Last month’s post (Part I of this series), revealed the LDS Church’s temple practice of vicariously baptizing the dead, a practice Joseph Smith passed off as revelation from God, but in actuality took from the Gnostics who indulged in the practice in the early New Testament church.
Claiming Joseph Smith did this is not taken as a negative statement by the LDS Church’s scholars. They readily admit their church's beliefs are Gnostic—in fact, pride themselves on being able to reference early Gnostic documents as validation for their baptism and other temple rituals for the dead.
This post will show other Mormon doctrines, besides baptism for the dead, that Joseph Smith obtained from Gnosticism, Hermeticism and the Kaballah (defined later) concerning God, Satan, the Fall, temple rites, necessity of passwords, divine spirit of humans, multiple heavens, salvation for the dead, and more.
BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD: Joseph Smith and the Gnostics
In the previous post, Part I (scroll past this article), you learned 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 (Princess Diana, Pres. Obama’s mother, Whitney Houston; also, Joan of Arc, Adolph Hitler, George Washington, etc.)
- Why the Mormon Church performs proxy work.
- Information about the Gnostic group practicing baptism for the dead that Paul referred to that had infiltrated the Corinthian church.
- The strong likelihood you will be baptized by the Mormon Church after you die.
- What takes place in the temple when vicarious work will be performed for you.
This article will cover:
- Sources LDS scholars use to validate their temple rituals for the dead.
- What about I Cor. 15:29? Was Paul embracing baptism for the dead?
- Do non-Mormon scholars state Mormonism is Gnostic?
- Joseph Smith’s other Gnostic doctrines. Where did he get them?
- A comparative list showing beliefs of Gnosticism and Mormonism.
- What was the attitude of Christian councils in the early church toward the Gnostics who practiced baptism for the dead?
Gnostic sources LDS scholars use to validate their temple rituals for the dead.
Apocryphal documents (texts left out of officially sanctioned canon of the Bible) are a source the LDS Church now uses to validate their practices, including baptism for the dead. These documents have been available only in modern-day findings, many of which contain secret, or esoteric, rituals during the early New Testament period. LDS scholars now eagerly quote from them, not only to validate baptism for the dead but their other vicarious temple work for the dead. (These documents are listed in my article, "The Reliability of the Bible.")
What about I Cor. 15:29? Was Paul embracing baptism for the dead?
No. Although the answer to this is covered in Part I of this series, scholars suggest that in the beginning of Paul’s ministry he was not as familiar with Gnosticism as he later became. The late Walter Schmithals, a German Protestant theologian, in his book Gnosticism in Corinth, says:
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. (Gnosticism in Corinth: An Investigation of the Letters to the Corinthians) (3)
After much research, especially wading through Walter Schmithals scholarly book (a very demanding read), I'm inclined to believe that Paul was only minimally aware of the group's beliefs that was baptizing for the dead. He incorrectly surmised they were doing it because they believed in a physical resurrection. He probably thought, "No harm done—at least they believe in the resurrection," therefore referred to them in order to back up his teaching on the resurrection of the body.
But if he had known that the group believed only in the spirit being resurrected, not one’s body, he would not have used it, or else he would have had to undo all his previous teaching on the subject. The dead, he taught, were guaranteed to rise bodily in the resurrection because of Jesus' redemptive death and his bodily resurrection. In view of that, there would certainly be no need to perform special baptismal rites for dead people.
Scholars have studied this passage, and most agree that Paul was not talking about the true Saints of the Corinthian church. Other scholars, however, say that Paul was fully familiar with the group, and mentioned baptism for the dead as a slam against their eccentric notions in order to turn their beliefs against them. Either way, it was another group, not the Saints, who were baptizing for the dead. This is why Paul, when he said “why are they then baptized for the dead” referred to them as “they” instead of “we.”
Do non-Mormon scholars say other LDS Church’s temple rituals and beliefs are Gnostic?
LDS scholars, who readily boast their church's beliefs are Gnostic and reference early Gnostic documents to validate their temple rituals and beliefs, 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)
Joseph Smith had historical connection with late remnants of Gnosticism conveyed by Renaissance Hermeticism* and Kabbalah*. ...Joseph Smith is taking on a new visage, and words like "gnostic", "kabbalistic" and "hermetic" (definitions below) have suddenly gained a quite prominent place in the vocabulary employed by those trying to understand him. ("America's Hermetic Prophet". http://www.gnosis.org/ahp.htm#notes. emphasis mine)
Hermeticism: a set of philosophical and religious beliefs based primarily upon the Hellenistic Egyptian pseudepigraphical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus who is the representation of the congruence of the Egyptian god Thot and the Greek Hermes. These beliefs heavily influenced the Western Esoteric Tradition and were considered to be of great importance during the Renaissance.
Kabbalah: the mystical, esoteric tradition and myths of Judaism.
Lance further states, referring to the writings of Harold Bloom, a modern-day Jewish Gnostic and critic of the creative imagination and its Kabbalistic, Gnostic undertones in Western culture:
Bloom has intuitively recognized within Joseph Smith a familiar spirit, a genius wed in nature to both the millennia-old visions of Gnosticism in its many guises, and the imaginative flux of poesy. Individuals less informed in the history and nature of Kabbalism—or of Hermetic, Alchemical and Rosicrucian mysticism, traditions influenced by a creative interaction with Kabbalah—may have difficulty apprehending the basis of his insight. Indisputably, the aegis of "orthodox" Mormon historiography is violently breached by Bloom's intuition linking the prophet's visionary bent with the occult aspirations of Jewish Kabbalah, the great mystical and prophetic tradition of Israel.
From Joseph's adolescent years forward he had repeated, sometime intimate and arguably influential associations with distant legacies of Gnosticism conveyed by Kabbalah and Hermeticism. Through his associations with ceremonial magic as a young treasure seer, Smith contacted symbols and lore taken directly from Kabbalah. In his prophetic translation of sacred writ, his hermeneutic method was in nature Kabbalistic. With his initiation into Masonry, he entered a tradition born of the Hermetic-Kabbalistic tradition. (Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens http://www.gnosis.org/jskabb1.htm)
Harold Bloom states, in his book The American Religion:
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)
Where did Joseph Smith get his other doctrines, besides baptism for the dead?
You probably are asking, "Why get into the rest of Joseph Smith's doctrines?" Because his other beliefs are embedded in other vicarious work for the dead performed in their temple’s Endowment ceremony. 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 God, 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 study 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 (the birth of many radical Protestant groups begun in 16th century Germany and Switzerland, which spread throughout Europe). Smith kept his eyes and ears open for any sources that could provide him with unique doctrines. When he did, he incorporated them into his church and passed them off as revelation. This enhanced his status as "prophet."
The following describes the many Mormon beliefs and their Gnostic source.
GNOSTIC AND MORMON BELIEFS COMPARED
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.
Creation of Lesser Gods and Spirit Beings
Gnostics: The divine Pleroma produced emanations from itself and created a celestial family of lesser Gods. The lesser gods that the high God created were called Aeons, which included the “Demiurge,” God of the Old Testament.
Mormonism: Transmigrations from the sea of eternal Intelligence produced a celestial family of lesser Gods. (The firstborn to make up God’s council of lesser gods was the future Jesus (who was also God of the Old Testament) and Michael (who later became Adam). Also from this sea of Intelligence came the souls of all mankind and the material for the universe. Thus, God did not create the world out of nothing, but organized preexisting, eternal matter that came from the sea of intelligence.
Creation of the World and Man
Gnostics: One of the lesser Gods was the Demiurge, God of the Old Testament. He created the earth, and formed man with a body of evil matter. The spirit of man contains a “divine spark,” a connection with, or part of, God that is imprisoned in the evil body of matter. One must, through gnosis (knowledge) learn to understand this, and one can then return to God at death (not the body, only the spirit)
Mormonism: 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 God/Eloheim and Michael, and formed man (Adam and Eve) out of a lower level of matter. The spirit within man, however, remains divine, regardless of the Fall, because it is a literal offspring of God and a wife.
The Divine Nature of Man
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. The Gnostic sect of Theodotus 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: 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.
Secret Passwords to Gain Entrance to Heaven
Gnostics: Temple rites equipped Gnostic members with special knowledge called Gnosis, and included secret passwords that would allow them to pass by the angels who guard heaven. Those who acquired Gnosis were more elite than other Christians because they had the truth, along with their secret/sacred ordinances.
Mormonism: Temple rites equip members with special knowledge; also secret passwords to pass by the angels who guard the gates of heaven. Mormons believe themselves to be God's elect because they have the truth and the secret ordinances; thus, they are elite over other religions, including Christians.
Gnostics: Sacred marriage was performed in their temple rites.
Mormonism: Sacred marriage for time and all eternity takes place in the Mormon temple.
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, 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.
Mormonism: 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. The special knowledge gained by going through the temple provides the opportunity for 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-knowledge 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 three types of individuals will enter them.
- Telestial Glory (comparable to the stars) Those who are worldly, wicked, liars, thieves, sorcerers, adulterers, blasphemers and murderers. (Mormon Doctrine, p. 778)
- 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)
- 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, approval 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).
qualifying them to become Gods and Goddesses (exaltation).
Salvation Depends Upon the Salvation of One’s Dead
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 one’s own salvation.
Mormonism: Mormons also believe they cannot be saved without their dead. Vicarious work in their behalf is imperative.
(End of comparative beliefs)
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) further decreed: "The Eucharist shall not be given to dead bodies, nor baptism conferred upon them."(1)
The next post (Part 3) will reveal the specific beliefs that were prevalent in New England in the 1800s from which Joseph Smith borrowed from, showing how he incorporated them into his new church and claimed them as revelation.
DISCOVER HOW JOSEPH SMITH UTILIZED THE TEACHINGS FROM THE
EGYPTIAN GENESIS, THE KABALLAH, HERMETICISM AND ALCHEMY,
AND PASSED THEM OFF AS REVELATION TO HIS CHURCH!
AND PASSED THEM OFF AS REVELATION TO HIS CHURCH!
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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.
Followers of this blog know I am very particular about noting sources. Above are only two. This is because many of the references for this subject are so numerous and lengthy that I have purposely not cited all of them. However, all the references can be found in my book, “The Mormon Missionaries,” Chapter Six and its endnotes, which discuss the occult connection with Gnosticism, Hermeticism and the Kaballah in full detail.