“Zion” and “Jerusalem” as Lady Wisdom in Moses 7 and Nephi’s Tree of Life Vision

Editor’s Note: This article is drawn from a chapter in Samuel Zinner’s new book entitled Textual and Comparative Explorations in 1 and 2 Enoch (Provo, UT: The Interpreter Foundation/Eborn Books, 2014). The book is now available online for purchase (e.g., Amazon, FairMormon Bookstore) and will be available in selected bookstores in October 2014. The other new temple books from Interpreter are also now available for purchase. Click here for more details.

The essay traces lines of continuity between ancient middle eastern traditions of Asherah in her various later Jewish, Christian, and Mormon forms. Especially relevant in Jewish texts are Lady Wisdom (Proverbs 8; Sirach 24; Baruch 3-4), Daughter of Zion (Lamentations; Isaiah); Lady Zion and Mother Jerusalem (4 Ezra), Binah in kabbalah etc. The divine feminine in the Jewish-Christian texts Odes of Solomon 19 and Shepherd of Hermas is examined, as well as in Pauline Christian texts, namely, the Letter to the Galatians and the writings of Irenaeus (Against Heresies and Apostolic Preaching). Dependence of Hermas on the Parables of Enoch is documented. The essay identifies parallels between some of the above ancient sources and traditions about Zion and other forms of the feminine divine in 19th century America, specifically in the Mormon scriptures (Moses 7 and Nephi 11). While recognizing the corporate nature of the Enochic city of Zion in Moses 7, the essay argues that this Zion also parallels the hypostatic Lady Zion of Jewish canonical and extracanonical scriptures, especially 4 Ezra. The essay also points how the indigenous trope of Mother Earth [Page 282]parallels forms of the divine feminine stretching from the ancient middle eastern Asherah, the Jewish Lady Wisdom and Shekhinah, the Christian Holy Spirit, to the Mormon Enochic Zion. Continue reading

Mormonism and Intellectual Freedom

Abstract: To many outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and to some of its members), the Church’s teachings and practices appear not only socially and experientially constraining, but intellectually restrictive as well, given its centralized system of doctrinal boundary maintenance and its history of sometimes sanctioning members who publicly dissent from its teachings. Do these practices amount to a constraint of intellectual freedom? This essay argues that they do not, and offers several possible explanations for the commonly-asserted position that they do. Continue reading

The Time of Sin

Abstract: This essay provides a close theological reading of Helaman 13, the first part of the sermon of Samuel the Lamanite. Beginning from the insight that the chapter focuses intensely on time, it develops a theological case for how sin has its own temporality. Sin opens up a disastrous future, deliberately misremembers the past, and complicates the constitution of the present as the past of the future. Continue reading

The Scale of Creation in Space and Time

Abstract: The accounts of creation in Genesis, Moses, and Abraham as well as in higher endowments of knowledge given to the faithful are based on visions in which the seer lacked the vocabulary to describe and the knowledge to interpret what he saw and hence was obliged to record his experiences in the imprecise language available to him. Modern attempts to explain accounts of these visions frequently make use of concepts and terminology that are completely at odds with the understanding of ancient peoples: they project anachronistic concepts that the original seer would not have recognized. This article reviews several aspects of the creation stories in scripture for the purpose of distinguishing anachronistic modern reinterpretations from the content of the original vision. Continue reading

An Essay on the One True Morality and the Principle of Freedom

Abstract: The author introduces the subject of the essay based on scripture by observing that one true morality governs the heavens and exists to govern mortality, which contains all possible ways to live in time and eternity and orders them into a hierarchy of rational preferability. In order to live their endless lives with enduring purpose and fullness, humankind must undertake two stages of probationary preparation, one as premortals and one that begins with mortality and concludes in the post-mortal world with the final judgment, in which they come to know for themselves the one morality and accept its ordering of the many never-ending ways of life and hence the ways they have proven themselves willing to receive. With that introduction in mind, in the next two sections of the essay the author explores what some latter-day scripture reveals about the moral facts that make possible knowledge of the one morality, about how humankind determines good from bad ways to live as they undertake the second stage of probationary preparation, about how they can come to a knowledge of the best way of life contained in that morality, and how in the end they have a perfect knowledge of it.

In the final section of the essay, the author investigates how it was that in the premortal world the hosts of heaven, knowing and accepting as they did the one true morality, nevertheless became deeply divided over two incompatible plans of salvation as they prepared for moral life and went to war over them. A major theme of the essay is that the one morality, and every way to live it contains, [Page 2]center on persons becoming and living as agents unto themselves. The upshot is that the principle of freedom, which prescribes the full collective and personal realization of human agency and which belongs to all humankind at every stage of their endless existence, is the fundamental principle of that eternal morality. Continue reading