John 1:1-2 — ‘In the beginning was the Word’ — LeGrand Baker

The first words of the Gospel of John personifies Jehovah as “the Word.”

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.

That may be difficult for us to understand, but it was not difficult for the Greek-speaking audience to whom John wrote.

The Greek word translated as “word” is logos (Strong #3056 ). It has many shades of meaning: it is both the words spoken and the system of thought behind those words; the subject under discussion or the speech used in the conversation; ideas in a questions of law, reasoning, and rationale. It is the reflections of one’s own mind; speech, treaties, utterance, etc. Even though “Word” does not have as comprehensive a meaning as logos, “Word” is still a valid translation.

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible does not change that meaning, but it makes it easier for us to understand.

1 In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God (JST john 1:1-2).

The Savior further clarified John’s personification of “the Word” in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph when he said,

26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth (D&C 93:26).

All three versions combine to help us to understand that by virtue of the eternal sweep of his Atonement, the Savior is the personification of the gospel and the source of the teachings.

Earlier in Section 93 John’s testimony is quoted more fully.

6 And John saw and bore record of the fulness of my glory, and the fulness of John’s record is hereafter to be revealed.
7 And he bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was;
8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him (D&C 93:6-10).

If I understand those statements correctly, they mean that the Savior, the Firstborn and Only Begotten Son of the Father, taught us the gospel from the very earliest beginnings of our cognizance. That concept acknowledges that the Savior has had a pivotal role in every phase of our very early and continued maturation.

One’s having truth presupposes one’s having priesthood, for there are some truths that one cannot understand unless one is “authorize us to believe.”

George A. Smith, while serving in the First Presidency, reported: “Joseph Smith taught that every man and woman should seek the Lord for wisdom, that they might get knowledge from Him who is the fountain of knowledge; and the promises of the gospel, as revealed, were such as to authorize us to believe, that by taking this course we should gain the object of our pursuit.” {1}

That same doctrine is taught in the scriptures. Two examples are:

27 And no man receiveth a fulness [of truth] unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things (D&C 93:27-28).

Of course, one cannot keep all the commandments unless they are available to us through the priesthood and its attendant covenants and ordinances. So, to be authorized to believe, one must first have the necessary priesthood authority to be able to know what to believe.

19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest (D&C 84:19-20).

Some priesthood blessings are tied to one’s birthright. (That is why the birthright blessings of Abraham are so important to Latter-day Saints.) When the Lord explained the rights of bishopric to the Prophet Joseph, he said,

17 For the firstborn holds the right of the presidency over this priesthood, and the keys or authority of the same (D&C 68:17).

The same is, no doubt, true of the eternal priesthood. Therefore, in another place, the Savior explained,

21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn;
22 And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.
23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are come;
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments (D&C 93:21-27).

These scriptures teach us a great deal about the premortal Savior. He is the personification of truth by virtue of his birthright as the Firstborn Son of the Father. Now we are left with this most important of questions: Did Jehovah hold the rights of priesthood because he happened to be the first one born, or was he the Firstborn because he had already earned those rights? In my last post I discussed the orders of premortal priesthood described in Alma 13. Alma calls the priesthood held by the intelligences “the order of the Son.” He teaches that both the gospel and the priesthood that enabled its covenants were ascribed to the Savior before intelligences were born into the spirit world. Using Alma 13 as evidence, the answer to our questions must be that the Savior had already earned the right to be the First Born and Only Begotten Son of the Father.

In John the Beloved’s Revelation, he uses an intriguing description of the Savior and makes it more intriguing by the challenge that follows it.

8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
9 If any man have an ear, let him hear (Revelation 13:8-9).

The phrase, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” is not found elsewhere in the Bible, but we can know from the Book of Moses that it had once been in the Hebrew scriptures. The context is this:

45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life?
46 And the Lord said: It shall be in the meridian of time, in the days of wickedness and vengeance.
47 And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me (Moses 7:45-47).

The Savior suggested that same idea when he introduced himself to the Nephites. First the Father spoke to them and said,

7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.

Then the Savior appeared.

9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning (3 Nephi 11:5-11).

I do not pretend to understand the eternal ramifications of the Atonement, but perhaps part of the question was clarified when the Savior introduced himself to the brother of Jared.

14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters (Ether 3:14).

It is further clarified by this explanation given to the Prophet Joseph.

40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.
41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever (D&C 88:33-45).

It is appropriate to conclude this discussion with two testimonies written by the Prophet Joseph Smith. The first was dictated by him as he and Sidney Rigdon received the revelation that is section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God (D&C 76:22-24).

The second is somewhat similar, but more personal and more explicit. It is a few stanzas from a poem called “A Vision,” by the Prophet, published on February 1, 1843, in the Times and Seasons.

And now after all of the proofs made of him,
By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,
This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea, he lives!
And sits at the right hand of God on his throne.

And I heard a great voice bearing record from heav’n,
He’s the Saviour and only begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that careen in the heavens so broad.

Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons
By the very same truths and the very same powers. {2}

John’s introduction saying that the Savior is the very personification the truth that is the gospel, is only that, an introduction. It provides a background from which to consider what else he is going to tell us about the Savior’s eternal nature. The profundity of this and the rest of John’s testimony is beyond my understanding, but it is wonderful to contemplate.

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FOOTNOTES

{1} Joseph Smith [Melchizedek Priesthood manual], (Salt Lake City, Utah, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007), 266.

{2} The eternal and universal sweep of the Savior’s knowledge and powers is suggested by the following.

Apostle John Taylor wrote an editorial called “Origin, Object, and Destiny of Women.” It was published in The Mormon, New York, New York, August 29, 1857. The following is only part of one paragraph, but it should really be read in context. You will find the entire editorial in “Favorite Quotes” in this website. Part of the editorial reads:

Knowest thou not that eternities ago, thy spirit, pure and holy, dwelt in thy Heavenly Father’s bosom, and in his presence, and with thy mother, one of the Queens of heaven, surrounded by thy brother and sister spirts in the spirit world, among the Gods. That as thy spirit beheld the scenes transpiring there, and thou growing in intelligence, thou sawest worlds upon worlds organized and peopled with thy kindred spirits, took upon them tabernacles, died, were resurrected, and received their exaltation on the redeemed worlds they once dwelt upon. Thou being willing and anxious to imitate them, waiting and desirous to obtain a body, a resurrection and exaltation also….

The other interesting statement is from the Book of the Secrets of Enoch. The following is from Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, 142-47. The part of the quote that relates to our question is in 24:1, “I tell to thee even before the very beginning, all that I created from non-being, and visible things from invisible.” Two accounts that appear to be similar to the events described by Enoch are, Revelation 12:1-9; 1 Nephi 1:8-15.

I have a very simple rule for judging the value of the apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. The rule is this. If it is apparent that the author knew the ancient temple drama, I give his writings serious consideration. If it is apparent that he did not, I treat is as fiction. Using that criterion, I have great respect for the writings of Enoch. (see footnote B).

The full quote from Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord reads as follows:

——————————–
The most complete description of a sode experience found in the non-canonical works is in one of the books of Enoch. It reads:

24:1 And the Lord summoned me, and said to me: Enoch, sit down on my left with Gabriel.’ And I bowed down to the Lord, and the Lord spoke
2 to me: Enoch, beloved, all thou seest, all things that are standing finished I tell to thee even before the very beginning, all that I created from non-being, and visible things from invisible.
3 Hear, Enoch, and take in these my words, for not to My angels have I told my secret, and I have not told them their rise, nor my endless realm, nor have they understood my creating,
4 which I tell thee to-day. For before all things were visible, I alone used to go about in the invisible things, like the sun from east to west, and west to from west to east. But even the sun has peace in itself, while I found no peace, because I was creating all things, and I conceived the thought of placing foundations, and of creating visible creation.
25:1 I commanded in the very lowest parts, that visible things should come down from invisible, and Adoil [the footnote reads Adoil. is from Hebrew roots that mean ‘the hand of God.’ ] came down very great, and I beheld
2 him, and lo! he had a belly of great light. And I said to him: ‘Become undone, Adoil, and let
3 the visible come out of thee.’ And he came undone, and a great light came out. And I was in the midst of the great light, and as there is born light from light, there came forth a great age, and showed all creation, which I had thought to
4 create. And I saw that it was good. And I placed for myself a throne, and took my seat on it, and said to the light: ‘Go thou up higher and fix thyself high above the throne, and be
5 a foundation to the highest things.’ And above the light there is nothing else, and then I bent up and looked up from my throne.
26:1 And I summoned the very lowest a second time, and said: Let Archas come forth hard, and he came forth hard from the invisible.
2 And Archas came forth, hard, heavy, and very red.
3 And I said: Be opened, Archas, and let there be born from you, and he came undone, an age came forth, very great and very dark, bearing the creation of all lower things, and I saw that it was good and said to him:
4 Go thence down below, and make yourself firm, and be a foundation for the lower things, and it happened and he went down and fixed himself, and became the foundation for the lower things, and below the darkness there is nothing else. {A}

In this vision, Enoch {B} reports that God had created a perfect balance between good and evil, providing the full spectrum of options for each of his children. In the vision, God is represented as sitting on his throne below the light and above the darkness—that is, in the center—where he and his temple always are. {C}
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FOOTNOTES from Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord

{A} Book of the Secrets of Enoch, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2 vols. Translated and edited by R. H. Charles. 2: 431-69. Oxford: Clarendon, 1976. 2:442-45.

{B} Early Jews and Christians considered the books of Enoch as an important part of their most sacred literature. For example, compare Jude 1:14-16 with 1 Enoch 1:9.

14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage (Jude 1:14-16).

And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones
To execute judgement upon all,
And to destroy all the ungodly:
And to convict all flesh
Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed,
And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him (1 Enoch 1:9).
(The Book of Enoch, tras. R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976), 2: 189.)

{C} When the Prophet Joseph wrote a poetic version of his vision, he made its meaning even more clear.

I’ll surely reveal all my myst’ries to them—
The great hidden myst’ries in my kingdom stor’d;
From the council in Kolob, to time on the earth,
(Joseph Smith, “A Vision,” in Times and Seasons, February 1, 1843).

Abraham 3:3-4 reads:

3 And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.
4 And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord’s time, according to the reckoning of Kolob.

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