Book of Abraham Cosmology & Light From Kolob
CES Letter Core Question
Does the Book of Abraham teach an incorrect Newtonian view of the universe that later became outdated??
The author of The CES Letter assumes that because the Book of Abraham's cosmology does not align with modern scientific cosmology it is therefore false. This assumption, however, rests on the unjustified belief that the Book of Abraham's cosmology purports to be a literal description.
Many Latter-day Saint scholars, by contrast, have convincingly argued that the Book of Abraham's cosmology should not be viewed as a scientific one, but rather as a mythic or metaphysical one that attempts to answer questions totally different from scientific cosmology (i.e. questions of eternal/spiritual meaning, man's relationship with God, and God's place in the cosmos).
Michael D. Rhodes and J. Ward Moody write:
One puzzling thing mentioned in the explanations to Facsimile 2 is that the sun borrows "its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions" (explanation to figure 5 of Facsimile 2). What it means to "borrow light" is not clear. The light of the sun is produced by the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium in its core. Does this mean that the fusion reactions in the Sun are in some way controlled from Kolob? This passage seems to be a description of the Light of Christ which "proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space" (D&C 88:12) and "is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made" (D&C 88:7) as well as the light and power of the earth, the moon, and the stars (D&C 88:8—10). This light is also said to be "the law by which all things are governed" (D&C 88:13).
Even these authors, who ultimately argue that "the descriptions in the Book of Abraham concerning the creations of God . . . appear to be consistent with modern scientific understanding of physics and astronomy," concede the likelihood of this passage speaking of the metaphysical "light of Christ."
Facsimile 2 is described as borrowing "its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions" (explanation to figure 5 of Facsimile 2). What it means to "borrow light" is not clear.
The author of The CES Letter is attacking a straw man, as many informed Latter-day Saint commentators on this passage agree that the text is not to be interpreted scientifically or "literally."