Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why Mormons Should Care About Emanuel Swedenborg

Someone asked me recently whom I would wish to meet someday. I answered Emanuel Swedenborg, because I think he played an intrinsic role in establishing the intellectual and cultural environment of Joseph Smith. Let me explain.

In studying the Transcendentalists, I was intrigued by Emerson's numerous references to Emanuel Swedenborg. By the almost reverential veneration that Emerson gives him (no small feat!), I assumed that Swedenborg had to be an important person--and I set out on a research hunt. It turns out that Swedenborg is one of the intellectual and spiritual giants of the 18th century that no one really talks about anymore. That's a shame, because he was the first man to discover atomic theory (several centuries before Einstein) and was known as one of the most brilliant scientists of his time.

But Swedenborg's life takes an interesting turn when he is 57. He claims to have had heavenly visions, where he was able to view heaven, speak to angels, and even describe the Last Judgement. He faithfully wrote down these visions, which allegedly happened for 27 years, instigating both fascination and contempt. One of the most interesting visions that Swedenborg explains is marriage in heaven, a goal that was possible for men and women who had the appropriate spiritual language or "conjugial love." As Mormons believe in marriage being able to continue on after this life, Swedenborg's view of marriage in heaven is perhaps the most obvious link to Mormon theology. His story may also sound familiar to Mormons as well, since his heavenly manifestations made him believe that the true church of Christ was not on the earth, leading his followers to establish "The New Church" (still in existence today).

But I think that Swedenborg left an even greater impact on Mormonism than we might think.

Joseph Smith's theology has already been connected with both Romanticism and Transcendentalism, as both movements divorced from the classic view of man's fallen state and considered how knowledge could be acquired by means other than rationality: experience, intuition, and human imagination. Both emphasized the obtaining of a relationship with the divine, often achieved through a oneness with nature. 

 Swedenborg, however, was an important precedent to these beliefs outlines above. His series of visions defied what was considered "rational"; he was acquiring knowledge of heaven through a means that no one else had. Moreover, it was Swedenborg, not Emerson, who first taught of the intrinsic link between nature and man's soul. Robert Sampson, a Harvard theology student and Swedenborgian, gave a sermon in Boston that included the need for men to understand nature, where Emerson happened to be in attendance. Little wonder that his first treatise, Nature, was published several years later.

I would argue that Swedenborg was a perpetrator of the Romantic and Transcendentalist air that Joseph Smith was a part of. When Joseph is 14, he certainly uses a sense of rationality in believing that James 1:5 applied to his situation, as he sought knowledge for himself. But in believing that God would give him an answer, as well as going into nature to acquire knowledge, he also shows himself as adhering to more recent, burgeoning intellectual traditions. Moreover, in claiming to have a divine manifestation, Joseph was also showing an adherence to Swedenborgian thought, as he also believed to be heaven's spokesman.

As a Mormon, I believe that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I also believe that God works on a macro-level, as He helps work to propel certain intellectual movements, such as Romanticism and Transcendentalism, to accomplish his purposes. I also believe that Swedenborg was an important progenitor of the Restoration--and he deserves more credit than history has given him.

5 comments:

  1. What a joke. Considering all of the deceptions and all of lies and the very poor character of Holy Joe, how could anyone that hadn't had their mind owned by Morg.org, like my dear wifes Mormon mind, really believe that he actually received a revelation from god concerning "the three degrees". Your god Elohim is a false god because Elohim in the bible refers to a god in a generic sense such as the phrase "our possessions are a false god." The name of the God of Israel was made to Moses, "I AM", or "Yahweh."
    About the 13th century the term "Jehovah" appeared when Christian scholars took the consonants of "Yahweh" and pronounced it with the vowels of "Adonai." This resulted in the sound "Yahowah," which has a Latinized spelling of "Jehovah." The first recorded use of this spelling was made by a Spanish Dominican monk, Raymundus Martini, in 1270. The interesting thing About the word Jehovah is that it is a Catholic invention. Also interesting is the mormon misuse of the word Jehovah to refer to our Lord Jesus Christ. One thing that Smith actually got right was he understood Jehovah refered to God the Father, not the Son.

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  2. What a joke. Considering all of the deceptions and all of lies and the very poor character of Holy Joe, how could anyone that hadn't had their mind owned by Morg.org, like my dear wifes Mormon mind, really believe that he actually received a revelation from god concerning "the three degrees". Your god Elohim is a false god because Elohim in the bible refers to a god in a generic sense such as the phrase "our possessions are a false god." The name of the God of Israel was made to Moses, "I AM", or "Yahweh."
    About the 13th century the term "Jehovah" appeared when Christian scholars took the consonants of "Yahweh" and pronounced it with the vowels of "Adonai." This resulted in the sound "Yahowah," which has a Latinized spelling of "Jehovah." The first recorded use of this spelling was made by a Spanish Dominican monk, Raymundus Martini, in 1270. The interesting thing About the word Jehovah is that it is a Catholic invention. Also interesting is the mormon misuse of the word Jehovah to refer to our Lord Jesus Christ. One thing that Smith actually got right was he understood Jehovah refered to God the Father, not the Son.

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    1. Okay gardeeoh, lets break down your comment. Elohim. We don't believe Elohim to be the actual name of God. You're right in how the OT does use it in that instance. But it uses it all over to refer to God, Judges, and just regular people sometimes. We use it because of its meaning. God. We don't claim it is a name, we know it is a title. We just use it in refferance to Him. You are correct in some of your other claims as well, such as God being the great I AM. And correct on Yahweh. No one really knows how it should be said or if Yahowah is right. We just know YHWH. But your claim that Jehovah isn't Jesus is easly rebuted if we take a look at the scripures. For instance, in the Old Testiment we learn that Jehovah is our Savior ---"26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob." (Isaiah 49:26)--- and that He is our only Savior ---"11 I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour."(Isaiah 43:11)--- In the New Testament we learn that Jesus is our Savior and only Savior. ---"10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10)--- and ---"10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12)--- So Jehovah is our Savior and only Savior. But we learn in the New Testament that Jesus is our Savior and only Savior. So doesn't that meant that Jesus is Jehovah? We also learn in the Old Testament that Jehovah is going to be our Judge. ---"13 Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth." (Psalms 96:13)--- and --- "22 For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us." (Isaiah 33:22)--- So Jehovah is going to be our Judge and Judge the world in righeousness. Lets look in the New Testament ---"22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22)--- So Jehovah is going to be our Judge, and Judge us in righeousness. But the Father isnt going to judge, but the Son is. We all know Jesus is the Son. And if the Son is going to be the Judge and the Father doing no judgeing then the Old Testament can't be reffereing to the Father. But to the Son. So Jesus must be Jehovah. Or the New Testament contradicts the Old to a point where it wouldn't be true. Moveing on. You again are right, that on occasion, Joseph Smith *might* have used Jehovah as a refference to the Father. But He followed it with God, and Elohim using them all. Like we see often in the Old Testiment. YHWH is used a lot, being refferanced to both the Father and Son on seperate occasions. In the Church, as well as in Christianity in generally. God reveals things peice by peice. It wasn't too long until that was fixed. Keep in mind that prophets are human beings too. Subject to their own thought, subject to temptation and sin, and they are imperfect beings. Prophets are not infalluable like Christ was. So cut him some slack, we all have personal beliefs and they are all prone to change. I hope that clears up some of the LDS beliefs for you, and helps you understand why we believe Jesus is Jehovah.

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  3. Hi Sarah, I just finished reading the 5 volumes of Emmanuel Swedenborg's diary. It was thousands of pages long. It took just under a year to complete. It was very fascinating. I agree with about 80% of his observations, some of which is contradictory to our doctrine, but perhaps he was not privileged to get all of the doctrine that we have today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanuel_Swedenborg I saw that his temple work is not showing as completed in familysearch.org. I contacted HQ and they do not discloses these details for celebrities.

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  4. I should also note, that Johnny Appleseed was a follower of Swedenborg but there is no evidence that I know of that Joseph Smith even heard of Swedenborg, yet it is highly possible.

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