Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Forgotten Promise

We may have overlooked a significant promise given us by a prophet of God.
Moroni, writing his own observations in the Book of Ether, had this to say to us, the members of the modern church:

Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.

Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up  from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.

 And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed. (Ether 4:14–16, italics added for emphasis.)

In these verses, Moroni seems to be saying that the day will come when John’s enigmatic Revelation in the New Testament, also known as the Apocalypse of John, will be fully understood.

Is that possible? Well, if Moroni is to be believed, it must be.

That begs the question, is it understood now? Some Mormons might be tempted to say yes, that Christian ministers and teachers, including some LDS scholars who say essentially the same things, have managed to wrest the intended meaning from John’s peculiar imagery.

Certainly, numerous efforts have been made down through the years to decipher the message John penned two centuries ago. And despite the seeming unanimity Christian scholars appear to have developed regarding its interpretation—including concepts such as the Rapture, the Battle of Armageddon and the Antichrist—the fact remains that the Savior told Joseph Smith in his First Vision that none of their teachings were correct. If that was so then, it is equally true now. Furthermore, consensus should never be mistaken for correctness.

Still, far too many church members have failed to perceive that the Lord’s condemnation of Christian doctrine in that First Vision also includes their popular interpretation of John’s prophecy. Again, if they were wrong about prophecy in Joseph Smith’s day, they must still be wrong today because their interpretations of it have changed little. In this author’s opinion, most of them have been misguided.

I have elsewhere noted that many church members and scholars have imprudently adopted the mainstream Christian or Millennialist view of Revelation. This has taken LDS thinking on the subject down a dead end path. Revelation is therefore as much a “sealed book” for us as it is for any Christian scholar.

That leaves thoughtful Latter-day Saints to wonder when and how Moroni’s prophecy will be fulfilled. Will the time come when we can read and fully understand the meaning behind John’s curious and seemingly unfathomable imagery?

Until recently, no methodology has been proposed that would allow anyone to truly “unfold” John’s enigmatic writings. But a way to do so may now be at hand. Clearly, Joseph Smith understood the book. He called it “the plainest book.”

Let me make this bold assertion: One need not be a prophet to read and understand the revelations of the prophets—both ancient and modern, John’s included—with all their arcane and bizarre imagery. Anyone can read those revelations as easily as they read a newspaper or magazine, given the proper training.

How is that possible, you say? Let’s look at this together.

Curiously, the only way to properly and understandingly read John’s writing is, in this author’s opinion, with a thoroughgoing comprehension of the cosmological metaphors he employs. The very element we see as a stumbling block is the key to deciphering the text. This is my assertion: All the enigmatic imagery John used in his great Apocalypse (Revelation) in the New Testament is based in cosmic imagery, the common denominator in all ancient cultures and religions.

We see this cosmic symbolism everywhere in ancient cultures, from their myths and legends to their sacred traditions and religious iconography. Certainly, it is on display for all to see in their monuments, temples and texts. To our eyes, it looks like paganism, the worship of cosmic gods and goddesses, chaos monsters and world threatening dragons. But a careful parsing of those riotous images and conflicting imagery, looking back into the past at the original archetypes and motifs instead of the later variations and elaborations, we discover a commonality that is otherwise hidden. That commonality became the common denominator for prophetic imagery.

As it turns out, John’s seemingly indecipherable book is a missionary tract, intended for investigators and new converts. John rehearsed all the primary themes of ancient religious lore from his day to illustrate how it fit into the new religion of Christ and to lay claim to ancient roots for the new Christian religion. It was a conversion tool, used to persuade pagans who held these cosmic traditions as sacred that Christianity honored, respected and incorporated their former beliefs and traditions, that they were all intended to point to and culminate in Christ.

Revelation, then, is more of a rehearsal of past catastrophic events and the cosmic images that went with them than it is a prediction of the future. There’s where mainstream Christianity went wrong. We believe John was looking primarily to the future in his tome, when he was, instead, looking to the sacred, cosmic traditions of the past.

So, Nibley was right. “Cosmisim,” as he dubbed it, is a key component of the Restored Gospel, just as it is in John’s Revelation. Upon serious consideration, how could it be anything less? We encounter cosmic imagery at every turn in Mormonism: in Doctrine and Covenants, in The Pearl of Great Price (especially there), in the Book of Mormon, in the teaching of Joseph Smith and on the exterior walls of our modern temples and in our sacred endowment. It is the cosmological side of the Restored Gospel.

Yet today’s Mormons eye the concept of sacred symbolism with suspicion and misgivings. Like their Christian cousins, today’s church members, for the most part, see sacred, cosmological symbolism as either inconsequential, having no real merit, or a satanic effort to distract us from the teachings of Christ, a perversion of truth, foreign to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the antithesis of Christianity.

So in that context, would it be heretical to suggest that the revised view of prophetic pronouncements espoused by this author, using cosmological imagery from hoary antiquity, is the very mechanism by which, as Moroni declared, John’s Revelation will be “unfolded in the eyes of all the people”? There is only one way to know for sure: Put it to the test. Study these concepts and then apply them.

 “And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people.”

Isn’t it a bit curious, in light of Moroni’s words, that most Mormons still do not understand John’s Revelation? Yet, with the cosmological key, the book becomes “the plainest book,” as Joseph Smith declared it to be. It can then be read like any other document, word by word, verse by verse, with nearly complete comprehension.

I know this much: One need not be a prophet to read and understand the revelations of the prophets, with all their arcane and bizarre imagery. Anyone can read Revelation as easily as they read a newspaper or magazine, as long as they employ a knowledge of the archetypes and motifs of ancient cosmological imagery.

There are hundreds of Latter-day Saints who can now do so because they have taken the time and made the effort to master the imagery and symbolism of the ancients and the prophets.

Would you care to be one of them?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Prophecy Enigma Solved

Decoding the Prophets’ Symbolism

You may have heard of the Bible Code. This is not about that. In fact, the Bible Code, as portrayed in Christian and pop literature, is a fallacy.

This essay is about a very real code, though it was never meant to be such. It happened quite by accident. You are probably very aware of it, though you’ve probably never thought of it as a code.

This is about the Prophets’ Code: the vocabulary or lexicon used by the prophets that I call the “language of the prophets.” It is characterized by the odd and often bizarre imagery found everywhere in scripture, including latter-day revelation. Examples of this imagery are such things as wheels, candlesticks, monsters or beasts, stars, trumpets and references to arcane ideas such as fire from heaven, the heavens reeling to and fro, the moon turning to blood, Alpha and Omega, the Son of Man and so forth.

So we must ask: Why the use of such symbolic or coded language? Why a Prophets’ Code? Why mystify any of the gospel? Why not simply speak plainly so all can understand?

I maintain that the prophets’ imagery was “plain language” as it was first used and understood. From the days of Adam until the demise of the Savior and his Apostles, it was a common denominator in all ancient cultures, easily comprehended by people who could neither read nor write. But because the means to understand that language has since been systematically erased or expunged from our culture over time, it has become an enigma rather than a teaching tool.

Therein lies a remarkable story.

Codes and keys: deciphering a lost language

A code can be simple or complex. A game of language called “Pig Latin” is an example of a simple code. To use it or understand it, you must have this key: Move the first letter or consonant of each word to the end of that word, and then add an “a” (pronounced “ay”). Thus, the word “store” becomes “orestay,” or the word “happy” becomes “appyhay.” And unless bystanders can figure out the key—that is, decipher the code—they will not understand what is said by those who do have the key.

So the code’s key becomes the solution to the puzzle.

For the sake of clarity, here’s a simple encoded or encrypted text that is sometimes used to baffle the uninitiated.

“How are you? Everything here is fine. Let everyone know that I am well. Please ease their concerns.”

On the face of it, this message seems to indicate that the writer is in no danger and there is no cause for alarm. But once you decipher the code, using the key, it conveys an entirely different message.

Have you detected the key? Can you decipher the message? If so, you know the message is actually a cry for help—literally! By taking only the first letter of each sentence and putting it in the same order it appeared in the original note, we get the word HELP.

Of course, coded messages are typically more complex than that. Some messages are obviously a code because the symbols used are unfamiliar and cryptic, or the text appears scrambled. Others appear to be legitimate texts, like our little example, because they can be read quite easily. In that case, it isn’t even obvious that it is an encoded message at all, as is the case with the Prophets’ Code.

In every case, one must have the key—sometimes a combination of keys—to decipher a code. Thus, it’s safe to say that where codes are concerned, the “key” unlocks the message.

Coded language

Deciphering an unknown language, such as the Prophets’ Code, is much like decoding an encrypted message.

A good example of this is the Mayan codices. The anthropologists and linguists who are working to decipher the Mayan hieroglyphs have literally been deciphering a code, plain and simple. The very word for their writing indicates that: codices.

The Mayans didn’t intend their writing system to be a code. In fact, for them it was just the opposite. It was their way of recording and presenting their cultural, traditional and religious beliefs. All Mayans could easily “read” it.

It is the passage of time and the inevitable forgetting that comes with it that makes a once-familiar writing or teaching system into a mystery, a code. For them, it was commonplace; for us, it’s an enigma.

The prophets, the apostles and the Savior didn’t invent the Prophets’ Code. They weren’t trying to hide anything. Instead, they were using a well-established, time-honored system of sacred metaphors and symbols from their contemporary cultures to teach the gospel.

Confirmation of the key

Once the proper key is applied to its code, the message it translates becomes clear. The moment that happens, it’s obvious to all concerned that the applied key is the correct one. Thus, the key’s ability to fully interpret or translate a message confirms its validity. Put plainly, it is its own proof.

Nowhere is all this truer than in our attempt to decode the prophets’ message. And it also serves to point out the shortcomings in flawed interpretations so prevalent in Christianity today. When the key is applied—or keys in this case—the message can be read in its entirety, word for word. There are no garbled or incomprehensible segments and there is no need to take bits and pieces out of context to build an interpretation, as do all our Christian cousins.

The long-lost key

So, what is the key to the Prophet’s Code? Cosmology--the events and images projected on Earth’s ancient heavens by electrified plasmas and nearby planetary orbs generating effects and phenomena seen and experienced by all mankind. These were recorded in stone, art, ritual and tradition by the ancients, which then gave rise to the major themes or motifs of all cultures.

Those themes, called metaphors or motifs and their graphic counterparts, the icons or images, became the archetypes for all sacred expression in cultures worldwide. These were handed down from generation to generation, carefully and faithfully preserved as their sacred history.

How history became a code

An explanation of how plain language became a code can be found, of all places, in the vision of Nephi, the one I call “The History Lesson.” (1 Nephi 13.)

He is shown by an angel that the Gospel—“the words of a book”-- would first be corrupted by the Gentiles and then further defiled by “that great and abominable church.”

When we look at secular or profane history, we see just what Nephi described. First the Catholic Church rejected many texts that may have contained authentic teachings of the Savior and the apostles. It’s also apparent from textual comparison that there were many alterations and changes made by these “Gentiles.”

Hence, modern Christianity is based almost entirely on doctrine from only a few texts the Catholic fathers preferred. Actually, it’s quite likely that they chose poorly in some cases because they were not guided by revelation, as were the Apostles. These few canonical texts are thought to contain all that’s needed to be a true disciple.

Later, in the Reformation, many splinter groups broke off from the Catholic. This was the Protestant movement that saw the advent of Lutherans, Calvinists and the Church of England, among others. Like their Catholic predecessors, none of the Protestant churches claimed revelation. Hence, they embraced the same canon that the Catholics had settled upon centuries earlier, though they interpreted it somewhat differently.

At about the same time, one group denounced formal religion altogether. They embraced the doctrines of skepticism, rationalism and empiricism. They rejected both the sacred canon and the teachings of Christianity as “myths,” the product of irrational, foolish minds.

But they embraced the Catholic educational system, the “university” with all its liturgical trappings and degrees of indoctrination—once called “priesthood.” These accouterments include the robes once worn in sacred settings, the cap and gown used in commencement exercises—what Nibley famously called “the robes of false priesthood.”

They created an alternate creation story, their own version of Genesis, which they later called “the Big Bang.” They fashioned their own apostles: Lyell, Hutton, Darwin, Newton and later, Einstein.

This was the Science Church, though it refused to be equated with normative religion, casting itself as the antithesis of religion. And that is the key: It is a religion, complete with its own dogma and hierarchy. Nephi saw it for what it was and correctly referred to it as a “church.” He called it “the great and abominable church”—“great” because it infiltrated all cultures the world over, “abominable” because its doctrine denied Christ and his Gospel.

The result

As a consequence of these two major influences on Christianity, as predicted by Nephi, we can come to only one conclusion: The most common cultural and religious motifs of antiquity are unknown and unrecognized in our day and age for what they truly represent. We either misinterpret them, or we are blind to them, though they surround us. If we recognize them at all, we label them “mysteries” and then dismiss them as inexplicable. They exist in our cultural traditions and customs—even our language—and they are especially prevalent in our religions.

The result: What was once a clear and unmistakable system of related ideas is now a mystery, a conundrum, a secret and impenetrable code. According to secular and sectarian authorities, they are nothing more than “myth,” “legend,” “fairy tales” or “paganism,” having virtually nothing to do with the real world or the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So too the icons that were meant to recall and explain the imagery of all ancient culture and tradition.

Deciphering the Prophets’ Code

The good news is this: You can learn the Prophets’ Code. You can read the scriptural imagery that has heretofore completely baffled you. One need not be a prophet or even a scriptorian to read the prophets’ messages and completely understand them, without the confusion and frustration you’ve encountered in the past.

A whole new world of knowledge and understanding will open to you. You’ll see the scriptures afresh, with a entirely new perspective on the past and the future. The most enigmatic passages and visions in biblical texts—from Genesis, to Ezekiel, to Isaiah, to Revelation—and modern revelation—from Doctrine and Covenants to the Pearl of Great Price—will become as child’s play to read.

Without sounding self-serving or self-important, I suggest that you avail yourself of the information provided by this author to further your understanding of the prophets’ messages. You will benefit from my many years of study and research that now offer a unique and comprehensive understanding of the Prophets’ Code.

Read the scriptures as easily as you would read a newspaper or magazine.

Your best resource and guide is this website: I hope you will make a point of visiting. It will be my privilege to be your guide.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Author's Note:
This article was published on in June, 2012. I thought readers of this blog would be interested in the relevance to pop culture and its influence on the motion picture industry.

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s official, apparently. The movie “The Avengers” has broken all box office records, making it the all-time, most popular movie. Audiences are blown away by the action-packed battles between good and evil, and between the egomaniacal characters themselves.

So, why all this escalating interest in comic book heroes and primeval gods? How did fantastic tales of superheroes battling aliens and mythic gods warring with one another as well as chaos monsters grow in popularity to eclipse all other movie genera?

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The Avengers

In the waning decades of the last century, comic book superheroes had nearly disappeared from the cultural milieu, and reading of the Greek classics such as Homer’s "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" had long since vanished from education’s curricula. So why all the renewed interest in a species of entertainment that had all but disappeared in the latter part of the last century?

Looking back, perhaps we can see why and what it says about our day and time.

Ancient Superheroes

It’s obvious to all who have dabbled in mythology that these crusaders are modern, technological reincarnations of the cosmic gods and monsters of antiquity. Their quarrelsome, contentious natures — "Transformers" being the best modern example — are obviously derived from their counterparts in ancient mythology. Consider Zeus and his band of misfit Titans, incessantly plotting and scheming against one another when they aren’t actually in open, armed conflict.

While such tales of cosmic chaos, where gods and monsters do battle in the heavens, are universal in ancient lore and cultures worldwide, we get our best glimpse of these interplanetary loners, persecutors and tyrants from the Greek tradition.

Enlarge image
The Hydra

In fact, the name for the very place where we go today to witness these horrific spectacles derives from the Greek word for goddess, “thea.” The Greeks called the battles of their sky gods “theomachy,” and government by the gods “theocracy.” Thus, “theater” meant a place for witnessing the exploits of the ancient gods. Their adventures were also rehearsed up close and personal in the rites and rituals enacted in sacred precincts such as temples, henges, kivas and pyramids. Each initiate actually participated ritually in the daring acts or missteps of the gods, goddesses and monsters — some few involuntarily, as in the Aztec ritual of human sacrifice.In Greek custom, the traditional clashes of the gods were rehearsed by actors on a stage using the best special effects they could muster. Gods, beasts and monsters entered the stage in elaborate, sometimes grotesque costume. Their special effects included the roaring sound of battle, theomachy, which could be heard as crude mechanical monstrosities such as Hydra, the serpent like monster with multiple heads, appeared as if from out of nowhere to engage the god and demigod actors on stage.

In fact, the very basis for most of our fiction centers on the confrontation of the villain and the hero, a universal theme in ancient lore.

Modern theater employs an upgraded version of Greek theater, with eye-popping special effects, emotive sound effects and dynamic musical orchestrations — all produced at ear-splitting, mind-boggling levels for added psychological effect. The surreal theomachy of these bullies is spectacularly recreated and take theater to a whole new emotional level.

But make no mistake: Though the Greeks’ efforts were crude by our standards, they had no less an effect on ancient audiences than modern technology allows movie creators to inflict on us. The ancients reacted the same way we do: We enjoy it!

While it takes us on an emotional roller coaster and fills us with dread and astonishment, it also fills deep-seated emotional and psychological needs. Any psychologist worth his salt will tell you that they’re a reflection of the uncertain world we see around us and the anxiety we feel as a result.


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Modern Heroes

The comic book versions of these gods, goddesses and monsters, those we called “action heroes,” and the crude science fiction movie genre that exploded onto the big screen in the aftermath of the Second World War alleviated the doomsday anxiety of a generation of Americans that had seen genocide in that conflict and lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Their common storyline involved an effort to set right a world threatened by everything from petty criminals to maniacal tyrants to malevolent aliens from other worlds and dimensions.When the heroes in comic books or the silver screen defeated the villains, it was reassuring. The world seemed less menacing, less overwhelming. It was escapism, a subconscious effort to assure ourselves that all could be made right in an otherwise uncertain, chaotic and threatening world.

Perhaps looking at it from the perspective of another culture will help clarify.

In the wake of nuclear events that leveled most of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese culture invented Godzilla, a fire-breathing dragon stirred from its tomb by the belligerent behavior of the human race and its abuse of technology. He is the incarnation of the mythic dragons of yesteryear. His more recent silver screen counterparts include the monsters from "Alien," "Predator" and even Hollywood's latest take on the monster from the epic poem "Beowulf."

Future Heroes

By extrapolation then, we conclude that the resurgence of this motion picture category in recent years resides in our collective experience, just as it was with the Japanese. So, too, with the ancients, experiencing the problematic nature of the human condition, sought emotional and psychological refuge in ritual sublimation and escapism.

The trigger that spurred the resurgence of heroic and deific cinemas in recent years was the horrific collapse of the World Trade Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, and the struggle to defeat terrorism. Now, our superheroes, gods, monsters, dragons and demigods have emerged once again on the movie screen with a vengeance. And with the impact imparted by computer-enhanced special effects, these hero- based epics are spectacular and action-packed.

This being the case, one may be forgiven for making a couple of predictions.

If world tensions ease, the popularity of this variety of motion pictures will diminish to the same degree. But if world tensions continue or escalate, it will become even more prevalent, popular and graphic. But more than that, the time may come when the pacifying effects of such movies will not be enough. Like our ancestors, if the provocation to re-enact becomes great enough, the urge will be seen in the streets. Modern society will seek ways to inflict this chaos. We will become suffering actors in our own caustic drama.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Voice of the People

We’ve reached a milestone in American history. Emotions are running high. Liberals are elated; conservatives are disheartened.
This past election was a watershed moment in time. Everyone, on both sides of the political spectrum, is in agreement about that, but for very different reasons. Everything has changed.

Until recent decades, the majority of Americans stood steadfastly for certain core values, whether liberal or conservative. A back-and-forth tug-of-war dominated politics and ensured that neither philosophy could dominate for long. But now, that’s over.

Curiously, the Book of Mormon prophet, Mosiah, had something to say on this subject.

Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people. (Mosiah 29: 26)

For over 200 years, the self correcting nature of our political system worked just as Mosiah explained. Mosiah referenced what we have called “the moral majority” in our time, those who possess the innate goodness manifest by a free people. This “voice of the people,” according to Mosiah, could be counted on to steady the ship of state with the ballast of common sense and tiller of personal responsibility.

But that may be lost to us now. What most Americans do not comprehend is that the creeping secularism on the left has infiltrated and infected every aspect of our lives, altering and eroding traditional American values. Like a metastatic cancer, it has overwhelmed the body politic, leaving us morally and culturally bankrupt.

Once a marginal movement in American culture, progressive secularism has grown greatly in the last three or four decades, in both political and social influence. With the outcome of this election, the door was thrown open wide to further and radically revise traditional American values. That trend may now be irreversible.

Secularism has won the day. Conservatism is in decline. The so called “moral majority” in America is no longer the guiding hand in American politics. Radical, politically correct and progressive notions and institutions are now dominant, the order of the day.

Those living on the public dole, whatever form that takes, represent nearly half the population, giving rise to a dominant entitlement culture in America, displacing the self sufficient, individualist attitude that has characterized the majority of Americans for generations. These who are dependent upon on one form of public assistance or another will invariably elect a leader who will promise to give them more benefits, more perks.

The reelection of Barak Obama confirms this. It is a sure indication, an overt manifestation of the topsy-turvy state of affairs in America today.

Mosiah also cited what will happen to any nation occupying “this land” when the majority loses its bearings.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land. (Mosiah 29: 27)

In the simple and straightforward manner typical of Book of Mormon prophets, Mosiah calls poor judgment “iniquity.” With this past election, it’s clear that the voice of the people, the majority, has chosen poorly.

If, in your opinion, that is an overstatement, if you disagree, just give it a little time to see how this all plays out. We will all be made to suffer for this debacle.

 Further, Mosiah emphatically declares that “the judgments of God” will come upon us for acquiescing to such perfidy. Clearly, if we haven’t sensed it before, we will soon be forced to acknowledge that we are all on board a fateful Titanic.

What is also clear is that the righteous will not be exempt from these chastisements. They seldom are, given the historical record. In fact, if there is a truism that can be distilled from the Nephite record, it is that. So those of us living out the “Nephite nightmare” in our day and time cannot expect our righteousness to exempt us from what Mosiah promised.

The message for us in this crucial moment in American history is, What form will these “judgments of God” and “great destruction” take? To answer that question, we must turn again to events in Nephite history, since that would have been Mosiah’s perspective when he cited judgments and destruction.

While there were many wars, contentions, a drought and predations by Gadianton robbers in Nephite history that could be called judgments, there was one destruction that far exceeds the rest, which immediately leaps to mind. You can read about it for yourself in 3 Nephi. I strongly suggest you do, because like all Nephite ills, this woe awaits us who occupy “this land.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Like Unto the Nephites

Drought grips the country. Over half the counties in the lower 48 have been declared disaster areas. Wildfires erupt intermittently in forests and urban areas. Record temperatures in the heartland ad to the misery index. Water flows in the Mississippi have dropped to record low levels, restricting barge traffic and driving up transportation costs. The price of food and other commodities are on the rise, dramatically in some cases. Perhaps some of this directly affects you and your loved ones.
So, what’s going on?
For the answer, we might turn to the scriptures and the words of modern prophets.
A prophet’s warning
President Gordon B. Hinckley took the occasion in the October General Conference, 1998, to give us a sober warning, one which has profound implications for current events.
He began his advice by citing the Genesis account of Pharaoh’s dream, in which he saw seven fat kine (cattle) followed by seven lean kine. This dream Joseph interpreted as a prediction of a terrible famine in Egypt.
President Hinckley then made plain his intent.
“Now, brethren, I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future.  But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in or­der.
“. . . I hope with all my heart that we shall never slip into a depression. I am a child of the Great Depression of the thirties.” (Ensign, Vol. 28, No. 11, p. 53.)
The fact that President Hinckley was a child in the depression, which he explicitly refers to, means that he also saw the effects of the drought that added to the misery of that crippling economic debacle. So even though he expressly stated “I am not prophesying,” the concerns he expressed were born of his own personal experience in the famished era of the Great Depression.
He then went on to use a curious weather metaphor to finish his warning:
“. . . There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.” (ibid.)
From this analysis, it seems to me that his intent was to subliminally do what he overtly said he wasn’t doing: prophesying. After all, isn’t prophecy invariably a warning as well?
President Hin­ckley clearly warned church members that the economic bubble we then enjoyed might burst, though he was careful to avoid predicting famine or drought in his extended commentary. Yet his remarks focused on the Great De­pression, which was accompanied by a severe drought. This, I believe, was purposeful on his part.
Note as well that he was deeply troubled by the burden of debt we carried in the late 1990s. As an aside this begs the question, what would he say about the debt burden we carry today which is exponentially greater?
Just to emphasize the point before we leave it, does it not seem curious that of all the scriptural examples President Hinckley could have used to make his point, he chose the one that deals with a profound famine, in spite of his denial that he was predicting such?
Next in our analysis, we must go far afield before returning to our central thesis in order to understand the present drought conditions and their connection to Pres. Hinckley’s remarks.
A scriptural warning
As readers of my book Parallel Histories: The Nephites and the Americans know, I see Nephite history as a remarkably accurate predictor of American history. The two histories are that similar.
In that book, I identified 12 overarching points of specific correlation between the two cultures, beginning to end. This puts the Book of Mormon story in a whole new light.
First published in 1989, my book was a modest analysis of the major points of correlation between the two histories, the Nephites and the Americans. The upshot of that analysis was that the Book of Mormon had been carefully edited by Mormon to reflect events that would emerge in our time, the age of the gentiles. After all, as church members universally acknowledge, the book was written specifically for us.
The most relevant segment of the Book of Mormon for our time is that which is recorded in Helaman and 3 Nephi. The events recorded there are astoundingly similar to events in our day and time, as well as predictive of what is yet to come in our time.
Among the more striking parallels cited were the similarities between the battle for the Nephite heartland, recorded in Helaman, and our Second World War. Without citing the many striking similarities between the two wars, let’s focus on the outcomes and their truly remarkable resemblance.
·         The Nephites were able to retake only one-half of their original lands when the war was over. The rest remained in Lamanite hands. *** The Allies in the Second World War had to settle for only about half of Europe. The rest fell into Communist hands.
·         When the dust of war settled, the Nephite capital, Zarahemla, remained in the hands of their arch enemies, the Lamanites. They were unable to liberate it. *** At the end of the Second World War, the capital of Germany, Berlin, remained in the hands of the Allies’ newest enemy, the Soviet Union. We were unable to liberate it.
·         The Nephites and the Lamanites fortified a line between the two opposing armies in the aftermath of the war that divided the land. It was a stalemate. There were no more battles, but both sides maintained a large standing army along the dividing line for years. *** The Allied and the Communist armies fortified a line between them in the aftermath of the war that divided Eastern and Western Europe. It was called the Iron Curtain. There was no war, but there was plenty of “sabre rattling,” part of what we termed the Cold War.
·         Eventually, the two groups were reconciled, and the barrier between them vanished. Nephites were able to travel in Lamanite lands, and Lamanites were welcomed in Nephite territory. *** As our recent history recalls, the Iron Curtain between East and West in the Cold War collapsed, stimulating exchange and travel between two former enemies.
·         Once the standoff between Nephites and Lamanites was over, they enjoyed exceptional prosperity because the time and resources once dedicated by both sides to the stalemate were redirected to prosperous pursuits. *** The end of the Cold War between the East and the West in our time brought about what came to be called the “peace dividend,” a prosperity enjoyed because of the subsequent reduction in defense expenditures.
This brief example of the similarities between Nephite and American history is typical of all the parallels seen between the two, beginning to end. Of course, their “end” will be our future, making large segments of the Nephite narrative predictive of events and conditions in our time.
This is where this analysis and comparison becomes pertinent and invaluable: We can predict events and conditions in our time with a considerable level of confidence by simply looking to the Nephite record to see what happened to them.
This allows us to foresee the direction of events in our time, to see where the flow of history will take us next. It also has the unique feature of making some verses from Helaman read like today’s headlines or lead TV news stories. We are literally seeing ourselves in the Nephite mirror, reading about ourselves in the history of our Nephite doubles.
This makes the Book of Mormon a prophetic book as much as history, a remarkable conclusion unanticipated by most of us who have read the book. Yet, it seems quite clear that this was, at the very least, a significant part of Mormon’s intent in compiling the record.
Further analysis and comparison of the two wars and subsequent key historical events, which was treated in my book, revealed a number of striking similarities between cultures, events and conditions—most prominent among them being the discovery that the terrorists of our time find their counterparts in their Gadianton robbers!
This and other astonishing similarities will be examined in even more detail in planned online classes.
Suffice it to say, the closer one looks at the two histories, the more similarities emerge. And while there are substantive differences, they are far outweighed by the likenesses.
That brings us back to the subject of this analysis: drought.
Prominent parallel today
In Nephite history, our blueprint for American history and futurity, Mormon reported a severe drought in Helaman’s time, which caused a total economic collapse and famine among the Nephites and Lamanites. It began when Helaman prayed, “O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword; but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee. (Helaman 11:4.)
Since Helaman was, in effect, the president of the church among the Nephites at the time, this brings us back to Pres. Hinkley, who was president of the church when he made the aforementioned statements—yet another parallel. And while he specifically noted that his declaration was not prophecy, there was, he said, “. . . a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.” (op. cit.)
Sounds a bit like prophecy to my ears.
Mormon, the true voice in Helaman, is editing and commenting in the Helaman account, tailoring it, I believe, to more accurately reflect events he had seen in visions of the “Gentiles” . . . us! The Nephite prophets called this practice “likening,” comparing one thing to another, equating the history of one nation to another. In proposing my thesis, I’m using the same rhetorical device.
So, Mormon goes on to comment on the record of Helaman. “And so it was done, according to the words of Nephi. And there was a great famine upon the land, among all the people of Nephi.” (Helaman 11:5.)
And so we come full circle to the central topic of this monograph: the expanding drought in the United States and Europe at this time.
While it’s far too soon to know with any certainty if this is the corollary in our time to the Nephite drought, it certainly has all the significant earmarks.
Let’s look at how it developed in Nephite times.
Like unto us
“And thus in the seventy and fourth year the famine did continue, and the work of destruction did cease by the sword but became sore by famine.
And this work of destruction did also continue in the seventy and fifth year. For the earth was smitten that it was dry, and did not yield forth grain in the season of grain; . . . .” (Helaman 11:5, 6.)
The above passage makes it clear that it was the third year of the Nephite drought, perhaps allowing the suggestion that our drought may span more than just this one season. Note that the conditions quite closely matche what we see going on in our drought, even though this is only the first year of truly significant or serious drought in our time.
The news media are certainly convinced of the drought’s significance.
“The worst drought in more than half a century has caused serious harm to the U.S. corn crop, reducing yield and export prospects, and is beginning to cut into soybean production prospects. . . .   Nearly two-thirds of the contiguous United States were suffering from some level of drought as of July 31, more than a fifth of it classified as extreme drought or worse, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly report compiled by U.S. climate experts.” (Reuters, Aug. 6, 2012.)
“The worst drought in 50 years has intensified across the US midwest, not only condemning this year's corn crop but threatening the prospects for next year's too, new figures showed on Thursday. . . . The latest drought map, released on Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center, showed the drought intensifying across the grain belt in the midwestern and plains states. . . . The intensifying drought has deepened fears of a global food crisis, with reduced stocks abroad and higher prices for US consumers at home. About 48% of the corn crop is now rated poor or very poor, the US department of agriculture said on Wednesday. About 37% of the soybean crop was rated poor or very poor. The crop failures have already raised fears of price rises later in the year.” (The Guardian, Aug. 2, 2012, italics added.)
The effects of the Nephite drought were certainly devastating.
“. . . and the whole earth was smitten, even among the Lamanites as well as among the Nephites, so that they were smitten that they did perish by thousands in the more wicked parts of the land.” (Helaman 11:6.)
Will this be our fate? Only time will tell. But if the numerous, remarkable similarities between the two histories are any indication, our drought stands to deepen at the very least.
The equivalent of Lamanite lands in our time would be Europe, which coincidentally is also seeing serious drought, especially in Russia where crop losses are already major—yet another remarkable equivalence.
It’s hard to imagine that things could get as bad in our day as they were in Nephite times, though the indication is clear that they could. But even if our drought doesn’t rise to the dimensions or devastation levels of the Nephite famine, it can easily qualify as a parallel event when we recall that the two histories are only similar to one another, not exact equivalents.
That being the case, we can also consider the alternative: Our drought may last longer and be more devastating. If so, it could easily exceed the damage seen in the Nephite account: “They did perish by thousands in the more wicked parts of the land.” (Ibid.)
We are the Nephites
Through comparison with the Nephite famine, this analysis predicts a drought-related economic collapse in the U.S. and Europe for our time.
This author has been looking for such to occur for over a decade, indicating that events in our time do not follow the same time intervals or even sequence as those of Nephite times. That is, the order and dimensions of each condition and event is most certainly going to be a bit different. American history is not a carbon copy of Nephite history, only a reflection.
Yet, given the notion that Mormon, the writer, editor and compiler of the Book of Mormon, sought to convey to us, the gentiles, the remarkable similarities between the two nations by preparing his golden book to obviously reflect what would transpire in our day, we would be wise to prepare for this eventuality simply as a reasonable precaution. What harm is there in being prepared? As they say, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
A stronger economy might be able to survive effects of a profound drought without too much harm, as has been the case in past droughts. But the current fragility of the American economy, weakened by severe and ongoing recession, political intrigue and legislative gridlock, makes it particularly vulnerable to the catastrophic effects of a drought.
A prophecy of optimism
But there is hope that can be derived from the Nephite account as well. They repented, and their famine abated.
And it came to pass that the people saw that they were about to perish by famine, and they began to remember the Lord their God; and they began to remember the words of Nephi.” Helaman 11:7.)
We can only hope that the drought we see emerging in our world today triggers that same result. Since we are not immune to the obvious cycles of boom and bust, of wickedness and repentance seen in the Nephite story, there is light at the end of our tunnel, just as there was for them.
And it came to pass that in the seventy and sixth year the Lord did turn away his anger from the people, and caused that rain should fall upon the earth, insomuch that it did bring forth her fruit in the season of her fruit. And it came to pass that it did bring forth her grain in the season of her grain. (Helaman 11:7, 17.)
Turning once again to Pres. Hinkley’s remarks, we can see that he may have had the same insight into our future that Helaman did into that of his day.
Words of a modern prophet
Taken as isolated remarks, President Hinkley’s observa­tions seem to be simply a casual warning to the Saints that they need to put their financial house in order. However, when his re­marks are considered in light of the parallel histories thesis and the timeline it prescribes for America, it takes on ominous and prophetic implications—President Hinkley’s own assertions to the contrary notwithstanding. He did say, “There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.” (op. cit.)
It also prompts one to wonder if our prophet did not seek to intercede on our behalf, as did Nephi for his people, to spare us the immediate destruction by the sword by pleading for an alternate chastisement instead—one that would bring us to repentance without utterly destroying us. Perhaps that is why he felt compelled to overtly warn us (ironically, in the context of the ancient famine in Egypt) to put our economic houses in order.
And it’s worthy of mention that he did so on at least two and possibly three occasions, thus reinforcing the notion that he felt this to be a vital message.
So, the warning for us at this point in our history is clear. The drought we see developing will almost certainly become worse, perhaps even exceeding that of the dust bowl days of the last century.
The question of the hour is: Will we listen to the warning?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Missing Writings

The statements of the Lord to Nephi in the Book of Mormon present today’s Latter-day Saints with a significant conundrum. Let’s take a close look to see what it’s all about.

We begin by quoting the germane passages from 2nd Nephi, chapter 29, in an order that clarifies and lends weight to the Lord’s vital message:

“Know ye not that . . . I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?” (2 Nephi 29:7) Well, that’s good news. And it seems only fair that all the “nations of the earth” should have the word of God. That’s the assignment of the church. That’s why we do missionary work. We go door-to-door with our revealed scriptures and our sacred message of restoration.

“Wherefore . . . neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.” (2 Nephi 29:10) What? More writings than what came out of the Restoration? Curious. Isn’t what we have enough? Is God telling us that there is much more out there than what we have in our present canon?

“For I command all men . . . that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; . . . (2 Nephi 29:11) Okay. That puts a bit of a different spin on the previous verses. This verse seems to imply that God has revealed his “words” to people everywhere, down through time. Again, that seems only right and fair. So far, so good.

“. . . and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.” (2 Nephi 29:12) Repetition . . . just so we don’t misunderstand. Got it. There are writings from “all nations of the earth,” which were given to them by God. So, maybe this isn’t just about missionary work. Maybe it’s about revelation to all nations or cultures down through time.

Of course, we have the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. But these verses seem to indicate that there is much more out there, given to “all nations of the earth” that qualifies as the word of God.

With the clarity of the previous verses, we could hardly suppose that the few scriptures or “words” that we have is all there is. But if that conclusion is correct, where are these other writings? When we look around for these so called “writings” or texts, we see nothing like the messages we find in our scripture. Therein lies our enigma.

“Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another.” (2 Nephi 29:8) That seems significant. It implies that the message to every nation has been the same. But if that’s the case, why don’t we see a lot of other scripture out there like that which we now have?

This seems to be a contradiction. God told Nephi that there are “writings” the world over that have the same story to tell as our “writings” or scripture. However, when we look around, we see nothing else like our scriptures, seemingly.

“. . . I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.” (2 Nephi 29:11) Just to add weight and immediacy to his proclamation to Nephi, the Lord tells us that everyone will be judged by all that has been written. Since that includes us, we might want to locate these other “writings” in order to study and appreciate their message.

If we are to believe what the Lord says to Nephi, there is much more out there than our present canon that qualifies as scripture. Clearly, we must be missing a lot. Given the many nations or cultures in the world, the promised words should amount to a sizable body of text.

So, where are promised words from “all nations of the earth?” Where is this considerable body of text? Is it truly missing, or are we just unwilling to recognize them as writings inspired by God, as scripture?

The truth is, they’re all around us. They are the sacred records of ancient civilizations, unearthed by archeologists and salvaged by scholars from obscurity. They are a voluminous corpus of writings that all tell the same story. They are classified as creation stories, flood stories, ascension literature, dreams, visions, mythology and tradition. There are texts that relate ancient temple rituals, sacred dramas, the exploits of gods, goddesses, beasts and dragons. They all tell the same story, but each is told from the perspective of its own culture.

And here’s where I lose most Latter-day Saints, sadly. But it's the truth. The story is about the ancient heavens--cosmology.

The Joseph Smith papyri are an excellent example. That’s why he included them in our canon. As Nibley repeatedly and emphatically pointed out, their message is cosmological. We just can’t make any sense of them because we don’t understand the role of cosmology in ancient cultures and in the gospel of Jesus Christ. These ancient texts are written with an eye to cosmology . . . the story of the ancient heavens. And because most Mormons don’t recognize cosmology as a valid part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they ignore it.

But the Egyptian papyri carry the same story as that told in modern revelation of the very ancient books of Enoch, Abraham and Moses. It’s “a pearl of great price,” as Joseph valued it and so named it. And it’s all about cosmology – stars, planets, etc.

But that fabulous book is our least read and understood. While we marvel at the scope and magnificence of the cosmic vision given those ancient prophets, we puzzle over their message for us and the meaning of the papyri explanations Joseph included. We wonder at the strange words—Kolob, Hakokaubeam, Oliblish, etc.—but we miss the underlying, cosmic message.

And here’s another revelation: It’s the same story conveyed in our temple symbolism and endowment rituals. But we don’t understand them either, for the very same reason.

As it turns out, cosmology is the common denominator of all ancient belief systems, restored by our prophets in these latter days. That’s why God told Nephi, “Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another.” (2 Nephi 29:8) But we fail to see what is “plain and precious,” right before our eyes because our gospel training has not included cosmology.

That’s why whole books of our existing scripture, including some revealed through Joseph Smith, are still “sealed books” for us. We have neglected the concept of cosmology in our gospel study. As a result, Latter-day Saints have many scriptural “blind spots” that prevent them from understanding the very gospel they embrace. (For more information, try reading “Why Cosmology?” on this blog.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why Cosmology?

I get that question all the time.

"Why study all this cosmology and symbolism stuff when today's prophets and apostles emphasize gospel principles? Isn't that an indication of where we should spend our time and efforts?"

I respond:

Yes. The brethren focus on the basics for the benefit of potential converts and the newest church members because their mission is worldwide conversion and the building of the kingdom. That’s why their message is repetitive. They consistently emphasize the basics. And there is great wisdom and virtue for each of us in revisiting those basics on a regular basis. That's why we consistently hear that same, vital counsel.But once firmly grounded in the faith, the responsibility to move forward is wholly ours. The brethren are not there to do what we can do for ourselves. We are responsible for our own salvation. This has always been true.

Inquirers then ask, "Then, why bother with cosmological imagery? How is this useful? Isn't this information really irrelevant to our salvation, just a curious sideline?"

Here's my response:

The whole purpose of studying the Restored Gospel from a cosmological perspective is to allow us to easily and correctly distinguish what is spiritual (the fundamental truths) from what is temporal (the origins and meaning of symbolism). If we cannot easily and correctly differentiate between what is symbolic and what is literal in the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets, then we run the very real risk of reaching incorrect conclusions about their pronouncements.

For example, this is precisely what has happened to the interpretation of prophecy in recent times: In the apparent absence of a clear methodology for examining prophetic imagery, the whole enterprise has been hijacked by speculation and bad interpretation from those within and without our ranks. Yet surprisingly, we find that Joseph Smith gave us a concise and workable method for interpreting prophecy, based in cosmology, that nearly everyone seems to have overlooked.

That's just one reason why we should have at least a passing acquaintance with cosmology. Another is the incontestable fact that our scriptures, the Pearl of Great Price being the best example, is chock full of cosmological imagery. How, then, can we fully understand our scriptures if we don't understand cosmology?

Perhaps the best reason to study all this is that our temples, inside and out, are replete with that same cosmic imagery. In fact, the whole temple experience is geared to show us the cosmological components of the prophetic experience, beginning with the creation. The visions of Moses and Abraham are, just like our temple icons, filled with the cosmic imagery of planets, stars, suns and moons. Our endowment is a virtual example of the prophetic ascension experience related throughout scripture in the visions of the prophets. This is the core message in our temple ceremonies. Thus within our temples, each of us is afforded the marvelous opportunity to vicariously experience the visionary odyssey of the prophets. In so doing, we share the awe-inspiring, cosmic vision revealed to them. So, how can we fully understand the endowment message if we don’t see its cosmological components? The tragedy is that so few Latter-day Saints recognize that truth and thus miss the vital and mind-expanding message the endowment is meant to convey. Thus, the core message of our restored endowment goes unnoticed and unappreciated by nearly all temple goers.

As faithful, believing church members, we need to return to our cosmological roots. We should revisit the basic principles Joseph gave us in order to fully understand our own religion. He, in fact, wrote: “I also gave some instructions in the mysteries of the kingdom of God; such as the history of the planets [cosmology], Abraham’s writings upon the planetary systems [cosmology], etc.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 118)

There is yet another reason why we should study cosmology. The cosmological elements once seen in Earth's ancient skies gave rise to a universal, sacred language of myth, tradition and religion the world over. This system of symbols and metaphors became the common denominator of all sacred thought and teachings in whatever ancient culture. Thus, any prophet could capitalize on these commonalities to convince prospective converts that he had the "truth." The Savior taught it that way, as did his apostles. We see Peter, for example, in the New Testament, rehearsing the cosmological history of the world from the Flood forward to both the Jews and the Gentiles about the change in Earth's heavens, a key principle in their pagan belief system that enabled them to accept what Peter subsequently taught about Jesus. We see John, in his marvelous Apocalypse, doing the same by inserting Jesus the Christ into pagan traditions common to the Hellenistic culture of the day, making it easy for Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Persians and Jews to see the Savior in their own, particular cultural traditions. Once a missionary, prophet or apostle had succeeded by this artifice in convincing the people he had the "truth," he could then go on to teach the higher, spiritual concepts and precepts of the gospel - convert them, in other words.

This made teaching the higher, spiritual truths much easier. The common cosmic traditions of people everywhere became the universal language for conversion. It was a tool employed by every prophet and apostle down through the ages. Even the Savior used it, calling himself “Alpha and Omega,” relating himself to the “I Am” of antiquity, the “Word of God” or claiming to be the cosmic “Messiah” - all titles derived from sacred cosmology of the past.

Joseph Smith did something similar, only in reverse order. Unlike the ancients, our culture knew nothing of the past cosmological history of the heavens. Science had seen to that, and religion had followed suit. So, rather than starting with the ancient cosmological traditions, as his predecessor prophets had done, Joseph turned to repairing the tattered, soiled and misused remnant of Christian doctrine prevalent in his day. Only later, once he had convinced converts of his Christian roots, did he venture to re-institute cosmological tradition in modern temple worship, the universal theme of all temple worship anciently, as a vital and traditional part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, this is the straightforward answer to those common questions I get. Restoring the "fullness of the gospel" required including the cosmological traditions and their respective rituals that were honored and repeated by all the prophets. Again, Joseph wrote: “I also gave some instructions in the mysteries of the kingdom of God; such as the history of the planets, Abraham's writings upon the planetary systems, etc," (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 118, emphasis added.) This was done so that we can understand the arcane allusions and references of the prophets and apostles as they meant them to be understood, not as our emasculated, spiritualized and Christianized versions had them before Joseph Smith. Clarifying these symbolic and metaphorical usages was as much a part of restoring the truth as instituting the correct manner of baptism or the reality that God has a body of flesh and bone.

The next question asked is, "So, is this knowledge vital to our salvation or exaltation?"

I answer with profound conviction:

It most certainly is if we intend to fully understand the prophets, comprehend prophecy itself and inherit the blessings promised in the Endowment. Otherwise, Joseph Smith, under God's tutelage, would not have restored it to us. At some point in our eternal progression, we will have to come to this knowledge and understanding. Sooner or later, in this life or the next, we will be required to include this in our worldview.

So, why not get an early start? Why not follow Joseph Smith's counsel to get as much correct knowledge in this life as possible to our greater benefit in the next?