In my recent post on the figurative and allegorical aspects I see in the Noah story I admitted to a new thought that I have had as I’ve studied the scriptures recently:
I don’t know about you but I am having an increasingly difficult time seeing the pre-Abraham scriptural narratives as being literal in our modern Western sense. They seem to be symbols of truth rather than literal historical accounts. In other words – they seem like theology rather than history to me.
In this post I’ll discuss Abraham and the parts of his story that make me wonder if he plays the role of our literal “Adam”, or the role of our father and first literal prophet. As I’ve noted recently, I have begun to suspect that the narratives about Adam and successive patriarchs in the scriptures might be allegorical. (Note- I got the ideas for this post after studying the scriptures in Old Testament Sunday school lesson 7 which is about the Abrahamic covenant.)
Abraham, our literal father
First, let me remind you of a post I put up last year that highlighted a recent study indicating that in all likelihood every living person on the earth today is a literal descendant of Abraham to one degree or another. The point is that as we view ourselves as all being descendants of Adam we are also all descendants of Abraham.
Abraham, our spiritual father
Second, let’s look at how Abraham might be our first prophet and thus the father of our faith on earth as well. The Book of Abraham gives us our best insights into this. From Abraham 1:
2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.
3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.
4 I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.
Notice here some key points from verse 2 alone:
1. It was revealed to Abraham (presumably through direct revelation) that “there was greater happiness and peace and rest for” him
2. He actively sought after the blessings and ordinations that “the fathers” had before him
3. He was already a “follower of righteousness”
4. He openly sought to “to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge”
5. He also openly sought “to be a father of many nations” and “a prince of peace”
6. He openly and willingly sought “to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God”
7. As a result of Abraham’s asking, knocking, and seeking he “became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers”
The fathers referred to here are usually thought of as the pre-Abrahamic patriarchs. My (perhaps radical) suggestion is that the term “the fathers” could be referring to our God and the others who have been exalted in the worlds without number that have preceded ours.
Key points from verses 3-4:
1. “The fathers” conferred this right on him directly (remember that the rights (of the priesthood) “belonged” to the fathers)
2. It came down from the fathers “from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth”
3. What Abraham received is defined as “the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father” and it came “through the fathers unto” him. (Couldn’t this mean he attained the right to play the role of Adam on our planet?)
4. He sought for this appointment and he received it.
Then we get more in Abraham chapter 2.
5 And the famine abated; and my father tarried in Haran and dwelt there, as there were many flocks in Haran; and my father turned again unto his idolatry, therefore he continued in Haran.
6 But I, Abraham, and Lot, my brother’s son, prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord appeared unto me, and said unto me: Arise, and take Lot with thee; for I have purposed to take thee away out of Haran, and to make of thee a minister to bear my name in a strange land which I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession, when they hearken to my voice. …
9 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
10 And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;
11 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.
12 Now, after the Lord had withdrawn from speaking to me, and withdrawn his face from me, I said in my heart: Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee;
Things to note here:
1. Even though Abraham was called to be a prophet his father returned to his previous religion (idolatry). Perhaps this is a hint that this religion that Abraham was preaching was new and revolutionary on the earth? — So much so that his own father could not forsake his old religion for it?
2. In verse 6 the Lord personally appears to tell Abraham to move to a place to start and establish this new religion. Again, is it possible that it truly was brand new to the earth?
3. In verse 9 the Lord seems to be talking about this new gospel starting with Abraham and spreading from there to every nation. More hints that it is new religion not just another prophet in a long line back through a literal Noah to a literal Adam.
4. In verse 10 we get “for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;” — very Adam-like, no?
5. Verse 11 explains how now the entire world will be blessed because of this priesthood he sought and received. This makes a lot more sense to me if the priesthood is new to the earth rather than something that had been around from the beginning. If everyone had it once (through Adam at least and through Noah for the global flood believers) then why all the hoopla about Abraham getting it?
6. “I said in my heart: Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee” Abraham, our father, became such of his own free will and choice. He sought to be a great prophet and father of the nations and because he sought to be the whole world is blessed.
Some may object to this notion of mine and point to the enigmatic “King of Salem” Melchizedek as evidence that Abraham was not the first literal prophet because according to the records Abraham paid tithes to and received the priesthood directly from Melchizedek. My speculative theory is that Melchizedek might be a title that actually represents the Lord himself and not some enigmatic pre-Abrahamic mortal prophet. Abraham tithed to him and received the priesthood directly from him after all. Consider the striking similarities between the Enoch and Melchizedek tales as well:
18 But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father. (Alma 13:18)
57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son. (D&C 76: 57)
In addition to this Melchizedek-Enoch-Christ connection, consider the true name of the higher priesthood:
3 Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.
4 But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood. (D&C 107:3-4)
So Christ’s priesthood is called the Melchizedek priesthood – perhaps there is more to that than we originally thought.
Now I am aware that this idea is highly speculative. Perhaps it is an case of thinking too far out of the box. It is so out of the box that I don’t think Joseph had it in mind at all when giving us our modern scripture. But that doesn’t faze me too much – Joseph left us way too soon after all. Who knows what he would have given us had he lived another decade or two! (Maybe something like this… maybe not…) What do you think? Sure, I know it is speculative, but could it be true?