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.

13 comments:

ldsanarchy said...

What has been the response of Christians concerning this proof? Have to tried presenting this evidence to them?

Paul said...

Tony,

Like a 99 yard kickoff return, your article has brought us to the 1 yard line. I wonder how many of your readers have the courage to score a touchdown and win the game. A paradigm shift and a greatly enhanced world view is what awaits those who score.

After progressing in knowledge for a while, your readers will look back and wonder how they could have been so limited in their understanding. I am constantly reminded of this when I look back at my own ignorant beginning and realize how far I have come. And still I know nothing.

I am grateful beyond measure for the knowledge I have gained and for the opportunity to continue my progression.


Paul

Kristophorus said...

Though you have successfully avoided any direct mention of the connections from the Mormon temple rituals to the masonic temple rituals (and their subsequent connections to kabbalah), I am in complete agreement with you, based on your presentation, that the church is indeed true.

However, "true" is an unbiased term. It simply implies that the thing it is describing is consistent with fact or reality. I would like to see proof of how the Church is right. If not, at least why you think so.

DC-Exile said...

You mention that these rituals are of ancient styling. But why do you not touch base on why they are not told to the general public or even to the majority of there followers? They only tell this to the Melchizedek and Patriarchal priest hoods under the guise of it being "sacred". Not even woman are aloud to hold these levels of Priesthood to truly access what there religion is. When shed it in this light you can see why people point fingers and say "cult" with out truly knowing.

I have lived in Utah all my life as I was born her. The LDS church is not bad, nor are its followers, however I can see why people are intimidated by temples and the rituals that happen with-in them. These buildings are great showings of wealth and power and because of this they are very intimidating. Take a look at the West Jordan, Utah temple. This epic monolith jutting from the ground is a concrete structure that dwarfs everything around it. It almost looks like itself was a fortress of immense magnitude ready to stretch out and attack neighboring lands.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your work Anthony, however, it seems to me that your article would be more compelling if you could document from the scriptures that the ancient use of secret handshakes, signs and tokens and swearing by ones neck was ever actually been part of the pure and simple gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you would show from the Book of Mormon that Christ initiated the Nephites into this bazaar ritual when he visited them, or if the New Testament gave any hint of these practices being taught and endorsed by Christ..

Certainly modern revelation would also provide something to legitimize the integration of this ritual into the true saving ordinances of the gospel that are so clearly presented therein.

I am sorry to be so skeptical, it just feels like a huge disconnect.

I feel like your article puts us on the one yard line instead of the 99 yard line.

We are still at the stage of trying to justify why the "endowment" has us violate the word of God, we have a ways to go before we can hold it up as the most significant "proof that the Church is True".

If that is our strongest proof that the church is true it is no wonder people think we are a cult.

Anthony E. Larson said...

Anonymous:

You are simply the victim of faulty reasoning. Allow me to demonstrate.

If you believe that Joseph Smith restored the “pure and simple gospel of Jesus Christ,” then the answer you require is contained within the questions you ask. I need not “document from the scriptures” the evidence you seek.

The man who restored the “pure and simple gospel of Jesus Christ,” the man who translated the Book of Mormon, which you cite for its lack of “secret handshakes, signs and tokens and swearing by ones neck,” the man who organized the true church with proper authority in these latter days is the same man who gave us that endowment, complete with all its peculiar ritual.

Don’t blame me for a failure to “provide something to legitimize the integration of this ritual into the true saving ordinances of the gospel” Blame Joseph Smith. He was the instigator, not I.

The fact is, if you were to study the archaic documents produced by early leaders of the primitive church, the one that arose under the guidance of Christ’s apostles, you would find ample evidence to support the temple rituals. Read my essay “What Does Cosmology Have To Do With My Salvation?” And if you go back even further, you will see the stunning similarities between the rituals in our temples and those performed in ancient temples from a variety of cultures.

So, Joseph Smith got it right. Our temple rites and rituals, what we call an “endowment,” are traditionally and ritually correct. They rehearse the same cosmological and revelatory traditions as did the ancients, a fact that we can see in Moses’ prescriptions for temple design and practice in his day in Exodus, a fact that Christ acknowledged with his reverence and participation in the Herodian temple practices of his day.

Anonymous said...

Anthony,

Please don't be offended, I think you bring up some great points in your article.

I am simply pointing out that the content within the temple ceremony does not appear to be consistent with nor contained in the fulness of the Gospel as documented in the scriptures, ancient and modern.

It seems to me that your strongest point of reasoning within the article, as to why the temple and associated ritual provides proof that the church is true has to do with "similarities between the rituals in our temples and those performed in ancient temples from a variety of cultures."

While I think that is an interesting and valid observation, I don't think that it provides a compelling evidence that the ritual was ever revealed as a valid ritual from God, or that church is true.

We could use the same logic to prove that free masonry is the true religion since aspects of their ceremony also are found in a myriad of ancient rituals and cultures.

To me it is not an issue of Joseph Smith "getting it right" or not, he was simply an instrument in Gods hands.

My focus is not on whether Joseph made a mistake, my focus is on why did God intentionally leave this saving-endowment-ritual-ordinance out of the scriptures.

The question is, why did God make the saving ordinance of baptism so clear in the scriptures and yet leave the scriptures silent about this saving endowment ritual?

Every place where the scriptures speak of the ordinances of salvation, from the creation story, to the testimony of Christ and the apostles in the New Testament, to the numerous places in the Book of Mormon including the visit of Christ, to the modern revelations and the Pearl of Great Price, are completely silent about an endowment ritual of salvation while they all consistently speak of the necessity of baptism.

Yes we can document the existence of temples for worship, but not the handshakes and tokens and signs and swearing by the neck.

While this may not be at all disconcerting to you, it is to others and it hardly supports the case that said endowment ritual provides proof that the church is true.

I think it is a fair question and I don't see why my reasoning is faulty.

I have the same question ldsanarchy has, what kind of response do you get from Christians regarding this proof?

If it fails to provide a compelling reason for me, someone who believe in the restored gospel and Joseph Smith, I suspect they would be even less impressed with the proof.

Tony said...

Anon, I suggest you look into templestudy.com, FAIRLDS, and early Christianity for a Christian view on how such things could be included in the gospel.

Have you ever wondered what happened in those forty days after Christ's resurrection, or how Peter James and John may have recieved their endowments on the Mt. Of Transfiguration?

Of course the scriptures are not going to blatantly spell out such sacred things, but as you look at the above sources I provided, you will see that the scriptures do hint at it, as do early Judeo-Christian practices.

Dave P. said...

While reading this I was reminded of the Greek Mythology course I took as a junior at BYU, and it was certainly the most unusual mythology class that I'd ever experienced.

Of course we covered the gods, heroes, and legends, but at the same time the course focused on the shreds of Gospel truth that they still had.

The final lesson the class taught me was the basic idea that the Gospel as given to Adam was never fully 100% lost, but bits and pieces were preserved- albeit perverted in many ways- by nations who inherited some of the knowledge, but not a full understanding. After all, how many different accounts of the Flood are out there that all end up telling the same story?

Rich said...

I'm going to have to agree with Anonamous on this one.. The arguement I see given is that a-if you beleive in J.S. then b-temple work is true. Or, if you are Christian then since there were temples,, then there must be a requirement for temples. I don't think there is any real proof here.

The Navigator said...

One of the most misunderstood things of the Temple Ordances is that in truth, the ordances them selves are contained in scripture, in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Bible. The tokens are not, for the token is so sacred that it can only be given in the confines of the Holy Temple. If one does the research and has gained a true understanding of the Holy Ordances of the Temples. They will see that nothing has changed since they were given in the Temple to the 12 at Kirtland and also in Nauvoo. As time and man progresses, some of the early penilties were removed because we as Children of God moved into a more profound time in our exsistance. Even Christ gave to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration all of the signs and tokens required, and in turn they gave the same to the other Apostles and 70 as they went forth armed with Power from on High. If you study and ponder the total of the scriptures you see all of the verbage given in their compleate text but not as one whole. For such is the design of God to keep from the mainstream the truth that is hidden from the world, but available to the siants. This is why we are admonished to study the scriptures.

Anonymous said...

Many scholars and historians have attributed the "mysteries" that are spoken of in ancient texts as being the very endowment rituals being taught to the recipient. Hugh Nibley points this out and uses ancient Christian texts to do so. You read in the Bible and Book of Mormon and many other ancient texts where individuals are show the "mysteries" of the gospel - and then all clearly state that those "mysteries" are not to be shared with just anyone. Those details are purposefully not described in the Book of Mormon because it would be a direct violation of the very covenants the recipient made in order to learn them if they did write them down for everyone to read. So, claiming that since the Book of Mormon does not show the details of the endowment is evidence to say that the Book is not true is off base. Ancient texts consistently show that the last supper of Christ and his apostles also included an endowment ceremony - more than just bread and wine - are abundant. Since the Bible doesn't include this detail does that make the Bible irrelevant? No. It is just information only to be had by those prepared for it in it's proper context - not casual readers.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much information is contained (suppressed) at The Vatican. Satan wants power and works through the power-hungry. The power-hungry have controlled ancient knowledge for as long as they have had the power to do so. They do this by infiltrating politics, churches, banks, Hollywood, telecommunications, etc. Secret societies practice rites in the name of darkness and prevent the world from knowing our full potential in order to control us. Their numerology, dark symbolism and Lucifarian energy attack us at all times. The LDS faith practices rites in the name of light and spread the word to get others to reach their full potential and enrich their souls. These things exist!!! "Magic" is real. The world is Awakening. People are opening their eyes to the dark workings around them. Shine your individual light (no matter what your religious beliefs) for the betterment of mankind. The anti-mormon sentiment that has existed is done out of fear and is, in fact, a carefully constructed spell. I wish I could show you what I know, but I would be writing for days. You really don't have to go down the rabbit hole like I did. It's pretty scary stuff. Just know that we all must work in the light to bring together as many newly conscious, awakened souls to the the fold. The fold of Jesus Christ.