The Interpreter Foundation sponsored a conference on November 9, 2013, entitled “Science & Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth & Man” in Provo, Utah. It was filmed. Videos of each of the presentations are now available for free viewing on The Interpreter Foundation’s YouTube channel, or at MormonInterpreter.com. They are also embedded below. [Read more…]
What is mysticism? That is the million dollar question.
It is incredibly difficult to define. Wikipedia defines it as the “pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight.” What? By combining all possible definitions into one, they have created an incomprehensible one.
Let’s turn to some closer associates. Hugh Nibley once defined it, quoting Eduard Lehmann, as “an intuitive and ecstatic union with the deity obtained by means of contemplation and other mental exercises.” Professor William Hamblin turns to oft-repeated definitions such as “a domain of religion that deals with the search for and the attainment of a profound experiential knowledge of God or of ultimate reality,” or, “mysticism is … a type of religious experience which involves a sense of union or merging with either God or an all-pervading spiritual force in the universe,” but finds even these lacking. In Kevin Christensen’s recent Interpreter review of Margarget Barker’s book Temple Mysticism: An Introduction he indicated that his “favorite LDS approach” to the topic has become Mark E. Koltko’s essay “Mysticism and Mormonism: An LDS Perspective on Transcendence and Higher Consciousness,” found in the April 1989 issue of Sunstone. We’ll come back to this shortly. Christensen notes that while Nibley’s view tends to be the more conventional definition, Margaret Barker’s own use of the term in her book is very different still, focusing on the experience of “seeing the Lord,” i.e. a temple theophany. While different, there is clearly overlap between the ideas of “a union with deity,” and “seeing God,” as Matthew Bowen also elucidates in his recent article in Interpreter. Koltko’s essay also perhaps helps bridge the gap. [Read more…]
Ever since the revelation referred to as the “Word of Wisdom,” and now contained in D&C 89, was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith there has been talk of whether or not it is an effective physical health standard. I think it is perhaps beyond argument that it is effective spiritually, at least for those who believe that obedience to God’s word will bring them closer to Him (John 14:23), but the revelation also notes physical and mental benefits for keeping this word of wisdom, which can also have spiritual side effects:
- “shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones” (v18)
- “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures” (v19)
- “shall run and not be weary” (v20)
- “shall walk and not faint” (v20)
- “the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them” (v21)
I shared my relative’s story, Creed Haymond, in my last post (or rather Creed shared it), which is a clear example of obedience to the Word of Wisdom blessing one to be able to “run and not be weary” and “walk and not faint.”
But there are many who still question the physical benefits of the Word of Wisdom, for one reason or another. For example, some might point to studies which show that there might be a health benefit to a low consumption of alcohol, as evidence against the Word of Wisdom. However, I believe there exists an abundance of scientific evidence that the proscriptions contained in the Word of Wisdom are for our general health benefit, both physically and mentally, and therefore also spiritually, much of which evidence has come to light since the revelation was given to Joseph Smith in 1833. I will give only one good example, which I just today came across. [Read more…]
Professor Daniel C. Peterson wrote a column in the Deseret News today about temples. In particular, he focuses on how temples have anciently been revealed through prophets of God, and how that pattern continues in these latter days. Examples include:
- Kirtland Temple as was revealed to Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams
- Salt Lake Temple was revealed to Brigham Young
- Smaller temples design was revealed to Gordon B. Hinckley
Peterson concludes, “Temples are a central element in the restoration of all things, and, often even in the details of their origins, they represent powerful evidence for the divine calling of Joseph Smith and his successors.”
Read the article at the Deseret News.
Some criticize the Church because of one doctrine we hold most dear, which is exaltation. This has also been referred to at different times and places as godhood, deification, divinization, taking upon the divine nature, making divine, or theosis (also theiosis, theopoiesis, theōsis; from the Greek Θέωσις). It is, in its most basic description, that man may become like God. Many of our fellow Christians see this as the ultimate blasphemy and heresy. How could man ever become like God? Why would he want to do so? Doesn’t this go against everything God has taught through his holy word? The reality is that this concept has been a fundamental part of Christian thought since early Christianity, found throughout the Bible and in early Christian writings. Unfortunately, this Christian teaching has been largely lost over the ages.
God restored the doctrine of exaltation through the Prophet Joseph Smith, as part of the restoration of the church of Jesus Christ. Some have thought that Joseph’s teaching of this concept was a rather late invention of the prophet, near the end of his life. However, the doctrine can be found even in the Book of Mormon, which was published before the church was formally organized.
I recently came across two great articles that were published that discuss this topic.
- Daniel C. Peterson, “Defending the Faith: Exaltation isn’t a new doctrine,” Deseret News, 8 November 2012. Peterson shows in this article how the doctrine of exaltation, or theosis, was not a late revelation in the restoration of the Church, but is found throughout the teachings of Joseph Smith.
- Elder Tad R. Callister, Presidency of the Seventy, “Our Identity and Our Destiny,” BYU Devotional Address, Campus Education Week, 14 August 2012. Elder Callister fantastically presents five witnesses of the truth of the doctrine of deification: the testimony of the scriptures, the witness of the early Christian writers, the wisdom of poets and authors, the power of logic, and the voice of history.
I highly recommend these two articles. If you want even further in-depth study, then I also suggest William J. Hamblin’s excellent recent publication in the Interpreter journal, “‘I Have Revealed Your Name': The Hidden Temple in John 17,” where Hamblin discusses the chapter of John 17 in fine detail, revealing the strong temple concepts embedded in the text, including theosis. He also includes an appendix with a bibliography of twenty-three recent scholars’ books on the subject of deification, published just in the last decade, all of them Christian, that you may dive into to learn more about this very Christian teaching.