Taves’s Revelatory Events, pt. 5: What Jane Lead Said (pt. 1)

By June 4, 2018

Part 1, 2, 3, 4

The line about an object being touched and transformed by “the Finger of God,” at the beginning of the second paragraph (below) is what struck me about this passage from a vision Jane Lead titled, “The Angelical Key,” from her third journal. I’ve posted some of the numerous similarities between Lead’s visions and Mormonism and the following is one of many more like it. The abundance of passages like the following have convinced me that Joseph Smith knew Lead’s writings well.[1]

The following not only has parallels to the brother of Jared’s experience but also suggests the need for one to create a special object before one could gain knowledge. It doesn’t mention gold plates, but Lead does mention a gold book in another passage and I’ll talk more about that in my next post.

What follows is Lead’s “The Angelical Key,” (see here under November 16, 1678) with some of my commentary afterwards.

Jane Lead, “The Angelical Key,” in A Fountain of Gardens: Or A Spiritual Diary of the Wonderful Experiences of a Christian Soul under the Conduct of the Heavenly Wisdom (1700), vol 3:297-99.

I had the Representation of a Mold, that was fashioned for a Key, and there was a Liquor of Gold colour poured upon it. And it was of the same impression, that I saw the Mold of, it was very clear and curiously Wrought, that you might see through, as if it had been Glass. Then was it in the Hand of one in an Angelical form, who poured the Liquor, that gave the form of the Key and spake. This is such a Key, as hath not been entrusted with any, but him, who has been the former, and fashioner of it, who only knows the use thereof, and has the Donation thereof to give. No Key, but what is of this make can unlock the Gate of God’s deep and immense Heart of Love…. No imitated or counterfeited Key can turn in this threefold Spring-Lock.

Then I hereupon made Supplication, for to receive this Key to open God’s Heart withal. And it was answered me, This was but to shew me, that after this manner, and kind, there is a Key to be cast, within the secret of thy dwelling, for its appointed use.

Then was it further opened unto me, that all of the Heavenly matter was to be separated, in a way of high extraction by Celestial Fire, and the Mold cast and formed anew by the Finger of God, and the Spirits Liquor to be poured forth. And this is the Gift of this mighty Key, that should open and bring forth that of God, which never yet was manifested, since the Earth was. The Spirit said, the Knowledge was reserved, till the Mold in Nature should be wrought. But it was assured me, that the Mold was already cast in some, known to the Lord: And that the pure matter was upon its Separation. Which when refined enough, this Mystical Key would soon be run. For there would come such a Time and Age, as would be so hurtful, as nothing but this opening Key can secure out of Wicked Hands. For it is shewn me, very obviously, that a chosen Generation there will be reserved, to be wrought out, for to do actual Wonders, to save and deliver from the Serpently-Seed, which have grown as unsavory Weeds, over the whole Face of the Earth. Therefore let us try in that method-deep, that may enter us great Magicians to form this Key. This will be all worthy to advance and bring in vast Treasures, with which we may be profitable to those for whom the Lord shall hereby unlock his Deity.

The object was a key, not stones, but the key was like glass (first paragraph) similar to the BoJ’s molten stones (Ether 3:1). Furthermore, the last line of the first paragraph said the key was would turn “this threefold Spring-Lock,” and Lucy said on the night JS returned from getting the plates, he told her he had “a key” that she felt under cloth and described as “2 smooth 3 cornered diamonds set in glass.”[2] A three-corned glass key, just like Lead’s.

“Knowledge was reserved,” the vision continued, “till the Mold in Nature should be wrought.” One had to make the key to receive “that of God, which never yet was manifested, since the Earth was.” The passage concludes by saying, “Therefore let us try in that method-deep, that may enter us great Magicians to form this Key. This will be all worthy to advance and bring in vast Treasures, with which we may be profitable to those for whom the Lord shall hereby unlock his Deity.” Like magicians (a praiseworthy office in Lead’s writings) Lead encouraged “us” to try “to form this Key.”

So not plates, but a key the one needed to try to make in order to receive knowledge and that had similarities to the key that Lucy described. Also one that was touched by God’s finger like Christ in Ether 3.

Furthermore, the passage begins by saying the key had “a Liquor of Gold colour poured upon it,” and then cited one of Lead’s previous visions that did have connections to a gold book. More on that in my next post.

[1] I know statements like this can come across as an attack, but I’m one of those who thinks we don’t have to stick to the old battle lines, and I still stand my what I said in my last paragraph in my profile for Mormon’s Scholars Testify. I’m happy with whatever means brought about Mormonism and see it as divine.)

[2] Lucy Smith, Preliminary Manuscript, in Vogel Early Mormon Documents, 1:328-29.

Article filed under Miscellaneous

  1. I can see why you’d like this Steve. As I recall some of the ancient theurgical platonism most likely animated statues and similar things in a way akin to this. My main problem is in tying these beliefs to Joseph Smith. Admittedly there is a problem here since if it wasn’t authentic then Joseph is hiding something. So whether it’s fraud or this idea of Taves one can’t appeal to what Joseph says clearly. Still from a simplicity perspective, it’d seem a fraud model seems far more plausible than attributing this way of thinking to Joseph. I know Taves is explicit her view is more a hypothesis than a conclusion. But it really seems like she puts a lot of weight on that Jesse Smith letter – more than I think it can sustain.

    Comment by Clark — June 4, 2018 @ 2:39 pm

  2. (Sorry hit send too soon)

    My problem with the quotation from Lucy is that sure sounds like the Urim and Thummin and not a key. Put an other way you’re using key literally whereas my sense is that Lucy (writing years later when the theology of the U&T is quite developed) is using it more figuratively. But if this isn’t a literal key, then the parallel largely breaks down.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot about keys in Mormon theology that remain unthematized. Further it’s worth noting that aspects of the bestowal of keys in the modified masonic endowment can be easily seen in the more theurgical platonic conception you’re outlining. The question is always whether this is just a symbol used pedagogically or something more mystical or magical. (Interestingly in Masonry the key was often a substitution for tongue)

    If we go back to the texts that were rediscovered in the Renaissance and shaped the early century of Masonry and that you’ve done good work showing were available in English translations then things get a bit more interesting. The sumbola and sunthemata are important particularly in a platonic context. Again though the question is whether Joseph saw it that way or in a more literal way.

    Comment by Clark — June 4, 2018 @ 2:54 pm

  3. I’d say that the literal/figurative divide gets walked all over by these visionaries. When it comes to interpreting Lead, it’s totally in the eye of the beholder what would be literal and what would be figurative.

    But I guess my point is that Lead is suggesting something like Taves’s hypothesis: to receive the knowledge, one needed to create an object. Lucy said that JS called a key something that was quite similar to what Lead suggested one needed to create.

    Again, I’ll post some more later this week.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — June 4, 2018 @ 5:42 pm

  4. I’m not sure one can dismiss the problem with key by saying visionaries blur the line between figurative and literal. The problem is that when Lucy is writing that, more than two decades after the fact, there’s a pretty strong set of interpretations for this object that have become normative. So the question is more one of exegesis. Are we to accept the speculative reading that goes against this strong normative sense and that don’t have other support in the text or accept the more normative one. Again while she uses the word key, she doesn’t talk about it being used in a literal sense in any way. Rather she appears to be discussing the U&T the way most did by the 1840s.

    Comment by Clark — June 7, 2018 @ 1:49 pm

  5. Okay, by why use the word key? Lucy said that’s what JS called it. And there’s all kinds of figurative things that keys can do. The UT “unlocked” the truth. Lead said one need to make a “key” to gain knowledge.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — June 7, 2018 @ 4:14 pm

  6. If we’re going to look at the semantics of key, wouldn’t Joseph’s own use be the first place to start? Put an other way, given that Joseph so frequently used key in more figurative senses, don’t we require more evidence here that Lucy’s use was literal and not figurative? Again, especially given that by the 1840’s the theology of the Urim and Thummim had become so developed to the point that it’s role in the Book of Mormon was almost a catechism? Further, Lucy explicitly states, “I knew not what he meant.”

    There’s just not a lot to hinge a speculative connection to this other text that Joseph used the U&T as a literal key rather than, as he explicitly states, as a kind of seer stone. Especially when the seer stone or scrying stone function is so well attested to and has such a strong community meaning.

    Comment by Clark — June 11, 2018 @ 10:34 am

  7. I should add that while the main masonic uses of key postdate this, the symbolism of key in Masonry should be kept in mind. Particularly in the 1840’s where Joseph is merging Masonry with Mormonism in some key ways. There the key represents concealed secrets and the idea of keeping secrets. And the ultimate secret was judgement of the heart. (Usually given a pseudo-Egyptian thrust in Masonic lore)

    Within the first degree ceremonies the key is very significant. This key is “composed of no metal, but a tongue of good report.” The Masons, particularly in the 19th century systemizing of their figurative senses by Pike and others, tie this to Jewish tradition of authority, office and revelation. Jesus’ charge to Peter being the obvious example.

    Comment by Clark — June 11, 2018 @ 10:40 am

  8. Clark, I think we’re getting into hair splitting. The bottom line is that 2/3rds to 3/4ths of Mormonism’s distinctive ideas can be found in Lead’s writings. No other source comes remotely close to that amount. I feel safe in saying that there are more distinctive Mormon ideas in Lead’s writings than there are in all other sources combined.

    So the similarities of these passages simply fit a larger trend. Like I said, there are many many more. Including lots and lots of references to keys that sound very very Mormon.

    Here’s a couple of examples:
    1 Enochain Walks with God, 29. “Now to proceed to the fourth Gift, which Key that openeth the Kingdom of Power; which being endowed with, do coe-work with the Powers in Heavenly Places, for binding, and loosing and shutting up, and opening; which Power will be granted to act, and do mighty, and marvelous Wonders, according to what the Saints in former Ages have been carried forth in the World to do. And such, such is the present Time and Age which we now live in, that do call for Greater and more marvellous Works, than yet have been done. Seeing that the Confusions and distresses throughout all Nations look so dreadful upon us, that all Need there is of an Elijah’s Spirit to arise up among us, that may turn the Heart of the Fathers to Children, and pour out Oil for Reconcilement, and healing the bleeding Would of Wars and Divisions, kindles up into a Flame through all nations, which only the strong improwered Angels that are filled with the Spirit of Anointing, shall in this Latter Day rise, for quieting these North-Winds, that from these Tempestuous Seas of this World.”

    Revelation of Revelations 120-21. “Every High-Priest, taken from men, is ordained in things pertaining to God, that he may offer Gifts and Sacrifices for Sin. This is a Charge, which to this New Covenant Priesthood doth still belong…. Therefore God hath as well provided in this case, Priests and Mediators on the Earth, as he hath provided that great High-Priest, who is entered into the Heavens; for the self-same Prevalency and Power will be found in and amongst this holy and undefiled Priesthood, because where-ever Christ in his spiritual Body is present, with the breathing Power of the holy Ghost, it implies great Efficacy in every Oblation and Prayer, which in their behalf shall be put up. Thus a Spirit of atoning is appropriated unto the Melchizedeck-Priesthood, from whom more fruitful Powers must branch forth, for further service in their Place and Office. There is also an Absolving Commission given, That whosoever’s Sins they remit, they are from all Guilt discharged, as pronouncing it in the Person and Power of him to whom the holy Ghost was given without Measure, and who after his Resurrection breathed forth this Power upon his Disciples, That whatever they bound on Earth should be bound in Heaven.  [Margin Note: Mat.18. v. 18. Joh. 20. v. 23]   Hereby communicating his Priestly Power and Authority, that as he, the Son of Man, had power to forgive sins, so might they also have on Earth after his Departure, to carry on their Apostolical Dispensation, which only lasted for a while, and being lost, a feigned Form was set up in stead of it, without any sealing Effects of Spirit or Power. Thus the Shadow hath held up, without any living presence, in Babel, which boasts a Key, which never could open, nor give (121) Enlargement to those who were bound in the Cords of Iniquity: for how should they, who are not purified themselves, help or succor their Brethren? And though this true thing hath been abused by the Arrogant and Self-exalting Spirit, that with this Priestly Robe covers all manner of Filth and Uncleanness, all of which will come to bear its shame, and have its Overthrow, as this True and Royal Priesthood shall rise in Power in the true Tabernacle, where the holy Ghost will present the Priestly Offerings; and this is that, which upon sure grounds, we know is now reviving again; the most Holy will bring forth his Priestly Unction, which will take the Chair, that so this holy Ordination may take place in great Soveraignity…. he who sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are made all one in this Ministration; for if they come not to a sinless state, they cannot be of this high Priestly Order, because to it a Key is given, which must open all the twelve Gates before-mentioned…. This is the true Mount Zion, from whence Decrees, Laws, Judgments and holy Statutes shall go forth from the Urim and Thummim, sound Knowledge and Understanding, and the Certainty of the words of Truth hence shall proceed, so that it will be a most sure and safe Oracle in all difficult Soul-cases, and to determine all Doubts and Difficulties; for of Old the Israel of God, would not venture upon any Concern, nor attempt any Design, without having first enquired at the Priests Mouth, who only was to give forth the Mind of God, which will now be again renewed, for those who are not admitted to this high Calling of the holy Priesthood, for such honour these Saints shall have above the lower Ranks, as being not ordained by man, nor after the Law of a carnal Commandment, but by the impressed Seal of the mighty God.”

    Comment by Steve Fleming — June 11, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

  9. Just to be clear, since there may be some confusion, I was only addressing the idea of the U&T as a literal key put into some lock and that that was what Lucy was addressing. I think the simpler explanation is a more normal mainstream figurative use. I have no trouble with your other parallels.

    Comment by Clark — June 11, 2018 @ 3:53 pm

  10. I would just reiterate that insisting that Lead’s key be literal is problematic in the context of her writings generally.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — June 12, 2018 @ 12:17 am

  11. Steve, I may be misunderstanding you then. Certainly I have no problem reading Leads as speaking more mystically or analogically ala what was common in Masonry. However I took your final paragraphs starting with “the object was a key, not stones” to be entailing something non-figurative. It seems to me you’re shifting between the figurative and the material in a way that I’m having a hard time figuring out which is which.

    Comment by Clark — June 13, 2018 @ 1:54 pm

  12. Yes, stones (the UT) acting as a figurative key that had the same purpose: unlocking divine knowledge. Lucy referred to JS’s other seer stones as keys also.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — June 14, 2018 @ 12:28 am

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