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).