Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
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There is the lower group called the unredeemed and the second group ordinary Christians saved by faith, and the third group saved by knowledge with eternal bliss.

 

INTRODUCTION

In No. 5 of this series, we provided some items from the Mandean sources. We will continue using those resources in this and future submittals. Their centers are Baghdad and Basra in Iraq and four other places along the rivers of southern Iraq, and the Karun River of Iranian Huzistan.  Their Arab neighbours know them as Subbi, which means Baptists. There, only a few thousand are left having survived severe epidemics that wiped out most of them and most of their priesthood holders. “They are the last surviving witnesses of the forms of religion in the century before and the first century of the Christian era, even co-eval with earliest Christianity.”  (Drower p. v).  Due to Lady Drower, an English anthropologist who lived with them and translated most of their important works, and R. Macuch, a Mandean dictionary was compiled in 1963. (Foerster p. 126) “The Mandeans [were] not precise thinkers...this did not bar them from…daring speculations …somewhat bizarre and difficult to understand….” (Foerster p. 227) They inscribed on thin lead sheets certain magical texts where certain Mesopotamian elements, Divine names, are found. (Foerster p. 129) The Mormons were not alone in using metal plates for their sacred records.   

THE TEMPLE

“The older writings make frequent mention of the term, Maskna,  ‘abode, temple’,  a word which goes back to the Hebrew name of the tabernacle….Places the cult life runs is course….above all baptism  masbuta,  mass-rites for the dead (masiqta, carried out in the mandi [temple] only….consecrations of priests and Bishops, weddings,  [weddings for the dead?]….The most important ceremonies and also the oldest are baptism and the ‘ascent  of the soul ceremonies’ ….Baptism, massbuta (form  ‘immerse’)….actual baptismal rite in the water…wears his  white sacral  dress …a threefold signing of the forehead….the laying on of hands …the anointing with oil, the offering of the sacrament of BREAD   (pihta )…’truth’ ‘Justice’ and WATER (mamabuha),  and the sealing of the  neophyte… the extension of the right hand between the priest and the neophyte …known as kusta (‘truth’, ‘justice’)is usually performed at all ceremonies and has a special sanctity.” (Foerster p. 131)  

“The chief purpose and significance of Baptism is first… [one] enters into close communion (laufa) … with the world of Light thus receiving a share of salvation and secondly receives an (outer and inner) purification from transgression and sins. Thus, as once in primeval times beings of light first baptized Adam…the World of Light [the Holy Ghost) is present and takes an active part.  Without baptism no Mandean (or his soul) may pass on to the next world. Nearly all ceremonies, including even the wedding rituals, are in some way associated with a rite which has value for the souls of the dead.” (Foerster pp. 132-133) Most of the Mormon Temple work is for the benefit of the dead, after the living have done it for themselves.

THE ASCENT CEREMONY

Since the journey of the soul leads through dangerous demonic spheres certain guarantees are required which involve more than those things which accompany the soul, like baptism, the sign, the name and good works.

This is part of the ASCENT Doctrine. Mormons call it the Temple Endowment, the Mandeans called it the “Knowledge of the way. i.e. of the sacraments [or ceremony] to be performed now of the NAMES to be employed later when the ascending spirit meets the powers after leaving the body at death, and whatever ethical preparation may assure this future passage…the secret of the way, the ascent doctrine in detail…the mood …[is] deadly earnest befitting a doctrine of salvation.” (Jonas pp. 271-271)  

The Mandean is never certain that he will attain the next world and fears punishment and imprisonment in the infernal regions or ‘places of detention.’ (Foerster p. 133) The ‘good works’ include a special ‘Alms’ for the benefit of the poor in the community. (Foerster p. 134) The Mormons call this ’Fast Sunday’, skipping a meal or two and giving the amount to the poor.  

There are more than 159 temples with twenty-seven, or more planned or in progress, today, scattered around the world in which vital ordinances and ceremonies for the dead are accomplished, most temple going Mormons will recognize the activities suggested. Those who have yet to go through the temple and repeat the activities for the dead, will be unable to relate to what is going on.

“A Mandean world view is stamped by…dualism. A world of Light and a World of Darkness exists in mutual hostility…. The World of Light of ’spirits’ came into being from the sublime being originally the First Life…Ruha, the fallen ‘spirit’ …. has become the adversary of the World of Light.” (Foerster p. 135) This Lord of Darkness is the adversary to all and source of the “hostile relations between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil.” (Foerster p. 135) The Mormons know this being as Lucifer. The existence of opposing alternatives is a given. “For Agency to exist (2 Ne 2:16) and the eternal purposes of God to be fulfilled (2 Ne. 1:12, 15, it must need be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 21:1).  (Largey p. 623) The Mandeans also have a distorted account of a ‘primeval descent into hell’ of a messenger of light (Manda dhaiye), [Christ, D&C 138) to contend with the Lord of Darkness. He is damned and not allowed to return to the world of light.  (Foerster p. 136)

THREE HEAVENLY MESSENGERS  

“A majority of texts are concerned with the deliverance of …’elements of light’, which the Mandean call nisimta (soul) or mana (‘vessel, spirit’), [the] fundamental idea is the mission of messengers of light or envoys…who by their call (qala) are to instruct the faithful and redeem, their souls.” (Foerster p.136) Thus, revelation is essential for the Mandean, as it is for Mormons. “Redemption (purqana, deliverance) consists in the happy return of the soul to the realm of light, and every instruction or revelation has this object in view.” (Foerster p. 137) And for help and guidance “beside him, stand the three heavenly Adamites.” (Foerster p. 137)

“The Mandeans understood their religion as a kind of proto-religion, established by the World of light at the time of Adam and Eve and since that time spreading out in the Tible” (world). (Foerster p. 140)  ”Three angels of radiance and light shall come into being and be company for Adam.” (Foerster p. 183) Slita, a pure messenger of light, said to Adam and Eve “Do not hearken to the teachings of false prophets, who set themselves up as “prophets of kusta” and make themselves equal to the three uthras, [messengers] who came into the world. Their radiance is no radiance at all, their garment is a garment of fire.”  (Foerster p. 297)

The Pearl of Great Price, one of the Mormon scriptures, describes seven dispensations in the Eastern Hemisphere when the doctrines and its ordinances were featured on earth, beginning with Adam and Eve. The seventh one, under Joseph Smith, and the last one, has all the doctrines and ordinances including those of value for the dead that could only be revealed after the resurrection of Christ, and therefore were available only at the time of the Christian Era and in this last restoration. (Largey p. 203-204).  

So how do the three men, Peter, James, and John, figure into this last dispensation and final restoration? As power and authority was beginning to be given to the prophet, they received under the hands of John the Baptist, the Keys of the Aaronic Priesthood on May 15, 1829 “The messenger who visited us on this occasion, and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament,  and that he acted  under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood he said would in due time be conferred on us.” (Roberts pp. 29, 40; D&C Sec. 13) About two weeks later the three apostles of the Lord visited Joseph and Oliver to do this, though the DeviI tried to interfere:

 “The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquenhanna county and Colesville, Bromme county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the Keys of the Kingdom, and the dispensation of the fulness of times!” (D&C 128:20; Roberts p. 40) The infant Church now had the authority to proceed to develop into the worldwide Church of today.

ADAM AND EVE MARRIED AND SEALED

The Great Joseph said:” Adam did not commit sin in eating [the forbidden] fruit, for God had decreed that he should eat and fall…Therefore the Lord appointed us to fall and redeemed us…” (Millet p. 9) Eve declared: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption.” (Moses 5:11) “Adam fell that man might be and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25; Millet p. 8-9) Marriage was necessary after the fall that so sealing covenants and ordinances could be obtained by Adam and Eve.

Among the documents of the Mandeans there is one on the Creation of Man, most of the first part deals with the marriage of Adam and Eve. Few among the Christian world today have anything to say about the pre-mortal life, and what was and could be achieved there, and very little about the pre-mortal and pre- fall experiences of Adam and Eve.  “We will arrange a marriage for Adam, we will instruct him and make him take a wife… We will give Adam a wife and make a companion for him…and we will make his family numerous…and Adam shall be exalted above them all…A wedding we prepared for Adam…And we gave him a wife…We gave Hawwa (Eve) to him as wife...When Adam came into being the head of the generation, came into being, a companion was fashioned for him. The family multiplied from her (or him) and the communion of life was vast, in every place it was wonderful, radiant and bright. The elect righteous were called forth.” (Foerster p. 194-203) “These newly created beings of light rejoiced that they were together in his unimaginably beautiful Eden. President Russell M. Nelson “reminded us,  President Joseph Fielding Smith assured us, “Adam and Eve were married by the Lord while they were yet immortal beings in the Garden of Eden and before death entered the world.” (Campbell p. 54) “Theirs must have been a    poignant and near perfect love, perhaps the grandest of all love stories…they could now act together for the good of all waiting spirits…they may have also been reminded of their responsibility to waitng spirits for therein lies the glory of marriage and the purpose of their creation.” (Campbell p. 55) “Eden in a paradisiacal state was itself a temple. There God walked and talked with Adam and Eve there they worshipped, learned of the ordinances and made sacred covenants…in Eden a sacred and binding sealing was performed.” (Campbell p 56)   Much of this requires a pre-mortal existence somewhere. The Mormons have the details of that also.    

PETER

“Peter was the chief Apostle of Jesus Christ in the New testament, and in company with James and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood and its keys to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Peter is mentioned six times in the Doctrine and Covenants and many times in Joseph Smith’s teachings [testifying of the many times Peer and Joseph had contact with each other on the business of this last dispensation]. Most references to Peter in latter-day revelation are related to priesthood both in his own calling and to his role in the restoration of the priesthood and its keys (Largey p. 195). The Savior, Moses and Elias, gave the keys to Peter, James and John…and it had been given by them to leaders in this dispensation and they in turn “had gave it to others.” (HC-3:387)

POSSIBLE MANDEAN ORIGINS

Foerster believes that “The Jewish origin of the community cannot be denied. We are [could] therefore [be] dealing with a heretical Jewish Sect..Discernible connections with John’s Gospel, the Odes of Solomon, and other gnostic writings make it entirely possible that Mandean traditions reach back to the pre-Christian period.” (Foerster p. 129) If really so, then these doctrines are in place in the period after the Old Testament, in the gap between Malachi and Christ, a nearly 550 year period, or the group were taken over by a very early Christian group. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions. But the doctrines of the restoration were held by the ancients of long ago regardless how distorted and bizarre they have become over time and in the absence of prophets to keep them pure and holy.                         

 

                                                            BIBLIOGRAPHY

CAMPBELL, Beverly, Eve in Eden, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2003

DROWER, E.S.  The Mandeans of Iraq and Iran, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1962

FOERSTER, Werner, GNOSIS 2, Coptic and Mandean Sources, Oxford. At the Clarendon Press, 1974

ROBERTS, B. H., History of the Church, Vol. 1, Published by the Church, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1946

JONAS, Hans. Philosophical Essays, Prentice Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1974

LARGEY, Dennis I, Pearl of Great Price Reference Companion, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 2017

……………………Doctrine and Covenants Reference Companion, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2012

MILLET, Robert L., The Atoning One, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 2018

PETERSEN. Mark E., Adam. Who is He?  Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1976

 

 

 

 

 

All research and opionions presented on this site are the sole responsibility of Dr. Einar C. Erickson, and should not be interpreted as official statements of the LDS doctrine, beliefs or practice.
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