What a gift it was to meet Fr. Richard Rohr today at the 2019 The Universal Christ conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico with my friends Michael Potter and Jory Pryor. My towering over Richard Rohr is just an optical illusion. He really towers over me.
And, what many may not know, there were many "Christs" who came prior to Jesus, and who were not Jesus, nor do I think they were prefiguring or foreshadowing Jesus. They were the "Christs" in their own right, who came in their own time, who developed what it meant to be a "Christ" or "Messiah" in ancient Israel long before the word was ever applied to Jesus. I think it may be helpful to become acquainted with these "Christs/Messiahs" to better understand who Jesus was.
A prominent belief in Jewish tradition is that the coming Messiah will "rebuild the temple." Jesus too said he would "rebuild the temple." But what temple?
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.
An addition to the BHT, containing the earliest account of the post-resurrection appearances of Christ in the New Testament, where Paul describes his witness of the resurrection and what it means to be resurrected into Christ consciousness. This seems to be an excellent summary of the Christian Gospel, or "good news," but it is something which I think we've generally misunderstood in Christianity for centuries. I feel that this is one of the most important translations of the BHT that I have been given the Grace to work out yet—yet not I. I was in tears by the end.
It is true that traditionally God and Christ have been predominantly associated with the male gender and masculine principle (a "He"), at least in the West. What we need to decide today is if that traditional interpretation, these symbols of the Divine, are still valid, and accurate, and if they point to truth in the present, or if we need a better interpretation of these symbols as a society, a culture, in our interspirituality, in the world today.
I've been reading about the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, and the description of the earliest written records and development of the early Christian resurrection narrative is quite intriguing. It seems to show that there was a significant change of the meaning of resurrection beginning in the very first few decades of Christianity, between the time of Paul and when the gospels were written.
Mormonism traces back its history in modern times to its founding prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., and his "First Vision." Joseph was a young farmer boy who lived in western New York, born in the early nineteenth century. This was the time of what's known as the Second Great Awakening, and where Joseph lived is known as the "burned-over district." It was a time of much Protestant religious excitement, revivals, reforms, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations (which eventually included Mormonism). A Restoration Movement grew in popularity in the area, which involved ideas of "restoring" a pure, primitive, uncorrupted, and original form of Christian faith.
The "Holy Ghost" is perhaps one of the most mysterious figures in Mormon theology (and perhaps more generally in Christianity). Many Mormons likely know this being of the Godhead as a "personage of spirit," which "has not a body of flesh and bones," "were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell within us" (D&C 130:22). This already begins to sound quite supernatural, a ghostly person that may come and dwell within me? How are we to make sense of this?
Jesus is, of course, the center of Christianity, including Mormonism. In Mormonism, he is prominently identified in the name of the largest denomination of which I was a member, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Everything revolves around Jesus.