A tradition of a "heavenly book" runs through many traditions, including Mormonism with its "gold plates." What spiritual reality might these traditions be pointing to?
It's taken more time to write about this reconstruction, because it is perhaps a more sensitive subject, and more complex, than any I have written before about Mormonism or Christianity, yes, even more so than Jesus or Joseph Smith (which might be an indication that something is off-kilter). The Salt Lake City based Latter-day Saints take the Book of Mormon very seriously as a holy text, as scripture revealed by God, similar to the Bible, and perhaps even more important than the Bible. The Book of Mormon is one thing that makes them unique, their own testament of the divinity of "Jesus Christ," which they believe is also evidence of the unique prophethood of Joseph Smith and the divinity of the church he organized as God's "true church." But I think the truth may be much more nuanced.
Many ancient texts, including the Bible, note that seeing God brings death to the person. But then we also read of some who claim they saw God and lived to tell about it. What's going on? Which is it?
Religious texts are most often not literal history. They are allegory, narrative, parable, metaphor, simile, symbol, poetry, story, visionary, and figurative. They are not relating precise word-for-word conversations of the past, nor are they detailing literal events that took place. Yes, the Bible talks about many people and places that may have really existed, and may even abstractly refer to events that really took place, but it is not a history book.
Two readers posted comments recently on my article about Joseph Smith as tertön and the Book of Mormon as terma. They were both similar in questioning the idea that the Book of Mormon may not be a historical text.
Several months ago I began to write new "translations" of key passages of scripture in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. I thought the original translations were not clear enough, and did not communicate the truth very well that I have experienced in recent months and years. So I began to rewrite them as I understood this truth, to try to better convey that truth to a modern reader. I've called this the Bryce Haymond Translation (BHT).
I shared this account in my introductory paper about mysticism, but I think it should be shared as a stand-alone post as well. This is because it is so stunningly similar in many respects to Joseph Smith's accounts of the First Vision.
Was Jesus in the Father, and the Father in Jesus? Did the Father dwell in Jesus? Could they see the Father in Jesus because the Father was in Jesus, actually dwelled in Jesus? When Jesus said "me," did he mean Jesus only, or did he mean us, ourselves, we? Did he want us to become like him, and mirror his words.