In a previous post, I mentioned a sort of revelation I had while reading Brooke’s Refiner’s Fire. ?Wait, Steve,? the Spirit said, ?don?t write this book off. You have to understand a few things. What Brooke is talking about here are ?temple? or esoteric truths that are by nature difficult to verbalize. Such ideas have been passed through the ages from original pure sources and had thus become somewhat corrupted. These factors make what Brooke is talking about not so easily recognizable or understood. Furthermore, don?t pretend that you understand what the temple is about. So read the book with an open mind. You?re going to spend the rest of your life trying to figure this stuff out.? Or something like that.
Since working on that issues the last ten years, I’ve wondered what those “pure sources” were: “primitive Christianity,” Moses, Abraham, Enoch?
A comment left on an earlier post by Seth R. frames the issues very well:
I think that the idea that the LDS Church is merely a restoration of ?primitive Christianity? has the status more of folk doctrine.
What Joseph Smith was trying to restore was the ?true order of religion? not just the confused and disheveled period under St. Peter. He was trying to restore the true religion practiced by Adam, Enoch, Abraham, etc. I think limiting the foundational aims of the LDS Church to simply imitating the state of affairs under Peter and Paul is selling our religion waaaay short.
As Seth and others on that post mention, pure, “primitive” Christianity is a problematic concept (John Wesley was rather dubious of the concept himself). As I have argued in other posts, our notions of the apostasy have been heavily influenced by Protestant theologians and historians. Protestants tended to see a pure Christianity corrupted by pagan practices that the reformers sought to strip away. I would argued, however, that LDS scriptures presented the apostasy differently. Rather than the addition of incorrect pagan ideas, 1 Ne 13 talks only about the removal “from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away” (26). Thus supposed additions, whether it be pre-Christian worldview or Platonic philosophy, are less a problem than subtraction. ?Mormonism is truth,? Smith declared, ?the First Fundamental principal of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men.?  As he said in his last sermon, ?I never hear[d] of a man being d[amne]d for bel[ievin]g too much but they are d[amne]d for unbel[ief].?
In the end, I would simply say that the “pure source” is God Himself and not some earthly movement. I certainly believe that God has revealed Himself to humans but as historians we are looking through a glass darkly. The scriptures say repeatedly that, at best, the people followed the prophets half-heartedly. Enoch seems to have had great success with his city, but that’s not a movement we can access historically; it all comes to us by means of visions.
Ultimately, whatever means God uses to promulgate Truth are pure sources, by definition, independent of whatever labels scholars may put on them (i.e. pagan, magic, occult etc.)
 Quoted in Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling 394.
 Quoted in Bushman, Joseph Smith, 544.