Joseph Smith and the Eternal Possibilities of the Immortal Soul in Western Theological and Philosophical Thought
The purpose of this study was to address the question, "How does Joseph Smith's view of the immortality of the soul relate to the views of other western thinkers and traditions of the past regarding the immortality of the soul?" In order to accomplish this task, a brief historical and literary/liturgical examination of western philosophical and theological thought on the issue of the immortality of the soul was conducted to determine if Joseph Smith's views were not completely divorced from those earlier ideas. Results of the study revealed that Joseph Smith, living in the nineteenth century, arrived at many of the same conclusions as earlier Egyptian and Platonic thinkers. Although Smith's ideas of the immortal soul agreed in many respects with the thinkers that grew out of these traditions, he departed from them by adding the centrality of a temple in mortality. This thesis presents the novel idea that Smith's temple enriched, and expanded upon, the ideas of a pre-existence and human deification that were already present in western thought during his time. To date, uniquely reinterpreting the thoughts of Smith in this way has not been adequately discussed. This thesis highlights the importance of linking a temple together with these two components. It also asserts that Smith presented these ideas in order to lead his followers to the knowledge of a timeless existence, which in turned, allowed for the discovery of a true, and eternally existing, self.