partners, to work and to live, side by side.�—Elder Nelson (See Russell M. Nelson, “Lessons from Eve,� Ensign, Nov. 1987, 86f.)
(6) Why is the physical creation corresponding to days 1, 2, and part of 3 not narrated? (Or, why do we even learn about the spiritual creation of the firmament, etc.?)
(7) What could we learn from the emphasis on rivers in 3:10-14?
(8) Other differences between ch2 and ch3 to discuss?

General Questions
(1) Note that after each phase of the spiritual creation, God notes that it “was good.� What do we learn from this? (My thought: By contrast, we are rather stinting of praise for our own or another’s work-in-progress.)
(2) The following relationships get attention in the creation accounts: humans and other creatures, humans and God, man and woman, creation and God’s plan. Thoughts on what the creation accounts teach about these relationships?

“Our analysis properly begins with the frank recital that our knowledge about the Creation is limited. We do not know the how and why and when of all things. Our finite limitations are such that we could not comprehend them if they were revealed to us in all their glory, fulness, and perfection. What has been revealed to us is that portion of the Lord’s eternal word which we must believe and understand if we are to envision the truth about the Fall and Atonement and thus become heirs of salvation. This is all we are obligated to know in our day.” (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p179)

29 comments for “JMS Sunday School Lesson #3

  1. Mike Parker
    January 12, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    I have to say I’m less than convinced about the “spiritual vs. physical” creation theory. The material starting in Genesis 2:4 doesn’t parallel the creation account in Genesis 1:1–2:3, it’s a completely different account that begins with the creation of man. Note the start of 2:4, “These are the generations…” — this is a typical starting phrase for a completely separate account (compare this phrase with Exodus 1:1 and Deuteronomy 1:1).

    Note also that Moses 3:5 doesn’t say physically, it says naturally: “I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.” This could be taken to mean that they were created in a higher or perfect state before they existed in a mortal, fallen state. Paul uses “spiritual” and “natural” in this exact way in 1 Corinthians 15:44.

    It seems to me that the textual break at Genesis 2:4 is better explained by the inclusion of a secondary textual source, as the Documentary Hypothesis theorizes.

  2. Julie M. Smith
    January 12, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    Mike, good observations. Let me respond to each:

    (1) “The material starting in Genesis 2:4 doesn’t parallel the creation account in Genesis 1:1–2:3, it’s a completely different account that begins with the creation of man.”

    That’s the point–that it isn’t parallel.

    (2) I’m not going to quibble on physically versus naturally–I’m never one for semantics, and would be more than happy to use your language and take the discussion from there.

    (3) “It seems to me that the textual break at Genesis 2:4 is better explained by the inclusion of a secondary textual source, as the Documentary Hypothesis theorizes.”

    The DH _is_ a very reasonable explanation of the break if we are only considering Genesis, given that the Genesis account gives no other explanation for the two separate accounts. The DH is much less reasonable for Moses, where the DH doesn’t fit (if we accept that this is a vision that Moses had, written in his own hand and restored as part of the JST) and the intervening verses give reasons for the separate accounts. By the way, I’m not anti-DH: I think, for example, that the DH is a perfectly good explanation for the two separate accounts of Noah’s ark (two versus seven animals, etc.). But it isn’t a good explanation for Moses, where Moses 3:5, 7, and 9 explain the difference between the two accounts.

  3. January 12, 2006 at 3:41 pm


    Mormons commonly deal with the two creation stories (i.e., the one story in Gen 1, and the second story in Gen 2) by seeing one as a spiritual creation and one as a physical creation. But, this reading is problematic, for a number of reasons. I discuss this, in the light of D&C 77:12, which states man was created on the 7th, yes SEVENTH day, on pages 5-8 of my comments on Genesis 1:

    The Documentary Hypothesis (i.e., the JEPD reading on the Pentateuch) has effectively been dismantled by the Jewish scholarly community and is no longer in vogue, and rightly so.

    Also, Julie, I have added your lessons to the list of links, along with Jim F’s, on

  4. Julie M. Smith
    January 12, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    Kurt, I think your reading of D & C 77:12 is strained, to put it mildly.

    While the DH is obviously the subject of much controversy, to say that it has been “effectively dismantled” is to suggest a scholarly consensus where none exists.

    And thanks for the link. I use every week, and I appreciate the work that you do to maintain this fine resource.

  5. January 12, 2006 at 4:02 pm


    How is it strained? What is your reading on this:

    D&C 7712
    12 Q. What are we to understand by the sounding of the trumpets, mentioned in the 8th chapter of Revelation?
    A. We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth….

    The controversy is over on DH, its a burnt piece of toast. Has been for the past 10+ years. Takes some time to filter out of academia though.

  6. Julie M. Smith
    January 12, 2006 at 4:13 pm


    I wish I knew how to diagram a sentence in wordpress! I think that the “also” before “formed” suggests something like this:

    We are to understand that:
    –as God made the world in six days
    –and on the seventh day he finished his work and sanctified it
    –and also formed man out of the dust of the earth

    In other words, we have three completely separate clauses here and not a chronological progression.

    Now, I’m NOT willing to bet the kingdom on my parsing of this sentence, but I think there is enough ambiguity in the matter that I cannot accept your reading when your reading not only runs counter to the generally accepted reading but also–at least, to me–makes nonsense of the idea of God resting on the 7th day if he is creating man on that day. I’ve created men, and it wasn’t restful at all ;).

    I’ve got nothing else to say about the DH except that I think rumors of its death have been somewhat exaggerated.

  7. Jim F.
    January 12, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    Kurt, thanks for the link at Perhaps, however, you should link there to the lessons themselves (as you do at Meridian) rather than to the front page. I suspect that people coming to the front page of T&S looking for the Sunday School lessons might be initially confused because they’ll usually have to scroll down to get to the lessons. The address for all of the lessons is:

  8. Jonathan Green
    January 12, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    Kurt, Ben Spackman thinks the DH is a “standard and near-universal assumption in the field of Hebrew Bible” studies. As a grad student at Chicago, he’s in a good place to know what the state of the field is. That does not by itself make Ben’s opinion correct, but it makes me curious how you arrive at your understanding of the status of the DH in Bible studies today.

    (I could be misreading “filter out of academia,” though. I’m taking it as “go from a small circle of experts to a wider popular audience,” but maybe you meant it as “the final cleansing of the poison from its last redoubts in the academy”.)

  9. January 12, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    “makes nonsense of the idea of God resting on the 7th day if he is creating man on that day.”

    You’ll note that the seventh day never ends–at least not in the scriptures. How do you explain this? Every other “day” ends, “and the evening and the morning were the _____ day.” Yet, this phrase does not exist when it comes to the seventh. Why?

  10. January 12, 2006 at 6:28 pm


    One must take a closer look at D&C 77:12 to understand it. One needs to read the entire verse and view the parallel that exists.

    “As God made the world in six days, and (a) on the seventh day he finished his work, and (b) sanctified it, and also (c) formed man out of the dust of the earth.”

    Compared to:

    “even so, in the BEGINNING of the (a) seventh thousand years will the Lord God (b) sanctify the earth, and (c) complete the salvation of man.”

    So (and I hope I’m making sense) as God created man on the seventh day (or time, which some believe to be 1000 years), he will also bring to pass the salvation of man in the “seventh thousand years.”

    Again, I hope this makes sense. It’s hard to explain without drawing a diagram and going into further depth, but I hope this clarifies the subject a little bit.

  11. Julie in Austin
    January 12, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    Tim, I’m familiar with the idea that we are living in the seventh day of creation and I don’t find it persuasive. I think a much simpler explanation is that that day isn’t ‘closed off’ because there is no eighth day of creation to narrate.

    Tim, I follow your parallelism in #10, but I am not convinced by it. Notice that “(a) seventh thousand years will the Lord God” does not have an action associated with it as the other clauses do (sanctify, complete). Which means that I don’t think there is a parallel between the three phrases of the first section and the three phrases of the second, because there are only two phrases in the second (sanctify and complete).

  12. Mike Parker
    January 12, 2006 at 11:37 pm


    Your analysis of the state of the DH in modern Biblical studies is incorrect. It is very much alive and well and underpins most Bible commentaries being released, including Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible and The Anchor Bible Dictionary (almost certainly the most esteemed work in its class).

    The only people dismissing the DH are fundamentalist Christians and a few Mormons (those who have heard of it and reject it for a literal “restorationist” JST paradigm).

  13. January 13, 2006 at 9:32 am

    “Tim, I’m familiar with the idea that we are living in the seventh day of creation and I don’t find it persuasive.”

    No, I don’t believe we’re living in the seventh day, either, nor is that what I was asserting. I believe in fact that the seventh “day” (time) did end, though it wasn’t similar in the way the other six ended. Instead, it ended with a cataclysmic, earthly event, like_________.

    You really don’t see a parallel there? English lesson aside, (I did take a few English classes myself) you really don’t see it? Let me know what you think the phrase “even so…” (the connector between the two sides) means. He is clearly making a direct comparison here.

    Considering what Genesis, Moses, and Abraham, AND D&C 77 clearly says, it still doesn’t make sense?

  14. January 13, 2006 at 9:43 am

    “makes nonsense of the idea of God resting on the 7th day if he is creating man on that day.�

    Considering how long we believe the “days” were during the creation, I find it hard to believe that ALL God did for thousand(s) of years, was rest, and do nothing. Especially since there was no football to watch back then :).

  15. January 13, 2006 at 9:55 am

    The verb in Genesis, shabat doesn’t mean “relax” so much as it means “to cease” ie. on the 7th day, God ceased working.

  16. January 13, 2006 at 10:01 am

    You’re right Ben, I had forgotten this. But it still doesn’t change what I wrote. I don’t believe that God “ceased” for an entire thousand(s) years. He did nothing?

  17. January 13, 2006 at 11:29 am

    I don’t think he did nothing. Genesis specifies in good parallel fashion that he finished the creative work he had been doing, and ceased all the work which he had been doing.

    When I tell my wife I’ve finished my homework, it certainly doesn’t imply that I haven’t done anything else since then.

  18. Julie M. Smith
    January 13, 2006 at 1:01 pm


    “You really don’t see a parallel there?”

    No, I don’t. The first section has three phrases, each with an action (made, finished, formed). The section section has two phrases with an action (sanctify, complete). I don’t see a parallel there. I will admit to not being 100% sure of the force of “even so,” but I don’t think it can make 3=2.

    “Considering what Genesis, Moses, and Abraham, AND D&C 77 clearly says, it still doesn’t make sense?”

    The two Genesis accounts can be explained by the DH or by the spiritual-and-then-physical theory. Moses is best explained by the spiritual-and-then-physical theory because of Moses 3:5, 7, and 9. (Which, by the way, you have offered no compelling counter explanation for.) I don’t have as much time as I’d like to look at Abraham right now, but I don’t see anything that would cement your theory.

    Tim, I wonder if there is something that I am missing here: What is so compelling about this theory to you? Are you frying a bigger fish that I don’t see? Because I’m all about Occam’s Razor on this one.

  19. January 13, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    Wait a second, I’m confused. I am arguing a spiritual-then-physical creation, as well. On the sixth day, man was created spiritually, on the seventh, physically (Adam & Eve). Thus Moses 3:5 is stating that everything had been formed spiritually already, yet there was no man to till the ground. God then created Adam from the dust of the Earth. It’s a little more clear in Abraham. Is this different than what you are asserting? Or are we simply arguing over what day it took place?

    “Tim, I wonder if there is something that I am missing here: What is so compelling about this theory to you? Are you frying a bigger fish that I don’t see? Because I’m all about Occam’s Razor on this one. ”

    Well, yeah. But it doesn’t really come into full play until the Fall.

    And I’m not convinced the seventh day isn’t wrapped up simply because there is no eighth-day narrative.

  20. Mike Parker
    January 13, 2006 at 6:17 pm

    Here are my notes for this lesson, Word (.DOC) format:


  21. Julie M. Smith
    January 13, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    Tim J.,

    Sorry about that–I assumed that since you and Kurt were both arguing about this 7th day business from D & C 77:12, that you were on the same page with him regarding the spiritual-and-then-physical theory. My mistake.

    “Well, yeah. But it doesn’t really come into full play until the Fall.”

    You can flesh this out for me if you’d like, but at this point, I see nothing at all to support the view that man was created on the 7th day.

  22. Julie M. Smith
    January 13, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    For those too lazy to open documents:

    Mike’s notes in #20 are excellent: he puts the three accounts in parallel columns with a fourth column of notes on Hebrew words. There is also a visual of the ‘firmament.’ Very useful, thank you Mike.

  23. January 13, 2006 at 9:43 pm

    “You can flesh this out for me if you’d like”

    It’ll show up at 9Moons shortly, and I’d appreciate your feedback and comments when it happens.

    “I see nothing at all to support the view that man was created on the 7th day.”

    Except when reading the Genesis, Moses, and Abraham accounts chronoLOGICally, and add the D&C 77 reference (in spite of a grammatical anomaly–the parallel is the point of the scripture), Occam’s razor (is this the new ‘Nacle buzz word/phrase?) tells us this is what happened.

    A closer look at the Abraham account helps. I’ll skip right to the Chapter 4 heading which says “They bring to pass the creation according to their plans.” This is after the spiritual creation in Abraham 4.

    God also apparently physically created plantlife (Mos 2:11) before he created the light (sun, Mos 2:14), and before he had caused it to rain (Mos3:6). I would think these two things would be necessary to have plantlife exist in a physical sense. But Abraham tells us that the Gods simply went down to “prepare the earth to bring forth grass…” (4:11) NOT to do it themselves.

    I also like Rob Osborn’s comment on JEF’s lesson:

    “As of the end of day 6 no physical life forms have been put upon the earth. We know this because the earth had not been sanctified (set apart for holy purpose) yet. God had to sanctify the earth so that it could fill the measure of its creation. It would kind of be like building a Temple- up until it is finished and set apart for holy purpose it is just another building, but after it is set apart then it becomes a temple of God that can fulfill its measure. Man was the first living flesh (flesh here refers to a physical frame rather than mortality) on the earth and this happened on the seventh day (thus the reason why the seventh day is so important to us) and still on this day all other life forms were given their bodies. D&C section 77:12 backs up the fact that the spirit of Adam was given his physical body on the seventh day and not the sixth day.”

    Of course, he also asserts D&C 77:12 means what it says, but because of that damn missing verb :), you will probably throw out the entire comment.

  24. Julie M. Smith
    January 13, 2006 at 11:29 pm

    OK, Tim, put the link in a comment on this thread when it shows up; I’d like to see the fleshed-out version and will save my comments for that.

  25. January 14, 2006 at 10:05 am

    Will do. Thanks, Julie.

  26. Kathy Jackson
    January 15, 2006 at 4:49 am

    I am not a biblical scholar, but to me the two creation (first spiritual, then physical) idea is pretty obvious. I remember suggesting that very idea to my seminary teacher a couple of decades ago when we first studied OT. She was not, I recall, very happy about it. I don’t think she was prepared to deal with the concept being firmly convinced that the earth was created in either 6 days or 6,000 years, and in the exact order listed in Genesis 1, end of discussion. But I didn’t, and I still don’t see any other logical interpretation for Moses 3:5, 7 or Abraham 5:5. Why can’t we just assume that Moses, Abraham, and Joseph Smith all wrote what they really meant in those verses? I don’t know what kind of scholarly debate exists on the topic beyond the comments above, but I really don’t know why some people are so bothered by the idea. For me it clears up a lot of issues and conflicts between science and theology on the subject of the age of the earth for example. It makes all those arguments about the inaccuracy of carbon dating techniques irrelevant. It seems clear and simple–perhaps that is the problem?

  27. Julie M. Smith
    January 15, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    Kathy, I’m with you.

  28. Jim F.
    January 16, 2006 at 11:39 pm

    Julie, thanks for these notes. I may have relied more on them when I taught today’s lesson than I did on my own notes.

  29. January 17, 2006 at 8:41 am

    Julie #6, You are assuming creating man was considered “work”, which doesnt appear to be the case according to John 5:17, and given Jesus’ view there is no apparent theological problem with creating man on the 7th day. I find your attempt to dislocate the clauses as unimpressive as you find my attempt to conjoin them. It is plain from the context of the verse the Lord is comparing the 7th day of creation to the seventh thousand years, the Millennium, and the creation of man is lumped in with the things that happened on the seventh day of creation.

    JimF #7, I was previously unaware of that link, and have update the link index to use that page. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

    Jonathan Green #8 (and others), it seems I have been reading right-leaning literature and assumed that was representative of the state of affairs. As such, I will retract my statement regarding academic abandonment of the JEPD theory. I still consider it to be rubbish, and casual review of the proponents of this theory will show it is grounded on little more than speculative nonsense, grossly simplified multicolored flow charts notwithstanding. The text we have is hardly Moses’ autograph, but the JEPD theory is a bad as Deutero and Trito Isaiah.

    Mike Parker #12 Are you limiting you statement to DH in general or are you referring to JEPD in specific? There are a lot more people than just fundamentalists and Mormons who reject JEPD. While only a fundamentalist would insist the Pentateuch we have at present is Moses’ autograph, there are plenty of critics of JEPD. There is merit to the DH, insofar as it seeks to determine different sources and problems within the text as far as source goes, but the JEPD is a load of rot.

    Mike Parker #20 If you are planning on posting all your lesson notes online, I can link to them and publish them via I created an ASCII version of the parallels by line based upon similar textual content so differences and similarities could be easily compared, available here.

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