Joseph and Moses

Most are acquainted with the passage in D&C 130 where God gives a fascinating response to Joseph’s query about the Second Coming:

Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.

This is interesting in all sorts of ways, but here’s a connection I ran across today. That last phrase is almost identical to the answer God gave Moses when Moses pled to see the Promised Land:

And I besought the LORD at that time, saying…I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.

Deutoronomy 3:23-26 (italics added)

Did Joseph ever make that connection? If he did, I wonder if he took it as a sign that he, like Moses, would never see the Promised Land in this life.

15 comments for “Joseph and Moses

  1. Sideshow
    September 28, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    But I thought Deuteronomy 34 shows that Moses did see the Promised Land. He just never entered it (as requested in the scripture you quote, “go over”).

  2. Frank McIntyre
    September 28, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    Oh, yes, you’re right. When I said “see” I meant see as in “go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan”, as in to visit. Thanks for clearing that up.

  3. September 28, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    Well, Joseph did see the “promised land” in vision and tell many people about it, prophesying that they would go and settle there. So in a sense, he also was shown it by the Lord.

  4. September 28, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    As it has been explained to me, Moses was denied entry into the promised land as discipline for his disobedience when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it to bring forth the water, as the Lord commanded, in Numbers 20:8-12.

    It’s also been pointed out that Moses got in trouble for using “we” instead of “The Lord” , in verse 10 (Numbers 20:10). As if Moses were also fetching the water and it not being entirely the Lord’s doing.

    I’m not sure, but I think this is the same rock and water incident (Meribah) as described in Exodus 17. But Exodus 17 describes it slightly differently.

    So if the parallel is drawn to Joseph Smith, what “wrong thing” did Joseph do that precipitated his martyrdom?

    Was it turning around and surrendering to the authorities at the behest of his family and friends when he could have escaped? His quote that he knew that doing so would lead to his death (the one that goes something like “if my life isn’t worth anything to my friends, it isn’t worth anything to me”) seems to imply that he realized he had the opportunity to save his life by fleeing, and that his martydom, at least at that place and time in Carthage, was avoidable.

  5. Frank McIntyre
    September 28, 2006 at 6:21 pm


    Good questions and I don’t know. But the passage in Deut. actually condemns the people more than Moses, so one might also want to consider what the people had done that made it time for them to lose what Joseph could have offered them the remaining years of his life.

  6. Mark B.
    September 28, 2006 at 6:24 pm

    I think that’s pushing the parallel further than it can bear, Bookslinger. That Moses was not permitted to enter the promised land is not the same as Joseph’s not living to 85 years and seeing the coming of the Lord–the scripture goes on to note Joseph’s question whether the 85 years was the time of the Second Coming or a promise that Joseph on dying at that age would see the face of the Lord.

  7. Mark Butler
    September 28, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    Joseph Smith, like Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist ministered according to the spirit and power of Elias, as one who prepares the way. Like the others, when his mission was complete here on the earth he was taken into heaven, to complete a greater work.

    Moses prepared the way for Joshua, Elijah prepared the way for Elisha, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, and Joseph Smith prepared the way partly for Brigham Young, but more particularly for the Second Coming of Christ (as did they all). We understand him to be continuing in that ministry (as dispensation leader) to this very day.

    The following principle is worth remembering:

    Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.
    (D&C 122:9)

    In other words, like Jesus, Joseph Smith was taken at the proper time. He knew his mission here was complete.

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
    (John 14:12)

    It is worth remembering the fulfilment of this prophecy in the ministry of Peter and Paul, among others.

  8. September 28, 2006 at 11:33 pm

    “Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.
    (D&C 122:9)”
    Yes, but that’s God speaking about his enemies, not himself. He chose. By choosing, the bounds were loosed.
    Who knows when the “right time” was; I don’t yet.

    Did JS do something? I don’t know.
    Yet, whatever Moses and JS did, was it really because of that, or just an “excuse”? Moses was translated; JS had already been promised exaltation. Is there a payment in the flesh required for certain things?

    When I think of the Spirit of Elias, we think of a preparer preparing for one greater. I don’t see that connection with the “Eliases” listed.

  9. Mark Butler
    September 29, 2006 at 3:07 am


    I am not sure it is easy to measure true greatness by number of miracles performed or other outward manifestations of glory. It is part of a Christ-like character to let someone else get the glory. Our Father sure seems to give all the glory to his Son, and vice versa. But somebody ends up with it, even if they do not want the honor. President Hinckley is a good example.

    We know very little about John the Baptist, but Jesus thought very highly of him, and said so in the most explicit terms. Elisha was blessed with twice the glory of Elijah, but the latter is better known. Joseph Smith prepared the way, but Brigham Young ran the kingdom (in relative peace no less) for far longer.

  10. JKC
    September 29, 2006 at 9:56 am

    Sorry I have no documentation, but I remember reading that the whole rationalization of Moses not getting to go into Caanan because of disobedience at the rock was actually invented by a post-exile group of Rabbis. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me–it makes God seem arbitrary (but maybe he is) and petty, and does not allow the possibility that Moses could have repented of hitting the rock and been forgiven–which seems very odd since he had already been forgiven for murder or at least manslaughter. So, God is willing to forgive bloodshed but not deviation from the approved form for a never-before performed ceremony? Maybe–the OT in general doesn’t seem to place that high of a premium on human life at all, so perhaps that’s true. But personally, I find it more compelling that Moses was simply ordained to bring his people out of egypt and that Joshua was ordained to bring them in to Caanan.

    But can I connect this to the JS parallel? Maybe the point that the Lord is making here is that Joseph was not ordained to usher in the second coming. Like Moses, his mission was to establish the Lord’s people and to “lay the foundations of a great work” (D&C 64:33, I think), but not to see that great work actually come to fruition. But let’s take the parallel even further: the house of Israel was liberated and gathered by Moses, brought to the proimised land by Joshua, went a little astray, got sidetracked, maybe even lost many of the gifts and ordinances, and eventually were renewed by the Savior. Likewise, the house of Israel was called out of the world and gathered by Joseph, led to their promised land by Brigham, and is now in the custody of the priests (well meaning, and doing a good job, but still imperfect men) until the Savior returns again to “set in order the house of God” (D&C 85:7). Is that too much of a stretch? Maybe.

  11. Mark Butler
    September 29, 2006 at 10:20 am

    JKC, I think you are right – the idea that Moses was translated as a punishment seems ridiculous. I agree with the rest of what you had to say as well, although we should be careful not to conclude too hastily what order the house of God will be set in. It seems more likely to be a fulfilment of scripture, not a repudiation.

  12. JKC
    September 29, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    Yeah, nice corrective, Mark. I definitely don’t interpret that passage to mean that the church is foundering in apostasy or that the Lord will repudiate. But I think we should likewise avoid thinking that we are immune to it–this was one of J. Reuben Clark’s favorite themes.

  13. MLC
    September 29, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    For Joseph to live to be 85 would have taken a different world than the one in which he found himself at 39…and possibly one in which the Church would have been ready to welcome its Savior by 1890!

  14. September 29, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    Numbers 20:12 states that the reason Moses and Aaron didn’t take the Israelites into the promised land was their failure to follow directions at the rock, when bringing forth the water.
    “12: And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”

    Deut 32:48-51 also states the reason Moses was not allowed to go into the promised land is his (Moses’) trespass at the waters of Meribah. It’s also spelled out in Num 27:12-14.

    This trespass/discipline or trespass/punishment is also described in the Institute manual on the OT, Religion 301 (Genesis – 2 Samuel), page 208. But the manual also leaves open the possibility that Moses was taken/translated “early” because of the rebellions of the children of Israel.

  15. Mark Butler
    September 30, 2006 at 12:04 am

    It is worth considering that as a leader, and pars pro toto symbol for his congregation, according to the Melchizedek order of the priesthood. The Lord may use the name of Moses to refer not only to Moses as an individual, but also to the body of Moses, or all those who he is appointed to preside over.

    It is not at all uncommon for a true leader to suffer because of the weaknesses in his body, his bishopric, or his priesthood. And who was Moses’ priesthood? The children of Israel were. (cf. Moses 1:25, Abr 2:10-11, D&C 107:91).

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