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TitleTreasures in the Heavens
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsNibley, Hugh W.
Book TitleNibley on the Timely and the Timeless
PublisherReligious Studies Center, Brigham Young University
CityProvo, UT
KeywordsAdam (Prophet); Apocrypha; Christianity; Creation; Doctrine; Gospel; Ordinance; Sermon; Smith, Joseph, Jr.; Temple; Treasure; Veil; Wisdom

As Christianity has been deeschatologized and demythologized in our own day; so in the fourth century it was thoroughly dematerialized, and ever since then anything smacking of “ cosmism"—that is, tending to associate religion with the physical universe in any way—has been instantly condemned by Christian and Jewish clergy alike as paganism and blasphemy. Joseph Smith was taken to task for the crude literalism of his religion—not only talking with angels like regular people, but giv­ing God the aspect attributed to Him by the primitive prophets of Israel, and, strangest of all, unhesitatingly bringing other worlds and uni­verses into the picture. Well, some of the early Christian and Jewish writers did the same thing; this weakness in them has been explained away as a Gnostic aberration, and yet today there is a marked tendency in all the churches to support the usual bloodless abstractions and stereotyped moral sermons with a touch of apocalyptic realism, which indeed now supplies the main appeal of some of the most sensationally successful evangelists.

Over a century ago, J.-P. Migne argued that the medieval legends of the Saints were far less prone to mislead the faithful than those scien­tifically oriented apocrypha of the Early Church, since the former were the transparent inventions of popular fantasy which could never lead thinking people astray, while the latter by their air of factual reporting and claims to scientific plausibility led the early Christians into all man­ner of extravagant speculation, drawing the faithful astray in many di­rections. To appreciate the strength of their own position, Latter-day Saints should not be without some knowledge of both these traditions. Since the "cosmist" doctrines have been almost completely neglected, here we offer a look at some of them.