Heavenly messengers herald the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem—He is circumcised, and Simeon and Anna prophesy of His mission—At twelve years of age, He goes about His Father’s business.
Decree to be taxed
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all
(his empire [JST])
should be taxed.
The word “taxed” is used in its older English sense of simple “registration,” and in that sense is a true equivalent for the Greek word. It does not involve, as to modern ears it seems to do, the payment of taxes.
made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one
his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
Thus the parents of Christ were providentiatly brought to Bethlehem, the place where the Messiah was to be born, without leaving any room to suspect them of artifice and design.
It is uncertain whether her presence was obligatory (Dion. Hal. iv. 5; Lact. De Mort. Persec. 23) or voluntary; but it is obvious that at so trying a time, and after what she had suffered (Matthew 1:19), she would cling to the presence and protection of her husband. Nor is it wholly impossible that she saw in the providential circumstances a fulfilment of prophecy. Whatever views Mary might have in going up to Bethlehem, her going there was doubtless by the direction of Divine Providence, in order that the Messiah might be born in that city, agreeably to the prophecy of Micah 5:2
Bethlehem is called the city of David because it was the place of David's birth.
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife,
being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son,
(The Greek reads literally, her son, the first-born.)
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was
(none to give [JST])
room for them in the
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their
9 And, lo,
angel of the Lord
(appeared unto [JST])
them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings
(The verb is formed from the word for glad tidings, which we translate as “gospel”—i.e., good spell, good news.)
of great joy, which shall be to all people.
(ὁ λαὸς is peculiarly applied to the people of Israel; - all people of the house of Israel.)
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
is Christ the Lord.
“God hath made that same Jesus whom ye crucified both Lord and Christ,” Acts 2:36; Php 2:11. ‘Christ’ or ‘Anointed’ is the Greek equivalent of Messiah. In the Gospels it is almost invariably an appellative, ‘the Christ.’ But as time advanced it was more and more used without the article as a proper name.
12 And this
shall be a sign unto you; Ye
shall be a sign unto you;
(is the way you
shall find the babe,
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.
This was to be the sign. On that night there would, perhaps, be no other children born in the Bethlehem village; certainly the shepherds would find no other newly born infant cradled in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will
15 And it came to pass,
the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord
made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
Finding Mary and the child would not be difficult, as the population of Bethlehem was estimated to be about 300 at that time. They may have had only one inn and "so no home for them in 'the' inn." (vs 7).
17 And when they had seen
they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things
they had heard and seen, as
it was told
it was told
(they were manifested [JST])
They returned to their flocks, (more...)
Why should there be a miraculous announcement at all, and why should it be to these shepherds?
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
The days of her purification for a male would be 40 days. The offering required was a lamb for a burnt offering, and a turtle dove or a young pigeon for a sin offering.
23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male
openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is
in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
25 And, behold, there was a man
Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
The consolation of Israel.—This is the first occurrence of this word. In its general use it included the idea of counsel as well as comfort. Here the latter is obviously the dominant thought. We cannot pass over the words without remembering that the Child of whom Simeon spoke called Himself the Comforter, and promised His disciples to send them another, who should bear the same name (John 14:16).
26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Christian legend says that he had stumbled at Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive,” and had received a divine intimation that he should not die till he had seen it fulfilled (Nicephorus, a. d. 1450). The notion of his extreme age is not derived from Scripture but from the apocryphal ‘Gospel of the Nativity of Mary,’ which says that he was 113.
27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child
Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
to lighten the Gentiles - Rather, for revelation to. A memorable prophecy, considering that even the Apostles found it hard to grasp the full admission of the Gentiles, clearly as it had been indicated in older prophecy, as in Psalm 98:2-3. “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God,” Isaiah 52:10. “I will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles,” Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6.
33 And Joseph and
marvelled at those things which were spoken of
(the child. [JST])
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary
Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
35 (Yea, a
shall pierce through
(him to the wounding of thine [JST])
own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
The JST clarified this prophecy to point to Christ’s body on the cross: “Yea, a spear shall pierce through him [Christ] to the wounding of thine [Mary’s] own soul also” (Inspired Version, Luke 2:35).
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of
("the face of God"
of the tribe of
she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband
from her virginity;
from her virginity;
(whom she married from her youth, [JST])
One Anna, a prophetess.—The fact is in many ways remarkable. We find a woman recognised as a prophetess at a time when no man is recognised as a prophet.
37 And she
a widow of about fourscore and four years,
departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
"of a great age...widow eighty-four years" — she had lived seven years with her husband (Lu 2:36), and been a widow eighty-four years; so that if she married at the earliest marriageable age, twelve years, she could not at this time be less than a hundred three years old.
38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all
(those who [JST])
looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit,
filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
His parents went to Jerusalem.—The law of Moses required the attendance of all males at the three feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:17; Deuteronomy 16:16). The dispersion of the Jews had, of course, relaxed the obligation for those who lived at a distance; but it was still more or less generally recognised by those who dwelt in Palestine, for the Passover to be binding upon women as well as men. The yearly journey was an indication of devout obedience. The child remained behind at home at Nazareth.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom
At twelve males became more directly responsible for their obedience to the Law, and on the day when he attained the age of thirteen, put on for the first time the phylacteries which were worn at the recital of his daily prayer. (more...)
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not
(that he tarried; [JST])
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among
(his kindred [JST])
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 And it came to pass,
after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors,
(and they were [JST])
47 And all
heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when
(his parents [JST])
saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49 And he said unto them,
is it that ye sought me?
ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them:
his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
The Greek word κατάλυμα (karaluma) is flexible, and usage in the LXX and NT refers to a variety of places for lodging (see BDAG 521 s.v.). Most likely Joseph and Mary sought lodging in the public accommodations in the city of Bethlehem (see J. Nolland, Luke [WBC], 1:105), which would have been crude shelters for people and animals. However, it has been suggested by various scholars that Joseph and Mary were staying with relatives in Bethlehem (e.g., C. S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 194; B. Witherington, “Birth of Jesus,” DJG, 69-70); if that were so the term would refer to the guest room in the relatives’ house, which would have been filled beyond capacity with all the other relatives who had to journey to Bethlehem for the census.
There was no place for them in the inn. There is no drama in how this is told. There is no search for a variety of places to stay or a heartless innkeeper. (Such items are later, nonbiblical embellishments.) Bethlehem was not large and there was simply no other place to stay. The humble surroundings of the birth are ironic in view of the birth’s significance.
Normally mothers wrapped their newborn babies in wide strips of cloth to keep them warm (cf. Ezek. 16:4). Traditionally Christians have believed that the manger or feeding trough in which Mary laid the baby Jesus was in a cave. However most homes in Israel had two parts, one for the family and another for the household animals. It is possible that this was the location of the manger. An inn (Gr. katalyma) could have been a guest room in a house (cf. 22:11-12) or any place of lodging. This Greek word has a wider range of meanings than pandocheion, which refers specifically to an inn for travelers (cf. 10:34).
The innkeeper has become a villain figure in the Christmas story, but Luke did not present him as such. The writer’s contrast was between the royal birthplace that this Son of David deserved and the humble one He received. His exclusion from human society anticipated the rejection that He would continue to experience throughout His ministry.
What was the population of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus?
WF Albright, who was considered a primary archaeologist of his era, did some extensive research on populations at the time of Jesus. His estimate is around 300 for a village the size of Bethlehem holding 6 or 7 children under 1 year of age. One response to your question suggested Luke’s record of this census is a lie. Regardless if you believe in Luke’s belief in the resurrected Christ, he has been proven repeatedly to be an excellent historian. Read how careful he is with details as to when events occurred. He is very meticulous in his approach. For example, he mentions this as being the first census during the reign of Augustus, before Christ was born. We know from Roman records that censuses were taken at different times in different provinces. In other words, Luke reference to the first, means the first of many rolling across different provinces and countries. We know this from Egyptian records. Augustus was the first caesar in history to order a census or tax assessment of the whole provincial empire. In Greek, Luke uses the present tense indicating that Augustus ordered censuses to be taken regularly, rather than only one time. We also know from Egyptian records that the Romans conducted censuses every 14 years. Luke says, the “first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.” The dates work so not sure why anyone would call Luke a liar out of hand.
Michael is the angel of whom we know the most from the scriptures, and who is even explicitly identified. Michael means "Like Unto God."
Presiding Archangel. Michael is identified in scripture as the "archangel" (Jude 1:9, D&C 29:26), meaning that he presides among the seven holy angels. The Book of Enoch explicitly states that he presides: "Michael, one of the holy and glorious angels who were with me, and who presided over them" (Enoch 24:4). He is often numbered as the seventh angel (D&C 88:112), but he is the chief angel even as the seventh president of the quorum of seventy presides over the others (D&C 107:94). The fact that Michael presides is an indication that Michael is associated with the Lion, the King of Beasts, who presides over the four cornerstone constellations.
The Prince. Michael is also referred to as the great "Prince" who will stand up for his people in the latter days (Dan. 10:21, 12:1). Michael's title of "Prince" is confirmed in modern revelation (D&C 78:16). The title Prince is consistent with Michael's role as described by Enoch as commanding the nations (Enoch 20:5). Jesus Christ is the King of Kings, but Michael is apparently next in command under him as the Prince.
The ancient name of one of the four royal stars is a perfect match for Michael. Regulus, a modern Latin name which was coined to reflect the ancient name of the heart of the Lion, means the Little King, or "The Prince." Here we have a direct correlation where the modern star name exactly correlates to one of the ancient symbols for one of the four angels. Enoch was told that the stars represented faithful leaders, and that the star names symbolized those people, and here we have a perfect match. That is, Michael was called The Prince and one of the four stars is still called The Prince. We can't expect all four stars to have preserved their ancient names, but here we have a strong clue that the star Regulus, the Prince of the royal stars who presides over the others, correlates to Michael, the archangel.
Thus, the first of the four seems to clearly be that Michael is at the heart of the lion, being Regulus, the Prince.
Michael: Adam. The scriptures explicitly identify Michael as being the same as Adam, the first man created and the father of the entire human family, the Ancient of Days (D&C 27:11). That identification was known even to Adam himself and to the faithful of his day. Here is the account of the appearance of the Lord at the great conference in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, near the end of Adam's life:
"And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.
"And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.
"And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation." (D&C 107:54-56)
Thus, there is no question that Michael is Adam. Many symbolic details fit perfectly with this identification. The name Michael, "Like Unto God" is reminiscent of the fact that Adam was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Another clue is that the name "Adam" means "red," and red is the color associated with the Lion. Adam also presides over the nations as the father of nations, even as Michael commands the nations. The star Regulus represents Adam.
The Healer. Enoch was told that Raphael is over all healing. In fact, the name Raphael means "God is a healer," so healing is clearly associated with Raphael. As discussed in Part I, one of the four cornerstone constellations is also clearly tied to healing. The Serpent Bearer has a serpent coiled around him, in a very similar fashion to the serpent coiled around the staff of the caduceus, emblem of medicine. The Serpent Bearer has been wounded, but he is crushing the head of the source of the pain and suffering. Thus, the Serpent Bearer is apparently a symbol of he who "was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities... With his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5). In fact, the Serpent Bearer probably represents the Savior in his role of the great Healer who ultimately crushes even Death itself. Thus, Raphael seems to associated with the Serpent Bearer. That would mean his star is Antares, at the heart of the Scorpion. Antares means "Like Aries" or "Rival of Aries," referring to it's red color causing it sometimes to look like the planet Mars (Aries to the Greeks) when they are near each other. But who is Raphael?
The identity of Raphael has not been revealed in scripture. We know that Raphael has returned to earth and restored the keys of his dispensation along with the other presiding angels Michael and Gabriel (D&C 128:21). Bruce R. McConkie, a latter-day apostle and modern scripture commentator, has proposed that Raphael may be Enoch. He deduced that based on the fact that Raphael restored the keys of his dispensation and that Enoch was certainly a great prophet who held keys to a dispensation, and who is not mentioned otherwise as having returned with his dispensation keys.
Raphael: Enoch. There are some indications both in the Book of Enoch as well as in constellation symbolism that Raphael is indeed most likely Enoch.
One is that in the Book of Enoch, usually when the four are mentioned together, the order is: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel. What order are they in? It is not the priesthood order, because Gabriel stands second to Michael in priesthood authority as we will see in the next section. It may be chronological order of their birth, which argues for Raphael being Enoch. It may also be the order of the four in the circle of the zodiac, which also would argue for Raphael being the Serpent Bearer.
Another indication that Raphael is Enoch might be found in the unusual name for Enoch, the "Wild Man" (Moses 6:38). That seems like a strange name for a man who is also called a "seer" in the same verse. Why was he called the wild man? The name perfectly fits the constellation of the Serpent Bearer, who is wrestling a serpent. The other men in the constellations have milder occupations, such as a king, a charioteer, and a hunter. But a serpent wrestler might easily be called a wild man.
Perhaps the best witness that Enoch is Raphael is found in the Book of Enoch itself. Enoch records that the Lord commanded the angel Raphael to deliver a judgment to the fallen angel Azazyel for his wickedness:
"Again the Lord said to Raphael, Bind Azazyel hand and foot; cast him into darkness. . .All the earth has been corrupted by the effects of the teaching of Azazyel. To him therefore ascribe the whole crime." (Enoch 10:6, 12)
The clue that Raphael is really Enoch himself is that it is Enoch who delivers this condemnation to Azazyel. A few chapters later Enoch himself fulfills the charge that Raphael had been given. First, he tells Azazyel of the great sentence pronounced against him: "Then Enoch, passing on, said to Azazyel: Thou shalt not obtain peace. A great sentence is gone forth against thee." (Enoch 13:1). Azazyel and his followers then beg Enoch to petition the Lord for forgiveness for them. Enoch does so, but he reports back to Azazyel,
"Judgment has been passed upon you: your request will not be granted you. From this time forward, never shall you ascend into heaven; He has said, that on the earth He will bind you, as long as the world endures." (Enoch 14:3-4)
While this is not solid proof, it appears that the charge given to Raphael of condemning Azazyel was apparently fulfilled by the Prophet Enoch. Thus, we have an indication from the Book of Enoch itself that Raphael is Enoch.
Understanding the identity of Enoch as Raphael, who is identified with the color black, may be a clue to understanding how color is sometimes used in scripture. For example, the Kingdom of God in the latter-days is represented in the Book of Enoch by a great white bull with black horns (Enoch 89:47). Why black horns? Perhaps it represents the fact that the city of Enoch will return and join them (Moses 7:63).
The angel Gabriel plays an important role throughout history. It was Gabriel who revealed truths to Daniel, and who announced the birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias, and of Christ to Mary (Daniel 8:16, Luke 1:19, 26). Gabriel has been given the keys of the office of Elias, that is, "the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days" (D&C 27:6-7).
Power. The angel told Enoch that Gabriel presides over "power". Which of the four cornerstone constellations does that indicate? The blessing of Reuben told him that he represented "the excellency of power" (Gen 49:3). We saw in Part I of this article that Reuben was associated with the Water Bearer, who in turn is the symbol used by the Lord when speaking of the saints being "endowed with power" (D&C 38:32, 43:16, 105:11). Blessings would be poured out upon them (D&C 110:9), even as the river is being poured out by the Water Bearer onto the head of the Southern Fish. Thus the word "power" seems to have very specific meaning. If this identification is correct, then Gabriel is to be associated with the star Fomalhaut, located both in the head of the Southern Fish and also in the stream being poured out upon it. Fomalhaut come from the Arabic words for "the Fish's Mouth," but it's proper location is probably nearer the top of the head.
Supporting evidence for the identification of Gabriel with the Water Bearer is that the name "Gabriel" means "Man of God." Of the four faces of the cherubim, the man's face corresponds to the Water Bearer. Thus Gabriel's very name indicates the Water Bearer, even as Raphael's indicated the Serpent Bearer (Healer), and Michael's indicated Adam (both "red" and "like unto God").
But who is Gabriel?
Gabriel: Noah. The scriptures do not identify Gabriel directly, but the Prophet Joseph Smith did. He declared, "...Noah, who is Gabriel: he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in this day, and to him was given the dominion."
Here we also learn the important concept that Gabriel is second in authority to Michael, which fact is not mentioned in the Book of Enoch, nor elsewhere, to my knowledge. Being second in authority would also tie Gabriel to the Water Bearer because that constellation is in the position opposite of the Lion in the zodiac. Even as the "12" on a clock (the Lion) dominates because it marks the hours, so also does the "6" (the Water Bearer) rank second because it marks the half hours. The Scorpion and the Bull mark the quarter hours, so they rank below the Lion and the Water Bearer.
The role of Gabriel as the Elias who is to restore the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ fits perfectly with the imagery of the Water Bearer who brings the living water. Truth will "flood" the earth in the last days. Moreover, Noah is also associated with water flooding the world physically. Some L.D.S. authorities have proposed, based on the above scriptures, that it was Noah who was the Elias who came to the Kirtland temple to restore the keys of the dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham (D&C 110:12).
Thus, Noah, the number two man in priesthood authority throughout the history of the earth, is apparently represented by the star Fomalhaut.
The angel Phanuel is not mentioned in the canonized scriptures although one allusion to him may be found where Jacob names a place Peniel (Phanuel), perhaps after the angel he is thought to have wrestled with (Gen. 32:24-30). The name Phanuel, given in the Book of Enoch, means "the Face of God." There are several clues to help us identify just who Phanuel might be.
First, Enoch was told us that Phanuel "presides over repentance, and the hope of those who will inherit eternal life" (Enoch 40:9). In a way, that clue alone really narrows down the prospects. After all, how many men is history have a legitimate claim to be the one who presides over the hope of all who will inherit eternal life?
Second, the constellation corresponding to Phanuel must be the Bull, because the other three all seem to be clearly identified with one of the other three angels. Moreover, the order in which the angel's names were given matches the order of the four cornerstone constellations. As was discussed in Part I, one symbolism of the Bull is that it represents the Kingdom of God which will be set up in the last days to bulldoze the nations and to gather Israel. Thus it seems likely that Phanuel is associated with the Kingdom of God in the last days.
The third clue is the location of the bright star in the constellation. Aldebaran, which means "the Follower," is located at the eye of the Bull. The eye is often the symbol of a seer. In Part I we discussed how the star's location in the figure is important: Regulus as the heart of the Lion representing emotions, Fomalhaut in the head of the Southern Fish representing the mind, and Antares as the heart of the Scorpion representing judgment and strength. This constellation is identified with Joseph of Egypt, who was a great seer.
Who then could fit the description of being a great seer who would lead the Kingdom of God in the last days to gather Israel, and upon whom the hope for eternal life for even those in past ages would depend? Could it be anyone other than the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Phanuel: Joseph Smith. The Prophet Joseph Smith was known even by name to his ancestor Joseph of Egypt, who prophesied that a "choice seer" would be raised up in the last days from his seed to restore the gospel (2 Nephi 3:6-21). The Bull was associated with the tribe of Joseph, and Joseph Smith is identified as being a literal descendent of Joseph of Egypt. In addition to being the great Seer, he founded the Kingdom of God, which the white Bull represents so graphically in the prophesies of Moses and Enoch. He follows the other prophets chronologically, just as does the Bull, and prepares the way for the return of Adam, the Prince, at Adam-ondi-Ahman (D&C 116), as well as for the return of the Savior, the King of Kings.
The strongest argument supporting the proposal that Phanuel is Joseph Smith is his presiding over the "hope of those who would inherit eternal life." It was through his ministry that the great temple work was established to provide the required ordinances for all those who have lived through the ages, who had not a chance to receive them during their mortal life. Consider just how much the Prophet Joseph Smith did for the salvation of mankind:
"Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient time, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood" (D&C 135:3).
It has not always been clear to me how the Prophet Joseph Smith could be second only to Christ in accomplishments for the salvation of mankind, and yet below both Adam and Noah in priesthood authority. Now the Book of Enoch and the constellation symbolism together resolve that apparent dilemma admirably. The key is that the "salvation of men" was a special priesthood assignment to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Even though other angels ranked above him in priesthood authority, they had other specialties such as commanding the nations.
We have the recorded testimony of all four of these angels. All of them bore witness of Jesus Christ who has been known unto mankind as the Savior of the World from the beginning of time. Adam taught his children to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Moses 6:55 7:1). The following table includes some of their testimonies in their own words.
First Presidency of the Earth? The four cornerstone angels may constitute a priesthood First Presidency of the earth throughout history, with Adam as President, Noah as first counselor, Joseph Smith as second counselor, and Enoch as secretary. If that is correct it would explain why Enoch is called the "Scribe of Righteousness" by the Lord (Enoch 12:5, 15:1): He may be the secretary of the presiding quorum over the earth. It would also suggest what some of the assignments for the other three might be. When Adam was on the earth, the continents formed one land and he presided over the entire earth. Noah, the first counselor, might well be assigned to the Eastern Hemisphere, and the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Western Hemisphere. If Enoch is the quorum secretary, it would also explain why it was Enoch who recorded the great prophecy of Adam at Adam-ondi-Ahman (D&C 107:56-57): it was his priesthood assignment to record the prophecies of his quorum president. And it would explain why the Prophet Joseph Smith never stated who was third in the priesthood authority over the earth, after Adam and Noah, because it is he himself.
Note that there is a similar assignment in the First Presidency of Heaven, which includes the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (Book of Abraham, Facsimile 3, Fig. 1). While the Father presides over all, one special assignment of the Son, who is a counselor in that presidency, is clearly "the salvation of mankind." The Holy Ghost has a very different assignment, which includes witnessing and spiritual communication. Thus, the similarity of the roles of Jesus Christ and of Joseph Smith becomes more clear because they are apparently both counselors in a presidency and they have the same assignment. Both needed to be martyred, and both were sacrificed as lambs going to the slaughter. It has been proposed that the deaths of both were represented by the daily ritual sacrifice of two lambs according to the law of Moses (Num. 28:3-8), the one in the morning representing Jesus Christ and the sacrifice near the end of the day representing Joseph Smith.
56 And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.
57 These things were all written in the book of Enoch, and are to be testified of in due time.