Enoch and the Silmarillion Part II: Enoch’s Third Vision, and the Importance of the Tale of Enoch to Early Mormonism.

In the last post, I divided Enoch’s story up into 6 parts (three visions, and the aftermath of each vision) and summarized the first two visions and their aftermaths. In this post, I’m going to summarize the third vision, but before I get into the image of the weeping God, I’m going to take note of a few interesting connections between the Enoch revelation and other things going on in early Mormonism.

This is the second in a series of posts about the visions of Enoch in Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible. Part I discusses the historical context of the New Translation and the narrative context of the visions of Enoch.

Enoch’s Third Vision

Once Zion is established, the New Translation tells us that Enoch “talked with God” and remarked that “surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever.” (Moses 7:20). In the vision that follows, God confirms that Zion is indeed “blessed,” but he begins to rain on Enoch’s parade by pointing out that Zion’s safety is only a drop in the ocean of human suffering. Sure, Zion is safe, “but the residue of the people have I cursed” (v. 20). Enoch then sees in vision that Zion is taken up into heaven (v. 21), but that “Satan had a great chain in his hand,” and that he “veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness” and laughed. (v.26).

Against Satan’s laughter, “the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and wept.” (v. 28). The image of the weeping God is striking enough by itself, but the narrative emphasizes the enormity of this image. Throughout the rest of the narrative, God is usually referred to as “God” or as “the Lord.” But here, when we are told that he weeps, he is referred to by a more grandiose title: “the God of heaven.” (v. 28)

Enoch is blown away. Recognizing the enormity of what he sees, he didn’t just watch God weeping, he “bore record of it.” (Moses 7:28). He is shocked and he asks a series of questions that seem almost to rebuke God for being such a crybaby. “How is it that the heavens weep, and shed their tears as rain upon the mountains?” he asks. (v. 28) He asks again: “How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy and from all eternity to all eternity?” (v. 29) Enoch continues, emphasizing God’s eternity, sovereignty, and goodness, remarking that his creations are endless, that he is just, merciful, and kind (v. 30), that Zion is with him, and will dwell in nothing but peace, justice, truth, and mercy forever (v. 31). He then asks again, certainly perplexed, but with a hint of frustration, and maybe even a little scandalized, “How is it that thou canst weep?” (v. 31).

God answers in three parts: first, he reminds Enoch that while yes, Zion is safe, “the residue” of the people are not strangers, but that they are Enoch’s “brethren” (echoing, with some irony, Enoch’s sermon following his first vision), and that they are “the workmanship of mine own hands.” (Moses 7:32). The second part of his answer is that he gave these men knowledge and agency (v. 32), and the two great commandments to love one another, and to “choose me their father.” (v. 33). (This is he first time in Enoch’s narrative that God is described with the title of “Father,” and I believe that “choose me, their Father” doesn’t just mean choosing to align themselves with their father, but means choosing to become sons of God, echoing Enoch’s teaching that Adam became a son of God by obeying the gospel). The third part of his answer is that in spite of these commandments, men “hate their own blood” (in a reversal of his commandment that they love one another) and God will “send in the floods upon them.” (vv. 33-34). And “Satan shall be their father [in a reversal of God’s commandment that they choose him their father], and misery shall be their doom.” (v. 37). And because of this, God explains, “the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine own hands.” (v. 37).

God then reverses the question back to Enoch, and provides the answer within the question: “Wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Moses 7:37). The reason he weeps is that humankind “shall suffer.” God then acknowledges that the suffering of Christ will ultimately bring them redemption, if they repent, but emphasizes that until then, “they shall be in torment.” (v. 38) God thus repeats his answer: “Wherefore for this [i.e. the “torment” of the wicked] shall the heavens weep, yea, and all the workmanship of mine hands.” (v. 40)

The Lord then speaks to Enoch describing all the works of the wicked and Enoch sees “their wickedness and their misery.” (Moses 7:41). As a result, “Enoch wept, and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity, and his bowels yearned and all eternity shook.” (v. 41).

The vision continues, and so do Enoch’s tears. First, even though Enoch sees the salvation of Noah, as he sees a vision of the flood he “had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said to the heavens, ‘I will refuse to be comforted.’” (Moses 7:44). Enoch then sees the suffering of Christ and rejoices in the promise of redemption (vv. 45-47), but then he hears the personified earth mourn in the vision because of the wickedness and “filthiness” that is on her. (v. 48) Hearing this, Enoch again “wept, and cried unto the Lord,” asking in the name of Christ for mercy for Noah’s descendants. (v. 49-50).

enoch_lithograph

William Blake, “Enoch”), 1806-1807. Lithograph, 8.50 x 12.17 in.

At this, we are told that the Lord “could not withhold,” and he swore an oath and made a covenant with Enoch that he would eventually stop the floods, and would call upon the children of Noah, and that Noah’s descendants would always be found on the earth, and that the messiah would be among Noah’s descendants. (Moses 7:51-52). Enoch asks when the Messiah will come (v. 54), and he sees a vision of the crucifixion (v. 55-56), and that the spirits in prison (those that God wept over, because of their “torment”) are brought to stand before God (v. 57). Enoch then again “wept, and cried unto the Lord, saying “when shall the earth rest?” (v. 58). The Lord’s answer is that the earth will indeed rest, but that before that time, there will be tribulation, he will send down “righteousness from heaven,” and “truth from the earth,” which will sweep the earth as a flood and gather the elect, who will build the New Zion. (vv. 62-62) Then the old Zion will come down from heaven and Enoch and his people will have a joyous reunion with the new Zion (vv. 62-64). Finally, we are told that Enoch “received a fulness of joy.” (v. 67).

 

After Enoch’s third vision, the narrative says Enoch’s Zion continued for 365 years, and then Enoch and all of Zion were received up into heaven, all except Methuselah, who was left on the earth in order to fulfill the Lord’s oath that Noah would be Enoch’s descendant. (Moses 7:68-8:2).

The Importance of Enoch’s Visions to Joseph Smith’s Other Projects

Within the internal context of New Translation, the Enoch material is foundational because it establishes the idea of the covenant that the New Translation repeatedly returns to. God promises to establish his covenant with Enoch and his descendants, through Noah. (Moses 7:51, 8:2). The New Translation returns to this theme over and over again with the same covenant being renewed with Noah (Genesis 9:15, 21-23 (JST)), Melchizedek (Genesis 14:27-34 (JST)), and Abraham (Genesis 13:13 (JST)), ultimately making this covenant with Enoch the source and forerunner of the covenant with Israel (Genesis 28:13-14; Genesis 48:3-4, 7 (JST)) upon which the whole Old Testament story rests. In the church, we often speak of the Abrahamic Covenant as something that’s really important. But what the New Translation does, is that it takes that covenant with Abraham and re-frames it as a mere continuation of the covenant with Enoch, and in a sense, supplants Abraham with Enoch as the father of the faithful.

But that is not all. Enoch’s visions and Enoch’s covenant are also deeply connected with the concept of priesthood, and the concept of endowment, and the concept of consecration, as they later emerged in Joseph Smith’s revelations.

Endowment

During his second vision, for example, Enoch is taken up into a mountain where he is “clothed upon with glory” and admitted into God’s presence. (Moses 7:3-4). Around the same time that these portions of the biblical revision were completed, a contemporary revelation instructed Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to put the revision project on hold pending their move to Ohio (D&C 37:1 (December 1830)), and another revelation explained that the purpose of the move to Ohio was that the saints would there be given the Lord’s law, and would be “endowed with power from on high.” (D&C 38:32 (January 2, 1831); see also D&C 109:80 (praying, at the dedication of the Kirtland temple, that the saints would be “clothed with salvation”)).

Consecration

Following Enoch’s second vision, the New Translation describes Enoch’s efforts to build Zion, where, ultimately, there “was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18). And during his third vision, Enoch foresaw the building of “the New Jerusalem” and its reunion with the City of Zion. (Moses 7:62-63). Not long after recording this revelation, following the move to Ohio, when the church did receive the Lord’s law, part of that law included the principle of consecrating property for the support of the poor and building of the New Jerusalem. (D&C 42:30-38). The idea of consecration for the building of Zion would become a major focus of the church’s efforts over at least the next decade, and would later develop, under Brigham Young’s leadership, into the United Order movement in Utah.

Priesthood

During his third vision, God “covenanted with Enoch” and “sware unto him with an oath” concerning his descendants. (Moses 7:51). This “oath” and “covenant” is echoed in a revelation on the priesthood received almost two years later which describes an “oath and covenant” that God makes with those who receive the high priesthood, and explicitly connects the high priesthood back to Enoch, through Abraham, Melchizedek, and Noah. (D&C 84:39-40; see also vv. 14-15)

Similarly, Melchizedek in New Translation becomes something of a prototype for all priests or high priests, corresponding to Kirtland-era revelations on the priesthood, and his description as the authorized recipient of tithes for the poor ties him to the role of a bishop revealed in these revelations. [1] Melchizedek’s role in the New Translation as a priesthood prototype is meaningful to the Enoch material because the New Translation connect Melchizedek back to Enoch by stating that Melchizedek was “ordained a high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,” (Genesis 14:27 (JST)) and further explains that God had “sworn an oath unto Enoch and unto his seed” that anyone “ordained after this order and calling” would have “power, by faith, to break up mountains, to divide seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course; to put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band,” and, ultimately, “to stand in the presence of God.” (Genesis 14:30-31 (JST); compare D&C 84:20-24).

The point I’m making is that these revelations make Enoch’s visions central to early Mormonism. The visions of Enoch are not just fun narrative details to fill out the story of Genesis, they have implications that go to the very heart of some of early Mormonism’s most distinctive and important concepts. The reason I find this so interesting is because the Enoch revelations were dictated pretty early on, in late 1830, before these concepts had really taken hold and developed like they would later in the decade and beyond.

In noting this, maybe I’m just stating a point that’s obvious to those who are intimately familiar with church history, but as a member in the pews, the potential significance of the Enoch revelations as the forerunner of these later revelations was something that I always overlooked.

Next time: The Weeping God and the Problem of Theodicy.

[1] Compare, for example, Genesis 14:17 (JST) (describing Melchizedek blessing bread and wine in his capacity as “the priest of the most high God”) with  D&C 20:46 (accepted by the church in early 1830) (“The priest’s duty is to … administer the sacrament.”) and Genesis 14:26-40 (JST) (describing Melchizedek as “high priest and keeper of the storehouse of God”) with D&C 42:30-31, 34 (February 1831) (designating the bishop as recipient of property for the poor, to be kept in the Lord’s storehouse) and D&C 107:17 (April 1835) (explaining that a high priest may serve in the office of a bishop).

Comments

  1. J. Stapley says:

    Really great write-up, JKC. This is some extraordinary and poignant texts to work with.

  2. Thanks, J.! I agree, this is a really extraordinary text, for many different reasons.

  3. it's a series of tubes says:

    More quality stuff here. Can’t wait for the next installment.

  4. Thanks, tubes! But I’m afraid you’ll have to wait. :)

  5. Jason K. says:

    I was very glad to revisit this material with you, JKC.

  6. Thanks, Jason.

  7. bobsonntag says:

    There is at least one other important concept established by Enoch’s third vision: gradations of glory in the resurrection.

    In the pre-flood portion of the vision, the Lord describes three classes of people: 1. Zion, who are the saints (sanctified ones); 2. The wicked upon whom the floods shall come, and for whom a prison is prepared (vs. 32-38); and 3. the fathers of those wicked people, who were the truly rebellious who established the wicked traditions and culture that group #2 was merely inheriting (vs. 38). The Lord tells Enoch that group 3 would have to answer for the sins of group 2. While group 2 was unprepared for a glorious afterlife, it was not entirely their own fault.

    Later in the vision, when Enoch views the resurrection, we see the ultimate fates of these three groups:

    1. The saints arose first and were crowned at the right hand of the Son of Man with crowns of glory (vs. 56).

    2. The spirits in prison (group 2) came forth and stood at the right hand of God, but are not said to be crowned with crowns of glory. (vs. 57)

    3. “the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day.” (ibid.)

    These groups correspond to the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial people described by Joseph and Sydney 14 months later in D&C 76.

    1. Those in the Celestial kingdom are those God declares Kings and Queens, and who are crowned accordingly (vs. 56). They arise in the “first resurrection” (vs. 64). They dwell in the presence of both God the Son and God the Father, and “have received” of the Father’s fulness (vs. 62&71).

    2. Those in the Terrestrial Kingdom are “the spirits of men kept in prison”, who “received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it” (vs. 73-74). They were honorable according to the standards given them, but were “blinded by the craftiness of men,” which would include their fathers from whom they inherited their culture (vs. 75). In the resurrection, they receive the presence and glory of God the Son, but not the fulness of the Father (vs. 77), and can thus be said to stand at the “right hand of God”.

    3. The remainder are thrust down to hell, and not redeemed until the last resurrection (vs. 84-85). They do not receive the presence of either the Son or the Father (vs. 86).

  8. bobsonntag: Thanks for the comment. That’s another one of Mormonism’s most distinctive features that appears for the first time in the Enoch revelations.