Saturday, November 4, 2017

Response to Jeff Lindsay’s Challenge

Recently, an article by Stephen Smoot was published by Mormon Interpreter, which aptly points out the presence of the divine council, or at least the angelic host of the divine council, in the Book of Mormon. Jeff  Lindsay subsequently issued a challenge to critics of BOM historicity to find possible sources from which JS could have gotten the concept of a divine council. Having recently learned of the numerous parallels between George Oliver’s Antiquities of Freemasonry and JS’ translations, revelations, and teachings, I thought I’d crack it open and see what I could find. While I don’t know that Antiquities provides a possible source for every point introduced by Smoot, it does cover most of them.

The angelic host of the divine coucil around God’s thrown, mentioned in Nephi’s account of Lehi’s vision and in Alma 36, is portrayed in Antiquities at the return of God at the conclusion of creation. It reads, “the angelic host, in choral symphonies, welcomes Him to His throne in the Grand Lodge above” (36). The text similarly explains that Job’s “sons of God” who shouted when the foundations of the world were laid are the “angels of heaven” (29, It’s worth noting that this comes amidst a discussion of  “pre-existent worlds,” angels who were expelled for disobedience, “angels, who kept their first estate,” or in other words, a general discussion on the “extent of God’s works before the creation of man.”)

A type of divine council is more explicitly addressed by Antiquities in a footnote on the Basilideans a religious sect. The text explains that they believed the name of God to be Abraxas, and then gives a list of eight names: Abraxas, Michael, Gabriel, Ouriel, Raphael, Ananael, Prosoraiel, and Yabsoe. The text then explains that these are “their gods, and their seven angels, the presidents of their seven heavens” (118).

A more ambiguous statement, but related to the divine council, comes as the text describes Adam being in “immediate communication with God and angels” prior to the fall (40). The text also say that Adam and Eve “were the companions of angels, and in full communion with God” (38).

Angels being an extension of divinity and arguably, man’s ability to simlarly participate in divinity is also portrayed in the text during a discussion of Jacob’s ladder. The text reports, “On this ladder the angels of God appeared as the authorized ministers of his dispensations of justice and mercy” (188). It then goes on to explain that the ladder is a type of Christ by whom man ascends to heaven climbing the rungs of faith, hope, and charity (189).

While Antiquities doesn’t sufficiently address divinization or the prophetic call, it does lay a foundation of the divine council consisting of God and angels, and could have served as inspiration to JS and the Book of Mormon. Keep in mind that this is the same book that describes “three worlds,”the terrestrial, telestial, and angelic,” their representation in the tabernacle, the pre-existence, all of the the extra-canonical events found in JS translations describing Adam, Enoch, and Abraham, and the unique Mormon conception of priesthood as God’s eternal power (only as Masonry).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Prophets Before Adam"

JS' journal, on April 28, 1844, Hyrum Smith preached a sermon I wish I could have heard. Here are JS' notes on the sermon in full:
According to
"My brother Hyrum Smith preached at the stand in the morning, and among other things said the time will shortly come, that when one man makes another an offender for a word, he shall be cut off from the church of Jesus Christ. There were prophets before Adam, and Joseph has the spirit and power of all the Prophets" (emphasis mine).
Frankly, I'm not sure what Hyrum may have been referring to. The closest related aspect of early Mormonism that I can think of is Peter, James, and John's physical interactions with Adam in the Endowment, which suggest they are physical beings, at least according to JS' teachings on discerning spirits and angels (see D&C 129), which he taught both before and after the Nauvoo endowment was administered.

In fact JS, speaking at the organization of the Relief Society in April of 1842, said "that the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them, that they may be able to detect every thing false," and he repeated this sentiment in May. "I preached in the grove on the keys of the Kingdom, Charity &c The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed." When thinking of "certain signs and words" as tools to tell "false spirits and personages" from "true," and when comparing the endowment to D&C 129, which, as I stated earlier, was taught multiple times both before and after the endowment was administered, it should be concluded that JS likely perceived Peter, James, and John as physical beings during their interactions with Adam.

Hyrum's statement about prophets before Adam also could be seen as loosely related to JS' teaching in 1843. According to George Laub, JS taught, "Now the history of Josephus in Speaking of angels came down and took themselves wives of the daughters of men, See Geneses 6 Chapter 1-2, verses. These ware resurrected Bodies, Violated the Celestial laws." Maybe Hyrum's pre-Adam prophets were these "resurrected bodies."

Perhaps JS' alleged belief in reincarnation or Heber C. Kimball's multiple mortal probations could provide more context. What is for sure is that the environment in which things like Kimball's multiple mortal probations and Young's Adam-God theory could flourish existed in Nauvoo, and Hyrum's sermon is one more piece of evidence for it.

To Be Baptised or Not To Be Baptised?

In recent posts I've reviewed some of the 1835 changes in the D&C that demonstrate that baptism, authority and formal church organization were not part of JS' revelations up through early 1829 (see here and here). These observations are largely based on Michael Quinn's Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power. Quinn uses D&C 10:67-68 (May, 1829) to support his claim that baptism was not necessary in Mormonism up through early 1829 (pp. 5-6). The passage reads:
67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.
According to Quinn's reading, baptism would fit into the "more than this" category and was not required. This also aligns with 1835 additions an earlier revelation that add in and backdate the divine mandate for baptism (again, see here).

After reading this, I realized that there is a close relationship between these verses and 3 Nephi 11:
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
These verses, from this vantage point, look like an expansion of the verses from D&C 10. There is shared terminology and some shared ordering of said terminology (borrowing a couple of Nick Frederick's criteria for evaluating intertextuality), only 3 Nephi 11 adds baptism, perhaps so that it can't be listed in the "more than this" category.

Given that 3 Nephi 11 was translated sometime before May 15th, and the apparent dependence of the passages from 3 Nephi 11 on those in D&C 10, it appears that JS received D&C closely prior to 3 Nephi 11. It's even possible that D&C 10 inspired conversation/discussion/debate the necessity of baptism, which then inspired the text of 3 Nephi 11. What we know for sure is that 3 Nephi is what clarified to JS and Cowdery the need for baptism and authority. Oliver Cowdery informs us that it is the Savior's "directions given to the Nephites" on "the precise manner in which men should build up His Church" were the inspiration for JS' and Cowdery's observation that "none had authority from God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel" and their desire for the "commandment to be given ‘Arise and be baptized.’"

I believe there is a relevant series of events here: D&C 10 received, 3rd Nephi 11 expands and clarifies what is not included in "more than this", authority and baptism become integral to early Mormonism, JS and Cowdery are baptized, and JS adds baptism, authority, and rhetoric about church to the early revelations.

Joseph Smith had "No Other Gift"?

Compare Book of Commandments 4:2 to D&C 5:4 (see Quinn's discussion in Origins of Power, pp. 9-11)
  • The original 1829 text says of Joseph Smith, "he has a gift to translate the book, and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift."
  • The 1835 version was edited to read, "And you have a gift to translate the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you, and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished."
  • Quinn points out that the original revelation fit well in the early 1829 setting where no institutional church for Smith to lead was on the horizon, but as things changed, the above edit became necessary to not contradict the later development of Joseph's role as the prophet and leader of a formal church. See this post for corroborating evidence.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Changes to Joseph Smith's Revelations

I'm reading D. Michael Quinn's The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, which I highly recommend for its clear depiction of the evolution of authority in early Mormonism and especially for its inclusion of many surprising and interesting details. Some of those details consist of changes to JS' revelations, some of which I was aware of and others not.

Just for funsies, I thought I'd document some of the changes to JS' revelations in some detail. Eventually, I'll put all of the changes into one document, but for now I'll just post them as I have time.

BofC = Book of Commandments

D&C = Doctrine and Covenants
Changes in D&C occur in the first 1835 edition unless stated otherwise. Sections and verses are given from the modern edition of D&C.

P. # = page number of discussion in D. Michael Quinn's The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power.

The following changes stem from the fact that in early 1829 and earlier the original revelations reflected a non-institutional group of believers being born of God without the need of baptism or priestly office or authority.
Compare BofC ch. 4 (March 1829) and D&C 5:6, 14, 16, and 17, p. 6.
    • Verse 6 is an addition, which reads, "For hereafter you shall be ordained and go forth and deliver my words unto the children of men." This is significant because the importance of priestly office/authority had not yet been established or developed in March 1829, so this addition attempts to backdate the concept. 
    • Verse 14 adds, "in this the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness—clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." This change is significant, because it wasn't even clear in March 1829 that JS would be starting an institutional church. Instead, as Quinn points out, there was the idea of a non-institutional church, simply those who repented and believed, ideas outlined by a revelation in the summer of 1828 (See D&C 10:40, 46, 52, 56, and 67-68. Also see Origins, pp. 5-6). This change created a narrative supporting an earlier divine appointment of an institutional church.
    • (This is one I found.) After stating that believers would be born of God, verse 16 adds, "even of water and of the Spirit." In march 1829, baptism was not requisite for believers (see 1828 revelation D&C 10:67-68 and Origins, pp. 5-6). The change backdated the concept baptism in baptism.
    • Verse 17 is an addition in the form of instructions, which reads, "And you must wait yet a little while, for ye are not yet ordained." Again, backdating priestly office/authority.
    • (I originally heard this one in a presentation by Dan Vogel.) The D&C omits the following from the original revelation: "And thus, if the people of this generation harden not their hearts, I will work a reformation among them, and ... I will establish my church, like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old." The 1829 revelation linked the concept of church with a reformation, which was definitely more suggestive the original idea of a non-institutional church than a brand new church born of a restoration.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Roots of the Temple Endowment in 1829

This is a quick and bumpy ride, so if you feel like things aren't quite fitting together, hold on tight and keep reading. The most important point here is the evolution of the ideas about keys, and how early links between Peter, James, and John and keys eventually materialized in the Nauvoo endowment.

In investigating the evolving narrative of the priesthood the restoration I learned that though the names of John the Baptist, and Peter, James, and John in relation to priesthood restoration didn't appear in print until 1835, there were some interesting precursors. One of the significant ones is the 1832 history which talks about the reception of the "holy priesthood" by the ministering of angels, and the reception of the "high priesthood' (no specific angels mentioned) and conferral of the "keys of the kingdom." The 1835 texts specifically link the conferral of the keys of the kingdom with Peter, James, and John, and an 1829 revelation linked Peter, James, and John with the "keys of this ministry," which was ministering unto those who would be heirs of salvation.

 Later in Nauvoo JS describes giving keys to the sisters of the Relief Society. The relevant portion of JS' comments from April 1842 read, "the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them, that they may be able to detect everything false--as well as to the elders." JS made similar comments a month later. The History of the Church reads, "I preached in the grove on the keys of the Kingdom, Charity &c The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed."

For those who know, JS is clearly referencing the Nauvoo endowment, which would be given to a number of saints before JS' death. A more exciting insight, going back to the background I laid out above, is that JS correlates "the keys of the kingdom," a phrase used in both comments, and the ability to "detect false spirits and personages from true" or the ability to "detect everything false." This creates a phrasal link all the way back to 1832 and 1835's "keys of the kingdom," associated with the reception of the high priesthood (1832 and 1835) and a visit from Peter, James, and John (1835 only). This also creates a link between the personages of Peter, James and John and their "keys of this ministry" (1829) or "keys of the kingdom" (1835) and Joseph's Nauvoo endowment. I don't know that JS concieved of these keys in the same way across these time periods (I'm actually kind of certain he didn't, considering the "keys of the kingdom" were first associated with the apostleship, so it seems like the keys get repurposed in Nauvoo), but it's pretty cool to see some roots for the endowment stretching back to 1835, 32, and 29.

Joseph Smith's Kingly Birthright

One possible interpretation of D&C 86:8-10 is that Joseph Smith had the priesthood through birthright (see below for some complications*).
8 Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers--
9 For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God--
10 Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began. 
An early hint of JS' beliefs about his lineage come from 2 Ne 3, which teaches that JS is a descendant of Joseph (11th son of Israel), and though the lineage of Ephraim is one of leadership, it's not apparent that there is a lineal priesthood associated with it like there is for the Levites or the sons of Aaron.

However, a Smith family lineal priesthood authority is actually well attested. JS established the position of Patriarch of the church, which originally was something akin to second in command, as a lineal position given to the eldest in a direct line from Joseph Smith Sr. This clear example of a lineal priesthood eventually disappeared when the position of church Patriarch was not filled after Eldred Smith.

The position of Patriarch to the church is only half of the story. D&C 113 states, "What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse? Behold, thus saith the Lord: It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power." It is common in Mormon thought to believe these verses apply to Joseph Smith, and that seems to be a correct assumption. The line of Jesse refers to the kingly line of David, and significantly, JS prophesied "the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage," which apparently referred to one of JS' offspring. He made this clear when he prophesied that his unborn son, David, would be a "church president and king over Israel" (see D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p. 644 April–May 1844).

In Mormon theology, a King in the kingdom of Israel is a priesthood position. Notably, JS himself was ordained as a King in this sense in the Council of Fifty, also known in revelation as the "The Kingdom of God and His Laws with the Keys and Power thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servants, Ahman Christ." According to Nauvoo theology the priesthood role of King was the ultimate leader of the Church, and according to contemporary accounts, Hyrum Smith was to fill JS' shoes should he die. All of this together gives a pretty clear answer to the lineal priesthood possibly hinted in D&C 86. The Smith family was a royal family in Israel destined to lead the restoration.

*Notes on D&C 86:
Section 86 generally and these specific verses address a plural audience, an important fact that I missed when I first wrote this.

Looking into the plural aspect of the revelation has already turned up some interesting information, but before I launch into that, I'd just like to point out that the most significant idea of this post, that Joseph Smith believed himself to be of the lineage of Jesse/David and that his unborn son would be the new King David leading the church (and probably the world or something like that), is true whether D&C 86 is referring specifically to Joseph or not. In terms of the plural address in D&C 86, some pertinent information about audience is found in the source document in Revelation Book 2 on the JSP website. A note, original to the document, at the end of the revelation reads:

Kirtland December 6th. A[D] 1932 given by Joseph the seer and writen by Sidney the scribe an[d] Councellor, & Transcribed by Frederick assistent scribe and counceller

Frederick William's transcription occurred sometime in January or February of 1833 according to the JSP source note, which means the only two names specifically tied to this revelation's reception are Joseph and Sidney. Essentially, there is an argument to be made that the plural address of this revelation is specifically to Joseph Smith Jr. and Sidney Rigdon. If true, this could be seen as a follow up to an event earlier in 1832 in which Sidney Rigdon preached that the keys of the kingdom had been taken from the church, after which JS corrected him. This was no small matter apparently, and JS prophecied that Rigdon would be afflicted by Satan. Some weeks later Rigdon was spiritually attacked while laying in bed, and then still later Rigdon was reordained by JS, who was satisfied with Rigdon's repentance. From start to finish, this all apparently happened in July of 1832. Whatever Rigdon's doubts about the keys may have been, would have been nullified by a right to priesthood if they "were lawful heirs according to the flesh."

Though, I don't know of any specific priesthood authority assigned to Rigdon's lineage, I still think this 1832 revelation could be an early indication that there was a lineal priesthood in the Smith family, which would be made explicit and irrefutable later on with the establishment of the lineal position of Patriarch to the Church. 

Looking at JSP website also I came across this interesting 1835 tie-in from D&C 107:

39 It is the duty of the Twelve, in all large branches of the church, to ordain evangelical ministers, as they shall be designated unto them by revelation—
40 The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made.

 This ties patriarchal order of priesthood to "literal descendants of the chosen seed," obviously the Smith family if we judge by the office of presiding patriarch.

Anyways, the plural address of D&C 86 definitely muddies the waters. Either way, the lineal priesthood position of presiding patriarch emerges in the Smith family, and the most interesting piece stands independently of D&C 86, which is that Joseph appeared to have believed that his priesthood office of King was tied to a lineage traced back to King David, and that JS' son David would someday fill that role.