Sunday, March 06, 2005

Those Worthy of My Mysteries: Mormonism and Gnosticism by Lynn Ridenhour

“…To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” –Acts 1:3

Without a doubt, there is great correlation between present-day LDS beliefs and a group of ancient Gnostic texts found in Egypt: The Nag Hammadi library.

Let’s briefly explore the following subjects:

1) Gnosticism
2) The End-Time Hidden Treasure Motif
3) Secret Writings & Teachings
4) Equality with God
5) Three Degrees of Glory – Three Types of Persons
6) The Veil of Forgetfulness
7) The Spirit Prison – The Spirit World, and
8) Eternal Marriage

The above list is definitely present-day “Mormon doctrine.” It’s also ancient doctrine. Many Christians today are unaware—the above teachings were part of the true secret teachings of the early apostles. More than a few scholars believe that our Lord, during his post-resurrection period, taught the very mysteries that were lost to the church down through the centuries.

It’s not our purpose, however, to go into great depth concerning these mysteries. Much like an Impressionistic painter, we will simply touch on them. And then draw our connections. First…


Of course, the word “Gnosticism” comes from the word Gnosis – which means “secret” or “hidden mystery.” Unlike most of our Church Fathers, Origin acknowledged that there was a “true gnosis,” or secret teachings of the apostles. Regardless of the “philosophies of men,” the mixing of Greek philosophy and Oriental beliefs, or the pretenders of false secrets trying to impose their doctrines in place of the true secret teachings of the apostles – there was a “true gnosis.” There was a secret teaching of the apostles. And Jesus taught those mysteries to those who are worthy.

Times have not changes. Perhaps here’s a good place to interject a parallel. Perhaps you’ve heard the comment, “…the teachings in the temple are not secret; they’re sacred.” I beg to differ: the teachings in the temple are secret and sacred! As Latter-day Saints, we need to stop apologizing for our Savior’s secret teachings. They’re sacred. But they’re secret too. Hidden from the eyes of the world.

Yes, there was – and is- a true gnosis. True Christianity is a Gnostic Christianity. A true Christian is a Gnostic. He knows something the world does not. He knows — Angels and Spirit Beings walk among us. They ride our elevators and have lunch with us. The world sees nothing but buttons and bosses and bulletin boards. We see translated beings and signs and tokens.


Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven unto treasure hid in a field (Mt. 13:44). In these latter days, truth like a hidden treasure, will come forth out of the ground. Listen to the Gospel of the Egyptians:

“…The Great Seth wrote this book with letters in one hundred thirty years. He placed it in the mountain that is called Charaxio, in order that, at the end of times and eras, it may come forth and reveal this incorruptible, holy race of the great savior, and those who dwell with them in love, and the great, invisible, eternal Spirit, and his only begotten Son…And you will leave this book upon a mountain and you will adjure the guardian, ‘Come Dreadful One.’”

Taken directly out of the Nag Hammadi library!

Of course, the parallel is obvious. The hidden treasure motif is exactly the story of Moroni hiding the gold plates up in a hill until the end of time. Yet, the Nag Hammadi library was not discovered until 100 years after Joseph Smith’s death in 1844. Amazing.


Why do we have difficulty with the notion that our Savior taught many secret things to his apostles, commanding them not to reveal his teachings until a later date (Mt. 7:6; 17:1-9)?

Hear the Gospel of Thomas:

“These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down. Jesus said, ‘It is to those worthy of my mysteries that I tell my mysteries.’”

Listen to the Apocryphon of John:

“The teaching of the savior and the revelation of the mysteries, and the things hidden in silence, even these things which he taught John, his disciple.”

And what of the Apocryphon of James:

“Since you asked that I send you a secret book which was revealed to me and Peter by the Lord, I could not turn you away or gainsay you; but I have written it in the Hebrew alphabet and sent it to you, and you alone. But since you are a minister of salvation of the saints, endeavor earnestly and take care not to rehearse this text to many – this that the Savior did not wish to tell all of us, his twelve disciples. But blessed will they be who will be saved through the faith of this discourse.”

Again, let’s draw the parallel.

In the above Gnostic scriptures is contained the notion that there are certain teachings reserved for those who are ready for them. Such a notion today has been lost among the majority of Christians. Yet has been restored in the LDS temple endowment ceremony. Simply put, Christ has his secret writings and teachings for those who are ready for them. In the truest sense of the word, to become a Christian is to become an Initiate.

One enters, in other words, a Secret Order when one comes unto Christ. Another restored teaching: there are other writings currently withheld, for we’re not ready for them. There’s more to come. With great joy and expectation, we Initiates await these writings; i.e. the writings of Enoch, the sealed portions of the Book of Mormon, writings of the Lost Tribes. And I’m sure there are more. Let’s move on.


The doctrine – being as God is – did not originate with a coined couplet. Listen to the Gnostic Scriptures, the Tripartite Tractate:

“All those who glorify the Father have their begetting eternally, - they beget in the act of assisting one another – since the emanations are limitless and immeasurable and since there is no envy on the part of the Father toward those who came forth from him in regard to their begetting something equal or similar to Him, since he is the one who exists in the totalities, begetting and revealing himself. Whomsoever he wishes, he makes into a father, of whom he in fact is Father, and a god, of whom he in fact is God, and he makes them the Totalities, whose entirety is…their begetting is like the process of extension, as the Father extends himself to those he loves, so that those who have come forth from him become him as well.”

What a glorious passage. If I may say so, LDS to the core. The passage actually needs no commentary. There are some passages it behooves us to meditate upon rather than debate upon. This is one of those passages.

Being as God is. Equality with God was a central theme running throughout the Gnostic scriptures.


The three degrees of glory is also an ancient teachings embraced in Gnostic scriptures. AS well as in The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden. For instance, take the orthodox Christian teachings of the Shepherd Hermas, who taught that all men are given a bough from the Tree of Life. Later when judged, it is by the look of the bough. For those boughs bearing more branches and fruit, that person was given a crown and allowed to dwell in the tower. For those whose branches showed some growth, they were allowed to live in the tower. For those whose branches who showed some growth they are allowed to live in the tower, yet without a crown. Others, showing promise, were allowed to go in the courtyard, while the disobedient were not allowed entrance, but were cast out. Three degrees of glory – three types of persons.

Again, we make reference to The Tripartite Tractate:

“They were fathers of the third glory,,, Each one of those who give glory has his place and his exaltation and his dwelling and his rest, which consists if the glory which he brings forth.”

Let’s move on.


I glory in Joseph Smith’s account of the creation story, He shed so much new light. Added so much to the story that had been lost. He let us know by revelation, man had a pre-existence before the garden of Eden.

So do the Gnostic scriptures. Hear the Apocryphon of John concerning the creation of man:

“This is the tomb of the newly-formed body with which the robbers had clothed the man, the bond of forgetfulness; and he became a mortal man.

And he (Adam) saw the woman (Eve) beside him. And in that moment the luminous Epinoia appeared, and she lifted the veil which lay over his mind.

And he became sober from the drunkenness of darkness. And he recognized his counter-image, and he said, “This is indeed bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And when Adam recognized the likeness of his own foreknowledge, he begot the likeness of the son of man. He called him Seth according to the way of the race in the aeons…And he made them drink water of forgetfulness, from the chief archon, in order that they might not know from where they came.”

So much similarity. So much LDS doctrine. We were indeed spirit children of our Heavenly Father before we graced this earth. Yes, the veil of Forgetfulness will one day be lifted.


To the Latter-day Saint, the spirit world is real; the after-life is not static. The Prison House? Or Paradise? Both are intermediate states of the soul. Both temporary homes of the departed.

There is an almost uncanny resemblance of thought recorded in the Apocryphon of John:

“And I said, ‘Lord, those, however, who have not known to whom they belong, where will their souls be?’ And he said to me, ‘In those the despicable spirit (Satan) has gained strength when they went astray. And he burdens the soul and draws it to the worlds of evil, and he casts it down into forgetfulness. And after it comes out of (the body), it is handed over to the authorities, who came into being through the archon, and they bind it with chains and cast it into prison and consult with it until it is liberated from the forgetfulness and acquires knowledge. And if thus it becomes perfect, it is saved.’”

Talk about a clarification of Peter’s gospel! I can think of no better way of explaining the preaching of the gospel to the dead! The Prison House and the Spirit World were ancient teachings of the true gnosis.


I have saved the best to last.

Clearly, the doctrine of Eternal Temple Marriage was taught by early Christians. It’s the main theme in the Gospel of Phillip. According to James M. Robinson, “When Eve was separated from Adam, the original androgynous unity was broken. The purpose of Christ’s coming is to reunite Adam and Eve. Just as a husband and wife unite in the bridal chamber, so also the reunion affected by Christ takes place in a bridal chamber – the sacramental one, where a person receives a foretaste and assurance of ultimate union with an angelic, heavenly counterpart.” (Nag Hammadi Library in English, p.140)


There is so much hidden truth in the above passage. So much dripping symbolism pertinent to our times. The Gospel of Phillip refers to the three chambers of the temple. That the inner chamber, the Holy of Holies, is the bridal chamber, Latter-day Saints, obviously, will recognize the great similarity between the modern ordinance of eternal marriage in the sealing room of the temple and Phillip’s bridal chamber.

I can do no better than to quote again from Robinson’s Nag Hammadi Library in English:

“Great is the mystery of marriage! For without it the world would not exist…There were three buildings specifically for sacrifice in Jerusalem.

The one facing west was called ‘the holy.’
Another facing south was called ‘the holy of the holy.’
The third facing east was called ‘the holy of the holies,’ the place where only the high priest enters.
Baptism is ‘the holy’ building
Redemption is ‘the holy of the holy.’
‘The holy of the holies’ is the bridal chamber…

…Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed, those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated… If some belong to the order of the priesthood, they will be able to go within the veil with the high priest… There is glory which surpasses glory. There is power which surpasses power. Therefore, the perfect things have opened to us, together with the hidden things of truth. The holies of the holies were revealed, and the bridal chamber invited us in” (pp. 148-159).

Need we say more.

The Gospel of Phillip teaches that man and woman were separated at the Fall of Adam/ Consequently, the Great Plan of God all along was to reunite man and woman in the bridal chamber. Never to be separated again.


These grand ordinances, lost and recovered by Christ during his post-ressurection period and secretly taught to his apostles during those forty days prior to his ascension, clearly demonstrate – the person holding a temple recommend in his hand, entering the house of the Lord where “Holiness Unto The Lord” is above the doorway, where he is washed and anointed, given a garment and a hidden name, then prepared to enter the bridal chamber where he is sealed to his beloved bride for all eternity – understands, the Lord did everything in a mystery.

He understands the precious ordinances – both ancient and modern – are necessary to receive God’s greatest gift: to become Christ before a dying world.

May God bless those worthy of His mysteries.

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