Posted on Leave a comment

Did Methodist Minister Scold Young Joseph?

As we mentioned in a previous conversation with Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith’s First Vision was quite similar to Methodist visions of Christ of the day.  Dan says it doesn’t make sense for a Methodist minister to question Joseph’s vision.  I asked Dr. Steven Harper, author of “First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins” to weigh in on this issue.

GT:  I wonder about this other issue. Methodists were known for having visions, so, it seems a little strange that a Methodist minister would reject Joseph.  Could it have been a Presbyterian minister, because they weren’t as into ecstatic religious experiences, were they?

Steven:  You’re right about that, but it’s probably a Methodist minister. I don’t think Joseph is mistaken about that. Let me give you a potential interpretation of the facts that make sense. So, right now you’re feeling like there’s incongruity in Joseph’s story. If he had reported a vision…

GT:  I’m trying to give Dan’s view.

Steven:  Right. That’s what he’s saying, exactly.

Steven:  Joseph is not attuned to the fine points of debate, even inside the Methodist clergy. He doesn’t know, as a later author put it, that orthodoxy became Methodized, and then Methodism became orthodox. In other words, he’s not aware of what the Methodist ministers are aware of. That means that he thinks that going into the woods and having a vision is evidence of a Methodist conversion.  It finally worked. The Methodists told me that might work. It was a Methodist minister, who said, “If you lack wisdom, ask God. I did everything they said, and I tried it and tried it before and it never worked, and, finally, it worked.” So, Joseph’s initial interpretation of his experience is, “I have now a Methodist conversion.” What you do in that case, is you report it to the Minister. You get validated. He’s shocked when he gets anything but validated, and so that’s the point, right? You’re saying, “Well, wouldn’t a Methodist minister say, ‘Yeah, that was a great vision you had.'”  Not necessarily.

Steven: Right.  Think about reasons why that might not be the default response. This Methodist minister may be aware that Methodism is trending toward enthusiasm, which is not a positive term in those days. That means to be crazy, or it’s beginning to be [thought of as being crazy.]”  There are some in the Methodist ministry, who are trying to pull back from that over-enthusiastic response.  Lorenzo Dow is still going, and he’s still working people into frenzy, but some of the Methodist clergy are saying, “Oh, that’s just a little too weird for me.” It’s also the case that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, has prophesied, “Look. We’re going to grow like gangbusters, and the risk we run is becoming formalists.” We might grow exponentially and get to a point where we’re like everybody else where we speak of God with our mouths, but we deny the power thereof. We have a form of godliness, but we deny His power. “Don’t ever do that,” John Wesley says. So let’s say you’re a Methodist minister, and you’ve been influential in getting this feeling among the people that they can come to Christ. It’s all good until you see maybe some people getting a little excessive for your comfort level, maybe going a little too far. Then one of them comes to you and says, “Guess what? It worked. I saw God and Christ in the woods, and guess what they said? Everybody here, including you, sir, have a form of godliness, but you deny the power, thereof.” That’s the cue for the Methodist minister to say, “[No.]”

Were you aware that Methodists of the day had visions of Christ?  Did a Methodist minister scold Joseph about his vision? Check out our conversation….

Did a Methodist Minister really scold young Joseph Smith about the First Vision?

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Steve!

515: Were Revivals in Palmyra in 1820?

514: Memory Problems with First Vision

Posted on Leave a comment

Strangite Teachings about Jesus (Part 5 of 6)

Most Christians believe that God, not Joseph, is the biological father of Jesus.  I was surprised to learn that Strangites break with most Christians on this important point.  Historian Bill Shepard will tell us more about Strangite beliefs about Jesus.

GT:  I remember reading in your book that Strangites believe that God has a body of flesh and bone.

Bill:  That’s right.

GT:  So that would be very similar with the Utah church, in that regard.

Bill:  Yeah, it’d be similar, particularly with The Lectures on Faith, the first and sixth Lectures on Faith.

GT:  It’s interesting that you say that because I remember when I read Lectures on Faith, it seemed very Trinitarian to me.

Bill  60:14  I think it was, but it was saying that God cannot change. Where the difference would be, the Brighamites, with the eternal progression–I’m not shooting at Brighamites. I’m just saying that that the idea comes in that God can change.  There can be evolution in God, where the Strangites, of course, would be so strongly different is that God cannot change.

GT:  Okay.  So let’s move on to Jesus, because what you said, I think it is a very different belief with regards to Jesus.  Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary, like the literal son, not [the son of] Mary and God.

Bill:  Yeah. That’s right.

GT:  I think that’s really surprising to people.

Bill:  The idea of the immaculate conception, Isaiah 7:14, “A virgin shall conceive and bear a child and it shall be [called Immanuel].”  So this idea is rejected. That prophecy is fulfilled. It was given to Ahaz and it was fulfilled at that time, and it was plucked out by the evolving Christian Church to make Christ more palatable to people who believed in virgin birth. So Strang is going to teach that Jesus…I think there’s a lot we don’t understand or maybe I don’t understand, but that Jesus is born in the natural way. Whether it was through administered by angels or something, but he is going to realize that, as he is evolving, that he is special. The Book of the Law is going to say that, during this period, that Jesus was wholly harmless, and without sin.  He never stepped aside once from the path of rectitude to do a single evil deed.  Jesus would never do anything to imperil his brethren and so forth like this. We believe that Jesus is caught up by the angel, taken into the wilderness, the 40 days, the 40 nights. We believe that he is ordained by an angel.  We don’t know when, but that when he comes out of the wilderness, he is armed. He is a first-degree law-giver prophet, or the prophet. He is not God. He is armed with the priesthood and through the power of the priesthood, and his immaculate good works. Again, the phrase the Strangites like to use is wholly harmless, and without sin. He is never stepping aside from the path of rectitude to do a single evil deed.  Christ maintained this sinless mortal life. Because he was able to maintain this with total allegiance to God, the relationship that he never seemingly took [upon himself], he gave the credit to God. So anyway, at the Mount of Transfiguration, the Strangites believe and it talks when Peter, James and John go to a high mountain apart, they believe that God appeared, himself, and ordained him.

GT: Ordained Jesus?

Bill:  [The angels] ordained Jesus to be the Son of God. He is elevated by the power of the priesthood. We say Jesus did not have his full power at that time. Strangites would say that it is only after he is resurrected, the only person Christ would resurrect. With the resurrection, Jesus is going to say to various people that he is now perfected, because he has the keys of death and hell. So he came by this on his total faith that he would be resurrected. They believe that the person that appeared to Peter and the other people and the ladies and so forth, that this was, indeed the Son of God.

Check out our conversation…

Strangites don’t believe in the Immaculate Conception. James Strang taught Jesus had human parents like everyone else.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Bill!

400: Martyrdom of James Strang (Shepard)

399: Strang’s Prophetic Role as Translator (Shepard)

398: Strang’s Mormon Missions (Shepard)

397: “The Other Mormons”-Intro to James Strang

Posted on Leave a comment

God in a Box or Pyramid? (Part 5 of 8)

As humans, we try to understand God, and sometimes we put him in a box.  But would a pyramid be a better idea?  Benjamin Shaffer & David Patrick of Christ’s Church share their feelings on the Adam-God theory and talk about cubes & pyramids to describe God.

Benjamin:  Open up the scriptures anywhere, including the Doctrine and Covenants, which you think would be more clear because it’s more recent, and you will find plenty of instances where–just go ahead and get yourself three highlighter colors, and try to decide exactly which member of the Godhead to speaking at any given moment. You’ll find that it’s an impossible task. They switch off in ways that are quite convoluted and confusing. Go to the Book of Mormon and read what Abinadi says in his descriptions of God, and some people say this sounds very Trinitarian.

They get rather confused. Well, wait a second, which individual do you mean? I think that this is just a wrong way of approaching the question of what is God. We’re trying to put him in a box and we’re trying to put him in this box that’s based on American individualism, where the individual is so paramount. The whole point of the Godhead, the whole point of them being one–and when we say the Father and the Son are one God, I mean, phrases like that appear in the scriptures. How can they be one if we’re constantly trying to turn them into separate individuals? So I guess what I’m trying to say is yes, we do believe that there are such things as individuals. We’re not completely rejecting that but, I think that that really breaks down when you start talking about God. I know this is an outside source, but if you if you go to Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talks a lot about maybe our problem is that we’re so two dimensional. Individuals are like squares, we keep thinking squares, squares squares, and that each square is separate from every other square. In order to really comprehend the Godhead, you have to recognize that there are a cube. That means that you’ve got to get away from this two dimensional thinking, where we’re so fundamentally focused on squares and how every square is separate, how every square is individual. You know what a cube is made out of six individual squares. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t one shape. It’s not. It is one thing.

GT:  So you know, that’s interesting that you said squares because I thought you were going to go with pyramid. Because in your presentation you said you represented a pyramid. Can we talk about that?

Benjamin:  Sure. So oftentimes we look at the Godhead as a triangle, right? There is plenty of Trinitarian, especially iconography. We have the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. It’s that triangle shape. But we’re talking about this as a hierarchy or generations of the gods, which creates this plurality of the gods situation. So instead of seeing it like a triangle, I kind of want to turn it three dimensional. When you turn a triangle three dimensional, all you see is the line. But I’m saying the Godhead isn’t a two dimensional shape. It’s a three dimensional spiral. So that as it goes down through these generations of the gods–the Godhead. Yes, you can view it as a triangle if you’re thinking two dimensionally. But if you’re thinking three dimensionally, it’s more that God’s ways are one eternal round as its described. So then there’s no problem with there being multiple generations of the gods: Elohim, Jehovah, Michael, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and essentially by theory on and on, throughout eternity. Each person takes on those roles, fulfills those principles. Jesus is never called, for example, Jehovah, we like to point out. We don’t believe that the title Jehovah applied to Jesus Christ before His resurrection, but there is a reference in the Doctrine and Covenants, saying that the voice of Jehovah came saying, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ.” [This] is in the Doctrine and Covenants. But the title, Jehovah, if these are all priesthood titles can be applied to Jesus when he takes that role. So again, instead of just thinking Father, Son, Holy Ghost as a two dimensional thing, and when we think of it as this spiral, we recognize that each of these roles, each of these titles can be adopted by a different member of the Godhead at a different time.

What do you think of this explanation?  Check out our conversation…

Benjamin Shaffer and David Patrick describe the Adam-God doctrine as a three-dimensional object rather than the two-dimensional triangle of the trinity or godhead. Photo of Christ’s Church Temple courtesy of Benjamin Shaffer.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with David & Benjamin!

384: Documentary Hypothesis & Adam-God

383: Intro to Adam-God Theory

382: Scriptures of Christ’s Church

381: Intro to Christ’s Church