When I was a Junior in High School, back in 1998, in my Pentecostal Preacher’s Kid years before I had ever even hear of Joseph Smith1 , I was sitting down, bored, in my Algebra II class.
I was bored because it was mostly review, and not because I was any kind of Math Wiz. In fact, the year before I had experienced a very unhappy and difficult Geometry class that required that I actually put forth some effort, and, not wanting to have to do that again, specifically signed up my next year for a Math class of a significantly lower ‘Track’ level than I was accustomed to taking. The class was all review, and I learned nothing new.
So while I was sitting bored, having finished my classwork without any effort during the first 15 minutes of class, I glanced up at the T-Shirt of a kid sitting directly in front of me.
It was an advertisement for shock-rocker Marilyn Manson’s album ‘Antichrist Superstar’. At that point, without ever actually having heard any of Manson’s music, knowing of him only by Evangelical Reputation, I already knew that I Didn’t Like Him.
That aside, I thought the statement professing himself as “Antichrist Superstar” was worth thought.
As a Pentecostal Evangelical, my religious tradition was filled with Eschatological stories of the Future Anti Christ, the future individual World Leader who would stand in opposition to Christianity, and divide the World between his followers, and the True Followers of Christ.
My next thought were as follows, in this order:
- There’s no way Marilyn Manson would fit that Role.
- It’s somewhat arrogant to proclaim oneself the AntiChrist.
- The real AntiChrist would never claim to be the AntiChrist
- The real AntiChrist would not know that he was the AntiChrist.
Now, that last thought made be ponder a little bit more on the nature of prophecy.
Is it necessary that an individual would not need to know of a prophetic utterance to be able to fulfill it? What if an individual saw a prophecy, and did all he could to fulfill it, to become that individual? What if that was they way the Prophecy was designed to be fulfilled?
As I continued to ponder the nature of Prophecy, and the implications of its role on society today, an image slammed into my mind with great force.
A Book, hidden in the in the ground and long lost, that would bring to light new meaning, information, and interpretation to the ancient and accepted scriptural record, found by a low member of society.
That was such a cool idea, I thought. It was such an amazing original idea in my mind, that I assumed that nobody must ever have thought about it before.
I decided at that moment that I would write a story about it, and that in years to come, it would make be a gazillion dollars. At that moment, flooded with ideas, I immediately wrote two pages about the discovery of this mysterious book, which I decided would be called the Book of Mortalis.
In working on the development of the story, and trying to work out more complex concepts, I turned to the nature of a prophet. As I pondered out the implications and process of a prophet having his first sacred experience, another scene came to my mind, which I quickly wrote down.
It involved a young man caught in a time of confusion and contention over the nature of Truth. The young man was walking in isolation, pondering the destructive contention in the world around him. He approached a beloved, yet isolated, place of nature’s beauty – perhaps a lake?- When he arrived there, the following occurred, which I expressed in writing, the best I could, in Spring 1998 , presented here as transcribed from the handwritten David Tayman Papers *grin*:
Jannes suddenly stopped walking,
untiedunlaced his shoes, took them off, and stepped into the lake. He then raised his head towards the heavens, and yelled out a plea for divine intervention, asking anyone who was listening if there was anything he could do to stop this dread war.
That’s when it happened. A small metallic sphere of light rose up from the bottom of the lake, and floated to a position right in front of Jannes. The description Jannes later gave of this Sphere was amazing – and almost unbelievable. He described it as pure energy, glowing and ‘alive’ from its core to its surface. It radiated an amber-hued light that immersed him. Jannes then heard a voice – not an audible voice, but rather he sensed a voice in his mind. A voice, calm and gentle, speaking as a father would to his most beloved son.
I then wrote what I assumed the message would be, announcing his sacred role to bring peace and unity to the world. The vision then ended.
And then the sphere disappeared. Jannes stood there shaking, not knowing whether he was shaking in fear or in excitement, and ran off to inform others of this amazing news. At first, few believed him. But then others began to have a vision similar to the one Jannes had, Confirming all that he had said, and more.
This handwritten document of mine continues, speaking of reactions to prophetic messengers:
The story goes that this prophet was scorned by the other [contemporary religious leaders] because of his position in the city, perhaps his occupation or beliefs. Some believed him to be a liar, claiming he never witnessed a vision.
His initial experience would be known in the story as the ‘Primary Vision’.
I eventually envisioned this story as being a sort of sci-fi/fantasy tale, with weapons being lasers, Tasers, etc. But then one day, the thought came to be that it would be far more interesting if it took place with limited technology, in an era equivalent (but different) from our American Civil War period. Armies would have equivalents of powder muskets and knives. Travel would be by horseback. Things would be dirty, and used. That, I thought, was even cooled, and would make the story stand out, and make it even more unique. Prophecy and Guns. Awesome, right?
I spent the next few years working on developing this story in bits, trying to find out where it was going. I began to believe that the story already existed, and I was a bit of an archaeologist, diggings around, trying to find the bits and pieces of the story that already existed, and to link them together.
I eventually learned and wrote that this prophetic figure, ( Jannes D’Corrian was his name), would be striving to build up a prophetic community which viewed itself as a pacifist independent Nation, distinct from, but currently subject to, the warring nations around him. In time Jannes would die ( I never developed how that would be), and while in his lifetime the basic framework of the Pacifist Nation was set up, others of future generations would continue his work to bring forth the Ideal, which would eventually culminate in an Era of Peace and Unity.
As part of the story, I worked on trying to understand its underlying cosmic mythology, its system of gods, etc. At one point, during my Freshman year of college, in trying to understand a hierarchy of demigods, I wrote a list of their names, and shared them with a recent internet acquaintance. “I like them,” he said, “Except for one.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The Mormons believe in an angel named Moroni. People will think you either ripped it off, or are a Mormon.”
“Yikes. Can’t have that happening.”
I changed the name.
It would be a few years before I actually got a copy of the Book of Mormon, and rejected it out of hand, and immediately went to anti-Mormon books to show my new-at-the-time Mormon friends why their beliefs were ridiculous.
To make a very long story short, time passed, and I eventually received spiritual confirmation that Joseph Smith was a prophet, the Book of Mormon was inspired, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was of God.
It was shortly after I was baptized (in 2004) that I thought about my by-that-time-mainly-abandoned old story again. And I suddenly saw elements of it in a new light, re-teaching me core elements of the Story of the Restoration: The First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and the building up of Zion.
The details were off. It was Jannes and not Joseph. It was the Book of Mortalis, and not the Book of Mormon. It was Monori and not Moroni. And it was the Pacifist Nation, and not Zion.
But I recognized newly intellectually learned and accepted historical and spiritual truths, figures, and events that I now understood as having already been made known to me, as a process over the last several years, but layered into a fictional overlay that I was given freedom to explore, and strive to understand and interpret.
You might say it was after the manner of my own language and understanding.
And this is why I look with interest to (and don’t discount out of hand) Catalyst theories of the coming forth of modern day scripture.
- To be more accurate, I once heard a friend I later learned was Mormon make reference to Joseph, but assumed she was talking about John Smith from Disney’s Pocahontas, and proceeded to lightheartedly mock her viewing habits. She looked at be slightly befuddled. That was the extent of my exposure to anything having to do with Mormonism [↩]