During 1994, members of the Church are studying the Old Testament in the Sunday School's gospel doctrine class. This is the eighth in a series of articles about Old Testament prophets that is being published in the Church News this year.
Moses is held in high esteem today by three world religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. However, latter-day revelation gives a greater appreciation for him than can be obtained from any other source.Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written:
"In prophetic power, spiritual insight, and leadership qualifications, Moses ranks with the mightiest men who have ever lived. All succeeding generations have classed him as the great law-giver of Israel. The miracles and majesty attending his ministry can scarcely be duplicated. Indeed, his life and ministry stand as a prototype of the mortal life and ministry of our Lord Himself. So great was Moses that even Christ is described as a Prophet like unto this ancient leader of Israel's hosts. (Deut. 18:15-19; Acts 3:22-23; 3 Ne. 20:23.)
But the importance of the ministry of Moses to men now living lies primarily in his return to earth in modern times to carry out his part in the great restitution of all things. (Acts 3:19.)
On April 3, 1836, he appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and committed unto them the keys of the gathering of Israel and the leading of the Ten Tribes from the land of the north. (D&C 110:11.) These were the special powers and endowments that rested with the kingdom in his day, and by virtue of their restoration men are now authorized to use the priesthood for these great purposes. (Mormon Doctrine,
Bookcraft, Inc., 1966T p. 515.)
Review of Moses' life
Moses' mortal life falls into three periods of about 40 years each.
First, from birth to age 40 in Egypt. He was reared as a prince and possible future pharaoh, learned in all the wisdom of Egypt. (Acts 7:22.) It is said that he was also a city builder and successful military leader. (Josephus, Ant. II, x, 1, 2.)
Second, from age 40 to 80, in Midian. Having fled for his life out of Egypt, he lived in the desert of Sinai, east of Egypt, as a tender of the flocks of Jethro, the high priest. He married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro, and she bore him at least two sons. Jethro ordained Moses to the Melchizedek Priesthood and no doubt taught him about the future Messiah. (D&C 84:6.) It was while he was with the flocks, at about age 80, that the Lord called to Moses out of the burning bush, gave him a commandment to get the children of Israel out of Egypt, and revealed Himself to Moses as the great I Am.
Third, from age 80 to 120, in the wilderness of Sinai. After the burning bush experience, Moses returned to Egypt and with great exertion and the help of the Lord through 10 plagues, was able to get Israel out of Egypt and into the Sinai peninsula.
Two very dramatic events that occurred when he was about age 80, after the "burning bush," were the passover of the angel at death who spared all those who had faith and put the blood of a lamb on the door posts, and the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, so Israel could leave Egypt.
It was during this period, between these two events that Moses received the marvelous visions recorded in the book of Moses. (1:17-26.) In these visions Moses learned more of the glory of God, the numberless worlds created by him, the purpose and work of God, and the future ministry of the Only Begotten. He also learned of the lack of glory of Satan, his pretension to be the "Only Begotten," and the evil power he possessed. This series of visions were once in the sacred records, but were taken and lost, until restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible.
In the wilderness
Moses tried to get the people prepared to enter Canaan, the promised land, soon after leaving Egypt, but they were not spiritually or emotionally ready. He also sought to teach them the fullness of the gospel and to bring them into the presence of God, but in this also they were not spiritually ready.
We learn only from latter-day revelation that the writing on the stone tablets at Sinai contained the higher ordinances of the priesthood and of the gospel of Christ, but because Israel would not hearken, a second set of tablets was given that contained the law of carnal commandments, the law of Moses instead of the higher law. (JST Ex. 34:1-2; JST Deut. 10:1-2.) The earlier law functioned with the Melchizedek Priesthood; the lesser law was under the Aaronic Priesthood.
Moses led the children of Israel for 40 years, preparing them to cross over the Jordan River and enter the promised land of "milk and honey." He was not allowed to enter with his people, which has been a source of misunderstanding. A few passages in the Bible seem to suggest that it was because the Lord was angry with Moses. (Num. 20:1-12; Deut. 3:24-28; 31:2.) However, latter-day revelation enables us to see that Moses was translated. (Alma 45:19; D&C 84:25.)
It hardly seems plausible that he would be denied entry into Canaan because of the Lord's displeasure with him, yet could be translated, which is a greater blessing. A better reason for Moses not entering Canaan is that the people did not deserve his leadership any longer. This is explained in D&C 84:20-25. He was translated so that he would have a body of flesh and bones so as to confer the keys of the priesthood, with Elijah (also a translated being) on the Mount of Transfiguration as told in Matthew 17. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 158.) The presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the Mount attested to the fact that they knew of Christ, and that the plan of redemption has always been the same.
Moses, a witness for Jesus Christ
Moses' greatest service was a prophet and seer. All true prophets are witnesses for Christ. Moses would have known that the Lord Jehovah who spoke to him at the burning bush, and on Sinai, and all other times, was the same who would come to earth as the Messiah to redeem mankind. In many different ways Moses taught his people about the mission of Jesus Christ. So completely did he teach of Christ that Jesus in His day said to the Jewish leaders who rejected Him:
"Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
"For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
"But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:45-47.)
Moreover, the day Jesus was resurrected from the dead, as He walked with two disciples to Emmaus, He chided them for being "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken." Jesus then began "at Moses and all the prophets and expounded unto them from the
Old TestamentT the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:25-26.) Later, speaking to the Twelve He said:
"These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44.)
Three years earlier, when Philip first met Jesus he was so excited that when he found his friend Nathanael he said: "We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth." (John 1:45.)
In what ways did Moses write of the Messiah? Jesus Himself refers to one such instance. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." (John 3:14; see Num. 21:6-9.) The Nephite prophets clearly understood that this serpent of brass erected by Moses after the people had been bitten by poisonous serpents was a symbol of Christ. (See 1 Ne. 17:41; 2 Ne. 25:20.)
Concerning this very symbol Alma said: "Behold, he was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live."
Another instance of Moses writing of Christ is in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 19, which tells of a prophet to come of such spiritual stature and importance that all who would not obey Him would lose their salvation. That this prophet was Christ is declared by Peter (Acts 3:22-23), by Stephen (Acts 7:37), by Nephi (1 Ne. 22:21) and by Moroni (JS-H 1:40). The most significant clarification is by Jesus Himself:
"Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people." (3 Ne. 20:23.)
And finally, animal sacrifice as a priesthood ordinance instituted by the Lord beginning with Adam, and continued throughout the law of Moses, with the sacrifice of a male lamb of the first year, slain without a broken bone, having no blemishes, represented the forthcoming atonement of Jesus Christ. (Moses 5:5-8; Ex. 12:1-14; 1 Cor. 5:7.) In fact, the whole scheme of the gospel, the priesthood, the ordinances, the law of Moses, and all that God has revealed, are types or symbols of Jesus Christ. (Alma 13:1-9; Mosiah 13:29-31; D&C 107:1-3; Moses 6:62-63.)