Mormon Impressions of Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’

Book Cover

I just finished Dan Brown’s latest thriller, The Lost Symbol, which was published a few days ago on September 15th.  There has been a lot of anticipation surrounding this book, since 6 years have passed since the publication of his bestseller The Da Vinci Code, with 80 million copies sold worldwide to date.  Many wondered if Brown would repeat his success with this book, and while the jury is still out on the answer to that question, I must say that I’m personally fascinated by the material that Brown discusses in this novel.

As was predicted, the story centers around the subject of Freemasonry (or simply Masonry), which most people have heard of but know little about.  This is perhaps the reason Brown chose to explore this subject, one that was ripe for novelty in historical fiction.  However, as before, Brown branches out into a myriad of related subjects and connections, weaving a web of mystery and puzzles which must be solved once again by his favorite character, Robert Langdon.

But this is not going to be a review of the book.  There will be ample time for that, with more qualified critics analyzing the merits and faults of Brown’s work.  In addition, I don’t want to spoil anything while the pages are still wet.  I do quote some brief excerpts from the book below, but they are mostly circumstantial details, and won’t give much away about the plot, if anything.

What I do want to point out are some interesting general impressions I had while I read, particularly as they relate to me, my studies, and the LDS (Mormon) faith.  Call them synchronicities or coincidences, or just interesting tidbits, either way they have called my attention. 

The Apotheosis of Washington

Three months ago, on June 27, 2009, I wrote a short post about the painting that adorns the interior side of the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building rotunda.  That painting is called The Apotheosis of Washington, which surprisingly figures quite predominantly in Dan Brown’s book.  I had been watching a show called Secret America on Discovery, when they had mentioned the painting.  I immediately went online to find out more about it, and wrote about it on TempleStudy.com.  The strange thing is that it was a pretty obscure painting that not many people had heard about.

What’s even more interesting is that I mentioned the painting again just two weeks ago, on September 3.  A friend had told me about an ebook that had been written about the U.S. Capitol, and the painting of Washington filled the front cover.  It’s quite possible that people have been getting wind of the subject matter of Brown’s book for a while, making programs and books about the more esoteric aspects of Washington, D.C., and I picked up on some of that because of their relationship to the temple.  But it still surprised me to find that prior to The Lost Symbol‘s publication, I had written specifically about a painting which bookends and frames the plot of Dan Brown’s novel.

Why is the painting so predominant?  The book does a good job of explaining that, as well as my previous posts.  The painting depicts George Washington, one of our Founding Fathers, and first President, ascending into heaven to sit amongst the gods and becoming deified as one of them.  As theosis is a major theme of the book, man’s potential to become like god, it is no wonder that Brown used this painting as a central motif.

Theosis

Theosis, or deification, has always been a sticking point with critics of the LDS Church.  To these seemingly erudite scholars, a belief in theosis is likely the most heretical and blasphemous doctrine Mormonism could have possibly come up with – the idea that fallen and sinful man could rise to the stature of our God in heaven.  And to many modern-day Christians, it probably seems that way.  Fortunately, with some homework, you will quite literally find a plethora of references to the doctrine of theosis in the ancient world, including in Judaism and Christianity.  Indeed, even Jesus Christ himself declared that man had divine potential when he repeated the Psalm, “ye are gods,” to teach the Jews it was not blasphemous for him to call himself the Son of God (John 10:31–36; cf. Ps. 82:6).  Indeed, even the idea of “fallen” man indicates that he was once at a higher state, a state to which he can return through the atonement of Jesus Christ.  The Latter-day Saints believe that we are literally children of God, our Father in Heaven, and as His children we have the potential to become just as He is.

Dissertations and books have been written on the subject of theosis, and much more could be said.  Suffice it to say, for the present, that even Christianity’s most oft-quoted and beloved modern theologian, C. S. Lewis, once said the following:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . . 1

The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to Him perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said. 2

Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be remade. . . . we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy. 3

Moreover, even entire semester university courses have been designed to teach on this particular, that there is a common theme throughout the works of C. S. Lewis, and that is “theosis… Christianity’s ultimate end is the deification of a person”4.  One of my favorite lines in The Lost Symbol on this subject was a simple statement from Peter Solomon:

“A wise man once told me,” Peter said, his voice faint now, “the only difference between you and God is that you have forgotten you are divine.”5

Mormon References

I want to take note of the two references to Mormonism in The Lost Symbol.  The first is on page 79:

“As are many equally improbable beliefs.” Langdon often reminded his students that most modern religions included stories that did not hold up to scientific scrutiny: everything from Moses parting the Red Sea . . . to Joseph Smith using magic eyeglasses to translate the Book of Mormon from a series of gold plates he found buried in upstate New York. Wide acceptance of an idea is not proof of its validity.6

This is somewhat of a backhanded compliment.  On the one hand, Langdon is saying that the stated origins of the Book of Mormon are improbable based on scientific scrutiny.  On the other hand, he compares the belief to Moses parting the Red Sea, quite a miracle and one which many millions of several different faiths believe was a literal reality.  What is interesting is that even though the stated origins of the Book of Mormon may not hold up to “scientific” scrutiny (and they probably never will), neither has science, or anyone else, been able to determine and explain the supposed actual origins of the complex book of 588 printed pages, produced in 60 some-odd working days, if it wasn’t translated as it claims.  It is like Dan Brown producing The Lost Symbol in 60 days, instead of 6 years, and that’s giving him extra time with 79 less pages to write.  Furthermore, there are references later in The Lost Symbol that indicate that the always incredulous Langdon might have began to think differently after his experiences.  Warren Bellamy teaches him:

“I’ve learned never to close my mind to an idea simply because it seems miraculous.”7

The other reference to Mormonism is on page 438:

all spiritual rituals included aspects that would seem frightening if taken out of context—crucifixion reenactments, Jewish circumcision rites, Mormon baptisms of the dead, Catholic exorcisms, Islamic niqab, shamanic trance healing, the Jewish Kaparot ceremony, even the eating of the figurative body and blood of Christ.8

The exquisite irony here is that even Dan Brown took Mormon practices out of context by misstating our ritual.  Mormons practice baptisms “for” the dead, not baptisms “of” the dead.  It is precisely these kind of mistakes that make rituals appear frightening.  There are many who do not understand this LDS practice because they believe we somehow baptize literal dead corpses – “of” the dead.  I’m not exactly sure how the logistics of that would work, and it would require a host of exhumation permits, but it is far from actuality.  We baptize for, and in behalf of, people who have died without the opportunity of baptism.  Members of the Church research their own line of genealogy, and take names of ancestors to the temple so they themselves can perform proxy vicarious baptisms, in name only, for their deceased forebearers who did not have that chance in life.  We believe that those people have the opportunity to accept or reject the baptism performed for them in the afterlife.

Intelligences

I now want to take note of a few intriguing references to subjects that I did not know were thought about outside of the LDS Church; indeed, I have not heard them discussed outside an LDS context.  The first is “intelligences.”

After their discussion, Katherine had a strange notion. Her brother had mentioned the Book of Genesis and its description of the soul as Neshemaha kind of spiritual “intelligence” that was separate from the body. It occurred to Katherine that the word intelligence suggested the presence of thought.9

This was something that I thought was unique to LDS belief, the idea that the spirit is an “intelligence.”  Indeed, the Book of Abraham in the LDS canon teaches about intelligences:

21 I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. (Abraham 3:21–23)

Here, the Book of Abraham makes clear that intelligences, souls, and spirits, are all inter-related, and may be one in the same thing.  They are the “minds” of men and women before being born on the earth with physical bodies.  Interestingly, a few verses earlier the scriptures suggests that God is God because he is “more intelligent than they all” (Abr. 3:19).  This is a related theme to theosis taken up in the book, that it is the enlightened mind and exalted intelligence that eventually deifies man to become like God.  Katherine in the book goes so far as to say that “it was our minds that were created in the image of God”10.  As far as the pre-mortal life is concerned, LDS belief would agree with her, but we also take it to the next logical conclusion, that what man now is, God once was, and that as God now is, man may be11.  Consequently, we believe that God has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s, albeit exalted and perfected (D&C 130:22).

Spirit Matter

Directly after discussing intelligences, Katherine explains her conclusion:

Noetic Science clearly suggested that thoughts had mass, and so it stood to reason, then, that the human soul might therefore also have mass. Can I weigh a human soul?

Katherine recalled writing in her lab notes with a trembling hand: “There seems to exist an invisible ‘material’ that exits the human body at the moment of death. It has quantifiable mass which is unimpeded by physical barriers. I must assume it moves in a dimension I cannot yet perceive.”12

Again, LDS scripture indicates that spirit has mass:

7 There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;
8 We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter. (D&C 131:7–8)

This was a revelation received by the Prophet Joseph Smith in May of 1843.  I don’t know of any other religious faith that believes that spirit is matter, finer and more pure matter, but nonetheless has a mass.  Also notice, however, that the scripture says “spirit,” not “spirits,” and is therefore not necessarily exclusively describing spirit bodies.  It says “all spirit.”  Other early Mormon prophets taught that all space has life, and therefore all space has energy.  Another scripture tells us that “light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space – The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:12–13; cf. D&C 88:37).  All space has light.  All space has energy.  All space has matter.  All space has mass.  When our bodies (and minds) are purified we will see that it is so.

Ancient Mysteries

Of course, one theme mentioned time and time again throughout the book is the ancient mysteries.

“The Hand of the Mysteries is a formal invitation to pass through a mystical gateway and acquire ancient secret knowledge—powerful wisdom known as the Ancient Mysteries . . . or the lost wisdom of all the ages.”13

I’ve written about “the mysteries” before.  Suffice it to say that the mysteries spoken of in early Christians texts use the word to indicate certain initiation rites or sacraments.  Joseph Smith used the term “mysteries” to describe the ordinances of the temple, in association with the authoritative keys of the priesthood14.

Plurality of Gods

The Lost Symbol also briefly notes:

God is found in the collection of Many . . . rather than in the One.

“Elohim,” Langdon said suddenly, his eyes flying open again as he made an unexpected connection.

“I’m sorry?” Katherine was still gazing down at him.

“Elohim,” he repeated. “The Hebrew word for God in the Old Testament! I’ve always wondered about it.”

Katherine gave a knowing smile. “Yes. The word is plural.”

Exactly! Langdon had never understood why the very first passages of the Bible referred to God as a plural being. Elohim. The Almighty God in Genesis was described not as One . . . but as Many.

“God is plural,” Katherine whispered, “because the minds of man are plural.”15

On this subject, President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

It is perfectly true, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price and in the Bible, that to us there is but one God. Correctly interpreted God in this sense means Godhead, for it is composed of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This Godhead presides over us, and to us, the inhabitants of this world, they constitute the only God, or Godhead. There is none other besides them. (1 Corinthians 8:5–6.) To them we are amenable, and subject to their authority, and there is no other Godhead unto whom we are subject. However, as the Prophet has shown, there can be, and are, other Gods.

Have we overlooked the fact that the scriptures, ancient and modern, hold out the promise to all those who are faithful and true to every covenant and obligation which the gospel places upon them that the reward will be that they shall become gods? Jesus taught this doctrine to the Jews. It is interwoven throughout all of our Standard Works. The promise has been made to all who are just and true, that they shall become sons and daughters of God, members of his household, (Ephesians 3: 14–15) “joint heirs with Jesus Christ,” (Romans 8:17) and entitled to the fulness of exaltation.

Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them. (D&C 132:20)16

A Modern Worldview from Plato’s Cave

Lastly, four years ago, long before I started TempleStudy.com, I wrote a paper for Dr. Brent Strong’s History of Creativity course at Brigham Young University17.  The final assignment of the course was to either do a project or write a paper that would exhibit big “C” creativity.  Big “C” creativity was contrasted with little “c” creativity.  Little “c” creativity was described as something that is creative on a personal level, something that gives you many personal “firsts.”  Big “C” creativity was something else entirely, something big enough to be creative on a world-wide level, something that was unique, valuable, had intent, and implementation excellence and continuance.  While this is not the place to explain fully what those terms meant, suffice it to say that big “C” creativity needed to be something other than your home-made weekend papier-mâché project.  It needed to be creative to the world.

I took the project seriously, and thought of many things I might be able to do.  Finally I decided to try to follow in the footsteps of my mentor, Hugh Nibley, and write something of real worth.  I’m glad I did, as it is probably one of the major catalysts that drove me to build this website.

What I wrote was “A Modern Worldview from Plato’s Cave.“  For a long time I had the impression that the world is not exactly as we see it.  Reading certain books on quantum mechanics, in particular, opened my eyes to a new level of reality.  Something else is going on in our world that we are just beginning to try to grasp, yet remains mind-boggling.  The interesting thing is that there were many parallels of the same theme manifest in many times, cultures, religions, and locations around the world.  The diversity of the theme I wanted to explore, to see if I could come to any conclusions of “why.”

The reason I bring this up now is that after having read The Lost Symbol, the subject of my paper four years ago bears upon some of the same subjects as the novel, namely Noetics, quantum mechanics, the power of the mind, enlightenment, and hidden secrets in the world.  Some of my paper almost reads as an extension of one of Katherine’s or Peter’s sermons from the book.  As I read The Lost Symbol, I couldn’t help but notice that I had studied some of these things before.

I have never published the paper I wrote, but today seems as good a day as ever, particularly in light of this new novel that will surely generate conversation on the topic for the foreseeable future.  Below is a link to a PDF of my paper.  I’ve also embedded it below for easy viewing.  It is about 50 pages in length. Please let me know your thoughts.

There will be much more to discuss about Dan Brown’s latest book. Do you have any insights about The Lost Symbol you’d like to share? Please discuss with us in the comments.

A Modern Worldview from Plato’s Cave (PDF)

Notes:
  1. C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory []
  2. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity []
  3. C. S. Lewis, The Grand Miracle []
  4. University of Notre Dame, Department of Theology, Undergraduate Course listing, class THEO 40238 C.S. LEWIS: THEOSIS, link. []
  5. Page 492 []
  6. Page 79 []
  7. Page 211 []
  8. Page 438 []
  9. Page 392 []
  10. Page 501 []
  11. The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 2. []
  12. Page 392, 395 []
  13. Page 78 []
  14. Richard H. Winkel, “The Temple Is About Families,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 11 []
  15. Page 504-505 []
  16. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 2 (1958), 142. []
  17. MFG 201, History of Creativity: Pre-1500, BYU. []

20 Comments

  1. Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Bryce,

    I just finished your paper. It’s clear you put a lot of time into it, and I think you’ve explained well the way these ideas have captivated people for millennia. Even though I’m not a fan of Dan Brown’s writing, he seems to have a talent for crafting stories around potent ideas.

  2. Posted September 18, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Bryce,

    I’ve thought for many years that Plato’s Allegory of the Cave was very close to LDS doctrine of the pre-existence, and our belief that the spiritual creation of everything in our material world happened in another sphere prior to the physical/mortal creation. Thus, I found your paper extremely interesting and thought -provoking.

  3. Rodney Palmer
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    I just finished the much anticipated novel and really liked it. I loved reading your impressions of the novel. It was nice to read a synopsis of the “tidbits” relating to Mormonism. I especially liked the theme of theosis and the references to measurable intelligences. I’ve always been intrigued by the concept/”science” of the power of en masse prayer. Backhand compliment, was my exact thought when I read the reference to “magic glasses”. Bellamy’s thoughts on page 211 rang true. “I’ve learned never to close my mind to an idea simply because it seems miraculous.”

  4. Posted September 19, 2009 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Whoa. Rodney Palmer was the name of the stake president who set me apart and released me as a missionary.

  5. Posted September 20, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I came across another blog that shares some similar ideas about the book and the LDS connections. It is by Mark Koltko-Rivera at http://themormonldsblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/conclusion-of-dan-browns-lost-symbol.html.

  6. Posted September 21, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Wow Bryce! This is one of your most intriguing posts to date. I am actually looking forward to reading Browns novel now (I’m on the 6 month library wait-list … definitely not willing to invest in the hardback). Meantime, I’ll let you know my thoughts after reading your Plato’s Cave “novelette”. :)

  7. Posted September 21, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I just downloaded “The Lost Symbol” to my Kindle, and I’m looking forward to reading it. However, I’m thinking that I might enjoy reading your paper first! Very interesting thoughts to consider, in relation to temple worship, today. Thanks :-)

  8. Barbara Jean Byrem
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to reading you paper, will do so later today. Just finished “The Lost Symbol” and was intrigued by the comments about “Joseph Smith and the Magic galsses” and “baptisms of the dead”. It seemed to me that Mr. Brown included them as common conceptions of the world, in general, regarding Mormonism. In my circle of friends and aquaintences I find this NOT to be true. Also, was his comparison of “Joseph Smith and the magic galsses” to “Moses parting the Red Sea” a backhanded complment or a way to lending credibility to Mormonism in other religious circles. Just some of my thoughts, while reading the book, it was interesting that so many of the “theories” in the novel supported basic LDS belief, not the least of which was the basis for “The Word”.

  9. Posted October 4, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Kristine Frederickson, a journalist on Mormon Times, just published a column today on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and it’s relationship with the gospel.

    http://mormontimes.com/mormon_voices/kristine_frederickson/?id=11034

  10. Riley
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t know of any other religious faith that believes that spirit is matter, finer and more pure matter, but nonetheless has a mass.”

    I think Theosophy does . Although it seems that it wasn’t organized until a little after Joseph Smith’s life. It’s main founder, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, would have been quite young when Joseph Smith died. The “religion” wasn’t founded until approx 1875.

    The way I understand it, Theosophists believe that all beings possess “aetheric bodies” and thatthey are composed of “aetheric matter” which is composed of smaller particles of fine, pure matter which is different than ordinary physical matter.*

    *Powell, A.E. The Solar System London:1930 The Theosophical Publishing House (A Complete Outline of the Theosophical Scheme of Evolution) See “Lifewave” chart (refer to index)

  11. Dennis
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    (I received the following comment from Dennis.)

    I really enjoyed your insights on the Dan Brown book “The Lost Symbols.” I’m an LDS member with a (CTR) (I’m not referring to the ring, it can also mean “Current Temple Recommend.”)

    One concept that I’ve personally pondered upon has to do with certain recent findings in regard to studies on quantum theory and string theory. I could tell from both your direct and indirect inferences in what you’ve written regarding the temple, that you’ve also pondered on the nature of the dimensional qualities that make up our mortal experience.

    I’m not an expert in the demanding disciplines of physics, nor quantum theory. Still a resonant chord is struck in me, spiritually and intellectually, when I realize that many of these scientists have begun to describe ideas that could easily be interpreted and summarized in the simplest of language in D&C 88.

    What many of these mathematicians and particle physicists are writing and saying about their results are still very inconclusive, but they admit that there are other dimensions than the one we observe. Many of these men and women are atheists (or agnostics). but still, they are unwitting touching upon some measurable, (but unpredictable) truths about the fabric of space and the character of matter.

    A few findings these physicists report on greatly suggest that the universe we are currently experiencing and are currently “locked into” as it were, seems to be interconnected with other universes or dimensions. Some string theorists are saying that in “M-theory it appears there are 11 dimensional and controlling components within calbi-yau, 3-fold branes. This can be easily implied in our “3 directional” dimensional coordinates, (up & down, side to side, and forward and back,) plus a time dimension. However, within each 3-brane bundle those same directional dimensions co-exist, each defining a singular “space” and all three of these bundles contain a time and a control property.) It appears this control property(or radiation) is in all things and over all things, with the ability to communicate between neighboring 3-dimensional spaces at something like 10,000 times the speed of light. (D&C 88:13)

    The three possible states or dimensions (kingdoms, or spheres) operate independently, and yet they are intrinsically intertwined with the framework of the smallest structures imaginable. Each level within being controlled by light (in all its forms,) and vibrating at their particular frequencies. The speed of light in this Telestial sphere (as well as electrons) have a fixed level or speed. We do not know enough about other dimensions to make the same conclusion. But the scientists admit to “instantaneous” communication of pared particles, (where a particle in one dimension is effected by it’s partner particle. No speed limit is able to be applied in quantum interactions. Perhaps the other spheres of existence (or universes) have their own vibrational, upper limit for light, but we cannot measure it. All we can assume is that this universe’s frequency and speed cannot exceed the speed of light.

    The 88th section describes that each of the 3 hierarchical kingdoms we are concerned with. These abide upon the laws of that kingdom (or dimension.) In order to obtain the highest glory we (our bodies and spirits) will need to be “quickened” so that spirit and body, fused together, can abide that higher law. (Now, up until recently, I had always thought the term “quickened” meant to “give life” or to “animate” [in the strictest, most common sense it does mean this,] but what if we were to read 88:17, 26, 28-32 to mean “elevated in frequency” literally vibrating at a higher speed?

    I find it significant that the Lord begins the section by explaining to Joseph about the light of Christ. Is not the Lord telling us that “He” is the keeper of existence(s)? The Lord then explains that this same controlling principle will “quicken” our understandings, and then he goes into defining how the resurrection and elevation of our bodies will occur.

    Quantum theory is only a name that scientists use to define the forces of nature; the means by which an electromagnetic particle gains mass or the substance of matter is made usable to us in this sphere of existence, within the fabric of space? The phrases “let us go up” or “let us go down” may literally be referring to matter passing up or down within the dimensional framework by the quickening (or slowing) of the bodies vibrational speed. Even more mind expanding is the thought or teaching that the Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial abide side-by-side in any manifestation of matter? Hence, the teachings of Joseph Jr. and Brigham Young telling the saints that passing from mortality in death was like passing through a door into another room. It is here, all around us, and we in it.

    I will have to stop here. I apologize for the incompleteness of what I’ve mentioned above. I’ve never sat down and tried to put these thoughts into written words. The last thing I would want to convey is to say that I unequivocally believe any of the above to be correct or absolute in their meaning. But I can see the suggestion and possibility of some of these things to be present in their most recent findings.

    Another interesting approach to “existence” was in a Discovery Magazine article that can be read at this “rather long” URL.

    http://discovermagazine.com/2009/may/01-the-biocentric-universe-life-creates-time-space-cosmos

    You might enjoy reading this and then to think upon the phrase the Savior used in which he said, “In my Father’s House are many mansions.” Rather than thinking of villas and huge dream homes, as worldly minds might interpret the Lord’s words, perhaps he was referring to the “dimensions, kingdoms, or spheres of existence that our Father and all the Gods inhabit.

  12. Ethan
    Posted October 23, 2009 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Wow. Fascinating comments al around. Especially Dennis’ comments about physics and demensions. This is potentially revolutionary. I wonder what effect, if any, Brown’s book will have on the the LDS Church as it pertains to popular opinion. It is too bad that Mormonism is not given more of a nod in the book, I suspect that many readers will have no idea that a real religion espouses MANY of these radical insights. I can just imagine the well-studied anti-Mormons having a bitter gut check as Dan Brown lays out this erudite case for Mormon doctrine. Wait until Hollywood unleashes the film to the millions who don’t read the book!

    Between this and the Twilight Saga’s central theme of deification, it seems the peculiar LDS doctrine of exaltation is having a ridiculously good year in massive, global pop culture.

  13. Blake
    Posted November 1, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I read this book and had posted similar comments about the book to my friends. It is refreshing to see such a nice summary of all the feelings I had while I read the book. Thank you for the incredible blog.

  14. vulkin.mormon
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    recently it has been determined that the galaxies of the universe have been accelerating away from each other from a central point in space. this has answered the scientific investigation into whether the universe would eventualy colapse back on it’s self (too little energy to overcome gravity etc.) or whether the universe would just keep going on it’s merry way into the great infinite beyond (too much energy ) , etc. etc. etc. …but the suprising finding that the galaxies were infact …accelerating away from a cental point… was quite a suprise. why? because that would mean there is a type of energy in the universe that no body knew about. wich would mean there is a type of matter that no body knew about. this is called… dark matter… and… dark energy. why dark? no reason really. they had to call it something, and since no body could see it, why not call it dark? many many years ago ofcourse joseph smith explained ” fine matter”. this “fine matter” could not be seen because it was much too fine (like an x-ray but even smaller… or finer) and very extensive throughout the universe. indeed everything that is or will be… including God and planets and panda bears… must contain ‘fine matter’ in the form of spirit. furthermore unincorperated ‘fine matter’ exists extensively to be used later as building blocks for the spirit creations of the future… including future spirit-planets, future spirit-pandas, and future spirit humans aka god-potentials. joseph smith had a word for fine matter… intellegences… the basic building block of the fine matter multi-dimensional multi-verse. so rather than “dark matter” what we now recognize as real is really “light matter” because intellegence is “light”… a type of light that science did not recognize back in joseph smiths lifetime. ofcourse science has not caught up with joseph smiths recognition that fine matter has i.q. of a sufficient level to have choice capability, and thus be called an intellegence. though science continues to be puzzled over such phenonimon as schrodingers cat dilema and “spooky action from a distance”… these puzzling mysteries are all easily explained by joseph smiths conception of the multi-verse (matter has i.q. and thus choice capability and also communication capability as well in a multi-dimensional multiverse etc. etc.). present day cloud computing is beginning to harness similiar princepals albeit at an incredibly lower level of sophistication than what joseph smith explained in the d & c, and elsewhere. (substitute a computer for a really dum intellegence … in the “cloud”… and you sort of have where machine intellegence and cloud computing is heading… though oh so crudly, ofcourse). while science and engineering, chronicly and consistenly, lag behind joseph smith and his marvelous and astute vision of reality (how many lab-rats had to be killed before it was proven that tobacoe was seriously unhealthy) it hasn’t stopped science fiction from stepping in and building worlds with brother josephs basic rules as it’s foundation. case in point. star wars . obi-wan kenobie, yoda, and darth vader (aka anikin skywalker), all appear as preresurected spirits after their death in the originally made trilogy. needless to say this was intrecal to the plot for star wars as we know it today. how many religions find this view of an afterlife sensible? how many even build temples at massive expense all over the world based on this princepal??? that there is life (as a spirit etc. etc. etc.) afterdeath?? also scientist have a very difficult time with the phisics of light sabers, the force, and other basic phisics in star wars. afterall how does one get the force to flow through ones self? (ask an lds missionay about that last one). in star wars love is a primary driver of the story. romantic love (extensively covered by joseph smith, for certain), and other kinds of love as well, is abundent in the star wars space opera. indeed the whole plot of star wars rests on the foundations of a sons love for his father (luke skywalker for ananikin skywalker i.e. darth vader) wich as any (even somewhat) devoute mormon knows is what the whole lds gospel is all about “else the earth will be utterly waisted at my (jesus christ’s) [second ] comming”. obiwan is a similar charactor to abenodie in the book of mormon. flip the story of alma and alma the younger (for each other) and skywalker jr. and skywalker sr. have significant elements in common. king noah in the book of mormon reapears as the fat slug like creature jabba the hut. the emporer in star wars could be seen as an echo of the gadianton robbers and an amalgimation of the traitors and tyrants and politicians who became kings and rulers through murder, assasination, propiganda, and secret combinations… all very much a part of the book of mormon story, to be sure. gary kurtz explained how the idea of star wars came about. he and george lucas were both working on filming the movie “american grafitee” . gary kurtz was george lucas immeadiate supervisor, aka producer. they both worked on the story for star wars and eventually made it into a movie. every actor , employee, story element etc. had to be aproved by gary kurtz. george lucas had very little religious background to speak of, and had to rely on much of the story elements… especially the qausi-religious philisophical underpinnings of star wars…with his mentor and movie producer boss gary kurtz. so how did so much lds philosophy and book of mormon plot elements get into a space opera??? perhaps the fact that gary kurtz was mormon may have had something to do with it. of course there are many many many movie and t.v. series concepts that can be traced back to mormon producers. glen larsen, battle star galactica, six million dollar man ( and woman), wonder woman, quantum leap, etc. etc. etc. the list is very long indeed just talking about science fiction. jerry nolan jurasic park etc. etc. many many movies (often with stephen spilberg) from him . certainly lds producers and artists have made a significant impact on american and world cultural , introducing lds phisics, stories, concepts of love, and so forth. and good recent example is the twilight movies and books written by mormon mommy stephanie meyers, a sunday school teacher who taught chastity in church before doing so in record breaking amounts in her movies and books. orsen scott card is also a mormon sunday school teacher writing speculative fiction books and so on. so who knows, if science fiction can adopt joseph smiths philosophies and stories… covertly ofcourse… then maybe science will do so even more than it has. joseph smith said himself that the day would come when his name shall be had amoung all people, for good or bad. already his influence is fealt in many unreconized ways, impacting millions, even billions, both outside the lds church, and inside the church. resistance to [what he insists was true] is as strong as the dark side of the force. but the truth will and must prevail. slowly but surely his philosophies sink into the collective subconscious of the masses, and become “facts” and “truth” though they (the masses) don’t even know it. his death only made his impact and influence that much more holy and unstopable. books that include his philosophies like stephainie meyers twilight books and orsen scott cards enders game books, sale millions of copies, and apeal to something primal and deap within the soul of those who read them. movies with lds philosophies hidden deep within their plot lines like star wars or battle star galactica continue to cause untold numbers of people to resonate with a spiritual force that impacts the faith of those who are influenced by them. everyday thousands of missionaries the world over, in jungles, in cities, in villages, on every continenent pass on the words of an obscure farm boy from an obscure place and time in history who had scant education in a backwoods area known as upstate new york. and the forces of darkness continue to battle against him on the internet, in the non-l.d.s. churches, and wherever darkness creeps and hides. but the darkness must secome to the light. and evermore it seems, people like george lucas, stephen spielberg, and famous authors like [dan brown] contain elements of philosophy in their books and movies that must sweep the world in it’s entirety, even when they, themselves, are not l.d.s… and in most curious ways the gospel is promoted and science cannot help but progress in the way that truth attracts. because a backwoods, under-educated country boy, son of a farmer said so. and that makes all the difference. and anyone with eyes can see that is so. who can stop the truth? those who oppose it will be everlastingly destroyed… but those who promote it (in themselves and others) will live forevever… simple logic indicates this to be accurate. simple logic indicates this to be true. afterall isn’t it more logical to trust people who believe in moral perfection, as opposed to those who don’t? logic what a concept……………

  15. Dennis
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    In reply to “Vulkin.Mormon” (or should that be “Vulcan” assuming you’re referring to “Star Trek” and not some other plot line.)

    I hadn’t known about any LDS connection in Star Wars. I had always thought that George Lucas had claimed to have conversed with a ZEN Buddhist in developing many of Obi-Wan’s and Yoda’s teachings. But, other than Buddhism’s denial of Jesus Christ and the physical ressurection, the spiritual practices of ZEN and Buddhism in general are very uplifting and helpful to the Latter-day Saints. I find much truth in their meditative recommendations, and I believe unless our spiritual practice is more righteously diligent than these our brethren, we will be found lacking.

    Anyway, on a lighter note….When you mentioned about LDS influences on movies and other modern media genres in general, it resurrected a fond memory as if it were yesterday.

    One evening, decades ago, (back in i978 or 79, I think it was,) I was watching the weekly episode of my then-favorite TV series, “Battlestar Galactica.” It was episode # 8 “War of the Gods.”

    I will never forget it when, in that episode, Starbuck (not the coffee conglomerate, ) had just been defeated and killed by the evil Count Iblis. But, shortly thereafter, both Starbuck and Sheba find themselves having a near-death-experience. They have been taken aboard a “Ship of Light” where they meet three radiant beings.

    Sheba, looking about and then at Starbuck says, “I think we might be dead!? Then Starbuck turns to the entities and asks, “Is she right? Are we dead, and you’re angels of light. The lead entity, replies, “Oddly enough, there is much truth to your speculation.”

    Starbuck asks, “Why are you doing all this? ”
    Entity: “Because we fight a common foe; the forces of darkness and evil throughout space and across all star systems.”
    Starbuck again asks, “But why are you bothering with us? We are only a simple handful of human survivors!”
    Entity: “It is because, as you are now, we once were, and as we are now, you may become.”

    Say What!
    I nearly scared my 3 little kids to death, as I yelled at my wife, “Honey you can’t imagine what I just heard quoted on Battlestar Galactica!!” (For me, hearing that phrase on national television, was so absolutely exciting you would’ve thought I was watching the 1980 BYU – SMU “Miracle Bowl” where Jim McMahon threw his “hail-Emma” pass completion and won the game as the last 2 seconds on the clock ran out.) Interestingly, the remainder of the dialog put forth this idea.

    Starbuck asks the entities, “Will you show us the way?”
    Entity: “Perhaps we can reveal to you a place of beginning.”
    Starbuk: ” And what about Count Iblis, is he one of you?”
    Entity: Through pride he was cast down. He now uses his powers to corrupt and lead other away from the truth.”
    Sheba: “But why can’t you stop him?”
    Entity: Because we cannot interfere with freedom of choice. His, yours, or anyone’s. Even Count Iblis is bound by these eternal laws. In his final confrontation with Apollo on the red planet, Apollo correctly revealed his true identity.
    (flash back)
    Apollo: “You can command no one who does not willingly give you dominion over them.
    You have not power over me.”
    Iblis: “Do You know who I am?”
    Apollo: “Yes, I finally know… Sheba, think back to the ancient records:
    the names Mephistopheles, Diabolis, the Prince of Darkness.”

    Of course, at the time, even though I didn’t know who had written it, I was certain someone of LDS faith had very definitely inserted quite a number of LDS proper names, ideas, and speculative comments. Phrases that held an amazing amount of truthful, sincere, and thoughtful Mormon philosophy. That was before the internet, but still, I was able to go to the Layton Public Library and find out about Glen Larson. I discovered he was both a producer and writer, and in this case the creator of the BG series.

    The script fairly bristled with Mormonisms. A marriage on the Colonial ship was referred to as “being sealed” to one another for time and eternity. The leaders of the fleeing human race made up the Council of the Twelve.” They casually mention their predecesors as having come from Kolob. The list went on, to the extent that I can’t even remember all the words or syntax that were just part of the dialog of the fleeing fleet of space ships. (Arks I think they called them.) I do not know if the 2003 TV remake (SiFi Channel) used any LDS terms or ideas, since I was never able to watch it.

    Anyway, thanks for the memory restart. Again, what I wrote two weeks ago, (and also now what Bro. Vulkin wrote,) is, at best, purely conjecture and supposition on our part. But it is very entertaining to think about. So, even though I do not have trouble in understanding some of the concepts and possibilities you put forth, my main point is, whatever we may theorize about is all well and good. Still, we must continue developing our strong faith and study within the revealed word.

    Whether we understand the “fabric” of the Universe, how matter is ordered for sustaining life, or just what happens to us “from a scientific view” as disembodied spirits, or resurrected beings, all these things will be shown to us in the good time of the Lord. I do not think He is annoyed, in the least, at man for seeking the answer to these “big” questions; either by faith or by study.

    “For it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments. (D&C 59:20–21)

    For me, learning and knowing what Joseph Smith was inspired to reveal to the world, will continue to be proven “not only as being correct” but “spot-on” in the description of time space and matter. So, we shouldn’t get too firmly attached to our own personal vain imaginations.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    D

    A couple of questions about your idea and proposal about matter having intelligence… I won’t argue or flat out say that isn’t correct… but there are things organized and given freedom to act, (those have agency or choice,) and there are also those that are meant to be acted upon. I don’t contend that matter has no “spirit” because that would be incorrect, but I do know that matter of all kinds can be organized to “embody” an intelligence, or in the case of our mortal matter, a spirit. However, if that intelligence or spirit chooses to sin, it too can then lose it’s ability to act, and will therefore, be acted upon. (This is the crux of the problem for mortals, we are, in our natural state, prone to sinning and can lose both our agency, and our control over our decision making process. If not here in mortality, then after we leave this mortal existence. The LAWS of God are set. When we are obedient, the laws of heaven cannot refrain from blessing us and causing us to be enlarged in good choices. But if we do not what He says, we have no promise.

  16. Yak
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m new to your website, and I thank you for the great insights. I too just finished The Lost Symbol and found it very interesting, being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints myself. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other modern prophets all chose to define the Gospel as “Truth”. Reminds me of the lecture Peter Solomon gave when he was challenged about his beliefs…..
    The Mormon faith embraces all truth–whether scientific, religious, spiritual, or what have you. More importantly, it provides a framework and “tools”" to determine what is true and what is not.

  17. Darkbull
    Posted December 26, 2009 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Just started reading Dan Brown’s book and came across your blog. Very interesting and compelling insights.

    The thing that has struck me in this entire discussion is that (and I’m only about 100 pages into “The Lost Symbol”) there is a search for the power latent in the human mind/spirit that Langdon’s friend and sister are seeking, and that the antagonist (the tattoo man–kind of like the smoking man, eh?) is seeking to keep this knowledge hidden from the masses. Similarly, Christ has taught us that great knowledge is hidden for multiple reasons: to avoid its abuse, to protect those who wouldn’t understand how to use it wisely, and to damn those who don’t actively seek it (there may be other reasons, but those are the ones that most quickly come to my mind).

    On page 100, Mal’akh ponders that, “Katherine’s research was poised to open a new door of understanding, and once the door was opened even a crack, others would follow. It would just be a matter of time before everything changed. I cannot let that happen. The world must stay as it is… adrift in ignorant darkness.” One might see a nefarioius purpose in his plan, but I considered the possibility that God sometimes protects/shields us from greater light because we are not ready to receive it. That is one of the great purposes of symbols and allegories. As one gains more wisdom, they understand rituals, ceremonies, ordinances to a greater degree than they did previously. He also keeps a people in darkness, like he did the Lamanites, because He knows that we each must be accountable for the knowledge we gain, and He loves us enough to not give us that knowledge until we have the potential to do something good with it.

    Hence, I could see how a character like Mal’akh might be a protector–not of secret knowledge, but a protector of those who might unwittingly expose themselves to the burden of its stewardship. I’m sure that as I continue on with the book, I’ll find out that that’s not the case, but it is interesting to consider that viewpoint on his purpose.

  18. Darkbull
    Posted December 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Bryce,

    I just finished reading through your paper. Thanks for putting it out there for our reading. I enjoyed it. Another movie I thought of when reading your paper was “Dark City” with Rufus Sewell, a story of a city created by an alien race–and one man who stays awake during the time period when the aliens emerge to change things in their “experiment”. He is continually seeking a beach that is in his memory, but that doesn’t exist. Captivating movie.

    Additionally, in your discussion of LDS doctrine and it’s relationship to the Cave allegory, I was surprised you didn’t discuss Lehi and Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life, how people were blinded by the fog and were lost (blinded by the light), how the spacious building was full of people who mocked those who would seek the Tree (outside of the cave), and how some partook of the tree (emerged from the cave), but then became ashamed and fell away (going back to the “safety” of their prior reality). Nonetheless, though I feel a bit embarrassed to have been ignorant of this allegory, thank you for sharing it with me. I had never heard of it before, and didn’t see the link between things like “The Matrix” and Rush’s “2112.” (excellent choice, by the way).

    Another scriptural parallel to the “Cave” that I have always found beautifully poetic, but never saw in this light until now, is Hebrews chapter 11. Paul shares the notion of exiting the cave in a longing way, speaking of recognizing the falsehood of the cave (v.14), the fear of one leaving the cave (v. 15), and then finally striking out into the sunlight (v.16). I’m so glad I learned of this allegory, because it just adds that much more to how much I have always loved that scripture!

    What I find essential in this discussion is the fact that we can theorize on the possibility that this is all a dream, and find interesting notions to explain why it is such. But to what end does this bring us? If it doesn’t serve a purpose, it becomes the stuff of salons and High Priest group meetings (little joke there), talk without action. That is where the religious aspect of this “science” is so important, because the purpose of these theories is to motivate us toward our and our fellow man’s salvation. To become saviors in a small way as the Savior himself, and in doing so, exiting the “Matrix” or “cave” or “coming to the Tree” or coming to the “city” that God has prepared for us.

  19. Rolando Salazar
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Just started reading Dan Brown’s Lost Sysmbol and was Googling the apothoesis of Washington and found your blog. Great stuff. I was also intrigued by his gospel references. I would refer you to a fascinating series on Science Channel hosted by Morgan Freeman called Through the Wormhole. The series explores many of quantum physics theories. The theories are interesting to the LDS viewer as many nuggets of knowledge are scattered throughout the show touching upon Mormon doctrine in referrence to intelligences and other dimensions. The first episode tackles intelligent design.

  20. Andrew Lacayo
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    I too think it’s interesting that “intelligences” were mentioned in the book, however I don’t agree with your interpretation of what an intelligence is. Yes it is not the clearest thing to read about in Abraham, but in D&C 93:29 it says intelligence was not created or made, it was eternal, however, we do know our spirit bodies were created at a specific moment in our existence, although the material that they were made from is also eternal. So therefore, intelligence is different logically, than spirit bodies. I’ve heard all the arguments about intelligences being the same as spirits, but even in the January 2005 Ensign it states that “spirit bodies housed intelligence” proving the church doctrine is that intelligences are different than spirit bodies, and that intelligences are pre-spirit body entities. So whatever else that has been said about the subject that teaches something different, even from Joseph Smith, is just a misinterpretation.

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