Reconstructing the narrative surrounding Joseph Smith

(This continues a series of posts about reconstructing the Mormon/Christian narrative. Please read this introductory post first, if you haven’t already, before continuing.)

Who was Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844)? He’s been quite an enigma both within and outside of Mormonism since his death. Many Mormons see him as a deeply gifted prophet of God, in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and even Moses. He recorded and published new scripture, the Book of Mormon, just like ancient prophets. Many Mormons revere him as someone who restored Christianity in its purity, even the original Christian church and true gospel of Jesus. They believe he received true priesthood authority from God to perform real saving rituals, ordinances, and act as a “high priest” to bring others into the presence of God.

Continue reading “Reconstructing the narrative surrounding Joseph Smith”

A Radical Reconstruction of the Mormon Narrative (and Christianity)

Richard L. Bushman, a leading scholar of Mormonism and foremost biographer of its founder Joseph Smith, said the following during a meeting on June 12, 2016:

I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained. The Church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky grounds and that’s what it is trying to do and it will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. But I think it has to change.

I think these words will echo for many decades to come, as Mormonism comes to grips with its history, theology, and scriptures in the light of new modern understandings and shifts in the way people are approaching spirituality. Many things about its traditional narrative just don’t ring “true” to many people anymore. I will begin to offer a radical reconstruction of the Mormon narrative, what I think may be a better interpretation of the revelation in our modern day, which also applies in many ways to Christianity in general. Continue reading “A Radical Reconstruction of the Mormon Narrative (and Christianity)”

Is the Truth Really Found “Within”?

Some Mormons, other Christians, and perhaps people generally, are uncomfortable with the idea that the truth is found within us. They might consider this to be incompatible with the gospel, navel-gazing, narcissism, and selfishness. But I think the whole purpose and goal of the Christian gospel, and of spirituality more generally, is to help us discover that Truth is at the core of our being, which is our divine nature in God, in Reality. This is beyond all that is “selfish” in us, reaching the ground of who and what we really are. Continue reading “Is the Truth Really Found “Within”?”

The “Hidden Treasure” of God in Mormonism and Buddhism

In my paper “The Book of Mormon as Literary Alchemy: Joseph’s Magnum Opus and the Philosopher’s Stone,” I suggested that the “gold plates” that Joseph Smith had in his possession were not actually made of gold, and did not actually contain ancient historical records like Mormons traditionally think. But that doesn’t mean that there were not “gold plates” which were a kind of “hidden treasure” that Joseph really did discover within himself, which was the source of real divine wisdom, “ancient wisdom,” and which he taught could be found within all people as well. Such teachings can be found in other spiritual traditions too, including Buddhism. First I’ll review a few of Joseph’s writings about this “hidden treasure,” and then I’ll turn to the Buddhist concepts that seem to reflect a similar nature. Continue reading “The “Hidden Treasure” of God in Mormonism and Buddhism”

Four Types or Stages of Resurrection

It seems to me that there are at least four types of resurrection, or at least four stages of the process of being resurrected, or events that could be considered resurrection. But first, this is according to the understanding of resurrection that I have outlined in previous posts, so if you aren’t familiar with those please take a look. In short, the resurrection is not something that happens to us after biological death, rejoining our dead physical body back to our ego “spirit,” as most of Christianity has come to believe, but rather it is a falling away of the ego psychological “self” and an awakening to the true Self or true Life within us and all things. Continue reading “Four Types or Stages of Resurrection”

The Book of Mormon as Literary Alchemy: Joseph’s Magnum Opus and the Philosopher’s Stone

Bryce Haymond

Abstract: Joseph Smith’s activity in bringing forth the Book of Mormon can be viewed as a project of alchemy, which was influenced by his affiliation with treasure digging, the folk magic worldview, the Hermetic tradition,1 as well as his many mystical spiritual experiences. I suggest he initially sought to bring the “gold plates” of his visions into material reality, and in the process discovered the true “gold” was within himself, the elusive Philosopher’s Stone. Continue reading “The Book of Mormon as Literary Alchemy: Joseph’s Magnum Opus and the Philosopher’s Stone”

Misreading Scripture as Literal History: Elephants in the Book of Mormon

Religious texts are most often not literal history.

They are allegories, narratives, parables, metaphors, similes, symbols, poetry, stories, visions, and figurative language. They are not relating precise word-for-word conversations of the past, nor are they detailing literal events that took place. Yes, the Bible talks about many people and places that may have really existed in the past, and may even abstractly refer to events that really took place, but it is not a history book. Continue reading “Misreading Scripture as Literal History: Elephants in the Book of Mormon”