"And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the
beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Moses 2:26)
The plural form of the expression "Let us make man" has long been an
interpretive problem for commentators looking at the Old Testament
through the lens of strict monotheism. Such scholars often explain the
phrase by way of analogy to the "royal we" used by a king or queen in
self-reference; however, this does not explain why it occurs only in the
early chapters of Genesis and nowhere else.
A view consistent with LDS scripture is to imagine the setting for the
verse as God addressing a heavenly council, for whom Jehovah served as
"The head God called together the Gods and sat in grand council to bring
forth the world," the Prophet Joseph Smith described.
Since, for most Christian and Jewish commentators, the idea of a
plurality of gods is unacceptable, a court of angels is sometimes
imagined in place of a council of the gods.
President Spencer W. Kimball explained that "man," as used here, was not
meant to describe "a separate man, but a complete man, which is husband
and wife." In contrast, the Hebrew term "ish" specifically means the
gendered term "man," and the specific woman gender is called "ishah."
Unlike earlier creatures, man and woman were made in God's image and
likeness. The Prophet Joseph Smith made it clear that this phrase
applied not only to the physical appearance of Adam and Eve, but also to
their spiritual nature, which was, in the beginning, "innocent,
harmless, and spotless, bearing the same image as the Gods. And when man
fell he did not lose His image, but (only) His character, still
retaining the image of his Maker. ... And through the atonement of Christ,
and the resurrection and obedience in the Gospel, we shall again be
conformed to the (full) image of ... Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), then we
shall have attained to the (full) image, glory, and character of God."
Moses 6:9 is more specific than 2:26 in saying that man was created "in
the image of his (God's) own body." Joseph Smith spoke very plainly
about the meaning of these words: "If the veil were rent today ... you
would see (God) in all the person, image, fashion, and very form of a
man, like yourselves."
A Jewish tradition records that Adam's likeness to God is so exact that
Adam must be put to sleep so that the angels might worship the right
person. Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner finds it "stunning" the rabbinical
commentators took this idea so literally, affirming that even "the
angels did not know man from God," stating, "I cannot imagine a more
daring affirmation of humanity."
Biblical scholar Nahum Sarna says terminology employed in the scripture
"serves to elevate the king above the ordinary run of men. ... All human
beings are created 'in the image of God'; each person bears the stamp of
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw is author of "In God's Image and Likeness, Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Book of Moses."