Tuesday, December 8, 2015

BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD: JOSEPH SMITH’S SECRET SOURCES FOR HIS REVELATIONS-PART. 3

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This is the last in the 3 series on the Mormon Church’s practice of baptism for the dead.

In Posts 1 and 2 you learned: 
●  Why the Mormon Church performs proxy work
●  The probability of your name being submitted for temple baptism         after you die
●  What takes place in the temple in proxy work for the dead
●  An explanation of baptism for the dead in I Cor. 15:29
●  The early Christian church's repudiation of the practice
●  Joseph Smith's adoption of Gnostic beliefs concerning God, the                                                       Fall, passwords to enter heaven, salvation for the living and dead,                                                   and multiple heavens.

This final post will cover:
  Other ancient sources besides Gnosticism Joseph Smith borrowed from
  Where and when these ancient sources originated, and who wrote them
  How those beliefs arrived in America
  The unorthodox beliefs prevalent in New England in the 1800s during Smith’s lifetime

BAPTISM FOR THE DEADJOSEPH SMITH’S SECRET SOURCES FOR HIS REVELATIONS - Part 3

The ancient sources from which Joseph Smith drew upon and claimed as “revelation” are indeed fascinating. The allure of secret wisdom is powerful—something new always tickles the ears. That includes me. I like reading Gnostic and apocryphal documents—but I can safely do it because I am well able to recognize the contradictions to the Bible. This, therefore, brings up the subject of caution.

I would not recommend new believers in the Lord reading apocryphal documents. They can be very influential and easily sway one who is not yet well grounded in the Bible. For example, when you read in those unbiblical documents something Jesus was supposed to have said, it can get your mind mixed up with Bible scriptures you may already know, and you won’t be able to distinguish whether the saying of Jesus came from apocryphal literature or the Bible. I experienced that many years ago.

Now, I could easily veer off this subject and get into how the Bible is the inspired Word of God and how ancient manuscripts containing copies of the scriptures, as well as archaeological finds, have confirmed the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible we have today. But instead, I will refer you to my article, "Is the Bible Reliable?"  On the dashboard, click "Archived Articles."

Even if one does not read the apocryphal books mentioned herein, for the sake of not being duped it is good to know the sources Joseph Smith used for his doctrines and see the specific doctrines he drew from each of those sources. Knowing this ahead of time will act as a safeguard should any fringe religion or sect try to sway you into believing their beliefs are from God.

Why did Joseph Smith research these ancient sources?

I don’t know if he did it because he was desperate to come up with something new (after all, he was claiming God called him to be a latter-day prophet), or whether he truly believed that the more ancient a text, the more of God’s truth had to be in it. But even if he believed they contained truths he should not have claimed them as personal revelation from God to him. One would have thought he would have double-checked them against the Bible, but he wasn't interested in doing that. He was obviously familiar with the scriptures (the Book of Mormon contains a lot of scripture and Protestant theology). It obviously made no difference to him.

Nevertheless, I can imagine the excitement Smith’s followers must have experienced when he claimed God gave him revelations purposely hidden from the world to be revealed through him as God’s latter day prophet.

What follows next is a brief summary of the unbiblical sources Joseph Smith drew from. Near the end of this article is a chart showing each source's particular beliefs Joseph Smith used as doctrines for his church.

Joseph Smith’s unbiblical sources
The major source for Joseph Smith’s beliefs came from immigrants of the “Radical Reformation” in Europe, so this movement will be listed first. Many are unfamiliar with it. They are only knowledgeable about the “Protestant Reformation” (Luther, Calvin, etc.).

Professor John L. Brooke, in The Refiners Fire, p. 19, states that the “Radical Reformation” in Europe was the "immediate precursor of critical themes in the popular religion of the early American colonies." (I highly recommend this book!)

The “Radical Reformation” of 12th to 17th century Europe. This movement consisted of a variety of beliefs promulgated by self-appointed prophets who felt the need for direct revelation and a literal setting up of God's kingdom. They intended to reform Christendom, and mixed their new claims with Christian concepts. The last survivors of this movement immigrated to America’s New England colonies. They carried with them their unique beliefs and continued to practice them.

This movement's beliefs drew from ancient manuscripts that were in opposition to biblical Christianity. Among the many, they also drew upon Gnosticism (first and second century church period). There were various Gnostic groups, each with a slightly different bent to their beliefs, headed by such leaders as Simon Magus, Marcion, Valentinus, and Carpocrates. Because the Gnostics used the same terminology as Christians (but with different meanings), they easily infiltrated the early church. Some theologians believe the Carpocratian Gnostics were the target of Jude’s attack on those “certain men who have secretly slipped in among you” (Jude 4-19.) (See endnote)(1)

The immigrants' practices and unique beliefs spread among the local Germans and survived into the 1840s, Joseph Smith's time. They also practiced baptism for the dead, which was continued among the Quakers and Germans, particularly by the "Zionitic Brotherhood of Priests" in the Euphrata community of Pennsylvania. Smith copied this and many of their other beliefs, passing them off to his followers as direct revelation from God, never telling anyone where he really got them.

But the Radical Reformation reformers of Europe not only embraced Gnostic beliefs and practices, but others. It was quite a conglomeration as you will see in the following:

The “Cunning Folk. Teachings of white witches, healers, magicians, occult diviners, use of magic rhymes and charms, practiced used within the context of the various traditions of folklore in Christian Europe from at least the 15th up until the early 20th century.

One of the folk practices was using religious magic to find buried treasure. This had a definite impact on Joseph who searched for buried treasure as a living using occult practices. It also influenced his claim of finding the Book of Mormon gold plates buried in the ground.

Hermeticism. Metaphysical teachings and revelations of the Greek god, "Hermes Trismegistus" as contained in the Corpus Hermeticum, a series of sacred texts supposedly given to an ancient Egyptian prophet older than Moses. It discusses the divine, the cosmos, mind and nature, and touches upon alchemy, astrology, and also contains beliefs from the Jewish Kabbalah.

The Corpus Hermeticum was one of many manuscripts found in Macedonia in 1460. In some traditions, Hermes Trismegistus was believed to have been the incarnated Elijah who was prophesied to restore all truth. Within the Corpus was a book called the Pimander which greatly influenced Smith.

The Pimander. A book within the Corpus Hermeticum, nick-named the “Egyptian Genesis”.

Joseph Smith drew much from this and copied it into his Pearl of Great Price. Those familiar with LDS teachings will recognize its below concepts:

The Pimander introduced:
  • Creation ex deo—creation out of God instead of the biblical ex nihilo, creation out of nothing.
  • Eternal primal matter (or primal divine “intelligence”) as the Divine Spirit from which sprang the beginning of matter, the universe and the beginning of God Himself (a strong Mormon teaching by Smith and expanded upon by LDS Apostle, Orson Pratt in “The Seer").
  • Three heavens
  • Universal salvation
  • Free agency (strong teaching in LDS theology relating to the preexistence)
  • Portrayal of a divinely empowered Adam helping in the creation and voluntarily giving up his divinity to "mate with matter"
  • Adam’s fall was voluntary and not a sin. (Those familiar with the Mormon temple ceremony and the Adam-God doctrine will recognize this.)
Alchemy. Belief in the ability to turn base metals into gold, with a metaphysical application to turning human beings into gold—that is, divinizing them.

The origin of the mystical side of “alchemy” came from Greco-Roman Egypt, stating divinized man could recover the divine power and perfection Adam possessed before the Fall. (The main thrust of Mormonism is divinizing faithful Mormons into future Gods.)

The Zohar.  A mystical interpretation of the Torah, and the foundational book for the Jewish Kaballah.

Kaballah. Rabbinic Judaism's esoteric teachings explaining creation and the universe, designed solely for those wishing to attain higher spiritual realization. Also claims to contain the original knowledge Adam received from God.

Smith’s knowledge of the Kaballah came from his friendship with Alexander Neibaur, a European Jewish dentist who converted to Mormonism and was fluent in seven languages, including German, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. He shared with Smith the Kabbalistic view of the Book of Genesis and interpretation of Hebrew words, along with ancient Jewish rites, metaphysical concepts, and information God supposedly told Adam.

Interestingly, this was at the same time Smith was “translating” the papyri from the Egyptian mummies ( placed in the Pearl of Great Price as the Book of Abraham and now confirmed by experts not to be the writings of Abraham). Later, Smith claimed personal revelation for the contents of his Book of Moses (also in the Pearl of Great Price) containing similar information.

Gnosticism.  One of the mystery religions during the New Testament church period and thereafter.


Gnosticism shunned the material world as evil because it was created by a demiurge (a lesser god). Salvation and oneness with God came through special knowledge called Gnosis. Its rituals required, among many other things, for one to know certain passwords in order to pass by the angels in heaven. (The objective of Mormon temple rites is to gain similar knowledge.)

Masonry.  Temple rituals supposedly connected with Solomon’s temple, using the square and compass, secret passwords, oaths and handshakes. It also contains the Masonic “Legend of Enoch”.

Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were Masons, and Smith, claiming revelation from God, copied their rituals into his own temple ceremony making some alterations. He also based the details of his story about the Hill Cumorah and how he obtained the gold plates of the Book of Mormon using the Legend of Enoch. (More about this Masonic legend is in my book, “The Mormon Missionaries: An inside look”) http://tinyurl.com/h68e3e7

Other historical sources Joseph Smith used 
The following are more sources, but from single individuals referred to as “mystics.” The following contains only a brief description about them but later specific beliefs Joseph Smith drew from them are spelled out in a comprehensive chart.

Christian Rosencreutz. (n.d.) Alleged German founder of the Rosicrucians. Begun after he learned esoteric wisdom on a pilgrimage to the Middle East among Turkish, Arab and Persian sages, possibly Sufi or Zoroastrian masters.

Jacob Boehme. (1575-1624) German Lutheran mystic and theologian whose works were declared heretical.

Anabaptists. Direct descendants of the Radical Reformation. The Mennonites and other branches spread from them, assuming different names.

John Dee.  (1527-1609) Mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occult philosopher. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy.

John Saltmarsh(17th century) Studied astrology, alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy.

The Muggletonians.  (1608-1658) Started by John Reeve, but named after his cousin, Lodowicke Muggleton who served as mouthpiece for Reeve’s revelations. Both claimed to be the two witnesses of the last days mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

Paracelsus.  (1493-1541) born as Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, Swiss German philosopher, physician, botanist, astrologer, gnostic and general occultist.(2)

Emanuel Swedenborg. (1688-1772) Swedish scientist, philosopher. theologian, revelator and mystic.

Joseph, fascinated, studied everything he could get his hands on—Gnosticism, the Pimander, Kabbalah, Hermeticism, teachings of the Radical Reformation, and the mystics of later centuries, so as to come up with new revelations and doctrines for his church. Like the writers of his ancient sources, he also mixed Christian concepts with them, utilizing the name of Jesus Christ and God the Father which greatly influenced potential converts. His followers had no reason to question him. After all, someone who had declared that God and Jesus appeared to him couldn't be wrong.

Biblical Christianity, of course, renounces all of Smith’s doctrines and teachings and declares the Bible the true word of God and the only reliable account of God’s revelations to man.

Below is the chart I mentioned earlier, showing the particular beliefs Joseph Smith used for his doctrines and passed off as revelation. Those familiar with Mormon teachings will readily see the plagiarism. 
(I'm sorry if the print is too small to read. I had real problems putting it on here. If anyone wants a PDF document of it, email me at janishutchinson@comcast.net.)
End of Chart

Conclusion
Hopefully, in all three posts, you will have acquired a better understanding of why the LDS Church practices vicarious work for the dead, where they got it from, and recognize other of his doctrines gleaned from unorthodox sources. Their ancient nature does not necessarily make them God's truth. Christianity’s stance about Mormon teachings is the same as declared by Paul in Galatians 1:8:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
If you would like more detail about all of the above, plus a list of books in print available to Joseph Smith during his lifetime, they can be found in my book, "The Mormon Missionaries: An inside look
Second edition available at Amazon, B&N and iTunes

THANK YOU FOR VISITING!
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Until next time,
Janis

Endnotes


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