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Nephi asserts the identity of Christ with the God of the Old Testament (1 Nephi 19:10). Jacob and king Benjamin also equate Christ with the Creator (2 Nephi 9:5; Mosiah 3:5-8). Limhi related the words of Abinadi: "he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things" (Mosiah 7:27). In Ammonihah, Zeezrom asked Amulek, "Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth" (Alma 11:38-39). Moroni calls Jesus Christ "even the Father and the Son" (Mormon 9:11-12). When Christ appeared to the brother of Jared, he declared, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son" (Ether 3:14).
When Joseph Smith revised the Gospel of Luke, he substituted a verse which asserts the identity of the Father and Son. In the Authorized Version, Luke 10:22 reads: "All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." But in Joseph Smith's translation (JST), this same verse is written: "All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it." The Book of Moses also seems to assume the identity of the Father and Son.
The concept of the Godhead as it is presented in the Book of Mormon is similar to Sabellianism, a doctrine favored by Sabellius, a Libyan bishop of the third century, who denied that the Son and the Holy Spirit are Persons distinct from the Father, but held rather that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are names denoting the three aspects or successive manifestations of the one divine essence. Augustine refers to the Sabellian controversy in the City of God: "Thus when we speak about God we do not talk about two or three 'principles', any more than we are allowed to speak of two or three gods, although in talking of each person, whether the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, we acknowledge that each of them is God. But we do not, like the Sabellian heretics, identify the Father with the Son, and the Holy Spirit with both Father and Son" (Augustine 1984, 404).
The Book of Mormon attributes unchangeableness to God. Nephi states that God "is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever" (1 Nephi 10:18). Moroni is more explicit: "For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles" (Mormon 9:9-10). And later he states: "For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity" (Moroni 8:18). The Doctrine and Covenants also declares: "there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth . . . . which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end" (D&C 20:17, 28).
New teachings on Christ begin with Section 88:
[Christ] ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; as also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; and the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand. And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space -- the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. (D&C 88:6-13)
This description parallels Ephesians 4:6, 9-10. Section 93, which talks about Christ receiving the fullness of the Father, also parallels Philippians 2:5-11 and Colossians 1:19 and 2:9. Section 93 also gives this important teaching:
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. . . . For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple. The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. (D&C 93:29-36)
In stating that intelligence "was not created or made," Section 93 echoes the Athanasian Creed: "The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten."
Sections 88 and 93 provide us with a fairly sophisticated cosmology, drawing upon the Bible to portray Christ as the light and spirit of truth, who is in all and through all. He is in the sun, the moon, the stars, and the earth; he quickens our understandings, gives life to all things, and is the law by which the world is governed.
However, the cosmology of the Doctrine and Covenants also seems to owe something to the philosophy of Plato. In the Republic Plato used the sun, light, and vision as an analogy to point to a higher reality, which he called the Good. The light of the sun gives to the eye the power to see and to objects the power to be seen. Similarly, the Good gives to the knower the power to know and to the objects of the understanding the power to be known. The objects of the understanding derive their existence and essence from the Good. Plato said that the Good is "the cause for all things of all that is right and beautiful, giving birth in the visible world to light and the author of light, and itself in the intelligible world being the authentic source of truth and reason" (Plato 1961, Republic 517c). In the same way, Christ is the light of truth, which quickens our understandings, and he is in the light of the sun, which gives light to our eyes, as stated in Section 88.
Plato described intelligible objects as unchangeable patterns. When God created the world, he looked to these unchangeable patterns as a model. Every sensible object is in the likeness of a pattern or form. Both the Book of Moses and sections of the Doctrine and Covenants claim that created things are in the likeness of spiritual patterns or forms. In the Book of Moses, God states: "For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. . . . And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth . . . . And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word" (Moses 3:5-7). Section 77 is ambiguous, but claims either that spirit takes on the shape of things temporal, or that temporal things are created in the likeness of spiritual patterns: "that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created" (D&C 77:2).
Philo, a Jewish writer born in Alexandria, interpreted the Genesis of Moses in light of Platonic philosophy. He also held that God first created incorporeal and intelligible models or patterns, which served as the basis for the creation of corporeal bodies. Referring to Moses, Philo states: "In his concluding summary of the story of creation he says: 'This is the book of the genesis of heaven and earth, when they came into being, in the day in which God made the heaven and the earth and every herb of the field before it appeared upon the earth, and all grass of the field before it sprang up'(Gen. ii. 4, 5). Is he not manifestly describing the incorporeal ideas present only to the mind, by which, as by seals, the finished objects that meet our senses were moulded? For before the earth put forth its young green shoots, young verdure was present, he tells us, in the nature of things without material shape, and before grass sprang up in the field, there was in existence an invisible grass" (Saunders 1966, 219). Philo also distinguished between man created in the image of God as an incorporeal idea, and man created from the earth as an object of sense. However, he seems to have believed that the soul was not created: "for it says that the body was made through the Artificer taking clay and moulding out of it a human form, but that the soul was originated from nothing created whatever, but from the Father and Ruler of all" (Saunders 1966, 221). Philo's interpretation of Genesis also included the doctrine of the Logos, the immaterial Word or Voice of God, also spoken of as the first-born, through which the world was created and is governed by the principle of law.
Section 76 describes the three kingdoms and those who will inhabit them. The kingdoms differ in glory: "the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one. And the glory of the terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one. And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world" (D&C 76:96-98). This description is derived from Paul: "There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption . . . it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:40-44). Paul also spoke of being caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12).
According to Section 76, those who inherit the celestial kingdom are those who accept the gospel, are baptized, receive the Holy Spirit, and are priests in the order of Melchizedek. Those who inherit the terrestrial kingdom are honorable men who die without hearing the law in this world, but accept the gospel when it is preached to them in the spirit prison. Those in the telestial world are those who claim to follow one sect or another, but do not accept the gospel of Christ; they include liars, sorcerers, adulterers, and whoremongers. Those destined for the celestial kingdom come forth in the resurrection of the just; those who will go to the terrestrial kingdom apparently remain in the spirit prison until the resurrection; but those who will go to the telestial world are first thrust down to hell and are not redeemed until the last resurrection, when Christ has completed his work. Those who inherit the celestial kingdom will dwell in the presence of God and Christ forever and receive the fulness of the Father. Those in the terrestrial world enjoy the presence of the Son, but not the fulness of the Father, while those in the telestial kingdom receive only the Holy Spirit through the ministering of angels. Those who follow the devil are called the sons of perdition; they suffer the second death, are cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and are not redeemed: "And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows . . . wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not" (D&C 76:45, 48).
The doctrine that there are different states and habitations corresponding to the condition of the soul after death is found in Plato's Phaedo. Plato illustrates the doctrine by means of a myth. He says that there are many cavities and channels in the earth through which rivers flow. Some of the cavities are deeper, some shallower, some wider, some narrower. The largest of the cavities is called Tartarus. There are also rivers of fire and lakes, and "a great place burning with sheets of fire, where it forms a boiling lake of muddy water greater than our sea: (Plato 1961, Phaedo 113a). The souls of the dead are led by their guardian spirits into this subterranean world, where they are judged. Those who have lived a life of holiness pass upward to a pure abode on the surface of the true earth, or "reach habitations even more beautiful, which it is not easy to portray" (Plato 1961, Phaedo 114c). They see the true heaven and commune with God face to face. Those who have lived a neutral life are sent to the Acherusian lake, and after "undergoing purification are both absolved by punishment from any sins that they have committed, and rewarded for their good deeds, according to each man's deserts" (Plato 1961, Phaedo 113d). Others who have committed great sins, but are judged to be curable, are cast into Tartarus until they have atoned for their sins. However, there is a fourth class of souls: "Those who on account of the greatness of their sins are judged to be incurable, as having committed many gross acts of sacrilege or many wicked and lawless murders or any other such crimes -- these are hurled by their appropriate destiny into Tartarus, from whence they emerge no more" (Plato 1961, Phaedo 113e).
Thus the celestial kingdom corresponds to those who have lived a life of holiness and pass upward to a pure abode; the terrestrial kingdom can be correlated with those who undergo purification in the Acherusian lake; the telestial world parallels those who have sinned, but are curable, who are cast into Tartarus, but later redeemed; and the sons of perdition correspond to those who are incurable and never emerge from Tartarus.
Section 93 says that intelligence must have the power to act for itself; otherwise there is no existence. This recalls an argument used by Lehi: "And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away" (2 Nephi 2:13). Lehi also states that since men have been redeemed from Adam's fall, they are "free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon" (2 Nephi 2:26). Lehi seems to be arguing that the creation of things necessarily involves acting and being acted upon, and that if there were not this interaction and movement, the world would vanish. But man can be free to act for himself. Similarly, Plato argued that what distinguishes the animate from the inanimate is the ability to move itself, rather than to be moved by an outside force; to act, rather than to be acted upon. He asserted that the essence and definition of soul is self-motion and that if there were no first principle of motion, the world would cease to be: "The self-mover then, is the first principle of motion, and it is as impossible that it should be destroyed as that it should come into being; were it otherwise, the whole universe, the whole of that which comes to be, would collapse into immobility, and never find another source of motion to bring it back into being" (Plato 1961, Phaedrus 245d-e). Since the essence of the soul is self-motion and the self-mover is the first principle of motion, the soul is immortal, because a first principle could not come into being; otherwise it would not be a first principle. Similarly, Section 93 argues that intelligence "was not created or made, neither indeed can be." The concept of the necessity of a first principle of motion was developed by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas as a proof for the existence of God.
Another argument used by Lehi shows the influence of Greek thought. In his blessing of Jacob, Lehi indulged in a bit of philosophizing: "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation" (2 Nephi 2:11-12). Lehi seems to be concerned with many of the same concepts which occupied the minds of early Greek philosophers. He lists pairs of contrary terms: righteousness and wickedness, happiness and misery, good and bad, life and death, corruption and incorruption, sense and insensibility. He argues that if everything in the world were united into one compound or body, none of the contraries could exist; therefore, there must be an opposition in all things. The Pythagoreans held that contraries were the principles of things, and they listed ten pairs of terms: limit and unlimited, odd and even, one and plurality, right and left, male and female, resting and moving, straight and curved, light and darkness, good and bad, square and oblong. However, Parmenides taught that the world was one, uncreated, immovable, and unchanging, neither coming into being nor perishing. In Parmenides's world the opposites could not function. Plato sought a middle ground, holding that the world was created, but that it also has intelligence and life and includes both the changing and unchanging. He argued further that "everything which has an opposite is generated from that opposite" (Plato 1961, Phaedo 70e). If there were not a process of generation from one opposite to another, "in the end everything would have the same quality and reach the same state, and change would cease altogether" (Plato 1961, Phaedo 72b). For example, if everything were combined and nothing separated, everything would be united into one. This was essentially what Lehi was concerned about; if all things were a compound in one, there could be neither good nor bad, happiness nor misery. If the world was created for a purpose, there must be an opposition in all things.
The Book of Mormon shows other evidence of Plato's influence. In the Book of Mormon, there are a number of people who use their oratorical skills to lead others away from a belief in Christ. Jacob, Nephi's brother, confronted a man named Sherem: "And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil" (Jacob 7:4). Another such person was Nehor, who taught that "every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people" (Alma 1:3). Nehor's followers "went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor" (Alma 1:16). Then a man named Korihor, who is called Anti-Christ in the Book of Mormon, appeared in the land of Zarahemla. He rejected the doctrine of Christ, because "ye cannot know of things which ye do not see" (Alma 30:15). He also taught that "every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime" (Alma 30:17). Korihor held further that "when a man was dead, that was the end thereof" (Alma 30:18).
These men are patterned after the Sophists, who were itinerant teachers in ancient Greece. Above all, they taught the art of rhetoric and skill in winning disputes. Through their public lectures, they gained popularity and accepted money for the instruction which they gave. In Plato's dialogue, the Sophist, they are portrayed as merchandisers in knowledge, who use flattery and deceit and attempt to sell the knowledge of virtue. The figure of Korihor incorporates the beliefs of other characters in Plato's dialogues. The Theaetetus, for example, examines the opinion that knowledge is perception, that all that we can know is what our senses tell us. In the Gorgias, Callicles argues that laws were framed by the weak to restrain the strong: "But in my view nature herself makes it plain that it is right for the better to have the advantage over the worse, the more able over the less. . . . that right is recognized to be the sovereignty and advantage of the stronger over the weaker" (Plato 1961, Gorgias 483d). The Phaedo examines arguments which claim that at death the soul ceases to exist. All of these doctrines were taught by Korihor.
In his 1832 history, Joseph Smith again affirmed that he held a traditional concept of God. He wrote that he was overawed by the majesty of nature and the intelligence of man, which "bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity" (Joseph Smith 1984, 5).
In the winter of 1834-35, Joseph delivered a series of lectures to the elders in the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. They became known as the Lectures on Faith and were included in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. The Lectures are a combination of theological treatise and catechism. In style and argument, they are an imitation of the famous Meditations of Descartes, a seventeenth century French philosopher.
Descartes was concerned with finding certainty in knowledge, certainty at least as rigorous as the proofs of mathematics. Since knowledge comes to us through our senses, and the senses can deceive us, how can we be certain of anything? It is even possible that God or an evil spirit could deceive us in the area of mathematical knowledge.
Descartes decided to contemplate only what he found within himself, the ideas present in his mind. He found one truth which seemed to be absolutely certain; he knew that he had to exist as a thinking being, even if he were deceived about other things, because he could not be deceived, if he did not exist. Descartes therefore stated as a general principle that whatever we conceive very clearly and distinctly is true. He utilized a concept common in the Renaissance, that of the lumen naturalis or light of nature: "for I could not doubt in any way what the light of nature made me see to be true, just as it made me see, a little while ago, that from the fact that I doubted I could conclude that I existed" (Descartes 1960, 37). It is the light of nature, therefore, which enables us to apprehend truth.
In addition, Descartes found that he could conceive of a supreme God, eternal, infinite, immutable, and all-powerful. The light of nature also teaches us that the cause of an idea must have at least as much reality as is contained in the idea. And since Descartes conceived himself to be a finite and imperfect being, he could not be the cause of the idea of an infinite and perfect being. Furthermore, if God is perfect, he can not be a deceiver. When we examine the idea of God, we see that the existence of God can not be separated from his essence, for he would not be perfect, if he lacked existence. Therefore, God exists.
In this way, by examining his ideas of himself and of God, Descartes was able to arrive at certainty. And since God exists and is not a deceiver, we can be certain that whatever we can conceive clearly and distinctly is true. It is the nature and attributes of God that assure us that we can know with certainty a multitude of other truths about the world.
The Lectures on Faith ask, what is the foundation for a belief in the existence of God? They note that in the beginning, man was in direct communication with God, without a veil separating them. Although Adam and Eve transgressed and were cast out of the Garden of Eden, they did not lose their knowledge of the existence of God. Mankind was now separated from the immediate presence of God, but continued to hear his voice. In the early ages of the world, the existence of God became an object of faith, founded upon the testimony of those who had seen and talked with God. The knowledge of the existence of God passed from father to son was a matter of tradition.
The Lectures state that in order to exercise faith in God, we must have the idea that God actually exists and a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. From revelations recorded in scripture, we receive knowledge of the character of God: "that he was God before the world was created, and the same God that he was after it was created. . . . that he changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever . . . . that he is a God of truth and cannot lie" (Lundwall n.c., 35). There can not be a being greater than God, for otherwise, his plans might be thwarted. Equally, we can not have confidence in God without the idea that he is perfect, unchanging, and can not lie. In particular, the attribute of truth must reside in God, "for without the idea of the existence of this attribute the mind of man could have nothing upon which it could rest with certainty -- all would be confusion and doubt. But with the idea of the existence of this attribute in the Deity in the mind, all the teachings, instructions, promises, and blessings, become realities, and the mind is enabled to lay hold of them with certainty and confidence" (Lundwall n.d., 44-45).
Thus both the Meditations of Descartes and the Lectures on Faith are concerned with the quest for certainty. The basis of all certainty and knowledge is an analysis of the idea of God, a perfect being who can not deceive or lie. The idea of God assures us that we can apprehend truth and reality.
The Lectures on Faith then proceed to expound the nature of the Godhead.
There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made . . . . They are the Father and the Son -- the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fullness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or rather man was formed after his likeness and in his image; he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father, possessing all the fullness of the Father, or the same fullness with the Father; being begotten of him, and ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh . . . . And he being the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fullness of the glory of the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son, and these three are one; or, in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things . . . these three constitute the Godhead, and are one; the Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power, and fullness -- filling all in all; the Son being filled with the fullness of the mind, glory, and power; or, in other words, the spirit, glory, and power, of the Father, possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom, sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father . . . . (Lundwall n.d., 48-49)
This lecture mirrors Abinadi's speech before the priests of Noah: "God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son -- the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son -- and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth" (Mosiah 15:1-4). In fact the lecture shows some of the same confusion that we find in Limhi's attempt to relate Abinadi's teachings: "And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth" (Mosiah 7:27).
The Lectures also state that it is "in the power of man to keep the law and remain also without sin." Furthermore, the Spirit of the Father "is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments; and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all; being filled with the fullness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one" (Lundwall n.d., 48-49). This reflects the epistles of Paul, especially 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
In November 1836 an article in the Messenger and Advocate revealed a new conception of the nature of God: "for how can any person be an heir of God, and yet never partake of either his power or glory; where would his heirship be? -- a mere fiction, as bad as a Methodist God, without either body or parts." This article was signed "S. R.," probably designating Sidney Rigdon. The Lectures on Faith had declared that the Father was a being of spirit, but now an official voice of the church was ridiculing the idea of a God without body or parts. Nonetheless, Oliver Cowdery used his position as editor of the Messenger and Advocate to argue for an infinite God: "The next, and great point, is that which believes in a God who is eternal; to constitute such a being must be one that never changes. To attach to his attributes changeableness at once argues finitude; and how any rational man can spread out his hands towards heaven, and worship, (in his mind,) such a being, is past our comprehension -- such is not the God we adore -- it is not the being we serve. The One we worship comprehends all things . . . No power so high that he does not surpass it . . . ." (Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1836). Clearly, there were differences of opinion in the church.
In March 1839, from a jail in Liberty, Missouri, Joseph Smith wrote: "God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit . . . that has not been revealed since the world was until now . . . in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest. . . . And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens . . . according to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was" (D&C 121:26-32). Apparently, Joseph had time to think in jail and was preparing for a major change in doctrine.
On 8 August 1839 Joseph declared that angels have flesh and bones, and he then added some comments about spirit and matter: "The Spirit of Man is not a created being; it existed from Eternity & will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be Eternal. & earth, water &c -- all these had their existence in an elementary State from Eternity. . . . The Father called all spirits before him at the creation of Man & organized them" (Joseph Smith 1980, 9).
On 5 January 1841 Joseph delivered the following teachings:
This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodelled and made into the one on which we live. The elements are eternal. . . .
That which is without body or parts is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones. . . . God the father took life unto himself precisely as Jesus did. The first step in the salvation of men is the laws of eternal and self-existent principles. Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and the plan of salvation made and we sanctioned it. We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. . . . All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. (Joseph Smith 1980, 60)
Joseph had now stated explicitly that God has a body of flesh and bones, a position which had been proposed by Sidney Rigdon in November 1836, but was opposed by Oliver Cowdery.
The statement that the earth had been formed out of other planets is similar to the Book of Moses, which had been written in 1830: "And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. . . . For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand . . . . And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works" (Moses 1:33-38).
See also Alma 42 and the Atonement
The Lord said further: "for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen" (Abraham 3:21). Among the spirits who were assembled, "there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell" (Abraham 3:24). This passage must refer to the Son, but although he had already declared his plan to create the earth, God asked: "Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first" (Abraham 3:27).
The book of Moses had already given a quite different account of these events, stating that it was Satan who first came before God and presented a plan.
And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying -- Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me -- Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; and he became Satan . . . . (Moses 4:1-4)
The wording of both the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham is derived from Isaiah's vision of the Lord sitting upon a throne: "Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me" (Isa. 6:8).
In the Book of Moses, the Son is at-one with the Father, but in the Book of Abraham, the status of the Son is less clear. God had declared himself to be superior in intelligence to all other spirits, and the Son was standing with the other spirits when God came into their midst. This seems to imply that the Son was inferior to God and was merely one among many spirits. The Son proposed to create the earth, but God wanted to hear if any other spirit had a plan. There seems to be the possibility that the Son could have failed and that some other spirit might have been sent in his place.
In the Book of Moses, it is God and his Only Begotten who create the earth and the first man and woman, although the text uses the singular term "I, God." However, in the Book of Abraham, the Son wanted to enlist the aid of other spirits, when he proposed his plan to form the earth. And after the Son was chosen, the text states: "And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth" (Abraham 4:1). The text continues to use the term "the Gods" in its account of the seven days of creation.
The doctrine that other gods participated in the creation of the world has parallels in the writings of Plato and Philo. Plato states that God created the stars and planets as living creatures. He then says that the origin of the other divinities is beyond our knowledge. However, after the gods had been created, the Artificer addressed them, stating that he would fashion the immortal, divine part of the soul, while they were to form mortal bodies and weave the immortal with the mortal, making living creatures. Philo believed that the Genesis of Moses should be interpreted in a similar manner: "One may not unfitly raise the question what reason there could be for his ascribing the creation in the case of man only not to one Creator as in the case of the rest but, as the words would suggest, to several. For he represents the Father of the universe as speaking thus, 'Let us make man after our image and likeness.'" (Saunders 1966, 213). Philo argued that since man was of a mixed nature, liable to both virtue and vice, it was improper for God, in whom all virtue dwells, to be the sole creator of man: "So we see why it is only in the instance of man's creation that we are told by Moses that God said 'Let us make,' an expression which plainly shows the taking with Him of others as fellow-workers" (Saunders 1966, 214).
Joseph Smith's doctrines continued to evolve. In an editorial in the Times and Seasons on 1 April 1842, he finally eliminated the distinction between matter and spirit: "the body is supposed to be organized matter, and the spirit, by many, is thought to be immaterial, without substance. With this latter statement we should beg leave to differ, and state the spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that it is more pure, elastic and refined matter than the body; that it existed before the body, can exist in the body; and will exist separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the dust; and will in the resurrection, be again united with it" (Joseph Smith 1976, 207). On 17 May 1843, Joseph also stated: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter but is more fine or pure and can only be discerned by purer eyes. We cant see it but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter" (Joseph Smith 1980, 203; D&C 131:7-8).
We have already seen the influence of Plato and Philo, and Joseph's new cosmological teachings also seem to be derived from ancient philosophy. Greek Atomists, like Democritus, believed that atoms are eternal and indestructible, that there are an infinite number of worlds, and that the soul, which they identified with mind or reason, is composed of fine, smooth atoms. The doctrines of the Atomists, taken over by the Epicureans, were popularized by Lucretius in his poem On the Nature of Things, and the Epicurean philosophy gained favor during the Renaissance. Joseph Smith taught similar ideas: the elements are eternal, God has created innumerable worlds, and spirit is a material substance, finer and purer than the body.
We can find other parallels in the Book of Abraham. For example, it incorporates restructured versions of a number of Jewish myths. According to legend, Abraham was brought as a young child before king Nimrod. When he ordered Nimrod to worship the only true God, all of the idols toppled over, and Nimrod himself fell down in a swoon. Abraham's father, Terah, was not only an idol worshipper, but also manufactured and sold idols. When Abraham was fifty years old and had concluded his studies in the school of Shem and Eber, he returned home and one day smashed the idols in his father's shop. When Abraham gained many followers, Nimrod ordered that he be thrown into a fiery furnace, but Abraham was unharmed by the fire.
Similarly, the Book of Abraham states that Abraham's fathers worshipped the heathen gods of Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, Korash, and the god of Pharaoh. Abraham's kin would not turn away from their idol worship, and the heathen priests placed Abraham on an altar to be sacrificed. However, as the priest lifted up his hand, an angel appeared and untied Abraham's bands. The Lord then "broke down the altar of Elkenah, and of the gods of the land, and utterly destroyed them, and smote the priest that he died" (Abraham 1:20). Thus the Book of Abraham parallels Hebrew myth by making Abraham's kin idol worshippers and by making the lord strike down the heathen altars and the priest, just as the idols of Nimrod and Nimrod himself fell to the ground, and just as Abraham smashed his father's idols. Instead of throwing Abraham into a fiery furnace, the Book of Abraham places him on a sacrificial altar, a scene which recalls Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac and the intervention of an angel (Gen. 22).
The Book of Abraham describes the heathen altar as being shaped like a bed: "it was made after the form of a bedstead, such as was had among the Chaldeans" (Abraham 1:13). This seems to be derived from another Jewish legend. It is said that Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, journeyed to Sodom to deliver a message to Lot. The men of Sodom invited Eliezer to pass the night on a bed placed out in the open, for it was their custom to torture strangers by cutting off their legs, if they were too long for the bed, or by pulling and stretching them, if they were shorter than the bed. A similar story appears in Plutarch's account of the bed of Procrustes. The Book of Abraham may also draw upon Deuteronomy 3:11, which describes the iron bedstead of Og, king of Bashan.
The names of the gods in the Book of Abraham -- Elkenah, Libnah, and Korash -- are probably derived from the names of Elkanah, Libni, and Korah in Exodus 6. These men were all descendants of Levi and kin of Moses. Libnah was also the name of one of the places where the Israelites rested in the Sinai, as well as the name of a city in Palestine, which was captured by Joshua (Num. 33:20; Josh. 10:29).
The Book of Abraham also gives a history of the discovery of Egypt: "The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden; when this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land. Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal" (Abraham 1:23-25). Egyptian priests told Herodotus that in the reign of Min, the first ruler of Egypt, a large area of Egypt was under water. In addition, Arrian says that the Nile river was originally called Aegyptus: "the river gave its name to the country, for that Aegyptus was originally the name of the river now known both in Egypt and elsewhere in the world as the Nile there is sufficient evidence in Homer, where we find the statement that Menelaus brought up 'at the mouth of the Aegyptus'" (Arrian 1971, 264). Josephus, citing Manetho, says that Sethosis was called Egyptus: "The country also was called from his name Egypt; for Manetho says that Sethosis himself was called Egyptus, as was his brother Armais, called Danaus" (Josephus 1974, 4:166). The Book of Abraham has simply rewritten Egyptian history, naming the country after Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, who discovered it lying under water.
In the Book of Abraham, Abraham is shown a vision of the stars: "And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it; and the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest" (Abraham 3:2-3). Abraham was also shown the sun (Shinehah), the moon (Olea), and the stars (Kokob, Kokaubeam). In Joseph Smith's explanations of the figures in Facsimile No. 2, which accompanies the Book of Abraham, he said that Oliblish "is the next grand governing creation near to the celestial or the place where God resides," and that the revolution of Oliblish is equal to that of Kolob. Another governing planet is Enish-go-on-dosh, the sun, which 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. This planet receives its power through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars . . . receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob."
Abraham's visions seem to be an imitation of Cicero's The Dream of Scipio. According to Cicero's account, Publius Cornelius Scipio had a dream in which his relative, Africanus Scipio appeared to him, standing "amid the bright illumination of radiant stars." The younger Scipio looked about him and saw stars which he had never seen from earth. Africanus then showed Scipio the nine spheres of the universe: "The outermost sphere is heaven itself, and it includes and embraces all the rest. For it is the Supreme God in person, enclosing and comprehending everything that exists . . . ." Below this sphere, Scipio saw the spheres which contained Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars: "Next, almost midway between heaven and earth, blazes the Sun. He is the prince, lord and ruler of all the other worlds, the mind and guiding principle of the entire universe" (Cicero 1971, 342, 347).
Thus Kolob, the star which governs planets of the same order as the earth, is similar to the sun, which Africanus calls "the prince, Lord and ruler of all the other worlds, the mind and guiding principle of the entire universe." The throne of God corresponds to the outermost sphere of stars, which is called heaven and the Supreme God.
In addition to the Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith worked on an Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, in which he arranged characters in a column on the left-hand side of the page and gave an interpretation next to each character. Joseph's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar refers to "Flos isis," which is defined as the "highest degree of light, because its component parts are light. The governing principle of light Because God has said Let this be the centre for light, and let there be bounds that it may not pass. he hath set a cloud round about in the heavens, and the light of the grand governing of 15 fixed stars centre there -- and from there it is drawn by the heavenly bodies according to their portions . . . so God has set the bounds of light lest it pass over and consume the planets" (Joseph Smith n.d., 25). Philo of Alexandria gave a strikingly similar description in his commentary on Genesis.
Special distinction is accorded by Moses to life-breath and to light. . . . Now that invisible light perceptible only by mind has come into being as an image of the Divine World Who brought it within our ken: it is a supercelestial constellation, fount of the constellations obvious to sense. It would not be amiss to term it "all-brightness," to signify that from which the sun and moon, as well as fixed stars and planets draw, in proportion to their several capacity, the light befitting each of them . . . .
. . . After the kindling of the intelligible light, which preceded the sun's creation, darkness its adversary withdrew: for God, in His perfect knowledge of their mutual contrariety and natural conflict, parted them one from another by a wall of separation. . . . He not only separated light and darkness, but also placed in the intervening spaces boundary-marks, by which He held back each of their extremities . . . . (Saunders 1966, 205-06)
Abraham also had a vision of the intelligences in their preexistent state: "Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was made; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; and God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born" (Abraham 3:22-23). Similarly, as Scipio and Africanus were talking, Paullus, Scipio's father joined them and explained: "For men were brought into existence in order that they should inhabit the globe known as the earth, which you see here at the centre of this holy space. They have been endowed with souls made out of the everlasting fires called stars and constellations. . . ." He stated further that those who had completed their lives in the world dwelled in "a circle of light, blazing brilliantly among all the other fires." Africanus told Scipio that "it is from here in heaven that the rulers and preservers of those states once came; and it is to here that they eventually return" (Cicero 1971, 345-46, 344). Furthermore, he said that Scipio was destined to assume an important role in the Roman state, just as the Lord told Abraham that he was one of the chosen ones.
Since the Book of Abraham evidently draws upon such sources as Herodotus, Arrian, Josephus, Cicero, Philo, and Jewish myth, it appears to be linked with the Book of Mormon. There are also names in the Book of Abraham which are similar to names in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Abraham refers to an Egyptian named Onitah (Abraham 1:11), while the Book of Mormon mentions a hill and a place which were both called Onidah, as well as a city which was named Onihah (Alma 32:4; 47:5; 3 Nephi 9:7). Both books also contain the name Jershon.
On 7 April 1844 Joseph delivered a sermon at the funeral of a man named King Follett, which contains one of his clearest statements on the nature of God and man.
God who sits in yonder heavens is a man like yourselves That God if you were to see him to day that holds the worlds you would see him like a man in form, like yourselves. Adam was made in his image and talked with him & walkd with him. . . . We suppose that God was God from eternity. I will refute that Idea . . . . he once was a man like us, and the Father was once on an earth like us . . . Jesus Christ said As the Father hath power in himself so hath the son power in himself to do what the father did even to lay down my body & take it up again . . . . And you have got to learn how to make yourselves God, king and priest, by going from a small capacity to a great capacity . . . . to be an heir of God & joint heir of with Jesus Christ enjoying the same rise exhaltation & glory untill you arive at the station of a God. What did Jesus Christ do, the same thing as I se the Father do, see the father do what, work out a kingdom, when I do so to I will give to the father which will add to his glory, he will take a Higher exhaltation & I will take his place and am also exhalted. (Joseph Smith 1980, 344-45)
Joseph said that the opening words of Genesis should be correctly translated as: "the head one of the Gods, broat forth the Gods . . . . The grand Council set at the head and contemplated the creation of the world" (Joseph Smith 1980, 345). After stating that the world was organized out of already-existing, chaotic matter, Joseph turned again to the relation between God and man: "God was a self exhisting being, man exhists upon the same principle. God made a tabernacle & put a spirit in it and it became a Human soul, man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself . . . . God never had power to create the spirit of man, God himself could not create himself. Intelligence is Eternal & it is self exhisting, All mind is susseptible of improvement, the relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge" (Joseph Smith 1980, 346).
On 16 June 1844 Joseph elaborated his teachings further. Again referring to Genesis, he said, "The Head one of the Gods said let us make man in our image . . . . The word Eloiheam ought to be in the plural all the way thro -- Gods -- the heads of the Gods appointed one God for us" (Joseph Smith 1980, 379). He then stated that he wanted to relate something which he had learned from the papyrus containing the Book of Abraham. He said that the argument concerning one spirit being more intelligent than another proved that "intelligences exist one above anotr. that there is no end to it" (Joseph Smith 1980, 380). It must follow, he reasoned, that if Christ has a Father, his Father must also have a Father.
On 18 June 1844, Joseph also asserted that the Holy Ghost is spirit, but is "waiting to take to himself a body. as the Savior did or as god did or the gods before them took bodies" (Joseph Smith 1980, 382).
Joseph's new teachings were directly opposed to the Book of Mormon and the early revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. Furthermore, the whole force of the Lectures on Faith was to argue that faith, and therefore our own salvation, depends upon having a correct idea of the nature and attributes of God. The correct idea of God entails that there is no being greater than God: "An acquaintance with these attributes in the divine character, is essentially necessary, in order that the faith of any rational being can center in him for life and salvation. For if he did not, in the first instance, believe him to be God, that is, the Creator and upholder of all things, he could not center his faith in him for life and salvation, for fear there should be greater than he who would thwart all his plans, and he like the gods of the heathen, would be unable to fulfill his promises; but seeing he is God over all, from everlasting to everlasting, the Creator and upholder of all things, no such fear can exist in the minds of those who put their trust in him . . . ." (Lundwall n.d., 35). Joseph had completely destroyed the argument of the Lectures by revealing an entirely new idea of God. It was now not only possible for a being greater than God to exist, but it was also an absolute necessity. God himself must have a Father, and there might be an infinite number of gods, each wiser than the ones below it on the scale of intelligence. In this case, it might be possible for our God's plans to be overruled by a greater God; therefore, we could never put our trust in God, and the basis for faith and salvation would be destroyed.
Nonetheless, Mormons continue to portray God with the same attributes as those listed in the Lectures on Faith. For example, Lecture Two states: "We here observe that God is the only supreme governor and independent being in whom all fullness and perfection dwell; who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell . . . and he is the object in whom the faith of all other rational and accountable beings center for life and salvation" (Lundwall n.d., 13). Joseph F. Smith paraphrased this same passage: "Faith in God is to believe that he is, and 'that he is the only supreme Governor and independent Being, in whom all fulness and perfection and every good gift and principle dwell independently,' and in whom the faith of all other rational beings must centre for life and salvation; and further, that he is the great Creator of all things, that he is omnipotent, omniscient, and by his works and the power of his Spirit omnipresent" (Joseph F. Smith 1939, 100). Smith changed the wording to make God omnipresent only in Spirit, since a being with a finite body can not be present everywhere at the same time. However, he still affirmed that God is "the only supreme Governor and independent Being." To say that God is the only independent Being is to say that all other beings are dependent upon God for their existence. But this contradicts both the doctrine that all intelligence is uncreated and independent and the belief that God must himself have a Father.
Did Joseph Smith's new teachings originate in his own mind, or did he appropriate them from material which was removed from the Book of Mormon? The doctrine that the Son is the Father is so well attested in the Book of Mormon that this must have been the true teaching. But the Book of Mormon also describes a number of dissenting groups, which held various concepts of God. The only suggestion in the Book of Mormon that anyone believed in a plurality of gods comes in the Book of Alma. In Ammonihah, Zeezrom asked Amulek if there was more than one God, and Amulek answered, no, saying that an angel had made it known to him. Zeezrom then addressed the people who were listening: "See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come" (Alma 11:35). Zeezrom then asked Amulek if the Son of God was the Eternal Father, and Amulek answered, yes. After Amulek and Alma finished speaking, the people went to the chief judge and complained that they had "testified that there was but one God, and that he should send his Son" (Alma 14:5). This seems to imply that Zeezrom and the people of Ammonihah were offended by the assertion that there was only one God and thought that Amulek contradicted himself by saying that God would send his Son, which must mean that there is more than one God. Apparently, they also could not grasp the fact that the Son is the Father. It is probable, therefore, that Zeezrom and the others believed in a plurality of gods. Since the text does not present their beliefs clearly, it may be that Joseph removed material from the Book of Mormon and later found Zeezrom's doctrines to be more appealing than Amulek's.
Joseph Smith's version of Genesis gives us information about some other peculiar religious beliefs that existed in the time of Abraham: "And God talked with him, saying, My people have gone astray from my precepts, and have not kept mine ordinances, which I gave unto their fathers; and they have not observed mine anointing, and the burial, or baptism wherewith I commanded them; but have turned from the commandment, and taken unto themselves the washing of children, and the blood of sprinkling; and have said that the blood of the righteous Abel was shed for sins; and have not known wherein they are accountable before me" (JST Gen. 17:4-7). Thus, people in Abraham's day did not look forward to the atonement through the blood of Christ, but believed that Abel's death had saved them from their sins, and they had instituted religious rites involving the sprinkling of blood, apparently in remembrance of Abel. This suggests that they worshipped Abel as the Son of God.
This passage from the JST Genesis seems to be the only link between Joseph Smith's writings and another strange doctrine which Brigham Young started to preach in 1852. He asserted that Adam had lived as a man on another planet, where he had received his exaltation, and that Adam had created our earth. However, according to Brigham, Adam was not merely the first man, the father of the human race; Adam was also the begetter of our spirits, and therefore, our God. If the people of Abraham's day believed that Abel was divine and that his death atoned for our sins, they surely must have thought that Adam, the father of Abel, was himself a god. Brigham Young's Adam-God doctrine seems to be a presupposition of the belief in Abel as Savior.
The Romans believed that humans could become gods. According to legend, Romulus was reviewing his troops one day, when he was enveloped in a thick cloud and vanished. He was then hailed "as a god and son of a god" (Livy 1960, 51). Plutarch relates this same story and adds: "we must really believe that, according to their divine nature and law, their virtue and their souls are translated out of men into heroes, out of heroes into demi-gods, out of demi-gods, after passing, as in the rite of initiation, through a final cleansing and sanctification, and so freeing themselves from all that pertains to mortality and sense, are thus, not by human decree, but really and according to right reason, elevated into gods admitted thus to the greatest and most blessed perfection" (Plutarch n.d., 45). Julius Caesar and other Roman emperors were deified; altars were constructed and priests appointed to attend to their worship.
When the Book of Mormon finally comes around to giving an explanation of the holy order of God, it occurs at a wholly unexpected point. Alma chose to relate a brief history of the priesthood to Antionah, a chief ruler in the city of Ammonihah. Since Adam and Eve had transgressed God's first commandments, God made known to them the plan of redemption and gave them a second set of commandments, which apparently consisted primarily of the doctrines of faith, repentance, and holy works. Those who did not keep the commandments could not enter into the rest of the Lord and faced a second and everlasting death. After making these prefatory remarks, Alma launched into a discussion of the priesthood.
And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people. And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption. And this is the manner after which they were ordained -- being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such. . . . and thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest -- this high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things . . . thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. (Alma 13:1-9)
Alma also states that Melchizedek belonged to the high priesthood of the holy order of God. Nephi, the son of Helaman, affirms that the order of God existed before the days of Abraham (Helaman 8:17-18).
It is evident that Alma's account of the high priesthood follows certain passages in the Bible. In Genesis, Melchizedek is called "the priest of the most high God" (Gen 14:18). In addition, Psalm 110:4 declares: "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." Paul's epistle to the Hebrews applies this statement to Christ (Heb. 5:5-12; 7:3, 11-17).
When the resurrected Jesus appeared at Bountiful, he chose twelve Nephite disciples, who are never called apostles. The account of Jesus' mission in the New World does not list any priesthood offices, despite the fact that we would expect Jesus to instruct the Nephites in the offices and duties of the orders of the priesthood. It is not until we reach the appendix, which Moroni added to the plates as an afterthought, that we find information regarding priesthood offices. Moroni continues to use the term disciples and states that the disciples "were called the elders of the church" (Moroni 3:1). He then gives the precise manner in which the elders ordained priests and teachers. He states that priests and teachers were ordained "according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them" (Moroni 3:4). Apparently then the ecclesiastical system which was established after the appearance of Jesus consisted only of elders, priests, and teachers and did not include the office of high priest. And since the church before Jesus included both high priests and elders, we cannot assume that the elders of the later church were also high priests.
When the church was officially organized on 6 April 1830, it included only the offices of elder, priest, teacher, and deacon. As originally published in the Book of Commandments, Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants (June 1830), which sets out the responsibilities of the priesthood, mentions only these four offices, while also referring to Joseph and Oliver as apostles and elders. It did not include verses 66 and 67, which refer to bishops, high councilors, and high priests. Section 20 also makes no reference to either the Melchizedek or Aaronic priesthoods. Thus the initial organization of the church was very similar to the Nephite church, with the addition of the office of deacon. In fact, Section 20 reproduces almost word for word a number of passages from the Book of Moroni. For example, Section 20 follows Moroni in stating: "Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him" (D&C 20:60; Moroni 3:4). Section 20 also reproduces the two prayers for the blessing of the sacrament found in Moroni 4 and 5 (D&C 20:76-79). Verse 37 of Section 20, describing the conditions for receiving baptism, is also taken from Moroni 6:2-3.
Taken together, the Book of Moroni and Section 20 seem to set out the ideal ecclesiastical structure, with a minimum of offices, no distinction between greater and lesser orders of the priesthood, and a few simple ordinances and doctrines. Ordination into the priesthood was by way of calling and by the Holy Ghost. However, this could not have been the actual teaching of the Book of Mormon. It appears rather that it was imposed on the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. As we have seen, Alma elaborated a much more complex view of the priesthood. On the matter of being called to the priesthood, Alma seems to steer a course between a Calvinistic predestination of the elect and the view that one is called on the basis of personal merit. Alma's doctrine is derived from Paul: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29-30). It is certain that the true organization of the church would include the holy order of God and the office of high priest, but neither the Book of Moroni nor Section 20, as originally published, refers to either the high priesthood or the office of high priest. Furthermore, although both of these documents provide for ordination into the priesthood, they present the concept of "being called" in terms which are too simplistic, ignoring Alma's complex teachings. They seem to reflect the common view of being called as feeling the Spirit working within you, whereas for Alma being called is based upon our exercise of free agency in the preexistent world and a confirming life of faithfulness. In addition, the power of the priesthood is not merely the power of the Holy Ghost, but includes a special power and authority from God, which is passed from one person to another.
Thus although the Book of Moroni and Section 20 present a unified viewpoint, it is not confirmed by other parts of the Book of Mormon. It appears to be Joseph and Oliver's initial views on the proper organization of the priesthood and offices of the true church. But it was not long before Joseph started to revise this structure. In 1831, the first high priests and the first bishop of the church were ordained.
In September 1832, Joseph received Section 84, which explains that there are two priesthoods.
And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God. And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; for without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness . . . but they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence . . . . Therefore, he [the Lord] took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; and the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb. (D&C 84:18-27)
Section 84 also traces the transmission of the greater priesthood:
And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro; and Jethro received it under the hand of Caleb; and Caleb received it under the hand of Elihu; and Elihu under the hand of Jeremy; and Jeremy under the hand of Gad; and Gad under the hand of Esaias; and Esaias received it under the hand of God. Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him -- which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah; and from Noah till Enoch, through the lineage of his fathers; and from Enoch to Abel, who was slain by the conspiracy of his brother, who received the priesthood by the commandments of God, by the hand of his father Adam, who was the first man -- which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years. (D&C 84:6-17)
Section 84 presents us with information which is missing from the Book of Mormon. We can now understand how the distinction arose between two orders of priesthood. We know that Moses received the greater priesthood from his father-in-law Jethro and was ready to reveal it to the Israelites, but because of their transgressions, they were not privileged to receive it and were instead given the lesser priesthood.
This certainly accords better with the teachings of Alma. Section 84 affirms the existence of the holy order of God back to Adam and stresses the importance of the ordinances and authority of the priesthood. The greater priesthood holds the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom, and through it, one can converse with God. Section 20 does not reserve such wonderful powers even to an apostle; it states merely that his duties are to ordain others to priesthood offices, to administer the sacrament, and to baptize and confirm members of the church. The Book of Mormon fails to give us a connected, fully understandable account of the orders and offices of the Nephite church. It is apparent that vital information is missing and that details which Joseph Smith supplied in later revelations could only have come from the Book of Mormon.
Although Section 84 traces the transmission of the priesthood, we do not know who any of the men were from Esaias to Caleb. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was a Midianite priest, and the Midianites were the descendants of Midian, the son of Abraham and Keturah. Why would the priesthood pass through Midian rather than through Isaac and Jacob? This strange pedigree seems to be derived from a Jewish legend. According to this story, Melol was Pharaoh of Egypt about 130 years after Jacob and his sons went to live with Joseph in Egypt. At this time Jethro was serving as one of three counselors to the Pharaoh, along with Balaam and Job. When Melol had a dream, Balaam correctly interpreted it as a prediction of the birth of Moses and recommended killing the children of Israel. However, Jethro advised the Pharaoh to leave the Israelites in peace. Melol was angered by this advice, and Jethro left Egypt for the land of Midian, where he became a high priest. When Moses later fled Egypt and arrived in Midian, Jethro put him in prison. Jethro's daughter, Zipporah, had many suitors, and Jethro announced that he would give her in marriage to the man who was able to draw from the ground a staff, which Jethro had planted in his garden. Zipporah succeeded in getting Moses released from prison, and when he saw the staff in the garden, he easily pulled it out of the ground. Angelo Rappoport gives this account of the staff:
The story of this staff runs as follows: It was a staff made of sapphire which the Almighty had created in the twilight of the first Sabbath eve. When Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden, he carried this staff with him, as one of the gifts he had received from the Creator. He handed it to Enoch, who transmitted it to Noah, who again handed it to Shem. The staff reached Abraham, who transmitted it to his son Isaac. The latter gave it to Jacob, who brought it with him to Egypt and handed it to his son Joseph. When the Viceroy died, the Egyptians pillaged his house and took away this sapphire rod which they brought to Pharaoh. Reuel [Jethro], who was one of the counselors of Pharaoh, saw this rod and made up his mind to possess it. His desire was so great that he did not hesitate to steal it and carry it away when he left Egypt. He planted the rod in his garden, and no one could uproot it or even approach it. (Rappoport 1987, 2:254-55)
The Book of the Bee gives a somewhat different version of this story:
In the Book of the Bee it is related that Jethro invited Moses to go into the house and to select a shepherd's staff, and that at the command of the Lord one of the staffs left its place and moved towards Moses. The story of the rod of Moses is related as follows:
When Adam was driven out of Paradise, he cut a branch from the fig tree which was the tree of knowledge, and this branch served him as staff all his life. This staff he left to his son, and it was transmitted from generation to generation till it came into the possession of Abraham. It was with this staff that the Patriarch smashed the idols of his father Terah. Jacob used the staff when he tended the flocks of Laban, and his son Judah gave it as a pledge to his daughter-in-law Tamar. The staff was subsequently concealed by an angel in the cave of treasures, in the mountains of Moab. When the pious Jethro was pasturing his flocks, he found the staff and used it henceforth. When Jethro had grown old, he asked Moses to go into the house and fetch this staff. . . . The staff then came into the possession of Phinehas, who buried it in the desert. It belonged to Joseph, the husband of Mary, at the moment of the birth of the Saviour, and it served afterwards as one of the planks in the Cross of Christ. (Rappoport 1987, 2:366-67)
Both of these accounts agree that the staff was in the possession of Adam and that it was passed from one person to another until it reached Abraham. From this point, the accounts differ; one states that Jacob gave the staff to Joseph, while the other says that Judah obtained the staff. The staff is then either stolen or hidden, but both accounts agree that it came into the possession of Jethro and finally became the rod of Moses. Similarly, Section 84 traces the transmission of the priesthood from Adam to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham. It then invents an entirely new line of transmission through Esaias and four other unknown men to Jethro and Moses. The legend concerning the staff seems to be the reason for this odd divergence of the priesthood from the direct line of ordination which we would have expected. Since the different versions of the story did not agree about what happened to the staff after it left the hands of Abraham, the author of Section 84 apparently felt free to give his own account. For him, the staff was merely a symbol of the priesthood, which had passed down through many generations from Adam.
Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants states that Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, but in the Book of Abraham, when Abraham says that he became a high priest, he never mentions Melchizedek. Joseph Smith's later teaching was that Abraham received a higher priesthood from Melchizedek. In 1843 he delivered a sermon on the text of Hebrews 7, stating that the epistle outlines three different orders of priesthood, the Melchizedek, the patriarchal, and the Levitical. He claimed that Abraham held the patriarchal priesthood, but received the fullness of the greater priesthood from Melchizedek. On 18 December 1833 Joseph ordained his father as the first patriarch of the church, and during his blessing he made the following remarks:
Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch and Methuselah, who were High Priests, with the residue of his posterity, who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing. And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the Prince, the Archangel. . . .
So shall it be with my father: he shall be called a prince over his posterity, holding the keys of the patriarchal Priesthood over the kingdom of God on earth, even the Church of the Latter-day Saints, and he shall sit in the general assembly of Patriarchs, even in council with the Ancient of Days when he shall sit and all the Patriarchs with him and shall enjoy his right and authority under the direction of the Ancient of Days. (Joseph Smith 1976, 38-39)
Joseph's blessing certainly ascribes great power to the patriarchal priesthood, and it is difficult to see in what way it is inferior to the order of Melchizedek.
On 28 March 1835, before he began work on the Book of Abraham, Joseph received Section 107, which refers to the order of evangelists: "the order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made. This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage" (D&C 107:39-41). After tracing the transmission of the priesthood down to Noah, the revelation quotes the very same words concerning the gathering of Adam's posterity at Adam-ondi-Ahman, which Joseph had used when he blessed his father as patriarch of the church. Thus this portion of Section 107 appears to be giving an account of the patriarchal priesthood. However, it also appears that patriarchs must first be high priests, as was the case with Joseph Smith's father, and Section 107 says that the office of high priest belongs to the Melchizedek priesthood. Therefore, it would be impossible for a patriarch to hold a lesser priesthood than the Melchizedek priesthood.
In his sermon on Hebrews 7, outlining the three orders of the priesthood, Joseph had stated that the Melchizedek priesthood was distinguished from the other orders by the holding of kingly powers and sealing powers. However, the kingly powers of the higher priesthood would surely be supplemented by the right to hold the keys of a dispensation. But the patriarch seems to be the logical custodian of the keys; since he stands at the head of his posterity, he should also be the father of his dispensation. Furthermore, it seems that a patriarch would hold the sealing powers, since he must bind together all of his posterity, to ensure their mutual salvation.
Joseph Smith organized a School of the Prophets, and Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants (December 1832) specifies the form of ritual which was to be observed in the school. The president of the school was to be the first to enter the house of God, where he was to offer prayer while kneeling. As others entered, he was to rise, lifting his hands to heaven, and say: "Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen" (D&C 88:133). It is interesting to compare this wording with Paul's epistles. For example, Hebrews 13:20 contains the phrase “the everlasting covenant.” And Colossians 4 has many similarities, including the words: brother, salute, saluteth you, remember, fellowservant, fellowworkers, bonds, commandments, thanksgiving. It also refers to “a Master in heaven” and asks that “God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ.” Those who entered the schoolwere also to raise their hands to heaven and repeat the covenant, but anyone who was found to be unworthy was to be excluded. Anyone who was received into the school also had to undergo a ritual washing of the feet: "And he shall be received by the ordinance of the washing of feet, for unto this end was the ordinance of the washing of feet instituted. And again, the ordinance of washing feet is to be administered by the president, or presiding elder of the church. It is to be commenced with prayer; and after partaking of bread and wine, he is to gird himself according to the pattern given in the thirteenth chapter of John's testimony concerning me. Amen" (D&C 88:139-41). John 13:4-5 states that Jesus "laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." Section 88 seems to be the prototype that formed the basis for later temple rituals.
On 1 June 1833 Joseph dictated a revelation, in which the Lord called for the building of a house, "in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high" (D&C 95:8). The upper portion of the house was reserved for "the school of mine apostles."
The cornerstones of the Kirtland temple were laid on 23 July 1833, and the temple was dedicated on 27 March 1836. As completion of the temple neared, Joseph continued to refer to the promised endowment and insisted that it was necessary to perform the ordinance of washing of feet "in order to make the foundation of this church complete and permanent" (Joseph Smith 1984, 81). The ordinances of washing and anointing were finally performed on 21 January 1836. After receiving his anointing and blessing, Joseph beheld a vision of the celestial kingdom (D&C 137), while heavenly visions were opened to others: "some of them saw the face of the Saviour, and others were ministered unto by holy angels, and the spirit of prophesy and revelation was poured out in mighty power" (Joseph Smith 1984, 147).
During the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland temple on 27 March 1836, Joseph specifically compared the endowment with the New Testament Pentecost: "Let the anointing of thy ministers be sealed upon them with power from on high: let it be fulfilled upon them as upon those on the day of Pentacost: let the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues as of fire, and the interpretation thereof. And let thy house be filled, as with a rushing mighty wind, with thy glory" (Joseph Smith 1984, 176-77; D&C 109:35-37). In the gospel of John, Jesus promised the disciples that the Father would send another Comforter, the Spirit of truth, the Holy Ghost, which would teach them all things and guide them in all truth ( John 14:16-17, 26; 16:13). In the gospel of Luke, the resurrected Christ told the disciples, "and, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Acts describes the descent of the Holy Ghost: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-4). Acts claims further that this event was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:17). On 30 March about 300 people met in the temple, where they witnessed the washing of the feet of the twelve apostles. Joseph then stated that he "had now completed the organization of the church and we had passed through all the necessary ceremonies, that I had given them all the instruction they needed" (Joseph Smith 1984, 183).
The climax of the temple dedication and endowment occurred on 3 April. During the afternoon service in the temple, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery stood at the pulpit, while veils were lowered around them. Behind the veils, a vision unfolded: "They saw the Lord standing upon the breast work of the pulpit before them, and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold" (Joseph Smith 1984, 186; D&C 110:2). Then Moses, Elias, and Elijah appeared in turn. Moses gave to Joseph and Oliver the keys of the gathering of Israel and the ten tribes; Elias conferred the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham; and Elijah committed to them the keys of this dispensation. These spiritual manifestations have biblical parallels. Moses, Aaron, and other elders of Israel saw God, "and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone" (Exod. 24:10). In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus said that he would give Peter the keys of the kingdom and the power to bind and loose. Six days later, Peter, James, and John witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah.
During a discourse at the funeral of Seymour Brunson on 15 August 1840, Joseph Smith enunciated a new doctrine of baptism for the dead. Joseph received a revelation on 19 January 1841, in which the Lord stated that the ordinance of baptism for the dead had been instituted before the foundation of the world and was practiced within the tabernacle which Moses was commanded to build (D&C 124). On 11 June 1843 Joseph taught that Jesus knew of and practiced the temple ordinances, including baptism for the dead. Referring to 1 Peter 3:19, Joseph said that Christ preached to the spirits in prison, after his death, so that they could receive the gospel and "could have it answered by proxey by those who live on the earth &c" (Joseph Smith 1980, 211). The object of performing baptism and all of the other ordinances for the dead was not merely to obtain their salvation. The temple rites were also meant to seal the living with the dead, forming an unbroken chain all the way back to Adam, thereby organizing all of the families of the earth into kingdoms, each man standing at the head of his own posterity and adding his kingdom to that of his father.
The temple endowment contains elements which are undeniably derived from Masonic ritual, including tokens, names, signs, grips, and penalties for revealing the secret rites. Joseph Smith had in fact been accepted into the Nauvoo Lodge of Freemasons on 15 March 1842. On 24 June 1843 the cornerstone for a Masonic temple was laid by Hyrum Smith, who was the Worshipful Master of the lodge of ancient York Masons. Many Mormons joined the Masonic lodge, and King Follett, who gave his name to Joseph's famous discourse on the plurality of gods, was buried with Masonic honors, not long after the Masonic temple was dedicated. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that Joseph had been planning temples for many years and had formulated ordinances of washing and anointing for the Kirtland temple, long before he was initiated into Masonry. He had also already enunciated many major doctrines prior to becoming a Mason. Indeed it could be argued that Joseph incorporated Masonry, not because it had anything substantial to contribute to Mormon doctrine, but because Joseph wanted and needed the loyalty and support of the worldwide fraternity of Masons.
It is significant that Joseph's first formulation of the endowment was in conjunction with the school of the prophets and that the primary ordinance of washing of feet was in imitation of the acts of Jesus. This indicates that the endowment originally drew upon Hebrew and Christian tradition, rather than Masonry. The Book of Mormon may have described such an endowment, together with its teachings on the holy order of God, or the high priesthood. The concept of a school of the prophets was probably derived from Hebrew myth. According to Jewish tradition, Melchizedek, who held the high priesthood, was Shem, the son of Noah, and Abraham obtained his wisdom by studying in the school of Shem and Eber for thirty-nine years. Isaac and Jacob were also students in the school, and Jacob passed on what he had learned to his son Joseph. Furthermore, Joseph Smith taught that although God had removed Moses and the greater priesthood, because of the hard-heartedness of the Israelites, the priesthood was continued among the prophets. The Old Testament gives us further information about what might be described as a school of prophets. After the prophet Samuel anointed Saul with oil, he told Saul to go on the road to Bethel: "thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: and the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man" (1 Sam. 10:5-6). Again, after Samuel had anointed David, David fled from Saul to Samuel at Ramah and both of them went to Naioth: "And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied" (1 Sam. 19:20). This company of prophets, headed by Samuel, might be interpreted as the successor of the school of Shem and Eber.
Thus the concept of an endowment, which was conferred upon the members of a school of prophets, could easily have been derived from the Bible and Jewish tradition. In addition, Paul frequently uses the language of the mysteries in his epistles. He states that God ordained the true mysteries before the world was made (1 Cor. 2:6-7), that Christ revealed the mysteries to his apostles and prophets (Eph. 3:3-5), and that the mysteries have been hidden for ages (Col. 1:25-28). Paul also relates his experience of being caught up into the third heaven, where he "heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2 Cor. 12:4). Furthermore, the New Testament uses language referring to Christ as the chief cornerstone, which was later adopted as a symbol in Masonry (Acts 4:11, 1 Cor. 3:10-11, Eph. 2:20-22, 1 Peter 2:7). According to the Book of Moses, which Joseph Smith wrote in 1830, Cain entered into a compact with Satan, sealed by an oath, which gave Cain mastery over a great secret, and Cain was called Master Mahan. Cains' secret combination, instituted by Satan, was obviously a perversion of the holy order of God, and its secret oaths and covenants must have mimicked the true oaths and covenants of the priesthood. This again provides evidence that the Book of Mormon originally described an endowment in connection with the greater priesthood.
Joseph Smith's decision to introduce baptism for the dead was clearly influenced by his discovery of evidence which seemed to support the practice. In a letter to the apostles written on 15 December 1840, Joseph said that he had knowledge independent of the Bible that the rite had been practiced by the ancient churches. In a discourse on 15 April 1842, Joseph may have revealed what this evidence was.
Chrysostum says that the Marcionites practiced baptism for their dead. "After a catechumen was dead, they had a living man under the bed of the deceased; then coming to the dead man, they asked him whether he would receive baptism, and he making no answer, the other answered for him, and said that he would be baptized in his stead; and so they baptized the living for the dead." The church of course at that time was degenerate, and the particular form might be incorrect, but the thing is sufficiently plain in the Scriptures, hence Paul, in speaking of the doctrine, says, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?" (I Cor. xv:29) (Joseph Smith 1976, 222)
Furthermore, in a sermon which he delivered on 1 May 1842, Joseph stated: "There are signs in heaven, earth, and hell, the Elders must know them all to be endowed with power, to finish their work and prevent imposition. The devil knows many signs but does not know the sign of the Son of Man, or Jesus. No one can truly say he knows God until he has handled something, and this can only be in the Holiest of Holies" (Joseph Smith 1980, 120). This may reveal some knowledge of Gnosticism and the pagan mysteries. During the mysteries, sacred symbols were revealed to the initiate and were sometimes handled. In addition, some Gnostic sects believed that the dead had to be able to recite secret formulae, in order to pass by those beings who acted as the guardians of heaven. Kurt Rudolph explains: "Irenaeus also discussed the motif of the ascent of soul using the secret agencies and describes an actual ceremony for the dead which was organized for this purpose. Secret sayings were imparted to the dead man which he had to recite against the 'powers' in order to ascend on high" (Rudolph 1987, 174). Another ceremony is also described: "The performance of this 'redemption' ritual for the dying, as Irenaeus informs us in the same chapter, involves pouring 'oil and water' on their head, together with the above-named invocations, in order that 'they may become unassailable by and invisible to the powers and authorities, and that their "inner man" may ascend above the realm of the invisible, whilst their body remains behind in the created world, and their soul is delivered to the Demiurge'. For safe passage through the barriers of the archons the well-known pass-words were imparted to the deceased . . . ." (Rudolph 1987, 244). Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants states that if a man and a woman are married for time and eternity, but are not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through someone who is anointed with the keys of the priesthood, their marriage is not valid after death: "when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass." However, if a man and woman are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, "they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads" (D&C 132:18-19). During the temple endowment ceremony, participants receive the secret signs and tokens of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, which they must be able to recite after death in order to pass through the veil and be admitted into the presence of God.
According to Joseph Smith's doctrines, a person who dies without the law will go to a spirit prison in the terrestrial kingdom, where he must hear and accept the gospel, and baptism and other rites must be performed for his salvation. The 1918 vision of Joseph F. Smith also insists that the dead are taught "repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins" (D&C 138:33) However, Mormon clearly and emphatically rejects this doctrine: "For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing -- but it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works. Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law" (Moroni 8:22-24). The conditions which Joseph Smith imposed make everyone subject to the law. Therefore, everyone has need of repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. It follows that baptism for the dead is an absolute necessity.
Mormon's denunciation of baptism for those who die without the law occurs in a letter to his son Moroni, in which he also rejects the baptism of children. Mormon's epistle is proof that baptism for the dead was being practiced among the Nephites, although it is not described anywhere else in the Book of Mormon.
In the early years of the church, the ordinance of sealing included not only the sealing of wives to their husbands, but also the adoption of men by other men. The law of adoption is mentioned frequently in the journals of John D. Lee. Lee was the second man to become the adopted son of Brigham Young, and he referred to Brigham as his "father in Israel." Those who were adopted became the "family" of the adoptive father and regarded him as their "counselor." But the law of adoption had far-reaching effects upon the salvation of the adopted sons and their posterity. The law of adoption and seal of the covenant were intended to extend the chain of the priesthood all the way back to Adam, thus making all of those who are sealed the family of Adam. Although each man was to stand at the head of his own family, Brigham stated, "Those that are adopted into my family and take me for their counsellor, if I continue faithfully I will preside over them throughout all eternity and will stand at their head" (Lee 1984, 83). This doctrine led to jealous competition among some church members to adopt the most sons and build up the largest kingdom, in order to obtain the highest exaltation.
Apparently, the law of adoption was necessary, because of the difficulty of tracing one's ancestry all the way back to Adam. Adoption was the means through which unrelated people were welded together as links in the chain of the priesthood. The law of adoption was rooted in the Lord's promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:2-3). In Paul's epistles, we find the clearest delineation of the concept of adoption into the family of Abraham. In Romans, Paul argues that those who are led by the Spirit receive "the Spirit of adoption" and become the sons of God, joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:14-17). In Galatians 3:29, Paul declares, "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Joseph Smith often spoke of becoming joint-heirs with Christ, and he taught that the effect of the Holy Ghost upon someone who was not a literal descendant of Abraham was "to purge out the old blood & make him actually of the seed of Abraham" (Joseph Smith 1980, 4).
The law of adoption also has parallels in Roman history. Beginning with Julius Caesar, adoption became a means by which emperors designated their successors. Caesar adopted Gaius Octavius, who became known as Augustus. Augustus adopted his two grandsons, Gaius and Lucius, but after both met with early deaths, he adopted his stepson Tiberius and ordered Tiberius to adopt his nephew Germanicus. Tiberius became emperor and was succeeded by Gaius (Caligula), the son of Germanicus. After Caligula died at the age of twenty-nine, Claudius became emperor and adopted his nephew Nero. Nero was succeeded by Galba, who had been adopted by his stepmother. Galba in turn adopted Piso. However, this chain of adoptions was ended by Otho, who overthrew Galba. Later, the emperor Nerva adopted Trajan, who in turn adopted Hadrian. After Aelius Verus, who had been adopted by Hadrian, met with an untimely death, his son was adopted by Antoninus Pius. Hadrian adopted Pius and designated him as his successor, on condition that Pius adopt his younger brother Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, who followed Pius as emperor.
Thus the transference of the office of emperor from father to son was purely fictitious, relying upon the adoption of one man by another. It should also be remembered that Jacob adopted as his own sons the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were given a place among the twelve tribes of Israel. Since the law of adoption has parallels in both the Bible and Roman history, it is likely that it formed a part of the Book of Mormon.
The law of adoption was one application of the sealing power and one way to increase the extent of the kingdom over which a person would rule. But, of course, the primary sealing ordinance was the binding of a wife to her husband for eternity. And as the doctrine developed, not merely one wife, but any number of wives could be sealed to one man, thereby increasing his posterity and his kingdom. However, the Book of Mormon again opposes this doctrine. It condemns the polygamy practiced by David and Solomon, the Nephites, king Noah, and Riplakish (Jacob 1:15, 2:23-27; Mosiah 11:2; Ether 10:5). There is evidence that Joseph Smith was privately teaching the principle of plural marriage as early as 1832, but it was not until after John C. Bennett publicly exposed the practice of polygamy among the Mormons in 1842 that Joseph dictated a revelation on celestial marriage. The revelation begins by contradicting the Book of Mormon, stating that David and Solomon and other biblical figures were justified in having many wives and concubines (D&C 132:1-4, 38-39).
However, the Book of Mormon does provide a loophole, forseeing the possibility that conditions might arise in which polygamy would be permitted: "For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things" (Jacob 2:30). The Book of Mormon requires that if Gentiles are to share in the promises given to the Nephites concerning the land of liberty and the New Jerusalem, they must be adopted into the family of Lehi. This might necessitate intermarriage, and therefore, polygamy would be acceptable as a method for hastening the integration of Gentiles into the family of Lehi, guaranteeing them an inheritance in the New Jerusalem and creating a righteous branch of the house of Joseph.
Some writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries voiced approval of polygamy. In his essay Of Cannibals, Montaigne described the marriage customs of the noble savages of the New World.
The men there have several wives, and the higher their reputation for valour the greater is the number of their wives. It is a remarkably beautiful feature in their marriages, that the same jealousy that our wives have to keep us from the love and favors of other women, they have to an equal degree to procure it. Being more solicitous for their husbands' honour than for anything else, they use their best endeavours to have as many companions as they can, seeing that that is a proof of their husbands' worth.In his poem Absalom and Achitophel, John Dryden wrote:
Ours will cry 'miracle', but it is not so. It is after all a proper matrimonial virtue, but of the highest order. And in the Bible, Leah, Rachel, Sarah and Jacob's wives accommodated their husbands with their fair handmaids . . . . (Montaigne 1980, 1311)
In pious times, ere priestcraft did begin,
Before polygamy was made a sin;
When man on many multiplied his kind,
Ere one to one was cursedly confined;
When nature prompted and no law denied
Promiscuous use of concubine and bride;
Then Israel's monarch after Heaven's own heart,
His vigorous warmth did variously impart
To wives and slaves . . . .
(Dryden 1986, 1794)
In the early years of the church, polygamy was often referred to as the patriarchal order of marriage. Sentiments like those of Montaigne and Dryden may have provided the suggestion that polygamy among the Indians was a vestige of the true patriarchal order of marriage and that the more wives a man had, the higher was his status in the priesthood.
John C. Bennett joined the Mormons, after they had settled in Nauvoo, Illinois, and quickly rose to positions of importance as mayor of the city and assistant president of the church. After charges were brought against him of teaching a system of "spiritual wifery" and improper conduct with women, Bennett was separated from the church. He wrote an exposé, alleging that Joseph Smith had established three orders of women, known as the Cyprian Saints, the Chambered Sisters of Charity, and the Cloistered Saints or Consecratees of the Cloister.
According to Bennett, the Cyprian Saints were women who had been interrogated by members of the Relief Society and were found guilty of lapsing from the straight path of virtue. They were excluded from the Relief Society and were "set apart and appropriated to the gratification of the vilest appetites of the brutal Priests and Elders of the Mormon Church" (Bennett 1842, 221). Bennett described the Chambered Sisters of Charity as follows:
This order comprises that class of females who indulge their sensual propensities, without restraint, whether married or single, by the express permission of the Prophet. Whenever one of the "Saints," (as the Mormons style themselves,), of the male sex, becomes enamored of a female, and she responds to the feeling by a reciprocal manifestation, the loving brother goes to Holy Joe, and states the case. It makes, by the bye, no difference whatever if one or both the parties are already provided with conjugal helpmates. The Prophet gravely buries his face in his hat, in which lies his peep-stone, and inquires of the Lord what are his will and pleasure in the matter. Sometimes, when Joe wants the woman for his own purposes, an unfavorable answer is given; but, generally, the reply permits the parties to follow the bent of their inclinations . . . . (Bennett 1842, 221-22)
The Cloistered Saints were "composed of females, whether married or unmarried, who, by an express grant and gift of God, through his Prophet the Holy Joe, are set apart and consecrated to the use and benefit of particular individuals, as secret, spiritual wives" (Bennett 1842, 223). As in the former case, the prophet inquired of the Lord, and if a favorable answer was received, the two parties went through a ceremony in the lodge room.
It is doubtful that the three orders described by Bennett ever existed, but his allegations had some elements of truth. The Relief Society did in fact interrogate at least a few women concerning rumors of improper and unvirtuous conduct. But rather than consigning these women to the ranks of Cyprian Saints, the Society, under the leadership of Emma Smith, actually worked against the teaching of polygamy. Nonetheless, unknown to Emma, Joseph secretly married a number of the leading women of the Society. Furthermore, some older women, such as Elizabeth Durfee and Elizabeth Allred, were used by Mormon leaders to approach other women: "Sometimes referred to as 'Mothers in Israel,' they assisted Joseph by contacting women, explaining the new order of marriage to them, and occasionally delivering marriage proposals" (Newell and Avery 1984, 109).
Although the Book of Mormon refers to the wives and concubines of the Jaredites and Nephites, it does not describe the existence of various orders of women. Nonetheless, there is the possibility that Bennett derived his account of the three orders from the record which contained the history of the secret works and abominations of the Jaredites. Bennett's allegation that Joseph inquired of the Lord through his peep-stone concerning sexual and matrimonial liaisons also recalls the stone of Gazelem (Alma 37:23), which was for the purpose of discovering secret works and abominations.
If a system of prostitutes and spiritual wives was described in the Book of Mormon, an important source may have been Eusebius's account of certain heretics. Eusebius quotes from a report of a church synod regarding Paul of Samosata, who became bishop of Antioch and taught that Christ was an ordinary man:
Yet those who sing hymns and praises to him in the congregation say that their blasphemous teacher is an angel come down from heaven; and he allows this to go on even when he is there to hear, such is his vanity. And what of his 'spiritual brides', as the Antioch people call them? and those of his presbyters and deacons, with whom he joins in concealing this and their other incurable sins . . . .
. . . we are aware also how many through taking 'spiritual brides' have fallen, while others have become suspect. . . . How could he reprove another man, or advise him not to associate any longer with a 'bride', for fear of a slip -- as Scripture warns us -- when he has dismissed one already and now has two in his house, both young and pretty, whom he takes round with him whenever he leaves home . . . . (Eusebius 1965, 317-18)
In another passage, Eusebius quotes Irenaeus on the "mysteries" of a man named Marcus: "Some of them fit out a bridal chamber, and celebrate a mystery with invocations on those being initiated, declaring that what they are doing is a spiritual marriage on the pattern of the unions above; others take the candidates to water and baptize them . . . ." (Eusebius 1965, 164).
Bennett's 1842 exposé also described ceremonies which took place in the Order Lodge: "One of the most curious and ludicrous ceremonies, connected with the initiation into Order Lodge, is this: After the precious ointment has been poured upon the candidate, a hole is cut in the bosom of his shirt. This shirt must never, on any account, be worn again, but must be sacredly preserved, to keep the Destroying Angel from them and their families. These shirts are committed to the care of the wives of the members, and none but them must touch them, or know of their existence. They believe that these shirts will preserve them from death, and secure to them an earthly immortality . . . ." (Bennett 1842, 277). Joseph Smith later designed temple garments which were to be worn under regular clothing, and Mormons continue to believe that the garments have the power to guard the wearer from bodily harm. The temple garments obviously symbolize the clothing which God gave to Adam and Eve before they were expelled from the Garden of Eden: "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). But the beliefs concerning the magical power of the garments also reveals the influence of Jewish legend. Rappoport relates the history of Adam's garment:
This garment Adam had left to Enoch, Enoch to Methuselah, and Methuselah to Noah who took it with him into the ark. Here Ham stole it and left it to his son Kush. It was in this garment that Nimrod arrayed himself, thus becoming invulnerable and invincible. He easily conquered all his enemies and slew all the hostile armies. Arrayed in the clothes which God had made for Adam and Eve, Nimrod was possessed of great power. . . . Esau, the son of Isaac, who was also a mighty hunter, saw the coats which the Almighty had once made for Adam and Eve, and he coveted them in his heart. He was very anxious to make himself possessed of this precious raiment, hoping thus to become a mighty and powerful hunter and hero by means of these clothes. Esau, therefore, slew Nimrod and took the raiment from him, and was thus enabled to catch the animals and become a cunning hunter. The clothes were subsequently concealed in the earth by Jacob, who said that none was worthy to wear them. (Rappoport 1987, 1:234-35)
Another version of this myth says that Shem/Melchizedek gave the garment to Abraham and that it passed from one generation to another, until Moses gave it to Aaron as the robe of the high priest.
The Book of Mormon must have distinguished between different orders of the priesthood. In fact, the Doctrine and Covenants seems to give information about the Aaronic, Melchizedek, and patriarchal priesthoods, which is missing from the Book of Mormon. Joseph and Oliver tried initially to suppress the distinction between greater and lesser orders of the priesthood, opting for a more simplified structure. If Joseph had written the Book of Mormon and had worked out the history of the priesthood and its various orders, it is unlikely that he would have first removed the information from the Book of Mormon and then later reintroduced it in such a confusing manner.
There are strong disagreements between the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's later teachings on baptism for the dead and polygamy. If Joseph had written the Book of Mormon, it is difficult to believe that he would have changed his views so drastically as to proclaim new doctrines which directly oppose those of the Book of Mormon. The new teachings reveal that they came from the same mind that conceived the Book of Mormon, for they seem to draw upon such sources as the Bible, Roman history, Hebrew legends, Eusebius, and Montaigne. It is unlikely that Joseph Smith would have utilized all of these sources in formulating new doctrines. We are led to conclude that Joseph did not write the Book of Mormon and that even his new teachings did not come from his own imagination.
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