Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Living the Nephite Nightmare

(An Open Letter to all Latter-day Saints)

The Book of Mormon is a prophecy for our time.

This has been my thesis since the mid-1980s, when I wrote Parallel Histories: The Nephites and The Americans. It was written over 20 years ago in response to then church president Ezra Taft Benson’s call to carefully and diligently re-examine the Book of Mormon. It was my effort to comply with his earnest request.

Following Pres. Benson’s cue when he observed that we are the modern counterparts of the ancient Nephites, I explored the thesis that our two cultures were more than superficially similar. They are remarkably alike, in profound and meaningful ways. Because it was apparent that my fellow saints weren’t seeing the things that seemed obvious to me, I felt a book was needed which outlined and elaborated that thesis.

Several articles followed over the years, updating, authenticating and validating that book and its thesis. (See the four part series A Harbinger For Our Time, on this blog.) This monograph will further that approach by demonstrating that America has now crossed the final threshold in our headlong rush to unknowingly duplicate Nephite history in our time.

When comparing the two cultures, as we will do herein, one caveat must be kept foremost in mind: While the two histories are similar, displaying similar conditions and events, the two cultures, Nephite and American, are fundamentally different from one another. The resemblance or similarities may be profoundly significant, but the way events played out in Nephite times is unlikely to be identical to the way events play out in our time.

These differences are important to keep in mind. Don’t expect an exact fit. Theirs was a simpler, agrarian-based society; ours is far more complex, based in a largely industrialized and technology oriented society. Their theater was restricted to a regional one; ours is national and international in scope, with many factors that were nonexistent in Nephite times. Thus, events in the two histories must be compared carefully—allowing that each will unfold in different ways, yet they will display remarkable and significant similarities.

In this monograph, we move beyond the astonishing similarities identified in the original book’s presentation. We move beyond the resemblance of the last Lamanite/Nephite War to our Second World War. We move beyond the postwar economic boom that enriched both nations in their respective eras. We move beyond the identical moral and political corruption that ensued. We look beyond the ideological battles that characterized the campaign of the corrupt judges against Nephi, the son of Helaman and their similarities to the Clinton presidency. We look beyond the Gadianton wars and equivalencies that allowed the accurate prediction that today’s terrorists would become our counterpart to the Nephite’s Gadianton robbers during the Clinton and Bush presidencies.

Now we come to the crux of this monograph, the next major parallel between our two cultures. It is the failed internal struggle the Nephites fought to retain their representative form of government, complete with its freedoms and justice.

The Nephite culture had been governed for generations by a representative form remarkably similar to our own. Mosiah said it best: “Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.” (Mosiah 29: 25, 26.)

Mosiah’s observation later proved prophetic in the days of Third Nephi: it is nearly always a minority that wants to venture away from correct principles of governance. The time came, as it always does, when wealth led to pride and a division of Nephite society into classes, “… and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions.” (3 Nephi 6:10.)

Social equality dissolved. “And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches … for there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers. … thus there became a great inequality in all the land.” (Ibid. 6: 12, 11, 14.)

Immediately, the wealthy, ruling class within the Nephite nation decided that they wanted to set aside government by the voice of the people and replace it with a monarchy, which would be indebted, naturally, to those of their elite status: “And they did set at defiance the law and the rights of their country … and to establish a king over the land, that the land should no more be at liberty but should be subject unto kings.” (Ibid. 6:30.)

Something strikingly similar seems to be happening before our very eyes today, though no one is trying to set up a monarchy. They don’t need to. The governing class has seen to it that our presidents will be “elected” from their ranks simply because a man of the people has no chance in the corrupt system set up by our politicians in the last half-century. A ruling class of elites, who have no desire to relinquish power, has infiltrated our two party system. They have set rules that make it nearly impossible to unseat them.

The will of the people is no longer of any concern to them. Progressivism (the newspeak term coined to replace the pejorative moniker, “Liberal”) has come to dominate Washington, with its doctrine that the “experts” from the elite social strata—such as corporate heads (“merchants” in Nephite times), politicians (“lawyers” and “priests” in Nephite times) and government officials (“officers” in Nephite times)—should make decisions for us.

When recent protests, populated by ordinary, mainstream Americans, erupted around this country in order to make their voices heard, those who govern and their media minions angrily derided, denounced and dismissed them as dangerously misguided malcontents. So it was in Nephite times when “those who were angered were chiefly the chief judges, and they who had been high priests and lawyers; yea, all those who were lawyers were angry with those who testified of these things.” (Ibid. 6: 21.)

Third Nephi records how it transpired in his day. “And they [the angry chief judges, high priests and lawyers] did enter into a covenant one with another … to combine against all righteousness.” (Ibid. 6: 28.)

Many in our day have made the same decision. They espouse the philosophy that God should have nothing to do with government, in spite of the fact that the founding fathers made just the opposite affirmation. Today’s ideologues obviously seek to constrain religion in any way possible, insisting that the people not allow it to have any part in the operation of their government, that there should be an impregnable firewall between government and religion so that governance cannot be informed by any religious creed or hegemony.

Religion has become the enemy of the Progressives in our day. They make every effort to marginalize and demean people of faith. In effect, those with this secular bent seek to divorce this nation from its religious or sectarian roots, “… to combine against all righteousness.”

The net effect of this initiative among the Nephite cultural elite was clearly manifest. “And they did set at defiance the law and the rights of their country … that the land should no more be at liberty …” (Ibid. 6: 30.)

Something appallingly similar seems to be afoot in our nation today. While politicians give flowery lip service to individual rights, public service and moral rectitude, their personal behavior is often just the opposite. Presidential associates and appointees, for example, are found to hold opinions that are blatantly contrary to constitutional principals and morality, some even openly condemn America and its traditional values. Hypocrisy seems rampant in both political parties. None seem trustworthy any longer.

The good news for us, perhaps, is that the chief judges, high priests and lawyers in Nephite times failed in their endeavor. No Nephite king was enthroned. This bodes well for the outcome of our similar state of affairs. But the net effect of the struggle utterly demolished their government, and it threatens to do so to ours as well.

Will this be our fate? “And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.” (3 Nephi 7: 2.)

Yet, there was no warfare: “… there were no wars as yet among them.” (Ibid. 7: 5.) However, what we have certainly feels like a war, a contest of wills for power and supremacy, where the ammunition is words and the casualties are truth and justice.

But “the regulations of the government were destroyed, … and they did cause great contention in the land.” (3 Nephi 7: 7.)

Contention is the order of the day in Washington. Our government seems to be descending into chaos amid an extraordinary level of acrimony and controversy. There is an unprecedented rush to pass questionable legislation, without due deliberation and consideration. No one, including the legislators themselves in some cases, seems to know what provisions legislation contains or what it will cost. Our economy is staggering. Unemployment is rising. Our leaders are sending conflicting messages to us, to our allies and to our enemies.

Our condition bears ominous similarities to that of the Nephites.
“And thus six years had not passed away since the more part of the people had turned from their righteousness, like the dog to his vomit, or like the sow to her wallowing in the mire.” (3 Nephi 7: 8.)

Numerous pundits have commented on how quickly we have turned from our constitutional roots in recent years. We’ve done an about-face almost as quickly as did our Nephite cousins. They united to defeat terrorism, in the form of the Gadianton robbers, in their time. Then, in a handful of years, they tore their nation apart from within.

While the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers immediately brought us together as a nation, speaking with one voice, subsequent events have moved rapidly to undermine our culture and our government. Like the Nephites, we have gone from united to divided in a few, short years. It seems apparent that if we continue on our present course, our nation will suffer a fate equally grievous to that of the Nephites.

Surely the inclusion of this tragic saga in the Nephite narrative was meant to warn us that we would suffer a similar outcome in our day. Surely, Mormon meant us to clearly see our time in this highly polished Nephite mirror.

Will we, too, live the Nephite nightmare?

This viewpoint, provided by an analysis of Nephite history, allows us to sort out the truth, to see through the subterfuge, confusion and contradiction that dominate our present political discourse. The media, the politicians and the pundits cannot misguide those of us who take the Book of Mormon as our guide. It provides a certain compass we can use to steer a course through the present and coming chaos. It is the “more sure word of prophecy,’ as Peter put it.

Given this perspective, no LDS politician who truly believes the Book of Mormon to be the word of God can, in good conscience, support the present movement away from constitutional principles where “the voice of the people” governs. He or she would have to first dismiss the Book of Mormon as irrelevant to our time. He or she would have to deny the God given rights that Nephite prophets declared were vested in the people. In effect, they would have to ignore the Book of Mormon, the very cornerstone of our religion.

I am well aware that my position will infuriate some Latter-day Saints. So be it. It was so with those who sought to undermine freedom and agency in Nephite times; it will be so now. Those who are so angered thereby betray their perfidy.
At the same time, this discourse will strike a chord of recognition in those who truly embrace the Book of Mormon and the Restored Gospel. They will see the remarkable similarities that mark the two histories, and they will want to do something about it.

So, you may ask, “What can I do?” The answer is both easy and hard.
First, as a believing Mormon, your concept of the sanctity of agency requires that you get involved—“anxiously engaged” is the Lord’s terminology. Of that I am certain.

But what I cannot tell you is ‘what’ you should do. You must make that determination for yourself. All I can add is to suggest you follow the counsel of Pres. Spencer W. Kimball: “Do it … now!”

We Latter-day Saints have not heeded the lessons chiseled in the Nephite record. We failed to take note of a vital part of that sacred witness, meant to warn us of our national folly. The diligence of those ancient prophets, who patiently carved their crucial message on precious plates of gold, the determination of a modern prophet to publish their revelation to the world at all odds and the repeated efforts of recent church leaders counseling us to re-read the Book of Mormon, saying that the church is under condemnation for failure to do so, has been set at naught by our indolence. We have the ignominious misfortune of watching the government of our nation self-destruct before our very eyes, just as did the Nephites, while we scarcely lift a finger to oppose it, let alone rush to save our Constitution. That sacred document has too long hung by a thread while we dally. As a result, the forces of evil and darkness are rapidly moving to grind it under the unforgiving foot of oppression and tyranny.

The time for mincing words is far past. It is time to declare our allegiance—either to God, agency and freedom or to watch our great nation follow those that have preceded us onto the scrapheap of failed nations down through history.

What happens next is too terrible to contemplate. If you care to know the details of what awaits us just around the corner, read 3 Nephi, chapter 8. And don’t think it couldn’t happen to us; every prophet since the beginning of time, including the Savior himself, has predicted our fate. Read it, O Zion, and weep, O Israel. Judgement is now at our doorstep.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Proof that the Church Is True

Abstract: LDS temple tradition provides the strongest argument for the claim that Mormonism is the only true religion. Though we do not see it as such, our temple tradition has the virtue of providing physical evidence, empirically verifiable, that the church is a restoration of the ancient order, held sacred by all ancient cultures. Its existence in Mormon sacred tradition is long established, irrefutable fact, and its links to the past are becoming more verifiable every day, due to remarkable new research into ancient history, cosmology, comparative mythology and plasma physics. As such, it is the sole element in Mormonism that comes the closest to verifiable, demonstrable proof of Joseph Smith’s claims to divine revelation.

Revelation is the cornerstone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its founder, Joseph Smith, claimed to be a latter-day prophet of God. This claim of divine guidance thrust him into the 19th century limelight and continues today to energize the religion he founded, as well as providing fodder for attacks against it.

Our religion, popularly called Mormonism, purports to be a restoration, through the ministry of angelic and divine visitors to men, of the original church founded by Jesus Christ during his ministry. It is said to be the modern equivalent of that ‘primitive’ church, which was governed by apostles and prophets after Christ’s death and resurrection.

As verification of these bold claims, most Mormons point to internal ‘evidence.’ Some point to the Book of Mormon as evidence of Joseph Smith’s gift of translation via divine revelation. Some point to the restoration of the authentic priesthood by ministering angels at the inception of this dispensation. Still others point to the same organization in the modern church as that which existed in the primitive church, established by Christ himself.

For Mormons, our belief in these things comes from a personal verification by the Holy Spirit. We call it a “testimony.” We believe that all who seek it are entitled to this revelatory confirmation. It is, in our view, a more certain test than mere knowledge.

Nevertheless, in an effort to provide ‘evidence’ to support those claims to outsiders and to ourselves, many of us look for confirmation of our beliefs beyond that of a personal witness. We seek for corroboration, or as some would put it “proof,” in disciplines outside the church, in the scholarly and scientific world.

Hence, we see the interest among many Saints in the geography of the Book of Mormon, for example. Attempting to locate the present physical location of pre-Colombian Book of Mormon sites—external evidence—is a way of substantiating the claims that the book makes. Others among us look for documentary evidence that would support the church’s claims for the Egyptian papyri, which Joseph Smith also claimed to translate.

But anything approaching empirical truth is hard to come by when dealing with things metaphysical. These claims still rest almost wholly upon personal revelation. There is no empirical test for their validity. Belief cannot be verified with test tubes or telescopes. Things of the spirit that come via revelation simply do not lend themselves to physical investigation or empiricism.

It is at this point where our evidentiary efforts hit a dead end. It seems we are meant to accept these things on the strength of our faith, born of the personal witness we each acquire via revelation through our own diligent inquiry of God, rather than to any outside evidence.

Do not despair, however.

Ironically, there is an element, unique to Mormonism, which we overlook in our rush to assert to the world our authenticity as the one true church.

That overlooked element is the incorporation in our religion of temple use and practices, something other Christian denominations consider “pagan” and of little value. In fact, they see our use of temples as worthy of nothing except derision, ridicule and scorn. Yet it is in our temple tradition—in its purpose, its iconography and its ritual—that we find the best evidence for the validity of our claims.

How so, you ask? Let’s examine the potential for validation in this fascinating feature, exclusive to Mormonism.

From the outset, no other Christian denomination—from Catholicism to Protestantism, including the more recent Adventist and Millennialist movements—saw the need or value of a temple. Mormonism was and is still entirely unique to Christianity in that regard. To sectarians and religionists, Christianity had no need for a temple. In their eyes, temples—unlike chapels, synagogues and mosques—were solely a feature of pagan religions, certainly not a proper feature of Christ’s true church, established in the meridian of time.

In contrast, Joseph Smith established our temple tradition in Mormonism nearly 200 years ago, saying it was vital to the true religion. This point of departure is critical. Either he was right about temples and the rest of Christianity was wrong, or he was completely misguided and the orthodox view was the correct one.

Our temple use has changed little since then. Because the rites and rituals practiced within those sanctified walls are perceived to be sacrosanct, they’ve been kept inviolate, perfectly preserved word for word in their original state. While certain elements within our rites may have been eliminated, as some historians maintain, the basic rites themselves retain their original form. It cannot be argued, therefore, that discoveries of ancient beliefs and practices in recent times have influenced our temple rituals. They have not been significantly altered or added upon since their inception nearly two centuries ago.

Thus, it can be properly claimed that our temple tradition, as still practiced today, came solely through revelation to Joseph Smith, just as every other aspect of our religion, and not through modern discovery.

And mainstream Christianity is perfectly happy to allow that claim to stand, thinking it to their advantage. In their minds, our use of temples and our belief in odd doctrine gives them leverage to demonstrate to the world that Mormonism is a fraud, a “cult” rife with “pagan” practices perpetrated on foolish and gullible people by Joseph Smith and perpetuated up to the present day by designing men with questionable motives.

In order for Latter-day Saints to comprehend the full value of their temple tradition as a certain claim to divine revelation, they must first see temples for what they truly are: instructive institutions dedicated to rehearsing the past as well as the commonly acknowledged concept that they are sites for making sacred covenants. That is, most see LDS temple tradition as things revealed—hallowed knowledge and ritual having no connection to anything temporal or historical. But, nothing could be further from the truth.

It is this author’s claim that our temple rituals, what we call an endowment, find their origin in the same source as the sacred rites and rituals of all antique cultures: the ancient heavens—whether the ancient ritual takes the form of a dance around a bonfire by Native Americans, ceremonies in an Egyptian temple or pyramid, sacrificial rites on a Mayan pyramid, Inca rituals at Machu Picchu, strange Druidic or Celtic rituals in a henge, mysterious rites in a Hopi kiva, worship in a Buddhist or Hindu temple, ceremonies in a Hebrew, Babylonian, Greek or Roman temple or any other sacred practice in all reverenced precincts the world over.

Furthermore, our temple endowment rehearses the primary elements of all prophetic visions, what this author calls the “One Story.” That story tells of the ascension into heaven of the prophet or holy man via a stairway, path, road, ladder or mountain, which is based in cosmological imagery as well. As he progresses, the holy man encounters various “guardians” or “angels” to whom he must give certain secret signs and words in order to pass. Ultimately, the visionary reaches the celestial realms, where he sees God, the City of God or the Throne of God, elements that also have their origins in cosmological events. Thus, beginning to end, our temple endowment is a symbolic rehearsal of ancient cosmological events, the only exceptions being the sacred covenants or promises made in the endowment.

And there is much more. Antique temple ceremonies included rites of washing, anointing, coronation, resurrection and marriage, among many others—all elements also found in LDS temple rites.

In fact, upon close inspection, nearly every element of LDS temple ritual can be found in one form or another in ancient temple practices. As Dr. Hugh Nibley amply demonstrated with his many books, whole volumes could be dedicated to these similarities. (Detailed comparative analysis of cosmological events to ancient beliefs, traditions and practices and their relationship to LDS theology, scriptural interpretation and temple tradition is offered elsewhere in this author’s presentations. It will not be cited here and now. So voluminous, all encompassing and sweeping are these concepts that this forum is woefully inadequate for their proper delineation. Readers are encouraged to search out the information this author has provided, based in remarkable new research into ancient history, cosmology, comparative mythology, archeoastronomy, geology, archeology, anthropology and plasma physics, that has already been provided in his books, papers and occasional lectures, as well as forthcoming material to be made public as time and means permit.)

The vital element that Nibley failed to explore, and other LDS scholars presently fail to see, is the absolute connection between the temple traditions of all mankind and events in Earth’s ancient skies. When scholars do venture to connect temple practices to cosmology, their interpretation is restricted to explaining those traditions, rites and rituals in terms of the heavens we see overhead today, when in reality they actually relate to the “old heavens and the old earth,” as the ancients and modern revelation assert, of the Patriarchal Age, before and immediately after Noah’s Flood.

Such misplaced and misguided analysis on the part of modern LDS scholars leads to pronounced distortions of the scriptural, cultural and traditional record, leaving us with confusion and contradictions that cannot be reconciled, though many have attempted to do so.

In contrast, those contradictions and confusions vanish when looking at the evidence with this new, cosmological paradigm. Not only that, it throws open the door to discovery of the scriptures, prophetic and temple symbolism and metaphor in a way that anyone can understand. No advanced degrees are necessary—a development that every Latter-day Saint should applaud and embrace for their own edification, enlightenment and satisfaction.

Once those fabulous and magnificent sky pageants that played out in Earth’s heavens in the millennium from Adam to Abraham are properly understood, then the origin and meaning of temple rituals and tradition of all past cultures, as well as our own temple tradition, becomes crystal clear. It becomes obvious that ancient traditions and practices recall and celebrate astral elements unseen in modern skies.

When we acknowledge the astounding fact that LDS temple tradition reflects that same, ancient cosmological tradition, in all its principle elements and meanings, through rituals, furnishings and iconography, we discover that our temples are full of information from the past, powerful evidence that Joseph Smith tapped into the only source capable of relaying that information to him nearly two centuries ago: divine revelation. It therefore comes closer to providing proof of Mormonism’s claims than any other element of our religion.

It cannot be claimed that any of this knowledge was available anywhere else in the world. Least of all was it available to a young man living on the American frontier in the 19th century, since it is only now beginning to come to the fore as the result of research done by a few, avant guard scholars, researchers and scientists. Only now, with the formidable body of information coming to light in the last half century of research and discovery, can we begin to see the relevance of LDS temple tradition to the common roots of all ancient worship in past cosmological events.

That is not to say that cosmology is all there is to Mormonism or to its temple tradition. Not by any means. The same revelatory power that gave us a proper cosmological, temple tradition unique in modern Christianity also provided insights into the teachings of Jesus Christ that were either missing from the scriptural record or had been lost through apostasy. That is, the accuracy of our temple tradition lends great credibility to the rest of Mormonism’s claims. To put it another way, the conformity of the LDS temple tradition to its ancient counterparts comes closer to providing proof to the world of Mormonism’s validity than anything else we Latter-day Saints have to offer.

Joseph Smith’s was truly a dispensation of truth lost to the world until a prophet of God once more restored it in these latter days.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Does Cosmology Have To Do With My Salvation?

When addressing Latter-day Saints, I often observe that cosmology — the study of planets and stars, suns and moons — and its attendant mythology was not just an affectation of Old Testament peoples. It was also an important, integral part of the gospel taught by Jesus Christ and embraced by the primitive church or early Christian religion. In his essay “Unrolling the Scrolls – Some Forgotten Witnesses,” Nibley, the preeminent LDS scholar for all things ancient wrote that “cosmism” was a “hallmark of early Christianity.” We know this because references to cosmological or astral elements — what Nibley calls cosmism — are found everywhere in early Christian and Jewish writings.

So, too, cosmology held an elevated status in the doctrine of the modern or restored church, though today’s Latter-day Saints are reluctant to acknowledge that fact, if they are aware of it at all. But there is no denying it. It’s everywhere in the hallmark elements of the modern church: in the Pearl of Great Price, in the Doctrine and Covenants, in the Book of Mormon as well as in our temple symbolism and ritual.

Because cosmological elements were part of Old Testament tradition as well as New Testament teachings and were fully reinstated by Joseph Smith in the Restoration, I also assert that knowledge of the ancient heavens, or cosmology, is vital to our salvation and exaltation.

I am not alone in this claim. In that same essay, Nibley also wrote that “somehow or other the physical cosmos is involved in the plan of salvation.”

Invariably, that claim leaves most Saints cold. Their rejoinder: “Now you’ve really gone over the top. What bearing can ancient cosmology and its handmaiden, mythology, possibly have on my salvation or exaltation?”

The history of planets, stars, moons, suns and their role in prophetic tradition are seldom considered useful in one’s attempt to understand the restored gospel sufficiently to obtain salvation and exaltation. Ask any Latter-day Saint what a study of the heavens has to do with being a proper church member or achieving perfection and he or she will likely say, “Nothing.”

But that answer could not be more wrong. In fact, the cosmology of the ancients has everything to do with our religion.

To that, you might say, “I don’t recall any discussion of planets, stars, moons or suns in any lesson I’ve ever heard on the plan of salvation. Why would Nibley make such a statement?”

To better understand, let’s read more of what he had to say on this subject.

As Christianity has been deeschatologized and demythologized in our own day, so in the fourth century it was thoroughly dematerialized, and ever since then anything smacking of “cosmism,” that is, tending to associate religion with the physical universe in any way, has been instantly condemned by Christian and Jewish clergy alike as paganism and blasphemy. Joseph Smith was taken to task for the crude literalism of his religion—not only talking with angels like regular people, but giving God the aspect attributed to him by the primitive prophets of Israel, and, strangest of all, unhesitatingly bringing other worlds and universes into the picture. Well, some of the early Christian and Jewish writers did the same thing; this weakness in them has been explained away as a Gnostic aberration, and yet today there is a marked tendency in all the churches to support the usual bloodless abstractions and stereotyped moral sermons with a touch of apocalyptic realism, which indeed now supplies the main appeal of some of the most sensationally successful evangelists. (Nibley, “Treasures in the Heavens,” p. 171.)

Just as Christian and Jewish clergy have distanced themselves from the cosmism, eschatology and mythology of the primitive church, modern Mormons have distanced themselves and their perception of their religion from those same elements reinstated in the modern church by Joseph Smith in the Restoration. In other words, we’ve repeated the same mistakes.

Because we don’t want to be condemned as pagans and our church as a cult, we emphasize our “Christianity” by distancing ourselves from cosmological elements, just as our Christian cousins have done. As a result, our discourse is little different from theirs. What Nibley says of other churches, I attribute to us as well: “…today there is a marked tendency in all the churches to support the usual bloodless abstractions and stereotyped moral sermons with a touch of apocalyptic realism …”

The marvel is that even though we don’t recognize those cosmological, eschatological and mythological components in our religion, they have been perfectly preserved in our revelations and our temples. The wonder is that we are nearly blind to them, making us ignorant of their utility in deciphering the teachings of the prophets and the message in our temples.

It is the very pervasiveness and utilitarian value of these cosmological components that compels me to make this admittedly radical claim, which I repeat: When trying to comprehend and apply the principles and teachings of the Restored Gospel, a thoroughgoing knowledge of ancient cosmology and its bearing upon Christ’s gospel and the message of the prophets is indispensable.

Clearly, the Lord thought it important enough to include cosmology in every aspect of the religion he restored through Joseph Smith. Without that understanding we cannot fully grasp the message of the Savior and the prophets, the essentials of salvation and exaltation. That’s why it was treasured and carefully preserved by Old Testament prophets, New Testament apostles and the first elder of this dispensation, Joseph Smith.

So, if you have to ask what all this ancient cosmology has to do with your salvation, as the title of this essay does, then you really haven’t internalized or fully understood the implications of this all important study. The value is apparent on the face of it. Our ignorance of these truths makes us vulnerable to misunderstanding and deception. Without it, we can easily misconstrue the message of the prophets; we can easily fall victims to the fraud that has engulfed the rest of Christianity.

With correct knowledge comes power, something Joseph emphasized time and again. Without the revelatory information and comprehension that come with the knowledge of ancient cosmology, we put our salvation and exaltation at risk.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More on the Electric Universe

Einstein got it wrong … and so did Newton, for that matter.

Electricity was an unknown item, except as a novelty, in Newton’s day. Hence, his speculations on gravity did not take electricity and it’s considerable power into account. Einstein knew of electricity and charge, but as a mathematician, he discounted them in his calculations.

Even today, given the practical application of electricity’s power in our everyday lives, we are largely ignorant of its nature, its properties and its role in the universe. We know that it can generate light and heat. We know that electricity creates magnetic fields, and those can be harnessed to turn motors. It is the backbone of our modern age, bringing us all the comforts, benefits and wonders of our computer-driven, technological world. Yet, we still don’t really know how it works.

While scientists and engineers have harnessed electricity’s awesome power to our benefit, they do not understand it. That is, the fundamental nature and properties of electricity are still matters of conjecture — as are its cousins: light, magnetism and gravity. Though we know that they are interrelated, we do not understand how. Like light, electricity is still pretty much a mystery to us.

But we stand on the threshold of a quantum leap forward in our understanding of the very nature of our universe and its primary mover and shaker: electricity. If a few, maverick scientists and scholars are correct, electricity not only lights the universe, as it does our streets and homes, it creates and organizes them. It powers the sun, giving light and heat to our world and all the planets. It determines the orbits and the rotation of the various planets. It sculpts the face every planet, moon, comet and asteroid. It powers the weather systems of the planets, including our own. And, it even gives us life — an unacknowledged fact that will revolutionize the field of medicine when it becomes accepted.

Thanks to the emerging field of plasma physics, we are beginning to see how electricity works in the universe. We now know that electricity is a million, billion, billion, billion times more powerful than gravity. It is a force to be reckoned with.

For Latter-day Saints, all this, of course, becomes vital to our study of the gospel, rooted as it is in the symbolism of the past. That is, in order to fully understand past, cosmological events, we simply must have a clear understanding of the role electrically energetic plasmas played. Only then can we fully grasp the enormity of ancient events, as recorded in scripture and all ancient texts.

Comparative mythology gave us the key to open the door. From it we learned that in the distant past, Saturn visually dominated a unique, polar configuration of planets, of which our world was a part. But it could not explain the science behind that concept. The laws of gravity simply would not allow such a situation or condition. Plasma physics and recognition of the dynamic roles of electricity and charge in that ancient configuration provide the missing pieces to our puzzle.

We may now have at hand the means to explain Newton’s law of gravity. We may also be able to see the flaws in Einstein's theories.

Equally valuable, we now have not only the eyewitness accounts of the ancients, but we have empirical evidence, based on an entirely new paradigm, to tell us what happened in Earth’s ancient heavens that gave rise to all the imagery of the ancients — the same imagery that we see on the walls of temples, tombs, monuments and in ancient texts, like the scriptures.

The pioneers in plasma physics tell us that what they see in electrified plasmas in their laboratories they also see in intergalactic space. What they see in microscopic experiments is virtually identical to pictures given us by the Hubble telescope. The term for that similarity between the tiny plasma configurations seen in the lab and the gigantic ones seen in space is “scalability.” That is, large, small or in between, these plasmas behave in identical and predictable ways.

This is a vital concept. If these energetic, electrified plasmas, similar to those seen in the laboratory and through the Hubble telescope, were once proximate to the Earth in solar system-sized scale, if they dominated our ancient skies with the same plasma figures, then it should be no surprise to learn they are identical to ancient symbols. Rock art, called petroglyphs, reflect these similarities, as do all the icons of the past and the language they inspired.

This is a fruitful field of inquiry for any Mormon who wishes to understand the language of his or her scriptures. Only through recognizing the true, electrical nature of God’s universe can we properly understand him and his creations. Only by seeing the past, present and the future through these “electric” lenses can we fully grasp what our Father has done and how he has done it. Furthermore, we must wear these lenses to see and appreciate what he and his prophets have given us in the scriptures and the restored gospel.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Human Body in an Electric Universe

“From the smallest particle to the largest galactic formation, a web of electrical circuitry connects and unifies all of nature, organizing galaxies, energizing stars, giving birth to planets and, on our own world, controlling weather and animating biological organisms. There are no isolated islands in an electric universe.” David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill, Thunderbolts of the Gods
Plasma physics, a revolutionary new field of scientific endeavor born of the quest to harness the power of nuclear fusion, is transforming the space and planetary sciences. Not coincidentally, what plasma physics is showing us about the electrical nature of the universe has the potential to transform our lives in truly miraculous ways.

It may also revolutionize the way we treat degenerative disease and aging.

Medical practitioners and providers should pay close attention to this revolution because this emerging discipline could alter the entire field of medicine — say nothing of the upheaval it will cause in the planetary and astral sciences.

How will it change health and healing practices? Well, to answer that question we must step back to take a look at outer space, where the most plasma is found.

The early idea of an ‘ether’ filling space was replaced by the notion that space is a vacuum — nothing. Plasma physics reverses that thinking. Space is filled — tenuously, perhaps, but filled nonetheless — with ionized particles. Collectively, those ionized particles are called plasmas.

They are all around us, not just in space. Fire is plasma; its dancing, life-like flame mesmerizes. Lightning is plasma, flashing in the sky and shaking the ground with its thunder. We enjoy plasma television sets and plasma lights: those long, tube-shaped fluorescent or neon lights, which are filled with so-called ‘noble’ gasses and which become glowing plasmas when electric current is applied, illuminating our lives.

The unique thing about plasmas is that their ionized state makes them react dramatically to electrical influences, behaving at times as though they were alive, as novelty plasma balls demonstrate. Hence, the term “plasma” was borrowed from the life sciences to describe matter in this fundamental state.

Along with gases, liquids and solids, plasmas are now acknowledged as the fourth state of matter. Some say as much as 99% of all matter in the universe is in a plasma state. That’s important because plasma physicists insist that plasmas in space carry electrical current, making this an electric universe. Plasmas are so efficient at transmitting electrical current they are considered superconductors.

These electric currents in plasma are called “Birkeland currents,” after the Norwegian physicist, Kristian Birkeland, who discovered them. Like galactic power lines, these massive, paired and braided plasma conduits carry electricity throughout the galaxies. When they are strong enough, these currents “pinch” matter together to form rotating stars and galaxies, and the plasma begins to glow brightly in an arc discharge much like an electric arc welder or arc lights. So, stars are strung along these plasma power lines like lights on a Christmas tree.

The electromotive force that electric currents generate is a thousand, billion, billion, billion times more powerful than gravity. Even a small magnet overwhelms the weak force of gravity. So, these electrical currents in space not only light the sun and spin the planets, they generate prodigious magnetic fields. This is the ‘glue’ that holds star systems and galaxies together. At the same time, these electromotive forces can repel, something gravity alone cannot do. In this way, electricity maintains the ordered, well-lit universe we see through our telescopes.

All this tells us that we live in an electric universe; and we, therefore, are electric creatures.

Another stunning conclusion that we reach is that our Sun is not a thermonuclear engine, as orthodox science insists; it is, instead, an electromagnetic engine — balled lightning in space, if you will. Powered by electrical energy from the galaxy, which arrives in prodigious dark currents, the sun’s heat and light are created in an arc discharge event horizon hundreds of miles above its surface known as the corona.

More importantly for life, the sun works like a transformer on a power line, stepping down the galactic voltage to safe levels for life on nearby planets — including our Earth — which receive a charge of their own through what astronomers call the “solar wind” that energizes all life upon them.

Too long, orthodox medical science has ignored the role of electricity in life, choosing instead to see the body as a chemically based machine. But, if the proponents of the electric universe concept are right, all life is fundamentally organized and energized by electric charge.

Enter Dr. Robert O. Becker and his thesis that the body is, at its most fundamental, electrical in nature. He sees orthodox medicine’s view of the body as bankrupt, and rightly so. He affirms that the subtle electrical fields in and around the Earth exert a profound influence on our bodies, which is true. But Becker does not realize that we live in an electrically driven universe, one where all life is governed by electricity and the magnetic fields it generates. This is the key to the mysteries of life.

Our ancestors believed that nebulous, unseen forces controlled our lives — a concept that’s often scoffed at by orthodoxy. Much like the idea of an ether filling space, these unseen forces or energies were thought to everywhere govern and control all life. Many attributed those forces to the stars, which gave rise to the practice of astrology. One of these energies was thought of as an animating “life force,” that could be used or manipulated to heal disease or improve one’s quality of life and well being.

From the electric universe standpoint, those notions weren’t all that far off the mark. By their very nature, electromagnetic fields permeate everything. It turns out that magnetic fields in nature exert a profound effect upon humans in a world universally governed by electricity and charge. It is the electromagnetic environment of our Earth that invigorates and energizes our bodies at the cellular level by governing the energy output of our mitochondria, the “engines” that power our bodies. This environment also determines the efficiency of a similar process in plants, called photosynthesis.

So, as it turns out, the ancients were more right than we knew. It would seem that they understood far more than we give them credit for. Subtle but profoundly powerful electromagnetic energy governs all life in ways that have been heretofore unknown and are, as yet, poorly understood.

There are so many avenues of inquiry and investigation opened up by this novel worldview that whole books could be written about them. But, perhaps one of the most intriguing ideas — one that should capture the interest of health practitioners everywhere — comes from the work of plasma physicist Anthony Peratt of Los Alamos National Laboratories. Like several of his colleagues, he believes that in the distant past, the Earth and its inhabitants enjoyed a very different electromagnetic environment than the one we have today.

Calling it “an enhanced auroral effect,” Peratt maintains that the ancients saw and experienced plasma displays in Earth’s skies that were many orders of magnitude more pronounced than those we see today. He speaks of light and sound shows generated at the north and south poles of the Earth, just as in present-day auroras, only far more prodigious, which would have lit the sky day and night. The ancients saw in these plasma displays figures they took to be sacred images, seemingly imbued with extraordinary, mystical power and significance. They recorded these figures in their sacred illustrations and writings, providing a permanent record of what they had seen in the skies.

Peratt affirms that electrical experiments performed in the laboratory produce a consistent set of images within those plasmas that are duplicated in the sacred art of all ancient cultures. That is, the petroglyphs and art created by the ancients, which are found on temples, tombs, monuments and rocks, are direct replicas of the figures he has seen in his laboratory while doing plasma research.

More significantly still for today’s health practitioners, these superior electrical and magnetic displays also provided considerable energy for the renewing and maintenance of the human body — all life, as a matter of fact. The net effect was probably a vastly healthier environment than that which we experience today.

A survey of myth, legend and tradition from ancient cultures the world over unequivocally reports that in the very earliest epoch, life was far more comfortable and healthful. There was no night and day; there was little weather, if any. There were no extremes of cold or heat. Plants and animals proliferated in the hothouse environment created by the enhanced electromagnetic surroundings. The flora and fauna then were far heartier than they are today. Ancient records from the earliest civilizations, including the Bible, collectively report that the human lifespan was many times longer than it is now, and that there was little or no disease. In summary, the entire world was a Garden of Eden.

The cultural myths, legends and traditions of a “fountain of youth” probably hearken back to that early epoch when mankind was sustained by energies that have largely dissipated in our day and age, leaving us with only a dim, mythical recollection of what was once a life-giving element of everyday life.

All this suggests that Becker was on the right path, but his conclusions lacked the information this wider view offers. Perceiving the electrical nature of the human body in a wholly electric universe opens up grand, new possibilities Becker never considered. Rather than looking to the present electromagnetic environment, which is probably nearly sterile when compared to the greatly enhanced electromagnetic environment our ancestors reported, researchers should focus on how enhanced auroral activity around the Earth would have provided a much more salubrious environment.

This is where plasma physics and the medical arts converge. Replicating the forces in play in mankind’s earliest history would revolutionize the present medical arts … and every other human endeavor. Understanding the subtle nature of electricity as a control mechanism for healing and health maintenance in the body, as outlined by Becker, and the ancient electrical and magnetic nature of our world, a whole new chapter can now be written in the book of life.

© Anthony E. Larson, November, 2006

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Not Easy Being Green

At the risk of being ridiculed or scoffed at for being too open, let me briefly pull back the author/researcher curtain to let you see the inner mulling and musing of the mind behind all these “peculiar” notions.

To put it simply, I’m at the end of my rope. And I have been for some time.

Kermit the Frog sings a woeful little tune that best characterizes my predicament. “It’s not easy being green,” he chants, plaintively. I know how that feels when your fellow church members perceive you as the purveyor of odd knowledge, someone saying something different than what they’re accustomed to hearing.

Like the Whos in Whoville, I cry out, “I am here. I am here! I am here!!” But, no one hears. No one sees.

You see, to the majority of church members, I’m invisible … and so is my research. I believe I have stumbled across a most valuable truth, one that was once fairly common knowledge among early church members, one that was taught by Joseph Smith and preserved in our temples. That’s what I work to share with my fellow Saints. But, therein lies the rub. Very few care to hear it.

Actually, I feel more like Horton than the Whos. I know what I know to be true. But most Mormons don’t believe me because of their preconceptions. They prefer to reject me and my “strange notions,” dismissing me as a kook or a fraud rather than examining the issues more closely. Strangely, others see me as a threat, worthy only of their disdain and reprehension. They seek to suppress my ideas.

Just so you know, here’s my song. It’s a little longer than Kermit’s, but it rhymes just about as well. It sounds like this …

About 30 years ago, I came across a book that changed my whole view of the Restored Gospel. The concepts presented in that book set me on a path that led me first to the comprehension of past planetary catastrophes, then to prophecy, to the language of the prophets, to obscure statements by Joseph Smith, to a completely revised understanding of ancient planetary history, to an interpretation of religious symbolism worldwide and finally to a thoroughgoing grasp of latter-day temple symbolism and ritual (not necessarily in that order).

If that sounds to you like a lot of ground to cover, it is. It took me into heady intellectual country — Hugh Nibley kind of stuff — a place I never dreamed I might venture. But true to my quest, I soldiered on, invigorated by the soul-expanding concepts that periodically washed over my mind and heart like emotional and intellectual tidal waves.

It took years of study, research and a willingness to follow the clues—no matter how unlikely or unpopular they seemed to be. But, it was worth every moment because this study, which began with a burning desire to understand the scriptures, has opened doors to knowledge and understanding that I never expected find, least of all to open. Just when I think this line of inquiry has yielded all there is to learn, it inevitably shows me more.

As a result, my testimony of Joseph Smith and the Restored Gospel has expanded beyond anything I thought humanly possible. My understanding of gospel principles is more profound, by many orders of magnitude, than I had ever imagined. And perhaps most importantly, I can ‘read’ the temple experience as though it were a book or a familiar and treasured story.

What about you? When you read prophecy, is the imagery and message crystal clear? Or is it confusing and bewildering? When you contrast present scientific views with the scriptural record, do you start scratching your head? When you attend the temple, is the intent and the meaning of each ritual and all its symbolism as plain as a child’s primer? When you try to make sense of these things, does your head start to hurt and your brain begin to reel? As I did at first, do you simply avoid contemplating all these things because it all seems too much like an exercise in futility?

Given those nagging misgivings and because most of these things are a mystery to most Saints, you’d think that they’d be anxious to get a few pointers. But, just the opposite is true. In my experience, any effort to draw attention to these gospel blind spots is met with suspicion and disbelief. Rather than ask questions, they begin to avoid me, ignore me, criticize me or pretend I’m not even in the same church.

So, it’s not easy being seen. In fact, it’s a lot of hard work. I’ve labored for over 30 years in an effort to gain a foothold on the LDS imagination. I’ve written books, prepared and given daylong lectures with a slideshow, produced a documentary, several video clips with 3D animation, created a web page advertising my ideas and a blog that contains the results of years of research and study. None of that was easy. It cost me precious personal time and considerable resources. Yet after all that, I don’t seem to be getting significant traction among my fellow Saints.

So, here’s the question at the heart of the matter: How does an average Latter-day Saint like myself with a vital message make his voice heard in the church? Since I’m not a General Authority, how do I make an impression on others? What can I do to make enough of an impression that most Mormons will inquire further? After trying every initiative I can think of to put this information in front of church members, what more can I do that I’ve not already tried? I’m flat out of initiatives.

So, that’s my sad song. Like Kermit, it’s not easy being green.

So, what do you think? How can I put this message before the membership? What approach can I take that I have not taken already? Which among you cares to lend a supportive hand? Who can point me down the path to access? Any ideas?

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Circle of Meaning and Comprehension

There is a great body of ancient texts that scholars like Hugh Nibley classify as ascension literature. It’s called that because each of the various authors, who are implicitly prophets, ascend to heaven to see a marvelous vision. The best examples in modern revelation are the books of Moses, Abraham and Enoch in the Pearl of Great Price.

The ascensions were very real, and they were marvelously impressive, judging by all the accounts. Most report begin transported to a “high mountain.” Others are compelled to “climb up” a brilliantly illuminated ladder, set of steps or a “strait and narrow” path. Each passes through several levels or spheres as he ascends. Some encounter sentinels at the gates to each level or at the very topmost level, and each of these sentries requires the proper password or response from the visionary in order to pass. Once at the top, they see what they report as heaven, paradise or the celestial kingdom. Some converse with God; others do not.

By design, the temple experience, whether ancient or modern, replicates the actual visionary ascension experience. Thus, the temple was and is a virtual reality, a replica of the real thing. Anciently, initiates were ushered through a series of locations within the temple where they experienced various rites and rituals, each meant to duplicate part of the ascension experience.

While earthly temples, ancient or modern, can never duplicate the magnificence of the actual visions they are meant to imitate, every effort was made to give the temple architecturally impressive, if not overwhelming, splendor and majesty. The very best of everything that a culture could muster went into that sacred edifice, whether it was a Greek temple, an Egyptian pyramid/temple, a Native American kiva, a Babylonian ziggurat, a Celtic henge, an Israelite temple, a Mayan pyramid/temple or the Nauvoo and Salt Lake temples. They were the highest examples of what any culture could muster in terms of luxury and architectural grandeur.

Most temples were festooned with icons that represented some part of the visionary archetype, things we take to be mere decorations: stars, moons, suns, pillars, mythic or real beasts and a most sacred enclosure or holy of holies partitioned by a curtain, veil or doorway.

Most Latter-day Saints who attend the temple are unaware of this intimate and ancient connection to our modern temples, but it is very real and very telling. It puts the modern temple experience in good and venerable company, making it authentic and true to the originals in every way. This, in and of itself, is also a powerful witness to the claims of divine revelation by Joseph Smith.

Because temple rituals are re-enactments of the archetypal ascension vision, which I believe was given to all the prophets (it wouldn’t do to have several versions, would it?), when reading ancient accounts, it’s often hard to tell whether we’re reading about an actual ascension or just an earthly version, administered in a temple — something we would call an endowment.

Where you and I might differ is in our interpretation of what the prophets saw. It would probably be your position, as it is with most Saints, that the prophets were shown things truly celestial in nature, and therefore completely foreign to anything in Earth’s past or present. To that mindset I would respond by asking, why, then, does nearly every ancient culture share the same perspective, imagery and symbolism as we do in modern temple rites? In spite of being thoroughgoing pagans, did they all have prophets to enlighten them? How is it that our temple rituals have nearly everything in common with those of ancient, pagan cultures?

So where did all this common ascension/temple tradition come from? I would contend that all religions share the same pool of archetypes because the ancients, pagan or not, had a shared set of cosmological experiences – not visions or revelations but real life actualities that played out across earthly skies at the dawn of time. They were eyewitnesses to spectacular displays of light and sound that left and indelible impression on their cultural and religious traditions and practices. That’s why all ancient cultures display a multitude of astral symbols in their sacred precincts. It’s the same reason Joseph Smith and Brigham Young put astral symbols all over the outside of modern temples.

I would further contend that what the prophets saw in vision, as recorded in ascension texts, was a rehearsal of those ancient cosmological events presented to them in vision, which they subsequently related in the very symbolic terms preserved by their various cultures. As a result, the more any prophet’s culture preserved of these astral or cosmological archetypes and narratives, the more relevant imagery any one prophet’s ascension account could include.

Since such data has been completely expunged from our cultural record, we Latter-day Saints completely fail to grasp the express meaning of our temple rituals. Because our version of the traditional temple ascension is only a faint echo of the original, it’s hard for modern Saints to make the intended connection. And because our culture teaches us that the original cosmological events, the genesis of sacred imagery, never happened, we completely fail to see the meaning in such accounts and their cosmological origins.

Another vital conclusion we can draw from all this is: What we see illustrated on the exterior architecture of LDS temples is what the rituals within are all about as well. Most church members regard the symbols on the outside of the Salt Lake Temple, the quintessential exemplar of temple tradition in our time, to have nothing at all to do with what happens inside. And yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Both inside and out, it rehearses and recalls the ancient heavens. That bit of perspective comes only from a corrected view of the past.

And that leads us to a startling conclusion that most Saints have never imagined. The formula for what I call the Circle of Meaning and Comprehension looks like this:

Notice the progression in the Circle of Meaning and Comprehension. One can start anywhere in the series and move in either direction. But as the proper connections are made, moving from one concept to the next, one returns to the place where one started. By repeating this circular process, one’s grasp of the Restored Gospel grows and grows.

Additionally, this process provides a new, intellectually invigorating and spiritually augmenting perspective on life and the world we live in, a new point of view on everything around us. It truly and accurately tells us about “things as the are, as they were and as they are to come.”

Our temple rituals, in my opinion, are given to educate us and point the way to enlightenment. Perhaps more importantly, they are a type and a kind, meant to prepare us for the real thing, if we become worthy. We have the opportunity to have the same visions as the prophets. But, as long as we fail to comprehend the meaning and origins of what we see in our temples today, we may never be given that sacred privilege.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What The Prophets Saw

It’s this author’s contention that all the prophets saw the same vision: Ezekiel, Daniel, John, Lehi, Nephi, Moses, Abraham and even Joseph Smith. It’s the “One Vision” given to all who qualify, as near as I can determine.

We mistakenly assume they each had a different revelation because each account seems unique. Not so. They saw the same things, but described them in different terms or focused on specific elements of the greater vision to the exclusion of the remainder.

Prophets created a narrative to explain what they saw in terms that their contemporaries could understand. The variations in their accounts are a function of the cultural traditions of the society and era in which they lived. They had to use imagery common to the culture they lived in so that their message would be better understood.

We fail to see the commonality of prophetic accounts because those traditions have been wholly expunged from our culture. We know virtually nothing of the cosmological events that dominated the imagination of ancient cultures the world over, nor do we have any comprehension of the metaphors and icons those events spawned.

Yet, someone from ancient times, in whatever culture, would have easily understood those common elements. They all shared them in one form or another. It’s we, living in modern times, stripped of any knowledge of what actually happened in Earth’s ancient skies, who are ignorant of these things. The imagery entirely escapes us.

It’s like the “One Story” told by nearly every ancient culture the world over. In fact, that universal story is derived from many ancient sources because no single culture’s tradition tells the whole story. Only by assembling elements from various traditions can we see the whole story, a task easily accomplished using comparative mythology and an alternate view of ancient cosmology.

The prophets, upon seeing this remarkable vision, quickly realized that they were witnessing the genesis of all ancient lore, the archetype from which sprang all cultural religious tradition. They were overwhelmed by its magnificence, splendor and majesty.

And what was that vision? Well, while no one illustration or even animation can approach what the prophets saw standing in Earth’s ancient heavens, this animated video clip may give you some idea.

This vision was a presentation of the planetary history of our Earth in a “grand constellation of worlds,” as Orson Hyde put it (See “A Knowledge of the Stars.”), when our planet was thought of as God’s “footstool” (Doctrine and Covenants 38: 17.) and the greatest of these proximate planets was called the “throne of God,” as Pres. Brigham Young put it, and “Kolob” by Abraham. Its reality was accurately and tellingly illustrated by Joseph Smith when he made this drawing for Philo Dibble.

What does this mean to you? It means that this message is central to understanding the imagery and metaphor of the scriptures. It means that without it, no Latter-day Saint can fully appreciate the gospel message. It means that this concept is central to our temple experience, which is a reenactment of the prophets’ vision. This was Joseph Smith’s message to those Saints who were willing to accept it.

Where do you stand?

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mares Eat Oats ...

Do you remember that old song that says, “Mares eat oats and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy; a kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?” For years, as a child, I sang that song as a string of nonsense syllables, seeing absolutely no meaning in the words I muttered. I would sing, “Mairsy dotes and dozy dotes, and liddil amb zee divvy; a kiddle e dyvie two, wouldn’t you?” That’s what I thought everyone else was singing because that’s what I heard. It just never occurred to me that I was misunderstanding what I had memorized, until one day when it all fell into place.

More to the point, until then no one knew that I didn’t know what I was singing because what I sang sounded quite correct to them. They thought I knew what I was saying, so no one attempted to correct me.


Latter-day temples, stunningly beautiful though they may be, are unlike any other structures in Christendom. In fact to even the casual observer, there seems to be very little Christian about them, inside or out.

Outside, the symbols and markings, where present, are not those seen in other religious architecture. There are no gargoyles, no angels, no crosses and no statues of saints. Instead, all icons are either conspicuous by their absence, or there are copious illustrations of stars, planets and suns.

Inside as well, there is a striking absence of ritual and liturgy typically associated with Christianity, baptism and marriage being the two exceptions. References to Christ are infrequent, oblique and incidental, rather than being central. It’s as though the focus of the temple was almost entirely on something else.

The dissimilarities are pronounced and striking. They are especially so to those who enter a temple for the first time. The reaction of novice attendees to what they hear and see there ranges from mild surprise to outright shock. The temple ceremonies are so foreign to them, newcomers must be assisted throughout as to what to do and say in each rite. Nothing in their experience up to this point, in church teachings and practices outside the temple, prepares them for the oddity, strangeness and peculiarity of the temple odyssey.

Most accept the experience with equanimity, quietly accepting the apparent abnormality of the experience on faith alone. Some few are incredulous, openly rejecting the rites and ceremonies as foreign to their personal creed. In the end, conformity and compliance win the day as most initiates hide their surprise or dismay with either silence or expressions of the beauty and enormity of it all.
Those few who can bring themselves to articulate their surprise, confusion and incredulity by asking for an explanation are greeted with a trite statement from church and temple authorities, who usually explain to the quizzical party that with regular temple attendance and prayerful inquiry, it will all be made clear in good time.

Therefore, what is said and done in LDS temple rituals is mostly a mystery to Mormons.

In order to reconcile the obscurity and unfamiliarity of what they have been taught, temple worthy Mormons assume that the sole source of these temple rites and rituals is nothing less than pure revelation from God, that those things are consummately sacred, so above and beyond our poor intellects that we can scarce comprehend them, much less begin to understand them. Therefore, they assuage their confusion and ignorance by assuming that what is said and done within modern temples is uniquely spiritual and celestial, exceeding the grasp of our blinkered intellects. Thus they reason that any attempt to decipher them is doomed to failure in our benighted, telestial state.

On a personal note, my temple experience more or less paralleled that of my fellow Mormons — until my research unfolded an entirely unexpected yet welcome benefit. I learned that the temple is a monument to the ancient heavens, the primeval heavens. It is a memorial in stone and ritual of the astral drama that unfolded in Earth’s ancient heavens, a sacred, cultural treasure trove of information. What happens inside is all … I say ALL … about the same thing as we see on the outside, where icons are present: stars, planets and manifestations that emerged in our ancient skies and the traditions that evolved from them.

It was at that juncture that it became abundantly evident that what was rehearsed in our temples was the same, traditional story told in the sacred space of religions the world over. That this ancient story is also repeated in modern temple ritual, erected by prophets of God, is a powerful witness to the validity of the Restored Gospel. Joseph Smith had no access to this type of information in that bygone era, except it came through revelation, as he professed.

What a stunning development. I had followed the logic and rationale of avant-garde or maverick scholars regarding obscure, mythological and traditional beliefs, tested their conclusions against statements of modern prophets — especially those of Joseph Smith — only to find that this information made plain the meaning of temple iconography and ritual.

It has become apparent to me that Joseph Smith and his successors had a clear vision of what had happened in the past, a vision that is distinctly different than that held by sectarian and secular scholars alike in our day and age. And like their predecessors, the Old Testament prophets, our Savior and his Apostles in the New Testament as well as the holy men in every other ancient culture, these modern prophets had restored and preserved that cosmological tradition in modern temples.

Along with that conviction came the realization that my fellow Mormons knew nothing of this. Even temple officiators who enacted those sacred temple dramas and rituals, including temple presidents, knew nothing of the meaning in what they were doing. None had been able to explain them to me. So I was left to assume that they did not understand the origins and meaning of what they were doing and saying.

This state of affairs left me incredulous. How could the meaning behind all this sacred ritual and architecture be lost while the vehicle designed to retain it has been so well preserved? Certainly, those who instigated it, beginning with Joseph Smith, knew the meaning of these rites. Such was no fortuitous accident. Church authorities have faithfully preserved our temple traditions for a dozen generations since Joseph Smith first established them in the 1840s; yet no one today can or will say what they mean or what they represent.

It’s quite odd, actually, when I think about it — preservation without comprehension. Yet, that’s what’s happened.

This is why at the outset of this monograph I cited the instance from my own experience. Like my “Mares eat oats …” story, that’s what the temple ritual is to today’s initiate and worker alike — mummery and mimickery with no comprehension of its truly profound meaning. It’s quite tragic and wonderful, both at the same time. The entire meaning is preserved, thankfully, but with absolutely no comprehension of its implication. What a stunning state of affairs.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The "One Story"

The mythology, traditions and religions of ancient cultures the world over and across all time are based in singular astral objects and events observed by the earliest inhabitants of this planet. That’s the basis of what one comparative mythologist called “the One Story told around the world.”

This is a novel concept, but one that is central to deciphering almost all the mysteries from the past. It declares that the seemingly bizarre beliefs and traditions of widely divergent and isolated cultures in hoary antiquity all derived from a single source: our ancient heavens.

This notion stands in diametric opposition to the traditional, scientific view that the heavens have appeared constant for as long as Man trod this planet. Yet, when we turn to the records bequeathed us by our ancestors, we find they tell us a very different story—one that makes no sense in light of our present concepts.

What those primeval people saw defies all description. We see nothing remotely like it in our present skies. It was so overwhelming, so dramatic that its elements indelibly impressed themselves upon the human psyche. The mythologies, legends, traditions and religions it spawned still retain a vivid memory of things seen in ancient skies, though we fail to perceive them as such.

These myths, legends, traditions and religions are the repositories for the memories of cosmological pageants that played out over Earth’s skies for an extended period of time in the very earliest epoch of Mankind. They are an invaluable record, bequeathed us by our ancestors, each containing some elements of the One Story.

Each culture remembered the story of those events from a unique, proprietary perspective. Yet they all retain a remarkable coherence when seen as memories stemming from a common, astral origin. Moreover, they were modified and elaborated down through time in very different ways by widely divergent cultures, such that today, they are nearly unrecognizable as the same story. But they are.

For Latter-day Saints who wish to fully benefit from their scripture study, their temple experience and the teachings of Joseph Smith, this knowledge is vital. Because the Prophet sought to restore “all things as at first,” he included the data about Earth’s ancient cosmology in his teachings. If we lack this perspective, his teachings in this regard are meaningless to us. Without this knowledge, our efforts to grasp the teachings of Christ and the Prophets are greatly hampered.

In order to provide the interested reader with an overview of the events once seen to evolve in ancient skies, the following narrative and commentary have been created in an easy to understand, side-by-side format. The italicized text is a narrative describing the beliefs and traditions in the One Story. The normal text is an analytical commentary describing the events and conditions that obtained in order to create those beliefs and traditions.

Once upon a time in a Golden Age, this world was an idyllic place, very different than it is now. People hardly aged at all. They lived much longer than today. There was little or no disease.

Comparative mythology tells us that all ancient cultures have traditions of an idyllic era, a halcyon epoch at the beginning of human memory when life was tranquil and without hardship, pain or illness.

There were no temperature extremes, no rain, no snow, no wind and no weather, as we know it.

Earth’s meteorological environment was drastically different than now due to tremendous electromagnetic forces in play.

Food grew in abundance year round, with no need of cultivation or irrigation. The whole world was a garden.

This electromagnetically enhanced environment dramatically affected its flora and fauna. All life prospered, whether animal or vegetable.

There were no nations, governments or even tribes. Therefore, there were no wars, no battles, no contention and no strife.

The abundance humans enjoyed led to an absence of need and hardship. Competition for vital resources was unknown. It was a completely egalitarian society.

Not only was this Earth vastly different, so were the heavens. A motionless, golden sun that never set warmed the world. Thus, there was no darkness, no day-night cycle. Its light was softer and more diffuse than the brilliant sunlight we see today.

Cultures the world over worshipped this god/sun. Anthropologists consistently refer to early cultures as “sun worshippers,” which is true. But it was not the sun we see in our sky today. Surprisingly, the ancients report the “first, best sun” was the planet we know today as Saturn.

Though it produced a subdued light equivalent to our twilight, Saturn generated sufficient electromagnetic energy to illuminate and warm our world.

It appeared to hover, motionless, because Earth was positioned directly beneath Saturn’s southern pole. At the same time, Earth’s North Pole was oriented toward Saturn. Put simply, they shared a common axis of rotation. Thus, Saturn stood where Polaris, the North Star, stands today.

A Supreme or Universal Monarch, the same sun that lighted the world, ruled from the high heavens. He was the Creator King, the first light of creation, who created himself as well as all the cosmos.

This was the archetype for all earthly kings. Coronation rites reflected Saturn’s station and actions in the heavens. This is also the source of royal imagery in our scriptures.

This creator brought himself into being as he emerged from a pool or sea of churning water, foam or mud, seen hovering like a layer of clouds in the heavens. From that chaotic void, he emerged to begin his reign over this world and its heavens.

This was the event that all cultures, including the Hebrew, recalled as the creation. The cyclonic pool, called the “firmament” in the Old Testament, was the core vortex of a plasma column or “pinch” that enclosed several planets, positioned along the common axis of rotation between them.

This Great King, seated on his throne, was also the City, Temple or Kingdom of God. He presided over an age of natural abundance, longevity and cosmic harmony.

A variety of symbols were ascribed to Saturn, due to its position and size. It was not only anthropomorphosized as a king, it was also considered a city, a temple and a kingdom. Thus, it was so described in a multitude of variations on one archetype, a dominant orb in Earth’s ancient skies.

Also born in this fixed spot in the northern heavens were the Monarch’s first creations and companions. They appeared as the Warrior or Hero of Heaven and the Son of the King and as the Queen of Heaven. Together, they joined the Sovereign to form a Holy Trinity of ruling, celestial deity.

The first act of this creator god/planet was to bring two others into existence to accompany him. Both were planets that shared the same axis of rotation with Earth and Saturn. They were Mars and Venus, Mars standing closest to Earth.

Like Saturn, anthropomorphic characteristics were attributed to them because of their appearance and behavior. One was the female planet, and the other was the male planet—the yin and the yang. Together, they spawned a multitude of sacred images: the celestial city with a temple in the middle, a heavenly eye, a wheel, etc.

These two active, companion planets appeared to stand before Saturn as it emerged from what was characterized as the heavenly “waters” of creation.

All four planets shared a common axis of rotation and were “stacked” in the following order, from the “bottom” upward: Earth, Mars, Venus and Saturn. From a visual perspective on Earth, Mars appeared centered on Venus, and Venus appeared centered on Saturn. Thus, earthbound observers saw three nested planets in Earth’s northern skies.Earth’s inhabitants honored, worshipped and revered these celestial powers in all their phases and manifestations, and there were many.

The abode of the Three was fixed in the heavens, suspended on a marvelous column or pillar of light, the Cosmic Mountain or Celestial Tree of Life. This was also the Heavenly Street and Great River of Light. It was The Way to heaven. It was this Pillar of Light or Celestial Mountain that supported and sustained the Celestial City wherein dwelt the gods. Only the worthy could mount its heights to access high heaven.

But there was more … much more. There was also a polar, plasma column that appeared to connect heaven to Earth, resembling a great pillar of light, that embraced those three planets overhead and our planet beneath, illuminating our world day and night. From its magnificent crest, the planetary triumvirate dominated the earth and the heavens. To the Hebrews, it was Zion or Sinai; to the Greeks, it was Olympus, the abode of Zeus, Hera and all the Olympians.

The polar column was also visualized as the Celestial Tree, with roots in the earth and branches among the planets/stars/gods. It was also seen as the Great River of Light, Life or Abundance connecting heaven and earth and as a ladder/stairway/path to heaven, the only avenue to the gods’ abode, the Heavenly City.

The Queen of Heaven was the wife/daughter/consort of the Creator King. She was the Celestial Egg or the Womb or Heaven, who held within her the Holy Seed, the Son of God, to whom she would later give birth in a monumental event that stirred the imagination of ancient peoples everywhere. She was the Iris of God’s Eye; her unborn child was the Pupil of God’s Eye. She was the Mouth; he was the Opener of the mouth. Together, they were the dual Heart of Heaven, the Creator’s Heart.

Venus was the archetype of all female goddesses in antiquity, the prototype of every female character in religion and mythology.Because Mars was centered on Venus, various aspects were attributed to that planet. It was an iris to Mars’ pupil, forming an eye with Saturn. It was part of Saturn’s heart. It was an egg, with the unborn child within it. Mars completed the mouth formed by Venus on Saturn’s face.

Soon, she became the Star of Heaven, the dazzling Radiant Goddess. She burst into glory that eclipsed the Creator King. She was the light and power of the Heaven King, the animating force that illuminated and protected heaven or the Kingdom of God.

The entire world remembered the planet Venus as the “star” goddess. It was Astarte, Ishtar, Ashteroth, Aphrodite, Hathor and the Greek Venus. It was not only stunningly brilliant, the planet’s plasma discharge assumed a variety of shapes that came to dominate the iconography of all ancient cultures. These star icons still dominate the imagination of humankind today. The flags of nearly every nation carry Venus’ star image in one form or another.

The Warrior Hero was a powerful god, the son of the King and Queen of Heaven. Born of his mother, he left his exalted station to descend to the Earth. As he descended, he grew from a dwarf to a giant, and heaven erupted into chaos. He had become the Destroyer of Worlds. The earth and the heavens shook. The closer he approached, the worse things became and the more terrible he looked. In so descending, he became old, sickly and decrepit, becoming human-like and taking upon himself the evils of the world, thus redeeming mankind.

Mars was the archetype for most male gods of antiquity. That planet’s story is the stuff of a multitude of legends. Mars became the model for every legendary, cultural hero. It was powerful, yet strangely impotent at times. It could topple the heavens, but it could not control itself. It was the dwarf who became a giant, the prototypical shape shifter. It was the quixotic Hero that very nearly destroyed creation, yet it was also the god who restored the heavens to their former peace and glory. It was the youth that aged and then became a youth again.

Yet, this is only one take on a variety of misadventures of Mars in ancient skies.

After his descent to the Earth, the Warrior Hero returned to his home in heaven by climbing the Cosmic Mountain or Celestial Stairway to Heaven. As he ascended, the commotion and tumult diminished. He became the Prince of Peace as the heavens ceased their tumultuous roar and the incessant shaking of the earth died away.

As Mars receded from its close encounter with Earth, it appeared to grow smaller as it also appeared to ascend along the polar column toward Venus. As the distance between Earth and Mars increased, its harmful effect on our planet diminished.

He ascended once again to return to the Mother Goddess’ womb. As he did so, he became youthful once again or reborn. He had completed his given task and overcome many vicissitudes. The Hero entered Heaven only after great Gates of Light parted to admit him, whereupon he took his mother as his wife by coupling with her in the celestial city or garden.

This is the story of the polar column as told in conjunction with Mars’ odyssey. As such, its story became the genesis of heroic adventure tales in all ancient cultures.This version of the Mars saga is the core of the Oedipus legend. As risqué as it sounds to our Victorian ears, this was at the center of many cultural traditions, including illicit temple rites the world over.

In returning to the Center Place, the Warrior/Hero reinstated the Eye or Mouth of God, thus restoring Heaven to its former appearance, glory and splendor.

During Mars’ absence, the eye or mouth was no longer complete. With its return to the center place, the eye or mouth archetypes were reinstated. This is the source of Egyptian resurrection rituals called “The Opening of the Mouth or Eye,” and similar rites in other cultures.

All was well for a time. But one day, a fierce Chaos Monster arose from the Cosmic Mountain. Breathing fire and roaring across heaven, it menaced the Celestial City and the Gods as it writhed and struck out at heaven and earth. The Queen of Heaven became the disheveled Hag of Heaven, the Witch. All creation seemed doomed to destruction by the dragon who had grown many heads until the Warrior/Hero stepped forward to subdue the monster or beast. When he did, all things became tranquil again. Life was beautiful and all heaven was at peace.

On occasion, the denizens of this kingdom moved from their appointed places, changing their appearance and their behavior, menacing our Earth, unleashing chaos and catastrophe. At such times for example, the Cosmic Mountain transformed into a serpent/snake/beast called the Chaos Monster, writhing and fierce beyond comprehension in disordered heavens, striking fear and awe into Earth’s inhabitants.

During these periods of disorder, the formerly brilliant and spectacular Venus did a role reversal, taking on the appearance of a disheveled monster that raged across the skies.

At these times of chaos, Mars became a warrior, appearing to do battle with a monster, using great bolts of lightning to subdue the threatening beast, as in the Babylonian tradition of Marduk and Tiamat.

Then, things would settle down again for a time.

In the end, this Golden Age perished in the greatest upheaval the world had ever known. The monarch was thrown down, fled and vanished, along with his castle, city or kingdom. The mountain that sustained him vanished as well, along with the queen and the son—all went into the dark abyss. The remnants of their dismembered bodies were scattered across the sky to become the glittering star field we know today. But in the process, our world was nearly destroyed, and mankind with it, by a vast flood of epic proportions. Yet, some few survived to inherit a new world and a new sky—not as pleasant as the first, but survivable.

All the movement, appearance changes disruptions and dislocations of orbs in the ancient polar configuration of planets were the result of forces dismantling that grouping. When the final dissolution came, earthlings saw the gods and the mountain they lived on recede into distant space.

Once those brilliant planets and glowing plasma disappeared, the starry heavens could be seen for the first time.

The polar oceans, held in place as permanent tides, were released, flooding the Earth. Centrifugal force drove those waters to the equator, dividing continents and creating islands for the first time. This was the origin of flood traditions in all ancient cultures.

So, everyone lived happily ever after. The end. (Until it all starts over again.)

Humans adapted and thus survived, but at a terrible cost. Constant fear of destruction from the skies haunted all mankind. We adopted survival strategies that evolved into beliefs, institutions and practices taken for granted today.But the fear of astral destruction remains, buried deep in our subconscious. The fear of doomsday remains vivid in the human psyche, though unrecognized and largely unacknowledged. We struggle to suppress those fears, denying them by replacing them with ‘scientific’ theories that put us on a peaceful and largely uneventful planet for “billions and billions of years.”

Sounds a bit like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? That’s because all myths and legends began life as cultural traditions, reenacted in sacred rites, rituals, pageants and holidays designed to preserve those memories. This One Story is also the basis for all religious tradition. Parts of it were incorporated into our temples, telling us that Joseph Smith knew the One Story ... all of it ... by heart.

This overview may be a bit hard to accept for those new to these ideas. Yet, if given enough time to fully consider them and study them in relation to the restored gospel, anyone can see the simplicity and power of such concepts. They not only explain the system of traditions, myths and legends of all nations and cultures, they explain the iconic elements of our restored religion, instituted by a prophet who knew and understood all these things, judging by his many corroborating statements.

Restoring the true religion meant reinstating all the elements of the One Story. The evidence for this can be found in our temples and scriptures, where symbols, rituals and metaphors true to the many actors and elements of the One Story abound. They are the iconic and metaphorical trappings of our religion, restored in their fullness for our edification and enlightenment. This connects us to antiquity and our ancestors. It offers a basis for understanding the ineffable and the inexplicable. But most of all, it promises to expand our wisdom and our testimonies far beyond their present, narrow boundaries.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009