Gnostics (see Gnostic scripture Treatise on the Resurrection) believed that mortal ignorance based on someone else’s fairy tales constituted spiritual death. Resurrection then was awakening from that mortal ignorance into mortal awareness – including the realization that humans did not need to believe in or adhere to someone else’s fairy tales, theology, doctrine and dogma.
Resurrection then meant a moment of enlightenment, revealing what truly exists. Resurrection meant becoming spiritually alive and in effect awakening from the deadness of unknowing.
An additional Gnostic text, The Gospel of Phillip actually ridiculed Christians who took the resurrection literally:
Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. They must receive the resurrection while they live.
The LDS Church with it’s patriarchal hierarchy based on revealation and echelon’s of authority is as vulnerable to this misunderstanding as were the early Catholic Fathers.
As with the early Roman church, all the authority of the LDS Church stems from the hierarchical relationship to the resurrected Jesus Christ by twelve favored apostles. This experience is closed even to the LDS apostles in a mortal sense and all they are left with is a supposed mantle of authority which is above and beyond the rest of humanity and shared in a trickle-down manner according again to hierarchy … and only to males.
Such a circumstance has enormous implications for the LDS Church and its true-believing membership. A small circle of men possess positions of incontestable authority that in fact are the only venue for choice and ordination of future leaders as their successors. This is the same view that started in the Roman church.
The apostles and general authorities alone hold definitive religious authority and their only legitimate heirs are those able to bear lines of authority that go back to the founding father, Joseph Smith, and through Smith, to Peter, James, John, and the earlier hierarchy. It is very much in the interest of the current church to continue to accept the literal physical resurrection of Jesus. Such in fact is the vital reason why the theology and dogma concocted by the original Roman Church fathers was created in the first place.
Without a literal physical resurrection of Jesus, the idea of original sin, the need for redemption and the notion of an atonement by Jesus as the Christ would have no basis in fact or fantasy. Because of the truth claims and a blind adherence to supposed first principles and ordinances which must be carried out with authority in order to be recognized by God, every LDS believer must look to Salt Lake City for religious validation.
As with those Gnostics of old, we of today must recognize that any experience of divinity outside the LDS dogmatic narrative has its own political implications. Our experience cannot conflict with the Church-approved and annointed truth regarding mystical experience with God. We cannot “see the Lord,” so to speak through our own inner vision in any formal Church manner because that would be an experience surpassing the traditional role of apostles, priesthood authority and the Lord’s Church being a “House of Order.”
In the early years of the Roman Church, Irenaeus, known as one of the “fathers” of Roman Catholic theology expressed it in such a way that he could have declared it from the podium during an LDS general conference:
“They consider themselves mature so that no one can be compared with them in the greatness of their gnosis, not even if you mention Peter or Paul or any of the other apostles … They imagine that they themselves have discovered more than the apostles … and that they themselves are wiser and more intelligent than the apostles.”
One might make the case – if one believed in reincarnation – that Ireneaus had been reincarnated in the 20th century as Bruce R. McConkie.
That’s why contention is such a contemporary buzz word and magic bullet in the current LDS Church. Doubters and dissenters can be accused of considering themselves not only wiser than the apostles, but then easily by extension wiser than stake presidents, high councilors, bishops and line-authority priesthood leaders.
Gnostics challenged the hide-bound church proclamations of the popes and cardinals … in The Apocalypse of Peter Christ explained that
“those who name themselves bishop and deacon and act as if they had received their authority from God are in reality water-less canals. Although they do not understand mystery, they boast that the mystery of truth belongs to them alone. They have misinterpreted the apostle’s teaching and have set up an imitation church in place of the true Christian brotherhood.”
The harsh and sober reality is that Joseph Smith’s model for what a church should look like, teach and believe – if it were to be restored or founded in the 19th century – was in fact a restoration of an imitation church.
Hierarchies set up by Joseph based on authority as speculated upon by the religious peers and colleagues with whom he contended in the mid 1800’s were all based on what became the literal-minded fundamentalist and Pentecostal assumptions that were eventually more fully accepted assumptions at the turn of the 20th century. That is when fundamentalism began to be more routinely accepted as the way to be religious in America.
Thus we can assert that Joseph did not restore the original true church as founded by Jesus.
Jesus in reality did not found a church, did not outline doctrines, did not set in place church principles and ordinances and made no rules about limiting prophesy, seer-ship and revelation to any chosen few or special witnesses.
Those were all notions put in place by Roman Catholic fathers mostly interested in influence with the emperor, control over religious matters and micro-management of the lives of the citizens of the empire.
Bottom line is that Joseph Smith restored his own conceptualized version of the original imitation church.