Eschatology and Sacred Space in LDS and Islam

Eschatology and Sacred Space in Islam and Mormonism

There are some clear similarities at the structural level between how the two faiths view these subjects; but there are very large differences when closer scrutiny is brought to bear on the doctrinal details. The descent of both faiths from a common basis in the Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity provides some common groundwork. When it comes to eschatology both faiths teach the descent of mankind into evil and darkness prior to the return of Jesus to the earth. Both teach a general resurrection of all people who have ever lived on the face of the earth. Both teach that god will judge every person based on what they have done. Both teach a blessed afterlife for believers and a fiery hell for evildoers.

The LDS view of last things encompasses the Biblical teaching on the subject with much of its own material expanding and adding to this teaching. The burning millennialism of the early LDS leaders may have waned but the church itself carries the name “Latter-day” which is a clear testimony to the prevailing belief amongst Mormons that we are near the end of our present age. The LDS standard works, their canon of scripture, have much to say about the time we live in and what is to be expected in the days preceding the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.

It should be recognized that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the establishment of the LDS church are in themselves notable signs that God is again moving and that the present age is drawing to a close. The Mormon view of history since the first advent of Jesus is that the church quickly fell into great apostasy and stayed in darkness until the nineteenth century. This apostasy is the frequent subject of the prophecies of the Book of Mormon as exemplified by Nephi who writes:

Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 28.9)

This apostasy through which all branches of the Christian church had fallen into error necessitated what Mormons call the Restoration wherein the Book of Mormon was unearthed and given to Joseph Smith to translate. Joseph Smith also reestablished the true church, along with its priesthood authority. It is worth noting that the LDS Scriptures mince no words telling of the downfall of the apostate church system in the last days. Joseph Smith quotes Jesus as telling the Mormons that “the great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire,” (Doctrine and Covenants 29.21a).

The standard works include commentary on eschatological passages from the Bible and teachings about the last days unique to Mormon thought. The book of Doctrine and Covenants is LDS Scripture on a par with the Bible and the Book of Mormon and it traces the outline of what is to be expected in the last days. Section 45 has Jesus giving a teaching about the consummation of this age in which he teaches a sequence of “wars and rumors of wars” and other upheavals which seem to run parallel with the unearthing of the Book of Mormon. The coming forth of the Book is described in Biblical phraseology: “a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fullness of my gospel;” (Doctrine and Covenants, 45.28b). The Mormon Jesus goes on to teach that the generation which receives this fullness of the gospel and rejects it will be the one in which the Biblical “times of the Gentiles” shall be fulfilled (Doctrine and Covenants 45.30). In the Book of Moses from the Pearl of Great Price (another part of the standard works) the Lord speaking to Enoch describes the last days as “days of wickedness and vengeance,” (Moses 7.60). Cosmic disturbances are consistently described along with moral evil. When I asked an LDS member to tell me the outline of events leading up to the end of the world he said, “Prophetic events include wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and other natural disasters occurring with increasing regularity, men’s hearts will fail them, unrighteousness will abound, etc.” In tandem with this he mentioned that “…Christ will gather his elect His people (the gathering of Israel).”

Another key development prior to the end is the gathering of Israel to its ancient land including Jerusalem. In Mormon thought this also included the conversion of at least some Native Americans. To Mormons the Native Americans (or at least certain tribes) are the descendants of Jews who fled the kingdom of Judah prior to the exile into Babylon. Their history is narrated in the Book of Mormon and it is believed that they possessed the same gospel that the early church in Palestine did. This American church also descended into spiritual darkness. Their apostasy has left them ignorant of the fact that they are indeed of the seed of Abraham. A key teaching of the LDS standard works is that these descendants of Israel will also be gathered along with Jews from the entire world to their ancient home and will embrace the fullness of the gospel.

The final judgment is a frequent subject in the standard works as well. The wicked will be doomed when it comes, “But behold, the residue of the wicked have I kept in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day, which shall come at the end of the earth;” (Doctrine and Covenants 38.5). The basic premillenial Christian expectation of the end is taught in the standard works. Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, and then his people will “reign with me on earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 43.29). As for the wicked, they “shall go away into unquenchable fire,” (Doctrine and Covenants 43.33). The thought of this final judgment is said to strike “the wicked with awful dread and fear” (Jacob 6.13).

The NY Times Doesn’t Care

I think the latest possible cell broken up in New York was very serious. They had bomb making notes, trips to Pakistan, backpacks, fuses, etc. Their goal was probably to blow up the subways in New York like London and Madrid before them. And yet the left doesn’t want this message of messy warfare to disrupt the new enlightened moment we are in since last November. I looked at the NY Times this morning and there is nothing on the top fold of the front page on the story at all. The newspaper in the very city that would have experienced death, disruption and misery doesn’t want to talk about Muslims who wanted to kill them. What a joke that paper is. I don’t know why I still read it. A bunch of shills for the Party who need to take a course or two in Western Civ from St. John’s or New St. Andrews, not NYU or Yale.

Iran as a Redeemer Nation

In a manner akin to various messianic national strains in Western thought (such as the American city on a hill), R.K. Ramazani describes Iran’s vision of itself as the Redeemer Nation. Here is an extended quote from his book:

The key to understanding Khomeini’s concept of Islamic world order is the idea of the vilayat-e faqih (rule of the leading jurisprudent). The concept of hukumat (government) in his political thought is rooted in that of vilayat (rulership), a rulership that belongs to God, to the Prophet Muhammad, to the infallible Imams (ma’sumin), and, by extension, to the learned and pious faqih. To the faqih belongs temporal as well as spiritual authority, which he should exercise in the absence of the Twelfth Imam, who will appear (zuhur) ultimately as the Mahdi (Messiah) or the Sahib-e Zaman (master of the age) to establish just and equitable rule.
The rule of the faqih during the waiting period, or before the appearance of the Mahdi, is preparatory to the ultimate establishment of “Islamic world government” by the Mahdi. In other words, the faqih paves the way for the Mahdi’s eventual creation of just and equitable government throughout the world. But where will the way be paved for the fulfillment of that divine promise? In Khomeini’s own words, “the way will be opened for the world government of imam mahdi…once the governments of the meek will be [are?] established.” But in Khomenini’s view and in that of his disciples so far, “the government of God” has been established only in one country, and that is Iran, as a result of the Iranian Revolution. It has been established, in Khomeini’s words, in ” a country which wishes to establish divine justice in the world, first of all in Iran itself.” It is more than implicit in the view of Khomeini and his close adherents that because of this unusual rule of the faqih, it is Iran that is uniquely qualified as a nation to pave the way for the ultimate founding of world government by the expected Mahdi.
Since the virtuous government is in the process of being established in Iran, it is Iran that has become, as it were, the “redeemer nation.” As such, it is Iran that aspires to spread justice throughout the world and, to borrow Prime Minister Mir-HusseinMusavi’s words, to make possible “the liberation of mankind.”
[end of quote]

I see parallels in this system of thought to the rule of the Judges in Israel. Khomeini sees a chain of authority from:

God
|
Muhammad (and the inscripturated will of God in the Qur’an)
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The infallible Imams of the past
|
The modern jurists (AKA clerics)

In Israel, prior to the reign of Saul you had God ruling via the judges meditating on his law as revealed to Moses. Meditating on the law and being filled with the Spirit caused the judges to grow in wisdom. In our age the Church should disciple the nations and one part of this discipling is to reflect on ALL of the inscripturated Word of God in order to grow wise at whatever we set our hands to do. The primary difference is that no one nation on earth is going to be a redeemer nation, exporting God’s rule to the world. The Church itself is the redeemer nation that consists of every tribe and tongue. Khomeni’s vision is of course flawed because:

[a] It is based on a false god and a false scripture.
[b] It suppresses dissent via massive state-sanctioned violence. It sacrifices the teaching role for conversions with an iron fist.
[c] Islam does not adequately discern between the nation and the people of God.

The fruit of this Revolution is tragic. People who are zealous for god and thirst to expand his rule fail because they reject the true God as revealed in Jesus the Messiah. Further, the blind hatred for the State of Israel is a demonic madness which clouds all the rest of their thinking. Also, suppressing internal dissent by torture, beating people with pipes, chains and other meansdoesn’t not seem to accord well with the benevolent revolution promised by Khomeni. Still, because it is a perversion of the true vision of the true God for the world, the Shia Islamic vision of a chiliastic perfection has an attraction in our age.

Moussavi and Israel

We seem to be viewing the events in Iran with the idea that Mr. Moussavi is the Gorbachev of Iran and will bring sweeping changes to Iran riding on the wave of the phony Obama “change” movement in the USA. As providence would have it, I went to a sweet used book store in Orange, VA this week and picked up a book called Revolutionary Iran, Challenge and Response in the Middle East by R.K. Ramazani. The book mentions Moussavi as he was Prime Minister in the early post-revolutionary years. His views may have changed between now and then, but look at what he was saying back in the day. During the days of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, the following happened:

To stress the seriousness of their purpose in fighting against Israel in Lebanon, other Iranian leaders made many statements that fell just short of a formal declaration of war against Tel Aviv. Under the constitution, such a declaration was solely the prerogative of Khomeini. Prime Minister Musavi unfurled the banner of “victory to Al-Quds” (Jerusalem) in asking his cabinet to approve a budget for the war against Israel. He was also the first Iranian leader to say that Palestine was “a part of [the] Islamic homeland.”

Subsequently, the Iranian government also decided to make public its “plan for an Islamic front” worldwide, which, according to Mussavi, would be “followed up” by the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs, “because the fight against imperialism should take place all over the world.”

When Israel killed some Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon, Moussavi responded:

…he also predicted that Israel’s “desperate move against the Islamic Revolution” would have the effect of “the Islamization of the struggle against Zionism and imperialism in the region.” He believed that the Arab-Israeli conflict had been transformed into an Islamic-Israeli struggle involving “all Muslims against Israel.”

I also recall the Khatami years were nothing discernable changed in regard to western relations with Iran. Let’s not get too excited about this movement, as if values based on centuries of Christendom are suddenly going to take root in Iran.

More of the Reformers on Islam

Some time ago I listed the thoughts of Luther and Calvin on Islam. This post continues that summation. 

Calvin observes that although Muslims were thought to be far away, they could quickly arrive in Protestant Europe:

When we preach at the present day about the Turk, all think that it is a fable, because they think that he is still at a great distance from us. But we see how quickly he overtook those who were at a greater distance and more powerful. So great is the insensibility of men that they cannot be aroused, unless they are chastised and made to feel the blows. Let the inhabitants of Babylon, therefore, be a warning to us, to dread, before it is too late, the threatenings which the prophets utter, that the same thing may not happen to us as happens to those wicked men, who, relying on their prosperous condition, are so terrified when the hand of God attacks and strikes them, that they can no longer stand, but sink down bewildered. (on Is 13.5)

He cautions against being happy to see Muslim armies defeat other nations in Christendom:

Something of this kind happened, not long ago, to many nations who had taken great delight in seeing their enemies vanquished by the Turk: they found that such victories were destructive and mournful to themselves; for, after the defeat of those whom they wished to see destroyed, the road to themselves was likewise thrown open, and they also were defeated. (on Is 14.31)

He also blames France in his day for collaborating with the Muslim Turks and in doing so endangering the rest of Christendom:

The case was similar to that of the Turks at this day, were they to pass over to these parts and exercise their authority; for it might be asked the French kings and their counsellors, “Whose fault it is that the Turks come to us so easily? It is because ye have prepared for them the way by sea, because ye have bribed them, and your ports have been opened to them; and yet they have wilfully exercised the greatest cruelty towards your subjects. All these things have proceeded from yourselves; ye are therefore the authors of all these evils.”  (on Jer 13.21)

Terrorist with Opus Dei background?

There is strange news out of Bolivia, where a man was just killed who is accused of wanting to assassinate the President, Evo Morales. This man, Eduardo Rózsa-Flores, apparently was ‘a fanatic for everything.’ (see this and this)

He fled Bolivia after Banzer’s military coup. He then fought in the Balkan civil wars (on the Croatian side, where he supposedly led an international brigade); he even made a film about his experience. He was vice president of a Muslim association in Hungary; but was previously an active member in Opus Dei.

(…)

So basically, as La Razón points out, he was a “fanatic for everything.” A leftist in his youth (his father had been active against the Barrientos military regime), he then became an ardent Catholic in Opus Dei, then fought for Croatia against the Serbs, then abandoned Marxism (though he still admires Che), then converted to Islam, then returned to Bolivia, and may have ties to the right-wing UJC, though he still edited a Hungarian Muslim online news site.

I don’t find this totally implausible. There is a mindset out there that wants to embrace certainty and crusade for the perfect cause. Add to this the ocean of information now available on the web that wasn’t there in ages past and you can quickly change from opinion to opinion. Hopefully this leads to the Way, the Truth and the Life, but not necessarily.

The Reformers on Islam

At the time of the Reformation the Ottoman Empire was the leading Islamic power in the world. The Caliph or leader of Islam was the Turkish Emperor and to refer to the “Turks” was to refer to Muslims in general. It is interesting to read the opinions of Luther and Calvin on the Turks and what should be done about their threat. Luther observed that the Turks had no cause to invade the lands of others and saw them as God’s chastisement on a degenerate Christendom:

In the first place, the Turk certainly has no right or command to begin war and to attack lands that are not his. Therefore his war is nothing but an outrage and robbery with which God is punishing the world, as he often does through wicked scoundrels, and sometimes through godly people. The Turk does not fight from necessity or to protect his land in peace, as the right kind of ruler does; but, like a pirate or highwayman, he seeks to rob and ravage other lands which do and have done nothing to him. He is God’s rod and the devil’s servant [Isa. 10:5]; there is no doubt about that. (Martin Luther: On War Against the Turk.)

Calvin agrees that the Turks are being used to punish a wicked and superstitious people:

Accordingly, when the Turk now rises up haughtily against us, because he has already vanquished so great a multitude of Christians, we need not be alarmed on that account, as if the power of God were diminished, and as if he had not strength to deliver us. But we ought to consider in how many ways the inhabitants of Greece and of Asia provoked his anger, by the prevalence of every kind of base and shocking licentiousness in those countries, and by the dreadful superstitions and wickedness which abounded. On this account very severe chastisement was needed for restraining the crimes of those who made a false profession of the name of God. Hence came the prosperity of the Turk, and hence was it followed by a shockingly ruinous condition throughout the whole of the east. Yet we see him insolently raising his crest, laughing at our religion, and applauding his own in a strange manner; but still more does he applaud himself, and “sacrifice to his net,” (Habakkuk 1:16,) as we have already said of other infidels.

We ought, therefore, to direct our minds towards the judgments of God, that we may not think that the Turk acquired such extensive dominion by his own strength. But the Lord allowed him greater freedom, for the purpose of punishing the ungodliness and wickedness of men, and will at length restrain his insolence at the proper time. Now, although prosperity is a token of the blessing of God, yet we must not begin with it if we wish to form right views of God himself, as Mahometans and Papists infer from the victories which they have gained, that God is in some respects subject to their control. But when we have known the true God, blessings are added in the proper order to testify his grace and power. (Commentaries: Isaiah 36.20)

Calvin also decried the attitude of those who thought that the threat from the Turks would never reach them:

…the Jews thought that there was no danger nigh them from nations so remote, as though we were to speak of the Turks at this day, “Oh! they have to fight with other nations: let those who are near them contend with the Turks, for we may live three or four ages in quietness.” We see such indifference prevailing in the present day. Hence the Prophet, in order to deprive the Jews of this vain confidence, says that this nation was near at hand, though coming from remote quarters. (Commentaries: Jeremiah 5:15)

Luther believed that the best weapon against Islamic expansionism was for Christians to repent and get right with God. He believed the gospel should be embraced more fervently. He taught that the Emperor should take up the war against the Turks and that if called upon by the Emperor, the Christian should join in the fight. Reading his On War Against the Turk can be instructive for how Christians should respond to the jihadi threat in our time.

Jesus vs. Islam

     In his “Dialogues with a Muslim”, Manuel II Palaiologos writes:

     Now I would like to refute your pretension of attributing the highest dignity to the law of Mohammed. I will speak concisely and simply.
     First there came the law of Moses, which you judge imperfect. This law set down in writing circumcision and everything that your law later took from it. Then came baptism and chrismation and our other mysteries and a better and more perfect law than the first. That our law is better than that of Moses you yourself have admitted. But then with your law there comes again circumcision and practically all the precepts of the first law.
     If this is the case, how can you call it progress? Is there any right order in this? None at all, I am sure you will admit. It is like turning in circles, or going from what is higher back to what is lower.

Assessing English Translations of the Qur’an

A review of translations through history. From the article:

Evidence of Muhammad’s familiarity with Judaism is present in the Qur’an. One verse suggests that his contemporaries accused him of having a Jewish teacher. When some Arabs challenged Muhammad’s claim to be a prophet based on his mortality, he suggested that they consult Jewish scholars about history. Early Muslims resorted to Jewish lore so heavily that they produced a genre of literature: the Isra’iliyat, loosely translated as the Judaic traditions.An oral tradition was even attributed to Muhammad wherein he supposedly said, “Relate from the people of Israel, and there is no objection,”thereby enabling Islamic scholars to cite precedents from Jewish scholarship.