Concern for the Things of Eternity
Concern for the Things of Eternity
George L. Mitton, associate editor
The Angel with the everlasting Gospel hath already flown
through the middle of the Earth; Happy be they who shall receive it, nor
despise this great treasure, by trampling it under their feet. The
Sun of Righteousness shall shine upon them in his full light, and dispel these
horrible Clouds without any prejudice unto them.
Christopher Kotter, 1 June 1621,
vision and prophecy of the
Of much concern to the Latter-day Saints is the attitude and
reaction of people when presented with the Book of Mormon and other revelations
that God has called them to proclaim. Together with the Holy Bible, these
scriptures provide the written word of God in these troubled times.
Recently I took the
opportunity to read and ponder some claimed revelations from Europe in the
early 1600s. The passage quoted above caught my attention since it alludes to
the prophecy in Revelation 14:6 about an angel bringing the everlasting gospel
to the earth in the last days. It was given the visionary as he was shown
scenes of the latter-day judgments. Latter-day Saints have always considered
that the Book of Mormon helped fulfill that biblical vision in a marvelous way.
Did the vision and prophecy of 1621 foresee the Book of Mormon coming as a
warning before the destructions? At the least, it described in a terse and
striking way the circumstance we find regarding the Book of Mormon
today—received with great joy by some but strongly resisted or rejected
My reading of these seventeenth-century prophecies and the
conditions in which they were given was very instructive as to how the world reacts
to prophecy. I found the revelations informative and very moving at times,
although sometimes obscure, extravagant, or disappointing when compared with
the plain and lucid revelations received through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I
did feel great respect for those who claimed to receive them, for their
purposes and their efforts to express the things their messages entailed. I
also felt a keen appreciation for the persecution they suffered and the
sacrifices they made in trying to convey these messages during the very difficult
times of the Thirty Years’ War in Europe (1618–1648). The visions are
very apocalyptic, a form often found during times of great persecution, stress,
and hardship. They assure the righteous that God has not forgotten them and
that in his time and way he will provide a judgment by which the oppressors and
evil powers will be overthrown and righteousness and peace will prevail. These
prophecies would have provided comfort to those who embraced them. A short
summary of the circumstances in which they were put forth will set the stage
for brief comments on the attitude toward revelation today.
Comenius and the Desire for Immediate Revelation
Jan Amos Komenský (1592–1670) was a Bohemian
Christian leader of great significance and accomplishment. Better known
as Comenius, the latinized form of his name, he is a person of heroic stature.
Comenius believed in and published the revelations I discuss here. Before the
Thirty Years’ War, he was the last bishop of the Bohemian Brethren, a Protestant
denomination known as the Unitas Fratrum (United Brethren). That church derived
from the devoted followers of John Hus (1369–1415), a very important
Christian martyr at the beginning of the Reformation who was burned at the
stake. Later, Comenius and his people suffered great violence and were
scattered during the war. After a period of hiding when his life was in
constant danger, he was driven from his Czech homeland and suffered the death
of his wife and daughter and the loss of all his possessions, including his
remarkable library and manuscripts. Although he was forced to remain in exile
the rest of his life, he became famous, especially for his work and influence
in Poland, the Netherlands, and England.
Comenius was greatly influenced by his friend and mentor Johann
Valentin Andreae (1586–1654), a German Lutheran pastor and probably the
prime leader in the early Rosicrucian movement. This society taught through
symbolism and allegory that “an illumination of a religious
. . . nature” was “about to be revealed to the world”
and would “bring about a general reformation.” There would be not
only religious reform, which was paramount, but a reform “both of divine
and human things.” The Rosicrucians anticipated a great advancement in all aspects of life.
Indeed, the title of their primary publication in 1614 began, “Universal
and General Reformation of the whole wide world.” Historian
Frances Yates summarizes that “whilst involving definite reforms in education,
church, and law, this general reformation has millenarian overtones; it will
bring the world back to the state in which Adam found it . . . [and will] presage
‘a great influx of truth and light’ such as surrounded Adam in Paradise, and
which God will allow before the end of the world.” The Rosicrucian
movement was an aspect of the late Renaissance, that marvelous and mysterious
period that did so much to help prepare the world for what the Latter-day
Saints see as the last days—for conditions that would allow the
restoration and teaching of the everlasting gospel. It may be that we should
consider the possibility that the Renaissance period was not only a preparation
for but also a prefiguration and witness of what was to come, perhaps even a
kind of grand allegory not told as a story or parable but actually acted out in
Comenius was a devout and admirable Christian. He did much
to foster interest in Christianity and to help and comfort his scattered flock.
Deeply concerned about the development of Christian unity, he traveled widely
in Europe and became justly famous for his work and publications. His numerous
books had religious overtones when treating many topics and frequently employed
scriptural references and allusions. His interest in a general reformation motivated
him to recommend improvements in many subject areas. He was not
only a theologian and bishop but also a cartographer, hymn writer, novelist,
lexicographer, politician, and social reformer. He became
known as “Teacher of Nations” and is best known for his extensive
writings and work on educational reform, generally being considered the father
of modern educational methods and of the concept of free and universal
education looking toward universal literacy. When he visited
England in 1641–1642, he was influential in assisting in the development
of the Encyclopedia and of the Royal Society, so important in the progression of modern
science. John Winthrop apparently offered him the presidency of Harvard College, but
Comenius declined. It has even been claimed that his writings were used in the determination of
some of the philosophy and symbolism in Freemasonry, a movement
so influential in the establishment of free government.
Clearly, it was his Christian convictions and anticipations
that motivated and colored all that Comenius did. Soon after being forced from
his homeland, he wrote a marvelous book, The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise
of the Heart, which expressed his outlook, desires, and expectations. While not as well known
in the West as it should be, it is his most popular work and is considered by
many to be one of the world’s great books. Latter-day Saints should find it
stimulating, amusing at times, insightful, and inspiring in many passages. In
his dedication of the book, Comenius explained:
The first part depicts the ludicrous and senseless scenes of
the world: how despite the exertions of all its powers the world accomplishes
nothing; and how everything finally ends miserably either in laughter or in sorrow.
The second part describes in a measure, either allegorically or objectively,
the true and assured happiness of the sons of God: how truly they are blessed
who, leaving behind the world and all mundane things, adhere and firmly cleave
to God alone.
In “using the traditional theme of a pilgrimage
through the World-City, Labyrinth distinguishes itself from numerous similar
allegories in world . . . and Czech literature by its artistic qualities and
its elaborate style . . . [and it] has outlived many now forgotten compositions
of similar theme and genre.” It is important to observe that this was a time when many thinkers and writers
tried to envision an ideal, or utopian, community, and Labyrinth was influenced by that genre. Comenius was affected by utopian writings such as
Thomas More’s Utopia, Francis Bacon’s The New Atlantis,
and Thomas Camponella’s The City of the Sun. He was particularly stimulated by
a utopian writing of his friend Andreae entitled Christianopolis. A significant aspect often found in these utopian writings is the concept that
the ideal Christian community will have intense angelic guidance. This is
notable in Christianopolis,
but even more so in the Labyrinth of Comenius.
For my present purpose, it is important to note that
Andreae’s Christianopolis clearly states that the underlying principle in envisioning the ideal Christian
city-state is that everything is treated “as a prelude which imitates
eternal life” and that “the best arrangement for a community is this,
that it approximate as closely as possible to heaven.” Accordingly, Christianopolis is governed under the leadership of three men “modelled on the Trinity.” A temple is at the very center of the city, and it is a place where sacred
plays are performed. Religious music is of great importance, for the choir sings “in imitation
of the angelic choir, to whose songs of joy God Himself bears witness. And
since they place the greatest emphasis on the service, protection, warnings and
teachings of the angels and take steps to have the angels as near them as
possible, it is their hope . . . that the choir of angels will join in with
Comenius followed the same principle in describing the
utopian aspects of Labyrinth. From his comments, I infer that the
underlying concept was based on a wonderfully expansive interpretation of part
of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it
is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). A responsible Christian community will strive to follow the order of heaven so
far as it has been revealed and in anticipation of the kingdom. It was this
anticipation that motivated Comenius to seek to do many things that he felt
would bring about improvement in the world, and he was remarkably successful in
his contribution. In Labyrinth he discusses perceptively many aspects of
Christian life and how improvement can be made. He depicts a Christian life and
community where prayer is fundamental and the gifts of the Spirit are richly
enjoyed. God is a constant source of comfort. The angels surround and protect,
guide and instruct:
I have likewise observed . . . another benefit derived from
this invisible holy company: namely; that they not only have angels as
guardians, but also as teachers of the elect, to whom they often transmit secret
hints and whom they teach the deep hidden mysteries of God. For since they ever
look upon the face of the omniscient God, none of those things which a pious
man desires to know can remain hidden from them. . . . From this source come
the increase of the gifts of God within us. . . . Oh, the blessed school of the
sons of God!
Comenius held that not only do the angels protect the
faithful, but they are also blessed with miracles and “God’s own august
presence.” He even describes a visit of the Savior in such a striking, vivid, and moving
way as to make one wonder whether the account reflects his own actual experience—or
that of a friend. It reminded me of Joseph Smith’s vision and description of the Lord of Glory
and illustrates the intense faith of Comenius in the reality of divine revelation.
His expectations were great. Since the Protestant Reformation had already
occurred, what more was he seeking? He yet anticipates a time of great illumination
and fulfillment when the “result of that light which is promised is the
conversion of all peoples to the Church, so that Jehovah shall be King over all
the earth” and, as promised, “the Gospel of the kingdom shall be
preached in the whole circle of the world, for a witness to all the peoples,
before the end shall come.”
The Revelations of Lux in Tenebris
In his travels, Comenius met many visionary persons,
apparently showing that revelatory experiences were significant in that day. Clearly he took an interest in such claims that purported to give guidance on
the future. Some of his friends persuaded him to compile a book on the subject.
This he did, and he published it in 1657 under the title Lux in
Tenebris (“Light in Darkness”). It was a
title bearing rich allusions, such as to God’s separation of light and darkness
in the creation or to a New Testament theme: “the dayspring from on high
hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow
of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78–79). The
title derives from the Latin Vulgate version of John 1:5, which in our more
familiar English version reads, speaking of Christ: “And the light shineth
in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” The book contained
some commentary by Comenius and his Latin translation of revelations claimed by
three persons he knew. For this preliminary review, I have relied on the
selections and English translation of the Latin published in 1664 by Puritan
writer and translator Robert Codrington (d. 1665), hereafter cited as Prophecies.
The three prophetic
figures quoted by Comenius are Christopher Kotter, a Lutheran; Christina Poniatowska;
and Nicholas Drabík—
scattered members of the United Brethren church. All of them experienced great
hardship as a result of the Thirty Years’ War between Catholic and Protestant
factions. Kotter, a tanner from Silesia who proclaimed his prophecies unto
many, was thrown into prison and later exiled to Saxony. Poniatowska was a
young refugee orphan from Bohemia whom Comenius cared for in his own family.
She married a priest and tutor of royalty and died at age 34. Drabík, a
Moravian who was appointed to the ministry in 1616 at the same time and place
as Comenius, was exiled and became a cloth merchant. He claimed many revelations
and was a martyr and witness of great cruelty when religious freedom did not
exist. He was beheaded in 1671 for his effrontery. Comenius had
great respect for these people.
Approached from the viewpoint of Latter-day Saints today,
these revelations appear to be of mixed quality. I find some rewarding aspects
both moving and faith promoting, while other things are problematic, even
raising the question of failed prophecy. These interesting writings need to be
approached with caution like all noncanonical writings that claim inspiration.
What the Lord said in relation to the Apocrypha is instructive here: “There
are many things contained therein that are true, . . . [and] there are many
things . . . that are not true. . . . Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him
understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth” (Doctrine and Covenants
91:1–4). Even the Book of Mormon allows
the possibility of human error within inspired scripture: “Whoso receiveth
this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in
it, the same shall know of greater things than these” (Mormon 8:12). This
is a most remarkable comment and promise. These revelations collected by
Comenius afford an instructive opportunity to gain experience in confronting
this problem. I will first outline what I see as the more positive aspects of
them, and then I will comment on some rather difficult passages.
A Witness of Eternal Things
Today our view of what is most important in these writings
likely differs from that of people in Comenius’s day, preoccupied as they were
with wartime trauma and a great concern for what was to come. The most striking
and important thing we may see in these writings is their witness of the
ministry of angels, the nature of Deity, and the reality of the heavenly realm.
Since that time, in addition to biblical accounts, a remarkable number of
sacred writings from the past have been recovered, offering useful comparisons
with the prophecies collected by Comenius. The discovery of an ancient Book of
Enoch a century after Comenius was an important milestone in understanding
Enoch’s heavenly vision, or “ascent,” and that of other visionaries.
That book begins with this summary passage: “Enoch a righteous man, whose
eyes were opened by God, saw the vision of the Holy One in the heavens, which
the angels showed me, and from them I heard everything, and from them I
understood as I saw.” The strong involvement of the angels as instructors or heavenly guides is a conspicuous
motif among ancient visionary accounts.
Angelic guidance is also prominent in the visions preserved
by Comenius. Frances Yates thought it extraordinary that “Kotter’s visions
were brought to him by angels, so he believed, who would suddenly become
visible to him, show him a vision, and return to invisibility. In the illustrations,
the angels are shown as young men, without wings, in long robes.” Latter-day Saints will appreciate that detail, as they will Kotter’s report
that an angel appeared again and “repeated the same words” along with
additional instruction. The angel would allay his fears: “giving his right hand to [Kotter], he admonished
him to put off all Fear, for no evill should come unto him.” When Kotter was introduced to another angel in the vision, the angel said: “Give
me the fellowship of thy Right Hand.” The same
motif appears in Poniatowska’s visions where the heavenly figure “came unto
me in a long white rayment, and giving me his right hand, said unto me, My
strength and my victory be to thy eternal comfort, and to the eternal ruin and
destruction of those who vainly trust in their own greatness.” The judgment motif is often present, but the revelations give a warm feeling of
close association offered from the heavenly world to mankind. This brought to
mind the Lord’s direction and promise through Joseph Smith: “Be thou humble;
and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy
prayers” (D&C 112:10).
The concept of God in these visions is strongly anthropomorphic.
Poniatowska refers to the heavenly figure teaching and assisting her as “the
Antient of dayes” or “Ancient of Times” and as an elderly looking
man. This may be a restrained allusion to Deity or to one very near to God who is
personally serving as guide. This guide introduces Poniatowska to the vision of God on his throne,
surrounded by the angels, so characteristic of other apocalyptic accounts. It
is not unlike the prophet Lehi’s vision in the opening chapter of the Book of
Mormon. The description reads:
Lifting up my eyes I beheld the Heaven to open, and the old
man looking down upon me, and saying to me, Come up to me: but I answering,
cannot, He replied, Give me your hands. I therefore
held out both of my hands unto him, and he drew me up from the hill into
Heaven, and said unto me, Pray thus, O Lord prepare my heart, and all my senses
to understand thy wonderful works.
This prayer being ended I beheld a great company, and a
large plain in which they stood, so full of light that I could hardly behold it
for the glory of it. I demanded therefore of the old man, what spacious and shining
place it was: He answered, It is the throne and the Majesty of the living God,
attend diligently and behold.
The “opening of the heavens” is an important biblical
concept, and such visions are found in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the Apocalypse. A
key New Testament passage appears where the Lord promises Nathaniel that “hereafter
ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon
the Son of Man” (John 1:51). Joseph Smith referred to such revelations as “the
visions of eternity” or “the visions of heaven” as they were
experienced in the church.
In Poniatowska’s account, the visionary was given to
understand many things about the divine order: how the angels praise the Lord
for his goodness, mercy, and cosmic power over both heaven and earth; and how
angels go between heaven and earth with swiftness (as on wings or flying),
reporting to God and pleading before him for the benefit of those oppressed who
thus are not being forgotten. The coming judgments of God are represented in
several circumstances, often with quite some complexity and in symbolic ways.
Assurances are given that God’s judgment will certainly provide rewards and punishments
and will put all things in order. In a striking resurrectional figure, the “Church
of Christ” is likened to one “alone in a corner like a dead Body,”
but the Lord will yet come in mercy and bring the church “forth into the
light, and my countenance shall shine upon [it] bright as the Sun,” while
the church will be known as “the City of Righteousness, and my faithful
Apocalyptic Visions and the Question of Failed Prophecy
These visions invite brief consideration of the question of
failed prophecy. They give promise of divine intervention and judgment in cases
of hardship and claim that certain kings or powers will be deposed or others
will be instated. Some of these prophecies seem to have created false hopes
since it does not appear that the events they foresaw came to pass at the time.
I do not doubt the possibility of false prophecy, human error, or even the deceptions
of the evil power. However, the question should be considered whether true
prophecies may not always be intended as literal, but perhaps may be given as
examples of contingent actions, or the type of things that will result if
repentance does not follow stern warning. From God’s eternal perspective, and
when there may be many aspects of a thing that we don’t even know about, does
it really matter when a correction or judgment is carried out, as long as “all’s
well that ends well”? Could stark things be shown in vision to emphasize
the gravity of a thing and the type of result that will
eventually follow if wrong choices are made? Kotter quoted an angel as saying
that “God pronounceth his judgement against a Nation or Kingdom which he intends
to destroy and break in pieces: but if that Nation or Kingdom shall truly
repent them of their evil ways, God will repent himself of the evil which he
intended to bring upon them.” God is merciful, patient, and desirous of repentance wherever possible and allows
mankind agency in all things.
In one of the
revelations, the visionary is told that “this day the judgements of the
Lord shall be shown unto you, and his power by which he will cast down the
proud from their thrones, and exalt the humble in their places.” Can and will God carry out this great reversal? It is the power that is being made
evident here, as in the grand scene of the heavenly court, providing the
assurance that it can and will be done in the Lord’s due time. To make evident
that power and establish confidence in it is an important purpose of the
revelation. Thus, at the end of the marvelous throne vision one of the angels exclaims:
Rejoyce you righteous in the strength of this mighty King,
for now in a short time he will arise to help you; he will multiply the gladness
of your hearts with the greatness of his power, he will comfort you, and fill
your hearts with abundant joy. Use but a little patience, and be assured that Iehovah the God of Hosts will perform it.
From the life of Comenius
comes a helpful example. In 1619 he was present at the Prague cathedral for the
coronation of Frederick V as king of Bohemia. That ceremony “was the last
official act of the church to which he belonged before its suppression.” Comenius and the church anticipated great things from the reign of Frederick
and even “expected a world reformation from his rule . . . [and] were attempting
reforms in society and in education under his auspices.” Their disappointment was great when he was soon overthrown in the war and
forced to flee to The Hague in the Netherlands. He lived there in exile the
rest of his life. In the prophecies of Kotter, it appeared that Frederick would
be restored to his kingship, although that did not come about. Yates has translated
a passage from Kotter to illustrate this:
Frederick, . . . King of Bohemia, crowned by God, the supreme
King of all Kings, who in the year 1620 fell into danger, but . . . will again
recover all and far greater riches and glory.
Placing great confidence in this prophecy, Comenius took an
illustrated manuscript of Kotter’s revelations to show the exiled king at the
He presented him with a precious copy of the prophecies, in
which was given the prospect of a return to Prague. When Frederick V saw the
volume in folio size, he was amazed that there were so many of such
predictions. He opened the beautifully written work and saw that it was illustrated
with appropriate pictures. In one of these pictures he saw a man who stood out
clearly in the midst of an army, whilst being presented with a golden book.
The king wondered what it all meant. Comenius then
explained that there would come to pass the preaching of the gospel to the
unbelieving nations and the liberation of the church from its persecutors. What should we think of this prophecy? Could it not be viewed from an eternal
perspective to see Frederick receive a glorious crown as promised the faithful
in the resurrection, one of eternal duration, power, and influence and far more
important and glorious than any earthly diadem? As for preaching the gospel to
all nations, four centuries have gone by, but we still have reason to believe
it will come about with the assistance of a “golden book.” We need to
enlarge our view and to strive to see prophecy and all things from God’s
Apparently Comenius had such a perspective. He published
these prophecies some years after the premature death of Frederick, when it was
known he would not recover his kingship. He felt the revelations still had great
value. When he visited England in 1641–1642 at the invitation of members
of Parliament, he tried to create interest in Lux in Tenebris and provided
prominent persons with copies, despite the opposition of some. Yates has noted how that visit demonstrated “the great importance which
Comenius attached” to the book. After the
deaths of Kotter and Poniatowska, he placed reliance on the prophecies still
being given by Drabík, but these caused him much disappointment and criticism
when it became evident the throne would not be restored at Prague. Drabík’s
revelations were problematic, and his life became unstable. He was subjected to
great stress and hardship, culminating in his execution. Nevertheless, Comenius
appears to have kept his confidence in the revelations of Lux in
Tenebris. Where they lacked fulfillment,
he regarded prophecy as being dependent upon man’s response
to God’s will and therefore believed that particular events must be interpreted
in the light of the ultimate purpose of God to establish his rule on earth. It
was necessary to distinguish between things fundamental, instrumental and
What appears most significant is that since Comenius was working
earnestly with others to plan for an ideal kingdom upon the return of Frederick,
when that hope was thwarted it caused him to turn his energies to seek reform
and improvement on a worldwide basis. This resulted in a greater, lasting
influence and a contribution that helped prepare the world for the glory of the
latter days. One of his biographers has concluded:
In his literary work he left to his nation and to the whole
world a great legacy; whilst preserving his national individuality, he kept in
mind mankind as a whole; through the ennobling and improvement of his own
nation he endeavoured to further the interests of the whole world. Under the most
unfavourable conditions he always thought of the good of others. Christian
humanity spoke from every one of his actions. A true patriot and son of his
Church, he was free from all national or religious prejudice. Owing to the
loftiness of his aims and the greatness of his personality he held the attention
of the eminent men of all nations.
On the Reaction to Revelation or Prophecy
I have dwelt upon the experience of some Christians of the
seventeenth century because I feel they should be better known and their
struggles and contributions appreciated. Living as I do now in a day of
fulfillment, their revelations have stimulated my faith but also made me
grateful for the plainness of the scriptures received for our dispensation
through the Prophet Joseph Smith. They also help me to consider that God has
provided a witness in many times and places or, as the title page of the Book
of Mormon says of Christ, that he is “manifesting himself unto all
nations.” Christ is the all-important message, not only of the Bible, but of the more
immediate revelations espoused by Comenius. Kotter reported that the angel
impressively said to him:
Do thou adhere to this thy Lord and Saviour: first, as thy Advocate,
Intercessour, and Patron to his Father; who best knoweth thy own necessities,
and can send thee a deliverance from them. Secondly, Adhere unto him as thy
Saviour and Redeemer, unto whom all the Prophets, and the Scriptures lead thee,
and to no other. Trust thou in God, and rejoyce, in his goodness, so shalt thou
overcome all temptations, especially, if thou wilt apply thy selfe unto prayer,
and the hearing of the Word of God.
Comenius and the visionaries found there was much opposition
to their testimony. He often tried to share the revelations, but many found a
reason to reject them. They thought he was foolish or for other reasons would
turn them aside, even when they greatly respected him in other matters. They
failed to see that the heavenly things from the Bible and the further
revelations provided his zeal and enthusiasm and gave him his expansive,
reforming view. The visionary persons found much opposition and persecution.
Kotter related that the angel directed him to witness to public officials, but
when he did they feared he was mad or dishonest, warned him against his
efforts, and refused to give him credence.
Latter-day Saints have also found that many do not want to
hear of revelation or consider it in any way. Others like to find fault and
sometimes go to extravagant lengths to find what they think is a basis to
reject it. They trample it under their feet. Orson Pratt, who directed much of
the church’s early missionary work, held that
the conduct of millions in relation to the Book of Mormon
goes to show that they would reject all true revelation as well as false ones:
they are determined to reject, at all hazards, without the least inquiry, every
thing under the name of new revelation. They seem to be absolutely certain, as
their conduct abundantly indicates, that God will never favor man with another
communication of his will concerning them.
In rejecting revelation, people are denying themselves much
joy. We can only hope and pray that more people will begin to lift their eyes
to heaven for inspiration and guidance. Kotter quoted the angel as saying “it
hath been alwayes the custom of the wicked world to despise heavenly things and
to esteem things that are earthy to be heavenly.” It is the “light
in darkness” theme again. The Lord said to Joseph Smith: “A light
shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness
of my gospel; but they receive it not, for they perceive not the light, and
they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men” (D&C
In closing this discussion of these portentous eternal
things, I am reminded of an apt comment of the late Hugh Nibley. While considering
Egyptian texts and their deep concern with preparation for the afterlife, he
was moved to say: “Granted its mind-expanding scope, is the Egyptian
experience at all relevant to the modern world? The answer is no; and neither
is Mormonism relevant to the distracted modern world, which has no concern with
the things of the eternities and will soon be forgotten.”
In This Number of the FARMS Review
We have an interesting variety of articles in this number of
many of which will help keep our minds focused on eternal things. We
particularly commend the thoughtful essay by Richard Williams on the glories of
the gospel restoration and its correction of errors together with its great
enhancement of faith and understanding. Those who enjoy a philosophical
discussion will appreciate James Faulconer’s essay on modernism and
postmodernism, viewed from a gospel perspective.
On matters of doctrine, we note with great interest the
growing number of studies among students of the Bible and Christian history
that are concerned with the doctrine of deification, or the concept that
mankind has the possibility to attain to godhood. Recent numbers of the Review have carried discussions of new studies on this subject or noted their
publication. This development is of special interest to Latter-day Saints, who
have been ridiculed as attempting to be “Godmakers” and whose sacred
doctrines have been treated with disdain. Tom Rosson reviews a new book by
Daniel Keating, written from a Catholic viewpoint, that again reflects the
position that the idea of deification was an important aspect of the Christian
faith. James Farmer provides a review of a helpful new book by Frank Salisbury
on the concept of divine design, a topic of current interest regarding the
creation. Sandra Thorne reviews a book by Kim Clark on divine protection.
Several essays touch on important concerns about the
scriptures. Terryl Givens offers a meaningful essay on the origin of the Book
of Mormon and the manner of its origin as witnessing profound doctrinal and
ecclesiastical truths. The Book of Abraham continues to demand attention, and
Egyptologist John Gee discusses the status of research with the Joseph Smith
Papyri and addresses questions of interest pertaining to these remarkable
documents that are somehow related to Joseph Smith’s production of the Book of
Abraham. Brant Gardner considers Diane Wirth’s new book on Book of Mormon
geography, and Don Brugger samples a new “timechart” of Mormonism and
Mormon culture and history meet us in Larry Morris’s review
of Frederick Babbel’s inspiring account of his mission with Elder Ezra Taft
Benson to bring assistance to the Saints in Europe at the end of World War II.
Long out of print, this book is now available as a reprint. Oxford University
Press has recently published an insightful history of Mormon culture by Terryl
Givens that is reviewed here by Cherry Silver.
Our detractors are still
at work. We offer two responses. One concerns a recent book by the atheist
writer Sam Harris that has attracted much attention. It is reviewed by Gregory
Smith. Hank Hanegraaff, a perennial source of disparagement, has produced a
book in the tradition of Walter Martin. Ara Norwood has written an “open
letter” in response.
In addition to the above, we present a number of brief Book
Notes, calling attention to other works that may be of interest to Latter-day
As customary, we offer our selection of books of particular
interest, according to the following ratings:
**** Outstanding, a seminal work of the kind that appears only rarely
*** Terryl L. Givens, People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture
*** Frederick Babbel, On Wings of Faith: My Daily Walk with a Prophet
A. Keating, Deification
I would like to thank my colleagues Daniel Peterson and
Louis Midgley for giving me the opportunity to write this introduction on a
topic of great interest to me. As always, I value their friendship, support,
and rich academic perspectives. Special thanks go to William Hamblin for his
helpful comments on this introduction. This number of the Review would not have seen the light of day without the assistance of several other
people: production editors Don Brugger and Larry Morris, assisted by former Review production editor Shirley Ricks and editorial assistant Sandra Thorne;
source-checking and proofreading supervisor Paula Hicken, assisted by Caitlyn
Ainge, Lauren Barlow, Kelley Konzak, Keegan Taylor, Sandra Thorne, and
Charlotte Wood; and layout specialists Jacob Rawlins and Alison Coutts. I am
also indebted to the administrative personnel of the Maxwell Institute for
their enthusiastic support of this publication.
of Christopher Kotterus, Christiana Poniatovia, Nicholas
Drabicius: Three Famous German Prophets, trans. R. C. Gent, comp.
Robert Codrington, 2nd ed. (London: Printed for Robert Pawlet at the Sign of
the Bible in Chancery-lane, near the Inner-Temple Gate, 1664), 47, emphasis
added. Hereafter cited as Prophecies. All quotations in the present essay
preserve the original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and other
 See Daniel
A Critical Reassessment of His Life and Work (Dublin: Irish Academic
Press, 1995); and Matthew Spinka, John Amos Comenius: That Incomparable
Moravian (New York: Russell & Russell, 1967). A helpful
commentary is found in Frances A. Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), 156–70. I first encountered the
revelatory complex being considered while reading this noted work of the late
Dame Yates. Later informative discussions are Clare Goodrick-Clarke, “The
Rosicrucian Afterglow: The Life and Influence of Comenius,” in The
Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited, ed. Ralph White (Hudson, NY:
Lindisfarne Books, 1999), 193–218; Craig D. Atwood, “Comenius as a
Public Theologian,” which includes a useful bibliography on Comenius and
is available at http://divinity.wfu
.edu/pdf/comenius.pdf (accessed 9 September 2008).
 Yates, Rosicrucian
Enlightenment, 42–45, quotations on pp. 44, 45. For a summary of recent research on Rosicrucian
origins, see Tobias Churton, The Golden Builders: Alchemists, Rosicrucians and the First Freemasons (Boston: Weiser, 2005); and
Donald R. Dickson, The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods & Secret
Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 1998),
 Yates, Rosicrucian
 Yates, Rosicrucian
 John Amos
or Universal Reform: Chapters 1–18 and 27, trans. A. M. O.
Dobbie (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995).
 Atwood, “Comenius,”
 Will S.
and the Beginnings of Educational Reform (New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1900); John Edward Sadler, J. A. Comenius and
the Concept of Universal Education (London: Allen & Unwin,
Fitzgibbon Young, Comenius in England (London: Oxford University Press,
1932); G. H. Turnbull, Hartlib, Dury and Comenius (London:
Hodder & Stoughton, 1947). The encyclopedia referred to was later named the Encyclopaedia
Christi Americana (New Haven: S. Andrus, 1820), II, iv, 10, as cited
by Spinka, Comenius,
example, Josef S. Roucek, “Jan Amos Komenský: The Spiritual Founder
of [the] Modern Masonic Mouvement,” Zeitschrift für Religions- und
Geistesgeschichte 15/4 (1963): 371–76.
 John Amos
Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart, trans. Matthew
Spinka (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1972). First published in 1623.
 Comenius, Labyrinth,
Doležel, Narrative Modes in Czech Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), 57.
 J. V.
intro. and trans. Edward H. Thompson (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer
Academic, 1999). This work was first published in 1619. On its influence on Labyrinth,
see Murphy, Comenius, 13,
76. For other influences, see Dickson, Utopian Brotherhoods,
 Andreae, Christianopolis,
 Andreae, Christianopolis, 96.
 Andreae, Christianopolis,
61, 65, 257–58.
 Andreae, Christianopolis,
 Spinka, Comenius,
 Comenius, Labyrinth,
 Comenius, Labyrinth,
 Comenius, Labyrinth,
104–5. That the passage has an affinity to one from Andreae is noted at
 Comenius, The Way of
Light, 198, as cited by Spinka, Comenius, 83.
 Murphy, Comenius,
 Comenius, Lux in
Tenebris (Amsterdam, 1657). An enlarged edition entitled Lux e
Tenebris was published in 1663 and 1665. I
am citing these rare books from Spinka, Comenius, 139, 161. Most copies
were destroyed, having been consigned to the flames.
 See n. 1
 On the
lives of these people, see Prophecies, 20–27, 56–61, 91–95;
Wilhelmus Rood, Comenius and the Low Countries (Amsterdam: Van Gendt,
1970), 30, 35, 44, 52, 100–101, 108, 169–74, 177–79,
237–38; Murphy, Comenius, 14, 41–42; and Sadler, Comenius and
Universal Education, 16–17, 306–7, 309.
 1 Enoch 1:2, in R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), 2:188.
Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (London: SPCK, 1982), 200.
 Yates, Rosicrucian
Enlightenment, 159. Compare Prophecies, 59.
esp. 59, 77. See also 62–64, 67–78, 82, 86–87.
usage in the book of Daniel and the concept of “the angel of his presence”
in Abraham 1:15.
 History of
the Church, 1:83.
79, 80, 81.
 Yates, Rosicrucian
 Yates, Rosicrucian
 Yates, Rosicrucian
Enlightenment, 159; from Lux in Tenebris, 42–43.
 Rood, Comenius and
the Low Countries, 29.
 Rood, Comenius and
the Low Countries, 29–30.
 Young, Comenius in
England, 11, 52.
 Turnbull, Hartlib, Dury and
 Yates, Rosicrucian
Enlightenment, 158 n. 3.
 Sadler, Comenius and
Universal Education, 310.
Amos Comenius (New York: Arno Press, 1971), 59.
 See the
discussion of revelation in the medieval period in Carol Zaleski, Otherworld
Journeys (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 45–60,
Pratt, “Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon,” no. 1, p. 2, in A Series of
Pamphlets, by Orson Pratt (Liverpool: R. James, 1851).
Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd ed.
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2005), 31.