Chapter 5: Seven Distinct Features of the Pearl of Great Price
Every book of scripture has distinctive features, but seven in the Pearl of Great Price deserve mentioning.
Distinct Feature 1: Perhaps the most unique feature can best be illustrated with a negative comparison to the other canonized scriptures of the Church. The Pearl of Great Price is the least read and least quoted of the canonized scriptures of the Church.
In February, my nephew sent a group e-mail inviting family members to read the Book of Mormon before Easter. In May, at a fireside, the youth of our stake were encouraged to read the Book of Mormon before the upcoming trek. Book of Mormon general conference talks, reading charts, challenges, Internet discussion groups, and read-a-thons are common in the Church, and most members can rehearse in impressive detail how the Book of Mormon came to be. Latter-day Saints identify with Book of Mormon heroes like Nephi, Captain Moroni, the Stripling Warriors, and King Benjamin. Negative Book of Mormon examples are also part of our culture—Laman and Lemuel, Nehor, and Korihor. Another factor that raises the Book of Mormon to elite status among scripture is the subtitle, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. All this is good because the power and promise of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated. Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461). No question. The Book of Mormon is the key to conversion and to staying faithful.
But then there is the Pearl of Great Price, a book that does not get even one one-hundredth of the attention as the Book of Mormon. No one’s nephew ever e-mailed his aunt asking her to join a group to read the Pearl of Great Price before Easter. Neither has there been a challenge to the youth to read the Pearl of Great Price. There are statistics to backup this observation. “Of the 102,037 scriptural citations in General Conference since 1942, the book of Abraham has been cited a mere 731 times, less than one percent of the citations” (fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2009-fair-conference/2009-the-larger-issue). The facts are the facts. The Pearl of Great Price is neglected. I am not suggesting we give less attention to the Book of Mormon, just a little more toward the Pearl of Great Price. It is more than an instructive and edifying read. It is also a testament of Jesus Christ.
Distinct Feature Two: The Pearl of Great Price is distinct from all other scripture in that the heads of all seven dispensations of the gospel speak in first person. (A dispensation is a time period in which at least one worthy man has priesthood keys to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and administer in the ordinances.)
ADAM. Adam testified of God’s mercy, his own baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the priesthood: “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10). Adam recorded God’s words from heaven, saying: “Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever. And thou art after the order [meaning priesthood] of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity. Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons” (Moses 6:66–68).
ENOCH. Enoch testified of the divinity of Jesus Christ, Adam’s preeminence, the scriptures, repentance, and baptism: “The Lord which spake with me, the same is the God of heaven, and he is my God. . . . The heavens he made; the earth is his footstool; and the foundation thereof is his. . . . And death hath come upon our fathers; nevertheless we know them, and cannot deny, and even the first of all we know, even Adam. For a book of remembrance we have written among us, according to the pattern given by the finger of God; and it is given in our own language” (Moses 6:43–46). “And [the Lord] gave unto me a commandment that I should baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, which is full of grace and truth, and of the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son” (Moses 7:11).
NOAH. Noah bore witness of God, Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. He also quoted God’s words: “Hearken, and give heed unto my words. Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, that ye may have all things made manifest; and if ye do not this, the floods will come in upon you” (Moses 8:23–24).
ABRAHAM. Abraham testified that he was ordained to the priesthood and that the Lord appeared to him and taught him. “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. . . . I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers” (Abraham 1:2). “I, Abraham . . . prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord appeared unto me, and said unto me . . . : For I am the Lord thy God; I dwell in heaven; the earth is my footstool; I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice; I cause the wind and the fire to be my chariot; I say to the mountains—Depart hence—and behold, they are taken away by a whirlwind, in an instant, suddenly. My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee” (Abraham 2:6–8).
MOSES. Moses testified of seeing God and hearing Him answer his desire: “But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him. . . . Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content” (Moses 1:11, 36).
JESUS CHRIST. The Father testified of His Only Begotten: “And now, behold, I say unto you: This is the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten, who shall come in the meridian of time. And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me” (Moses 6:62–63). Jesus testified of himself: “I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will” (Moses 5:9).
JOSEPH SMITH. Joseph Smith testified of the light and power of God the Father and Jesus Christ: “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17). Joseph testified to the oppressing, seizing dark power of the enemy of all: “I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction . . . not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being” (Joseph Smith—History 1:15–16). He testified of being visited by prophets of former dispensations: Moroni—“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do” (1:33). He was also visited by John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John: “The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek” (1:72).
The Pearl of Great Price testifies to the unity within and throughout the dispensations. It shows that the plan of salvation was taught in all dispensations, that the first principles of the gospel are the same now as they were in the beginning and that the first ordinances of the gospel were likewise administered—baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Consistency in doctrine from Adam to Joseph Smith testifies of priesthood authority in each dispensation and proclaims definitively that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Distinct Feature Three: You don’t need to start from scratch on your testimony of the Pearl of Great Price if you already have one of the Book of Mormon. W. W. Phelps understood this fact even before the book of Abraham was translated. Brother Phelps wrote to his wife, Sally: “These records of old times, when we translate and print them in a book, will make a good witness for the Book of Mormon” (Letter to Sally Phelps, Liberty, MO, 20 July 1835, in Journal History of the Church, 20 July 1835, CHL; Studies in Scriptures, 2:164).
Distinct Feature Four: The Pearl of Great Price is sixty-one pages, which makes it by far the shortest book of scripture. It is only 8.7 percent of the Book of Mormon’s length. It can be read comfortably in a month or even in a week if you push yourself.
Distinct Feature Five: Satan’s tactics and his angry, deceitful, secretive character are revealed in greater detail, such as when Satan attempts to impersonate the Savior by declaring: “I am the Only Begotten, worship me” (Moses 1:19). The name Satan is found thirty-two times in the 27 pages of Moses. In Abraham, Satan is identified as “the second” who “kept not his first estate” (3:27–28). In Joseph Smith—History, a stifling power of darkness preceded the First Vision and later Moroni cautioned Joseph Smith that “Satan would try to tempt [him]” (1:15, 46). (For comparison, Satan is found 19 times in the 1,184 pages of the Old Testament, 35 times in the 404 pages in the New Testament, 27 times in the 531 pages of the Book of Mormon, and 34 times in the 294 pages of the Doctrine and Covenants.)
Also, in the Pearl of Great Price, we learn that secret combinations began early in the history of the world when Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, covenanted with Satan. “And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands. And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret” (Moses 5:29–30; italics added).
Sixth distinct feature: The Pearl of Great Price has an obvious distinct feature that you can see as you turn the pages in the book of Abraham. There are illustrations.
Seventh distinct feature: There is powerful, countable proof that Joseph Smith did not compose the book of Moses, nor the book of Abraham, nor Joseph Smith—Matthew, nor the Articles of Faith. The only book in the Pearl of Great Price written in his vocabulary is his own history.
(c) Marilynne Todd Linford, 2017
(c) Marilynne Todd Linford, 2017