Introduction to the Pearl of Great Price
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matt. 13:45-46).
From this passage, our Pearl of Great Price derives its name. We can liken ourselves to the merchant man, seeking goodly pearls of knowledge. When we then find these gems in the fourth of our standard works, we rejoice to realize that their value exceeds all our mortal wealth.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Matt. 6:199-20).
The Pearl of Great Price is all about laying up for ourselves "treasures in heaven" that can never be taken away. It is composed of five parts: 1) the Book of Moses, 2) the Book of Abraham, 3) the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 24, 4) Joseph Smith's personal history, and 5) the Articles of Faith. Within these books, we find gems of knowledge that are unparalleled in the scriptural record. To expand the metaphor, the collection is like a pearl necklace, with doctrinal pearls throughout its pages. A brief list emphasizes specific pearls of knowledge otherwise missing:
- Moses' vision of this earth, perceiving every particle and every soul who belonged thereto (Moses 1:8-29)
- Moses' confrontation with Satan (Moses 1:12-22)
- God's mission statement: "this is my work and my glory..." (Moses 1:39)
- The dual nature of creation: first the spiritual, then the physical (Moses 3:5)
- Lucifer's plan to destroy the agency of man (Moses 4:1-4)
- The ministry of Enoch (Moses 6:26-7:69)
- The baptism of Adam (Moses 6:64-66)
- Enoch's vision of this earth wherein he witnesses God weep for the wickedness of the people (Moses 7:28-30)
- Abraham's desire to become a rightful heir of the priesthood amidst the idolatry of his fathers (Abr. 1:2-12)
- The colonization of Egypt (Abr. 1:21-29)
- Abraham's vision of the planets, stars, and Kolob (Abr. 3:1-16)
- The reckoning of time per celestial orb and the Lord's day equaling 1000 years of our time. (Abr. 3:4-5)
- The concept of pre-mortal intelligences (Abr. 3:22)
- The foreordination of God's rulers (Abr. 3:22-23)
- The purpose of the earth's creation: "we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things..." (Abr. 3:25)
- The concept of first and second estate (Abr. 3:26)
- Clarification of the Lord's words on the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (JS-Matt. 1:3-20)
- Clarification of the Lord's prophecies regarding the Second Coming (JS-Matt. 1:21-55)
- Clear separation of the prophecies regarding these two events. (JS-Matt. 1:21)
- Joseph Smith's firsthand account of the First Vision (JS-Hist. 1:5-20)
- His account of the visitation of the angel Moroni (JS-Hist. 1:27-54)
- His account of obtaining the plates and translating with the help of the Urim and Thummim (JS-Hist. 1:55-65)
- The Charles Anthon story (JS-Hist. 1:62-65)
- The visitation of John the Baptist and the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood (JS-Hist. 1:68-75)
The Articles of Faith
- Thirteen separate pearls of truth defining the beliefs and practices of Latter-day Saints
Have we taken these pearls for granted? Ask yourself where would we be without them? Missionaries teaching the first discussion would not be able to tell the whole story of the First Vision. The story of Moroni's tutoring of Joseph Smith and the translation of the golden plates would be a matter of speculation. The Restoration of the gospel would be a hard sell without the return of John the Baptist and the restoration of the priesthood.
And what of our understanding of the gospel plan? What if we didn't comprehend the purpose of the creation, Satan's plan to destroy the agency of man, and the pre-mortal plan to test the faith and obedience of mankind? For centuries, the world has imagined a God that is barely interested in man-One that keeps his distance-One that doesn't speak-One that is too busy to intervene. Yet, the Pearl of Great Price teaches us that we are his prime interest-his work and his glory. We are not an afterthought of creation; we are the purpose of creation. What a powerful message this brings to the whole world!
The Pearl of Great Price teaches us that the gospel has been the same in all ages. From reading the Old Testament, you could assume that the Old Testament prophets lived a different religion, but the visions of Moses and Enoch teach us just the opposite-that God has revealed a simple gospel plan for the salvation of man. Moses knew it; Enoch knew it. Salvation through the Only-Begotten was and is the doctrine of our God.
"We join with the rest of the world in gratitude for the Bible and the truths it contains; we also rejoice in the additional truths revealed again... By revelation the Lord has made known again, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, truths once known and recorded by Moses that were previously unavailable to the present-day world. Such fundamental LDS doctrines as the premortal existence, the nature of the Godhead and Satan, the Council in Heaven, the plan of salvation, the power of the priesthood with its attendant keys and ordinances, the new and everlasting covenant, and information on Enoch and his Zion are all relatively obscure, nonexistent, or misunderstood in modern Christendom." (Todd B. Parker and Robert Norman, "Moses: Witness of Jesus Christ," Ensign, Apr. 1998, 24)
"Although the Lord's promises to Abraham of an endless posterity and a chosen land are given in Genesis (see Gen. 13:14-17; Gen. 15:1-6; Gen. 17:1-8), we turn to truths restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price to understand more fully the Abrahamic covenant. The Lord called upon Abraham and his posterity to set themselves apart forevermore from worldliness, to live godly and upright lives-to be a covenant people. In return, the Lord promised Abraham and his posterity that they would be entitled to the blessings of the gospel, the priesthood, and eternal life." (Robert L. Millet, "The Ancient Covenant Restored," Ensign, Mar. 1998, 39)
This book is indeed of great value. Richard D. Draper stated, "The book is remarkable in the number of doctrinal insights peculiar to itself." (Ensign, Feb. 1997, 16) Without a doubt, we are the recipients of a doctrinal gem that should never be taken for granted. We should neither cast it before swine, nor tuck it away in our jewelry box never again to be opened.