The creation accounts explain that light was created to dissipate the darkness on the first ‘day’ or event of creation. “Let there be light; and there was light.”
This introduces yet another puzzle. We learn later in the accounts that the sun, moon and stars were not present until the fourth ‘day’ of creation. How can that be? If the sun is our primary source of light, with the moon and the stars bringing up a distant second and third place, where did the light of the first creation period come from?
It’s a small leap of logic to infer that the light came from the emerging planet at the hub or center of the abyss, tornado or whirlpool. Further, the present source of all our light, the sun, the moon and the stars did not appear until that plasma ‘fog’ around that emerging body fully dissipated. This is why the “lights” of heaven did not appear in the scriptural scenario until the ‘fourth day’ — that is to say, until later in the sequence of events.
So, while the creation story may be fully symbolic, it also generally preserved the sequence of events as well as remarkably accurate observations of the realities behind or beneath the symbolism in many instances.
Of course, there is much, much more in the Genesis account that could be explored. Indeed, explanations and implications of the creation and garden stories alone could fill a thick book. But, this should suffice to demonstrate the symbolic nature of these stories.
And, what can be said about the first part of Genesis also holds for the rest of it. Indeed, this is true of most scripture, right on through the New Testament. Naturally, the further back in history we go, the more symbolic the accounts, making Genesis the most symbolic of all — the only exception being the dreams and visions of the prophets all the way down to John’s Revelation.
As a conclusion to this series, I point out one, last area of interest not often connected with the creation.
Let’s begin with a direct quote from Cardona’s recent work, God Star, which is most revealing. He quotes the first chapter of Genesis substituting English words with the original Hebrew at critical junctures:
“In the beginning Elohim create the shemayim and ‘eretz. And ‘eretz was tohu wa bohu, and darkness was on the surface of the tehom. And the ruach of Elohim moved upon the face of the mayim.”
“… Elohim was one of the ancient names of Saturn. Shemayim are “the heavens” — in the plural. Eretz is the word usually translated “Earth,” but it more properly means “land.” The words tohu wa bohu are traditionally translated as “without form and void” or “void and empty.” The tehom is understood as a watery abyss — the deep. Ruach means “spirit” or “soul,” but also “wind,” while the mayim are merely “the waters” — also in the plural.
“… the words of Genesis actually tell us … that, “in the beginning” — that is, as far back as man can remember — Saturn fashioned the “land” — which originally meant the land of the gods [Elohim] — which was formless and empty, while the “spirit,” or “wind,” of the same Saturn moved over the darkened waters.”
Following that, the Egyptian texts tell us of the next phase of creation, left out by the rabbinical scholars because it smacked of polytheism:
Atum [Saturn], the All, spits out or exhales the female power Tefnut and the masculine power Shu — “and from one god I became three”, say the texts, noting that the All, the One, the Creator-god “repeated himself”. All three together are Atum-Re (the archaic “sun” god, whom we now know to be Saturn), the god Shu (first form of the warrior-hero, identifiable astronomically with Mars) and the goddess Tefnut (first form of the divine mother, the planet Venus).
Talbott summarized this creation event thusly: ”What follows this phase is the displacement, departure, or “spitting out” of Mars and Venus as the first forms of the hero and goddess, who now become quasi-independent, highly active figures in the creation events.” That is, the very speech of the first god became the stuff of the other two. These other two planets, then, were perceived to be the result of the creative words uttered by Atum, the self-created god; these ‘words’ were seen and heard. The words of the creator actually became his two alter egos or two other parts (planets).”
But, the concept of a god actually creating two others has endured since that astral event. Hence, John, the apostle alludes to that fundamental doctrine in the opening verse of his gospel, which reads, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” This is just another version of the three-gods-in-one doctrine that dominated religion long before it became early Christian belief and, ultimately, Catholic dogma. But, we have to look to the Egyptian creation accounts and those from other cultures to understand John’s intended meaning.
Thus we see that the prophetic symbolism of our scriptures retains the essence of all those ancient archetypes and subsequent elaborations. Of course, without a firm and thorough grasp of the origin of that symbolism and its proper use, we stumble around in the dark as we attempt to understand our own scripture. We are as blind men and women, groping in the dark.
This same principle applies not only to the Bible, but to scripture revealed by Joseph Smith as well, since it all retains that same, time-honored symbolism. Moreover, it applies equally to modern temples, their architecture, adornments, rituals and furnishings.
Without this vital understanding of its symbolic meaning, we misunderstand and misinterpret all that has been restored in these latter days. Though we give homage to the restoration, we turn a blind eye to all its symbolism: It is a mystery to us. Thus, we turn a blind eye to fully half of the truths restored to us. How, then, can we still claim to be “children of the light,” as the Savior said?
So, this is as much a call to repentance as an exposition of gospel symbolism. To those Saints who read this, it should be a wake up call.
If I were a prophet, I would say something like this:
“Repent, all you who have been given the truth. You have treated this truth, this pearl of great price, as though it were dross and refuse, trampling it under your feet, for which cause you have brought condemnation upon yourselves and your children.
“Repent! And learn that which God, in his infinite mercy, has deigned to reveal to you through his servants, the prophets—even the prophet Joseph Smith.
“Turn your hearts to your fathers, as the fathers turned their hearts to you, their children. Despise and ignore not that which your fathers sought to bequeath and teach you under the direction of your God. Turn away from the worldly knowledge you so ardently embrace that brings only darkness and confusion, making you and your children deny God and his works.
“Repent, oh, repent ye, Latter-day Saints!”
But then, I’m no prophet. I’m just an average Latter-day Saint.
© Anthony E. Larson, 2008