The Keys to Prophecy X: What Joseph Taught


784 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2005

 The Keys to Prophecy X:

What Joseph Taught

Certainly, some will say that discussions of ancient myths, gods, goddesses and pagan beliefs have little to do with the restored gospel.  To others, perhaps all this analysis of prophetic symbols, planets, stars, beasts and dragons seems a bit removed from core gospel principles.

Most Saints pay little heed to such things in their gospel study, seeing it as irrelevant and therefore largely valueless.

After all, if reading the scriptures and praying are sufficient to understand the gospel, why not leave the study of planets and stars to the astronomers and analysis of pagan gods and goddesses to the mythologists?

The reply to such dismissive notions is the evidence that Joseph Smith taught these things.

It was Joseph who first wrote and spoke of planets and stars in connection with both ancient and prophetic events.  It was Joseph who placed the Egyptian documents alongside modern revelation and then included explanations.  It was Joseph who gave the pattern for those icons collocated on modern temple walls-not as mere décor, but as teaching tools.

Isn’t that incentive enough to look into these keys?  Indeed, the fact that Joseph taught these things makes it incumbent upon every Latter-day Saint to learn all they can about them.

If he deemed them important enough to reveal, we ignore them at our own peril.

These keys bear directly upon otherwise arcane aspects of the restored gospel, successfully explaining what has heretofore remained a mystery to most Saints-things such as temple symbols, the Pearl of Great Price facsimiles and a uniform system for interpreting prophecy.

Who would have thought that a systematic approach to the symbolism of prophecy would also explain such divergent elements as temple icons and Egyptian facsimiles?

A few examples that amplify one theme should suffice to convince us.

We have already seen Joseph’s “planet, comet” description of the “grand sign” of the last days and the second coming, recorded in his own journal, History of the Church.  That puts cosmic phenomena squarely under the prophecy heading.

In keeping with Joseph’s statement, in a 1951 General Conference talk, Elder LeGrand Richards reinforced the concept, saying that the latter-day signs will be caused by “some great phenomenon in the heavens, (a) misplacement of planets ….”

An interview with Homer M. Brown, a past Patriarch of the Granite, Utah, Stake, father of Elder Hugh B. Brown and grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Brown, who gave Joseph Smith sanctuary from a mob in Nauvoo one evening, more fully explains the role of this misplaced planet and its effect on our Earth.

According to Patriarch Brown, these are Joseph’s words to his grandparents regarding a future encounter between a rogue planet and our Earth.  “Now, let me ask you what would cause the everlasting hills to tremble with more violence than the coming together of the two planets?

“Now, scientists will tell you that it is not scientific, that two planets coming together would be disastrous to both.  But, when two planets or other objects 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.”

Corroboration comes from the journal of another early Saint, Samuel Hollister Rogers.  He paraphrases the prophet thusly:  “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 … which will cause the earth to reel to and fro.”

Further confirmation is found in the Charles Walker journal, wherein he recounts learning from Eliza R. Snow that Joseph had taught her “the coming together of these two bodies or orbs would cause a shock and make the ‘Earth reel to and fro like a drunken man.'” 

The prophet obviously elaborated on this theme on many occasions, as we learn from yet another journal.

Wandle Mace described the same planetary conjunction scenario, adding this anecdote from the prophet:  “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 planets come together).  It will make the earth reel to and fro like a drunken man.”

Without the keys presented in this series, such remarkably consistent statements, attributed to Joseph Smith by early church members, have been discounted as extravagant and speculative by LDS scholars and all but forgotten in recent years by church members.  Yet, when seen as corroborative, they argue eloquently for Joseph’s view of the role that a vagabond planet will play in our future.

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The Keys to Prophecy VII: A New Heaven, a New Earth


721 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2005

The Keys to Prophecy VII:

A New Heaven, a New Earth

Our culture knows nothing of the incredible changes wrought in the heavens anciently.  This is so because of our ‘scientific’ view that there have been no significant changes in the solar system’s arrangement during recorded history.

But the scriptures and the prophets are insistent, in spite of our ‘scientific’ beliefs:  The heavens have repeatedly changed throughout ancient history.  This is a primary message the ancients and the prophets sought to convey to us across the millennia.

The result: Our modern ignorance of the true past blinds us to the unanimous declarations of our distant ancestors.

The concept of sweeping changes in the sky and the earth are found everywhere in the scriptures.  For example, in the Doctrine & Covenants we read: “And the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.

“For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fullness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea.” (D&C 29:23, 24.)

Also, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Revelation 21:1.)

Perhaps the apostle Peter said it best when he spoke of the Deluge, explaining that it was the defining event that changed the ‘old heavens’ into the sky we see today.  “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.  Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:  But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”  (2 Peter 3:5-7.)

Then, he went on to further explain that a similar change was in store for us in the last days.  “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”  (Ibid. 3:10.)

We read the same sort of language in the texts of all ancient cultures, where we find the pervasive, ever-present fear that something terrible that happened in the past would repeat itself in the future.  Indeed, all ancient cultures relate that there have been dramatic changes in the heavens, calling the epochs in between “ages” or “suns.”  The Greek philosopher Hesiod associates these ages with various metals, as does Daniel in his Old Testament vision of the statue with a head of gold, a torso of silver, belly and thighs of brass and legs of iron.

These fearsome changes were universally attributed to stars or planets in the form of gods, goddesses, beasts or serpents.  Surely, then, Joseph Smith was correct to call these images of the ancients “stars” and “planets,” as we have seen.

Even our language retains this key.  The words for world-changing cataclysms are catastrophe (cat-astro-phe) and disaster (dis-aster).  Both bear the same ‘astr’ root as the goddess-stars of antiquity: Aster, Astarte, Ashtoreth or Hathor.  In fact, one interpretation of the word “disaster” is literally “from the star.”

This the ancients feared above all: destruction from the stars that changed everything.

No wonder they were fiercely dedicated sky watchers, including prophets like Abraham, preoccupied with the motions of planets and stars.  No wonder they endlessly adorned their texts, temples and tombs with symbols and metaphors of star gods, goddesses and beasts derived from the appearance of those planets.

But because our culture and science turn a blind eye to these declarations, Latter-day Saints frequently fail to appreciate the many statements by Joseph Smith that echo the beliefs of the ancients: Planets and stars are the origins of almost all scriptural and prophetic imagery.

 Stars and planets on the Salt Lake Temple reflect an ancient, customary obsession with the heavens.  On the west wall buttresses, near the bottom of the photo are Sun Stones.  In the middle are the stars of the constellation Ursa Major, the Big Dipper.  Immediately above those is a repeated pattern of circles within a ring, called Saturn Stones by Brigham Young.

That’s why those images dominate the exterior of LDS temples, just as they did their ancient counterparts.  Our temples reflect both realities, the past and the present heavens.

The prophets, both ancient and modern, understood this key.  So should we.

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The Keys to Prophecy VI: A Great Star


790 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2006

The Keys to Prophecy VI:

A Great Star

If we look closely at the images venerated by the ancients from the point of view that they may have been inspired by planets standing in close proximity to the Earth, we see them with new eyes.  And because we adopt this view, we can read the explanations of symbols on Egyptian papyri by the prophet Joseph Smith with a fresh perspective that also gives an entirely new dynamic to the imagery of prophecy.

This key is crucial because ancient sky gazers the world over drew remarkably similar pictures and offered stunningly similar descriptions of things that do not exist in our sky, though this vital truth has not been generally recognized.

Amazingly, when we heed Joseph Smith’s hints that the gods, goddesses, beasts and other images of antiquity all found their inspiration in Earth’s ancient heavens, some of the most mysterious icons suddenly appear to be virtual snapshots of what the ancients saw in Earth’s skies.

The star-in-crescent symbol, for example, so dominant in ancient symbology, appears to be a combination or blending of two astral elements: One is the sunlit limb of a planet; the other is an aurora-like discharge from another planet.

These images of “stars” look nothing like things seen in our present heavens.  Yet, Joseph Smith implied that these are the planets and stars of antiquity.

Hence, the confusion of a star/planet symbol with the moon and stars is natural.  The only heavenly object we see today with a bright crescent is the moon.  But if other planets hovered near the Earth anciently, they would have also manifested this same crescent feature.

Certainly, the lighted crescent on the limb of neighboring planets became the basis for a multitude of symbols: the horns of a bovine, the crescent-shaped ship of heaven or the outspread wings of a bird, three of the most common symbols in ancient iconography-all seen in the Joseph Smith papyri as well as in apocalyptic and prophetic imagery.

If the planetary god’s crescent looked like outspread wings, then it could properly be described as a great heavenly bird and subsequently illustrated as a hawk or eagle.

Of course, its planetary disk is displayed over its head as well so there is no mistaking where the image originated.  This is precisely what we see in the ancient symbols.

If the planetary god’s or goddess’ crescent was seen as horns, he or she could be depicted as the bull or cow of heaven, a commonplace description in ancient texts of gods and goddesses.  For emphasis, again the planetary disk is set between the horns.

If the planet’s crescent appeared to be a ship carrying the planet around heaven, then the god-with a disk over his head, naturally-would be depicted sitting on the ship of heaven.  This, too, was a nearly universal depiction in Egyptian iconography.

Significantly, these same images, and many more like them, can be seen in the Joseph Smith Facsimile No.2, where they are most often called stars or planets.

Moreover, there must have been much more involved anciently than the simple, pacific presence of large orbs in the sky.  They must have been active, changing, interacting and dynamic powers to evoke the expressions they inspired.

For example, Sumerian texts celebrate the “terrifying glory” of Inanna (Ishtar, Astarte, Venus), invoking the goddess as “the Light of the World,” “the Amazement of the Lands,” “the Radiant Star,” “Great Light,” and “Queen of Heaven.”  The texts depict the goddess “clothed in radiance.”  And it was said that the world stood in “fear and trembling at [her] tempestuous radiance.”

Thus, we get the picture from the texts and the illustrations of a discharging planet, emitting aurora-like rays that form the basis for all ‘star’ imagery of antiquity.

The Sumerian “Exaltation of Inanna” says, “I want to address my greeting to her who fills the sky with her pure blaze, to the luminous one, to Inanna, as bright as the sun, to the great queen of heaven.

“You make the heavens tremble and the earth quake.  Great Priestess, who can soothe your troubled heart?  You flash like lightning over the highlands; you throw your firebrands across the earth.  Your deafening command…splits apart great mountains.”

An illustration taken from an Akkadian cylinder seal shows Ishtar (star) and her symbol, a planet with aurora-like discharge.

The wheel symbol of the Babylonian god Shamash (Sun) looks nothing like the Sun and further illustrates the discharge streamer or star idea.

Both the texts and the images of the ancients tell the same story, each complimenting the other.

In fact, this more fully explains why stars and planets were interchangeable in the ancient mind: In antiquity, a great, nearby planet metamorphosed into a brilliant, awe-inspiring object that earthlings chose to call “star.”  This alone explains the graphic language and the myriad star symbols used by the ancients for their star goddesses.

This also explains why all the ‘star’ icons, familiar to cultures worldwide, look nothing like the mere pinpoints of light in the night sky that we designate as stars.

No wonder Joseph explained that all these archaic images were either stars or planets.  They were!

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Deep Waters: What would have happened if Lucifer had won the vote?


In our pre-mortal existence, we took sides as to who we would follow, Jesus or Lucifer. Two-thirds of us went with Jesus, while one-third went with Satan. Jesus had accepted the plan of the Father, while Satan had sought to amend it. The amendment was sufficiently attractive that one-third of us went with it. I’ve never been in a meeting that has fully discussed the ramifications of a winning vote by Lucifer (other than with what4anarchy.) I intend to publicly discuss this topic now in this post.

The universe consists of a family of gods, with angels attending them and other lesser creations. Each individual that achieves godhood, does so through the laws of the universe, which operate on the principle of agency, not coercion.

“The powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness….When we undertake … to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men,…the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D&C 121: 36-37)

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.” (D&C 121: 41-44)

The above principle is heavenly and applies equally to God as it does to man. God cannot use coercion ever, or he will cease to be God.

Each exalted individual in the family of gods was guaranteed their godhood forever. Should a single one of these gods lose his or her godhood, in other words, should any of them cease to be a god, all of them cease to be gods together. It is a domino chain that is only as strong as its weakest member. As there are no weak members, the chain remains strong forever. They remain gods because they desire to remain gods. And thus it is.

Nevertheless, there is a risk to godhood. Satan sought to exploit that risk. The family of gods work by the principle of agency, not by coercion. Contrary to what you may believe, God the Father accomplishes all things through free agents. Compulsion is anti-god, so to speak, as is lying, etc. So, if Satan can make any of the gods lie or commit anything contrary to their own laws, they all cease to be gods and the universe loses faith in them, stops honoring them, and all creation reverts back to what it was prior to creation, returning to outer darkness from which we all came.

But no god freely will commit an act that causes them to lose their power, which is understandable. So, the risk is minimal. Nevertheless, as they operate on the principle of agency, Satan sought to force the hand of God by taking advantage of the law of common consent. The law of common consent is a heavenly law, not an earthly invention. We voted for Jesus to be our Savior, after he was called of God to that holy office. God never forces anyone to do anything, so Jesus was not forced upon us. We could accept him or reject him. Satan understood that if the vote went his way, if 51% of us voted for him (Lucifer), that the plan of the Father would have been frustrated. So, there was a possibility that the Father could be frustrated, through the common consent of his children. God allows for this possibility and so God the Father and all other gods had their godhood put at risk during this voting time.

Satan didn’t want to just be the Savior, suffering for the sins of mankind. His intention was to do away with agency altogether. If agency were to be done away with, as it is guaranteed by God to all created things in the universe, it would have meant that God would have ceased to be God, as he would have been caught in a lie. All creation would have lost respect and honor for him. The God that promised heavenly Father his eternal exaltation would also cease to be a god, and a chain reaction would result, all gods losing all power. The result would have been the dissolution of the created universe. (See 2 Ne. 2: 13. If there is no God, all things must vanish away.) Everything in it would have returned into that lake of fire and brimstone, or what we now call outer darkness, only then it wouldn’t be an outer darkness, as there would be no inner light (the created universe) to distinguish between the two locations.

A common misconception that LDS have is that when Satan said, “wherefore, give me thine honor,” that he merely wanted the power of God. But it wasn’t like that, at all. Satan didn’t want the universe, all the gods, and everything else (including himself) to return to outer darkness. Yet, his amendment, had it been approved by vote, would have had that very result. And he knew this and so did we. So, he added a requirement to his amendment that was needed to make it work: he required that God worship him (honor him.)

If God worshiped Satan, then Satan beats God. The honor of all creation which is directed at God, the greatest of all, now becomes directed at the individual that beats God. So, when the amendment is enacted, agency becomes suspended, coercion rules, and God and every other member of the family of gods cease to be gods, the universe still has faith in one individual: Satan, the being who conquered all of god-dom.

Satan’s cunning plan wasn’t in that he would rule over this particular God (our heavenly Father,) but that the whole family of gods would be disintegrated and return to the lake of fire and brimstone. The created universe would still remain created, under a new system, a new principle, the principle of coercion, with only one single god, Lucifer, ruling everything. The universe would be reorganized according to Lucifer’s vision of an ideal universe.

So, it wasn’t that Lucifer wanted the honor of God, it was that he needed it to make his plan work. Without the honor of God, all created things revert back to that state prior to creation, including Lucifer himself.

The appeal of Lucifer’s plan was that no one, not a single particle, would return to outer darkness, from whence we all came prior to creation. The only victims in this plan would be the gods, who, through agency, allowed for the possibility of souls returning to outer darkness in misery. His selling points probably were that although God is loving, etc., it is not fair that a single soul should return to outer darkness, therefore, they (the gods) deserve this fate, as they have assigned this very fate to others. Or, he may have justified his amendment to the Father’s plan by saying that we would go into outer darkness and re-create the souls of the former gods, bringing them back into the universe so that they didn’t suffer for all eternity, though they would not obtain their former glory.

So, in our vote between Jesus and Satan, outer darkness and who would be cast into it played a big part of our decision-making process. In the Father’s plan, only sons of perdition would return to outer darkness, of their own agency, not being willing to repent. In Satan’s amendment to the plan, only the gods of the universe would return to outer darkness, having lost all power and being compelled to go, and not a single soul or particle (other than the family of gods) would go back into those outer regions.

We already know what happened. God the Father and the family of gods were before us, we could see them and know of their love for us, of their qualities, yet despite that tremendous influence, one-third of us sided with Satan and rebelled when the vote went in favor of Jesus and the Father’s plan of agency.

There is one more aspect of this topic that I will address in a follow-up post.

Next Deep Waters article: Deep Waters:Lehi’s model of the universe

Previous Deep Waters article: Deep Waters: How many wives? How many husbands?

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