Mormon – Gnostic Connections

It’s hard not to see Mormon undertones in the description of Gnosticism in Pelikan’s “The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition.” First is the belief in preexistence:

Implicit in many Gnostic statements about the cosmological descent of man was a doctrine of the preexistence of man or of his soul; thus according to the Sethian-Ophites, “Adam and Eve previously had bodies that were light, clear, and, as it were, spiritual, as they were at their creation; but when they came into this world, these changed into bodies more opaque, gross and sluggish.”

Second is the idea of having to use passwords to ascend through the spheres of the cosmos and back to the highest heaven.

As the Ophites ascended, they spoke the appropriate passwords at each stage, including this one: “And thou, Ialdabaoth, first and seventh, born to have power with boldness, being ruling Word of a pure mind, a perfect work for Son and Father, I bear a symbol marked with a picture of life, and, having opened to the world the gate which thou didst close for thine eternity, I pass by thy power free again. May grace be with me. Father, let it be with me.”

These ideas are very old and Smith was repackaging them for a new context. Incidentally, there are many Islamic ideas about Christ on the Cross in Gnosticism.

3 thoughts on “Mormon – Gnostic Connections”

  1. Interesting. I’ve thought of the similarities between Islam and LDS, but I’m not familiar enough with Gnostic thought to fully appreciate the connections being suggested. When asked by two young men if I would consider the truths of Joseph Smith, I told them it would intellectually fraudulent of me to consider the claims of Smith before I had fully considered the claims of Mohammed. After all, he basically made the same types of claims, only more than a thousand years earlier.

    They countered that the content of the two men’s teachings was totally different. I clarified that I wasn’t referring to the content but the type of logical assumptions I would need to make to believe them. (Revelation through one prophet, the apostasy of the early church, restorationist claims, revision of Biblical history, redefinition of the nature of Christ, to name a few off the top of my head.)

    At that point I must have grown a third arm. That’s how they looked at me anyway. So I just finished the conversation by inviting them to my Super Bowl Party which they declined.

  2. Well, some of the gnostics taught that Jesus could not have possibly suffered on the cross, so Simone of Cyrene took his place, or something like that. This is very similar to some Islamic teaching.

    I’ve always thought the same thing about the LDS-Islamic situation. Why aren’t Mormons praying about the truth of the Qu’ran and studying it? Why is Muhammad wrong and J. Smith right?

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