Monday, March 19, 2012


This post will reveal how Joseph Smith adopted Gnostic beliefs into his church and passed them off as revelation.

But wait . . . Before you consider the above a negative statement—it isn't.

LDS scholars readily admit that Mormon beliefs are Gnostic; in fact, they pride themselves on being able to reference early Gnostic documents to validate their baptism for the dead and other temple rituals and beliefs. They even quote profusely from non-Mormon writers who expound on the Gnostic connection to Mormon beliefs. One example is non-Mormon, Dr. Lance S. Owens, whose works are revered by the Mormon History Association and BYU's FARMS (Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research) (See his impressive article, "America's Hermetic Prophet" at

Harold Bloom, a modern-day Jewish Gnostic, states the following:

The God of Joseph Smith is a daring revival of the God of some of the Kabbalists and Gnostics. . . Mormonism is a purely American Gnosis, for which Joseph Smith was and is a far more crucial figure than Jesus could be. (Harold Bloom, The American Religion, pp 99, 123)

In the previous post, Part I (scroll down if you haven’t read it), you read about:

  • The current upset in the Jewish community over the Mormon Church proxy-baptizing deceased holocaust survivors.
  • Comments from the Hindu community concerning Mahatma Gandhi’s baptism.
  • Names of dead celebrities who have been baptized without permission from their families.
  • Why the Mormon Church performs proxy work.
  • What takes place in the temple when work for the dead is performed.
  • Information about the Gnostic group that Paul referred to that had infiltrated the Corinthian church and were practicing baptism for the dead.
  • The strong likelihood that you will be baptized by the Mormon Church after you die.
Special note: Followers of this blog know that I am very particular about noting sources. At the end of this post, I do cite a couple; however, many of the references for this subject are so numerous and lengthy that I have purposely not cited them in order to avoid making this article too laborious and unreadable. However, all the references can be found in Chapter Six and the endnotes of my book, "The Mormon Missionaries," which discusses the Gnostic connection in full detail.

Now, on to the subject at hand . . .

<>Gnostics:  God, the eternal and superior Deity is pure light and intelligence diffused throughout space, and is called the "Pleroma."
<>Mormonism: A sea of eternal Intelligence, co-eternal with God, is diffused throughout space. The first superior God arose from this.
<>Gnostics: The divine Pleroma produced emanations from itself and created a celestial family of lesser Gods.
<>Mormonism: Transmigrations from the sea of eternal Intelligence produced a celestial family of lesser Gods. Also from this sea of Intelligence came the souls of all mankind and the material universe. Thus, God did not create the world out of nothing, he organized preexisting, eternal matter.
<>Gnostics: The lesser gods that the high God created were called Aeons. One of them was the Demiurge, God of the Old Testament. He created the earth, and formed man with a body of evil matter.
<>Mormonism: A council of lesser Gods (the Eloheim) collaborated in the creation. One of the lesser Gods was God's spirit offspring, Jesus, who was also the God of the Old Testament. He created the earth (along with the Eloheim and Michael, and formed man (Adam and Eve) out of a lower level of matter.
<> Gnostics: The devil was the son of the Demiurge, God of the Jews.
<> Mormonism: Lucifer was the son of God. Jesus, God of the Jews, was his spirit brother.
<>Gnostics: The fall of man into mortality was not due to human agency. It was in the divine plan.
<>Mormonism: The fall of man was in God's divine plan. Adam deliberately partook of the fruit, knowing that mankind could not come about unless he and Eve fell into mortality.
<> Gnostics: Temple rites equipped members with special knowledge called Gnosis, and included secret passwords. Those who acquired Gnosis were more elite than other Christians because they had the truth and the secret/sacred ordinances.
<>Mormonism: Temple rites equip members with special knowledge; also secret passwords. Mormons believe themselves to be God's elect because they have the truth and the secret ordinances; thus are elite over other religions, including Christianity.
<>Gnostics: Sacred marriage was performed in their temples.
<>Mormonism: Sacred marriage for time and all eternity takes place in the Mormon temple.
<>Gnostics: The purpose of the secret passwords and signs was to enable participants to bypass the guardians who guard the gates of heaven.
<>Mormonism: Secret passwords and signs enable members to bypass the angels who guard the gates of heaven.
<> Gnostics: The mortal body of humans is evil, but man's spirit remains a divine emanation from Deity. Birth into mortality robs one of this knowledge. By becoming a Gnostic and acquiring Gnosis (special knowledge), man can then return to the Pleroma and unite with others into the divine essence and family of God. Theodotus' Gnostic sect taught that resurrection would reunite one in heaven with the "original divine spirit parents."
<> Mormonism: Man's spirit is divine because all are literal offspring of Deity. Birth into mortality robs one of this knowledge. By becoming a Mormon and learning this, you can return to your divine parents in heaven.
<>Gnostics: Jesus was the latest Aeon (lesser God) to free men of matter (become more spiritual) and to teach them how to achieve resurrection and salvation for their spirits. Together, Jesus and the Holy Ghost, or Christ Principle, reveals the true God to mankind and teaches Gnostics that the physical body is evil, and the true "Christ Principle" or divine spark is within them, and has always resided in their spirit since birth. This special knowledge allows them to enter back into the sacred Pleroma. This is salvation, and one is no longer subject to demons.
<>Mormon:  Jesus is a lesser God. The Holy Ghost testifies to the truth of Mormonism. The temple ceremony teaches members that their spirit is divine and has always resided in them since birth. Going through the temple to receive this knowledge provides full salvation (referred to as exaltation) and one can enter back into the sacred presence of God, comparable to the Pleroma.
<> Gnostics: There are multiple heavens, and three kinds of people: (1) Spiritual (those with a spiritual nature because they have received Gnosis that allows them to return to the divine Pleroma.) (2) Psychical (ordinary Christians who will attain a lesser form of salvation), and (3) Material (Pagans and Jews, doomed to perish)
<>Mormonism: There are multiple heavens, specifically three, and individuals will enter one of them.
(1) Telestial Glory (comparable to the stars) Those who are worldly, wicked, liars,
thieves, sorcerers, adulterers, blasphemers and murderers. (Mormon Doctrine, p. 778)
(2) Terrestrial Glory (comparable to the moon) Those who are lukewarm Mormons; the dead who accept Mormonism in the spirit world after vicarious work is performed in their behalf, and good people of the world who did not accept Mormonism when alive. (Mormon Doctrine, 784)
(3) Celestial Glory (comparable to the sun) The Celestial heaven contains three
degrees within it, in order to accommodate three classes of people:
(a)   faithful Mormons who adhered to all the rules of the church (Tithing,
Word of Wisdom, acknowledgement of Joseph Smith), but did not receive temple ordinances.
(b) those who received the temple ordinances, but did not marry;
(c) those who received temple ordinances, married, and entered plural
  marriage, qualifying them to become Gods and Goddesses (exaltation).
<>Gnostics: All the dead must be saved before the living can be saved. Vicarious baptisms for the dead free the spirits of the dead to merge (be resurrected) into the Pleroma; therefore hastens their own salvation.
<>Mormonism: Mormons also believe they cannot be saved without their dead. Vicarious work in their behalf is imperative.

Walter Schmitals, in his book Gnosticism in Corinth, says:
. . . the Gnostics' concern for the relatives who departed without Gnosis must be
greater than among the Christians, who ultimately could wait patiently for the grace
of God even for the deceased who were unbaptized. From [the Gnostics']
perspective, it is understandable that some were anxious to substitute the magical
act of baptism for the dead for the Gnosis [knowledge] which the dead
were lacking. For Gnosticism then, baptism for the dead in principle, takes on 
a greater significance than the baptism of living Gnostics, which in fact could have
only a symbolic meaning.(2)
If Paul, in his teaching on the bodily resurrection, had totally understood that the group in the Corinthian church who was practicing baptism for the dead were Gnostic infiltrators who only believed in the resurrection of the spirit, he would never have used it, and it would never have been in his letter for us to puzzle over centuries later. Further, Mormons would not have been able to use it to validate their Gnostic practice.
What was the attitude of early Christian councils toward the Gnostics? Gnosticism created a huge controversy. Finally, after continual denouncing these sects as deviant and heretical, two late fourth century Councils (in 393 and 397) decreed: "The Eucharist shall not be given to dead bodies, nor baptism conferred upon them."(1)
Where did Joseph Smith get the rest of his doctrines? You probably are asking, "Since this is a post on the subject of baptism for the dead, why get into the rest of Joseph Smith's doctrines?" Because his other beliefs are embedded in the temple ceremony in other vicarious work for the dead that they perform. Baptism for the dead is simply the prerequisite to them. Examples of these other beliefs are the washings and anointings that take place in the temple's basement, the endowment ceremony's depiction of Michael's role in the creation, existence of a pre-mortal world, holy garments, priesthoods, death penalties, marriage for eternity, new names, passwords, Adam's choice to fall, three heavens, and more. Therefore, knowing where Smith got these beliefs should invoke the same pressing interest as when asking where he got baptism for the dead.
Joseph, or course, always claimed he received it all via "revelation;" but that's not how he acquired them. It was not unusual for Smith to look for practices used by various religious groups of his day, as well as his study of books containing old religious beliefs—especially those that had been transferred to the New England states by immigrants from Europe who were survivors of the Radical Reformation. He kept his eyes and ears open for any source that could provide him with unique doctrines and incorporated them into his church. By passing them off as revelation, he enhanced his status as "prophet."
The next post (Part 3) will reveal the specific beliefs that were prevalent in New England in the 1800s from which Joseph Smith "borrowed," showing how he incorporated them into his new church and claimed them as revelation.



(April 3rd )

1.  M. l’AbbÈ (Jacques Paul) Migne, Dictionnaire Universel et Complet des Conciles (Paris: Ateliers Catholiques du Petit, 1847), Vol. I, Col. 477, and Rt. Rev. Charles Joseph Hefele, DD, History of the Councils of the Church (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1896), Vol. 2, 397ff. Cited in BYU scholar, John Tvedness' article, "Baptism for the Dead: The Coptic Rationale."
2. Gnosticism in Corinth: An Investigation of the Letters to the Corinthians. Abington Press, 1971, pn unknown.
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