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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mormons and Apostolic Restoration

People often wonder why I write with such urgency about the need for deeper clarity from those who champion apostolic restoration. Among the reasons for my concern is that I see troubling overlap between the way some five-fold people speak about church history and the way Mormons speak about church history, the way some Protestants speak of the need for apostolic restoration and the way Mormons speak of this restoration having happened through Mormonism. I DO NOT MEAN THAT ALL NON-MORMON RESTORATIONISTS ARE MORMONS DEEP DOWN, or that their proposals are as problematic to historic orthodox Christianity as Mormon restoration theology is, but I do mean to say that the similarities explain the need for serious, rigorous thought as to the implications of restorationist readings of church history and Scripture. This similarity seems so obvious to me and other critics of apostolic restoration but we don't see the point being raised much in evangelical and missional circles where five-fold restoration is becoming increasingly popular. Perhaps seeing how a Mormon scholar responds to the idea of evangelicals engaged in this kind of thinking will help to clarify that I and other critics are not making wild statements when we suggest that there is a legitimate reason to be concerned about the doctrinal implications of restorationist theology. Daniel Peterson, a professor at BYU and a Mormon blogger at Patheos, responded in the pages of Desert News to my essay on apostolic restoration. I would urge a full reading of his essay, but quote here what I see as his main point:

Hirsch declares, as Latter-day Saints, too, have long maintained, that the five offices mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers — "are all meant for the church in all places and times."
But, if those offices were intended to exist everywhere in the Christian church forever, what happened to them? Where did "the notion of five-fold ministry in general and apostolic leadership in particular" go?...
Latter-day Saints understand that apostles "must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority." We gratefully testify that, in modern times, they have been and are — and in the full New Testament sense.


  1. Greg - I don't know if you're aware of this book or not, but John L. Brooke's 1994 Cambridge University Press book The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology 1644-1844 has some very useful material.

    Reading it, I was astonished to recognize a number of emergent doctrines within the NAR, not just apostles 'n prophets and the 5-fold ministry, but also the Melchizedek Priesthood and the gnostic notion of the "Second Adam".

    One of Peter Wagner's apostles, Kluane Spake, specializes in the Melchizedek Priesthood idea, but it's hardly limited to her purview. It's quite common now - 1 Peter 2:9 now gets cited quite often now, at conferences, to evoke this concept.

  2. Hi Greg, right now I'm in the middle of my dissertation work on the late 17th century prophetic writer Jane Lead, who adapted Jacob Boehme's ideas as well as other Renaissance esoteric concepts into her Philadelphian cosmology which prefigures both Mormonism and the Latter Rain/NAR. Central concepts of both movements, including apostolic restoration and the "manifest sons of God" or "corporate Christ" can be first found in her work. There are other clear paralells between the two going back to Lead and similar mystical millenarian writers of the early modern and Enlightenment periods. There isn't enough evidence to say that the NAR is just updated Mormonism or that one directly influenced the other, but I HAVE found evidence that Jane Lead's and other similar writings circulated among both movements in their developing phases. BTW, I consider the NAR to be a continuation of the late-1940s Latter Rain movement at least theologically.

    Even though it has evolved and matured somewhat since the mid-1800s, Mormon cosmology still nicely encapsulates millenarian culture of that period IMO. Similar to Lead, Joseph Smith also took his ideas from a variety of millenarian and mystical sources accessible both orally and in print within early American culture. Based on my research, it appears that either he or other early Mormons had access to an 1830 edition of Lead's titled Divine Revelations and Prophecies. An early UK edition of the LDS Morning Star also reprinted a reverse translated excerpt from a German edition of Lead's Revelation of Revelations. If you go look at the Archive of Restoration Studies at BYU Studies website, you can see a pretty exhaustive list of works paralelled in Joseph Smith's cosmology, which includes Lead's Divine Revelation and Prophecies: https://byustudies.byu.edu/ARC.aspx

    I've also traced down where early Latter Rainers got a hold of Jane Lead's "Sixty Propositions." It too was Southcottian in origin. The version printed in a 1949 issue of Golden Grain magazine (one of the Healing movement magazines) perfectly matches a late nineteenth century manuscript text I found in the Jezreelite archive in Strood, Kent, England. The Jezreelites were a Southcottian movement which are almost completely unknown today but which were active missionaries both in England and in the US, particularly in the upper midwest including the Detroit and Chicago areas. The Golden Grain text was then adapted by several other Latter Rain ministers including George Hawtin, Bill Britton and Royal Cronquist. Early Latter Rain ministers were also reading similar works including those by Jacob Boehme.

    This is completely anecdotal, but back when I was actively researching Maranatha Campus Ministries (a campus based Latter Rain/Christian Right "cult" which later morphed into Morning Star International and then Every Nation Churches) former pastors in the movement reported that top leaders discussed what planets they were going to inherit in heaven, which obviously sounds just like Mormon and not evangelical cosmology. But there is documented evidence that they read and republished Cleon Skousen's historiography in their magazine, The Forerunner.

    This work is a bit dated, but you may want to look at J.F.C. Harrison's The Second Coming: 1780-1850 for a look at some of the millenarian oral and print cultures of that period--directly relates to what we see today. Brooke's Refiner's Fire is in my working bibliography as well but I haven't been able to get to it yet.

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  4. BTW, to clarify something I wrote above... Lead's Divine Revelations and Prophecies was published by the followers of John "Zion" Ward, a self-proclaimed successor to Joanna Southcott from the first third of the nineteenth century. He quoted and cited Jane Lead frequently in his works. It appears that this edition also circulated among the Shakers and may well have been one of the Lead works in Bronson Alcott's Fruitlands (Transcendentalist) library which they acquired from James Pierrepont Greaves, who corresponded at length with Ward. So Lead works that ended up circulating among the early Mormons (Divine Revelations and Prophecies) and the Latter Rain ("Sixty Propositions") were via Southcottian movements.