Gospel Principles Lesson #5

Chapter Five:  The Creation

Note that all of the tables are available in the handout.

The first thing that happens in the creation story (as told in Genesis) is that the Spirit of God moves on the waters. “Move” is same verb as “hover” in Deut 32:11-12 where it describes a mother bird, who is compared to the Lord: ‘”As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him.” It is a similar image to the one used by Jesus during his mortal ministry: “how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings” (Matt 23:37), which is repeated in the BoM and D & C. I love this image of God as a mother bird, totally devoted to the protection and care of children. But even more significantly, we see that the acts of God are the same in the creation, the mortal ministry, the ministry in BoM lands, and speaking to us in the last days.

Our lesson today is about the creation, and my hope is that we can think of it not just as a Thing That Happened, but rather as a template that can teach us about God and our relationship with God.

Table 1: Fulfillment Pattern

–Note that all of the days follow the same pattern, although not every single element is included in every day. (There is no “it was good” in v8, perhaps because that would have been Monday. ;) ) What does this pattern teach you about God?
–God is not a perfectionist—half-done work is praised! Every little bit is praised! By contrast, we are rather stinting in praise of ourselves or others.
–“[He quotes ‘and God saw that it was good’.] It was a good world; it is a good world—despite the foolishness and perversities of men. It is good because of its beauties and bounties, and because of the glorious purpose and limitless possibilities that a loving Father has given His children—a Father whom the scriptures testify is personal and approachable.”–Elder Richard L. Evans, Conference Report, October 1954, pages 86-89.
–Further study: go through each day, see what is missing from formula, and consider why.

Table 2: Pattern of Days

–Note that the first column consists of resources–locations–no motion while the second consists of utilizers–inhabitants of location–having motion. Note also that days 3 and 6 each have two parts.
–What might you learn from this pattern–do you think it is valid? What might this pattern of creation teach us on a symbolic level? Why isn’t it followed on the seventh day?

–Read Genesis 1:26-27.

Table 3: What Does Image and Likeness Mean?

–Note that (4) is very “democratic,” since most people in the Ancient Near East thought that only the king was in God’s image.

–What do you think “image and likeness” means? What difference can it make in our lives to think that we–and everyone that we meet–is the image and likeness of God?
–1:27 seems to really emphasize the idea that you need male and female to give you the image of God.
–1:27: link to prohibition of idolatry—humans are the only acceptable image of God in the Bible.

Table 4: Creation by Separation

Adapted from Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, page 34.

–The idea here is that all things exist before they are created on earth and that the earthly creation is really more of a “separation” of things by categories. Of course, in order to make the pattern continue, I should have put in what men lack that women have, but I refrained. :)
–Do you think this is a useful way to approach the creation story? If so, what does it teach you about the creation? About God? What does it teach you that is relevant to your life?

–“The physical Creation itself was staged through ordered periods of time. In Genesis and Moses, those periods are called days. But in the book of Abraham, each period is referred to as a time. Whether termed a day, a time, or an age, each phase was a period between two identifiable events—a division of eternity.” –Elder Russell M. Nelson, “The Creation,” Ensign, May 2000, 84.
–Ask: Why divide the creation into chunks of time? What might we learn from that? (God builds trust in humans by working in order and with predictability—good relation to parenting.)

–Thoughts on the fact that we have multiple creation accounts? (Genesis, Moses, Abraham, temple)

–Read 1:31. NB that “behold” invites the audience into the scene.

–Read 2:1-2:3.
–NB that the chapter division doesn’t make much sense.
–NB that v1-3 has a 3x repetition of ‘seven’, each in a sentence of seven words. So form and content emphasize distinction of the seventh day.
–V1-3 show God engaged in mental actions of “enjoyment, approval, and delight” (Collins). What could this add to our own Sabbath worship?
–V2 uses ordinary, human term for “work” and thereby ennobles human work. Thoughts?
–V3: What does it mean for God to rest?

–Why is the creation of water not narrated or described? (Chaos; pre-exists mortal creation.)
–Is the 7th day a day without creation or is the Sabbath created?
–We affect the universe through physical actions; God created the universe through speaking. Thoughts?
–We are to imitate the Sabbath; any other aspects of creation that we should imitate?
–Does it ever hurt your head to think that the same person who created planets is willing to listen to you whine about your lost car keys?
–Paradox of “image of God” and “clay.” Thoughts? Exalted humility. Reminds me of Book of Moses’ “man is nothing” in close proximity to “immortality and eternal life of man” as God’s purpose.

9 comments for “Gospel Principles Lesson #5

  1. April
    March 6, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    “NB that v1-3 has a 3x repetition of ‘seven’, each in a sentence of seven words”

    I’m looking at this in a KJV of the bible. It doesn’t seem to have seven words unless you are looking at a specific 7 words to group into sentence form. Or are you referring to the amount of Hebrew words before translation? Or am I just being a little dense or uninformed? It could be that I haven’t read one of these before and I don’t know what “NB” stands for! :)

  2. Julie M. Smith
    March 6, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    April, in Hebrew; I should have made that clear. (I also could have been clearer that that isn’t all of v1-3, but two sentences in v2 and one in v3.)

    NB = note well

  3. March 6, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    I like the template-that-can-teach-us-about-God direction. It shifts the discussion away from the literal vs. metaphorical tedium, among other good things.

  4. April
    March 6, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks! and I agree with Ardis, it is a good take to make the lesson more dynamic for a mostly BiC class. :)

  5. Mondo Soria
    March 7, 2010 at 11:42 am

    “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” – Gen 1:3.

    Theory has it that in the early primordial universe, there was a minutely momentary period of – according to our – time, when it was a hot plasma gas consisting of melted components of protons (quarks and gluons), there were no available particle interactions to produce light (i.e. electron transition, matter-antimatter annihilations, etc). Then when this cauldron of hot plasma cooled down sufficiently from a trillion degrees, the quarks emitted gamma rays – the flash of light that signaled the creation of protons. – Sticky Stuff by Robert Kunzig, Extreme Universe, Discover Magazine, Winter 2010

    What I also find interesting is that in the progression of creation, Genesis scales the days logarithmically to explain each cosmic time period as God brought disorder (evening) to order (morning). – Gerald L. Schroeder, The Science of God.

  6. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    March 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    It seems curious to me that, in the midst of symbolically enacting major events on a weekly and a yearly schedule, so many people insist that the schedule set out in Genesis 1 can only be a literal one, and that it must be tied to the ordinary daily rotation of the earth, which is, after all, one of the things being created, and not a primary basis of the creation process. Surely God has a clock of his own, logically prior to the earth.

    Each sabbath day is a recreation of the original conpletion of the creation by God, reminding us that God is sovereign over all the earth and over all mankind. Each Sunday that we take the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we are commemorating a single past event, the redemption of mankind from the Fall of Adam and the resurrection of Christ, as well as a future event, the resurrection of all mankind. Each Easter is the original resurrection renewed, just as each Passover is a renewal of the original event of the salvation of Israel by God, along with a looking forward to the fulfillment of Malachi’s promise of the return of Elijah. Yet the Passover itself involved the symbolic sacrifice of the paschal lamb and the application of its saving blood to each household of the faithful, pointing forward in time. Each time we perform the ordinance of the Endowment in the temples, we are recapitulating the creation, fall, and salvation of mankind. The clock by which we worship God is not a simple 24 hour clock. Why then is God constrained by such a clock?

    When the Sabbath is so heavily freighted with symbolism, and timelessness, why is it an obsession with many that the original event it commemorates can have no element of symbolism and is only a naked event in ordinary time? When the events depicted in each stage of creation are miraculous, with no explicit ties to ordinary constraints of distance and volume, of mass and energy, of visible cause and effect, why do they insist that such an unusual process, that has so little to do with our day-to-day world of experience, HAD to be constrained by an ordinary 24 hour clock?

    I note that some who claim to adhere to a “literal” reading of Genesis 1 will concede that a “day” could mean “1,000 years” based on a statement in one of Peter’s epistles. Those who accept this equivalence are willing to insert a ratio of 365,000 to 1 into the meaning of the word “day” to make it more flexible. If we add one more ratio of that size, we are in the range of 365 million years per “day”, totaling 2.55 billion years among seven days of creation, the order of magnitude of the current estimate of the age of the earth (4.5 billion years). If one factor is acceptable, why not two? Since God has created our galaxy, and it takes 100,000 years for light to cross from one edge of it to the other, why should we insist that God’s time scale is so constrained compared to the space scale on which he works?

  7. March 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    It is interesting that no mention of “days” are in the temple ceremony. Seems days are more ambiguous than we might suppose. Although Raymond’s explanations of scale are interesting. Maybe one day was longer than another? The poetry of the account in Genesis may hint at varying lengths of these “days” or creative periods.

    However, the question, “Does it ever hurt your head to think that the same person who created planets is willing to listen to you whine about your lost car keys?” seems to show how little we do understand about the nature of God. We stand in awe of His power, but is that only because of our ignorance? All of His power would have no significance if He could not share it with His creations/children. I suppose. I mean, what would be the point? And why would “sharing” be fulfilling to an omniscient God?

    Oh, man! Now my head is hurting!

  8. Ben
    March 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    “It is interesting that no mention of “days” are in the temple ceremony.”

    Uh, pay closer attention next time ;)

  9. March 8, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Ben: Oh yeah, they are mentioned. Sorry about that. (I’m usually asleep by then.) God says to call them a day, giving them a sort of “label” instead of stating they are actually a real day, though.

    Man, I’m loosing it. Makes me wonder what else I’m forgetting. I’m getting old.

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