Scriptural Discussion #15: Abortion


The Lord said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” (D&C 59: 6)


Next Scriptural Discussion: #16 DAVID AND SOLOMON


Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist

Bringing Stan Tenen and The Meru Foundation to the Attention of all LDS [alternate title: Doing what4anarchy’s Job]

Some Background Information

what4anarchy and I have a running joke—at least, I think it’s funny; he isn’t all that amused—where every time he mentions the name Stan Tenen, I can’t help but chuckle. The joke is that over the years he has mentioned Stan so many times in conversations—in fact, I’d say that in pretty much every conversation we have it is fairly guaranteed that he will mention Stan—that I kid him that Stan is his prophet, that he is engaging in Stan worship or prophet worship.

Now, although he has mentioned him to me for years, it still took what4anarchy awhile before he actually got a Stan Tenen video in front of me; and despite my teasing, I did watch it. But I think I was really tired from working and ended up falling asleep, not remembering everything/anything, etc.

Well, to his credit, what4anarchy kept after me and got another media production in front of me: a Meru Foundation dvd. This time I was awake. Although it was still the same tall, long-haired Jewish guy at a white board lecturing in a small classroom setting that I had seen earlier, I didn’t fall asleep. My kids did not appreciate that I was spending hours watching this guy talking about “weird” things. They wanted to see a “real movie,” an “entertaining movie,” not some “boring” movie.

It struck me that my young, inexperienced children were defining the word “boring” to mean anything that engages the mind to think deeply, whereas anything that disengages it so that they don’t have to think things through, but only receive visual and audio stimulation, is “exciting.” My own definition of those two words would be quite the opposite.

As I said, this time I was awake.

Afterward what4anarchy asked me what I thought and he wanted to know if I “got it.” Well, I got it. And here’s what I thought:


Now, before I begin, you need to understand that what4anarchy and myself part company when it comes to “striving with the masses.” (By “the masses” I’m referring to a strictly LDS audience.) He will continually strive with them, trying to open their minds. I will give them the time of day, but the instant I see a closed mind, I shut my mouth and say nothing more. But he will attempt to bait them again and again, hoping for a bite in which some more truth important to the gospel can be thrown in. In fact, he even uses Stan as bait. Stan. Before hearing Stan Tenen speak (without sleeping through it) that didn’t impress me. Now it does. You see, Stan Tenen is on a whole ‘nother level than your average church-going member.

Mental laziness

We LDS (in general) are mentally lazy, just as all of us Americans (in general) are mentally lazy. Stan cannot be watched and comprehended without engaging the mind. So, in my estimation, trying to open up Stan to a LDS is a futile effort. It is like trying to get young, inexperienced children to watch a guy at a white board talk about geometric shapes. They ain’t going to do it! Even if you force them to sit and watch, they will be thinking of other things and will learn absolutely nothing. There is no way children can do it. Adults can do it, but children can’t, unless they are above average in maturity.

And that’s basically what I told what4anarchy. “Yes, Stan and The Meru Foundation research is amazingly pertinent to a study of the restored gospel, despite he being a non-LDS Jew. You know it and now I know it. It will benefit us, but there is no way LDS can be shown this and they’d be interested. It doesn’t come from Salt Lake. It’s about the Hebrew language (not the English language in which the modern prophets of God speak, if you get my drift.) Stan’s a mathematician, not a theologian. This is scientific, not religious. They’ll never go for it.” Etc., etc.

So why am I doing it? Because I inadvertently mentioned Stan in a recent comment on this blog and since I’ve now let the cat out of the bag and since what4anarchy was really the man to talk about Stan but he’s too busy to do it, I guess I’ll do it just to do it and get it over with. But I don’t expect anyone at all to actually be interested in him.

Why Meru Foundation Research Is Important

Stan found a fundamental gesture language in Hebrew, which contains both the one and the infinite all locked together. Using the gesture language alone, he has been able to uncover secrets of the Universe and about God, things which only temple-attending LDS should know. When a temple-attending LDS (that doesn’t sleep through sessions) takes what Stan Tenen and The Meru Foundation have discovered and learned using this gesture language, and then super-imposes it upon the restored gospel knowledge base, suddenly new “mysteries of godliness” open up to view. To those LDS who never access Tenen’s work or who never study Hebrew in the way he has done, revealing the hidden “gesture language,” they will remain perpetually in the dark concerning these other mysteries.

Personally, I think that is as it should be. But in case there are some interested in learning more about Stan and his work, click any of the following video links to open up a new window and see some of the free video nuggets he has allowed out. Then, if you are still interested, go into his web site and dig deeper. Good luck!

The Videos

All of these are on Google video:

A Good Introductory Video

First Light: An Overview of Meru Foundation Research (30:36)

The “Extreme Kabbalah” Series

Hebrew, Ayin to Tav (1:31)

Geometric Metaphor in Torah (1:10)

Genesis is Woven (1:18 )

Genesis in Base-3 (1:31)

Framing Meru Research: Reconciling the Irreconcilable (1:35)

Finding Geometry in Genesis (4:07)

Bible Math: Wreaths, Baskets, Braids, and Knots (2:35 not currently available)

Bible Literalism (1:16)

Bible Codes (1:57)

Beyond Babel: The Gesture Alphabet of Genesis (1:14)

All Letters are from Yud (1:59)

Modeling Genesis (1:47)

Mind–Hand–World (1:31)

Logic and Hierarchy of Genesis (1:45)

Literal Meaning in the Bible (1:22)

Hebrew Flame Letters (1:18 )

Vortex Flame Letters: Separating Sense from Nonsense (1:25)

A Universal Mode of Life (3:58 )

Torah and Pi (2:05)

Torah: A Universal Constant (1:34)

Toku K’varo: The Hand Unifies Mind and World (2:29)

The Tree of Life (2:29)

The Meditation in Genesis (1:52)

The Letter-Text of Genesis as Creation (1:44)

The Letter Bet (1:21)

The Hand of Genesis (1:46)

The God of Abraham (3:58 )

The Genesis Torus (“Donut”) (1:18 )

The First Word of Genesis and the Bible Codes (1:53)

Solving Babel: Universal Gesture Language (1:24)

Self-Reference in Genesis and the Alphabet (1:20)

The Letters of Genesis: A Natural Unfurlment (1:31 on YouTube)

Hebrew, Greek, Arabic Letters from Genesis (1:11 on YouTube)

Introducing Hebrew Gesture Letters

Dance of the Hebrew Letters (34:34)

Next Stan Tenen article: A note from Stan Tenen

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist

A Knowlege of the Stars

5,127 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2007

a knowledge of the stars

What Joseph Smith Taught the Early Saints

I advised all to search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 6:363.)

I also gave some instructions in the mysteries of the kingdom of God; such as the history of the planets, Abraham’s writings upon the planetary systems, etc. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 118.)

The heavens and the earth that we see now are not those seen by our ancestors. As the reader will see herein, this is the lesson that Joseph Smith and all the prophets taught. This is a lesson that every modern Saint who seeks to better understand the scriptures, the words of the prophets and the temple experience would do well to study carefully.

If we are to believe the scriptures and modern prophets, those who lived before Noah’s flood experienced a wholly different environment than that which we see today—something modern science flatly denies. This transformation of the sky above us and the earth beneath our feet is one of the primary themes of revelation, ancient and modern, reflected in the oft-repeated scriptural phrase, “new heavens and new earth.” (See the included monograph by this author entitled “New Heaven, New Earth” for a more complete explanation.)

Because this concept is so well established in the scriptures, it should come as no surprise to any Mormon. Yet, when the implications and ramifications behind this bit of poetic prose are explained, church members almost universally react with surprise and incredulity, followed by skepticism and suspicion, even though this concept is fundamental to understanding the scriptures and the prophets and puts an entirely different light on many other concepts or principles within the restored gospel. (See “A Gospel Litmus Test,” “Modern Signs,” and “Stars, Planets, Moons and Temples.”)

This state of affairs points out a conceptual weakness unique to today’s Saints. They are universally astounded to learn that early church leaders espoused cosmological views that are at variance with those we hold today. What may be needed is a perspective shift that would return today’s members to the views of the early church as they relate to ancient history and related astral events, a reorienting of our modern cosmological viewpoint to bring us into harmony with the founder of this church and early church leaders. To do that, we must examine some long neglected statements, from Joseph Smith and others, down to the present day. (See “The Golden Question” and “Signs of the Times.”)

In order to establish a corrected view of ancient planetary history in the minds of modern Saints, it is useful to consider statements from several church leaders and other members who report learning their views from the Prophet himself.

Brigham Young

Let’s begin with a view of the very earliest history of this Earth given us by the second prophet of this dispensation. In a conference address, President Brigham Young said, “When the earth was framed and brought into existence and man was placed upon it, it was near the throne of our Father in heaven. And when man fell … the earth fell into space and took up its abode in this planetary system and the sun became our light.

This is the glory the earth came from, and when it is glorified it will return again unto the presence of the Father ….” (Journal of Discourses, 17:143.)

When taken as a factual account rather than simply an allegorical statement, as it was likely intended, this observation is fraught with greater meaning.

First and foremost, it tells us that our Earth has not always orbited our Sun. It implies that this planet was located somewhere outside this solar system, only to later find its way into its present orbit.

Of course, such a notion flies in the face of modern astrophysical theory, which asserts that our Earth, along with the rest of the planets in the present solar system, coalesced from a nebular cloud that once surrounded our sun and that it has always been approximately where it is now.

This immediately puts the Saints on the horns of a dilemma, one that we will confront time and again in this narrative: Do we believe the concepts of modern science when they contradict the teachings of modern prophets? Or, do we place our faith in revealed truth rather than mainstream science? Where do our allegiances truly lie? Though most of us will give lip service to the belief that the words of the prophets prevail, in practice we act upon and view the world with the precepts of science. All Saints live with this dichotomy. (See “Children of the Light,” Eschatus, Vol 1, No. 1.)

It is to revelation, given through modern prophets, that we must turn for the final answer rather than science and its dependence upon the “precepts of men.”

Getting back to the statement itself, some will surely dismiss President Young’s declaration as purely allegorical rather than literal. They will say that this avoids the problem of dismissing the views of modern science in order to accept the words of a prophet, immediately settling the question without looking further.

Naturally, this is a valid observation, but it leaves us where we began our discussion, with a number of unanswered questions and the dissatisfaction of knowing that we may have overlooked some vital truths or misinterpreted the prophet’s meaning. Whereas, if we set this objection aside, temporarily suspending judgment until we can explore all the implications of Brigham’s statement and those of other leaders, we may find there is a much better explanation. We may actually come across something vital and enlightening if we but allow ourselves to explore the alternatives.

Notice, too, that President Young implies that the creation of the Earth and the placement of all creatures upon this world, up to and including Man, took place before our world found its present place, orbiting this Sun. Brigham stated, “This is the glory the earth came from ….” That would mean that the early descendents of Adam first bathed in a different light, that they did not see our Sun as we see it now. And if that was the case, the other planets in our solar system may not have been where we see them today at all.

Although President Young didn’t mention it, it is a natural assumption, supported by voluminous eyewitness accounts from ancient cultures the world over, that the relocation process experienced by this Earth, as referenced by Brigham, provided its human inhabitants with a spectacular series of celestial dramas that dramatically altered both their skies and the planet on which they stood, which drama played out over many generations and included numerous catastrophic events. (See “The New Saturn Myth,” Eschatus, Vol. 1, No. 2; “The Saturn Epic: In the Beginning, Eschatus, Vol.1, No.3; “The Saturn Epic: Mythmaking,” Eschatus, Vol 2, No. 1.)

President Young spoke of Earth’s prior position as being “near the throne of our Father in heaven.” This has far more sweeping implications than those that immediately meet the eye. For example, the explanations Joseph Smith gave for the hypocephalus hieroglyphs on the papyri that came into his hands are all about planets and stars, their relative locations to one another, their hierarchy and their proximity to the “residence” or “throne of God.” (See The Pearl of Great Price, pp. 36, 37.) The implications are that the Egyptian traditions and the icons used to rehearse, recall or memorialize them actually retain the knowledge of the heavens as they appeared in the earliest epoch of Earth’s history. Both Brigham and the Egyptians used the same terminology to describe this first estate of our planet as a place near God’s throne. The Egyptian tradition is filled with this sort of affirmation, but we mistakenly take it to be largely metaphorical because we base our beliefs on the current scientific model of Earth’s history, not the words of our prophets.

It should be noted that part of the evidence supporting these conjectures about Brigham’s statements comes from no less an authority than Joseph Smith in his explanations of the facsimiles, as we shall see.

Another stunning assumption can be inferred from President Young’s observation, “… and when it [the Earth] is glorified it will return again unto the presence of the Father ….” This parallels the doctrine of the restoration of all things. This concept is also embodied in the revelation that says, “Truth is the knowledge of things as they are, as they were and as they are to come.” Put yet another way, by knowing information about past celestial events, we can draw inferences about future events and vice versa—each is a reflection of the other, like two conceptual bookends. (See “A Tale of Two Books.”)

This is a notion that we will run into time and time again in this journey of discovery and wonder. The reader would do well to keep it in mind as we move forward.

Before moving on, it should be noted that this evidence and the weight it carries, coming from the credible sources it does, should force us to drastically rethink our allegiance to mainstream thought and our current perspective on these matters. As stated at the outset of this monograph, this evidence requires a radical shift in our own perspective.

Granted, this thesis extrapolates much from a very brief statement, and if taken alone, hardly constitutes proof of these assumptions. But there is much more that serves to corroborate Brigham’s views, so let’s move on.

Orson Hyde

Elder Orson Hyde, an early Apostle and the man who dedicated the Holy Land to the gathering of Israel, substantiated President Young’s statement about the Earth’s restoration to its former place and glory when he remarked, “God says he will gather all things into one; then he will gather the earth likewise …. The gathering will be upon a larger scale in time to come; for by and by the stars of heaven will fall. Which way will they go? They will rally to a grand center, and there will be one grand constellation of worlds.” (Journal of Discourses, 1:130.)

This statement amplifies on Brigham’s views by including other worlds in this gathering or restoration to its former location. Based on the restoration doctrine, we can also infer that this “constellation of worlds” was the arrangement that dominated the heavens anciently, in the beginning, when Earth was situated near the orb referred to as the “throne of God” by Brigham.

Elder Hyde’s reference to the “larger scale” of this gathering is a reflection on the idea that many planets, not just the Earth, were involved in the “fall” from its location near the orb referenced as “the throne of God, “ and that a group of planets and other orbs or “stars” will once again be gathered or returned to their former location. This statement has profound implications for our understanding and interpretation of the events prophesied to occur prior to the Savior’s second coming, providing a unifying theme for all such prophecy that makes it plain and easy to understand. (See “Keys to Prophecy, Joseph Smith’s Marvelous Key” and “Keys to Prophecy, What Joseph Taught.”)

In the journal of an early Latter-day Saint, Samuel Hollister Rogers, we find corroboration of this gathering of planets and stars. Rogers attributes this concept to Joseph Smith. “When these stars return to the place where they were taken from, it will cause the earth to reel to and fro. Not that the planets will come squarely against each other. In such case both planets would be broken to pieces. But, in their rolling motion, they will come together where they were taken from, which will cause the earth to reel to and fro.” (Journal of Samuel Hollister Rogers, 1840, B.Y.U Special Collections.)

Orson Pratt

Another clue to the ancient appearance of other orbs in Earth’s heavens is found in a statement made by Elder Orson Pratt. “About the time of Abraham, the Tower of Babel was built. … They thought that the City of Enoch was caught up a little ways from the earth, and that the city [planet] was within the first sphere above the earth; and that if they could get a tower high enough they might get to heaven where the City of Enoch and the inhabitants thereof were located.” (Journal of Discourses, 16:50.)

The reference to “the first sphere above the earth” is an allusion to the geocentric, Aristotelian view that the sun, moon, planets and stars were imbedded in nested, crystalline spheres, with the Earth at the center. Elder Pratt, an astronomer and mathematician, meant to infer that the planet was located as close to the Earth as our Moon, which was thought in ancient times to be in the “first sphere” above the Earth.

Since space is more typically the locus for planets rather than cities, it seems appropriate to infer that Elder Pratt meant that Enoch’s city was located on a planet.

Orson F. Whitney

Elder Orson F. Whitney, called to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1906, was born in Salt Lake City in 1855. Therefore, he could not have learned these things from Joseph Smith personally. But, as can be seen in his statement below, he directly and specifically attributed this concept to the Prophet. In all probability, this indicates that he obtained this knowledge secondhand, though it may also have been confirmed to him through revelation. Of utmost significance to our study is the fact that it confirms that this type of perspective could still be found among the church membership in Whitney’s day and that it corroborates the cosmology of earlier church leaders. “… the object of the people who built the Tower of Babel (was) to reach heaven, to attain one of the starry planets, one of the heavenly bodies. … I cannot conceive how … a race of people … could cherish the idea that they could actually reach the sun, moon, or one of the stars simply by piling brick upon brick and stone upon stone. But the Prophet Joseph Smith, whose job it was to shed light upon the darkness of this generation, is said to have declared that it was not their intention to reach heaven, but to reach Zion, which was then suspended in mid-air between heaven and earth, or at such a height as to render the project feasible. This certainly is more reasonable.” (Collected Discourses, Vol. 1, p. 359.)

Reasonable or not, these two statements emphatically propose a wholly untenable concept in today’s astronomy: Earth was once at close quarters with another planet in the days of Babel’s tower. Additionally surprising is the fact that both Elders Hyde and Whitney unabashedly attribute this teaching to the Prophet, making it certain that Joseph was, in fact, the source of this concept.

Moreover, both statements infer that this planet was close enough to give the impression that it could be reached if one simply built a tall enough building. This mystery planet, referred to as a “city” by Elder Hyde, must have been an impressive sight if it seemed close enough to be within human grasp.

Perhaps most interesting of all is Elder Whitney’s reference to this planet as being “suspended in mid-air,” implying that it may not have orbited in the manner so familiar to us today. Rather, it suggests that the planet moved in tandem with the Earth. This notion borders on the preposterous, yet it is substantiated by another statement, this one from Elder Orson Pratt. “The Prophet Joseph once in my hearing advanced his opinion that the Ten Tribes were separated from the Earth or a portion of the Earth was, by a miracle, broken off and that the Ten Tribes were taken away with it, and that in the latter days it would be restored to the Earth or be let down in the polar regions.” (The Letter Box, as quoted in The Lost Tribes, p. 50.)

If this “portion of the Earth” were actually another planet that had once appeared to hover or be “suspended in mid-air,” as Elder Whitney stated, then its location above the North Pole would explain how it could appear to remain in a fixed position with relation to the Earth. The one star in our present heavens that does not appear to move around the night sky is Polaris, the North Star. Any planet fixed in that same position at some distance from the Earth would appear to hang motionless in the sky, remaining stationary there day and night. (See “Keys to Prophecy, Planets and Stars” and “Keys to Prophecy, A Great Star.”)

Not coincidentally, the constellation Ursa Major or the Big Bear is located on the west wall of the Salt Lake Temple, where it points directly at Polaris. A reasonable conclusion, drawn from this discussion, is that Orson Pratt, who was responsible for the iconography of that temple and articulated the polar idea in the above statement as well, understood the importance of the Axis Mundi concept (World Axis at the North Pole) and the role it played in the position of a planet or planets in Earth’s ancient skies. Hence, he set in stone on a latter-day temple the very concepts articulated in the above statements: a great planet once hovered above the Earth’s north pole.

Startling documentary evidence of Joseph’s cosmological beliefs

As extreme as that position may seem, it is substantiated by evidence produced by another of Joseph Smith’s closest associates, Philo Dibble, who served as a bodyguard to the Prophet. After relocating to Utah with the pioneer Saints, Dibble settled in Springville. He was well known to church leaders, who treated him with deference and respect because of his diligence and service to Joseph and the church. Neither did they challenge the concepts behind the next bit of evidence we will examine.

In 1884, Dibble produced an illustration he claimed had been personally drawn for him by Joseph Smith in 1842 as the Prophet explained to Dibble how the Earth had once been part of a group of planets in the distant past—assumably the same idea as Elder Hyde’s “constellation of worlds.” (See “Saturn Symbolism in the Salt Lake Temple,” Eschatus, Vol. 3, No. 3 and Vol. 3, No. 4; “The Polar Configuration, Saturn, the Crescent and Joseph Smith,” Eschatus, Vol. 4, No. 3; “What Joseph Knew,” Eschatus, Vol.5, No. 2, “Keys to Prophecy, Prophecy and the Restored Gospel.”)

Dibble Illustration

The conclusions that one can draw from looking at this Dibble illustration can be summarized thus: Not one but three planets once stood above the Earth’s north pole, sharing a common axis of rotation with one another and the Earth in a “shish kabob” configuration, as seen in the Dibble drawing. This unique positioning allowed them to appear stationary in Earth’s heavens such that the Babylonians considered it possible to build a tower to reach them. This “constellation of worlds” remained intact, contrary to all the tenets of our gravity-based, scientific notions, and orbited the sun in the same ecliptic plane as all the planets do today. Also, a tenuous column of lighted gases and dust seemed to interconnect these planets, as seen in the Dibble illustration.

Parley Pratt

Not only is that exceedingly strange, so is the final conclusion: A similar arrangement will be restored in the catastrophic events seen to occur prior to the Savior’s coming, as predicted in all prophecy. Elder Parley Pratt, Orson Pratt’s brother and an Apostle, said, “The stars [planets] which will fall to earth are fragments, which have been broken off from the earth from time to time in the mighty convulsions of nature …. These all must be restored again at the ‘times of restitution of all things.’ …When these fragments (some of which are vastly larger than the present earth) are brought back and joined to this earth, it will cause a convulsion of all nature …. The mountains will flow down, the valley rise, the sea retire to its own place, the islands and continents will be removed, and the earth be rolled together as a scroll.” (The Millennial Star, 1:258.)

This restoration of polarly aligned planets is echoed in the journal of Brother Rogers, who was quoted previously as saying, “… they will come together where they were taken from ….” And again, from another early church member’s journal, that of Wandle Mace, we read, “Some of you brethren have been coming up the river on a steamboat, and while seated at the table the steamboat (ran) against a snag, which upset the table and scattered the dishes; so it will be when these portions of the earth return. It will make the earth reel to and fro like a drunken man.” (The journal of Wandle Mace, p.47.)

Finally, from an extended discussion with the Prophet about the mechanisms behind such planetary encounters by an early church member, Homer M. Brown, great grandfather of Elder Hugh B. Brown, recalled these details of Joseph’s explanation. “Scientists will tell you … that two planets coming together would be disastrous to both. But, when two planets … are traveling in the same direction and one of them with a little greater velocity than the other, it would not be disastrous because the one traveling faster would overtake the other.

“Now, what would cause the mountains of ice to melt quicker than the heat caused by the friction of the two planets coming together?

“Now, Brother Brown, at the present time this earth is rotating very rapidly. When this planet returns it will make the earth much heavier, and it will then revolve slower, and that will account for the waters receding from the earth ….” (The Last Days, pp. 90, 91.)

These are not the only evidentiary documents that could be cited. There are literally dozens of such references strewn about in the records left behind by the early Saints. While admittedly anecdotal in nature and therefore subject to doubt, taken together they form a compelling and coherent body of information that bears further study and compels us to examine our presently held beliefs regarding Earth’s true history.

Not only do these statements offer considerable evidence from a variety of sources that Joseph Smith was, indeed, teaching these concepts to the early Saints, apparently, this was our founding prophet’s view of Earth’s early history. If so, we would do well to abandon our present views, steeped in an apparently flawed scientific paradigm, in favor of the more enlightened views on these subjects held by the prophets.

Also, since virtually all these men referenced Joseph Smith as the author or originator of these ideas, it seems likely that even at that early date, when the scholarly doctrines of Uniformitarianism or Gradualism had just begun to take root in the minds of church members, these brethren felt obliged to recur to the authoritative intellect of the Prophet to give their statements validity or gravitas in the minds of the Saints. They should have an identical effect upon us.

More important still is the marvelous discovery we make by adopting this viewpoint and informing ourselves in all its facets. A multitude of questions in the restored gospel are thereby immediately resolved—such issues as the exterior and interior symbolism of modern temples, Joseph’s explanations of his Egyptian papyri and other scriptural accounts such as Abraham’s story about planets, moons, suns and stars in the Pearl of Great Price, John’s enigmatic vision recorded in his Apocalypse or Revelation and all the cryptic visions of the prophets.

Moreover, the paradigm shift this information provides allows a profound and enlarged understanding of nearly every facet of the restored gospel for the Saints. Indeed, this is the central purpose of this study: to make plain the symbolism of the scriptures and the temple experience in order to allow the Saints to better interpret the words of the prophets and grasp the core concepts of the restored gospel.

If, indeed, this is what Joseph Smith learned through revelation about the early history of the Earth, then it is incumbent upon all Latter-day Saints to understand it and make it their own. These precepts were part of what made Mormonism truly unique and Mormons a peculiar people. Without this remarkable and noteworthy perspective, our views would differ little from those of every other Christian denomination, making us as salt with no savor. (See “Keys To Prophecy, An Introduction.”)

A scientific counterpart to the prophets’ concepts

Happily for those who are made uncomfortable with notions that fly in the face of mainstream orthodox science, there is a group of modern scholars and scientists that agree with these concepts. Their explanation of Earth’s earliest history, while unorthodox and disputed by many in the mainstream, concurs with the Brethren’s observations and fills in many otherwise missing details. This should also come as very welcome news to those current Saints who perceive the ongoing conflict between mainstream science and religion—most especially the restored gospel.

Saying “a costly misunderstanding of planetary history must now be corrected,” these maverick scientists and scholars have set about correcting the fundamental misconceptions of a planetary science and cosmology conceived in the gaslight era when electricity was poorly understood and a mere novelty, when plasmas in space were not even imagined and the very best telescopes would not allow a good view of our neighboring planets let alone the multitude of galaxies, stellar clusters and planetary nebulae abundant in our heavens.

A comparative mythologist, Dave Talbott, who has written extensively on the cosmological implications of the sacred traditions of all ancient cultures, and his coauthor, Wallace Thornhill, a physicist who is the primary proponent of the novel idea that it is electrical energy in plasma that lights and governs our universe, have teamed up to explain that Earth, along with other planets, was once a satellite of a brown dwarf star, which was subsequently captured by our Sun, a similar affirmation to that made by Brigham Young.

Together, Talbott and Thornhill question the fundamental pillar of today’s theoretical cosmology—the concept of the “uneventful solar system.” They are adamant that the Sun’s acquisition of that brown dwarf star, now known as the planet Saturn, and its entourage took place within historic times, as evidenced by the records, traditions and religions of all ancient cultures. These ancient civilizations, which unanimously declare that Earth was once lighted by Saturn, now classified as a “dark star” or “failed star” by astronomers due to its energetic output, is the same orb that many cultural traditions designate as the “first sun,” or “best sun,” as well as “god’s throne.” The Babylonians, for example, made the most unequivocal statement of all ancient civilizations when they wrote, “The sun is Saturn.”

Talbott wrote of his and Thornhill’s studies, “Following quite different research paths, we arrived at the same conclusion: the ancient sky was alive with activity. The evidence suggests that only a few thousand years ago planets moved close to Earth, producing electrical phenomena of intense beauty and terror. Ancient sky worshippers witnessed these celestial wonders, and far-flung cultures recorded the events in the great myths, symbols, and ritual practices of antiquity.” (Thunderbolts of the Gods, p. 6.)

They additionally declare that the appearance and movements of planets that once hovered near the Earth, together with the life-like movements seen in electrified plasma displays of light and sound that erupted between those neighboring planets, are the source of all ancient astral symbolism, hyperbole and metaphor.

Ultimately, Elder Hyde’s “constellation of worlds”—called the “Polar Configuration” by Talbott et al and dramatically illustrated in the Dibble diagram—was dismembered, and each of its component orbs settled quickly into the orbits around the Sun where we see them today. But, that settling process entailed a number of close encounters between planets over several centuries that wreaked havoc on each of them, including our Earth, as the Elders Pratt asserted.

Once again, these are key concepts found in the statements by church leaders that we have explored herein. Ancient accounts from cultures the world over, including our Old Testament, report those catastrophic encounters in cryptic, enigmatic, arcane and obscure terms that are nevertheless easy to decipher from the point of view apparently offered by Joseph Smith and the proponents of the Neo-Catastrophist movement. (The evidence validating this view is voluminous and thus not practicable for citation here. However, reading this author’s body of work citing, examining and explaining that evidence and its relevance to the restored gospel will substantiate the validity of this view and expand the reader’s gospel knowledge exponentially.)

For the purposes of this essay, it is sufficient to say that there exists a thoroughly scientific, albeit unorthodox, premise for these seemingly extravagant and unsupported statements by Prophets and Apostles, as well as numerous other church members. In fact, the study of comparative mythology from a Catastrophist point of view, initiated by Immanuel Velikovsky in the mid-20th Century and more recently elaborated by Dave Talbott and Wallace Thornhill, among many others, has provided the foundation for a fast-growing movement within scientific circles called Neo-Catastrophism. ( See “The Great and Abominable Church.”)

Adding further scientific weight to this movement is the burgeoning field of plasma physics, which disputes the very foundations of Newtonian physics. These scientists propose that the weak force of gravity is vastly overwhelmed by the actions of electromotive forces generated in ionized plasmas in space, which comprise over 99% of the mass in the universe. Having dubbed their theory “the Electric Universe,”—a cosmos where electricity and the magnetic fields that electric currents generate are the primary governing forces that organize galaxies and solar systems, as well as supplying the energy that causes suns and galaxies to shine brilliantly—they cite laboratory experiments that confirm their thesis, duplicating the phenomena and structures we see through our telescopes and space probes sent to other planets. (See “The Electric Universe,” Eschatus, Vol, 7, No. 2.)

This new pioneering field has been built upon the shoulders of giants such as Kristian Birkeland, Irving Langmuir, Noble Laureate Hannes Alfven and his colleague Anthony Peratt of the prestigious Los Alamos Laboratories. This novel view even includes the controversial work of noted astronomer Halton Arp, the author of Seeing Red.

Plasma physics explains the mechanisms and energy source needed to create the sorts of ancient, astral phenomena and events spoken of by the early Brethren. Noting that the electromagnetic force is a thousand, billion, billion, billion, billion times greater than the force of gravity, these scientists and scholars have constructed a series of scenarios that parallel the seemingly extravagant declarations of early Mormon theologians. (See “Prophets and Plasmas,” Eschatus, Vol. 7, No. 3.)

When has that ever before happened? Mainstream science is historically antagonistic where religion is concerned and downright hostile to Mormonism in particular. It is quite refreshing and enlightening to find a scientific paradigm that is in harmony with the restored gospel and unique throughout recent history, since the beginning of the Renaissance.

It is fortuitous that this information should come to light when it can augment and amplify our gospel comprehension many fold, to say nothing of immeasurably strengthening our testimonies. This is not an intellectual exercise, providing little of value; it is a journey of marvelous discovery, wonder and revelation into the very core of the restored gospel.

If revelation is the heart and soul of the gospel of Jesus Christ, this information may constitute its bone and sinew–the very framework of our restored religion, acquired through the work of Joseph Smith.



The Name of God

1,065 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2000

The Name of God

“Sound is an evocative and thus a creative experience. Many

cultures credit the gods with the power to make sounds, either

through natural agencies, such as wind, water, and animals, or

through musical instruments. In myth, sound can be bewitching

(the voices of the sirens), or destructive (the shout with which

Joshua and the Israelites felled the walls of Jericho). Many

creation myths talk of sound disturbing the pre-existent

stillness, thereby bringing the world into being.” David Fontana,

The Secret Language of Symbols, (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 1994), p. 64.

Velikovsky suggested that all humanity had once heard what they perceived to be a celestial voice, which spoke the name of God.

That name, according to the good doctor, can be found in the ancient traditions of many cultures today, good evidence that the voice was heard worldwide in antiquity. Perhaps the best instance of its preservation is in the sacred Hebrew name, YAHWEH. For reasons that will become clear by the end of this monograph, the ineffable word was mere onomatopoeia.

The source of this voice, according to Dr. Velikovsky, was the electromagnetic oscillations produced by the interplay between Earth and a proximate body. The Earth, acting as a great transducer or speaker, effectively converted those electromagnetic waves into audible sounds. A clue to the nature and form of this ancient voice may be found in the behavior of modern radio receivers because they convert electromagnetic signals into audio-in effect, doing the same thing that the Earth did anciently.

Early radio receivers often produced an annoying ‘whistling’ sound that can only be called an electronic glissando. This sound began at a very high tone, slid down to a very low tone, then slid back up to the high tone. In fact, the receiver was reproducing a long wavelength carrier frequency on which the program audio was superimposed or modulated. The carrier wave is normally suppressed by circuitry within the radio so that only the desirable program material-music or voice-was reproduced. The technology to suppress the carrier signal was crude in early receivers, hence the ‘whistle’ was often heard when attempting to tune the set.

This ‘whistle’ holds the key to understanding the sacred name, YAHWEH.

To understand the relationship, we must alter that crude ‘whistle.’ Perhaps the most useful device for its reproduction is a modern analog music synthesizer, which can be manipulated-using tone or waveform generators, envelope generators and a variety of filters-to produce “electronic” sounds of epic proportions. In fact, the ‘whistle’ effect can be enhanced and refined to reproduce what must certainly be a close approximation of the sound the ancients heard.

First, we begin with ‘pink noise’-a hissing, rumbling noise that contains all audible frequencies sounding at the same time, with extra emphasis on the lower frequencies. This is the simple ‘shhhh’ sound we make with our mouths when we wish to quiet a noisy child. This represents the omnipresent background noise in the Universe, generated by all the electromagnetic activity around us. We push that noise through a comb filter, which is driven by an extremely low frequency sine wave-a pure fundamental tone that is the equivalent of the electronic oscillations set up by intersecting planets in antiquity. The sine wave causes the filter to emphasize only those parts of the pink noise that correspond to its amplitude-the ‘peak’ of the wave emphasizes only the highest frequencies, the ‘valley’ of the wave emphasizes only the lowest frequencies. This produces a ‘swishing’ sound, much like that which you can make with your mouth by rapidly opening and closing your lips while making the “shhhh” sound. It sounds like the onomatopoeic word ‘swish’ repeated over and over.

The sound heard by the ancients was undoubtedly far more complex due to its nature as a random or chaotic electromagnetic event. By adding several other minor tones to our sound, we arrive at an even more dynamic sound that, I believe, is more representative of the sound heard in antiquity. Finally, by increasing the amplitude of our fundamental sine wave-beginning with an extremely high-pitched, noisy tone that gradually shifts to an extremely low, rumbling frequency-we approach the dynamics of the ancient sound. The ‘swish’ now moves at a snail’s pace and it varies from extremely high to extremely low frequencies. What we hear now is probably what the ancients heard.

If you do not have access to an analog synthesizer, you can use your mouth and your voice to simulate an onomatopoeic expression of it. Using only the vowel sounds, begin by making the ‘eeee’ sound heard in the word ‘me,’ with your jaw closed. At the same time use your vocal cords to intone the highest tone possible. Proceed from vowel to vowel-eeee, aaaa, oooo-letting your jaw open gradually as you purse your lips, all the while dropping the frequency of the tone you are singing until you are at the lowest tone possible and your mouth forms a perfect ‘o.’ Then, without stopping, reverse the sequence of sounds and events until you end where you began, with the ‘eeee’ sound.

You have just spoken the sacred name of God, YAHWEH, as the ancients heard it and subsequently articulated it in countless sacred ceremonies and holy proceedings in antiquity.

It seems likely that this sound was heard repeatedly and in various forms. At times it would have been at a very low volume-almost a whisper. It would have seemed to the listener that the pianissimo voice was whispering right in one’s ear. On other occasions it would have been a mind-numbing, ear-splitting cacophony that would have been felt as much as heard, seemingly penetrating the very fiber of one’s being. Such descriptions of the voice of deity are replete in ancient records.

Of course, this was not the only sound heard anciently as the result of electromagnetic waves turned audible. As others have suggested, trumpet-like sounds, drum-like sounds and ringing, bell-like sounds were heard. Thus, these instruments found their way into the liturgy of all cultures in an attempt to replicate (re-member, as Talbott put it) the sacred sounds. So, too, the chants and mantras of all religions, including the chorale renditions of modern Christianity, hearken back to those audible sounds produced when the planets stood in proximity to one another.

One wonders if composers, like their artistic counterparts who draw on universal symbology for their inspiration, do not subconsciously draw on those ancient sounds to reproduce them in modern musical expressions. This would explain the power of some orchestral and choral compositions to affect emotional responses. Indeed, the more true a musical expression is to the ancient originals, the more power it would seem to have for its listeners. This would explain why these sounds are so important to sacred rites and rituals. They not only replicate the sounds, they duplicate the human response to them. These sounds, then, were literally the ‘music of the spheres’ and the ‘voice of God’.



The Gospel Litmus Test

746 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2005


A chemist can determine the pH of any substance by dipping a bit of colored paper into it. Called “litmus” paper, its color changes depending upon the acidity or alkalinity of the compound in question—one color if it is acidic, another if it is basic. It’s a fundamental and uncomplicated test.

There is a similar such test to determine the extent of our gospel comprehension, to determine how well we read and study the scriptures.

It’s called prophecy.

Most Latter-day Saints are likely to dismiss such a notion out of hand, since they consider prophecy to be a rather esoteric and narrow part of the gospel and thus the least likely candidate for such a gauge or standard. After all, prophetic symbolism seems to have little to do with the day-to-day, practical application of our religion.

So, how can one possibly construe prophecy to be a test for anything, much less the depth of our gospel understanding?

It is precisely because the colorful and peculiar imagery of prophecy permeates all of scripture, not just prophetic visions. It is the symbol and imagery-laden language of the prophets.

The beasts seen in Ezekiel’s and Daniel’s Old Testament visions as well as those seen by John in Revelation are the same beasts that are seen on Joseph Smith’s facsimiles and those described in the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.

The ‘miracles’ of the Exodus are the same as the ‘signs’ in Revelation, and they corroborate and illuminate Joseph Smith’s statements about the nature of latter-day signs in his journal, History of the Church.

The planets, stars and other enigmatic symbols that adorn our latter-day temples are also found in our sacred texts, and the explicitly symbolic nature of the rituals and fixtures found within those hallowed walls point us to the lofty value that latter-day prophets placed on that imagery, however obscure it may seem to us.

Perhaps more telling is the fact that after the heavens were effectively sealed for centuries, of all the choice scripture that the angel Moroni could have chosen to quote to the young Joseph Smith when he first appeared to him in 1823, he quoted prophecy—Malachi, Isaiah, and Joel. Its message is that important.

Prophecy is at the heart of our religion, though we seem reluctant to acknowledge that truth. The gospel was restored and the church was subsequently founded on the notion of Adventism, the doctrine that the second coming of Christ, in the wake of a worldwide destruction called the apocalypse, is near at hand.

Instead, we almost universally focus on the spiritual message of the scriptures, disregarding the imagery as mere poetic affectation. In doing so, we overlook fully half of the information in the scriptures. Like the proverbial forest in the trees, it is virtually invisible to us.

As a result, our gospel comprehension suffers. We cannot make sense of the bizarre imagery of prophecy. We also fail to see much of what the sacred texts were meant to convey. We go through temple sessions without grasping the profound enormity of the message that the imagery we see there represents. When we look at Joseph Smith’s facsimiles, we see them only as oddities and curiosities that once entertained the passing interest of a prophet rather than the very keys to gospel comprehension.

In making all these omissions, we dismiss as inconsequential the message God and his prophets have carefully placed before us. We dismiss a vital part of the gospel of Jesus Christ as mere decorative glitter.

If the spiritual message of salvation is the gospel’s heart and soul, then the imagery and symbolism are its bone and sinew. That’s why it’s found everywhere in the restored church, from the scriptures, to the temples, to the discourses of modern prophets.

This is our litmus test: To the extent to which we do or do not understand the imagery of prophecy, we also fail to understand the rest of scriptural imagery.

Our casual acquaintance with our own gospel betrays a lack of study and dedication to its comprehension. We do not “search the scriptures,” as we’ve been counseled to do. We skim through them. We read, but without comprehension.

Hence, we get repeated pleas from the Brethren to read our scriptures—the most recent: Read the Book of Mormon.

Thus, our comprehension of prophecy is a clear indication of our overall gospel understanding. This being the case, most of us fail the gospel litmus test, since for most Latter-day Saints prophecy is a mystery, wrapped in a conundrum, couched in an enigma.



The Last Lecture

1870 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2007

The last lecture

(A speech outline.)

Years ago at BYU, a new lecture series was instigated. Called the “Last Lecture,” it was formatted to give the lecturer the opportunity to speak as though it were the last address he or she would give before dying—a sort of gospel last will and testament, if you will.

That’s what I would like to do today. If I knew I was going to be called home tomorrow, this is what I would want to say to you right now.

Over the last 40 years or so, I have dedicated my spare time—outside raising a family and earning a living—to an in-depth study of the restored gospel. That study resulted in a distinctive view, one that prompted me to become an author and lecturer—roles I had never previously contemplated in my wildest fantasies.

In so doing, I found myself breathing rather rarified air: None of my fellow Saints seemed aware of the information I had ferret out and then sought to share with them. In fact, it became apparent early on that most church members regarded my views with the same hesitation and scorn that they reserved for reports of UFO sightings, vanishings in the Bermuda Triangle and chance encounters with Big Foot or Yeti in remote regions of the world. They almost entirely discounted what I sought to teach, and they regarded me as nothing more than a purveyor of “odd knowledge” having little to do with their understanding of the gospel or the real world.

As time went on and my research progressed, this conceptual and perceptual gap widened. I discovered whole areas of thought and information of which most members were seemingly totally unaware. It was apparent that this traditional symbolism touched on more than simply prophetic imagery; it had sweeping implications for every aspect of the gospel, including temple iconography and ritual—perhaps one of the least understood facets of the restoration.

And this puzzled me as much as it perplexed others.

At first, I questioned my own conclusions. How could it be that everyone else had missed this information? Logic and reason suggested that I had probably shimmied out on a faux limb; otherwise, most members would already know these things. After all, we all belong to the one, true church, guided by inspired men. How could it be that with revelation in the church there would be gaps in our gospel knowledge? It just didn’t seem logical or possible.

Nevertheless, the evidence continued to mount as my research progressed. Thanks to a quiet revolution in the natural sciences, this information was notoriously obvious and readily available. There could be no doubt about the validity of the concepts I was learning.

Ere long, my research uncovered the indisputable fact that these ideas had been taught in the early days of the church by general authorities. Most reported that they had learned these concepts from the horse’s mouth: the prophet Joseph Smith himself.

So, I was confronted with a dilemma. On the one hand, the modern church, with leaders who I knew to be inspired, seemed to know little or nothing of the things I had discovered. On the other, the evidence was overwhelming that the concepts were correct and had been taught early on in the restoration. How, I wondered, could this seeming dichotomy be resolved? What had apparently blinded the majority of church members to such information?

The answer was actually quite simple, but not easy to see and sometimes hard to acknowledge. It was we, the Saints, who had dropped the ball.

It’s not that I had discovered something heretofore unknown; I had simply discovered for myself something that every Latter-day Saint should also have learned in the course of a thoroughgoing study of the restored gospel. I was unique only in that I had followed that distinct trail of evidentiary breadcrumbs through the informational forest. I had gone without reservation where others feared to tread. They had elected to ignore those bits as irrelevant or misleading.

Let me demonstrate the indifference or apathy of the Saints for you. For example, how many of you have taken the opportunity to read through the Bible dictionary in your scriptures? (Hold up the scriptures.) There is a wealth of information there. Even though it’s only just about 200 pages long, most Saints have never taken the time to study those few pages. Or, what about Joseph Smith’s own diary, History of the Church? How many of us have read his views firsthand? No truly earnest member can claim they understand their founding prophet if they have not read his own statements on a myriad of issues, spiritual and secular. It’s a virtual treasure trove of gospel information. Yet, most members don’t even know it exists.

Some may say that they can’t be expected to do all that reading. My rejoinder is to ask, How long have you been a member? Five years? Ten years? Most of your adult life? How is that not enough time to do a little reading?

Most of us have read untold volumes in our lifetime: newspapers, magazines, manuals, books, etc. Yet, we’ve not found time to fully study the gospel, our virtual passbook to salvation and exaltation. Instead, like recalcitrant children, most of us balk at true study. Instead, we depend upon the general authorities and others to spoon-feed us.

And therein lies the flaw in our logic.

What the brethren have concentrated on, as the Lord charged them to do, are the basics: the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. It’s missionary work, all well designed, carefully orchestrated and calculated to reach out to nonmembers and new members alike, to get them solidly based in the fundamental principles of the restored gospel. What we hear in general conference talks and in church each Sunday is meant to support one mission and one mission only: convert the Saints and get them moving along the right path.

The rest of the information is our responsibility, again, by divine design.

Yet, most of us are stuck in that early growth stage in our gospel progression. True, we fulfill our callings and even comply with church standards sufficient to go to the temple for the higher ordinance work. Yet, we do so largely without understanding what we see and experience there and in our reading of the scriptures as well.

Due to our almost complete failure to truly study the “fullness” of the gospel, we struggle with huge information gaps. Those are evidenced by our gospel blind spots: the imagery of ancient wisdom used in the metaphors of prophecy, the symbolism of our temples and the language of the prophets.

The notion that we can ‘read’ the temple, just as we do the scriptures, eludes us. Even for those among us who attend the temple regularly or work therein, the symbolism in its ordinances, rites and rituals as well as the icons in its architecture are a mystery to us, invisible and unacknowledged.

So, too, with the symbolism of the scriptures. We all know, for example, that the phrase used therein “the mountain of the Lord’s house” refers to the temple. But, we have no clue about the origins of such an odd metaphor. How is a temple equated to a mountain? We don’t even exhibit so much as a little curiosity about such symbolism, taking it entirely for granted.

This, too, is the case with prophecy. Littered with seemingly bizarre imagery, it appears far too confusing and unfathomable for the average member. So, we dismiss it as unimportant or too mysterious for anyone but the most inspired of prophets to interpret.

Therefore, we suppose that if it were truly vital to our personal repository of gospel knowledge, our church leaders would have repeatedly explained it in minute detail, just as they do fundamental gospel elements. We suppose that merely listening and reading a bit, coupled with sincere, prayerful supplication for answers, will yield all we need to know.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is key: The Spirit is not a teacher. He only confirms and comforts. This has been explained to us over and over. You must learn a thing first by research and study before the Spirit can confirm the truth of it to you.

We suffer from what I call the Oliver Cowdery syndrome: We think that truth will be given us without any effort on our part. Read about Elder Cowdery’s dilemma in D&C 8 and 9.

Think about it. How did you come by your testimony? It was necessary that you first inform yourself about the gospel before praying about it. Reading the Book of Mormon came before praying about it to get a confirmation of its truth from the Spirit. Likewise, Joseph Smith had to study the Bible to come across the notion that God would answer his questions for him before he could be given that first vision.

That’s the way it works: study first, ask second.

But, casual reading does not qualify as study. Study means work. It takes real effort on your part and true inquisitiveness to formulate a focused concept sufficiently well developed to pray about. And surprisingly, as often as not, the Spirit reveals the truth of what you’re studying or formulating before you ever get the chance to ask. He’s that anxious to lead you forward.

So, in summary, let me say that what I have learned is not peripheral to one’s gospel knowledge and understanding. It is essential. (Hold up the Bible.) Without it, we may as well tear our scriptures in half and throw one of the two halves away. (Tear the binding right down the middle and toss half of it on the floor.) We may as well listen to the gospel message half asleep. We are missing that much … and more. We set at naught the efforts of the prophets to enlighten us, and we disparage the fullness of the restored gospel. What a sad state of affairs.

So as I noted at the outset of this talk, this would be my last lecture, sermon or counsel to you: Study! Look closely, and you will learn what I’ve learned. I am not the keeper and purveyor of odd knowledge and irrelevant information you may have taken me to be. I’ve only found and followed the trail of breadcrumbs left there for us. I’ve diligently tracked it where it was intended to lead those who exercise due diligence.

I’ve documented my concepts in the statements of early church leaders from Joseph Smith on forward, and I’ve successfully and enlighteningly employed these concepts to make sense of temple symbolism and prophecy. It’s no mystery. There’s no magic. But like the obvious nose on your face, it’s nearly invisible to you.

Only through concerted effort and diligence will this wisdom become apparent to you. And no one else can or will do it for you—not your home teacher, not your bishop not your stake president … not even the prophet. It’s not the responsibility of the brethren to explain every nuanced detail of the gospel to you. That’s your job; get after it. As President Kimball was fond of saying, “Do it … now!”



Stars, Planets, Moons and Temples

1,383 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2002

Stars, planets, moons and temples

Mormonism is unique among Christian denominations for many reasons. One of the things that make it so distinctive was its founder’s interest in bringing ancient texts to light. Another was the instigation of temple use, a practice thought to be largely pagan and thus suspiciously sacrilegious by normative Christianity.

While it may not be readily apparent at first, upon closer inspection we will see that ancient sacred texts and temple use are closely related.

While the rest of Christianity contented itself with the Bible, Joseph Smith endeavored to establish the Book of Mormon as an equally important ancient, sacred record. Indeed, he tried to impress on modern Christianity the value of ancient records, beyond the Bible, to the practice of true religion.

Public interest in things from Egyptian antiquity has always been high, but it was far more than mere curiosity that compelled the latter-day prophet to purchase the Egyptian papyri that ultimately resulted in the Pearl of Great Price and the facsimiles therein.

At present, much is written and said by Latter-day Saints about the Book of Mormon, its origins in antiquity and its advent in modern times via angelic ministrations. Surprisingly, little dialog is devoted to the Pearl of Great Price, even less to the Egyptian elements found therein to which Joseph dedicated considerable time and effort. Perhaps that is so because it deals with some topics—stars, planets and moons—that seem largely foreign to religion, as is commonly supposed, topics that seem better suited to cosmology, astronomy or archeology. In fact, Joseph Smith and the church he founded have taken criticism from both science and religion over the years because he ventured into these areas.

Stars, planets and moons are seldom foremost in the minds of Latter-day Saints when contemplating the gospel. Indeed, modern Christianity as a whole has long since divested itself of nearly all such references since discussions of such objects is more typically thought to be the purview of either ancient pagan religions or modern science. Ministers and evangelists in Joseph Smith’s day were horrified by the prophet’s penchant for discussing such things in the context of the gospel. The stigma of being a “cult,” attached to Mormonism by orthodox Christianity, stems partly from these associations.

All this begs the question that nearly all Saints avoid: What seemed so vital about documents from the Egyptian culture and its religion that a prophet of God would dedicate so much time and effort to explaining their meaning and symbolism, as seen in the Pearl of Great Price facsimiles? One can easily see the value of translating the books of Moses, Enoch and Abraham for the doctrines contained therein, but what value can be gleaned from studying Egyptian hieroglyphs? Did Joseph include them simply to establish his credentials as a bona fide translator of ancient texts? Or was he pointing the way to a subject helpful in a thoroughgoing understanding of the gospel?

The answer to those questions may be provided by considering the other part of the equation cited at the outset of this article: modern temples.

The two primary temples of this era, the Nauvoo and the Salt Lake, were liberally decorated with icons of stars, planets and moons. This they have in common with both ancient texts and the temples of yesteryear, those erected by all ancient cultures. Those temples, too, were decorated with symbols of stars, planets and moons, along with illustrations of their gods, goddesses and a multitude of other religious icons peculiar to each culture.

Scholars readily acknowledge the strong and pervasive influence of astral beliefs at the heart of those ancient religions, reflected in the astronomical alignments and astrological references built into those edifices—from Angkor Wat to Tiahuanaco, from Teotiuacan to Stonehenge, from Karnak and the pyramids at Geza to Solomon’s temple and those erected by all Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures, including the Greeks and the Romans. They all venerated the heavens and the orbs they saw there. It is for that reason, for example, that our modern names for the planets come from the Roman pantheon.

Thus, the Prophet not only pointed to the use astronomical imagery in ancient texts by exploring the meaning of the icons he found on the Egyptian papyri that came into his hands, he also employed similar astronomical imagery in modern temples. Indeed, as in ancient temples, it is astral imagery that almost exclusively dominates modern temple iconography. In so doing, Joseph Smith, and Brigham Young after him, simply authenticated or validated the connection between the restored gospel and ancient beliefs.

The iconography and rhetorical imagery of the restored gospel stand side by side with those of ancient cultures as reflected in their writings and their art.

All this is as it should be if, as Joseph Smith maintained, his was a restoration of the original gospel, which was taught universally by inspired prophets anciently. The true religion should retain and display those same ancient traditions, rhetoric and icons.

But it also suggests an extraordinary value in studying ancient history to understand what the ancients knew and what a modern prophet knew about the past that compelled them to make astral iconography, past and present, an integral part of religion and temple iconography. After all, such imagery is not employed simply to keep authors and artisans busy writing and chiseling.

Perhaps the clue as to why knowledge of the heavens is a vital part of the true religion and how that knowledge spawned a multitude of icons in ancient cultures the world over can be found in several passages of scripture, each of which say essentially the same thing: the heavens and the earth we know now are not the heavens and earth the ancients knew; and conversely the heavens and the earth we know now will be replaced by “new heavens and a new earth.” (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:7, 13; Revelation 21:1; Ether 13:9; Doctrine & Covenants 29:23.)

Such dramatic language suggests radical changes in our solar system anciently. These sweeping and dynamic changes would have caused tremendous natural disasters, paroxysms of nature, wiping out large populations and dramatically altering Earth’s environment—changes that would have left few survivors to experience entirely “new heavens and a new earth,” changes that compelled the ancients to include them in their religious and cultural traditions.

Indeed, one school of thought suggests that the ancients were consumed with rehearsing the celestial drama that brought about those sweeping changes, that they made every attempt to preserve that knowledge in rite, ritual, architecture, art, text and religion since they considered it sacred as well as historical.

This would explain the compulsive use of cosmological imagery in ancient temples by their builders. Temples were specifically designed by the ancients to reflect, recall and reconstruct a lost cosmology, one that existed before the heavens and the earth suffered dramatic, sweeping changes.

Thus, our modern temples become living repositories of ancient wisdom and tradition, as well as venues for making sacred covenants.

This view would also explain the admixture of two distinct cosmologies seen in those same edifices, leading to confusion among modern scholars about their meanings and use. Temple iconography juxtaposed the present cosmology and that of the past, combining both in one presentation. To those who understood the profound transformation in the heavens and the earth anciently, such juxtaposition was proper and correct, not confusing and mysterious. Only modern man, divested of his cosmological heritage, would be perplexed by this coincidence.

And those two facts explain why a modern prophet would resurrect the use of that same imagery in modern temples, they being a restoration of ancient convention.

The marvel and the tragedy is that we, their posterity, have confused, denied and ultimately rejected that part of the record bequeathed us, that we consider it mere exaggerated myth and legend. Even the inspired efforts of a latter-day prophet to bring these ideas to light have gone largely ignored by those who practice the religion he founded.

The fact that Latter-day Saints almost universally discount such a possibility, even though statements of their prophet, their revealed scriptures and their temple iconography indicate otherwise, reveals a fatal flaw in their comprehension of the legacy they inherited from Joseph Smith in the magnificent revelation that comprises this latter-day restoration of the gospel.





Understanding John’s Apocalypse

894 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2006

Understanding John’s Apocalypse

LDS scholars and church members alike fail to notice vital elements of John’s New Testament book, Revelation. They see it solely as a eschatological writing—a revelation of future tribulations to befall the world in a period of physical and political upheaval immediately preceding the second coming of Christ.

While it is certainly all that, there is much more to discover. With the aid of a new perspective, the mystery of that book vanishes. Revelation becomes a pivotal document, a virtual ‘Rosetta Stone’ of the cultural traditions common to 1st century Mediterranean and Middle Eastern peoples.

Let’s look at a summary of the situation that led to John’s vision:

Christianity’s early leaders, most notably the Apostle Paul, had expanded their missionary efforts far beyond Palestine and its roots in Judaism. Thanks to a revelation given to Peter, they initiated a campaign to win converts from non-Jewish or ‘gentile’ cultural groups, including Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and Babylonians.

This put the fledgling church on the horns of a dilemma. Gentile religious and cultural traditions were very different from those of Judaism and Christianity. For example, the gentiles believed in a multiplicity of gods while Christianity taught of only one God. This and many other fundamental differences made proselytism difficult for the newly born religion. Yet, if the new church were to survive and flourish, it had to win converts.

What was needed was a strategy to find connections, common ground with the religious traditions of their ‘pagan’ neighbors to make Christianity more palatable.

John’s Revelation was part of that strategy. His vision was an attempt to reconcile the cultural and religious traditions of the gentiles with that of the Jews, melding them into a new, common tradition for the Christian church that would allow it to appeal to both communities.

Evidence for this is found in several examples of Revelation imagery, which are also found in ancient sources that predate John’s writing, demonstrating the ‘borrowing’ nature of his account.

In Revelation, chapter 13, we read of a rather remarkable beast. “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leipard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast.” (Revelation 13: 1-3.)

Marduk Battles Tiamat

This story is a rhetorical rendition of a Babylonian tradition, illustrated in this copy of a Babylonian ostracon depicting the mythical battle between Marduk and the beast, Tiamat.

Astoundingly, we learn that this beast—wounded head and all—was depicted in Mesopotamian cylinder seal art hundreds of years before John described seeing it in vision.

This discovery allows for only one of two conclusions: Either this is a rather remarkable coincidence, or it is an instance of borrowing from older, pagan tradition by John. As we shall see from the next example, it was most likely a borrowing.

In his epic vision, John also reported seeing four other beasts in heaven. “And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.” (Revelation 4:7.)

These four are also seen everywhere in the Egyptian tradition that long predates John.

Canopic Jars

Named after Canopus, an area in the Nile delta region, these jars were funerary furniture used to house various organs of the deceased during internment rites. The four creatures depicted on lids of these Canopic jars were said to be the sons of Horus.

They are also found in the Joseph Smith papyri.

Joseph Smith Papyri

The Egyptians employed the heads of a baboon and a jackal rather than the Israelite designation of a calf (ox) and lion. This variation is typical from culture to culture and across time, just as the names of the same gods varied. But there is no mistaking that the four creatures seen in prophetic vision also adorned the burial art of Egyptians for many centuries before John penned his Apocalypse.

These two examples amply demonstrate John’s borrowing of pagan tradition and imagery for his own vision. As it turns out, almost all the imagery in Revelation can be traced to common religious traditions of that day and time.

This is a remarkable discovery.

John created an admixture of ancient cultural motifs and Christian beliefs that would give the ring of familiarity to doctrines of the early Christian church among any of his ‘gentile’ contemporaries—a calculated attempt to give Christianity the proper traditional underpinnings necessary to validate any religion, thus making it more acceptable to a much wider audience.

Given this alternative view, we can now see John’s vision with new eyes. Here is the answer to the riddle that is Revelation: The multitude of pagan gods became mythic characters and images in John’s vision—the strange beasts, creatures, kings, women and other icons—in a revised series of sacred dramas, each one calculated to show Christ’s place in those traditions.



Introducing a new contributor

Effective immediately, this blog has a new contributor: Anthony E. Larson. You can read his bio on the Contributors page. I also did a write-up about him back in November of 2007. He is a bit of a specialist in what I’ve termed plasma theology, which is why I’ve invited him to contribute. I look forward to his articles and hope that we all learn something new and have our perspectives broadened.

what4anarchy technically is still assigned contributor status to this blog, but as yet, has decided not to contribute, for his own reasons, which is why his bio is not on the Contributors page. When the time comes that he starts writing articles, I will update that page and list him.

I have been on a 40-day fast (tonight will make 32 days) and have not had the energy to dedicate to the articles and drafts I wish to publish, which is why this month (and last month) have been a bit slow in the number of articles published. It will take an additional 10 to 20 days just to wean me off of the fast, so don’t expect me to start publishing articles right after day 40. That said, there are times when I do have time and energy, so I might throw out a surprise post. But generally, the blog right now is not a priority. Getting through this fast in one piece is my priority. After the fast, I will resume my normal output, or more, as they say that you gain 10 to 20 years of youth after a 40-day fast. For those with interest, you can follow my extended fast journal.

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What the Word of Wisdom says and what it doesn’t say

D&C 89, the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom, gives both very specific and very general instructions. Sometimes we have a tendency to read more into it than is there, or to take away what is actually written there. In the economy of heaven, supererogation is a sin. We are expected by the Lord to do what is required by him. No more, no less.

And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. (3 Ne. 11: 40)

But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them. (3 Ne. 18: 13)

Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. (D&C 10: 68 )

And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning. (D&C 93: 25)

And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. (D&C 98: 7)

For that which is more or less than this cometh of evil, and shall be attended with cursings and not blessings, saith the Lord your God. Even so. Amen. (D&C 124: 120)

So, in the spirit of doing no more and no less than what the Word of Wisdom says, let’s review just what it does say, and what it doesn’t say.

  • Wine Drinking wine is prohibited by the revelation with but one exception: we can use wine for the sacrament if we ourselves make it, but it must be pure grape wine, not other types of wine.
  • Strong Drink Drinking strong drink is strictly prohibited, however, it is given the use of washing our bodies.
  • Tobacco Smoking, chewing and eating tobacco is strictly prohibited, however, it is given the use of a healing herb for bruises and sick cattle, with cautions on its use (as tobacco poisoning is a real danger.)
  • Hot Drinks Hot drinks, defined by modern prophets as tea and coffee, are strictly prohibited to be used on the outside or inside of the body.
  • Wholesome Herbs The Lord gives the thumbs up, but says to use them in the season thereof, with prudence and thanksgiving.
  • Fruit Again the Lord gives his approval of their use, but says to use them in the season thereof, with prudence and thanksgiving.
  • Flesh of Beasts and Fowls of the Air The Lord gives his approval for their use but emphasizes two times in the revelation that they are only to be used in times of winter, cold or famine, which is his definition of the word “sparingly” and also says that it is pleasing to him that they not be used, at all, except under the conditions he states. Also, these things are to be used with thanksgiving.
  • Grain The Lord gives a thumbs up for all grain, both for man, beasts of the field, fowls of heaven and all wild animals on dry earth.
  • Mild Grain Drinks The Lord gives a thumbs up for all mild grain drinks. Mild grain drinks at the time the Word of Wisdom was revealed was interpreted by the saints, including, apparently, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself, as being beer drinks, with alcoholic content between 1% and 5%, as opposed to strong drink, which was hard liquor with alcoholic content of 40% or more.
  • Fruit-Bearing Plants The Lord gives a thumbs up to all fruit-bearing plants, whether that “fruit” is found above or below ground.

That, in a nutshell, is what the Lord says about what we can or cannot eat. Now, here is what the Lord doesn’t say:

  • Cola drinks The Lord is silent on cola drinks.
  • Chocolate The Lord is silent on chocolate, including hot chocolate drinks.
  • Caffeine The Lord is silent on the consumption of caffeine.
  • Seafood The Lord is silent on eating seafood, both sea creatures and sea plants. After all, the saints were in the middle of the country and had no access to seafood, so why talk about it?
  • Insects, Arachnids, etc. The Lord is silent on the eating of insects, arachnids (scorpions, etc.)
  • Drugs The Lord is silent on drugs, whether legal or illegal.
  • Cooking The Lord is silent about cooking food. He doesn’t approve or disapprove of raw-foodism.
  • Vegan Diets The Lord is silent about vegan diets.
  • Vegetarian Diets The Lord is silent about vegetarianism, though the revelation seem to stress a mainly plant-based diet.
  • Every other type of food consumed, not mentioned in the revelation. The Lord is silent.

Some modern LDS interpretations on the revelation that contradict how the saints who lived at the time of the revelation interpreted it:

  • Wine Means Grape Juice The early saints did not understand the revelation to mean grape juice. It was wine, as in it had alcoholic content. It is lumped together with strong drink for this reason. After all, what’s wrong with drinking grape juice?
  • Mild Barley Drink Is Barley Water The early saints did not use barley water. The mild barley drinks they made were beers, not barley water. The Lord in the revelation is referring to the practices of the time. Therefore, he is referring to, and approving of, beer.

Open interpretations:

  • Wholesome Who decides what a wholesome herb is? You do.
  • Tea Although the prophets have interpreted “hot drinks” to mean tea and coffee, just what constitutes the tea that is prohibited is interpreted by LDS in different ways. For example, there are four types of tea: black tea, oolong tea, white tea and green tea. Some choose to interpret tea as being only the type of tea that was in use by the saints at the time of the revelation, leaving the other three types open for use. Especially green tea, which many people feel has great healing properties. Others reject all teas, including herbal teas.
  • Coffee Many saints think that it is the caffeine in coffee that makes it prohibitive and so drink decaffeinated coffee.

Sometimes as LDS we tend to be a little too judgmental of our fellow saints, based upon our preconceived notions of what the Word of Wisdom is and isn’t. Just because a saint has a bottle of vodka in his cupboard doesn’t mean he’s drinking it, it may mean he’s using it for washing purposes. Just because a saint has a winery and is bottling wine doesn’t mean he’s drinking it, it may mean he’s preparing for the day when we will again partake of the sacrament with wine. Just because a sister refuses to eat meat, it doesn’t mean she is breaking any commandment. Just because a saint is a raw-foodist or vegan or vegetarian, doesn’t mean they are weird or strange. Just because a saint drinks coca-cola or green tea or makes a meal of cake and ice cream doesn’t mean that they are sinners. And even if we ever see a saint drinking Guinness, at 5% alcohol, are they really breaking the Word of Wisdom? The earlier saints wouldn’t have thought so.

Remember, the Word of Wisdom was given for “the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.” It may be less of a test to see if we can follow it and more of a test to see if we can stop judging our fellow saint.

Previous Word of Wisdom article: Strong drinks, mild drinks, hot drinks, wine, etc.

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