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Scripture in depth: Moses 2:26

"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."