Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Elijah and Fire From Heaven

Few Old Testament prophets were as colorful as Elijah. His best-known deed was the calling down of fire out of heaven, which event piques the curiosity of the inquisitive Bible student.

Perhaps few readers have ventured further in the Elijah story because beyond the basic concepts of a dramatic contest with the priests of Baal, the story becomes quite odd. But there is far more to his story that is instructive when one looks beyond the obvious. As ever, the catastrophist point of view illuminates and gives new meaning to the often-overlooked oddities in Elijah’s story.

The rest of the story

So, as Paul Harvey, the eminent news broadcaster, is fond of saying, “Here’s the rest of the story.”

Elijah’s ministry occurred during a time of gross apostasy in Northern Israel. King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, brought the worship of Baal, the god of her people, the Phoenicians, to Israel’s Northern Kingdom.

We pick up the Bible narrative where Elijah makes some demands of Ahab that will set the scene for a confrontation with the priests of Baal.

Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. (1 Kings 18:19.)

Once so gathered, Elijah did not preach to the Israelites, nor did he lecture them. He simply, eloquently, put the vital question to the Israelites present:

How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. (1 Kings 18:21.)

When they had no answer for him, he challenged them.

I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. (1 Kings 18:22.)

This was a subtle, but unmistakable reference to the difference between his monotheism and the polytheism of those he confronted. He alone served the one, true God, while the multitude of gods (Baalim) that Ahab, Jezebel, and the Israelites worshipped had a multitude of prophets to serve them. The implication was that by force of sheer numbers, the many prophets of the Baalim should be far more powerful than the sole prophet of Jehovah.

Elijah’s challenge

This was Elijah’s challenge to the priests of Baal:

Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under;
And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. (1 Kings 18:23, 24.)

The challenge, then, was to see which god would light the fire of sacrifice — an imposing demonstration for the true God since he alone could command the elements to do so. Thus, Elijah set the stage for the most dramatic demonstration of the powers of Jehovah since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt during the Exodus.

Remarkable similarities

Indeed, the similarities between Moses, Joshua and Elijah are striking. Elijah, like Moses and Joshua, had clearly been informed by the Lord beforehand as to what was about to transpire in the heavens and how to take maximum advantage of the unusual phenomenon about to occur. It is also likely that none of these prophets completely understood what was about to happen, since they had never experienced anything remotely like this before. Still, they acted their part, as instructed.

A powerful lesson

A little foreknowledge goes a long way, giving considerable leverage and stature among onlookers to the one who seems to control such tremendous forces, especially when that information includes knowledge of the rare manifestations seen to accompany a major catastrophic event. There can be no better teaching aid.

Additionally, each worked his ‘miracles’ before thousands of people where failure was not an option. Such faith is rare. Most of us would rather go fishing than put ourselves in such a precarious position. One could easily lose reputation, if not his very life, if the promised miracles did not materialize.

Put yourself …

Imagine putting yourself in harm’s way as they did. The natural forces that would be unleashed in a natural catastrophe of the dimensions we are about to examine could as easily have destroyed the prophet if he failed to follow God’s instructions to the letter. Most of us would be inclined to run the other direction if we thought something catastrophic was about to happen in our neighborhood.

What is more, once they got over their astonishment at the event, the anger of the people for their humiliation and their loss in the wake of these Herculean phenomena would undoubtedly be directed at the prophet — an uncomfortable position, if not fatal, as Elijah learned. (See 1 Kings 19:10.) The bearer of bad tidings, say nothing of natural calamity, is often blamed for the outcome and held responsible with his life.

The idolaters take their turn

Returning to the narrative, we see that the priests of Baal initiated their part of the challenge on Mt. Carmel.

And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. (1 Kings 18:26.)

These verses imply that they expected not only fire from heaven to ignite their sacrifice, but they also expected a voice. This may be so because such manifestations of heavenly fire had been accompanied in the past by the voice of god, which is in keeping with the catastrophist model of such events and serves to explain why they held that expectation. Indeed, even the bloodletting may have been in similitude of the blood from heaven that also accompanied such an event.

… And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. (1 Kings 18:28.)

All their efforts were to no avail. Baal had failed to hear their pleas by sending fire from heaven, despite the fact that Baal was known as a fire god.

Elijah’s ‘miracle’

After verbally humiliating the priests of Baal at their failure, Elijah went to work on his part of the challenge. He built an altar with a trench around it.

And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. (1 Kings 18:33.)

Perhaps to add insult to injury, Elijah ordered water poured upon the altar three times until the sacrifice was drenched and the trench around the alter was full. Then he was ready.

And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. (1 Kings 18:36.)

Herein Elijah plainly states that he has been acting under the direction of God, as pointed out at the beginning of this article. Of course, the outcome of the challenge was predictable.

Fire from heaven

Fire fell from heaven, consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, the stones, the dust, and “licked up” the water that was in the trench. (1 Kings 18:38.)
Note that this “fire” did not simply light the wood around the sacrifice. It consumed everything in the area — bullock, wood, stones, dust and water! Clearly, this was no ordinary fire.

The rest of the rest of the story

The remaining part of Elijah’s story, which is usually left out of any exegesis, actually holds the final keys to understanding the nature of the entire episode.
Most notably, Elijah and Ahab were far from the altar when the fire fell from heaven. Elijah orders Ahab up the mountain, saying, “Get thee up, eat and drink,” then follows the king to the top of Carmel. Likely, they are both participating in the consumption portion of the sacrifice, an eating and drinking ceremony, which later came to be the ordinance we know as the Sacrament.

Elijah sets a lookout … but for what?

While so engaged, Elijah sends his servant to keep watch, with instruction to “look toward the sea.” Since Mt. Carmel is located inland from the coast, that would mean the servant was looking east, toward the Mediterranean. The servant repeatedly returned with news that “There is nothing,” whereupon Elijah would send him again to look again. Clearly, Elijah knew something was coming and wanted to be certain of his timing to match the approaching body.

Finally, the seventh time the servant is sent to look, he sees a “little cloud” arise out of the sea and reports it to the prophet who then sends the servant to warn the king to get off the mountain. Elijah knows that it is time to seek shelter from what is to come.

Much more than heavenly fire

Elijah’s foreknowledge of the fire from heaven included far more than that single event.

And it came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.(1 Kings 18:45.)

Both Elijah and Ahab headed for Jezreel by different routes and means, assumably for the shelter of the city. But Elijah was immediately forced to flee when he learned that Jezebel, upon hearing from Ahab what Elijah had done, swore to take his life.

Wandering text

The narrative at this point diverts from the catastrophist nature of the events and becomes somewhat confused, making this author wonder if is not a later addition or a reorganization of the sequence of events by later writers. In this part of the narrative, Elijah once again takes a ritual sacrament of cake and water and interacts with an angel. This is all entirely plausible, but not in the time frame of the catastrophic event described.

What is clear is that Elijah was prepared to die.

… and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; … (1 Kings 19:4.)

But his resignation to death may not have been due to the threat uttered by Jezebel. The fact that Elijah ultimately takes refuge in a cave rather than some man-made dwelling suggests that he sought to escape a life-threatening, natural event of epic proportions that was unfolding around him. This was typical of past catastrophic events, even as it will be in future events. (See Revelation 6:15.)

Catastrophe spectator

Standing at the entrance to his cave, his face wrapped in his mantle for protection (vs. 13), Elijah watched the advancing storm.

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind and earthquake; but the lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11, 12.)

This was the final chapter in a catastrophic event that only began with the fire from heaven. It properly should be connected with that event from the beginning of the narrative. The intervening text only serves to obscure that fact, leaving one to wonder if the chronicler truly understood what was going on at that point in time.

A possible model?

Searching for a catastrophist model that might explain all the strange manifestations reported in connection with Elijah’s challenge, perhaps the near-impact model best explains them.

Wal Thornhill, plasma physicist and proponent of the Electric Universe theory, does not agree with the typical impact scenario described by today’s planetary scientists and as depicted in recent motion pictures and television documentaries. He claims that long before most comets or asteroids that might have Earth in their crosshairs ever reach their target, a discharge or series of discharges leap across space to equalize the net electrical charge of the two bodies, Earth and the intruder.

Notably, the scenario outlined above fits the Elijah story very well. Not only would an interplanetary lightning bolt fall to earth from a clear sky, a mountain, elevated above a surrounding plane, would be a likely place for it to strike. Thus, Elijah’s decision to locate the challenge on Mt. Carmel would have facilitated such a strike.

Fire? Or lightning?

The fact that the lightning bolt not only consumed the sacrifice but the altars as well suggests another phenomenon that Thornhill ascribes to these interplanetary discharges: electric arc machining.

According to Thornhill, these discharges are not unlike the electric arc that welders use when they employ a carbon rod to machine away material from the point of contact. He theorizes that most cratering seen to scar the faces of planets and moons in our solar system are the result of electric arc machining. A brief arc of this type between the Earth and an intruder would suffice to explain the consumption by “fire” of Elijah’s sacrifice and altar.

A near impact

The “little cloud” that Elijah’s servant reports emerging from the sea was probably the approaching object as it seemed to rise from the horizon. Looking in the right place, one might see the object coming, depending upon its size, for several hours before it actually passed the Earth. This would also explain the subsequent events, whether the object impacted the Earth or narrowly missed.

Close pass or impact?

If the object passed close by the Earth, its gravitational and electrical influence would still have caused the darkened skies, wind and earthquake reported in the narrative. The sky would darken ominously, and what would have appeared to be a great storm would quickly approach as the effects of the intruder made themselves ever more manifest in the Earth’s meteorology. This would produce “a great and strong wind” followed immediately by an earthquake as the object passed by.

Hearing voices

The “still small voice” is often interpreted spiritually as the voice of the Holy Ghost. While that possibility cannot be discounted, it may be that this was not so in this case. Since the voice, in this case, occurred in immediate proximity to a series of catastrophic phenomena, it may have been another variation of the many sounds heard to come from the heavens in such planetary disasters. Sometimes it sounded like an spoken word, such as the name Yahweh, uttered as a roar or as a whisper. Other times it sounded like trumpets, bells, chimes, drums or cymbals. Sometimes it was harmonious, as a choir; other times it was more cacophonous and dissonant than the loudest rock-and-roll concert you can imagine. And sometimes, it was a “still small voice” that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. Additionally, the narrative clearly differentiates between the “still small voice” and the voice of the angel that often conversed with Elijah.

Elijah’s catastrophe

So we see that the fire from heaven in the days of Elijah was likely only part of a greater catastrophic event. And like earlier prophets who came forward during ancient catastrophic events, Elijah was equal to the task. This puts him in elite company. Indeed, careful examination of the biblical record reveals that the greatest prophets, those most remembered and revered, served during times of planetary catastrophe.

Most biblical scholars, untrained in the discipline of catastrophism, fail to notice the larger picture. Thus, they focus on the various elements of the catastrophic event as autonomous and unrelated. In this author’s opinion, this presents a distorted and laconic view of the actual event. This is the case with many scriptural accounts, including Joshua’s Long Day, the Exodus and events predicted for the last days in Revelation.

One thing is certain. The catastrophist view of history and prophecy allows a more complete and revealing understanding of the scriptures than does the orthodox interpretation as we see in Elijah’s adventure.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2002

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Most Christians vaguely grasp the connections between Easter and Passover. What most do not understand are the deep roots both holidays have in paganism and Saturnian symbolism. However, such knowledge serves to explain much of the tradition and ritual surrounding this Christian holiday.

A Christian holiday

Easter celebrates the death and resurrection of the Savior in the meridian of time. Mormons, like the rest of Christianity, see the holiday as a time to remember and reverence that most sacred and remarkable event in all of history.

The entire philosophy of Christianity hinges on the resurrection. Without it, Christianity — and by inference, Mormonism as well — is just another religious philosophy among many. With the resurrection comes the promise that all will rise from the grave, Christ being the first fruits. This concept is at the heart of our religion.

The Passover connection

Easter’s connection with the Passover stems from the fact that the Savior’s crucifixion and resurrection in Jerusalem took place during the annual Jewish Passover celebration, a juxtaposition that was not lost on the Savior since he clearly chose the time and the place of his own expiation.

Seen from the catastrophist’s point of view, the Passover was a celebration of Israelite deliverance — not just from Egyptian bondage, but the entire planet from planetary catastrophe. Passover was the moment of closest approach between Earth and the comet Venus, hence the term “pass over.” It was the culmination of a series of plagues that afflicted not only Egypt, but also the entire world, according to Velikovsky.

So, too, in Christian eyes, Easter is a celebration of the deliverance of the human race from the bonds of death.

Both Easter and Passover involve the consumption of a ritual meal in remembrance of their deliverance. The Jewish Seder reflects the Lord’s directive that the Israelites eat roast lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. (Exodus 12:8-10.) They do so to remember how they were saved from the plague that took so many Egyptians during the Exodus. The Christian sacrament reflects Christ’s instruction that they partake of bread and wine to remember him and the deliverance from death he has provided. (Luke 22:19, 20.)

A note, in passing

Incidentally, it may be noteworthy, in passing, that there may have been a very practical purpose for the consumption of the Passover meal. If, as Velikovsky suggests, Earth’s atmosphere was supercharged with elements from the tail of the passing comet Venus, then eating bread without yeast and bitter herbs may have served to offset the debilitating physical effects on the human body of those pollutants. If, as this author suggests, the compounds that turned the water red in Egypt were acidic, causing sickness and death in animals and humans, then the basic, alkaline nature of bitter herbs would serve to chemically offset the elevated levels of acid in the body (acidosis).

Additionally, it is well known that certain types of yeast (Candida albicans, for example) in the gut can release toxins that can severely debilitate the immune system. Other types of yeast produce compounds that can cause humans to hallucinate. In this instance, the instructions to eat bread without yeast (unleavened) may have been designed to help the Israelites better cope physically with the temporarily hostile environment created by the extraterrestrial pollutants — eminently practical advice given through revelation from God to Moses. The idea of food as medicine is one that modern science has recently come to recognize, a philosophy that has been at the heart of herbal use and practices since time immemorial.

Eating is a religious experience?

Such ritual meals as Seder, the Eucharist and the Sacrament are also practiced in most pagan cultures. They range, on one end of the spectrum, from consumption of simple foods to cannibalism on the other extreme.

Most animal sacrifice did not consist of cremation, as most moderns believe. Rather, it was, in most cases, a ritual method of cooking and preparing the animal for eating. Our modern, seemingly innocuous and strictly culinary practice of barbequing actually has its roots in cultural traditions of sacrifice. So remember, next time you throw something on the ‘barbie,’ you are practicing the time-honored, ritualistic tradition of sacrifice with its roots deep in antiquity.

Recidivist Israelites, too, adopted pagan eating rituals. "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger." (Jeremiah 7:18.)

Note the similarity between the elements of this ritual and the Christian sacrament. They consumed bread and drink in honor of the goddess. It was a ritual meal. These backsliding Israelites prepared cakes and drink to honor their pagan gods, just as we take bread and water today. Such similarities are not coincidental. Christ, on the eve of his crucifixion, obviously turned to a well-established, ancient practice in the Hebrew culture as the basis for his new eating ritual, the Sacrament.

Hot cross buns

Just such a ritual meal is connected with the Christian’s celebration of Easter. Hot cross buns are a lesser, but well established part of this holiday that, doubtlessly, have their origins in pagan antiquity. These loaves were originally marked with horns, the crescent symbol for ancient Saturn, or the cross, the cruciform symbol for the Queen of Heaven, Astarte or Venus. The ancient Greeks also consumed these types of buns in their celebrations of Artemis, Goddess of the hunt (known as Diana to the Romans). And the Egyptians ate a similar cake in their worship of the Goddess Isis. Later, Saxons ate buns that were marked with a cross in honor of Eastre (Astarte). These customs of creating a ceremonial bread or loaf, marking it with the symbol of the goddess, then eating it as part of a festival in honor of that same goddess is an echo of the Israelite practice of making cakes to their Queen of Heaven.

Such universal practices beg the question, where did the human race get the idea that eating something was a sacred practice? The idea that eating should be part of religious ritual may have begun in Earth’s ancient heavens when one planet ‘consumed’ other, smaller satellites. In a later monograph, we will discuss more about sacrificial rituals around the world and the events and beliefs that may have inspired the practice.

A Christian or pagan holiday?

Returning to our Easter theme, it seems rather ironic that this ostensibly Christian holiday is burdened with much of the celebration and ceremony that once attached itself to the ancient cults that worshipped astral goddesses.

We discover, for instance, that the very name of the holiday has its roots in idolatry. Easter is a corruption of the name of the goddess who leant her name to the holiday, Aster or Astarte, as the Greeks knew her. Her Syro-Phoenician counterpart was the goddess Ashtoreth. The Babylonians called her Ishtar and the Romans called her Venus. She was also the great mother goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe, who knew her as Eastre, from whence we get the name Easter today.

The Saturn connection

Surely these ancient goddesses from a variety of ancient cultures all had their origins in the planet Venus that once stood near the Earth in the Polar Configuration because they all share common attributes, history, and iconography. Talbott wrote:

Wherever you find the Universal Monarch (Saturn) you will find close at hand the ancient mother goddess — the goddess whom the Sumerians called Inanna, the Queen of Heaven, and the Babylonians Ishtar, and the Egyptians Isis, Hathor, and Sekhmet, each with numerous counterparts in their own and in other lands, and virtually all of them viewed symbolically as daughter or spouse of the creator-king, and the mother of another, equally prominent figure.

The Mother Goddess is the planet Venus, the luminous, central orb seen squarely in the center of Saturn and from which radiating streams of material course outward. (Thoth, Vol. 2, No. 8.)

So, we see that the true origins of this most Christian of holidays actually owes its existence to events that transpired in Earth ancient heavens.

The Easter egg

Originally, the egg, now a cultural symbol of Easter, was closely related to the eye symbol — both symbols of this mother goddess, this goddess of fertility anciently. Mythical traditions say that she was born as/or in a celestial egg. Indeed, in the Polar Configuration, Venus’ transformation into the prototypical star — the archetype of all radiant star symbols — began when it took on an ovoid shape, thus forever connecting the goddess with the egg.

It is for this reason that the favored decoration for Easter eggs anciently was a star. Indeed, the very name of this goddess in several cultures, as well as our own, came to mean ‘star.’

Yet, in our culture, stars and the eggs have no discernable relationship. Like so much in mythology, the connection seems absurd to the modern mind. Yet, in ancient myth and tradition they are intimately connected. Only the theory of the Polar Configuration satisfactorily explains their symbolic ligature. Indeed, it not only explains it; it demands it. The star and the egg were two primary aspects or phases in the development of ancient Venus while in the Polar Configuration at the dawn of time.

Dyed eggs, originally colored to match the turquoise color of ancient Venus, were part of the rituals enacted in the Babylonian mystery religions. The variety of colors we see today was a natural, artistic elaboration of the original idea. Such colorfully dyed and decorated eggs were considered sacred because of their symbolic representation of the ancient goddess/planet Venus. They played an integral part of the religious ceremonies in Egypt and the Orient. Dyed eggs were hung in Egyptian temples. The egg was regarded as the emblem of regenerative life proceeding from the mouth of the great Egyptian god Atum because the actual planet Venus so presented itself in the Polar Configuration. Venus (Hathor) was centered on Saturn (Atum), assumed an egg shape that seemed to house the child, Mars (Horus) and then appeared to give birth to Mars.

The Easter rabbit

In addition to the egg symbol, the Norse goddess of fertility, Ostara, whose name was clearly a derivative of Aster or Astarte, was connected to the hare. This connection was a later one, unique to the Norse culture, which probably stems from the well-known fecundity of rabbits.

Three other seemingly disconnected traditions of Easter further connect the holiday to pagan practices and ultimately to the Polar Configuration: the woman’s Easter bonnet and special holiday dress as well as the Easter parade.

Easter bonnets and finery

Festivals that celebrated the ancient star goddess, Venus, were ideal occasions for women, who sought to emulate the goddess, to adorn themselves as the goddess herself. The bonnet worn today is a distant replication of the hat, hair dress or crown worn by the goddess in heaven.

Older, more customary variants of the bonnet draped a veil across the face, also a feature of the ancient sky goddess. LDS temple-goers will recognize the validity of this tradition and its connection to temple ritual and furnishings. The dress, usually white, was designed with symbolic significance relevant to the ancient appearance of Venus and her role as a fertility goddess. Thus, anything that enhanced the gender specific attributes of a woman was employed to demonstrate her procreative role. Indeed, the more elaborate, yet accurate, the duplication of the symbols/appearance — because the symbols of the goddess were representations of what she looked like in Earth’s ancient heavens — the greater the identification of the individual with the mother goddess, imitating her essential aspects. Thus, a practice that had deep religious significance in antiquity has come to be a mere fashion statement today. Such is the dilution of the original concepts and practices over time. Yet, the themes persist in our cultural traditions, outliving, by far, the knowledge and understanding they were meant to convey.

The Easter parade

Parading up and down the streets, carrying an effigy of the god or goddess upon their shoulders, the ancients moved from one strategically sited temple location to another to re-enact the mythical movements of their deity in the heavens anciently. In many cultures — especially the Egyptian — these portable shrines were set in replicas of boats, carried on long, stout poles that could be borne by several carriers. It is the image of the god or goddess, sitting in a celestial boat, that we commonly see in ancient Egyptian art. It is for this reason that we apply the term “float” to our modern version of these icons that move along city streets in modern parades. They were originally boats; so calling them floats is natural.

Additionally, it is the reason the term “ark” was applied to the most sacred object in Judaism, the Ark of the Covenant. It was applied to the conveyance that bore tablets containing the Ten Commandments and other artifacts of the Exodus.
Thus, the Easter parade is a modern counterpart of this ancient practice. Once again, our culture maintains the practices or traditions instigated in Earth’s ancient skies with no concept or grasp of their origins or original meanings.

Christian hypocrisy

Ironically, modern Christians, who seem so determined to avoid any suggestion of paganism or cultism in their religions, who vociferously denounce the paganism of Christmas and Mormons as cultists, have enthusiastically embraced the paganism of Easter.

Latter-day Saints, too, fail to recognize the astral traditions in our culture and religion, yet it should not be so. Joseph Smith and the prophets that succeeded him sought to connect us to our ancient past and the traditions handed down through cultural transmission. Sadly, we Saints discarded our understanding of these things in favor of the Christianized customs and practices of the American culture. Yet, like our Christian cousins, our traditions, our temples and our scriptures are filled with the evidence from the past of their true cosmological nature.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2002

Monday, November 24, 2008

Doomsday Anxiety

A fear of the end of the world, a sort of ‘doomsday anxiety,’ may be the source of the resistance nearly all Latter-day Saints demonstrate when confronted with the planetary catastrophe scenario of the last days, prophetic imagery and ancient history taught in these pages.

It is a syndrome that afflicts everyone to one degree or another.

The answer to many gospel questions

Given the ability of the catastrophe scenario to explain so much — the imagery found in the scriptures and modern revelation, the iconography of modern temples, the mythology, religion and traditions of every ancient culture, as well as that of our own, and the seemingly extravagant statements of Joseph Smith that find meaning only when placed in the planetary catastrophe scenario — one would think that the Saints might rush to embrace these concepts.

But, just the opposite is true. Their reactions range from confusion to apathetic disbelief to overt skepticism or even outright antagonism.

Unwarranted reactions

Otherwise rational and thoughtful Mormons exhibit abnormal responses to these ideas. Most become uneasy when these concepts are introduced into any discussion. They are clearly conflicted emotionally about the concepts that confront them. Others seem to have difficulty following the concepts and quickly become distracted. Still others see no relevance to the gospel and soon lose interest or become bored.

A psychological cause?

It may seem odd to suggest that all these are emotional reactions, yet they mirror the reactions listed by psychologists for victims of amnesia when they are confronted with a painful truth or reality. Velikovsky, a psychologist by training and profession, saw these as forms of amnesia because the range of reactions is the same.

The Latter-day Saints’ resistance to concepts that they should otherwise easily recognize as invaluable aids to their gospel study and comprehension is puzzling. The natural assumption that these reactions are the result of exposure to unfamiliar ideas that seem illogical at first glance may be unsound. It may be precisely because they are too familiar that individuals react as they do.

The explanation may lie beyond the veil.

First of all, it’s worth noting that logic always takes a back seat to emotional, internal conflicts. Psychologists tell us that powerful emotional reactions always trump clear-headed thinking. It is for this reason that people who are normally clear headed and logical will act irrationally in certain situations. The heart rules the head, as folk wisdom tells us.

Let’s look at this carefully.

Knowledge from the preexistence

Numerous general authorities have described the process of conversion to the Restored Gospel as a “remembering” of the things we knew in the preexistence. Every human being who came to this world learned those gospel truths in that premortal epoch.

At birth, a veil of forgetfulness hid that knowledge and those experiences from our conscious thought. But it is our individual dedication to those innate principles acquired in our preexistence that make each of us what and who we are. That’s why we are drawn by an emotional bond or component to those principles and truths.

Knowledge is blocked, but emotions come through

The knowledge gained in our prior existence is inaccessible to us, due to the veil. But the old spirit within us, which has been in existence forever, reacts to that knowledge, producing emotions in us that we, in turn, act upon. For example, we are emotionally drawn to the plan of salvation because it is familiar to our spirit, while our conscious mind sees only a new and unusual concept.

This accounts for the reactions of investigators to gospel principles. We often refer to it as revelation from the Spirit. But it may be that it is simply that eternal part of us that recognizes the truths of the gospel and reacts to them. Thus, the spirit within us is confirming to us that what we are seeing and hearing is the truth.

Of course, the positive reactions vary in each individual, running the gamut from “whisperings of the spirit” to overwhelming “hit over the head” responses. The workings within us we call “conscience” or “intuition” are most likely of the same nature.

Positive for the good, negative for the bad

For those spirits who have innately followed those preexistent precepts and who therefore wish to embrace these recognized truths and conform their life to them, the experience is affirmative. Encountering the truth once again in this life is a confirming, uplifting experience accompanied by strong, positive emotions. They want to know more; they instinctively recognize the value of the gospel as their one, sure guide, as they learned in the preexistence.

For those who find their behavior in this world is at odds with those preexistent precepts, who have deluded themselves by suppressing their spirit’s urge to act circumspectly, who have systematically denied the warnings of their spirit called “conscience” and who wish to continue to indulge in the worldly lusts and pursuits they find so attractive, such an encounter with truth provokes a violent, negative reaction within them, ranging, as we have seen from confused indifference to outright anger. Hence, they seek to destroy the message by attacking the messenger. Many prophets have lost their lives due to these negative responses manifest by large, wayward segments of the human population in all ages.

As with the gospel, so with prophecy

These same principles apply when individuals are exposed to the concepts of planetary catastrophe.

During our preexistence, we all saw the way these events played out in other creations. We all vicariously experienced what would surely occur on the world we would one day inhabit. Thus, we had a firsthand knowledge of the nature and extent of what we might one day encounter in mortality.

So, when a comet appears in the sky or the sun is darkened in an eclipse, that part of us that is eternal, our spirit, recalls that these are earmarks of great planetary disasters. Even when someone begins to rehearse the imagery of such events, we can become uneasy, and we are filled with dread — an emotion we could not experience in the preexistence, but which is endemic to our present condition.

This is the doomsday anxiety syndrome.

Attack the messenger if you don’t like the message

The connections rehearsed by this author in his books, articles and in these pages — stories of planetary catastrophe in ancient history, cultural tradition and ritual, gospel symbolism and the language of the prophets — evoke the same reaction.

Some few embrace the information because it “rings true.” Others, even some who have wholeheartedly embraced the Restored Gospel and its marvelous truths, have a negative reaction — not because they aren’t good people, but because they subconsciously fear that the planetary catastrophe scenario might suddenly hurdle them out of their comfortable, safe existence into a scene of chaos, unimaginable destruction and even death. Unconscious of the deep motivation for their feeling, they recoil from both the message and the messenger as powerful emotions arising from within their spirit work to block the reality of what they are seeing or hearing by creating a confusion of thought, denying the truth in all of it or reacting angrily to it. Depending upon the individual, they display the spectrum of familiar responses psychologists expect to anything the individual sees as profoundly fearful and unthinkable.

Mankind in amnesia

These are the classic reactions of an amnesiac. The one thing an amnesia victim cannot deal with rationally is a confrontation with the reality that was so painful, the truth that his or her mind blocked out entirely. They are in denial. In fact, when seen in this light, we discover that denial is simply a more mild form of amnesia.

But whether you call it denial or amnesia, the results are the same: The individual cannot rationally confront and deal with something because powerful emotional forces absolutely prevent it.

Rather than seeing the reaction of most Saints to this topic as an irrational quirk of the human species, it should be seen as a perfectly normal response in an eternal being, and it serves to explain why otherwise prudent and rational Mormons suddenly exhibit signs of denial that run the gambit whenever the subject of planetary catastrophe emerges as it relates to the gospel.

Remembering means acting out

This amnesia-like behavior alone explains the proclivity of the human race to incessantly and compulsively rehearse the dramas and symbols of the planetary gods in literature, art, architecture, religion and drama. Psychologists are well acquainted with the emotional phenomenon. Children, for example, will repeatedly act out some traumatic event in their play activities, rehearsing one aspect or another of the trauma in a range of behaviors that vary from simply odd to very self destructive, depending upon the severity of the original ordeal. This explains why Aztec priests would cut the hearts from their sacrificial victims and present them as offerings to placate their vengeful planetary gods. It explains why all our holidays and festivals — Halloween, Christmas, New Year, May Day and Easter, all copies of ancient celebrations — religiously preserve the symbols, rites and rituals of cosmic upheaval.

It is no exaggeration to say that we, like our ancestors are obsessed with these things without recognizing their origins or their true meaning. Like amnesiacs, we act out or fears in self-destructive ways. Instead of acknowledging to ourselves the ugly, fearful truth, we find ways to sublimate the emotions of fear and anxiety these festivals memorialize, choosing instead to embrace them as joyous or celebratory occasions in keeping with our near total denial of their true meaning. Thus, every such festival has it rituals, which are ceremonies, rites, practices and customs that rehearse the symbolic elements of the catastrophe that initiated the festival.

Hiding the truth in plain sight

All this is a way to act out our deepest fears without once confronting the truth behind the festive facade. These holidays and festivals are like hideous monsters that we have festooned with flowers and decorative treatments to completely hide the ugliness, so we can pretend there is nothing ominous or fearful there. But, it continues to repeatedly manifest itself.

Ironically, modern, orthodox science represents the ultimate intellectual manifestation of such denial. First, science totally rejected religion, the primary guardian of the ancient knowledge of planetary catastrophe and its principle vehicles for transmitting that knowledge down through the ages: the scriptures and temple worship. Then, it banned all ancient tradition as fabrication and folly, replacing it with its own doctrine of denial: Empiricism — if you can’t see it happening now, it never happened. In fact, one might characterize the empirical method as the most certain way to avoid the truth, positing a myriad of “theories,” a kind of “scientific mythology,” rather than acknowledging the unthinkable.

The flawed notion that archaic memories of universal catastrophe were nothing more than exaggerated accounts of local disasters, as scientists and scholars have steadfastly declared, is unsupportable — another attempt at denial. Consider the profound nature of these past events.

A review of our traditions of doomsday

The world-ending catastrophe remembered by Nordic cultures gave rise to the prophetic vision of Ragnarok — the destruction of the world in a rain of fire and stone. In this vision, the great serpent Jormungand rises from the waters of the deep and attacks, spitting its fiery venom upon the world. A battle ensues between gods and giants. Odin’s dark angels, the Valkyries, ride their steeds across the sky, their golden hair streaming behind them. The walls of the heavenly city Asgard fall down, and the celestial bridge of Bifrost dissolves in flames.

A much earlier account of universal disaster, preserved by the Greek poet Hesiod, described the “clash of the Titans.” On one side, the leader of the Titans was the god Kronos, the original ruler of heaven, on the other, his own son, Zeus. Their war in the sky brought the world to the edge of complete destruction.

“For a long time now, the Titan gods and those who were descended from Kronos had fought each other, with heart-hurting struggles, ranged in opposition all through the hard encounters,” wrote Hesiod. The upheaval lasted for ten years, culminating in a heaven-shattering conflagration, when the whole world shuddered beneath the thunderbolts of the gods. The celestial combatants “threw their re-echoing weapons and the noise of either side outcrying went up to the starry heaven as with great war crying they drove at each other.”

No wonder the human race declines to acknowledge the reality of such prodigious destructions. To eyewitnesses of these events, “it absolutely would have seemed as if Earth and the wide Heaven above her had collided, for such would have been the crash arising as Earth wrecked and the sky came piling down on top of her, so vast was the crash heard as the gods collided in battle….” Huge thunderbolts flew between the celestial combatants. The roaring wind and quaking earth brought with them electrical discharge, causing a great dust storm on the Earth, “with thunder and with lightning, and the blazing thunderbolt, the weapons thrown by great Zeus” in the heavens.

Of course, the scriptural equivalent of these traditions is the battle in heaven where Michael and his archangels struggled to save all creation from Lucifer, the dragon, and his minions — the same imagery the prophets use to typify the rebellion that took place in our premortal existence.

Doomsday anxiety, the worldly view and the LDS view

The worldwide doomsday theme has no roots in familiar natural events. Therefore, we cannot ignore the direct implication: The myths arose as imaginative interpretations of extraordinary, destructive occurrences suffered by all. If mankind’s doomsday anxiety was provoked by events no longer occurring, the conventional historians’ dismissive approach to the subject must be counted among the greatest theoretical mistakes in modern times, born of profound denial.

So, too, it would be an oversight to dismiss the Saints’ disdain for this subject as benighted ignorance and not recognize it for the natural reaction that it is.

While the doomsday anxiety phenomenon is otherwise difficult to explain, it is quite understandable and logical in the context of LDS doctrine. As with most of the important questions in life, we now see that there is a clear answer in the revealed gospel.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2005

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Gospel Connection

It is important for any Mormon investigating the claims of Talbott and other scholars and scientists about the early history of Earth’s heavens to know the extent to which Joseph Smith’s views support their unorthodox views. What we find there is remarkable.

While the capacity of Catastrophism, the Saturn myths and the Polar Configuration to consistently and fully explain the most enigmatic scriptural symbolism and temple iconography argues eloquently for their validity, another verification can be found in the documented teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the subjective statements and observations of the Saints who recorded their impressions of his teachings.

It is in those revealing statements that we see how similar Joseph’s views were to those who champion these unconventional views of ancient cosmology in our day and age. Indeed, as it is with the scriptures and temple iconography, these statements by a prophet can be fully appreciated only from the perspective of Catastrophism, the Saturn myths and the history of the Polar Configuration. This provides yet another level of confirmation or substantiation of this author’s assertions that Joseph would have embraced the work of those iconoclastic scholars who pursue these ideas.

There are dozens of accounts, preserved by both the prophet and his close confidants, which point us in the same direction. Ironically, most orthodox LDS scholars choose not to explore the implications of such statements. In fact, they tend to avoid them like the plague. Hence, search as one might, explanations of these views of early Mormons cannot be found in current church manuals, recent conference talks or in learned dissertations. This is probably so because those researchers lack the frame of reference to understand such symbolism and imagery. They have been indoctrinated in the tenets of Uniformity, which blinds them to concepts beyond their training. When, on rare occasion, they do turn to such accounts, they discount them as implausible, fanciful or of dubious merit, rather than address them with the gravity and sobriety that they deserve.

A list

As we have seen, the most convincing evidence that Joseph Smith understood the concept of the Polar Configuration is in the Dibble illustration, which has been thoroughly documented and examined elsewhere. That information leaves little room for doubt that Joseph thoroughly understood the crucial role that the ancient co-linear planetary alignment played in stimulating religious symbolism worldwide, as well as in the scriptures. That is, that unique alignment of planets alone can explain the imagery and iconography of the past, as modern researchers assert. While Dibble’s facsimile is anecdotal, since the prophet himself did not document it, it nevertheless comes from a reliable source. From the time of his conversion in 1829 in Kirtland, Ohio, until his death in Springville, Utah, in 1895, Dibble was a devout and faithful Latter-day Saint. During his lifetime, Dibble was a bodyguard to Joseph Smith, as well as a close friend and confidant.

The next most revealing teaching of the prophet was his address to the Saints who gathered on the floor of the Nauvoo Temple for a General Conference in 1843. His comments at that time regarding the second coming have been thoroughly documented in Volume 5 of the History of the Church. In that talk, Joseph unequivocally designated a planet or comet as the primary heavenly sign of the last days; it contains the best evidence of Joseph’s belief that an errant or rogue orb will play a profound part in those future events. Moreover, that same belief, by inference, colored his perspective of prophecy and its meaning.

Corroborating accounts

The rest of the evidence for Joseph Smith sharing these views is anecdotal, and therefore more questionable and subject to criticism. Nevertheless, it conforms with the views cited in evidence and noted above to such a high degree that it serves as corroboration, though it should be considered with care. Much of this supportive evidence from early diaries and journals of Latter-day Saints can be found in volumes one and three of The Prophecy Trilogy, so it will not be repeated here.

The first of two accounts we will examine comes from Orson F. Whitney, who served as an Apostle from 1906 until his death in 1931. He is remembered in church history for a haunting and poignant vision, which he called a dream, of the Savior’s agony in Gethsemane. But it is his explanation of the biblical Tower of Babel event to which we turn herein that reveals Joseph Smith’s concept of ancient conditions.

Bishop Whitney, as he preferred to be called, is an excellent source since his career as a newspaper and magazine editor as well as an assistant church historian taught him the virtue of disciplined accuracy. Of course, his calling to the Council of the Twelve Apostles puts his comments beyond reproach for any good Latter-day Saint.

The Babel planet

Among his collected discourses is a remarkable allusion to Joseph Smith’s belief that Zion once hovered above the Earth. Of course, things that linger in Earth’s heavens are commonly called planets and moons.
Elder Whitney wrote:

It has been taught that it was the object of the people who built the Tower of Babel to reach heaven, to attain to one of the starry planets, one of the heavenly bodies. This sounds, indeed, like a fairy tale ... that they could actually reach the sun, moon, or one of the stars, simply by piling brick upon brick and stone upon stone. But the Prophet Joseph Smith, whose mission it was to shed light upon the darkness of this generation, is said to have declared that it was not their intention to reach heaven, but to reach Zion, which was then suspended in mid-air, between heaven and earth, or at such a height as to render the project feasible. This certainly is more reasonable.” Collected Discourses, Vol.1, p. 359.)
Such a statement by a general authority must be taken seriously. In fact, when considered in light of Dibble’s illustration and Talbott’s Polar Configuration thesis, it makes perfect sense. If the Dibble drawing represents Joseph’s belief regarding the positioning of planets with respect to the Earth anciently, then he would have naturally envisioned that the Tower of Babel was constructed to reach observable orbs in close proximity. As a result, the ancients would have perceived the project as feasible.

Using the gospel taught by the prophet as a yardstick, the novel view of Earth’s ancient past proposed by Talbott et al becomes logical and understandable, no matter how science may view it. The common axis of rotation depicted by Joseph Smith in the Dibble illustration means that the fundamental tenet of Talbott’s thesis is certainly correct: Saturn and its companion planets appeared to hover in a fixed position in the heavens above Earth’s northern horizon due to that unique alignment.

As Elder Whitney noted learning from the prophet, the Babylonians were not trying to reach some distant planet, moon, sun or star, which all appear to steadily, unceasingly traverse the arch of the heavens. They knew that reaching one of those moving, distant bodies was futile. On the other hand, a planet or cluster of planets that remained fixed in the heavens presented an entirely different prospect: It appeared close enough to be reachable and was fixed to one point in the sky. This is the implication of Elder Whitney’s observation when taken together with the Dibble drawing and Talbott’s thesis.

Thus, disparate pieces of evidence come together to further corroborate and substantiate the premise that Joseph Smith believed that the Earth was once part of a congregation of planets.

An interesting evening with the prophet

There is one more anecdotal account that sheds still more light on this confluence of ideas. Taken from a book by Robert W. Smith called, Scriptural and Secular Prophecies Pertaining to The Last Days, this account attributes some remarkable statements to the prophet, Joseph Smith. It purports to be an interview with Homer M. Brown, a past Patriarch of the Granite, Utah, Stake and grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Brown, the principles in the story.

In that interview, Patriarch Brown explains that the setting for his grandparents’ story is their home in Nauvoo before the prophet was martyred and the Saints were forced to move West. According to the account, one evening Joseph Smith came to his grandparents’ door seeking refuge, saying, “Brother Brown, can you keep me overnight? The mobs are after me.” He was granted asylum and offered a meal, which he accepted.

In the gospel discussion that followed, Bro. Brown inquired of the prophet as to the whereabouts of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Joseph Smith’s response was to take them outside. “Come to the door and I will show you,” he said. “Come on, Sister Brown, I want you both to see.”

According to the account, the reason Joseph took them out into the starlit night was to find Polaris, the North Star.

“Brother Brown, can you show me the Polar Star?”

“Yes, sir,” responded Brother Brown, pointing to the North Star. “There it is.”

“Yes, I know,” said the Prophet, “but which one? There are a lot of stars there.”

“Can you see the points of the Dipper?” asked Brother Brown.

The Prophet answered, “Yes.”

“Well,” he said, pointing up to the largest star, “trace the pointers. That is the North Star.”

“You are correct,” the Prophet answered. (Scriptural and Secular Prophecies Pertaining to The Last Days, pp. 89, 90.)
One is compelled to ask why the Prophet insisted that the Browns not only locate the North Star but that they do so using the “Dipper,” the constellation Ursa Major, to find it? What made stargazing so important in the Prophet’s mind that he would risk exposure in the midst of his flight from the mob by going out-of-doors with the Browns — even if only momentarily? Obviously, he must have felt it was a vital point to make in his attempt to answer Brother Brown’s question. But, what made it so important?

Curiously, the answer to those questions is never provided. While the prophet went on to reveal many vital and crucial concepts on that occasion, according to the account as we have it, the concept of locating the North Star is never revisited. Patriarch Brown never explained why Joseph sought to make that point.

However, a clue to why may be found in a place we might never expect to look — high up on the west wall of the Salt Lake Temple.

Many visitors to Temple Square over the years have gazed up at the temple and wondered, no doubt, why the stars of the constellation Ursa Major, the Bear or the Big Dipper are etched there in stone. Certainly, those icons were not placed on that sacred edifice by chance or whimsy.

A moment of deliberation reveals that those mute temple stones echo the concept that Joseph Smith tried to teach to the Browns on that evening in Nauvoo. They involve the same celestial bodies, Polaris and Ursa Major, and are an iconic representation of that same concept he tried to impress upon the Browns.

The presence of that illustration on the Salt Lake Temple allows us to infer that the Browns’ account is accurate and that Joseph must have taught the same concepts to others. We can also infer that, without a doubt, it was Joseph Smith who passed on the relevance and meaning of these astronomical elements to Brigham Young, Truman O. Angel and Orson Pratt, those responsible for the iconography of the Salt Lake Temple. Certainly Pres. Young, the prophet who oversaw the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, felt they were important enough to include them in the iconography of that sacred edifice.

But why?

With these two correlations in evidence — the Brown account and the temple icons — we are still left with the same question. Why were these stars important to a Prophet of God? What significance do they have to the Prophet’s teaching of the restored gospel?

To answer those questions, we must turn to the Dibble illustration, for it is in an analysis of that drawing that the answers can be found.

The logical reason for locating and focusing on the pole star is represented in this illustration. If two or three planets were ‘stacked’ one proximate to another along a common axis of rotation, where the poles of each were in alignment with one another, the inhabitants of the ‘bottom’ planet in the stack would see the other planets in only one place in their sky: at the same place Polaris sets today in ours. Thus, the exercise of locating Polaris in the heavens today is the only way of knowing where this ancient configuration of planets stood. Polaris, then, represents the polar axis drawn through the three orbs in the Dibble illustration.

Thus, in the Dibble illustration we have the explanation of the Brown account and the Salt Lake Temple icons. We find a convergence of these concepts taught by the prophet only in the arrangement illustrated in the above picture. These three bits of evidence serve to more fully explain one another, at the same time demonstrating what the prophet’s thinking was on this concept.

The correlation between these three accounts is not coincidental, invented or forced. The rational conclusion is that the prophet’s fixation on the pole star in the Browns’ account, its duplication on the west wall of the Salt Lake Temple and its representation in the Dibble drawing constitutes compelling evidence of his belief that is intriguing and eye-opening.

Further, it serves to confirm that a prophet of God held similar views of Earth’s ancient history to those of Dave Talbott, the primary proponent of the Saturn myths and the Polar Configuration of planets in modern times. Three planets did stand, anciently, in the place where Polaris stands today.

The Polar Configuration

At a distance, the grouping looked much like this illustration. Left to right, the orbs, as Talbott proposes them are Saturn, Venus, Mars and Earth.

From the perspective of earthbound observers, the grouping would have looked as they do in the next panel.

Note that from the alignment of the planets in this illustration, the three orbs appeared to hover above Earth’s north pole — precisely the alignment referred to in the present discussion.

Misguided criticism

Perhaps it should not be surprising that most Mormon scholars have been critical of this assessment as well as the Whitney account, the Brown account and the Dibble illustration. They see them as too fantastic to believe, if considered only as isolated, unrelated items, which have little or no scientific substantiation. Their worldview does not take into account the temple symbols, nor do they know anything of Talbott’s research.

That modern LDS scholars do not give much credence to the Dibble illustration or the Brown account is an indication of their ignorance. The connection with temple symbolism is unmistakable and the commonalities are undeniable to all but the most calloused observer.

Only one set of conditions in Earth’s ancient heavens can provide a context for all this evidence: Talbott’s Polar Configuration. Only a group of planets aligned on a common axis of rotation with the Earth could provide a context for understanding the intersection of these ideas. The temple icons, the Dibble illustration and the Brown account therefore form a tripartite confirmation that this was Joseph’s belief.

More confirmation from temple icons

But there is more to the account that further confirms the relevance of the Browns’ story while also expanding our view of the Prophet’s understanding. According to the Brown account, Joseph went on to point out another star in the sky that night.

“Now, do you discern a little twinkler to the right and below the Pole Star, which we would judge to be about the distance of 20 feet from here?” asked Joseph.

“Yes, sir,” said Brother Brown.

The prophet then asked, “Sister Brown, do you see that star also?”

“Yes sir,” was her answer. (Ibid., p. 90.)
Taken at face value, this part of the account seems to have little meaning. The distance of “20 feet from here” and direction the prophet cited between the “little twinkler” and the pole star is entirely subjective. Only if we could see where he gestured as he spoke could we know what star was indicated. Due to the vagueness of the account, we cannot.

However, there is a relationship between Polaris and another prominent star in our present skies, as suggested by Talbott, that may help us identify what star the prophet pointed out to the Browns. That planet is Saturn, the most prominent planet in myth and legend.

Evidence that Joseph may have been pointing to Saturn, along with Polaris and Ursa Major, on the occasion of his visit with the Browns can also be found in Salt Lake Temple iconography. The original architectural renderings (see south elevation below) of the Salt Lake Temple, where an icon of a planet with a ring around it can be seen near the top of the buttresses along the south wall, above the Sunstones, show that Saturn held a prominent place in the designers’ hierarchy of symbols for the temple.

Though these icons were not used in the final building, it is well documented in Mormon history that the designers specifically designated these as Saturnstones.

Thus, while it is not evidenced in the laconic account of the Browns, it is reasonable to conclude, based on obscure temple symbolism, that Joseph sought to point out the planet Saturn on that occasion.

Still more prophetic insights

Having established the validity of the Browns’ account while noting its deficiencies, we can proceed to the additional information that it brings to our understanding of the Prophet’s views. Patriarch Brown continued with his grandparents’ account.

After re-entering the house, the Prophet said, “Brother Brown, I noticed when I came in that you were reading the Doctrine and Covenants. Will you kindly get it?”

He did so. The Prophet turned to Section 133 and read, commencing at the 26th verse and throughout to the 34th verse. He said, after reading the 31st verse, “Now, let me ask you what would cause the everlasting hills to tremble with more violence than the coming together of the two planets?

“Now,” he said, “scientists will tell you that it is not scientific, that two planets coming together would be disastrous to both. But, when two planets or other objects are traveling in the same direction and one of them with a little greater velocity than the other, it would not be disastrous because the one traveling faster would over take the other. Now, what would cause the mountains of ice to melt quicker than the heat caused by the friction of the two planets coming together?”

And then he asked the question, “Did you ever see a meteor falling that was not red hot? So, that would cause the mountain of ice to melt.” (Ibid.,pp. 89, 90.)
The most striking thing about these comments is that the prophet was talking about planetary catastrophism, something most Mormon scholars are unwilling to acknowledge and part of the reason why the Brown story is disparaged in scholastic circles within the church. Yet, these comments are consistent with Joseph’s observation that the “grand sign” of the last days will be a “comet, a planet,” (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 337.) lending additional credibility to Patriarch Brown’s account.

Unmistakably, the Prophet attributed future events and conditions predicted for the last days in Section 133 to a near-collision of planets. By inference, that was the primary mechanism of change in the past as well. If we are to take our lead from Joseph Smith, then we, too, must see those events, past and future, from that same perspective.

Worlds in collision

Joseph took great care to point out to the Browns that scientists in their day would not share his scenario of one planet overtaking another. Ironically, over a hundred years later, in 1950, when Velikovsky proposed a similar scenario for the Exodus events, scientists and scholars universally condemned him. Little had changed in that time.

Sadly, little has changed in this regard today, over 160 years later. Mormons who presently accept the prophet’s view of planetary catastrophe also face ridicule and derision — as often as not from their peers in the church as well as from sectarian and secular sources.

Electromagnetic effects were clearly not part of the prophet’s paradigm since they were not known by science in his day. Nevertheless, he recognized that an overtaking of one planet by another would involve some mechanism that would produce heat, which he attributed to “friction of the two planets coming together.” While there would be no actual contact of the two orbs, which he accurately deduced, the interaction of the electrically charged plasma boundaries would, in effect, collide, deflecting the two planets from any collision while producing prodigious amounts of heat.

The same electromagnetic properties of the two planets that prevents an out-and-out collision would also serve to lock the two into an orbital embrace, one with another, if, as the prophet asserted, one gradually overtook the other. Such is the nature of electromagnetic fields in space. The simultaneous attraction/repulsion power of their respective electromagnetic fields, which is vastly stronger than the force of gravity, would cause them to “join,” in effect, either temporarily or permanently.

A new polar configuration

This is clearly the scenario the prophet envisioned in his discussion with the Browns, one that would see a reestablishment of the same celestial manifestations as those seen anciently in the Polar Configuration proposed by Talbott. Hence, the remainder of the story told by Patriarch Brown of his grandparents reflects elements already familiar to those who have embraced the concept of the polar grouping and the great pillar, river, mountain or highway that seemed to connect it to the Earth.

Thus, the meaning of the prophet’s final observations to the Browns is clear.

“And relative to the great highway which should be cast up when the planet returns to its place in the great northern waters, it will form a highway and waters will recede and roll back.”

He continued, “Now, as to their coming back from the northern waters, they will return from the north because their planet will return to the place from whence it was taken.

“Relative to the waters rolling back to the north, if you take a vessel of water and swing it rapidly around your head, you won’t spill any. But if you stop the motion gradually, it will begin to pour out.

“Now,” he said, “Brother Brown, at the present time this earth is rotating very rapidly. When this planet returns it will make the Earth that much heavier, and it will then revolve slower. That will account for the waters receding from the Earth for a great while, but it has now turned and is proceeding rapidly eastward.” (Ibid., p. 91.)
Once again, a prophet of God has a keen understanding of the forces at work in such an event. In such a ‘joining,’ two natural forces would combine to “recede and roll back” the oceans of the Earth to the poles. As Joseph noted with his bucket-swinging analogy, Earth’s rotation might slow, thus diminishing the centrifugal force that currently pushes the oceans toward the equator, allowing a more even distribution of ocean water around the globe, the net effect of which would be to lower water levels at the equator while raising them at the poles. Additionally, the gravitational tug of the neighboring body located above Earth’s north pole would create a permanent tide at both poles, thus serving to further move water to the poles. This is the sum and substance of Joseph’s final comment to the Browns, one that modern catastrophists readily acknowledge as a recognized consequence of planets locked together in a common polar alignment.

A thorny, ‘tribal’ issue

One other issue must be dealt with before closing this investigation of the Prophet’s beliefs. When Joseph Smith spoke of “they” in this account, he was speaking of the Ten Lost Tribes. Indeed, the reader should know that it was in the context of understanding the fate of those missing tribes that the entire Brown story was told.

The question of the Lost Tribes has plagued the church from the Nauvoo period forward. This is likely so because Joseph taught this concept to many Nauvoo-era Saints, as will be documented further on. Acrimonious debate among church members regarding the fate of those tribes of Israel caused the brethren to suppress the entire issue by labeling it a “mystery,” and counseling the Saints to avoid such discussions. It is not the objective of this author to violate that prohibition or incite anew a debate as to the whereabouts of those vanished tribes. Each Saint must decide this issue for himself or herself.

The vital point one would hope to make in all this is that Joseph Smith clearly believed in the two primary tenets of this author’s thesis regarding ancient history: Planetary catastrophes were the agents of ancient supernatural events and conditions recorded in the scriptures, which are also predicted for the last days; equally important is the concept that Earth was once part of a extraordinary grouping of planets that now move on independent orbits within the solar system.

More collision accounts from the prophet

Many other early accounts from those who personally knew Joseph Smith repeat the theme of planetary catastrophism in the context of the Lost Tribes question. Herewith are three additional such recollections for the reader to contemplate — one from the Patriarch Brown account we have just reviewed and the other two from personal journals.

Brother Brown, will you give us some light and explanation of the 5th verse on page 396 of the Hymn Book which speaks of the Ten Tribes of Israel, or the part of this earth which formed another planet, according to the hymn of (written by) Eliza R. Snow.

“Yes, sir. I think I can answer your question. Sister Eliza R. Snow, in visiting my grandparents was asked by my grandmother, ‘Eliza, where did you get your ideas about the Ten Lost Tribes being taken away as you explain it in your wonderful hymn?’
“She answered as follows, ‘Why, my husband (Joseph Smith) told me about it.’” (Ibid., p. 88.)

Thurs., Mar. 10 (1881) … at night paid Sister Eliza R. Snow a short visit and had some conversation with her on the dividing of the earth. She told me that she heard the prophet say that when the ten tribes were taken away the Lord cut the Earth in two, Joseph Striking his left hand in the center with the edge of his right to illustrate the idea and that they (the 10 tribes) were on an orb or planet by themselves and when they return with the portion of this earth that was taken away with them, the coming together of these two bodies or orbs would cause a shock and make the ‘Earth reel to and fro like a drunken man.’ She also stated that he said the Earth was now ninety times smaller now than when first created or organized. (Journal of Charles Walker, p. 38.)

The winter following (1840), I attended a public meeting held in Vincent Knight’s house at which the Prophet Joseph Smith gave the following instruction: ‘When this world was first made it was a tremendous big thing. The Lord concluded it was too big. We read in the Scriptures that in the days of Peleg the earth was divided, so the Lord divided the earth. When the ten tribes of the children of Israel went into the north country he divided it again, so the earth has been divided and subdivided. We also read in the Scriptures that the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunken man. What shall cause this earth to reel to and fro like a drunken man? We read that the stars shall fall to the earth like a fig falling from a fig tree.

When these stars return to the place where they were taken from, it will cause the earth to reel to and fro. Not that the planets will come squarely against each other, in such case both planets would be broken to pieces. But in there rolling motion they will come together where they were taken from which will cause the earth to reel to and fro. (Journal of Samuel Holister Rogers, p. 8.)
Such seemingly extravagant and speculative accounts, attributed to Joseph Smith by early church members and general authorities, have been discounted and all but forgotten in recent years by church members. They are never mentioned in church manuals, quoted in conference talks or discussed in any way. This is probably so because such statements contradict our present cultural views, given us by modern science, of the past history of our solar system and Earth’s career in it.

Curiously, only with the alternate perspective that Velikovsky, Talbott, et al bring to the equation do these statements attributed to Joseph Smith take on renewed meaning. Indeed, the views of those unconventional scholars serve as added corroboration for Joseph’s many, otherwise seemingly nonsensical, statements recorded by early Mormons.

For those of us who sincerely believe that Joseph was a visionary and seer, this knowledge allows us to better appreciate the depth of his marvelous contribution to our understanding of the gospel, the scriptures, the past and the future.

Now we can comprehend them as he understood and taught them.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2004

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Gravity Problem

Newton defined gravity as a constant, based in mass: the more mass, the greater the gravitational attraction between two bodies. Thus, an astronaut on the moon effortlessly bounds about like a gazelle because the mass of the moon — and, hence, its gravity — is less than on Earth. Conversely, that same astronaut would be crushed to the ground by gravity, unable to stand, if he were to set foot on a massive, Jupiter-sized planet.

It is accepted as fact by scientists and laymen alike that as long as the Earth has been at its present mass, its gravity has been the same. In their view, the first amphibian to wriggle its way onto land struggled against the same gravitational pull as we do today when we get up off the couch. Newton’s hypothesis is so universally accepted as fact that it is no longer referred to as a theory. It has been exalted to an axiom in science. It is now called the law of gravity.

But a sober examination of historical facts disputes that assumption, that law. Earth’s gravity has varied over the eons. The evidence has been before us for almost two centuries, but we have failed to recognize it or at least acknowledge it. That evidence — the stones and bones buried in the earth — clearly demonstrates that gravity is not a constant.

Of course, scientists scoff at such assertions as nonsense. They say that the mathematical equations necessary to send astronauts to the Moon or space probes to the outer planets would fail if gravity were not constant. Our entire program of space exploration is anchored in the premise of Newton’s gravity constant. They insist that the smallest variation in gravity from planet to planet would cause orbital miscalculations that would send any space vehicle awry. Well established orbital mechanics, based on Newtonian physics, they assert, has served to help us successfully navigate our space probes throughout the solar system.

This seems to be a strong argument on the face of it. But closer examination will reveal that it may not be entirely accurate. While planets and moons in our solar neighborhood may appear to follow the gravity constant rule, for whatever reason, further out beyond our solar system we find that things are not so clear cut.

A reassessment

A fresh view of the evidence begins with a relatively recent development. As astronomers began looking further out in space in recent decades, they discovered a type of star or sun that did not seem to conform to the gravitational rules. These anomalous objects had a measurable gravitational influence that far exceeded expectations for their size. Put another way, these anomalous stars had an apparent gravity that was equal to objects many times their size. Because scientists considered gravity a constant, the only other variable in the equation was mass. Rather than question the ‘immutable’ law of gravity, scientists speculated that these bodies represented a new, denser state of matter. Hence, they determined that the mass of these objects must be far greater than their size indicated. That would account for their untoward gravitational influence. For that reason, these new objects were called “ultra massive,” and Newton’s law remained intact.

The alternate hypothesis — that gravity was not a function of mass — was never seriously considered. That is, if something other than the mass of an object in space determined its gravitational pull, then a relatively small body with low mass could nevertheless have tremendous gravitation influence. This alternative was unthinkable to scientists, so it was rejected without comment.

Newton’s ideas about gravity were a step forward, but as time went on too many anomalies went unexplained. Rather than consider the possibility that Newton’s theory was wrong, scientists opted to invent ad hoc theories to explain the anomalies. This set the stage for some strange inventions, theoretical constructs like black holes, dark matter and neutron stars. That is, these things probably do not exist, as envisioned in theory. They were contrived to account for observed anomalous gravitational phenomena.

Look to the past

The simplest, most logical and persuasive argument against the gravity constant can be found not in the stars, but beneath our very feet. The paleontological record — the stones and bones of ancient prehistory, entombed in the earth — argues eloquently against gravity as a constant.

Consider the dinosaurs.

Early 20th century depictions in scientific journals and textbooks of the behemoth Brontosaurus showed him standing hip-deep in water, a long-necked, four-legged, lumbering tail-dragger confined to shallow pools of water where his considerable weight would be displace by the water’s buoyancy. One wonders what led early paleontologists to believe that Brontosaurus lived in a semi-aquatic environment? There was no evidence in paleontology to suggest such might be the case. Could it be that they considered it impossible for such a giant to stand on his own, given the gravity constant, without the buoyancy of water?

Indeed, such turns out to be the case. Early textbooks allude to the Brontosaur’s need to ‘float’ in the water in order to displace the considerable weight of his massive body, much like a ship on the ocean. Apparently, early paleontologists were more analytical and intellectually honest that today’s crop. Those of the ‘old school’ recognized a fundamental fact that modern paleontologists universally ignore: No land animal of that size could stand erect on dry land with our present gravity.

Very recent discoveries reveal that far from being cold-blooded, swamp-dwelling reptiles, dinosaurs were probably warm-blooded, land-dwelling animals having more in common with modern birds than reptiles. Many lived in herds or flocks, grazing much like modern cattle. More astounding still, even the largest among them moved about with remarkable ease, given their tremendous girth. Some two-legged dinosaurs were probably remarkably swift, running much like a modern ostrich.

This begs the question: How did the really large ones manage to maneuver about with such ease, agility and alacrity? Today’s paleontologists correctly depict Tyrannosaurus rex running, jumping and leaping with the agility of a modern Kodiak bear, the largest known carnivore on earth today. Yet, a modern bull elephant, somewhat smaller than T. rex, can manage little more than an energetic shuffle when it runs, due to its exceptional weight. How did the massive dinosaurs manage to move about so deftly in spite of their tremendous size? There is only one reasonable answer, even though it flies in the face of current scientific dogma: They experienced less gravity!

A weighty problem

There is still another indication of attenuated gravity in the structural limitations of the dinosaurs’ bodies.

Engineers, who study things like the load bearing capacity of stone and steel, indicate that bone, no matter how massive, is incapable of supporting the exceedingly great weight of the larger dinosaurs.

Muscle, too, has its limitation. Some engineers doubt that muscle—even enormous amounts of it, as the dinosaurs clearly had—would be sufficient to the task of propelling those massive bodies. The larger dinosaurs would simply have been incapable of lifting their own weight, given Earth’s present gravity.

Like our theoretical astronaut on Jupiter, they would be unable to rise to their feet. What is more, even if they were able to stand, the bones in their legs and feet would be crushed under the incredible weight of their own massive bodies.

Taxonomy suggests that the modern elephant represents the upper limit of size for a land animal, given the present gravity. Indisputable paleontological evidence of the existence of prehistoric creatures many times more massive than the modern elephant argues persuasively that gravity was significantly less during the Jurassic than it is today.

Getting off the ground

The Pterosaurs were the flying dinosaurs — some of them the size of today’s small, single-engine airplanes. Their wingspan was several times greater than that of our largest birds, which is about 14 to 16 feet. If an albatross or a condor had a longer wingspan, given today’s gravitational limitations, the bones in their wings would simply be unable to support them in flight — even if they only glided. Flapping wings to fly, of course, adds still more stress to the bird’s airframe. So it was, too, with the Pterosaurs.

Given today’s gravitational pull, the largest of the flying dinosaurs, Ornithopterous, would have shattered the bones in his wings upon attempting to fly. The fact that such huge dinosaurs actually flew is striking evidence that they had less gravity to contend with than do today’s birds.

Even the more recent prehistoric record suggests diminished gravity. Creatures that resemble modern animals characterized the Cenozoic era or the Age of Mammals. Yet, these prehistoric mammals, such as giant sloths, saber-toothed tigers and great bears, were much larger than their modern counterparts. Ice age mammoths and mastodons were noticeably larger than modern elephants. These so called “megafauna” suggest that gravity governs the general size of some animals. That is, the size of the flora and fauna is dictated by the gravity they experience.

Megalithic evidence

More compelling still is the evidence from recent, historic times, since modern man began his sojourn on the Earth. Megalithic structures, erected by ancient man at the dawn of civilization, are massive, mute stones that speak loudly for an altered state of gravity even in historic times.

Archeologists and anthropologists wonder out loud at the capacity of ancient man to build stone monuments that would challenge our best engineers and equipment. The pyramids on the Geza plateau in Egypt, the Sun Gate at Tiahuanaco, the ponderous stones in the walls of Cuzco in Peru, Stonehenge on the Aubrey Plain in England and the megaliths at Baalbek in Lebanon are only a few examples of stones so massive and well worked that modern man stands in awe at their sheer size and mass. Some, like the stones at Baalbek, conservatively estimated at 1,200 tons each, would be almost impossible to move with the best modern heavy equipment.

How, then, did ancient cultures manage such Herculean feats? How were people with primitive tools and a rudimentary knowledge of engineering able to perform such exploits?

The answer may be as simple as falling off a log: less gravity. If early Stone Age and Bronze Age man experienced periods of reduced gravity, then the opportunity to move massive stones for sacred structures would be irresistible. Ironically, there is a strong suggestion in the historic record that just such a thing happened.

The first Olympiad, held in Greece in 620 B.C., may have been organized because the electromagnetic environment was altered, allowing mankind to experience unique gravitational effects. There are indications that the first Olympic games celebrated the fact that men could suddenly run faster, jump higher and further than ever before. Oddly, the Greek records indicate that the athletes carried a large stone in each hand as they competed for the highest and longest jumps. Scholars neglect to mention the stones because it seems odd that athletes wishing to jump as high or as far as possible would burden themselves with stones that could only impede their performance. Yet, perhaps the same electromagnetic phenomena that allowed them to levitate great stones also allowed them to offset their mass by carrying levitating stones as they ran and jumped.

The spark of understanding

Thus, we see that prehistoric and historic evidence strongly suggests that gravity has not been a constant. Newton got it wrong. Gravity is not a function of mass.

But it may be a function of electrical charge. Consistent with Wal Thornhill’s theory of an electric universe, gravity could be altered in an instant by changing the net charge on the Earth. Just as bits of paper or hair cling to a comb that is filled with ‘static electricity,’ perhaps all things are held on the Earth by a similar, electrical effect. Alter the charge on the Earth, and things become heavier or lighter, depending upon whether the change involved a net increase or decrease of charge.

How is the charge on the Earth altered? Thornhill looks to ancient accounts of celestial thunderbolts to answer that question. The weapon of choice among the ancient celestial gods or planets was the thunderbolt — what we call lightning. Colliding or intersecting bodies in space, each with their own charge, will attempt to reach electrical equilibrium by exchanging charge via interplanetary lightning bolts of epic proportion.

We see this effect often in the lightning that leaps about in the clouds or between the clouds and the ground. It is nothing more than a method of equalizing the electrical gradient differential between the ground and the cloud or between areas within the clouds.

Try this experiment as a way of understanding electromagnetic attraction. Hold a static-charged comb at arms length. No effect is observed. Now, bring the comb close to your arm. As the comb comes closer, the hair on you arm rises as the comb passes over it, attracted by the difference in charge between the comb and your hair. You can both see it and feel it.

Distance is the determining factor. At a distance, there is no effect. But when your arm and the comb come into close proximity, the effect becomes pronounced. Bring the comb close enough, and a spark leaps between the comb and your arm. Now that the charge difference has been equalized by the exchange of charge, the hair no longer rises to the comb.

A similar phenomenon is at work between the stars, planets and moons in space. While this example may seem simplistic, it is by no means far fetched. Past collisions or near collisions have allowed the planets to exchange their charge and change their orbits as well as their gravity. As long as the planets remained at a distance, no exchange was possible and the attraction remained relatively weak. But when events conspired to bring them into close proximity, their electrical nature asserted itself with a vengeance.

Ancient observers saw lightning leap between nearby planets as well as to Earth. Sodom and Gomorrah may have been ground zero for an interplanetary lightning strike that instantly incinerated those two hapless cities. The fire that fell from the sky, consumed Elijah’s sacrifice and alter as well may have been such an interplanetary lightning bolt.

It may be that mass still plays a small role in the electromagnetic equation, but it is electricity that lights the universe, dictates the planets’ orbits and keeps our feet firmly planted on the ground. As noted astronomer Halton Arp put it, “Gravity is the ashes of formerly electrical systems.”

Ironic, isn’t it. Gravity is more like the pesky “static cling” in our clothes and our hair than the theory of mutual attraction of mass to which modern science clings.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2000

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Origin of the Sacrament

Mormons partake of the Sacrament in remembrance of the Savior’s sacrifice for our sins. These are a precious few moments in which we can reflect upon and ponder what he accomplished on our behalf.

All Christians, no matter how they celebrate the expiation of Christ, recognize the instigation of that ordinance by the Savior during the Passover (Pesach) in Jerusalem just prior to his crucifixion.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28.)

If they pay attention in classes, Latter-day Saints will have learned about the historical roots of Passover in the events of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, which included a hastily consumed meal that came to be known in Jewish tradition as Seder.

Since Seder includes the ritual consumption of certain foods, it seems appropriate that Christ would choose that occasion to instigate another eating ritual to encourage his followers to recall his primary mission to Earth: the resurrection of all and salvation for those who seek it.

Looking deeper into the past

Christians believe that the Sacrament originated with Christ. Hence, no investigation of the ordinance goes beyond that point.

What most Christians and Latter-day Saints do not know is that the origins of the Sacrament, like most Christian conventions, are to be found much further back in time, in ancient custom and tradition. In fact, there is credible evidence that its roots go much deeper into ancient tradition than most consider. This evidence points to the source of such rituals in the heaven-spanning specters that once dominated Earth’s skies.

As it turns out, the scriptures tell us of a ritual meal consumed by idolatrous Israelites that is clearly a prototype of the Sacrament, leading to the surprising conclusion that the Savior borrowed a custom or tradition that was already ancient in his day, and then adopted and adapted it to use as an ordinance.

To understand the ancient origins of the Sacrament, we must go back in time to the reign of judges in Israel after the conquest of Canaan and the Philistines by Joshua’s armies.

Shortly after Joshua’s death, the Israelites began worshipping the gods of their neighbors. In Judges we read:

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:

And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.

And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. (Judges 2:11, 12, 13.)

And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him. (Judges 10:6.)

Here we have an unequivocal statement that the Israelites adopted the idolatrous worship of neighboring cultures. Indeed, one might argue that they never actually abandoned the beliefs and practices that they learned while in bondage in Egypt.

Even though the generation that followed Moses out of Egypt had long passed away by the era covered in Judges, the text clearly indicates that they passed on to their children a tendency to accept idolatrous beliefs and practices, suggesting that vestiges of idolatry bridged the gap from one generation to another, down through the ages.

On the earth, as in heaven

Of course, we’ve learned elsewhere that those idolatrous traditions were based entirely in ancient astral events. They were symbolic of things that were once seen to happen in Earth’s tumultuous skies.

More specifically, we know that Baal (Apollo) was Mars and Ashtaroth (Ishtar, Aphrodite) was Venus, the two primary actors in the Polar Configuration.

These idolatrous practices flourished over time to become an integral part of Israelite culture. Indeed, they endured on into the epoch of the Israelite monarchy where Yahweh was no longer revered as the only god. In fact, he was worshipped as one of many gods.

For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.

And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.

Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.

And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. (1 Kings 11:5-8.)

And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. (2 Kings 23:13.)

Thus we see that the customs, rituals and practices attendant to the worship of those idols was fully integrated into Israelite culture for many generations, insomuch that they became an indistinguishable part of the religion Moses had originally given them.

We see the pervasiveness of such practices many generations later in events recorded by the prophet Jeremiah.

Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.
Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?

The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. (Jeremiah 7:16-18.)

The Lord condemned Israel through Jeremiah for their perfidy. In addition to practicing the abominable ritual of child sacrifice to the heathen god Moloch, Jeremiah’s account explains that they worshipped “the queen of heaven,” making “cakes” and “drink offerings.”

The queen was a star and a planet

This Queen of Heaven that Jeremiah despised was none other than Ashtoreth, mentioned in the quotes from 1st and 2nd Kings. She was the great star goddess (Venus) of antiquity, the mother of the son (Mars) of god (Saturn).

As an aside, it is worthy of note that the Roman Catholics adopted the imagery of the Queen of Heaven for their worship of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ. In that role, she is an ideal fit for all the imagery and veneration of her prototype in nearly every ancient culture since they all had an equivalent goddess they worshipped as the Queen of Heaven and the mother of god, whether she was called Ashtoreth, Ishtar, Isis, or some other title. Thus, when Christianity was taken to other “gentile” cultures, they readily accepted the Virgin Mary imagery. This was even true for Mesoamerican peoples such as the Inca, Maya and Aztecs.

A ritual meal

Of particular interest in our quest to understand the origins of the Sacrament is the practice of making cakes and drink offerings mentioned in the preceding verses.

In the following verses we learn that in spite of Jeremiah’s pleas to abandon such rituals, the people vowed to continue them because they were traditional.

Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,

As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.

But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.

But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.

And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men? (Jeremiah 44:15-19, italics added.)

These cakes and drinks they made were not simply used as an offering placed upon some alter or set aside in a shrine. They were ultimately consumed ritually, just as were all the animal sacrifices of the Israelites.

As is the case for all such rituals or rites, they were done to recall some aspect of the ancient configuration that once stood above the Earth.

Hot cross buns and the Queen of Heaven

Another curious connection to these rites is found in European pre-history. When the northern tribes of Israel ultimately migrated into Europe, they took these traditions with them. So it should not surprise us to learn that the traditions of many European cultures preserve vestiges of these practices.

Our holiday now connected with the Savior’s resurrection, Easter, is just such a tradition. It began as a celebration, a holiday (holy day) consecrated to the Queen of Heaven: Aster, Astarte, Ishtar or Ashtoreth. One custom connected with that holiday is the making of hot cross buns. In effect, buns were made that bore the image of the goddess, which was a cross.

The cross placed on the hot cross buns is the same image that history tells us was placed on the cakes made by the women of Jerusalem in the Jeremiah text. Not only that, the European tradition indicates that those cakes were made to be eaten, just as are their equivalents today. The cross was the explicit ancient symbol of the star goddess since she ultimately assumed the form of the cross in heaven. The “cakes” or buns were made in the image of the goddess.

Here we see a discharging Venus forming four arms or streams, setting behind the darker orb Mars and in front of the larger face of Saturn. This is the archetypal image replicated in the hot cross buns of Easter.

Learning the lessons of history

So, we learn yet another connection of the idolatrous practices of the ancients to our modern cultural traditions which serves to demonstrate how pervasive and enduring are these traditional practices. Just as with the Christmas traditions — in fact, the traditions of all holidays (holy days), which all harken back to celestial events — they endure in one form or another in contemporary culture, even after memory of the origins are long lost and forgotten in hoary antiquity.

And so it was with the worship of the Queen of Heaven, the great star goddess of antiquity. When the ancient Israelites ate the cakes and drank the drink offering, they made a covenant to remember her, to recall how she brought the heavens to life and lit the Earth with her glory, as well as nurturing the child (Mars) she bore. Cakes and beer or wine were chosen because those were ultimately the edible fruits of the Earth over which Venus ruled. Hence, she was the prototype of Mother Nature as well.

She was called the Queen of Heaven for good reason. Sumerian texts tell of her “terrifying glory,” invoking Inanna (Venus) as the goddess of “the Light of the World”, “the Amazement of the Lands”, “the Radiant Star” and “Great Light.” They depict the goddess “clothed in radiance,” saying that the world stood in “fear and trembling at [her] tempestuous radiance.”

So, when the Savior wished to initiate an ordinance that would remind his followers of his role as Redeemer and “light of the world,” the thought of adopting this ritual to the light goddess naturally came to him. Not only was the ritual customary in his culture, making it an easy transition for his followers, he must have known that similar customs in other cultures would pave the way for adopting the ritual among converts to the ‘new’ religion, Christianity.

Supportive of this thesis is the fact that the cross once seen in heaven emanating from the sky goddess became the principle symbol of Christ in the emerging Catholic and Eastern Orthodox religions. Clearly, converts from paganism to Christianity had no problem with applying both the cross symbol of their sky goddess and the ritual meal commemorating her to the worship of the real Son of God, the Savior in their new religion.

When we take the Sacrament, we covenant to remember the Savior and the role he plays in creation and more particularly in our redemption. He chose to have the bread represent his body and the water to represent his blood, a logical and natural adaptation of the original offering to the meaning of the Christian Sacrament.

Thus we see that the archetypal ordinance, the predecessor of the Sacrament, served the same function in the religions of all ancient cultures as it does in Christianity.

Learning new lessons from the past

Such knowledge teaches us many things. We learn that our practices and beliefs are not that much different from those of cultures we have heretofore seen as strange and esoteric, completely unrelated to the gospel. We see that the gospel can easily be adapted to the traditions of almost any culture because its rituals arise from common roots in ancient celestial events and conditions. Indeed, one may say that all gospel ordinances came into being in a similar manner and for similar reasons.

We learn that Christian ordinances serve to connect us to our ancestors in a very intimate way, even though they may have been somewhat altered and misapplied by less enlightened cultures. We learn that the Savior found nothing improper in borrowing those traditions and adapting them to correct religious practice in order to make it easier for the wayward human race to embrace his gospel and its ordinances.

Thus, the hue and cry among Christians and some Mormons that holidays like Christmas and Easter — even Halloween — are pagan rites, and thus beneath our dignity as followers of Christ and worthy only of our contempt, is flawed. These are valid traditional celebrations that have been adapted as Christian holidays.

Borrowing: a time honored tradition

Moreover — and perhaps the most important lesson we should learn from all this — when Joseph Smith borrowed the vestiges of ancient temple rites and ritual from Masonry, the only institution on the American frontier in the early 1800s that retained some semblance of those rites and ordinances and adapted them for use in LDS temples, he was merely following the Savior’s pattern in such things.

This also partially explains the presence of idolatrous icons all over modern LDS temples, including the statue of the Greek Aphrodite that stands watch over the veil in the Celestial Room of the Salt Lake Temple.

Such issues are only a problem for those who do not understand the origin and purpose of such practices or icons and the methodology that allows their adoption and adaptation as necessary or useful. When seen in the revelatory light of a proper view of history, there is no need for concern or anxiety at these measures.

Now we can see them in their true role as cultural traditions meant to remind us of things our culture has forgotten, vestiges of a past that entirely elud us today. Their whole purpose is to help us recall our past, one most Saints seem intent on ignoring even though their founding prophet did all he could to resurrect that knowledge.

Modern ignorance

The ancients would surely be appalled at our ignorance and disregard for the messages they labored to communicate to us down through the ages by means of the symbolism in their texts and the iconography of their sacred temples, tombs and monuments. Given that the true gospel was restored via revelation to Latter-day Saints in this dispensation, our present level of ignorance places added condemnation upon us.

If we forget their origins and true meaning, which most of us have, then these ordinances are only harmless, if somewhat meaningful, rituals. But when we study our past and learn its lessons, these practices serve to immeasurably enrich our lives and further our commitment to our religion and our Savior while connecting us to the beliefs and traditions our ancestors embraced.

This is the primary benefit of learning truth, the correct version of the present, the past and the future—as the Lord put it to Joseph Smith, “things as they are, as they were and as they are to come.”

© Anthony E. Larson, 2005