New Heavens, New Earth: Suddenly or Slowly?


1,315 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2002 

New Heavens, New Earth: Suddenly or Slowly?

The heavens and the earth are repeatedly referenced in the scriptures as the objects of remarkable, sweeping changes in the past and in the future.

“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17.)

“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13.)

“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.)

“And there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new.” (Ether 13:9.)

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.” (Ibid.)

“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.)

Descriptions of these alterations are couched in emphatic terms that strongly suggest dramatic changes – differences so great that only the terms “new,” “old,” “consumed” and “pass away” seem to suffice in order to fully illustrate the radical degree of change seen in the past and foreseen for the future.

Typically, these changes are said to occur in transitional eras, relatively short periods of time, either during the Deluge at the end of the Patriarchal Age or in a time immediately prior to the Second Coming of the Savior at the ushering in of the Millennium.

Of course, we learn from modern geology and astronomy that such a dramatic change is physically impossible in the space of a few years or decades.  Change comes very slowly, we are told by scientists and scholars.  The renowned astronomer Carl Sagan, given science’s view of the tediously slow rate at which these things seem to change, was fond of saying “billions and billions of years” when referring to the periods of time needed to change the heavens above us and the face of the earth at our feet.

Nevertheless, the preponderance of the evidence from the scriptures, cited above, indicates just the opposite: A rapid and dramatic change has occurred in the past and will occur yet again in the future.

This contradiction puts Latter-day Saints on the horns of a dilemma. Do we believe science or the prophets with regard to this issue. How rapidly does change takes place on the Earth and the solar system – indeed, in our universe? And why is this of any concern to us?

The answer comes in two parts. The first part rests in a brief history lesson to examine two opposing scientific theories of how change comes about in the earth and in the heavens. The two opposing theories were passionately debated in the scientific community in the mid-19th century.

One group of scientists and scholars felt that the most profound change in the earth and in the heavens came in sudden, sweeping, dramatic and catastrophic events, such as Noah’s Flood. Hence, the term “Catastrophism” was coined to designate that theory.

A second group insisted that such change comes only very slowly and gradually, in the same consistent and uniform manner as we see it operating in the forces of nature all around us today. It’s how mountains rise ever so slowly while water and wind ever so slowly wear them away, gradually and inexorably altering the entire face of the earth. Hence, the term “Gradualism” was coined, also sometimes called the Theory of Uniformity or Uniformitarianism.

By the end of the 19th century, the debate was over. The precepts of Gradualism carried the day – to such a degree that the scientific community unwaveringly refused to seriously considered Catastrophism for nearly two centuries. Scientists and scholars derisively lumped catastrophists together with religionists as a class of people for whom rational thought and empiricism were foreign processes.

Even today, when the patently catastrophist idea of an asteroid impact catastrophically wiping out the dinosaurs – suddenly and irreversibly changing the face of the earth and its entire ecosystem in an instant – has made an unprecedented comeback, reconsidering Catastrophism still seems to be out of the question for mainstream science. Even when the whole world has been treated to a graphic demonstration of the sudden, catastrophic, planet-altering power of incoming comet fragments when Shoemaker/Levi 9 repeatedly impacted Jupiter in 1994 – a celestial visual aid presented by the Creator, if you will – science steadfastly refuses to re-evaluate its decision to opt for Gradualism as the primary mechanism of change on the earth and in the heavens.

Even more incomprehensible still is the religionists’ proclivity for turning a blind eye to these things, ignoring the implications of these discoveries for their perception of scriptural accounts.

The second part of our answer seems to lie in a short declaration made by Elder Orson Pratt, an early Apostle and confidant of the Prophet Joseph Smith. 

“Many geological speculations have been put forth to account for the great changes that have happened in the surface strata of the earth. But it is not our intention to examine the probability of improbability of those conjectures; but merely to give some few facts from divine revelation to show that the present geological conditions of our globe are not, in their general characteristics, the result of slow and gradual changes; but the effects of sudden convulsions and catastrophes under the control and superintendence of the All-powerful Being who formed all things.” (The Seer, Vol. II, No. 4, April, 1854, italics added.)

Once again, we see that revealed knowledge pointed to the more correct of the two theories and foreshadowed the most recent discoveries at the end of the 20th century about our world that have only recently begun to revolutionize science and replace old scientific dogma.

Elder Pratt was a recognized scientist and mathematician in his day, having worked out part of the equation to more accurately describe planetary orbits. In addition, his direct observations of the phases of the moon from a small observatory constructed on the temple grounds in Salt Lake City formed the basis for that temple’s Moon Stones, which accurately depict the phases of the moon in its walls.

That said, it becomes evident that Elder Pratt spoke with both the authority of good science and “divine revelation.” Indeed, it is apparent that he could appropriately be called a catastrophist. Moreover, he emphatically declares that the idea of slow and gradual change is not the scriptural perspective revealed to the prophets.

So, how should modern Saints see all this? What is the benefit of altering our views?

Only by seeing scriptural references such as those quoted at the beginning of this article through the eyes of Catastrophism, as espoused by Elder Pratt, can we properly conceive of the import of their message. Otherwise, seen from a gradualist perspective, they seem like largely inconsequential, lyrical rhetoric, indicative of little.

Seen in the catastrophist context, the only circumstances that would cause the ancient prophets to speak of changed heavens and earth would be dramatic changes in Earth’s orbit and position in our solar system. Though science vehemently denies that possibility, the only logical conclusion is that our planet has changed its position in the solar system with respect to the other planets, the stars and our sun and that it will do so again in the last days. Only such sweeping changes could give earthlings a “new heaven” and a “new earth.” Given Elder Pratt’s assertions and the scriptural statements of past and future changes, the conclusion is inescapable.

No wonder the prophets characterized the Earth as reeling “to and fro” during such events.

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The Forgotten Commandment: Watch the Heavens!


4,742 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2007

The Forgotten Commandment: Watch the Heavens!

Part I – The Commandment

Section 84 of the Doctrine & Covenants is a pivotal revelation for Latter-day Saints, or should be.

The preamble to this section says, “The Prophet designates it a revelation on priesthood.” In it, the Lord explains some of the roles of priesthood bearers, including a thorough explanation of missionary work and how it might be carried out.

 “And this revelation unto you, and commandment, is in force from this very hour upon all the world, and the gospel is unto all who have not received it.” (verse 75.)

This makes it plain that this “revelation” is not only a disclosure of information, but it also carries a “commandment.”

In the process of explaining this mandate to teach the gospel, the Lord touches on an aspect of priesthood responsibility that is entirely overlooked in the church today when he gives this added command. “Nevertheless, let the bishop go unto the city of New York, also to the city of Albany, and also to the city of Boston, and warn the people of those cities with the sound of the gospel, with a loud voice, of the desolation and utter abolishment which await them if they do reject these things. (verse 114.)

Reading carefully, we see that this directive carries two parts. The first, is to teach the gospel: “warn the people … with the sound of the gospel.” The second is to tell them “of the desolation and utter abolishment” that might befall them.

Clearly, the first directive refers to missionary work, a mandate church members have heeded and apparently fulfilled rather well, given the remarkable growth of the church in the latter half of the 20th century. But, the second reference seems quite vague. What is the “desolation” referred to? What is “utter abolishment?”

Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘desolate’ as “barren or laid waste … without inhabitants, deserted.” It also defines ‘abolish’ as “to do away with, to put an end to.”

Since the Lord applied these terms to three major American cities, a rather grim picture emerges. Without equivocation, God seems to be talking about reeking havoc in a catastrophe great enough to entirely wipe the cities of New York, Albany and Boston off the map, complete with all their inhabitants, if they do not accept the gospel.

But that is not all. To clarify and amplify, God reiterates the commandment. “And verily I say unto you, the rest of my servants, go ye forth as your circumstances shall permit, in your several callings, unto the great and notable cities and villages, reproving the world in righteousness of all their unrighteous and ungodly deeds, setting forth clearly and understandingly the desolation of abomination in the last days.” (verse 117.)

So, we learn that this mission was not exclusive to Bishop Whitney; verse 117 extends this commandment to all priesthood holders, “the rest of my servants.” We also learn that they should visit not just the three cities first named, but many others also, “the great and notable cities and villages.”

Then, the Lord repeats his charge that they teach about possible, impending destructions, “the desolation of abomination.”

This presents a problem for today’s priesthood bearers. Which of us can even begin to explain the “desolation” and “utter abolishment” the Lord referred to? What do those terms mean? What could cause such devastation?

While every general conference of the church has one or more talks about the vital importance of missionary work, where are the talks explaining or elucidating the second part of the commandment: teaching “clearly and understandingly the desolation of abomination?” More importantly, we must ask why this part of the commandment has not been acknowledged? How is it that we have focused so well and appropriately on missionary work without also teaching the other half of the equation, the promised devastation?

If we’ve not been instructed in these things or discovered them for ourselves, how are we to teach them, as we were commanded to do? How are we going to teach something we do not understand? In that case, how are we going to fulfill the Lord’s charge to teach it at all, let alone do so plainly?

As a matter of fact, any discussion of prophetic destructions has been almost completely banned from our discourse in the church. Over the last half-century, the subjects of prophecy and catastrophe in church discussion have become increasingly taboo. Where once they were central to our very character as Latter-day Saints, they have been almost completely marginalized in our day and age.

Our instruction manuals for teaching in the church almost entirely skirt around the subject of the last days and their associated destructions. The subject is almost never addressed from the pulpit, and even then it is treated in such an oblique manner as to avoid any substantive handling of the subject.

Yet, given the wording of this section, it would seem that we are under as great an obligation to teach about the impending destructions as we are to do missionary work.

So, let’s reverse this trend. Let’s more fully perform our duty as priesthood bearers. Let’s look at this once again to see if we might regain some lost ground and thereby properly fulfill this commandment from the Lord.

One might begin by asking, what is the “desolation and utter abolishment” of which the Lord spoke? What is the “desolation of abomination in the last days” that all priesthood bearers, “the rest of my servants,” are herein commanded to “set forth clearly and understandingly?”

A clue to those questions lies a little further on in that section. “For, with you saith the Lord Almighty, I will rend their kingdoms; I will not only shake the earth, but the starry heavens shall tremble.” (verse 118.)

The keywords in these verses are “rend their kingdoms,” “shake the earth” and “the starry heavens shall tremble.” Anyone schooled in the nature of planetary catastrophes that have punctuated Earth’s past and the prophetic metaphors they gave rise to will recognize what the Lord intended. These same metaphors have been used by the prophets to describe numerous episodes in Earth’s past when the entire world came to the brink of destruction-episodes such as Noah’s Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Exodus and numerous other such widespread catastrophes.

The references are subtle but unmistakable. The metaphors “desolation of abomination,” or “desolation and utter abolishment” are coded expressions for planetary catastrophes of the most devastating kind where nature goes on a rampage, where almost all the works of mankind crumble in worldwide earthquakes while oceanic super-tsunamis rush in upon continents, wiping vast areas of the globe clean of any vestige of life, all as the heavens appear to reel about as a result of our planet’s wobbling on its axis of rotation.

As if to put a lock on his meaning, God added this unmistakable declaration. “For I, the Lord, have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven; ye cannot see it now, yet a little while and ye shall see it, and know that I am, and that I will come and reign with my people.” (verse 119.)

It is the powers of heaven that wreck destruction and havoc on the Earth, a frequent scriptural theme.

And just to clarify, the Lord says that there is nothing unusual to see in the heavens just now, “ye cannot see it now.” But the time will come when we will all see and know what the desolation of abomination is. That is, “yet a little while and ye shall see it.”

Finally, as a warning against dismissing the importance of this knowledge and its conveyance, the Lord said, “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received-

“Which Vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.” (verses 54 and 55)

Make no mistake. Ignoring or dismissing this aspect of our priesthood callings by failing to obey the Lord’s commandment in this regard has brought condemnation upon us all. Perhaps not coincidentally, these are the very verses President Ezra Taft Benson quoted when he counseled church members to repent of their doubt and pride, saying also that the whole church was under condemnation.

Part II – Watch the Heavens

To assure the reader that the above is not a strained interpretation of a few obscure and selected verses, we should take a moment to learn why the Lord might want his priesthood to understand the cause and nature of planetary catastrophes.

In all ancient cultures, the priestly class dominated the religious life of any culture, including the symbolic center of their religious tradition: the temple. All ancient cultures had temples wherein the priestly class administered rites and rituals of salvation, whether or not they had the true priesthood.

We learn from Abraham that this was certainly true of the Egyptians. “Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations …. Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham ….” (Abraham 1:26, 27.)

We know from archeology and research into the Egyptian religion that they not only had temples, but they performed resurrection rituals, much as we do in our temples today. Thus, as Abraham implies, they obviously sought to imitate true priesthood orders and rituals. (See Hugh Nibley’s extensive writings on this subject.)

Some temples were elaborately constructed edifices, such as the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Others were merely groups of standing stones, such as Stonehenge. In the Americas, pyramids were the temples of choice, as were the ziggurats of Mesopotamia. Native Americans in the southwestern United States constructed kivas. All these are easily identified as temples because of the rituals practiced therein.

But the temples weren’t only ritual centers. They were observatories, and their architecture abounds in astral alignments. Research has shown us that they assiduously tracked the movements of the heavenly bodies. As we have seen, they were absolutely obsessive about fixing and tracking the points where these bodies rose over the horizon, most especially the Sun during the summer and winter solstices.

A fundamental part of priestly responsibility was to watch the skies by tracking the movements of the Sun, the Earth, the Moon, the planets and the stars, which they accomplished with a variety of ingenious methods.

Most common among these ancient sky watchers was the practice of aligning stones or architecture such that the first rays of light from the Sun as it rose in the morning would fall on a well-marked spot on another stone or marker within a building. Thus, they could track the Sun’s rising on the horizon throughout the year as it varied, moving slightly more north or south each day until it reached its most extreme positions at the winter and summer solstices. This, then, was a simple but effective way of ascertaining that the Earth, not the Sun, was moving in its normal, prescribed path. Any deviation would easily be discerned.

This proclivity has long puzzled archeologists and anthropologists. Why did the ancients seem preoccupied with astronomy? Why did they track the movement of astral bodies? Why was astronomy so important to them that they practiced it and incorporated it into their most sacred shrines, their temples?

This was as true of God’s authentic prophets and priests as it was of the pretenders. We learn this from Abraham, for example. “But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers.” (Abraham 1:31.)

This notion is further confirmed when Abraham is shown stars and planets through the Urim and Thummim. It seems to be God’s desire that the prophets have an intimate knowledge of things astronomical. But to what end, if not to watch for irregularities in the skies?

This is reflected in our modern temples, where astral symbols abound, as they also did in ancient temples. This was and is information about the Sun, the Moon and the many stars or “great lights, which were in the firmament of heaven”-the very icons we find adorning the walls of our sacred temples.

But, what does astronomy have to do with religion and priesthood? It’s really quite simple.

God always warned the world’s inhabitants of impending planetary disasters. The scriptures are replete with such accounts. Adam and Noah warned of the coming Great Flood; Abraham warned Lot to flee Sodom and Gomorrah; Moses warned the Israelites, Pharaoh and the Egyptians of the plagues that would shortly befall them; and Samuel the Lamanite warned the Nephites of the destructions to accompany the crucifixion of the Savior.

Not only that, there are an even greater multitude of warnings regarding identical destructions and devastations in the last days, before the second coming. John wrote extensively in his Revelation. Isaiah, Malachi, Zechariah, Habakkuk, Nahum, Joel and even the Savior himself told of these planet-wide catastrophes as a “desolation of abomination.” Hence, there are a multitude of past and future warnings from the prophets in our scriptures of the “desolation and utter abolishment” that awaits the world in our day, just as they occurred in the past.

 It is only natural, then, that God would charge his priesthood with the sobering task of watching the heavens to discern any change in the motions of the Earth, Sun, Moon or the planets. Alterations in any of those would likely portend trouble.

So, this is the easily discernable reason why all ancient cultures, including those led by prophets, were so invested in watching the heavens. Any deviation in the movement of the stars or planets meant almost certain disaster for Earth’s inhabitants. So, tracking them was the sure way to know at the earliest possible moment if something went awry.

A rather practical, down-to-earth approach for such an esoteric discipline as astronomy, wouldn’t you say?

Since modern astronomy denies the possibility of any deviation in the orbits of the Earth, the Sun and the other planets in our solar system, they are left with no basis for understanding the ancients’ preoccupation with the heavens. They chalk it up to superstition, and that’s where it ends.

But ancient and modern revelation, along with all the texts left behind by other ancient cultures, repeatedly and compellingly insist that the order of the heavens was altered in historic times, in spite of the insistence to the contrary by modern science.

The prophets repeatedly spoke of a change so great, so sweeping that it completely alters both the heavens and the Earth. “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. … Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth ….” (2 Peter 3:7, 13.) “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.)

This principle is most clearly enunciated in latter-day revelation. “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 old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth ….” Doctrine and Covenants 29: 23, 24.)

All this being true, then it only makes sense that God would want to reestablish this practice of watching the heavens among his priesthood in the latter days. And knowing this explains why the priesthood was assigned the duty of “watchmen” in the “watchtowers.” While a watchtower in a fortress or walled city might be useful in spotting an army of approaching foes, an astronomical observatory might effectively be thought of as a “watchtower” and the priesthood as “watchmen” where the possibility of planetary disorder exists.

Hence, the Lord implores his people, and especially those ordained to the priesthood to “Watch, therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:42.)

Also, “Gird up your loins and be watchful and be sober, looking forth for the coming of the Son of Man, for he cometh in an hour you think not.” (Doctrine and Covenants 61:38.)

This, then, is a duty traditionally assigned to God’s priesthood bearers. That he would again restore this assignment to the priesthood in these latter days is perfectly natural and in harmony with the ancient pattern. That means that this is information and understanding that every latter-day priesthood holder should master, as we have been commanded, in order to fully discharge our sacred duties.

Not only can we better fulfill our callings through this study and practice, this information will further enhance our gospel understanding to a considerable degree, allowing us to better understand the scriptures, the words of the prophets and the symbolism of our temples. This is true because the symbolism that dominates the gospel actually originated in ancient astral events.

 Part III – The Reiteration

Lastly, in order to better understand the 84th Section, we must turn to the 88th Section, where the Lord reiterates in much more detail what he gave in the earlier revelation. Read this revelation with the counsel and commandment of the 84th Section in mind to bring greater clarity and meaning to the Lord’s expressions.

Let’s review Section 88 verse by verse, beginning about half way through.

“77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.”

God here referred to the same commandment he already gave in Section 83, as will be plainly seen as we proceed.

“78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand ….”

This is the very instruction needed to prepare a teacher to explain what the desolation of abomination is, how to watch for it and how to explain it. While we are presently doing a good job of teaching gospel principles and law, we have fallen down in the other two named categories: theory and doctrine. Otherwise, the knowledge of these planetary destructions would be common among us. Since they are not, this is prima fascia evidence of our ignorance.

And what are those things that we have failed to study and fully understand?

“79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass … and the judgments which are on the land ….”

 You see, it is in studying the “things both of heaven and in the earth” that we discover the changes wrought by past planetary catastrophes, because those changes are explicit in ancient history or “things which have been.” Of course, by studying “things which are,” we find a basis for comparison with the past. In so doing, we learn that our world and its heavens are vastly different than they were. Additionally, in studying “things which must shortly come to pass,” we learn that coming planetary disorder will be nearly identical to past catastrophes, giving us yet another basis for comparison and a vivid idea of what the future holds for this world when planetary disorder once again nearly destroys our planet, causing “desolation and utter abolishment.”

“80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.”

This is the heart of the matter. We cannot be fully prepared to “magnify the calling” we’ve been given if we have not prepared ourselves with this vital knowledge, which we now utterly lack.

“81 Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.”

This is a restatement of the mission: We must “clearly and understandingly” tell them of the “desolation and utter abolishment” that awaits this world.

“84 Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry ….”

Without this knowledge of planetary catastrophe, we cannot be “perfected” in our knowledge. And we cannot properly teach if our knowledge is incomplete or incorrect. Hence the Lord’s counsel to “tarry” while we “labor diligently” to learn these concepts.

 “… to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come; …”

Notice here that this mission to teach of planetary catastrophe is not only necessary to teach the nonmembers or “Gentiles,” it is needful “to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment.” Thus, this mission is as much to the members of the church as it is to potential converts. This is the second part of the commandment, which we have completely overlooked.

“85 That their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come.”

Just to clarify that both sections 84 and 88 are talking about the same things, notice that the Lord once again cites the “desolation of abomination,” while yet further defining it as the “wrath of God.”

And here’s the payoff. So that we might be certain of what he’s talking about, the Lord describes the desolation’s most prominent elements.

“87 For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree.”

It is these variously described, symbolic elements that are seen to comprise the effects that accompany a planetary disaster.

In Section 84, he cited another such symbolic, yet very real, element. ” I will not only shake the earth, but the starry heavens shall tremble.”

It is the comprehension of these metaphors, and the many other symbolically described elements, that are crucial to one’s understanding of the very things we’ve been commanded to teach, that is “set forth clearly and understandingly.” It is these elements of planetary catastrophe that we must master in order to teach them to others.

“88 And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.”

The Lord said the same thing with more obscure language in Section 84 when he said, “For, with you saith the Lord Almighty, I will rend their kingdoms.”

That is to say, first comes the priesthood’s warning, then comes the destruction. It’s the same pattern followed throughout world history: God calls a prophet to warn the people of impending disaster and call them to repentance. That done, the promised destructions are poured out.

For good measure, the Lord then lists many more elements of a planetary encounter.

“89 For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.

“90 And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.

“91 And all things shall be in commotion; surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.”

Again, it is these natural phenomenon that constitute the prophesied desolation.

Next is an entirely metaphorical narrative that cannot be understood until one is thoroughly schooled in the prophetic tradition that arose from past planetary calamity. It is coded language, symbolic allusions to very real things that will be seen and heard.

“92 And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.”

It is in the decoding of such metaphors or symbolic language that a corrected view of ancient planetary catastrophe becomes vital. With it, we can see what such allegorical declarations truly mean.

Now comes the “piece de resistance” of this revelation.

“93 And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.”

It is this “great sign” that is the cause of these overwhelming natural phenomenon that will sweep the Earth.

Some have supposed that since the word “sign” is used here that there would be some stunning, symbolic manifestation in the heavens that would signal the onset of the destructions. But, the training and education that comes with studying past planetary encounters tell us otherwise.

Joseph Smith explained in more explicit terms what that “great sign” would be.

 “There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the coming of the Son of Man in heaven.  What will the world do?  They will say it is a planet, a comet, &c.”  (History of the Church, 5:337.)

Of course, the entire world will call this sign a planet or a comet because that’s exactly what it will be-a planet-sized orb that also looks and behaves like a tremendous comet.

And just so there are no loose ends to this exposition, make note that Joseph connects this “sign” with all the same devastating natural destructions as the two revelations we’ve been considering. That can lead to only one, inescapable conclusion: The planet or comet is not only a sign, it is the very agent-the single cause-of all the natural destructions that are part of God’s desolation.

 Epilogue

 After all this exposition, these points are worth making one last time: It is the Lord who decreed that the priesthood’s role is to be the conservators and expositors of this knowledge among church members. Not only that, they were charged with watching the heavens for deviations that might portend renewed catastrophes.

Sadly, present-day priesthood holders not only do not understand these things, they are inclined to discount and suppress them, thinking they are too fantastic or bizarre to be credible. Most elders in the church know nothing of the simplest aspects of astronomy, thinking it something entirely and completely foreign to the gospel of Christ. Yet, a survey of teachings by general authorities from Joseph Smith on forward has revealed that these subjects have been amply treated and clarified in this dispensation, to say nothing of the preponderance of evidence found in our scriptures and the other records we have from the past.

Today’s priesthood holders have no concept of such a mandate from the Lord, even though it is plainly stated in latter day revelation. Neither have they properly searched our scriptures, otherwise these things would have been self evident. Therefore, today’s priesthood holders are unable to comply with the Lord’s mandate to teach these truths “clearly and understandingly.”

Perhaps its time we stopped treating prophecy and prophetic imagery as the redheaded stepchild of the gospel. Maybe it’s time we reversed our course by taking seriously this commandment. By admitting our oversight, we can begin to correct it.

Remember God’s counsel: “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received-

“Which Vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.” (Section 84:54, 55.)

Will we allow this to continue?

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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.

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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.

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