Joseph Smith, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Section 76: Importance of the Bible in Latter-day Revelation

J. B. Haws

J. B. Haws, “Joseph Smith, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Section 76: Importance of the Bible in Latter-day Revelation,” in The Doctrine and Covenants, Revelations in Context, ed. Andrew H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2008), 142–67.

J. B. Haws was a seminary teacher in Roy, Utah, when this was published.

Influence is a slippery word in the history of ideas. Even when a researcher performs the Herculean task of reading everything that some great thinker read and wrote, contemporary context and conversation are elusive variables complicating every “influence” equation. With that said, this paper might seem inadvisable from the start, because it begins with one of those difficult “influence” puzzles: Was Emanuel Swedenborg the source of Joseph Smith’s conception of a three-tiered heaven? Questions like this almost never lend themselves to a clear-cut yes or no; yet some recent observers have firmly pushed in just such a definitive direction in their evaluation of parallels in the writings of the eighteenth-century Swedish visionary and the Prophet Joseph Smith. In contrast to those strong assertions, this paper will argue for caution and tentativeness because the differences between the two revolutionary thinkers are as telling as the possible ties. Though certain similarities are intriguing, they do not necessarily require a direct connection between Swedenborg’s writings and Joseph Smith’s revelation. Instead, it might be more reasonable to suggest that both men drew from a common well, the Bible.

Latter-day Saints are generally accustomed to regarding their beliefs about heaven as unique from those of other Christians—and rightly so, many outside observers would say. Craig Blomberg, professor at the Denver Seminary, well represents the feelings of many outside Mormonism when he comments that “Doctrine and Covenants 76 hits [evangelical Christians] like a bolt out of the blue with its elaboration of four possible destinies of humanity.”[1] But Brigham John Bowen has recently suggested that “the notion of degrees of glory,” which today is “often thought of as . . . uniquely Mormon,” was “not so in the nineteenth century.”[2]

Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, authors of Heaven: A History, agree. They detect in the early 1800s a change of religious climate of sorts which drew many thinkers toward a “modern perspective on heaven,” one that “[emphasized] the nearness and similarity of the other world to our own and [argued] for the eternal nature of love, family, progress, and work.”[3] As part of that theological trend, many religionists posited a multiple-degrees-of-glory conception of the afterlife and speculated about individual and personal differences in intellectual attainment or eternal felicity, based often on the Savior’s comment about “many mansions” in His “Father’s house” (John 14:2).[4] Bowen, in his review of nineteenth-century religious tracts and treatises, points out that prominent theologians such as Isaac Watts and Thomas Dick (who was a contemporary of Joseph Smith) suggested that heaven consisted of multiple levels and gradations—indeed, “the general consensus” of “numerous . . . visions, sermons, speculative treatises” was “that in some form, different degrees of glory do exist in the heavenly realm.”[5] According to McDannell and Lang, “the understanding of life after death in the LDS Church is the clearest example of the continuation of the modern heaven into the twentieth century” because of Latter-day Saint adherence to a theology of heaven that comprises beliefs that once were more widely held—or at least more widely considered—by others.[6] That strain of Christianity seems now mostly forgotten, such that Latter-day Saints today might be surprised to learn that a Swedish nobleman and scientist named Emanuel Swedenborg, writing in the eighteenth century, recorded his visions of a heaven consisting of three regions.[7]

At this point, one might ask, if the notion of heavenly “degrees of glory” was not uncommon in Joseph Smith’s day, why focus so much on the question of Swedenborg’s influence?[8] Two responses seem relevant. First, the Prophet apparently mentioned Swedenborg by name during an 1839 conversation with Edward Hunter, a student of Swedenborg-ianism who later became a Latter-day Saint. Hunter had established a seminary dedicated to the free exchange of religious ideas, and when Joseph Smith stopped at this Nantmeal Seminary in Pennsylvania during a return trip from Washington DC, Hunter reported this exchange: “I asked him if he was acquainted with the Sweadenburgers. His answer I verially believe. ‘Emanuel Sweadenburg had a view of the world to come but for daily food he perished.’”[9] If accurately remembered, this remark generates a whole range of questions.

Second, because both men described a heaven that consisted of specific and separate realms, there seems to be a greater qualitative correspondence in their respective views than in the more nebulous “many mansions”–type descriptions of heaven found in the writings of other contemporary theologians. McDannell and Lang “trace the roots of the modern heaven, at least in part, to Swedenborg” and see echoes of that “modern heaven” in Mormonism.[10] That correspondence has also been noted by Mary Ann Meyers, Craig Miller, and D. Michael Quinn.[11]

One might then ask, would Latter-day Saints even be troubled if it could be determined that Swedenborgian ideas did influence Joseph Smith? In Mormon thought, revelation is often seen as resulting from specific questions. For example, early revelations addressed the teachings of Ann Lee and the Shakers (see D&C 49) offered correctives to abortive attempts at New Testament–type communal living (D&C 42) and clarified sectarian quandaries over the nature of the Godhead (see D&C 130). Hence, a revelation sparked by questions derived from considering another tradition’s doctrinal system would not seem unprecedented to Latter-day Saint observers. Joseph Smith himself said, “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up.”[12] If, therefore, it could be determined that Swedenborgian ideas did inspire Joseph Smith’s inquiries into the nature of heaven, Latter-day Saints likely would not view that as a threat to their understanding of the development of Mormonism. As Meyers aptly notes, “To stress the parallels between Swedenborgian and Mormon beliefs is neither to deny Smith’s vision experiences nor to confirm those of the Swedish baron.”[13]

At the same time, however, some who are critical of Joseph Smith skeptically look for the presumed “naturalistic origins” behind his writings to explain away his prophetic work.[14] Therefore, if a proposed connection to Swedenborg is intended to discredit the Prophet Joseph Smith—that is, intended to insinuate that an important doctrinal revelation was instead the wholesale and unacknowledged copy of another’s writings—the question of influence bears more weight. The question of influence then gets at issues related to the very historical and religious roots of Mormonism.

What must be conceded is that most of the historical connections to be explored here—that is, those moments of opportunity when Joseph Smith might have been introduced to Swedenborgian tenets—are only speculative. The difficulty comes in determining the extent of Swedenborg’s influence (if any) on Joseph Smith by the time of his 1839 comment to Edward Hunter (assuming the comment represents an accurate recollection). The religious connections that will be discussed afterward—that is, the scriptural ties and doctrinal implications of their respective afterlife theologies—are more substantive because they say important things about the significance of the Bible in understanding Joseph Smith’s revelatory work.

Joseph Smith’s Possible Encounters With Swedenborgianism

If indeed Joseph Smith was impressed and ultimately influenced by the teachings of Swedenborg, he would have found himself in good company. Swedenborg is not exactly a household name in contemporary American society, but Ralph Waldo Emerson read Swedenborg extensively and devoted one of his “representative men” lectures to him.[15] Henry James Sr. was a convert to Swedenborgianism, as was Helen Keller.[16] John Chapman—the famous “Johnny Appleseed”—was a Swedenborgian missionary.[17] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, Thomas Carlyle, and Charles Peirce, among others, were also openly appreciative of Swedenborg’s poetic descriptions of his visionary discoveries in the fields of both science and religion.[18]

Swedenborg was born the son of a Swedish bishop but initially pursued an academic career in mathematics and metallurgy. Scientific inquiries basically dominated the first half of his intellectual career, from 1710 to 1744, but recording his spiritual visions occupied the second half of his career, from 1745 to 1772, the year of his death. Over the pages of forty- plus volumes, he touched on subjects as diverse as chemistry, biology, philosophy, mineralogy, marriage, the afterlife, and the nature of God.[19] Considering both the variety and the volume, it is not difficult to see why a century of thinkers would have been drawn to consider Swedenborg’s often revolutionary revelations.[20]

After “a spirit . . . spoke with him” in 1745, he “came to believe that God had called him to bring a new revelation to the world,” such that he “claimed to have been constantly in touch with the spiritual world for more than a quarter of a century.”[21] Based on his understanding of what he witnessed during these interchanges, Swedenborg described heaven as consisting of three divisions. Joseph Smith reported that on February 16, 1832, he and Sidney Rigdon likewise observed in vision that heaven consists of three divisions or kingdoms of glory—a revelation so fundamental to Mormonism that it is often referred to simply as “the Vision.”[22]

Joseph Smith’s brief but generally complimentary assessment of Swedenborg’s visions begs some crucial questions: If Joseph Smith made this comment in 1839, when did he become acquainted with Swedenborg’s writings? What was his source of information? Miller raises an intriguing possibility. A Mormon convert, Sarah Cleveland, and her Swedenborgian husband, John Cleveland, moved to Quincy, Illinois, in the mid-1830s, while most Latter-day Saints (including Joseph Smith) were gathering to Kirtland, Ohio, or western Missouri. But in early 1839, the Quincy area became the new gathering place for the exiled Mormons, and the Clevelands became closely associated with the Smith family when “Emma Smith and her children lived with the Clevelands for a short time in 1839 while Joseph was in jail.”[23] Significantly, Joseph Smith was released from jail in Missouri in April 1839 and immediately traveled to the Quincy area, where he began to establish Nauvoo in the spring and summer of 1839. He would certainly have become acquainted with the Clevelands during those months he spent in Illinois before his November 1839 trip to Washington DC. It was during his return from Washington that he met Edward Hunter and reportedly made the remark about Swedenborg’s visions.[24]

While the Clevelands thus seem to be a potentially solid, logical source for information on Swedenborg, their informative role could only have been a relatively late one, coming seven years after the publication of Joseph Smith’s vision of the degrees of glory. If the Clevelands were his earliest source for Swedenborgian doctrine, the question of influence would be moot, and the puzzle of Joseph Smith’s conversation with Edward Hunter would be resolved. Yet this question remains: had Joseph Smith been exposed to information on Swedenborg before he and Sidney Rigdon experienced “the Vision”?

Quinn has suggested—and his suggestion has proven very influential—that Joseph Smith could have become acquainted with Swedenborgian ideas through the occasional advertising and sale of Swedenborg’s religious tracts in the environs around Joseph Smith’s Palmyra home.[25] One author, citing Quinn’s work, went so far as to declare that “Mormonism and Spiritualism share a common ancestor in Swedenborgism.”[26] Yet there are some problems with this sweeping conclusion, considering both the spottiness of the dates of the newspaper advertisements and the distances between Joseph Smith’s home and the places of publication.[27] As Miller also points out, an argument for the likelihood that Joseph Smith gained any type of thorough fluency with Swedenborgian theology through his personal study of those Swedenborgian writings that might have been available for perusal would also mean the discounting of this telling observation made by Joseph Smith’s mother: “Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had, but much more given to reflection and deep study,” such that when he was “eighteen years of age” he “had never read the Bible through by course in his life.”[28] Still, it is possible that local publications made Joseph Smith at least aware of Swedenborg’s name and reputation.[29]

Meyers presents another possible source for Joseph Smith’s introduction to Swedenborgian ideas, and her suggestion seems worthy of additional exploration. Recognizing the importance of Sidney Rigdon in the history of early Mormonism, Meyers notes that Swedenborgian evangelists were active in Rigdon’s Pittsburgh as early as 1790.[30] Because Sidney Rigdon participated with Joseph Smith in “the Vision,” Meyers’s recognition of Rigdon’s possible role in transmitting Swedenborgian ideas is intriguing. Such a connection relies on another somewhat tenuous contingency: that Sidney Rigdon was actually exposed to those evangelists and that he engaged them long enough to absorb some of their doctrines about life after death. This circumstantial connection is not without merit, because Rigdon was an avid student of religious ideas. However, an even stronger reason to believe that Sidney Rigdon was at the very least exposed to Swedenborg’s ideas comes from the writings of Alexander Campbell.

By 1830, Sidney Rigdon had been a close associate of Campbell’s for more than a decade. He had been persuaded by Campbell’s preaching in favor of the restoration of Christian primitivism, and he had allied himself with Campbell’s movement (now referred to as the “Disciples of Christ” or “Churches of Christ”).[31] Rigdon was an active preacher, leading a congregation in Mentor, Ohio. However, in the fall of 1830, his ties with Campbell were strained to the breaking point. Campbell expressed sharp disdain for Rigdon’s group’s attempts at establishing a type of “New Testament communitarianism,” such that the “differences between Rigdon and Campbell boiled over.”[32] By late October 1830, Rigdon had been introduced to the newly published Book of Mormon and was soon thereafter baptized a Latter-day Saint. A little over a year later, Sidney Rigdon was with Joseph Smith when “the eyes of [their] understandings . . . were opened” (D&C 76:19), and they saw the vision of the three degrees of glory.[33]

Therefore, considering Rigdon’s long association with Alexander Campbell before joining with the Mormons, the discovery that Campbell made several references to Swedenborg in the two periodicals that he edited and published seems significant.[34] In fact, in at least two instances, Swedenborg and Rigdon are both mentioned in the same issue of the periodical—once even in the same article. In the October 4, 1830, issue of the Millennial Harbinger, an article entitled “Traveller’s Reply—Excerpts from the Traveller’s Journal” contains this interesting entry: “June 21st. Read two hours in the visions of Swedenborg on Heaven and Hell; and a sketch of his life.” Then, after providing a journal entry for June 22, the “traveller,” who signs the article “Francis,” wrote a summary of his experiences: “I had the privilege of spending several days at [Alexander Campbell’s] house, of forming a very pleasing personal acquaintance with him. . . . I was introduced also to Walter Scott, to Sidney Rigdon, to Adamson Bentley; which three ministers have immersed, within three years, at least three thousand persons.”[35] While it is impossible to determine the chronological order of the “traveller’s” June 21 reading of Swedenborg and his undated introduction to Sidney Rigdon, at least this passage establishes that someone familiar with a specific Swedenborgian text also knew Sidney Rigdon. Because Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell is mentioned—a text which discusses the three-tiered heaven—and because of Rigdon’s own intellectual curiosity, it seems reasonable to infer that Rigdon could have possessed a basic familiarity with Swedenborg’s view of the afterlife before he began his association with Joseph Smith.

Recognizing that any further conclusion beyond this suggestive Swedenborg-Rigdon connection will be speculative, it at least seems appropriate to say something about Rigdon’s participation in the vision of the degrees of glory.[36] He had become the principal scribe for Joseph Smith’s work on a translation or revision of the Bible. When they came to John 5:29 in the translation work, Joseph Smith records that the verse “caused [them] to marvel,” and it was while they “meditated upon these things” that the vision opened (D&C 76:18–19). Could it be possible, then, that in reflecting on the nature of the Resurrection, Sidney Rigdon brought up something he had learned from Swedenborg’s idea of a three-tiered heaven or that Joseph Smith may have remembered hearing something of the same? There are other connected possibilities.

Joseph Smith worked extensively on his Bible revision and translation for the first three years after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from 1830 to 1833. Several of his recorded revelations are directly tied to questions that arose during that translation work. It is interesting to note that there is evidence that the translation did not proceed sequentially in all cases. For example, Joseph Smith translated John 5:29, which preceded receiving the revelation now contained in Doctrine and Covenants 76, on February 16, 1832. A month previously Joseph Smith recorded what is now Doctrine and Covenants 74—a revelation directly commenting on 1 Corinthians 7:14.[37] Receipt of Doctrine and Covenants 74 suggests that Joseph Smith had been involved, in January 1832, with a study of at least 1 Corinthians 7. Interestingly, the biblical passage most directly connected to the vision of the three degrees is found in 1 Corinthians 15:40–42. Could it be that Joseph Smith was intrigued by the notion of three glories implied in these verses—perhaps even in part because of Swedenborgian doctrine—such that the traditional understanding of John 5:29, which he read a few weeks later, and its resurrection dichotomy seemed incomplete?[38]

As inconclusive as the investigation into the Joseph Smith–Emanuel Swedenborg points of contact seem to be, these questions remain open. Additionally, an examination of the similarities and dissimilarities in the visionary texts speaks even more directly to reasonable limits on the suggested extent of Swedenborg’s influence on Joseph Smith, because careful readers of Doctrine and Covenants 76 will notice that Joseph Smith’s revelation is built on a framework of direct quotations of biblical passages.

The Visions of Heaven and Their Biblical Ties

There is a sense that the Prophet Joseph Smith’s vision is a conscious and careful expansion of pertinent scriptural texts. To be sure, the revelation certainly gives to those texts a significance and meaning that they do not have in traditional Christian understanding, yet the revelation repeatedly grounds itself in the language of the Bible. This point can hardly be overstated, and because it bears on the question of the degree of Swedenborg’s influence, it demands a more extensive treatment.

The central New Testament passage that weaves itself throughout Joseph Smith’s vision is 1 Corinthians 15:40–42. The Apostle Paul wrote, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.” Readers familiar with Mormonism’s conception of a three-tiered heaven will recognize the points of contact between this passage and the Latter-day Saint description of that heaven. Allusions to this passage from 1 Corinthians 15 abound in Doctrine and Covenants 76: inhabitants of the highest kingdom of glory are “they whose bodies are celestial” (v. 70); the glory of the celestial kingdom is such that “the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical” (v. 70); the difference between the celestial kingdom and the terrestrial kingdom is analogous to the way that “the moon differs from the sun in the firmament” (v. 71); the summary description of the three kingdoms of glory follows—and even adopts—Paul’s language: “And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one. And the glory of the terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one. And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in the glory in the telestial world” (vv. 96–98). It seems evident that Joseph Smith understood his visionary experience to be related directly to Paul’s description of the Resurrection and thus chose to present his vision as an expansion of that description.

It is therefore surprising to note that Emanuel Swedenborg apparently never quoted from, nor even referred to, 1 Corinthians 15:40–42 in any of his voluminous writings.[39] Swedenborg did call the highest level of heaven the “celestial kingdom,” yet because this was a common synonym for heaven in the Christian vernacular, it would seem a serious stretch to see in this shared vocabulary a direct borrowing of Swedenborgian thought in Joseph Smith’s writings.[40] Joseph Smith, based on his interpretation of the Pauline passage, called the second kingdom or heavenly level “terrestrial,” while Swedenborg called that level “spiritual.” The phrase “terrestrial bodies” and the single word terrestrial do appear in Swedenborg’s translated writings, but never do they describe or even refer to the inhabitants of the second or “spiritual” heaven.[41] The word telestial, which Joseph Smith used to describe the lowest degree of heaven, never appears in Swedenborg’s works—and indeed seems to be an invented word unique to Joseph Smith.[42]

Quinn, in his review of similarities between Swedenborgianism and Doctrine and Covenants 76, candidly admits that of “the names of the three glories (Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial) in Joseph Smith’s 1832 vision, . . . only the Celestial corresponded to Swedenborg’s theology of three heavens,” yet asserts that Swedenborg “stated that the inhabitants of the three heavens corresponded to the sun, moon, and stars.”[43] Such an assertion, if true, would seem to imply another Swedenborgian parallel in Joseph Smith’s use of 1 Corinthians 15:40–42. However, a review of Swedenborg’s writings reveals that Quinn misappropriated or at least overstated the sun- moon- star description in Swedenborg’s work, and subsequent writers may have too readily accepted Quinn’s conclusions, thus exaggerating the perception of similarity.[44]

The passage that Quinn quotes in support of Swedenborg’s sun-moon-star description is from Arcana Coelestia. Like so much of Swedenborg’s poetic and symbolic writings, the passage is complex and not easily deciphered. However, what seems most clear is that Swedenborg used the sun-moon metaphor to describe the Lord rather than the three-tiered heaven (note that the celestial, spiritual, and natural kingdoms or heavens are not even mentioned in this passage). He wrote:

The sun has a correspondence, and so does the moon; for in heaven the Lord is the Sun, and the Moon too. The fire and heat of the sun, as well as its light, have a correspondence, for it is the Lord’s love towards the whole human race that its fire and heat correspond to, and His Divine truth that its light corresponds to. The stars too have a correspondence, the communities of heaven and their dwelling- places being what the stars correspond to. Not that the heavenly communities dwell in the stars, but that they have been set in order in the same kind of way as the stars.[45]

Rather than associating stars with only the third heaven, Swedenborg apparently used the stars as a representative metaphor for all the “communities of heaven and their dwelling- places.” That analogy could be understood as implying gradations of glory, and Swedenborg does close this passage by noting that “the specific nature of each person’s correspondence therefore determines what he looks like in the next life in the light of heaven. This explains why angels have an indescribably bright and beautiful appearance, whereas those in hell have an unspeakably dark and ugly one.”[46] Yet nowhere in this passage is there the threefold division of heaven, nor any association with the glory of the sun, moon, and stars.

An interesting line in Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell describes the Lord as both sun and moon: “The Lord is seen as a sun by those who are in His celestial kingdom, where love to Him reigns, and as a moon by those who are in His spiritual kingdom, where charity to the neighbor and faith reign.”[47] Again, for Swedenborg there is certainly a qualitative difference between those in the highest and second (and, though not mentioned in this passage, the third) heavenly kingdoms, and again he used the sun and moon as metaphors for the Lord, but this is not the explicit “sun/moon/stars” triad that Joseph Smith used as an analogy for the glory of the inhabitants of the respective kingdoms, “whose bodies are celestial” or terrestrial or telestial, “whose glory is that of the sun” or moon or stars (D&C 76:70; emphasis added). The strength of this distinction seems to be highlighted by another allusion to the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial glories in a revelation Joseph Smith recorded ten months after section 76. Doctrine and Covenants 88:19–32 makes clear that the kingdoms of glory correspond to the degrees of glory which will “quicken” those resurrected souls who inherit the various kingdoms. On the other hand, the phrases the “glory of the moon” and the “glory of the stars”—Paul’s phrases from 1 Corinthians 15:40–42—never appear in Swedenborg’s translated writings.

Instead of the sun-moon-star association, it seems that a student of Swedenborg would be naturally led to choose a different analogy for heaven that is more readily apparent in his writings: the divisions among bodily organs. In three of the four passages that Quinn cites in support of the three-tiered heaven, Swedenborg mentions parts of the body in conjunction with heaven, specifically stating that “inhabitants of the Lord’s celestial kingdom all belong to the province of the heart, and those of His spiritual kingdom all belong to the province of the lungs. The influx from the celestial kingdom into the spiritual kingdom is similar to the influx of the heart into the lungs, and also to the influx of all things belonging to the heart into those belonging to the lungs.”[48] Swedenborg’s heart and lung analogy for the two kingdoms of heaven never appears in Joseph Smith’s vision. Interestingly, earlier in this same passage Swedenborg writes that “in heaven or the Grand Man there are two kingdoms, one called celestial, the other spiritual.”[49] This is not to say that he was denying the existence of the third tier, but it perhaps suggests that Swedenborg’s view of heaven was not always precisely and consistently described, so that his writings could lead to alternately a three or two-tiered heaven, depending on which works were consulted.

No evidence therefore suggests that 1 Corinthians 15:40–42 informed Swedenborg’s vision of heaven, but this passage directly influenced Joseph Smith. Indeed, the ties to biblical passages in Doctrine and Covenants 76 extend beyond these explicit references to 1 Corinthians 15:40–42.[50] Several chief theological concepts in the revelation are explained with direct scriptural citations. For example, those who inherit hell after final judgment in Latter-day Saint theology are called “sons of perdition,” and in describing them in Doctrine and Covenants 76, Joseph Smith used Jesus Christ’s description of Judas Iscariot: “It had been better for them never to have been born” (v. 32; compare Matthew 26:24). Their sin, according to Doctrine and Covenants 76:35, is that after “having received [the Holy Spirit],” they have “crucified [the Only Begotten Son of the Father] unto themselves and put him to an open shame,” another direct quotation from the New Testament (compare Hebrews 6:6). Swedenborg never referred to Matthew 26:24 or Hebrews 6:6, nor did he ever use the phrase “sons of perdition,” verses and terminology that were integral to Joseph Smith’s understanding of the inhabitants of hell.

In defining the parameters of the telestial kingdom, and specifically the type of people whose choices would lead to an inheritance in that third kingdom of glory, Joseph Smith again turned to biblical passages, quoting Revelation 22:15 (compare D&C 76:103) and 1 Corinthians 3:22 (compare D&C 76:99). However, those verses are never cited by Swedenborg.

Finally, and perhaps most theologically important for Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith wrote in Doctrine and Covenants 76:58–59 that those who inherited the celestial kingdom would become “gods, even the sons of God—wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” The language Joseph Smith used to explain this celestial inheritance comes again directly from Paul—1 Corinthians 3:22–23. Neither 1 Corinthians 3 nor the central phrase from Hebrews 12:23, “church of the Firstborn,” appear in Swedenborg’s works.[51]

To be sure, Swedenborg did quote extensively from the Bible and was a devoted student of the Bible, even in its original languages.[52] What seems telling is that Swedenborg associated his three-tiered heaven with 2 Corinthians 12:2–4, in which Paul reported that he “knew a man in Christ . . . (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”[53] Swedenborg referred to this verse in at least two interconnected ways: first, to describe his own visionary experience of being “caught up” and hearing “unspeakable words”;[54] and second, in the context of a specific discussion of the three divisions—celestial, spiritual, and natural.[55]

This extensive list of the real, substantive differences that lie beneath the initial veneer of similarity between the respective Swedenborgian and Latter-day Saint understandings of heaven prompts several observations. First, those writers who have seemed anxious to explain away Joseph Smith’s vision as dependent on, or even a wholesale appropriation of, Swedenborgian thought might reconsider the complexity of both revelations. In reality, Meyers’s cautious proposal seems wise. She wrote of “the possibility that Joseph Smith’s picture of the realms of glory is derived indirectly from Emanuel Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell,” but the truly distinctive explanations of the two systems underscore the words possibility and indirectly.[56]

Second, two disaffected, nineteenth-century Mormon writers familiar with both Emanuel Swedenborg and Joseph Smith never hinted at any similarity in their respective conceptions of heaven. At the very least, John Hyde’s and William Godbe’s conspicuous silence on the Emanuel Swedenborg–Joseph Smith connection recommends caution before making conclusions, perhaps raising the same challenge suggested by the textual comparison of the two descriptions of heaven: the initial similarities seem more superficial after a thorough investigation into the substance of the doctrines.[57]


In conclusion, there are parallels, and both Quinn and Miller have noted the uniqueness of the three-tiered heaven when compared with traditional Christian eschatology. How does one account, then, for the similarities found in Joseph Smith’s and Emanuel Swedenborg’s respective descriptions of the afterlife? Believing Latter-day Saints might answer that question with an explanation that parallels Joseph Smith’s reported statement to Edward Hunter: it is possible that Swedenborg saw the heavens. Latter-day Saints readily accept that individuals outside their tradition have been given special, revealed insight into heavenly truths, and thus the points of convergence in Swedenborgianism and Mormonism could reflect accurate, though independent, descriptions of true Christian eschatology. Latter-day Saints could accept that, to a remarkable degree, Emanuel Swedenborg and Joseph Smith both experienced actual visions of the afterlife reality.[58]

Observers outside the Latter-day Saint tradition would obviously not be satisfied with this type of shared-vision explanation. Even so, there is another reasonable explanation that can account for the similarities in the two theological systems: both men studied the Bible intensively.

Swedenborg experienced a midlife change following the visionary experience in 1745 that he interpreted as a call “to bring a new revelation to the world,” and Sig Synnestvedt notes that “he spent the two years immediately following his ‘call’ in further close study of the Bible. . . . He perfected his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek in order to study the Bible in the original texts, and, in effect, made a new translation of many of the books of both the Old and New Testaments. In 1747 he began publication of his most extended theological work, Arcana Coelestia—Heavenly Secrets. This study of the books of Genesis and Exodus runs to more than 7,000 pages or about three million words.”[59] It is significant that while Swedenborg’s work is most often described today as mystic or even hermetic, he saw himself as unlocking the Bible.[60] His massive Arcana Coelestia commentary represents his immersion into the Bible, and, importantly, it is in this Arcana Coelestia that readers find many of the descriptions of the three levels of heaven.

In a similar way, Joseph Smith’s most prolific period for recorded revelations corresponded exactly with his translation or revision of the Bible.[61] Like Swedenborg, Joseph Smith systematically worked his way through the Bible, noting changes and doctrinal corrections or clarifications. His vision of the three degrees of glory was reported as a direct outgrowth of that translation endeavor.

Quinn and John Brooke refer to “the seven heavens of Jewish mysticism,” “angelology,” “magic books,” “a wide range of occult influences” as the possible seedbeds for Emanuel Swedenborg’s and Joseph Smith’s descriptions of heaven.[62] Perhaps their extensive and impressive sifting through this type of esoteric source material is more complicated than it needs to be. Swedenborg could have been prompted to consider a three-tiered heaven simply through reading Paul’s intriguing mention of “a third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:1–4, verses Swedenborg quoted (and personalized) on several occasions. Joseph Smith could have derived his description of three glories from Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 15:40–42, the very verses that he employed to explain his vision. In fact, the Bible became the source by which Joseph Smith verbalized his revelation.

In the end, then, it seems difficult to describe Joseph Smith’s recorded vision of heaven as a magical or occult exposition on life after death, if “magical” and “occult” are taken to mean extrabiblical or non-Christian. Instead, Joseph Smith’s revelation is thoroughly connected to the Bible, even if his extrapolations from those biblical passages are admittedly unique. And while Swedenborg’s writings on heaven have an undeniably distinct feel from Doctrine and Covenants 76, in that Swedenborg rarely adopts direct biblical phraseology, and the poetic freedom of his writing often feels disconnected, it still can be argued that his idea of three heavens could be primarily an expansive interpretation that begins at a biblical starting point.

Therefore, this exercise can lead us finally to consider generally the Bible and the idea of influence as it relates to early Mormonism. Jan Shipps, Richard Bushman, and Philip Barlow, in reviewing Brooke’s The Refiner’s Fire, all settled on a similar observation about his thesis of hermetic influences on Joseph Smith. In the words of Jan Shipps, “Although [Bushman and Barlow] apparently did not compare notes about what they would write, both . . . pointed to Brooke’s failure to recognize how much of what he described as hermetic or occult came directly from the New Testament.”[63] Shipps then adds, “Brooke concentrates too much on the recondite and radical aspects of this new faith. At no point does he acknowledge that the religious and cultural situation into which Mormonism made its way was one in which . . . authority continued to rest in the Bible—the Bible alone, sola scriptura.[64] The suggestion that Swedenborg appealed to Joseph Smith because of a transmitted hermeticism thus neglects a crucial aspect of Doctrine and Covenants 76: that revelation is more than anything else a blending of literal readings of the Bible into a revolutionary view of heaven. And in that quality of being revolutionary perhaps more than in anything else, Emanuel Swedenborg and Joseph Smith were alike.


[1] Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 177.

[2] Brigham John Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory: Joseph Smith and Early Nineteenth-Century Views of Heaven,” in Richard Lyman Bushman, ed., Archive of Restoration Culture: Summer Fellows’ Papers, 2000–2002 (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, Brigham Young University, 2005), 102.

[3] Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 313. See McDannell and Lang, Heaven, 183, for a fuller description of what they mean by “modern heaven.” See Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 99–100, for a thoughtful summary of this portion of McDannell and Lang’s work.

[4] Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 103.

[5] Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 103.

[6] McDannell and Lang, Heaven, 320.

[7] For a summary of Emmanuel Swedenborg’s life and influence, as well as an up-to-date report on the activities and organization of one branch of his followers who comprise the New Church denomination of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, see This Web site also has links to the church’s “affiliate organizations,” including the General Church’s Bryn Athyn College in Philadelphia. The General Church of the New Jerusalem split from another New Church organization, the Swedenborgian Church of North America. See their Web site at Swedenborg himself never organized a church, but the New Church movement was initiated soon after his death by those who were impressed by his writings.

[8] It should be noted that Fawn Brodie proposed that Joseph Smith’s vision of heaven drew on one of the aforementioned theologians, Thomas Dick (see Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 105n11, where he cites both Brodie’s No Man Knows My History [New York: Vintage Books, 1995], 172–73, as well as Edward T. Jones, “The Theology of Thomas Dick and Its Possible Relationship to That of Joseph Smith” [master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1969], “for a thorough discussion and refutation of Brodie’s claims”; see also Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005], 458, 648n81).

[9] William E. Hunter, Edward Hunter: Faithful Steward (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1970), 316; original spelling retained. The quote comes from the typescript of the “Autobiography of Edward Hunter” included in the final chapter of the book.

[10] Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 105n2. Chapter 7 of McDannell and Lang’s Heaven is entitled “Swedenborg and the Emergence of a Modern Heaven.”

[11] Mary Ann Meyers, “Death in Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology,” Dialogue 14, no. 1 (Spring 1981): 58–64; D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), 217–19; Craig W. Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” unpublished paper. Miller has posted his paper at with a note that the page was last updated on June 4, 2000. Miller also gave presentations on Mormon-Swedenborg parallels at the 1998 and 2002 Sunstone symposia in Salt Lake City. His approach is the most extensive and comprehensive, and he deals with remarkable parallels that extend beyond the three-tiered heaven doctrine considered here. His analysis and attention to detail are impressive. I would argue that many of the parallels he discusses (marriage, for example) could be treated in a manner analogous to the treatment of the three heaven parallels we receive here: Emanuel Swedenborg and Joseph Smith both had the Bible as their theological starting point, and their revelations represent expansions of biblical passages.

[12] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 316.

[13] Meyers, “Death in Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology,” 59.

[14] Robert D. Anderson, Review of Wayne L. Cowdery, Howard A. Davis, and Arthur Vanick, “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Mormon History 33, no. 2 (Summer 2007): 244. Though Anderson’s comments apply to “the valid quest” for the “skeptic” to seek the “naturalistic origins” of the Book of Mormon, his assertions seem to characterize more general criticism of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

[15] Sig Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg: Basic Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, Scientist, Philosopher, and Theologian (The Swedenborg Foundation and Twayne Publishers, 1970), 5–6; Colin Wilson, “Introduction,” in Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, trans. George F. Dole (West Chester, PA: The Swedenborg Foundation, 1979), 10; see also Robert D. Richardson Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 667, 670, where the number of references to Swedenborg in the book’s index exceeds the number of references to Plato by one.

[16] Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001), 82; Wilson, “Introduction,” 21; Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 7.

[17] N. J. Paterson, Johnny Appleseed: A Voice in the Wilderness: The Story of the Pioneer John Chapman (The Swedenborg Press, 1947).

[18] Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 6; Menand, The Metaphysical Club, 275.

[19] See Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 16–35, for both a succinct chronology and biographical sketch of Swedenborg’s life.

[20] Mary Ann Meyers makes an argument for Swedenborg’s appeal to readers who were well educated—especially in the sciences—and affluent, suggesting that Swedenborg’s background and career, the complexities of his doctrine, as well as his emphasis on education, contribute to his appeal (Mary Ann Meyers, A New World Jerusalem: The Swedenborgian Experience in Community Construction [Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983], 15–16).

[21] Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 25; Meyers, A New World Jerusalem, 17 (caption to the illustration). Swedenborg’s own description of his visionary experiences comes in his work Arcana Coelestia, trans. John E. Elliott, 5; accessed on March 11, 2008, at 5.htm: “I have been allowed constantly and without interruption for several years now to share the experiences of spirits and angels, to listen to them speaking and to speak to them myself. I have been allowed therefore to hear and see astounding things in the next life which have never come to any man’s knowledge, nor even entered his imagination. In that world I have learned about different kinds of spirits, about the state of souls after death, about hell (the miserable state of people who do not have faith), about heaven (the very happy state of those who do have faith), and above all else about the doctrine of the faith that is acknowledged in the whole of heaven. In the Lord’s Divine mercy more will be told about these matters in what follows.” It should be noted that Swedenborg’s works are numbered by passage rather than by page, so that all editions and translations correspond by passage number. Thirty-five of his most important religious texts have been digitized and are provided in a searchable format on the internet at That resource has proven invaluable to this study. All of Swedenborg’s writings cited in this paper come from that digitized collection. Often, more than one translation from Swedenborg’s Latin is included on the Web site.

[22] On the publication of the vision, see Robert J. Woodford, Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 934, where he notes that “the Vision” was published in the Evening and Morning Star five months after the February 1832 receipt of the revelation. Woodford’s extensive documentation of textual changes in all editions of this revelation underscores the fact that, minus some spelling and grammar changes and other minor editing, the revelation published today is substantially and doctrinally the same as in its earliest 1832 published form. All references to canonized Latter-day Saint writings (the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price) will be to the 1981 editions of those scriptures, unless otherwise noted.

[23] Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” 10. Richard Bushman mentions Emma’s residency with the Clevelands, but he does not mention Judge Cleveland’s religious background (Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 376).

[24] Hunter, Edward Hunter, 51.

[25] Quinn, Early Mormonism, 217–18; see also John L. Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644–1844 (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 205: “Michael Quinn has noted that the idea of three heavens, or degrees of glory, was available in Emmanuel Swedenborg’s cosmic system, in which three heavens—topped by a ‘celestial kingdom’—were associated with the sun, the moon, and the stars. . . . Swedenborg’s cosmos was summarized in various short texts available in Palmyra, and translations of his original texts would not have been too difficult to locate in the 1830s.” Brooke’s book received wide acclaim as a winner of the Bancroft Prize.

[26] Michael W. Homer, “Spiritualism and Mormonism: Some Thoughts on Similarities and Differences,” Dialogue 27, no. 1 (Spring 1994): 174n16.

[27] Quinn, Early Mormonism, 217–18. He mentions a summary of those beliefs published in an 1808 Canandaigua, New York, newspaper (although Joseph Smith’s family did not move to New York from Vermont until 1816) and a summary “in a book owned by Smith’s hometown library since 1817.” Finally, “in 1826 the Canandaigua newspaper also advertised Swedenborg’s A Treatise Concerning Heaven and Hell for sale.” Canandaigua is about twelve miles from Palmyra.

[28] Lucy Mack Smith, The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 111; see also Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” 11.

[29] Michael Quinn added a new reference to an 1830 Palmyra publication mentioning Swedenborg in his 1998 revised edition of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 176, that did not appear in his original 1987 edition. Interestingly, though, Quinn does not refer to this 1830 account in his notes related to Swedenborg’s vision of heaven (Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, rev. ed., 520nn319–29). Because of its geographic and temporal proximity to Joseph Smith, this new discovery seems the most promising in support of Quinn’s suggestion that Joseph Smith at least could have been aware of Swedenborg through local newspapers.

[30] Meyers, “Death in Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology,” 64. Compare also Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” 9–10, where he explores the possibility that other Swedenborgian evangelists may have been active in cities seventy-five miles from Palmyra. One Swedenborgian apparently lived in Rochester, twenty-four miles from Palmyra, but Miller notes that he could find no evidence of contact between this Mr. Harford—or between other Swedenborgian evangelists, for that matter—and any in the Palmyra Latter-day Saint community.

[31] See Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 26. See pages 18–23 for a summary of Rigdon’s decision to join Alexander Campbell.

[32] Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 53–54.

[33] The most detailed account of the actual receipt of this revelation was given sixty years later by Philo Dibble, who reported that he was present when the vision was given, although he himself did not see the vision. His recollection was published in the Salt Lake City periodical The Juvenile Instructor, May 15, 1892, 303–4.

[34] The two periodicals are the Christian Baptist (published from 1823 until 1830) and its successor, the Millennial Harbinger (first published in 1830). Both periodicals are part of the digitized collection of restoration movement religious texts provided by the Memorial University of Newfoundland at

[35] Millennial Harbinger, October 7, 1830, 447–48;

[36] Sidney Rigdon had a falling out with Joseph Smith in the 1840s but did not officially break with the Church until after Joseph Smith’s death. He was subjected to repeated accusations that he had been the primary writer of the Book of Mormon, yet even though he had broken with the Church, and even though he “never showed an inclination to relinquish his due, [he] vigorously maintained throughout his life that he had no part in the production of The Book of Mormon and never saw it until it was published” (Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, reprint [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999], 104). Significantly, and in a similar way, even after his trouble with Joseph Smith, and soon after Joseph Smith’s death, Rigdon still witnessed of his participation in the vision of the degrees of glory (Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 337).

[37] Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 34–35.

[38] See Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 196, about the Prophet’s encounter with John 5:29: “The scripture raised the question of how God could divide people into stark categories of saved and damned when individuals were so obviously a mix in ordinary life. ‘It appeared self-evident,’ Joseph wrote, ‘that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term “heaven,” as intended for the Saints eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one.’ The question Joseph posed was a classic post-Calvinistic puzzle. For over a century Anglo-American culture had struggled to explain the arbitrary judgments of the Calvinist God who saved and damned according to his own good pleasure with little regard for human effort.”

[39] This assertion, and subsequent assertions about the use of certain words, phrases, and scriptural passages in Swedenborg’s writings, are based on the searchable database of Swedenborg’s religious works at Although Craig Miller, in the body of his paper, seems to imply that Swedenborg did draw on 1 Corinthians 15:40–42, in an endnote Miller provides the important clarification that Swedenborg never referenced 1 Corinthians 15:40–42 and that “his followers generally don’t see the three heavens in the words of these scriptures” (Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” 14n8).

[40] For example, the searchable database Early English Books Online lists seventy-three seventeenth-century works—including the writings of John Foxe, Richard Baxter, and early translations of Augustine, Jerome, Eusebius, and John Calvin—that contain the phrase “celestial kingdom,” all of which predate Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings (

[41] In all seventy-six passages containing the word terrestrial, Swedenborg uses it interchangeably with the associated (and most often listed) synonyms worldly, corporeal, or material—in other words, terrestrial always refers to the present life, and never the afterlife.

[42] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 602n11: “‘Telestial’ was not a known word. It has the ring of telos, meaning ‘end’ or ‘uttermost,’ a Greek word that appears in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 15:24, a few verses before a passage on bodies celestial and terrestrial in verse 40.”

[43] Quinn, Early Mormonism, 217, 219.

[44] See, for example, Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire, 205: “Michael Quinn has noted that the idea of three heavens, or degrees of glory, was available in Emmanuel Swedenborg’s cosmic system, in which three heavens—topped by a ‘celestial kingdom’—were associated with the sun, the moon, and the stars.” See also Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 198: “Building on Paul, ‘The Vision’ [of Joseph Smith] made the three resurrected glories of sun, moon, and stars into three heavenly realms. The same scripture inspired eighteenth-century Swedish scientist and visionary Emanuel Swedenborg to divide the heavens into three parts, ‘celestial,’ ‘spiritual,’ and ‘natural,’ equivalent to sun, moon, and stars” (emphasis added). Bushman cites Quinn’s work in his notes (Rough Stone Rolling, 602n16), but he then adds this important caveat, which parallels the argument of this paper: “Since Swedenborg attracted the attention of New England intellectuals . . .his ideas may conceivably have drifted into Joseph Smith’s environment, but it was more likely the passage from Paul sparked the revelations of both men” (Rough Stone Rolling, 198–99).

[45] Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, trans. Elliott, 5377;

[46] Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, 5377.

[47] Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, trans. John C. Ager, 118;

[48] Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, 3887; See again Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, 5377: “The subject at the end of the previous chapter was the correspondence of certain internal organs of the body with the Grand Man, that is to say, the correspondence of the liver, pancreas, stomach, and certain other organs with it. In this present section the same subject moves on to the correspondence of the peritoneum, kidneys, ureters, bladder, and also the intestines with it. Whatever exists in the human being, both in the external man and in the internal man, has a correspondence with the Grand Man. Without that correspondence with the Grand Man—that is, with heaven, or what amounts to the same, with the spiritual world—nothing can ever come into being and remain in being.” See also Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, 60.

[49] Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, 3887; emphasis added.

[50] For a thoughtful (and more thorough) discussion of the biblical passages outlined here, and their continued expansion into the doctrinally important revelations which soon followed “the Vision,” see Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 195–214.

[51] I am indebted to Greg Simpson for pointing out the repeated connection between Doctrine and Covenants 76 and Hebrews 12:22–24. On the doctrinal importance of Doctrine and Covenants 76:58, see also Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 531: “This verse stands at the heart of Mormonism.” While Joseph Smith did not explicitly teach the doctrine of deification—the potential for humans to become gods—for another decade, it is significant that he would thus expand upon early revelations (D&C 76:58–59, 95, for example, and related passages like D&C 88:107 and 93:19–20) and carry the implications of those passages in this doctrinal direction, a direction in which Swedenborg did not go. I appreciate Lori Nelson for providing the perspective of a Swedenborgian on this point (e-mail from Lori Nelson, October 3, 2007). Importantly, McDannell and Lang make this comment about Latter-day Saint distinctiveness: “While even nineteenth-century spiritualists were reluctant to predict that spiritual growth in the other world could eventually end with human deification, LDS theology took spiritual progress after death to its logical conclusion. The possibility of people evolving into gods is a Latter-day Saint tenet” (Heaven, 321–22). On this question of human deification, see Richard Bushman’s review of John L. Brooke’s The Refining Fire, “Mysteries of Mormonism,” Journal of the Early Republic 15, no. 3 (1995): 503. Bushman notes that since, for John Brooke, “the goal of hermeticism was to recover divine power and perfection; ‘divinization,’ is Brooke’s word for it,” and since “Mormonism promised that the faithful would become gods,” these “parallels lead Brooke to argue that Mormonism should be understood as more of an hermetic restoration than a return to primitive Christianity.” For a differing view of parallels in the Mormon doctrine of exaltation and the early Christian (and contemporary Eastern Orthodox Christian) belief in human deification, see Jordan Vajda, “Partakers of the Divine Nature”: A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization (Berkeley, CA: master’s thesis, Graduate Theological Union, 1998); see Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 60–65, 68, 70.

[52] Michael Stanley, Emanuel Swedenborg: Essential Readings (Wellingsborough, England: Crucible, 1988), 23.

[53] In later sermons, Joseph Smith also referred to this “third heaven” passage from 2 Corinthians 12 and connected it with “the Vision” and the three degrees of glory (see, for example, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304–5, 311). Although the “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2) passage does not appear in the language of Doctrine and Covenants 76, the Prophet does use a phrase from 2 Corinthians 12:4 in Doctrine and Covenants 76:115 (“not lawful for a man to utter”). Compare also Doctrine and Covenants 137:1, where the phrase, “whether in the body or out I cannot tell,” from 2 Corinthians 12:2 is used in a description of the Prophet’s later (1836) vision of the celestial kingdom. It seems apparent that, like Swedenborg, Joseph Smith saw 2 Corinthians 12:2–4 as implying that heaven consisted of multiple kingdoms or glories.

[54] See, for example, Emanuel Swedenborg, De Verbo, 3.

[55] See, for example, Emanuel Swedenborg, Conjugial Love, 328.

[56] Meyers, “Death in Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology,” 59.

[57] John Hyde Jr. was a teenager when he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England in the early 1850s. He served a mission in France, immigrated to Utah, left for a mission to Hawaii, and there, at age 23, became disaffected and separated himself from Mormonism. In fact, for several months thereafter, he launched some vicious attacks on the Church. He published in 1857 a stinging exposé entitled, Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs, in which he portrayed Joseph Smith a charlatan and the Book of Mormon a sham. The exposé was published while Hyde was living in New York. He soon returned to England and there, in 1858, wrote a novel (never published) about Mormon conspiracies and crimes. But soon thereafter he became a follower of Swedenborg and eventually a well-known exponent of his teachings (Lynne Watkins Jorgensen, “John Hyde, Jr., Mormon Renegade,” Journal of Mormon History 17 [1991]: 134–36). Even today he is renowned among Swedenborgians for his groundbreaking bibliography of Swedenborg’s works. Hyde himself also wrote several books and pamphlets and articles on the tradition’s theology. Grateful acknowledgement is given to Carroll Odhner, head librarian at the Swedenborg Library of Bryn Athyn College, Pennsylvania. I am indebted to Ms. Odhner for the insight about John Hyde’s current reputation and notoriety among Swedenborgians (conversation with Carroll Odhner, May 4, 2005). It might seem natural, therefore, that a man in Hyde’s position—one who had already criticized Joseph Smith for his unoriginality and deceit—could use his familiarity with Swedenborgian theology to bolster his accusations against Mormons by suggesting that they deceptively co-opted Swedenborg’s teachings on heaven. Yet Hyde apparently never mentioned Mormon doctrines in connection with any of his writings on Swedenborg, even though one of his extensive pamphlets dealt specifically with the afterlife. He did criticize Mormons in 1868 for what he saw as their political attempts to establish an Old Testament–type theocracy, yet he never mentioned the doctrine of the degrees of glory (see John Hyde, “Adaptation,” The New Jerusalem Magazine [Boston], August 1868, 89). Carroll Odhner brought this reference to my attention.

Likewise, William Godbe was a Mormon who was drawn to Spiritualism, and eventually he left the Church to pursue his spiritualist interests. In doing so, he actively persuaded other Church members to join him. Before his final break with the Church, however, Godbe published Utah Magazine. During its three-year run, the periodical featured a smattering of articles related to spiritualism and the occult. Two of those dealt with Swedenborg. The first, “Swedenborg’s Curious Powers,” was an excerpt from a biography of Swedenborg that chronicled his most famous manifestations of spiritual communication: directing a widow to find the secret drawer of her deceased husband; and describing a fire in Stockholm, as it happened, while he was in a city three hundred miles away (see “Swedenborg’s Curious Powers,” Utah Magazine, March 7, 1868, 104–5). But the second article, “Emanuel Swedenborg,” not only provided a glowing biographical sketch but also an excerpt from his teachings (see Utah Magazine, October 16, 1869, 380). Copies of Utah Magazine are housed in Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah. If Godbe wanted to win followers to his spiritualist cause, and his reading audience consisted mostly of Latter-day Saints, one might expect that he would want to impress them with Swedenborg’s prefiguring of Joseph Smith’s vision of heaven. But as with John Hyde, Godbe is apparently silent about those suggested similarities.

[58] See this representative passage in Spencer J. Palmer, Roger R. Keller, Dong Sull Choi, and James A. Toronto, eds., Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1997), 249: “Latter-day Saints believe that the spiritual influence which emanates from God is not confined to selected nations, races, or groups. All people share an inheritance of divine light. Christ himself if the light of the world. . . . If people act according to this inspiration, they progress from grace to grace, learning precept upon precept, until they receive full enlightenment” (see D&C 93:19–20; 98:11–12).

[59] Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 25–26; see also Stanley, Emanuel Swedenborg, 23.

[60] See, for example, Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire, 205: “Swedenborgian theology . . . provided one direct connection to the high hermetic tradition, and its system of a triad of heavens reflected a wide range of occult influences.”

[61] See Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 256: “The Prophet [Joseph Smith] was actively engaged in making the translation of the Bible from June 1830 until July 1833. Examination of the chronological table in the forepart of the Doctrine and Covenants will quickly show that most of the doctrinal revelations were received during this period. I believe this is not a coincidence but a consequence. It was Joseph Smith’s study and translation of the Bible that set the stage for the reception of many revelations on the doctrines of the gospel. There is an inseparable connection between the New Translation of the Bible and many of the revelations that constitute the book of Doctrine and Covenants.”

[62] Quinn, Early Mormonism, 217, 219; Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire, 205.

[63] Jan Shipps, Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 205. Compare also Richard Bushman, “The Mysteries of Mormonism,” Journal of the Early Republic 15, no. 3 (1995): 501–5, and Philip Barlow, “Decoding Mormonism,” Christian Century, January 17, 1996, 52–53.

[64] Shipps, Sojourner in the Promised Land, 210–11; see also Philip L. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), especially his introduction, “The Bible in Antebellum America.”