Latter-day Saint Investigator Files

Are you Investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? Having Doctrinal difficulties? If you have received divine affirmation and are looking to understand some of the deeper doctrine this blog was written for you. I am gearing this for investigators who love to search the internet for answers like me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Masonic Lodges and Latter-Day Saint Temples

In June 22, 1834 at Fishing River, Missouri, Joseph Smith prophesied that the endowment would be revealed. On the 4th and 5th of May,1842 the endowment was revealed to the saints in the upper room of The Red Brick Store. (The Relief Society was also organized here.) There are some similarities to certain rituals that were already in practice by different groups at the time. We will explore these similarities and the logical understanding of why they exist.
D&C 105:18 But inasmuch as there are those who have hearkened unto my words, I have prepared a blessing and an aendowment for them, if they continue faithful.
Joseph Smith became a Mason in March 1842, advancing all the way to Master Mason the next day. This was unusual since the normal minimum wait between each of the three degrees is thirty days. It was not uncommon for visionary men in the 18th and 19th century to join the Freemasons both George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt were members of this fraternity. Joseph did not continue beyond the 3rd degree of Masonry. This is significant because that is the level you have to attain to be part of their sacred ceremony.

Joseph Smith was in search of the truth god had promised to reveal to him in many things. He viewed ordinances as sacred and was told he would find the truth in a multitude of confusion. He was told by God that he would be revealed The Endowment ceremony. In short,the endowment is a Ceremony members of the LDS Church go through to solidify their covenants with God and commit them self to these covenants with veracity and sanctity. Heber C. Kimball described the parallel to masonry as the mason rituals as being "degenerated" IE the rituals practiced in the Masonic Lodge ceremony once had truth but had fallen into apostasy over the years.

Joseph saw the Freemasons as a noble group with great values. He encouraged other Saints to join the Masons. Some might say that the Prophet Joseph adapted the teachings of brotherhood he learned from the Masons into his teachings about how the Priesthood should be conducted.

Just as Joseph did not invent baptism by immersion, he likewise did not invent the endowment ceremony. Rather, Joseph restored the endowment from its former state of apostasy and brought back the truthfulness of it.

If you or I saw the mason lodge ceremony we might not be able to discern what we were looking at. But Joseph looking at this ceremony had a moment of eureka.

The mason initiation rites go through a story of Hirum Abif a figure mentioned in the bible as a stone mason who was the Master Mason on King Soloman's Temple. The Mason Temple tells a tale of this biblical story as handed down from the Masons.

Chronicles 2:13 And now I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding, of aHuram my father’s,
14 The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and ato find out every device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David thy father.

Kings 1:7 13 ¶ And king Solomon sent and fetched aHiram out of Tyre.
14 He was a widow’s son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass: and he was filled with awisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and bwrought all his work.
Essentially, the story told in the Masonic Lodge ceremony goes through the story of this biblical account, each initiate is taken through a mock ritual where this story is acted out. In contrast the endowment ceremony is largely a creation liturgy and has no mention of Hiram Abif.

The complex work of a Prophet is a fascinating subject. It is clear that we do not have a first hand understanding of what talks Joseph had with God. Even most LDS skeptics agree that Joseph had a sincere nature and honestly believed he was spoken to by God and told he would restore the truth of god's plan for men in these latter days. Although some of the same movements and structure is used in the LDS endowment ceremony are borrowed from the Mason Lodge ceremony, NONE of the symbolism or context in which they are used are the same.

Why do Latter-day Saints including myself tread lightly when addressing this subject? Well, there are some things that are so simple and pure that deserve a level of sanctity and reverence. You wouldn't want to discuss your parent's sex life, although the act had to have occurred at least once for you to exist. The Temple is open to all, however as with a University, there are prerequisites to entrance. Curiosity alone is not a prerequisite or qualifying factor to enter into the temple. Keeping the commandments of God is the most important factor that qualifies entry into the house of God. Through righteous living, we can prepare ourself for entry into his house and making eternal covenants with our Heavenly Father. If we do not keep his commandments and enter in unworthily we would defile his house and he would cease to enter into it.

The work we do in our temples for both the living and the dead are sacred and pure ordinances and are performed by worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. To compare our Temple work with the Mason lodge rituals is unfair. A fair summation is to sight that the Masons had many good ideas some of which were perfect, others that had become degenerated. If Joseph had sought to steal the ordinance from the Masons, he would have changed them completely. The fact that similarities exist suggest that Joseph was not trying to be deceptive in his methodology of restoration.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Adam God Theory

A typical response to the Adam God Theory is "The problem with "Adam-God" is that we don't understand what Brigham meant." What Brigham Young had to say regarding Adam as God, has been contested,debated and misunderstood since this doctrine was revealed to the Saints in the infancy of Brigham Young’s tenure as Prophet. Is Adam a god? Some scholars like Dr. Nibley have made statements to the effect that it was true doctrine, however few people understand it. He never goes on to offer an explanation. I decided I would take a stab at it and offer my own theory on what Brigham could have possibly been driving at.

It is important to understand that the word “God” as it is understood has lost its meaning in modern understanding. The Hebrew understanding of the word “ēl” has been translated simply to mean “God” which is understood in modern thought as a self explanatory word referring only to the Almighty. Hebrews understand this word very differently, to them they understand it to mean “power and authority” of a legalistic religious sense. At times it refers to the creator, and at times it does not. Throughout scripture the root of ēl is used contextually and at times refers to those who god has granted his authority to. In the case of Psalm 82, referring to those who hold the priesthood, the root of this word is used in its plural form (elōhîm). Ye are gods and children of the Most High.”

The earth was created in three stages or epochs. The first epoch, involves the spirit creation, or the spiritual earth, in this stage the intelligences were organized into spirit bodies. The second epoch involved the creation of the physical earth and its preparation to sustain human life forms. The third epoch was the stage in which life forms came to the earth, including our first parents Adam & Eve. No single creation account is an entirely definitive, continuous record. Each account provides us with pieces of different events within the creation story. In the Genesis account, there are actually two accounts. Moses’ first account, found in Genesis, chapter 1 is a description of the first epoch or spirit creation. His second account found in Genesis, chapter 2 describes the third epoch. In this third epoch, the earth was still in a terrestrial state. Abraham’s creation account beginning in Abraham, chapter 4 starts just as the first epoch is drawing to a close, it than goes on to describe the second epoch, which is the birth and development of the physical earth.

The Pauline account describes three states of being; he compares them to the Sun, Moon and Stars, each differing in glory from the next. Two of the states of being or epochs are mentioned as Celestial and Terrestrial. As it was previously stated, no account has ever been completely definitive.

The commandment given to our first parents before their fall from the paradisiacal Garden of Eden can be very plainly understood, if it is read carefully and in context.

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Adam was to procreate, and to have dominion over all the earth. In this essence Adam received his power and authority and was given godhood over the earth. The kingdom of God was given in a society of Patriarchal and Matriarchal order. Qualities of godhood must only be preserved if one is following God's plan.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

The key is the word used for “sorrow” which is atsav meaning to labor, toil, to sweat, to do something very hard. Again, Adam is given dominion over this Patriarchal society. Thus his godhood in the traditional sense is preserved. As a consequence of the fall did Adam loose his exaltation in the Patriarchal framework of eternity? Contrariwise, Adam is at the very head of this patriarchal chain. Just after the fall, the words ring very clear.

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.

We have evidence that Adam’s state of godhood was taught in the way of textual evidence. Journal entries of the Saints, particularly Brigham Young's secretary L. John Nuttall recorded his interpretation of this doctrine as it was presented to him in the temple, but we can not be certain if he, or any of the other saints who recorded similar entries in their diaries & journals had an accurate understanding of the veracity of the principle being taught.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Multiple Accounts of the First Vision

There are various different accounts of the First Vision of Joseph Smith. Elden Watson's page Is helpful, it lays out the various accounts.

The first point we must illustrate to better understand why the accounts differ slightly is that the account of the first vision was a reflection on events that happened 10 years prior to them being formally recorded. Think about how long its been since you went to the movies. Did you go to the movies 2 months ago or was it really 6 months ago or 1 month ago? The exact time table becomes blurry in retrospect. This is a factor most people who aim to be critical of the first vision all try to downplay. Using this logic, we can simply come to the conclusion the timeline is not whats important to focus on here.

So how do we look at these accounts to figure out what is important? We must begin to look at the first vision as simply a conversion story, Joseph Smith was our first and also our model convert to the LDS church. After all, Joseph Smith didn't found the church, he just restored it through communication with divine authorities. Noah may have built the Ark, but it was God who directed this operation. The same logic can be applied here. When Joseph first received the vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ he was between 12-15 years old. (1820's)When he was recording this Vision, things changed because his understanding of what he saw grew. God promised he would reveal many things to Joseph Smith. By 1850 many things were very clear to Joseph Smith. It is apparent that Joseph Smith never intended to prepare a single comprehensive account of the first vision. Joseph instead gave various accounts to different people when asked about his conversion story.In each account,he highlighted different points. He did not change the story, but he did however touch on different points.

Most people take the account that was published in 1832 of the first vision (Which was written as part of an autobiography) and they like to point out that it only mentions one personage (Jesus) but it doesn't disprove the presence of two. It just doesn't mention the second. We educatedly speculate that at this point, God the Father had not shown him enough to come to this conclusion.

We know he did not receive the Aaronic (Levitical) Priesthood until 1829 and the Melchizedek Priesthood wasn't conferred on him until at least 1830. This supports the idea that the fullness of the gospel was still in process. Given that this was a time of shaping the church, it is important to understand that Joseph Smith's way of thinking probably was still centered in the Protestant churches where he grew up.

Lets start looking at this as a conversion story and begin dissecting what Is important from the varied accounts. Beginning with 1832 we have an element that is unique to the other accounts:

" At about the age of twelve years my mind became seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul"
He feels guilty, is concerned about how God feels about his trespasses. In this account he relates that Jesus Christ extends a hand of redemption and commission's him with work to do.

"he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy way walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life"
He related a this similarly in an 1835 account simply saying :
"he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee."
By 1839 the published account illustrates his concern for which church to join saying

" which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, "Lo here" and some Lo there. Some were contending for the Methodist faith, Some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist;"

By 1835 we can see that he was reading his bible and certian verses became increasingly significant to him.

"under a realizing sense, (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened, seek and you shall find, and again, if any man lack wisdom, let of God who giveth to all men liberally & upbraideth not."

He followed this logic and sought a way for redemption and knowledge. We know in every account that this led him to the woods to pray. Some accounts mention the adversary working against him seeking the truth, others do not. It is consistent in all accounts from 1832 to 1850 that he had a heavenly vision. As of 1832 he shows us he an answer to his initial inquiry of redemption.

"and he spake unto me saying Joseph thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life"

By 1839 he published the answer about which church he was told to join.

"My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner therefore did I get possession of myself so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) and which I should join."

It is true that Joseph testified that God the Father and Jesus Christ the son were independent beings, not manifestations of a Triune Godhead which was the most widely accepted view embraced at the time. He testified also, that the churches that existed in the current dispensation were in a state of Apostasy and that a restoration of truth was essential to understanding God's plan.

It is important to look at the version that was canonized in the Pearl of Great Price in context. It is known as the Wentworth Letter. It was written to "disabuse the public mind" and related to a newspaper that was inquiring about the church. (John Wentworth, Editor and Proprietor of the Chicago Democrat.) It can be seen as the most accurate account that touched on the most defining points.

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