Mormon Wellness Project: 014: Is Emmanuel Swendenborg the father of Mormonism? Part Two

In part two of this discussion Wendy Perry continues delving into the extent to which Joseph Smith copied from or was influenced by 18th century writer Emmanuel Swendenborg. She also speaks to tactics used by apologists that may lead us away from further truth regarding such issues, and offers a more nuanced approach that allows for a better understanding of how influence may be detected and allowed for.  Looking at Joseph Smith’s revelations from a broader cultural world perspective can help promote understanding and richness of meaning for all who study Mormon history.

The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote the following to a man who wanted to learn more about the Church: “Study the Bible, and as many of our books as you can get; pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, have faith in the promises made to the fathers, and your mind will be guided to the truth.”2


http://craig miller.tripod.com


Jan Shipps, Soujourner in the Promised Land, 210-11

Ronald V. Huggins: Joseph Smith’s modalism: Sabellian, Sequentialism or Swendenborg Expansionism.






6 thoughts on “Mormon Wellness Project: 014: Is Emmanuel Swendenborg the father of Mormonism? Part Two

  1. Wendy Perry,
    Is your thesis that Joseph Smith did not receive the 76th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants by revelation in the form of an open vision in which Sidney Rigdon was a participant? That he and Rigdon just plagiarized some ideas of Swedenborg and elaborated on them? Or is your thesis that Joseph’s hearing of Swedenborg’s ideas somehow inspired him to receive the vision? What exactly is your point that there are similarities between Joseph’s revelations and Swedenborg’s? I have read all of Swedenborg’s works. His ideas touched upon nearly every conceivable doctrinal issue. How could there not be some similarities? Is your thesis that Joseph just plagiarized a few of his ideas? Is it possible that William Blake was right? That Swedenborg’s ideas were based on the Bible but not on revelation? But that Swedenborg got a lot of things almost right because he was a brilliant theologian? I am not seeing the plagiarism if that if your thesis.

    • No I don’t see plagerism, so I qualified it by saying influence is what we’re really looking for here. I also talk a lot about unconscious copying in the plagerism episode. My overall point is that nobody should be getting there panties in such bunches. It’s all over the web, this “smoking gun” stuff about Swendenborg. Does anyone know where Swendenborg got his ideas? I think he was the real original, and Joseph was a gleaner (as he said about himself). I think Sidney had a large influence Joseph and may have been the leader in the section 76 situation. If you have read all of Swendenborg’s books you are a better man then I Gunga Din! My final conclusion was supposed to pointing people away from cringing at the idea of similarities and direct influence and wasting everyone’s time by claiming it’s not there. Is obviously there. And good for Joseph for finding some good stuff to borrow from. The church is just stuck in their claims that JS got everything directly from the Spirit- after at times being inspired by reading the Bible- and that narrative simple doesn’t hold up in my mind. But for the true blues there, the sticklers, I also am perfectly fine with them holding to a “mutual” revelation theory in which God reveals stuff to lots of people, but then Joseph pulled it all together in restoring the real and final truths about everything. great comments and questions. thanks you.

  2. Wendy, I wish I could believe at face value that JS got it from revelation, but the church clouds the issues severely. I’ve heard quotes from GAs stating that no boy with only a 3rd grade education could have invented the BoM (for example), and the statements attributed to Lucy (his mother) that Jopseh was not inclined to books paint the picture the church pushes that Joseph was virtually illiterate. Quinn sais THIS is the fable–JS was VERY literate.

    Now you indicate that the nuanced view is that Swedenborg and Jopseh both got revelation, and plagiarism doesn’t necessarily negate that possibility. But if you throw into the mix the church’s position that this “UNEDUCATED FARM BOY” could have read and been influenced by Swedenborg, this would negate teachings that Joseph was virtually illiterate.

    Regardless of the position you take, someone is flat out wrong.
    1. If JS got the inspiration from Swedenborg, then regardless of revelation, the church’s teaching about Joseph being uneducated and NOT well-read is false.
    2. If JS didn’t get the inspiration from Swedenborg, then its a leap of faith because of the similarities and the proof that Joseph didn’t plagiarize becomes much more difficult to accept.

    There is evidence now (which you discussed) that Joseph used Clark’s work for the JST. And here again there is a problem: the Church claims that the JST was inspired correction. Inspired FROM WHOM???

    So, JS read Clark’s work, prayed about it, and God said: “Hey Joseph, this is correct. Claim it came from me, and put it in there.” Well, it didn’t come from GOD,…It came from Clark.

    But wait…how is this possible when Jopseh had a seer stone?

    I’m sorry. The whole topic just convolutes to me.

    Did Jopseh ever claim that he got inspiration from sources other than God, and that God corroborated those sources? That is a real question.

    Why does Joseph always set himself up as the spokesman for God, and never claim the ideas came from others, and God approved? It seems like everything Joseph did was to enthrone him as the ONLY spokesperson for God.

    • I agree with all your logical conclusions. I think JS was a great promoter of himself for sure, but that he was coming of age as a man and later a church leader in a time that is very hard for us to relate to. Everyone was doing this stuff, everyone was debating it all and borrowing from everyone. I don’t think his followers hadn’t heard any of Swendenborg’s teachings before, I’m sure many of them knew about his ideas and other thinkers. Think of the religious landscape in America.
      I personally think he -JS-was gathering it up, adding his own twists but sincerely felt that God was inspiring him to do that. They all did, the mystics and spiritualists. I think that is what JS was. Not a Bible scholar, (though he knew he had to get the Bible in there because that was the other great movement at the time, the RETURN to the Bible and the primitive church) I do believe he and Swendenborg had visions, maybe they drank special tea, maybe it was a manic Bi-polar thing, maybe it was real, I don’t know but they did feel special, wouldn’t you? Then they tried to make sense of it.

      So he’s trying to combine this mystical stuff (which was popular) with the BIBLe stuff that’s a huge deal, and he came up with irresistible Moronism. If he hadn’t screwed everything up with polygamy who knows how big the church could have been. Freemasonry was on the decline and he would have been the only game in town for ritualism.

      Remember he said, Swendenborg lacked for daily bread… like he didn’t know how to put together a bread and butter organization and lead it, he just kept writing and writing. That’s my take on it.

      And yes that’s what I’m saying. The church would do better to let go of obviously false things, precisely the ones you mentioned in your comments. His mother seems clueless, etc.
      The part about him being an uneducated farm boy is poppycock. Lots of smart people have been self-educated, and yes it gets convoluted but not as much as the church and scholars make it sometimes.

  3. I wish someone did a study to see WHAT things are in the JST that can NOT be traced back to someone else’s writings. That would be fascinating.

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