The Two Gospels

THINGS AS THEY ARE. revelation given to prophets seldom explains the future in literal terms. as well as its origins and its implementation. it becomes clear that little about future events is ever revealed literally. the other is literal. an entirely new perspective of the gospel emerges. Larson The scriptures are full of symbolism based on cataclysmic events seen in ancient skies. Revelation. These mysterious passages are as opaque to us as the beliefs of pagan religions and indeed they’re all describing the same events. Knowledge of the events and conditions that lead to the religious symbolism of all ancient cultures allows us to see that gospel symbolism and the symbolism of idolatry both have their roots in the same ancient history. In fact. (It is not within the scope of this article to attempt The gospel of symbolism . One gospel is symbolic. the symbolism found in all ancient religions — false and true — shares the same origins. It also allows us to make a clear distinction between the symbolism of the gospel and the truths of the gospel — hence the title of this article. O nce the symbolic nature of the scriptures is understood. Understanding the difference between literal truth and symbolic truth has great potential benefit for the student of the gospel. symbolic terms. Nearly everything John wrote of was described in traditional. The trick is recognizing which is which. With only a few notable exceptions. That is. WERE AND ARE TO COME The Two Gospels Copyright © 2003 Anthony E. Symbolism is the device used almost exclusively to depict future events. The symbolism of the gospel is typified by the New Testament book.

but both the giver and the receiver must have a clear understanding of its use. The modern. Otherwise. the symbolic gospel is a kind of Gnosticism — a system of metaphors and symbols that both the giver and the receiver must know (hence the Greek term for knowing. The Savior’s use of parables is a mild form of this symbolic or metaphorical method. Latter-day Saints fail to recognize that even modern revelation has this element of Gnosticism. Whether symbolism is injected into the message by the prophet. This universal use of symbolism is the reason the traditions of other religions — indeed. gnosis) to properly interpret the story or lesson. the reader may judge for himself. or whether it comes from a divine source. Thus. or it may be due to simple ignorance and indifference. rhetorically. common symbols The common origin of ancient symbolic religious systems may explain many strange similarities between religions that are usually explained away by the process of diffusion (the migration of ideas. the question is worth asking. Yet. any religion based in ancient symbolism holds no meaning for him or her. Common traditions. Gnostic writings are cluttered with symbolism that is still largely incomprehensible to modern scholars and religionists. all the myths and legends of antiquity — seem so extravagant to the modern mind. they seem perfectly willing to embrace the gnostic elements of temple worship. Those who were “enlightened” got the full meaning of his story. . Clearly. We have not been schooled in their symbolic traditions. rationalist philosophy has no place for ancient symbolism.3 an explanation as to why this is so. Why would revelation from an eternal source contain symbolism born in this creation only?) This symbolic gospel can be an invaluable vehicle for communicating. who then transmits it to the people. This may be a reflection of the intellectual dichotomy the Saints exhibit. Still. the receiver is left with a multitude of confusing images and metaphors that seem meaningless and muddled — the fevered inventions of manic minds. The rationalist — whether an agnostic or a believer — sees ancient symbolism as so much nonsense. while the remainder simply heard a prosaic homily.

see Doctrine and Covenants 138. they describe a cataclysmic creation and the near destruction of the world. in other words — not their origin or their meaning. Rather. the rising of certain constellations and planets. At first glance. (See Doctrine and Covenants. Those ancient traditions all tell of gods and demons: super-human beings who ruled the heavens. a vision of the . “. When Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord about the meanings of certain passages in Revelation. All ancient religious traditions. Yet. but a careful reading will demonstrate that this is not the case. . These religions are filled with concerns for the movement and order of the heavens: the solstice. each culture created unique stories. he was given all the shades of meaning that have been attributed to the symbols from hoary antiquity. precession. the disciplines of Comparative Mythology and Comparative Religion are very nearly the same discipline. no matter the religion or culture. explanation of the Revelation of St.”) The gospel of literalism The truths of the literal gospel are typified by latter-day revelation. and planets. gods. and rituals based on those events. (For example. share a common origin in ancient heavenly events. Yet. . attributions typical of the elaboration and exposition of all such symbols that have been going on since the beginning of time. John. . suns. 77. Seen from this perspective. Most Saints have the impression that the revelation gave literal explanations for the symbols. . etc. the equinox. “. upon closer inspection and considering those ancient celestial events. whose actions determined the fate of mankind. The fundamental ideas behind common beliefs and traditions originated in the same ancient heavenly events. the symbolic traditions of one culture appear to have nothing to do with those of another. he was given a more extensive explanation of the symbols themselves — more symbolism. we find that they all share a remarkable degree of coincidence. This pervasive use of symbolism also explains a small curiosity. It also explains why all ancient religions possess a cosmology in one form or another.4 beliefs and practices from one culture to another). Their traditions are intricately interwoven with astronomical interests: stars.

the afterlife.mormonprophecy.com/ Your questions or comments are welcome: anthonyelarson@gmail.5 redemption of the dead. Take the second coming.blogspot. as with so very many other doctrinal issues.com/ For online classes. More apostasy and more bitter acrimony can be traced to this cause than almost any other. except perhaps for the language used in a vain attempt to explain the ineffable. if we perceive the two as one. this view of the scriptures helps avoid misinterpretations. for example. In this case. the preexistence. and accompanied by concourses of angels. If we can discriminate between the two. For more essays from this series: http://mormonprophecy. his clothing dipped in blood. as the return of a conquering hero: Christ comes with fire in his eyes. the symbolic gospel employs elaborate imagery to make an entirely different point. the eternities and the purpose of mortality.com . However. videos.) The literal gospel teaches truths. there is little concern about misinterpretation. (See Acts 1:11. what we call the gospel is really a combination of two primary elements: symbolism from ancient tradition and literalism from eternal truths.) The symbolic gospel describes his coming as if it were to be a staged media event. There is nothing symbolic about it. Thus. with a sword in his mouth. wearing many crowns. riding a white horse.”) This literal gospel invariably transmits information about the nature of our relationship with God. The literal gospel teaches us that the Savior will come again to the Earth to usher in an age of peace and prosperity called the Millennium. newsletters and published books exploring this material in depth: http://www. then misunderstanding is inevitable. It is this kind of confusion — mistaking imagery for reality — that has caused some of the most heated debate among Latter-day Saints in this dispensation. (See Revelation 19:11-15. It gives no details about the actual event. except to suggest that he will simply descend from heaven as he ascended.

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