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Promoting the Study of the Philosophy of Epicurus

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In The Epicurean Tradition of Lucian, Consider – “Do The Gods of Kolob Rant?”

If you are a fan of Epicurus and have not treated yourself to Lucian’s  “Zeus Rants” or “Alexander the Oracle-Monger,” you really need to remedy that oversight.  The latter work contains Lucian’s ringing endorsement of Epicurus:

In this connection Alexander once made himself supremely ridiculous. Coming across Epicurus’s Accepted Maxims, the most admirable of his books, as you know, with its terse presentment of his wise conclusions, he brought it into the middle of the market-place, there burned it on a fig-wood fire for the sins of its author, and cast its ashes into the sea.  He issued an oracle on the occasion:  “The dotard’s maxims to the flames be given.”

The fellow had no conception of the blessings conferred by that book upon its readers, of the peace, tranquillity, and independence of mind it produces, of the protection it gives against terrors, phantoms, and marvels, vain hopes and inordinate desires, of the judgment and candor that it fosters, or of its true purging of the spirit, not with torches and squills and such rubbish, but with right reason, truth, and frankness.

Lucian reminds us that it is a grand tradition of Epicureans to graciously, kindly, but firmly challenge the absurdities that flow from the world of revealed religions.  In that tradition, this post shines the light on a topic that is about to burst into the public consciousness, at least in the United States – Mormonism.

Given that a disciple of this religion might well be on his way to becoming president of the United States, it is time to acquaint yourself with the basic tenets of that imaginative creed.  As a first step in that effort I offer the following, from Chapter Two of a very interesting book published in 1905 by Marian Bonsall, which is freely available in full on Google Books.  The author was not an Epicurean, but her story of life in Utah is fascinating, especially as it relates to the tendency of Mormons to misrepresent their faith to others.  I urge readers of this blog to download the full edition in case Google one day decides this book is too hot to handle.

Take the time to read through the following material, and consider:  Do the gods of Kolob rant?

 

A young Mormon man once told me, with keen amusement, of the excitedly hopeful manner of a woman tourist, who, while approaching the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City to attend an organ recital under the auspices of the church, had asked him if he thought it probable that she would see any Mormons there. The young fellow had not told her that she might behold that curiosity in himself, but to her gasping astonishment had informed her that the organist whom she was about to hear, a musician of international reputation, was himself a Latter Day Saint. I have no doubt that she suffered quite a disappointment in the respectability of the audience, and after the manner of tourists, which I have already described, returned home to tell her friends that there was no difference between the Mormons and other people: a statement in most respects quite true.

The one difference, the vital difference, naturally lies in the religion. It is only to be expected that the tourist should be convinced from the usual run of tabernacle oratory in the cities, and knowing that Mormonism and Christianity have the Bible in common, that there is little difference between the two religions. Certainly that was my conviction, when, in the early part of my travels in Utah, I first heard a religious service in a Mormon meeting house. In that service, I heard the Trinity referred to with all reverence; I heard quoted the Sermon on the Mount and some of the most beautiful passages in the Psalms; I heard of Christ’s holy example of purity, and I heard the congregation exhorted to “live their religion.” The only phrases which seemed to me unusual were passages from the Book of Mormon, and the closing sentence of each speaker, “I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and this is my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” I had my idea of what the “speaker meant,—the very idea meant to be conveyed to any Gentiles who might be present. The Mormon hearers carried away another idea of the same words,—the idea meant to be conveyed to them by the same speakers.

I did not then know nor would the average Gentile listener know, that God, to the Mormon speakers and listeners, meant Adam, a polygamous God, who by his numerous wives is continually begetting spirits in the flesh; I did not know, then, that the Christ referred to was a polygamous Christ whose wives included Mary and Martha; I did not know that, to a Mormon, the phrase “live your religion” means “increase your family;” I did not realize that proclaiming Joseph Smith a true prophet of God, proclaims his utterances, in which the revelation on plural marriage is included, as the utterances of God himself. Yet these are beliefs of the Mormon religion.

The Mormons freely admit and zealously proclaim that the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Bible, are of equal importance and authority. The fact that the first edition of the Book of Mormon, in more than one place, mentions Joseph Smith as “author and proprietor,” does not disturb their calm confidence in its divine origin and authorship. It must be admitted, however, that copies of the first and second editions are not lying about in profusion, and that they are dearly prized by Gentile collectors.

The Book of Mormon, as is generally known, is believed by the Mormons to have been restored to the world through the prophet Joseph Smith. By his own account, Smith, while living in Palmyra, N. Y., in the year 1827, was given records by an angel of the Lord, which were, engraved in Egyptian characters on golden plates. With the aid of the Urim and Thummin, described by himself as “two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow, fastened to a breastplate,” Smith declares he translated the inscriptions into the Book of Mormon.

Impartial critics, who have made the matter a study, have found that the Book of Mormon is a plagiarism from an unpublished novel by Solomon Spaulding, to which Smith gained access through his friend, Sidney Rigdon, who came into possession of the manuscript by circumstances which have caused him to be believed a thief.

The Doctrine and Covenants containing the revelations given to Joseph Smith, are believed by the Latter Day Saints to be not only as sacred as the voice of God Himself, but the very utterances of God, given through His prophet, and therefore as binding as any command in the Old and New Testament. It will be seen from the following summary of the Mormon religion, that though plural marriage was not originally practiced by its followers, and that it flatly contradict* several passages in the Book of Mormon, it yet fitted into the general Mormon scheme of pre- and after-existence. This is, in short, what the Mormon man and the Mormon woman believe:

That, somewhere, is Celob, the center of the Universe, ruled by a triad God. Eloheim,—or the Supreme God; Yahovah,—or Christ; and Michael,—or Adam; these three being represented in the Deity as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; and represented upon earth by the first presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,—namely, Joseph F. Smith and his two counselors, who act with divine authority, as has been stated in a former installment. Michael, or Adam, who is the only God with whom the Mormon people is particularly concerned, is defined in the books held sacred by the church as “The Father of All, the Prince of All, and the Ancient of Days,” and again as “the only God with whom we have to do.” Now God, or Adam, is a God of flesh, a materialist in every sense. His wives are women in as material a sense, the difference between a celestial and an earthly body being that, instead of blood, the veins of celestial beings are filled with a subtle fluid, which renders their bodies always beautiful, always rejuvenated.

Countless hundreds of years ago, “the head God called together the Gods, and sat in grand council to bring forth the world.” Far off in space they beheld this space which we now inhabit, and perceiving it to be good, sent Michael, or Adam, with one of his wives, to beautify it. Adam, eating of the tree of knowledge, transgressed to his greater glory, as without the fall there would have been no human race. Therefore, it had been prearranged by the Gods in Council, that in the fullness of time Yahovah, or Christ, should come to earth and atone for original sin. Christ, by Mormon belief, is the son of Adam, by natural generation.

The Mormon idea of the first transgression is embodied thus explicitly in the catechism: Q. Was it necessary that Adam should partake of the forbidden fruit?

A. Yes, unless he had done so, he would not have known good and evil here, neither could he have had mortal posterity; * * * we ought to consider the fall of our first parents as one of the great steps to eternal exaltation and happiness, and one ordered by God in His infinite wisdom.

Q. Did Adam and Eve lament or rejoice because they had transgressed the commandment?

A. They rejoiced and praised God.

Adam, then, having accomplished his purpose, returned with Eve to his own planet, having become the God and Father and Progenitor of the human family. Eloheim, by his numerous wives, is conceiving in the flesh, untold millions of spirits, who . are clamoring for embodiment in human flesh. Every human being has once been one of these spirits. It is thus that the Mormon belief in a pre-existence is explained.

“As man is now,” to Mormon belief, “so God was;” and “as God is now, so man will be.” But to attain Godhood, the human experience is necessary. These myriads of spirits, therefore, are continually hovering about the human family, beseeching human birth. Thus it is the highest duty of every Mormon woman to raise a large family of children, and thus that her exaltation is proportionate to the number of pre-existent spirits to which she gives embodiment.

Therefore, when Mormon men or women are accused of sin, in bringing illegitimate children into the world, their answer and their belief is that they have performed the greatest possible service for these very children in giving them human birth, and thus making it possible for them to become Gods.

Provided that a Mormon has been a consistent Saint, and has obeyed the “celestial,” which is the plural order of marriage, he will be exalted to be ruler of a planet as a God, and his kingdom will consist of his wives and children, who will forever multiply, until his seed is as the seed of Abraham. In mathematical order he will, in turn, take one of his wives, go to an uninhabited planet, and people it after the manner of Adam and Eve. Then he, also, even as Adam, shall be God, Father and Progenitor of a race of beings, who shall acknowledge him their God and Ruler as the Mormon people today acknowledge Adam. Then, repeating the history of this world, one of his sons shall come, even as Christ, and atone for the fall of his father. And the Mormon exalted to Godhead, will continually beget spirit children, who, in their turn, will be embodied by the people of this new planet, and all of these children, will, in their turn, have a similar opportunity of becoming Gods and being as Adam to another planet.

Should you express any confusion at the idea of such countless millions of planets and races, Mormon theologians ask you, “What is Space?” and you are silent.

This deification, which is the highest exaltation, is possible only to polygamous Mormons. In consequence, only the wives of polygamous Mormons may become Goddesses. Notwithstanding deification, their highest duty, and the prospect of their immortality, is the bearing of children throughout all eternity.

The highest order of exaltation is known by Mormons as the celestial kingdom. A lower order is the terrestial kingdom, reserved for all good Mormons who have not been called to the celestial law.

It must be understood that a “revelation” is necessary to the man about to take a plural wife. If he receives this revelation himself, it must be, and easily is, confirmed by church authorities. If the revelation comes from the church authorities themselves, it is considered final.

A still lower order, the telestial kingdom, is the future lot of those who have not accepted the Mormon faith in this world, but have gained salvation through the vicarious baptisms of the Saints. Inhabitants of the lower kingdoms will be servants of those in the higher.

If you search for anything spiritual in Mormonism, you will not find it. If you look for materialism, you will find nothing else. It is the very essence of materialism. Now, as has before been stated, the practice of plural marriage was not originally a part of the Mormon religion, but was made binding upon the Saints by a revelation, stated-in the Doctrine and Covenants, as having been “given through Joseph the Seer, in Nauvoo, Hancock county, Illinois, July 12th, 1843.” Although most revolting, it is necessary to read copious extracts from the revelation in order to gain any idea of how vital it is to exaltation, and of the prodigious assumptions of Joseph Smith, who is related by reliable historians to have lived in polygamy with two wives, at least two years before this revelation was given to the Saints. This “revelation” is so unspeakably obscene that it cannot be printed.

The three opening paragraphs of the revelation, save the first, are quoted to show the alleged directness of the communication:

“Behold! and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter: Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same; for Behold! I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not by that covenant, then are ye damned; for no man can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”

Further on in the horror of it all, woman is promised that she shall be destroyed if she is not obedient to her husband in this matter; and the husband is assured that he is justified in possessing any number of wives in the new covenant, and that he cannot sin “for they belong to him.” It is this degrading idea of ownership which makes the Mormon woman a slave to her husband and her church today.

Try to realize that the Mormon women of today, whether they be pure, whether they be enlightened, whether they be rebellious, are dragged in the mire of this so-called revelation, unspeakable in its construction, blasphemy and sensuality. This vulgar document, mind you, is put above the words of Him who taught men to love one woman, and forsaking all others, to cleave only unto her. This ungrammatical dictum of Joseph Smith assigns Mormon women to this position in this world and in the life to come: and degrades the noblest, purest and most blessed duty of womanhood into unquestioning submission to a polygamous husband.

“Oh, but the manifesto?” you say, just as I did when I first entered Utah. Now, I tell you not only that the manifesto, issued by the late President Woodruff, supposed to prohibit plural marriage, not only has never been included in the doctrine and Covenants, but never actually forbade it, the words of the manifesto distinctly reading: “My advice to the Latter Day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.” The principal purpose of the manifesto, as it is used at the present time, is to deceive the Gentiles and the government, and plural marriages are continually being contracted. The revelation on plural marriage supposed to have been given to Joseph Smith in 1843, has never been repealed, is still contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, and is as much a command today as it ever was.

The length to which the members of the church will go, to conceal the true attitude of the church toward plural marriage, was strikingly illustrated by a young Mormon newspaper man of St. George, Utah, last September. President Smith preached in the town at that time, and in an earnest manner, and unmistakable language, told his hearers that celestial marriage was as much a principle of the faith of the Saints as it had ever been, and that the time was soon coming, when the political situation would be such that the Saints might live their religion, which was generally known to be the taking of plural wives, without fear of persecution. The young newspaper man, in his enthusiasm and admiration of the sermon, published it entire in his newspaper the next day. The Salt Lake Tribune, an anti-Mormon newspaper, copied it the next morning. The.Deseret News, the Mormon organ, hastened to deny that Smith had made these utterances, and the young Mormon announced through the columns of his journal that his paper had misrepresented the sermon, to his great regret, and that President Smith must not be understood as having made these statements, which evidently had been misrepresented by an inexperienced reporter.

A less exalted champion of plural marriage, a bishop, who presides over one of the wards of a small town in Utah, vigorously announces his belief to the world. This ecclesiastic, the husband of several wives, is particularly fond, in Sunday services, of picturing in glowing terms to his congregation the blessed day when “seven women shall lay hold on the skirts of one man.” In one of his most earnest sermons he told his congregation the following incident, relating to himself, which to him was not only perfectly serious, but a very hold on “exaltation” itself. He had, at one time, been prosecuted and fined for polygamy. Upon payment of his fine, he demanded a receipt. After some discussion it was given him by the clerk, who was much amused by the incident. The bishop’s purpose in claiming the receipt, he informed his congregation, was that when he met St. Peter in another world, and was asked if he had obeyed the celestial order of marriage, he could not only say that he had obeyed the divine law, but actually prove by the receipt, which he held in his hand, that he had undergone persecution for his obedience to the principle.

The Mormon people believe that for them, as Saints, it is necessary to work out their own salvation. One of the principal means to this end is being baptized for the dead, for it is a Mormon belief that at the close of the third century A. D., God withdrew His kingdom from the world, and that it was practically lost until 1830, when it was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. Since it was not the fault of those who lived before this time, that they had not been given an opportunity to embrace the religion of the Saints, which the Mormons believe to be the only true religion, it is possible for them to attain salvation by being baptized by proxy, by a Mormon believer. Every conscientious Mormon, therefore, hunts up his family tree, and is baptized individually by immersion for each of his ancestors of the same sex as himself. Further than this, the more zealous Saints are baptized in the Temples or in the baptismal houses, for other Gentiles who have died, and with whom they have had no connection, but who have never had an opportunity to embrace their faith. Eventually, the Mormons expect to have given every one the opportunity of accepting their belief in the next world, by means of these proxy baptisms. One of the activities of the Mormon missionaries is to gather up genealogies, regardless of any connection of friend or kinship, and send them back to Utah, that devout Mormons may be baptized for these people, long dead, and thus give them their chance of eternal salvation. Hundreds of illustrious persons have thus been baptized by proxy; many of the kings and queens of Europe, all of the presidents of the United States, except those who were unfriendly to the Mormons. One man is said to have been baptized for each of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and scores of others have thus been given a chance to accept the true religion and hence gain salvation after death.

One woman in Utah, of more than ordinary zeal, has been for years spending a day each week in one of the Temples, trying to accomplish the baptisms of 12,000 dead ancestors. After months and months of patient baptism, she called her two sons ‘from a ranch in Nevada, to come to help her complete the list. She has already been immersed thousands of times, but I have never heard if she had, with the aid of her sons, accomplished her whole purpose.

On the same principle, marriages are performed by proxy. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of marriage among the Mormons: marriages for time, and for eternity. As there is believed to be no marriage nor giving in marriage in the next world, marriage for those who have died single” can only be accomplished by two Mormons having the marriage ceremony performed over them as proxies, thus giving them the opportunity to accept this marriage and build up a kingdom for themselves in1 the next world. Hence, the case of a Mormon woman whose son died at the age of eight, and a friend, a Mormon man, whose daughter died at the age of six. When the time had elapsed after their death in which they would have reached a marriageable age, the man parent of the little girl, and the woman parent of the boy, went to the Temple and were married by proxy for these two children, to insure their greater glory in the other world.

There is nothing in the arrangement of marriage so repugnant or so horrible that it cannot be accomplished under the proxy system. A Mormort man, being attracted to a Gentile woman, who may be married to a Gentile man, and whom he does not even know, may by finding her name and securing the services of a Mormon woman who is willing to “stand for her,” be sealed to this Gentile woman by proxy, by a service in the secret Temple. Thereafter that man may look upon that Gentile woman as his wife, though the woman has, perhaps, never seen him, and he may gaze upon her when he sees her on the street, thinking in his heart that she will be his wife in the next world. Also, it is possible, and examples of the possibility are rife in Utah, for a man and a woman to be “sealed,” which is the Mormon term for married, for eternity, but not for time. If, however, in spite of the fact that the man had another living wife, they choose to start to build up their kingdom by raising a family of children in this world, though they incur the responsibility of breaking earthly laws, they insure themselves greater glory in the hereafter. In a former installment I have related a case which is a common one, of a woman being sealed to the brother of her dead fiance, that she might raise children to be sealed or adopted to her betrothed, and belong to his kingdom in the next world. The proxy system of marriage, as can easily be seen, produces endless and revolting complications of marriage.

The idea of parentage in the hereafter and of a pre-existence is strikingly exemplified in the following Mormon hymn:

“O my Father, Thou that dwellest

In the high and glorious place!
When shall I regain Thy presence,

And again behold Thy face?
In Thy holy habitation,

Did my spirit once reside?
In my first primeval childhood,

Was I nurtured near Thy side?

“For a wise and glorious purpose
Thou hast placed me here on earth,

And withheld the recollection

Of my former ■ friends and birth.

Yet ofttimes a secret something
Whispered, ‘You’re a stranger here;’

And I felt that I had wandered
From a more exalted sphere.

“I had learned to call Thee Father,

Through Thy spirit from on high;
But until the Key of Knowledge

Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heavens are parents single?

No; the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me, I’ve a mother there.

“When I leave this frail existence,

When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you

In your royal courts on high?
Then at length when I’ve completed

All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation

Let me come and dwell with you.”

From this very brief statement it can be understood how misleading are the Mormon “articles of faith” which are bestowed upon tourists at almost every corner in Salt Lake City. Interwoven throughout these beliefs are strange superstitions and practices of which much must be said in a later installment. The mysteries of the secret Temple, the complicated family relationships, the home life of the first wife and the plural wife,—startling outgrowths of this perfectly organized though degrading system,—these are things which cannot be understood until one has caught at least a glimpse of the Mormon theology. One of its greatest phases, that of essential disloyalty to the national government, remains to be told, with the present day results of Mormonism.