The Keys to Prophecy


The Keys to Prophecy
Copyright © 2004 Anthony E. Larson

Part of the mystique surrounding prophecy are the curious, symbolic images and phrases that seem to show up over and over. Whether in the writings of Ezekiel or the writings of Joseph Smith it’s almost like being a prophet included being a poet with a strange vocabulary. What if those symbolic images were based on things seen the world over in ancient times and Joseph Smith could offer us a key to unlock them?

An Introduction
Thanks to modern revelation, Mormons understand quite well what the prophets taught. The gospel has been made very plain due to the restoration and the ministering of modern prophets. But there is one exception to that rule: prophecy. It seems that the imagery of prophecy is still, to a great extent, an enigma to us. Visions such as those of John in Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel and Isaiah — just to name a few — are loaded with symbolism that mystifies us. Even some of Joseph Smith’s prophecies have these same, symbolic features. Sections 88 and 133 of Doctrine and Covenants are a case in point. The fact that Joseph Smith used imagery consistent with that of the ancient prophets is a powerful verification of his calling as a prophet, but it still does little to help us interpret the mystifying symbolism of prophecy — either ancient or modern. There has been no shortage of those who claim to have the answers to prophecy. A whole host of books attest to the sad fact that anyone’s guess is as good as another’s. A survey of the multitude of present offerings suggests that very nearly all of it is guesswork and hunches,



1 An Introduction


since none of it actually gives the reader the tools to interpret prophecy. Each interpretation depends on its founder’s own approach. Of course, anyone can open the scriptures, turn to a prophetic passage and hazard a guess at the meaning of the inspired imagery found there. And many do. Warning of this very practice, Peter wrote, “No prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation.” In fact, such guessing is at the heart of the confusion that reigns in Christendom where prophecy is concerned. The would-be interpreters either avoid the most mysterious imagery, or they try to interpret it by turning to speculation. The basic, underlying supposition of most analysts is that the Old Testament prophets, upon seeing our technologically advanced world in vision, were at a loss for words. Hence, they turned to imagery to describe what they saw in revelations. For example, an atomic bomb became “a pillar of fire and smoke,” or an attack helicopter firing missiles became “locusts” with “stings in their tails.” However, research suggests that the prophets were using traditional imagery of their time, talking about natural events of which we know little or nothing. We’ll see that we are oblivious to the the things that they took for granted. Most damaging is that modern expositors’ interpretations take to be literal what was meant to be imagery and metaphor. Contrarily, they also resort to the opposite device, making symbolic what was meant to be literal. Thus, they almost entirely sabotage the original meaning of the prophets’ words. What analysts universally fail to see is that there are numerous hints — ‘keys’ if you will — found in the scriptures, modern revelation and ancient history that all move us closer to understanding prophecy. By letting the prophets speak for themselves, rather than ‘interpreting’ their words, we discover those keys. There are hints everywhere in ancient cultures that the images of scriptural prophecy were customary, traditional images, common to all early peoples. Thus, the study of ancient iconography or symbolism becomes an invaluable interpretive tool in our quest to discern the meaning of prophetic imagery.

such as the book of Abraham. some in the words of modern prophets. 2004 . this effort is fundamentally about understanding the gospel itself rather than just the narrow confines of prophecy. we see the big picture. “Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever cause to be written. Some are found in scripture. Joseph Smith’s statement.1 An Introduction 3 This article is the introduction to a series that identifies and explains the various keys to prophecy. which came from that study. they are curiously insightful.” In subsequent installments in this series we will carefully search out and examine each of these clues as we unravel the mysteries of prophecy. It will also explain Joseph Smith’s interest in things Egyptian and the revelations. It will explain otherwise enigmatic statements by Joseph Smith and other modern prophets since his time—statements that have been neglected or dismissed by many lds scholars because of their seeming irrelevance or lack of substantiation. some in science and some in comparative mythology. as it turns out. When all the pieces are in place. © anthony e. jointly. Like fitting the pieces into a puzzle. Still more remarkable is the discovery that this analysis will reveal uncommon knowledge about temples ancient and modern — from the icons that adorn their exteriors and interiors to the very purpose of the rituals enacted within and what they are meant to teach us. Indeed. So. larson. They produce a comprehensive explanation of prophetic symbolism. Hence. the very foundations of our faith. each key adds a little to our understanding of prophecy. Singly. this study will lead us to understand more clearly even the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. they make a powerful case for a truly novel method of interpreting prophecy. But what may be even more exciting and enlightening is that this quest will also allow us to better understand all the ancient imagery found in the Bible and even in modern revelation. making the picture more complete. They make prophecy plain and understandable for anyone. Only a study of correct principles could have such sweeping and profound implications and ramifications.

cited by Joseph Smith. The translation should have been rendered ‘image’ instead of ‘beast. corresponds to Daniel’s Babylonian era. all three words mean the same thing. but the images or figures of those beasts. what they saw were substitutes for the animals or beasts named. which. “When the prophets speak of seeing beasts in their visions. So.” or “symbol. 343. “The first was like a lion.” (History of the Church.) Here is that very “image of a beast” that conforms to Daniels description.” In this context.” (Daniel 7:4. they mean 2 ---------µ . It is a lion with wings and it stands erect. may help to clarify. but that they saw the image or figure of a beast. Rather. An example of these “beasts” from Daniel. Daniel did not see an actual bear or a lion. “The prophets do not declare that they saw a beast or beasts. not representations or pictures of the actual animals or creatures.2 Joseph Smith’s Marvelous Key 4 ----------µ Joseph Smith’s Marvelous Key The first and perhaps most crucial key to prophecy was revealed in this dispensation by Joseph Smith when he spoke on the subject of scriptural imagery. and had eagle’s wings … and was made stand upon the feet as a man ….’ in every instance where beasts are mentioned by the prophets. Similar terms used by today’s scholars are “icon. p. coincidentally. That is.) Joseph’s use of the term “image” makes his meaning clear. these images Joseph referred to are the icons of ancient cultures. the images they saw were icons. It is the mythical Babylonian “monster” Tiamat.

having seven heads and ten horns. Beasts aren’t the only images in prophecy. the prophet mentioned Daniel’s vision of a four-headed beast. another a bear and the third a leopard. and saw a beast rise up out of the sea. albeit obliquely. p. highways. and what leaps out at us. Instead.” (Ibid. they being types to represent certain things. We read of kings. mountains. locusts and women as well. John apparently described seeing the same beast.. are some of the same images we see on the walls of ancient temples and monuments. and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. although his description varies slightly from Daniel’s. 343. They are everywhere in ancient cultures. individuals or objects.) . we can infer that all these are meant to convey meaning and not depict real creatures. and upon his horns ten crowns. The fourth he described as a “dreadful and terrible. to name just a few. Egyptian or Babylonian religious art. overwhelming and mysterious. Open the quintessentially prophetic book of Revelation.2 Joseph Smith’s Marvelous Key 5 that they saw the images. For example. they are meant to symbolize or represent cultural gods and traditions that were well understood by the people of their era. stars.” (Revelation 13:1. in that same sermon.” beast with ten heads. temples. When we look at Hebrew. One looked like a lion. “And I stood upon the sand of the sea.) The profound importance of this bit of information becomes clear when we consider that “images” were the very things that the ancients venerated. Drawing on Joseph’s statement. we are confronted by nothing but images and symbols. given this new perspective. even though Joseph Smith made the connection. This is a key to scriptural iconography that almost everyone has missed.

Here we see the Babylonian dragon Tiamat. a lion. (Revelation 13:2. an ox and an eagle. meaning that these images were borrowed by the Hebrew prophets.) John listed the four as well as a man. a calf and an eagle. S ome beasts of prophecy are virtually identical to the four images on Egyptian funerary jars.” further confirming our thesis. Note that this illustration predates John and Daniel.) Astoundingly. this beast—wounded head and all—was depicted in Mesopotamian cylinder seal art hundreds of years before John and Daniel described seeing them in vision. doing battle with Marduk. We tend to think of . Revelation and Abraham. Ezekiel also saw a creature with four heads. 1 in the Pearl of Great Price. John also described seeing aspects of the leopard. clearly the archetype of John’s and Daniel’s beast. listed as that of a man. where Joseph describes them as “idolatrous gods.) Most stunning of all to Latter-day Saints is that these same four “beasts” can be seen in Facsimile No.) This suggests that they were describing the same images. 7.2 Joseph Smith’s Marvelous Key 6 Further.” (Revelation 13:3. a lion. And John added this peculiar detail: “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death. seen here beneath the couch on the Joseph Smith papyri. (Ezekiel 1:10. Other examples of this link between ancient imagery and prophetic imagery are found in Ezekiel. and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. bear and lion in his beast. (Revelation 4:6.

we have been repeatedly exposed to these images.” (2 Peter 1:20. and many more like them. Then. though their prophets strove mightily to curb that idolatry. This is likely what Peter meant when he wrote. Thus.3 The Prophets’ Language 7 scriptural imagery as unique. we see that while the visions of the prophets may have been about the future. guessing — the preferred method of modern interpreters — is out. in fact — are derived from one common source: the heavens of antiquity. “And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God. for clarity. We simply failed to recognize them in the scriptures because our mindset told us they were images of things from the future. Of course.” as Joseph said. © anthony e. Israel strayed into the same practices as their neighbors.” (2 Peter 1:19. As it turns out. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy …. though it is universally true of ancient cultures. that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. the images of prophecy were well established and understood in his day. something completely separate and apart from that of other cultures and religions. We have only to look at Hebrew history to determine this. he added. 2004 ----------µ The Prophets’ Language The bizarre and mystifying images employed by the prophets — by all ancient cultures. “…they being types to represent certain things. and 3 ---------µ . But the above examples. “Knowing this first. The prophets’ sacred imagery drew its symbolism from the same sources as the idolatrous imagery of the pagans. So it is that we must first look backward in time to learn the meaning of those ancient symbols before we can properly attempt to interpret their use in visions of future events. amply demonstrate that this is not so. to know the meaning of these symbols. not the past. larson. hence the conspicuous similarities between mythological imagery and scriptural imagery.) That is to say.) In other words. we must learn their source and what they meant to those who held them sacred. the imagery they employed was already ancient in their day.

This concept is key to understanding the meaning of the prophets. even two calves. to the sun. it was the worship of astral images that the Lord. along with the sun and the moon.” (2 Kings 17:16) King Josiah attempted to “put down the idolatrous priests. illustrations of the Egyptian goddess Hathor always depict her either as a cow with what is called a “sun disk” between her horns or as a queen wearing a disk and horns on her head. 23:5. And the heaven spoken of is the vault of the sky over the Earth where all such astral bodies reside. the Israelites worshipped the stars and the planets in identical fashion to their neighbors the Babylonians. shouldest be driven to worship them. among the things designated as the “host of heaven.” Note that calves.3 The Prophets’ Language 8 made them molten images. The prophets referred to astral or cosmological bodies. them also that burned incense unto Baal. moon. and served Baal. and to the moon. and when thou seest the sun. and worshipped all the host of heaven. Scholars who study antiquity have long asserted this. Pay particular attention to the fact that planets are listed. and to the planets.) Clearly this “host” or group was not comprised of God and his angels. italics added. the Assyrians and the Egyptians. and made a grove. planets and stars. speaking through Moses. and serve them …. and the heaven spoken of is not God’s residence. Likewise. condemned “… lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven.” (Deuteronomy 4:19. and in the places round about Jerusalem.” (ibid. even all the host of heaven. whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah.) So. and to all the host of heaven. and the moon. . cows and bulls were intrinsic symbols employed in their worship and the implication long recognized by scholars that Baal was an astral or cosmological deity. as is specifically stated: the sun. In fact. and the stars.

they being types to represent certain things.” (History of the Church. in the cities of Judah. and Diana. to burn incense unto the queen of heaven. Tellingly. Inanna. and the moon under her feet. or Sekhmet. they mean that they saw the images. the same imagery can be found in other biblical pronouncements. and our princes. Minerva. we see an abundance of such cosmological imagery in prophetic declarations —especially those concerning the last days.) This ‘woman. emphasized that the Egyptians’ gods represented “planets” and “stars” when he produced his explanations of his Egyptian papyri. 343. “But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth.) Sumerians also called their sky goddess. reflected that astral worship —reverence for the stars. moon. is the same ‘woman’ worshipped by the idolatrous Israelites. illuminating their origins for us.” She was the Babylonians’ Ishtar. the Assyrians’ Astarte and the Egyptians’ Hathor (Athyr). “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven. the “Queen of Heaven. and in the streets of Jerusalem …. Joseph Smith indicated that such symbols are representations. It is no great leap of logic. Of particular importance is that the very names of this goddess.’ betraying their astral origin. Isis. our kings. a woman clothed with the sun. Athena. More familiar names for the same star goddess would include the Greek Aphrodite. As we learned in the previous installment in this series.3 The Prophets’ Language 9 Joseph Smith.” (Jeremiah 44:17. p. Ishtar and Athyr (the ‘s’ is aspirated). and to pour out drink offerings unto her. have the same root as our word ‘star. as we have done. Astarte. and Artemis. immersed in Israelite culture. and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. too. They were all ‘star’ goddesses. we. sun and planets —even though they condemned the practices associated with it. Let’s look at just one example. their Queen of Heaven. or the Latin Venus. and our fathers. Joseph explained that those images that did not represent some spiritual concept such as God or . therefore. So it is that when we turn to the scriptures.’ described by John.) In the case of the Egyptian papyri. “When the prophets speak of seeing beasts [a woman in this case] in their visions.” (Revelation 12:1. to assume that the language of the prophets.

Substitute the word ‘planet’ for ‘woman. both words can apply to the same image in the sky because they looked alike. tombs and sacred texts are replete with strange. and the second beast like a calf. and the third beast had a face as a man. the mountain. further strengthening this assessment. instead represented stars and planets. © anthony e. as we have seen. horses and other creatures. Joseph was emphatic about that. He described seeing four distinct creatures. This lets us look at the woman of Revelation with new eyes. The same kinds of connections can be made for nearly all prophetic images. and you have a more relevant. who nearly all scholars agree represented the planet Venus. Take the vision of John. while permitting the texts.’ in the above verse. larson. In order to understand the symbolism of the scriptures. This is key. temples. By comparing those symbols to the verbal imagery of prophecy. were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. and round about the throne. moon and stars imagery.” (Revelation 4:6. “And … in the midst of the throne. A comparison will allow us to see how one gave rise to the other. the kings. beliefs and traditions to illuminate the images. Yet another connection is provided by the fact that Hathor. 2005 ----------µ Of Beasts and Men Ancient monuments. understandable image that fits better with the sun. was a celestial calf or heifer — the very same calf goddess worshipped by idolatrous Israelites. was a planet. the original image for these goddesses. in Revelation. Of course. and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. mysterious symbols and creatures. mere pinpoints of light. beliefs and traditions of the past. for example. such as the beasts. 7. But the archetype. the woman represents a star or a planet. And the first beast was like a lion.) 4 ---------µ . This is one key to understanding the strange language used by the prophets.4 Of Beasts and Men 10 the priesthood. Like most Egyptian icons. we learn that they gave rise to even more bizarre language. we must allow ancient images to illuminate the texts. in the ancient mind.

the universal mistake made by Bible scholars of all epochs is to assign some fantastic meaning to these symbolic creatures — especially in John’s vision because he says these creatures surround the throne of God in heaven. They figure prominently in the religions of neighboring cultures — the Egyptian. on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side. these jars were funerary furniture used to house various organs of the deceased during internment rites. perhaps thousands of years. as we shall see momentarily. and the face of a lion. an area in the Nile delta region.4 Of Beasts and Men 11 Ezekiel. The four creatures were said to be the sons of Horus.” (Ezekiel 1:10. The Egyptians employed the heads of a baboon and a jackal rather than the Israelite ox (calf) and lion. “As for the likeness of their faces. where we meet them face-to-face in funerary art. the two prophets are probably describing something far more mundane. This is understandable given that the two prophets were separated in time by about 600 years. save that Ezekiel named an ox where John listed a calf. Of course. saw four creatures in a similar setting. This variation is typical from culture to culture and across time. for example. Named after Canopus. but quite remarkable.) The lists of creatures are identical. human figures with the heads of beasts dominate Egyptian art. They are one of the most obvious features of their religious iconography. they four had the face of a man. they four also had the face of an eagle. . In truth. Most revealing is the fact that these four creatures are not unique to the Israelite religious tradition. They are called “canopic figures. too. allowing for a slight ‘shift’ in cultural symbolism. just as the names of the same gods varied. But there is no mistaking that the four creatures seen in prophetic vision also adorned the burial art of Egyptians for hundreds.” Curiously.

these four creatures figured prominently in their traditions. Ezekiel described them as “living creatures” with “the likeness of a man. these four looked like men with the heads of beasts.4 Of Beasts and Men 12 Ezekiel is more specific in his description of the four.” (Ezekiel 1:5. most of the images for which Joseph provides explanations turn out to be planets and stars. And this was their appearance.) So. as it turns out. the Israelites often strayed into pagan beliefs and practices. This. Two of the facsimiles copied from the Joseph Smith papyri show these same four canopic figures. described as four “idolatrous gods.” which is exactly what we see here. Curiously. Anthropomorphic creatures — animals with the body and limbs of humans — figure prominently in Egyptian religious art. is a key that will be explored in a subsequent installment in this series. this is the same thing the prophets describe seeing in their visions. as we’ve seen in the visions of John and Ezekiel.” Significantly. Israelite tradition prohibited the use of such symbolic masks. they had the likeness of a man. More interesting still is the fact that these same four creatures are also found in the Pearl of Great Price. As we have seen previously. Nevertheless. so these did not exist in the Israelite culture. suggesting that these four also represent celestial objects. thanks to the Ten Commandments. It should hardly be surprising that these four . which is exactly what we see here. “Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures.

the same icons seen in ancient temples. larson. man-beasts.” The juxtaposition of the disks and the gods is extremely meaningful. © anthony e. kings.5 Stars and Planets 13 ‘gods’ of their neighbors should show up in the system of symbols Israelites held sacred. ancient source. we have found the answers in a more mundane source. 2005 ----------µ Stars and Planets Up to this point in our examination of the many clues to the extravagant images of prophecy. are among the most mysterious. angels. Ra (Re) is pictured seated in a bark or ship with a disk above his head. but a crucial one: What do those images represent? Looking at the Egyptian gods. we often see large circular icons on their heads. This same 5 ---------µ . these two. While this may be a surprising turn of events. We discovered that the dragons. The next step is a bit larger leap of logic. in the scriptures and in ancient history — evidence that has been hiding in plain sight all along. what scholars call “sun disks. While this explains the imagery of only a few passages of scriptural prophecy. we have learned that we need not look to mystical texts or veiled mysteries for our answers. We have seen that the imagery of prophecy and mythology spring from the same. women. in a common Egyptian theme or motif. Nor have we found that the answers lie in interpreting prophetic imagery with modern eyes. What is not generally acknowledged is that the language of prophecy also draws on these types of well-known images from antiquity. this takes some of the mystery out of prophetic imagery. Revelation and Ezekiel. tombs and monuments. hence their similarities. stars and other odd images encountered in the scriptures are but descriptive word pictures of the images that the ancients worshipped. Instead. For example. This comparison clearly points out the mechanism of describing sacred images in narrative form: prophetic imagery is drawn from ancient images or idols.

corrupted Egyptian traditions his papyrus represented. Along with her equivalents in other cultures — Astarte. thanks to the telescope that allows us to differentiate between stars and planets. The only exception is in Figure 5 in Facsimile No. Joseph Smith’s designation of a ‘s-t-r’ goddess as a planet is symbolically consistent and extremely meaningful. this was a functional way to label the figures. her name designates this cow goddess as a star. first called by Joseph a “governing planet. 2. He thus implies that the stars they worshipped were actually planets.” those pagan gods often carried or wore a symbol that bespoke their astral origin.5 Stars and Planets 14 scene can be seen on Facsimile No. Aster and Ishtar — her name bore the root ‘s-t-r’ sound of our word ‘star’ (the ‘s’ and ‘t’ were pronounced with the ‘th’ sound in Hathor. Instead of text that read “star. a planet or star. But according to the earliest beliefs. since most people were illiterate. Joseph Smith contradicted that assumption when he gave us another key. The cow depicted in Figure 5 was called Hathor. Figure 3.) Keep in mind that the ancients designated all celestial objects as stars. which is true of the late. not the sun. the very thing the juxtaposed disks suggest. Putting both the creature and the disk together—common practice in early Egyptian religious art—was symbolically accurate and a proper way to emphasize that they both represented the same thing. those disks and creatures represented planets and stars. as we have seen. As Joseph repeatedly asserts in his explanations of the Pearl of Great Price facsimiles. and it has been before our very eyes for generations now. In fact. . in the Book of Abraham. However. Scholars explain that the ancients were sun worshippers. 2. The word ‘planet’ (derived from the Greek ‘planeta.” He then adds the comment that the Egyptians called it the Sun. so those disks must represent the sun. meaning ‘wanderer’) is a recent invention. Hence.

Indeed. now mere pinpoints of light. The baboons on either side have what scholars call “moon disks. Let’s look closely at how emphatic Joseph Smith was in his explanations of these disks and creatures. one can suggest that what looks like confusion at first blush was no mix-up at all. look to be nearly virtual snapshots of planets. What becomes clear from this seeming contraction is that the objects the early Egyptians called stars would be called planets in our time. nearby planets in antiquity. 2005 .5 Stars and Planets 15 Some of the more elaborately rendered disk images. Figure 1 by a figure Egyptologists identify as Amon-Re or Khnum. not stars. Joseph Smith’s explanation of disk images such as these was that they represented planets. but it is represented in Facsimile No. © anthony e. but planets. Joseph honored the ancient tradition. this hypothesis fits much better with Abraham’s vision of the ancient heavens and Joseph Smith’s explanations of the facsimile images than any current view. as modern scholars do. as depicted in ancient art. Only planets have sun-lit crescents. He acknowledged the ancients’ reality that some of today’s stars. the creator-god. larson. Indeed. which is what all such Egyptian disk images resemble. Joseph insisted that they are “stars” in his explanation of Figure 5. Kolob is said by Abraham to be “the greatest” of the stars (Kokaubeam). in the disk illustrations are not stars. complete with crescents. placed over their heads in the traditional Egyptian manner. But these disks do not represent the moon any more than others represent the sun. By freely substituting the two terms. a few complete with a sun-lit crescent. What we see. which dominated Earth’s heavens and were worshipped by their ancestors as gods. thus implying that the god was an astral body. then. He did not confuse the issue.” presumably because of the crescent beneath the disk. were actually great. painted and rendered in relief. 2. Joseph Smith understood.

appears to be a combination or blending of two astral elements: One is the sunlit limb of a planet. The star-in-crescent symbol. Yet. Hence. though this vital truth has not been generally recognized. the confusion of a star/planet symbol with the moon and stars is natural. so dominant in ancient symbology. Joseph Smith implied that these are the planets and stars of antiquity. And because we adopt this view.6 A Great Star 16 ----------µ A Great Star If we look closely at the images venerated by the ancients from the point of view that they may have been inspired by planets standing in close proximity to the Earth. we see them with new eyes. when we heed Joseph Smith’s hints that the gods. beasts and other images of antiquity all found their inspiration in Earth’s ancient heavens. goddesses. 6 ---------µ These images of “stars” look nothing like things seen in our present heavens. for example. we can read the explanations of symbols on Egyptian papyri by the prophet Joseph Smith with a fresh perspective that also gives an entirely new dynamic to the imagery of prophecy. The only heavenly object we see today with a bright . Amazingly. This key is crucial because ancient sky gazers the world over drew remarkably similar pictures and offered stunningly similar descriptions of things that do not exist in our sky. the other is an aurora-like discharge from another planet. some of the most mysterious icons suddenly appear to be virtual snapshots of what the ancients saw in Earth’s skies.

a commonplace description in ancient texts of gods and goddesses. they would have also manifested this same crescent feature. can be seen in the Joseph Smith Facsimile No. Significantly. Certainly. the planetary god’s or goddess’ crescent was seen as horns. Of course. there must have been much more involved anciently . its planetary disk is displayed over its head as well so there is no mistaking where the image originated. was a nearly universal depiction in Egyptian iconography.6 A Great Star 17 crescent is the moon. Moreover. the lighted crescent on the limb of neighboring planets became the basis for a multitude of symbols: the horns of a bovine. This is precisely what we see in the ancient symbols. then it could properly be described as a great heavenly bird and subsequently illustrated as a hawk or eagle.2. three of the most common symbols in ancient iconography—all seen in the Joseph Smith papyri as well as in apocalyptic and prophetic imagery. he or she could be depicted as the bull or cow of heaven. then the god — with a disk over his head. If the planet’s crescent appeared to be a ship carrying the planet around heaven. these same images. If. too. again the planetary disk is set between the horns. on the other hand. This. But if other planets hovered near the Earth anciently. where they are most often called stars or planets. If the planetary god’s crescent looked like outspread wings. naturally—would be depicted sitting on the ship of heaven. and many more like them. For emphasis and clarity. the crescent-shaped ship of heaven or the outspread wings of a bird.

In fact. a great. to Inanna. this more fully explains why stars and planets were interchangeable in the ancient mind: In antiquity. They must have been active. emitting auroralike rays that form the basis for all ‘star’ imagery of antiquity. each complimenting the other. For example. who can soothe your troubled heart? You flash like lightning over the highlands. invoking the goddess as “the Light of the World.” An illustration taken from an Akkadian cylinder seal shows Ishtar (star) and her symbol. interacting and dynamic powers to evoke the expressions they inspired. a planet with aurora-like streamers. to the luminous one. as bright as the sun. changing. pacific presence of large orbs in the sky. Great Priestess.” And it was said that the world stood in “fear and trembling at [her] tempestuous radiance. Astarte. Venus). “You make the heavens tremble and the earth quake. Your deafening command…splits apart great mountains.” “Great Light. “I want to address my greeting to her who fills the sky with her pure blaze. to the great Queen of Heaven.6 A Great Star 18 than the simple. we get the picture from the texts and the illustrations of a discharging planet.” and “Queen of Heaven.” “the Amazement of the Lands. The Sumerian “Exaltation of Inanna” says. Both the texts and the images of the ancients tell the same story. you throw your firebrands across the earth. The wheel symbol of the Babylonian god Shamash looks nothing like the Sun and further illustrates the discharge streamer or star idea.” “the Radiant Star. Sumerian texts celebrate the “terrifying glory” of Inanna (Ishtar. nearby planet .” The texts depict the goddess “clothed in radiance.” Thus.

awe-inspiring object that earthlings chose to call “star. 2006 ----------µ A New Heaven. They were! © anthony e. in spite of our beliefs: The heavens have repeatedly changed throughout ancient history. For example.) Also. and all things shall become new. No wonder Joseph explained that all these archaic images were either stars or planets. “For all old things shall pass away. (Revelation 21:1. “And the end shall come. a New Earth 19 metamorphosed into a brilliant. familiar to cultures worldwide. the fowls of the air. 24. and all the fullness thereof. in the Doctrine and Covenants we read. explaining that it was the defining event that changed the ‘old heavens’ 7 ---------µ .7 A New Heaven. and the fishes of the sea. The result: Our modern ignorance of the true past blinds us to the unanimous declarations of our distant ancestors. both men and beasts. and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away. and there was no more sea.” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:23. But the scriptures and the prophets are insistent. even the heaven and the earth. larson. This also explains why all the ‘star’ icons. and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. The concept of sweeping changes in the sky and the earth are found everywhere in the scriptures. This is so because of our ‘scientific’ view that there have been no significant changes in the solar system’s arrangement during recorded history.” This alone explains the graphic language and the myriad star symbols used by the ancients for their star goddesses. look nothing like the mere pinpoints of light in the night sky that we designate as stars.) Perhaps the apostle Peter said it best when he spoke of the Deluge. This is a primary message the ancients and the prophets sought to convey to us across the millennia. a New Earth Our culture knows nothing of the incredible changes wrought in the heavens anciently.

No wonder they were fiercely dedicated sky watchers.” as we have seen. “For this they willingly are ignorant of. The words for world-changing cataclysms are catastrophe (cat-astro-phe) and disaster (dis-aster). that by the word of God the heavens were of old. perished: But the heavens and the earth. Indeed. Surely. as does Daniel in his Old Testament vision of the statue with a head of gold.” This the ancients feared above all: destruction from the stars that changed everything. one interpretation of the word “disaster” is literally “from the star. beasts or serpents.” (Ibid. Joseph Smith was correct to call these images of the ancients “stars” and “planets. preoccupied with the motions of planets and stars. No wonder they endlessly adorned their texts. Even our language retains this key.7 A New Heaven.” The Greek philosopher Hesiod associates these ages with various metals. being overflowed with water. Both bear the same ‘astr’ root as the names of the primary goddess/ stars of antiquity: Aster. a New Earth 20 into the sky we see today.” (2 Peter 3:5-7. and the earth standing out of the water and in the water. ever-present fear that something terrible that happened in the past would repeat itself in the future. all ancient cultures relate that there have been dramatic changes in the heavens. in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise. where we find the pervasive. But because our culture and science turn a blind eye to these declarations. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. goddesses.) We read the same sort of language in the texts of all ancient cultures. belly and thighs of brass and legs of iron. Ashtoreth or Hathor. Astarte. the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. temples and tombs with symbols and metaphors of star gods. calling the epochs in between “ages” or “suns. goddesses and beasts derived from the appearance of those planets. he went on to further explain that a similar change was in store for us in the last days. then.) Then. a torso of silver. including prophets like Abraham. 3:10. which are now. Latter-day Saints frequently fail to appreciate the many statements by Joseph Smith that echo the beliefs of the ancients: Planets and . by the same word are kept in store. reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. These fearsome changes were universally attributed to stars or planets in the form of gods. In fact. and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. Whereby the world that then was.

Immediately above those is a repeated pattern of circles within a ring. Joshua’s Long Day. customary obsession with the heavens. the Big Dipper. have occurred within human memory. but also throughout sacred texts. and many other such strange and mysterious accounts. both ancient and modern. the Tower of Babel. some involving earth-threatening catastrophes. the Deluge. the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. The latter-day revelations. In the middle are the stars of the constellation Ursa Major. 2005 ----------µ The Grand Sign Major changes in the planetary order. Elijah’s fire from heaven. the past and the present heavens. Stars and planets on the Salt Lake Temple reflect an ancient. For our culture. On the west wall buttresses.8 The Grand Sign 21 stars are the origins of almost all scriptural and prophetic imagery. called Saturnstones by Brigham Young. and they were recorded by the survivors on the billboards of antiquity—temples and monuments — as well as in sacred texts of all religions. near the bottom of the photo are Sunstones. This is a crucial key to understanding scriptural symbolism — not only in prophecy. these are found in Old Testament events such as the Creation. the Book of Mormon. larson. the Exodus. © anthony e. Our temples reflect both realities. understood this key. Sodom and Gomorrah. just as they did their ancient counterparts. So should we. reflect that same perspective with numerous accounts of world-changing events connected with 8 ---------µ . That’s why those images dominate the exterior of lds temples. The prophets.

“There will be wars and rumors of wars. Those monuments. earthquakes in divers places. a comet. complete with the myriad manifestations that fill ancient texts and adorn crumbling temple walls — images. as Joseph Smith implied. yet we fail to recognize them for what they are. this is the crux of the story and a truth that Latter-day Saints should readily acknowledge. signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. By every means at their command. The prophets knew that the interplanetary phenomena of past planetary catastrophes. What will the world do? They will say it is a planet. ritual and art. casting Joseph Smith in the same cosmological role as all the biblical prophets. then will appear one grand sign of the coming of the Son of Man in heaven. will be a planet that looks and behaves like a giant comet. That’s what all the heavenly ‘signs’ in the past were. institutions and practices are remarkably preserved in our cultures even to this day.8 The Grand Sign 22 heavenly objects or signs. they sought to preserve a record of these tumultuous events.” This approach alone explains some peculiar revelations given through the prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation. But what makes this planet most unusual is that it will make a close approach to the Earth — close enough to instigate all the natural disasters outlined in the beginning of the prophet’s . The first institutions of civilization arose from ritual practices honoring. should it surprise anyone that the prophets would recall and employ the symbolism generated in their cultures by the physical phenomena associated with past planetary sky pageants to rehearse identical types of events they had foreseen in our future? Indeed.) Of course this sign. They knew it would happen again. cultures around the world attempted to communicate their experience to future generations— to us. We fail to recognize them for what they are because we see nothing in our heavens even remotely similar to their accounts. symbols and icons — would once again be reinstated in the heavens at a future time they called the “last days. imitating and memorializing these events and the planetary powers involved. Through texts. 5:337. the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood. Why.” (History of the Church. &c. then. the seas heaving beyond their bounds. on parchment and stone. myth.

Comparing the names of the pagan gods they worshipped supports this conclusion. yet a little while and ye shall see it … . has little meaning unless seen from the perspective outlined in this series. but the starry heavens shall tremble. 93:24. 29:14.. ye cannot see it now.. we can now turn to the scriptural record to see how well that knowledge helps our comprehension of symbolism that otherwise seems unfathomable.) Modern revelation brings us the truth: “… knowledge of things as they are. “… there shall appear a great sign in heaven. 2004 ----------µ Apollyon.) “… the sun shall be darkened. Having made that connection.. For I. They are littered with such declarations. and as they are to come.) This is a fundamental key.” (Ibid. I will not only shake the earth. the Destroyer Like the histories of all ancient cultures.” Doctrine and Covenants 88:93. a figure we see often in the Old Testament. italics added. see “Modern Signs. and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath. sometimes neighbors and enemies of the 9 ---------µ . much more than a colorful metaphor. (For a more thorough explanation of this concept. …” (Ibid.) “… I will rend their kingdoms. For example. and all people shall see it together. larson. Now we see it for what it truly is: a completely understandable declaration of fact. the Lord. 84:118. Baal. The same is true with many revelations given to Joseph Smith. as we have seen. © anthony e. have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven.9 Apollyon.”) The above quote from the prophet. as with all prophecy and ancient history. We have but to “open the eyes of our understanding” to receive it. that of the Hebrews — the Old Testament—tells the very same story of sky-spanning marvels and manifestations that profoundly and directly impacted their culture and beliefs. and as they were. 119. the Destroyer 23 statement. Only from this point of view does it become truly meaningful. and the stars shall fall from heaven. was the god of the Canaanites. (Ibid. and the moon shall be turned into blood.

we’ve learned in earlier installments in this series that the ancients commonly called planets that once hovered near the Earth “stars. we learn that the Old Testament god Baal is the same as the Greek Apollo and the Roman god of war. Revelation’s Apollyon is usually translated “destroyer. as we make cross-cultural connections of these gods.9 Apollyon. Mars. These connections become particularly useful when we consider the following enigmatic passage from John’s vision. Apollo was virtually adopted intact from the Greek into the Roman pantheon.” a fitting description of Apollo’s Roman counterpart. In fact. The nine known planets bear the names of Roman gods and goddesses because some of them were the ‘gods’ that once stood near to or passed perilously close to the Earth. Mars. to the dismay of the prophets. others insist that Apollo (Apollon/ Apollyon) was also a Greek equivalent. For that reason. which is the angel of the bottomless pit. The planets in our solar system. it is a “star” that opens the bottomless pit. “And they had a king over them. were not arbitrarily assigned the names of mythical gods. In fact. the warrior god Mars. From time to time in their history most Israelites worshipped him as well.” (Revelation 9:11. The Greeks added an antecedent ‘a’ (a-baal). but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. softened the hard ‘b’ sound to a ‘p’ and then added an ‘o’ ending (a-paal-o). such as Mars. the name is the same. Apollo was the Greek equivalent of Baal. whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon. illuminating and dominating the ancient heavens as well as occasionally raining destruction on the world’s civilizations. So. Although the Greek’s god Ares is more typically associated by scholars with the Roman war god. The conclusion: The Greeks worshipped the same sky god as the Canaanites and the apostate Israelites.) Earlier in that same chapter. altered only by linguistic preferences. Of course. as most suppose. the Destroyer 24 Israelites.” .

symbolic references. Thus. In order to properly understand all these mysterious. . It also fits perfectly with Joseph Smith’s teaching that the beasts seen by prophets in heavenly visions are not beasts at all but “images” meant to represent something else. employed by John. “mythical” stories of those pagan cultures of the “seven churches which are in Asia” that John addressed in Revelation to explain the place of Christ in those traditions as well as events of the last days.9 Apollyon.” “angel” or “star” — Apollyon — was the planet Mars. the most mysterious symbolism of the scriptures becomes easy reading. is a planet.”) We can also now see that John drew upon traditions common to all cultures around the Mediterranean to describe the future. the images or icons embodied in those ancient cultural traditions are the keys to interpreting all the imagery of John’s enigmatic vision. as do most modern expositors of prophecy. the Destroyer 25 Can you see where this is leading? John implied that. This tendency to use common images to describe celestial objects is still practiced today where star constellations are given names like Great Bear. we must conclude that other references to kings. we learn that this “king. we learn many things from John’s carefully worded explanation in these few verses. Lion and Archer. we must know both what these traditions were and their origins. for example — one that John employed throughout his record. Also implied is the idea that the imagery of the entire vision draws heavily upon the cultural traditions of John’s time. though dangerously misleading. with all the visions of the prophets recorded in scripture. which are an understanding of the meaning of that imagery. see “Joseph Smith’s Marvelous Key. (For clarification of this. stars and creatures in John’s account may be references to planets as well. too. And so it is. Thus. Such gratuitous speculation is commonplace. and where the greatest star cluster is called the Milky Way. It’s a cultural tradition from antiquity. Revelation. beasts. Foremost. which we preserve in the present. This practice of drawing on the past to describe the future is a common literary device used by the prophets — Nephi and Isaiah. angels. this “king. We cannot simply guess at their meaning.” which is also the “angel of the bottomless pit” and the “star” that fell to the earth. employing the sacred. Armed with these keys. Thus. This is the key.

why not leave the study of planets and stars to the astronomers and analysis of pagan gods and goddesses to the mythologists? The reply to such dismissive notions is the evidence that Joseph Smith diligently studied and taught these things. gods. they reason. we must know as much about the past as we do the present. the Pearl of Great Price facsimiles and a uniform system for interpreting prophecy. perhaps all this analysis of prophetic symbols. we ignore them at our own peril. if reading the scriptures and praying are sufficient to understand the gospel. It was Joseph who first wrote and spoke of planets and stars in connection with both ancient and prophetic events. © anthony e. Most Saints pay little heed to such things in their gospel study. 10 ---------µ . goddesses and pagan beliefs have little to do with the restored gospel. but as teaching tools. It was Joseph who placed the Egyptian documents alongside modern revelation and then included explanations. Isn’t that incentive enough to look into these keys? Indeed. some will say that discussions of ancient myths. Who would have thought that a systematic approach to the symbolism of prophecy would also explain such divergent elements as temple icons and Egyptian facsimiles? A few examples that amplify one theme should suffice to convince us. It was Joseph who gave the pattern for those icons collocated on modern temple walls — not as mere décor. 2005 ----------µ What Joseph Taught Certainly. stars. To others. If he deemed them important enough to reveal. After all. seeing it as irrelevant and therefore largely valueless.26 In order to grasp the meaning of prophecy. beasts and dragons seems a bit tedious and removed from core gospel principles. successfully explaining what has heretofore remained a mystery to most Saints — things such as temple symbols. These keys bear directly upon otherwise arcane aspects of the restored gospel. planets. larson. the fact that Joseph taught these things makes it incumbent upon every Latter-day Saint to learn all they can about them.

According to Patriarch Brown. History of the Church. He paraphrases the prophet thusly: “Not that the planets will come squarely against each other. wherein he recounts learning from Eliza R. But. in such case both planets would be broken to pieces. That puts cosmic phenomena squarely under the prophecy heading. Utah. recorded in his own journal. “Now. Elder LeGrand Richards reinforced the concept. Brown and grandson of Mr. In keeping with Joseph’s statement. But in their rolling motion they will come together … which will cause the earth to reel to and fro. Samuel Hollister Rogers. and Mrs.” An interview with Homer M. let me ask you what would cause the everlasting hills to tremble with more violence than the coming together of the two planets? “Now. a past Patriarch of the Granite. Benjamin Brown. in a 1951 General Conference talk. it would not be disastrous because the one traveling faster would overtake the other.’” From these few samples. Brown. that two planets coming together would be disastrous to both. saying that the latter-day signs will be caused by “some great phenomenon in the heavens. when two planets or other objects are traveling in the same direction and one of them with a little greater velocity than the other. these are Joseph’s words to his grandparents regarding a future encounter between a rogue planet and our Earth. we begin to see that the prophet obviously .” Corroboration comes from the journal of another early Saint. father of Elder Hugh B. scientists will tell you that it is not scientific.” Further confirmation is found in the Charles Walker journal. Stake. Snow that Joseph had taught her “the coming together of these two bodies or orbs would cause a shock and make the ‘Earth reel to and fro like a drunken man. more fully explains the role of this misplaced planet and its effect on our Earth.10 What Joseph Taught 27 We have already seen Joseph’s “planet. (a) misplacement of planets …. comet” description of the “grand sign” of the last days and the second coming. who gave Joseph Smith sanctuary from a mob in Nauvoo one evening.

astral icons of the past. So it will be (when these planets come together). Thus we see that the imagery of the scriptures as well is reflected in the religious. They argue eloquently for Joseph’s view of the role that a vagabond planet will play in our future. without imposing our own ‘modern. adding this anecdote from the prophet: “Some of you brethren have been coming up the river on a steamboat. When we let our scriptures speak for themselves. It is there we must look for the source of all the symbols used by the ancients to depict their gods. and the scriptural imagery gives meaning to the symbolic icons. larson. and while seated at the table. Yet. even the true God. The symbolic icons give meaning to the scriptural imagery. such remarkably consistent statements. Wandle Mace described the same planetary conjunction scenario. an entirely different picture of the past emerges than the one we’ve been taught. They complement and illuminate one another. as we learn from yet another journal. © anthony e. The images carved on the walls of ancient tombs. It will make the earth reel to and fro like a drunken man. they become corroborative of our thesis. temples and monuments come alive with meaning. 11 ---------µ . eyewitness records of marvelous astronomical manifestations that we can only remotely comprehend. attributed to Joseph Smith by early church members. With that revised picture. the steamboat (ran) against a snag which upset the table and scattered the dishes.” Without the keys presented in this series.’ ‘scientific’ preconceptions upon them. when seen in the proper context. It was in Earth’s ancient heavens — the Creator’s most spectacular canvas — that all ancient imagery originated. ancient texts become accurate. as is the case with the Egyptian facsimiles and Abraham.11 Prophecy and the Restored Gospel 28 elaborated on this theme on many occasions. have been discounted as extravagant and speculative by lds scholars and all but forgotten in recent years by church members. 2005 ----------µ Prophecy and the Restored Gospel This series has identified several keys to prophecy in the restored gospel.

myopic belief prevents us from seeing what the ancients sought mightily to convey. The reason all these images are an enigma to us can be found in relatively recent history when our culture swerved away from their use and adopted a ‘rational’ view of ancient history. they must have stood in overwhelming proximity. They derive from the same source: our early cultural and religious tradition from which we divorced ourselves in the Age of Enlightenment. religious traditions that once taught of recent. explanations of prophecy. detailed descriptions. We divorced ourselves from our cultural roots. Thus we see that the stories from ancient cultures the world over of astral gods and goddesses who performed marvelous feats and engaged in heaven-spanning battle may have been based in the appearance and movements of these same planets in a near-Earth environment — a concept flatly denied by modern science and rejected by orthodox Christianity. Cultural. that is the message they convey. dominating the ancient sky watchers’ view. as is taught in educational institutions everywhere in the world today. this is why the imagery of prophecy and mythology are remarkably similar. symbols and rituals of the past to speak for themselves. giving rise to the primary symbolic themes of those past cultures. turn from metaphorical niceties to accurate. yet supported by Joseph Smith’s observations. we believe just the opposite: the heavens have always appeared as they do now. In fact. The odd thing is that we don’t understand that. The only way that planets or stars could so profoundly influence peoples of the ancient world — an influence sufficiently strong to give rise to the religious traditions and symbolism of their cultures — is if those orbs were manifestly closer than they are today. That flawed. offered by Joseph Smith and all the prophets. dramatic changes in the heavens — accounts held sacred by our ancestors — became myths and fairy tales. It is for this reason that the Bible was rejected by . We cut ourselves off from the message the ancients struggled to convey.11 Prophecy and the Restored Gospel 29 With this improved perspective. Also. the one they assumed would be universally understood: They had seen “marvelous works and wonders” in the heavens. If we allow the traditions. Unlike the mere pinpoints of light we see in our night sky.

of things seen in those an- . polar alignment caused them to appear stationary in the heavens. These astral events gave rise to the cryptic icons that adorn the walls of ancient monuments. They rejected that same imagery. Joseph Smith’s bodyguard. that it had nothing to do with the proper practice of Christianity. That left us without the touchstone we need to interpret the imagery of prophecy throughout the scriptures. To unravel the mystery that is prophecy. According to Philo Dibble. heaven-spanning displays of awe-inspiring plasma phenomena generated in a neighboring conjunction of planets that produced a monumental sound and light show seen the world over. this is the prophet’s illustration of the planetary arrangement that existed in Earth’s ancient heavens. until Joseph Smith restored that knowledge.11 Prophecy and the Restored Gospel 30 the emerging cult of science and scholasticism. This “stacked” arrangement in common. This illustration is stunning evidence that Joseph believed this. This dramatic celestial phantasmagoria dominated Earth’s skies in the earliest epoch of history and indelibly impressed itself on the mind and spirit of all early cultures. In so doing. as depicted in this artist’s conception. The oddity in all this is that the guardians of religious traditions fell victims to the same thinking. we threw the baby out with the bath water. The prophet even included the apparent “connections” between planets caused by the plasma phenomenon. saying that it was pagan. in many cases. temples and tombs — virtual snapshots. you must first learn the symbolism of antiquity and the cosmological images from which it sprang — prodigious.

The rhetorical counterparts of those enigmatic symbols fill the revelations of both ancient and modern prophets. 2005 ----------µ The Gospel Litmus Test A chemist can determine the pH of any substance by dipping a bit of colored paper into it. There is a similar such test to determine the extent of our gospel comprehension. The metaphorical language of the prophets also arose from those events. practical application of our religion. Called “litmus” paper. It also touches on every point of doctrine in the restored gospel revealed through him in these latter days. as Joseph Smith said. its color changes depending upon the acidity or alkalinity of the compound in question — one color if it is acidic. © anthony e.12 The Gospel Litmus Test 31 cient skies. they also decorate modern temples — a testament in stone to the restoration of truth. It’s called prophecy. prophetic symbolism seems to have little to do with the day-to-day. since they consider prophecy to be a rather esoteric and narrow part of the gospel and thus the least likely candidate for such a gauge or standard. another if it is basic. to determine how well we study and comprehend the scriptures. After all. not just prophetic visions. It is the symbol and imagery-laden language of the prophets. how can one possibly construe prophecy to be a test for anything. 12 ---------µ . Appropriately. Most Latter-day Saints are likely to dismiss such a notion out of hand. much less the depth of our gospel understanding? It is precisely because the colorful and peculiar imagery of prophecy permeates all of scripture. So. Knowing this makes prophecy plain and easy to understand. The beasts seen in Ezekiel’s and Daniel’s visions as well as those seen by John in Revelation are the same beasts that are seen on Joseph Smith’s facsimiles and those described in Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. larson. It’s a fundamental and uncomplicated test. They are the keys to most scriptural symbolism.

We dismiss a vital part of the gospel of Jesus Christ as mere decorative glitter. of all the choice scripture that the angel Moroni could have chosen to quote to the young Joseph Smith when he first appeared to him in 1823. We go through temple sessions without grasping the profound enormity of the message that the imagery we see there represents. History of the Church. our gospel comprehension suffers. we overlook fully half of the information in the scriptures. Perhaps more telling is the fact that after the heavens were effectively sealed for centuries. though we seem reluctant to acknowledge that truth. The planets. and they corroborate and illuminate Joseph Smith’s statements about the nature of latter-day signs in his journal. . we dismiss as inconsequential the message God and his prophets have carefully placed before us. We cannot make sense of the bizarre imagery of prophecy. the doctrine that the second coming of Christ. That’s why it’s found everywhere in the restored church. he quoted prophecy — Malachi. Prophecy is at the heart of our religion. When we look at Joseph Smith’s facsimiles. is near at hand. In making all these omissions. we almost universally focus on the spiritual message of the scriptures. disregarding the imagery as mere poetic affectation. from the scriptures. We also fail to see much of what the sacred texts were meant to convey. Like the proverbial forest in the trees. stars and other enigmatic symbols that adorn our latter-day temples are also found in our sacred texts.12 The Gospel Litmus Test 32 The ‘miracles’ of the Exodus are the same as the ‘signs’ in Revelation. If the spiritual message of salvation is the gospel’s heart and soul. In doing so. to the temples. The gospel was restored and the church was subsequently founded on the notion of Adventism. As a result. and Joel. Instead. Isaiah. in the wake of a worldwide destruction called the apocalypse. Its message is that important. we see them only as oddities and curiosities that once entertained the passing interest of a prophet rather than the very keys to gospel comprehension. however obscure it may seem to us. to the discourses of modern prophets. then the imagery and symbolism are its bone and sinew. and the explicitly symbolic nature of the rituals and fixtures found within those hallowed walls point us to the lofty value that latter-day prophets placed on that imagery. it is virtually invisible to us.

our comprehension of prophecy is a clear indication of our overall gospel understanding.com . we also fail to understand the rest of scriptural imagery.com/ For online classes. We do not “search the scriptures. © anthony e.com/ Your questions or comments are welcome: anthonyelarson@gmail. We read. newsletters and published books exploring this material in depth: http://www. but without comprehension.” as we’ve been counseled to do. Hence.12 The Gospel Litmus Test 33 This is our litmus test: To the extent to which we do or do not understand the imagery of prophecy. most of us fail the gospel litmus test. This being the case. wrapped in a conundrum. videos.mormonprophecy. since for most Latter-day Saints prophecy is a mystery. we get repeated pleas from the brethren to read our scriptures — the most recent: Read the Book of Mormon. couched in an enigma. 2005 For more essays from this series: http://mormonprophecy.blogspot. Our casual acquaintance with our own gospel betrays a lack of study and dedication to its comprehension. Thus. We skim through them. larson.

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