January 10th, 2016

The Great and Abominable Church… of Caesar

Two prophets, half a world and hundreds of centuries apart, were shown a detailed vision of the future. Nephi and John’s shared experience detailed many significant events, some of which yet remain in our future. And while Nephi was instructed not to document much of what he saw, the complete task fell to John—the (altered) result of which we have in the book titled Revelation.

John’s imagery paints for us a great battle between two churches—two groups of people: the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of the devil. This divine duel, which predates our mortal experience, unfolds with apocalyptic controversy in the pages of scripture. It is the only real conquest that has ever existed, though adapted and fictionalized by many great writers: good versus evil; light versus darkness; Jehovah and His followers versus Lucifer and his subjects.

Unfortunately, John’s writings are difficult to interpret, and thus a stumbling block in our effort to make sense of their modern application. Though “plain and pure, and most preciously and easy to the understanding of all men” when John had finished his task, a “great and abominable church” corrupted it. So just who, or what, is this great and abominable church?

The identity of this group has long been the subject of speculation and, while I don’t claim to speak with any authority, I do believe that previous guesses have missed the mark—and that my belief offers a perspective that seems to not have been considered by most Latter-day Saints. For some time, chiefly due to Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s opinion, many believed that this nefarious “church”—referred to as Babylon in John’s writings—was the Roman Catholic Church. (This opinion being published as part of the authoritatively titled Mormon Doctrine led to its widespread adoption as the correct interpretation of the identity of the enemy in Nephi and John’s visions.)

This position has now been discredited. And yet, others affirm that the great and abominable church includes actual churches, and potentially other organizations. “No single known historical church, denomination, or set of believers meets all the requirements for the great and abominable church,” writes Stephen E. Robinson, a popular Mormon author in the LDS Church’s official magazine. He continues: “Rather, the role of Babylon has been played by many different agencies, ideologies, and churches in many different times.” This vague interpretation of nameless and ever-changing actors is unsatisfying, much like clergy attempting to describe God as “a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions.” We must first know our enemy in order to defeat it.

The enemy is, and ever has been, Caesar—an abstraction referring to mortal and secular government, or “the state.”

Membership in God’s kingdom is exclusive and requires renouncing membership in, and allegiance to, the enemy’s kingdom. Thus we read that “there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”

This “whore of all the earth,” which John similarly stated (as if to refer to its global presence) “sitteth upon many waters,” was identified by Nephi’s brother Jacob as “he that fighteth against Zion,” since, as God said, “they who are not for me are against me.” But Babylon is not comprised, by default, of every person who isn’t a baptized, faithful Latter-day Saint. It’s they who “fight,” or perhaps compete, against God. Who contends for man’s allegiance, reverence, and glory? Who claims power to rule, and dominion over the earth? Who dethrones God to exalt himself as deity? Caesar.

If the great and abominable church’s membership is comprised of those who fight against God’s kingdom, consider the apostle Paul’s description of who he and the Saints were fighting against: “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Put simply, the Saints were—and are—fighting against their respective Caesars who are institutionalizing the devil’s attempt to gain ground on the kingdom of God.

When Lucifer attempted to tempt Jesus, he approached him while he was high on a mountain, surveying the many kingdoms below. “All this power will I give thee,” the devil said, “and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” Recall that the whore was not an amorphous label given sometimes to churches, and other times to “agencies” and “ideologies”—it had “dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.”

The leader of this great and abominable church was often referred to by Christ as “the prince of this world”—perhaps an attestation to the influence he (temporarily) had. Lucifer gains power, oppresses others, corrupts the Saints, promotes the wicked, and institutionalizes evil through the use of government—through the forceful rule over men by other men. Satan’s control of earthly institutions of power—governments—was never disputed. It has, however, been affirmed by a modern prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith:

Satan has control now. No matter where you look, he is in control, even in our own land. He is guiding the governments as far as the Lord will permit him. That is why there is so much strife, turmoil, and confusion all over the earth. One master mind is governing the nations. It is not the president of the United States; it is not Hitler; it is not Mussolini; it is not the king or government of England or any other land; it is Satan himself.

I don’t believe that members or leaders of other churches, past or present, fit the characteristics of the great and abominable church—a group of oppressive, power-hungry people who fight (or act in opposition to, or compete against) God’s followers. When said churches have colluded with the government—when heads of state have become heads of religions—then we see these evils. And when church and state are separate, the latter still fits the bill, getting “gain” and “power over the flesh,” seeking the “lusts of the flesh and the things of the world,” and doing “all manner of iniquity.”

One must also wonder if Nephi and John, looking forward to a future world with which they were completely unfamiliar, described governments as churches in part due to their shared appearances; Caesar’s counterfeits have produced statist temples, robes, liturgy, canonized texts, and sacraments. High priests and parishioners alike pledge their allegiance and declare their submission to Caesar on an ongoing basis.

But no man can serve two masters, so it’s not surprising to see revered prophets taking sides in the eternal contest between Christ and Caesar, defying the mandates of men and the corruption of Lucifer. They declared themselves citizens in the kingdom of God, subject to Christ, and an enemy to Satan. Moses defied Pharaoh; Jeremiah rebuked Jehoiakim; Mary and Joseph fled from Herod’s murderous mandate, and Moses’ mother likewise disobediently preserved her son’s life; Daniel rejected King Darius’s decree; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose God over Nebuchadnezzar; and many other examples affirm that worldly powers—wickedness encouraged and coordinated by the devil—fight against God. One scriptural story after another elevates a prophetic hero in the reader’s eyes specifically because he rebelled against the Caesar of his day.

Peter faced the same opposition. After Christ’s crucifixion—an action worthy of the great and abominable church—the Sadducees schemed as to how to quell the ecclesiastical opposition. “Let us straitly threaten them,” they said, “that they speak henceforth to no man in [Christ’s] name.” And that’s what they did.

But Peter and his apostolic associates continued defying the “whore” that fought them; missionary work continued, as did the miracles. And in response, the high priest and his fellow Sadducees on the council (that held political authority) “were filled with indignation,” fueling their animosity enough to actually seize and incarcerate the religious renegades.

Later brought before the council, Peter was questioned as to why he had defied their threats. “Did we not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in [Christ’s] name?” Peter’s response provides the theological foundation upon which Christians have defied Caesar in succeeding centuries: “We ought to obey God rather than men.

No man can serve two masters. Caesar and God both demand our allegiance. The great and abominable church, or Babylon, or the great whore—the organized oppression of men by one another through earthly rulers and political institutions—does not tolerate individuals who pledge allegiance to God and claim citizenship in His kingdom alone.

This competition—this fight against Zion—will come to a head, as described throughout scripture, and in Nephi and John’s visions. Babylon the great ultimately falls, for every knee must bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus is the Christ. Caesar’s worldly dominion melts away in an instant, as He who reigns replaces all the counterfeit competition.

 

 

23 Responses to “The Great and Abominable Church… of Caesar”

  1. Thomas
    January 10, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

    Well written article!

    The paralells between the great and abominable church in 1 Nephi and the governments of the world are scary!

  2. Phil
    January 11, 2016 at 7:08 am #

    Connor have you read H Verlan Anderson’s book on this topic? It is probably out of print now. He came to same conclusion supposedly with the endorsement of Ezra Taft Benson

  3. Chaske
    January 11, 2016 at 7:45 am #

    The Mother of all Harlots is the Catholic Church and the harlots are all the Protestant churches. They are each an abomination in gods eyes. They preach a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.

    The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil is different. It is “The Mystery Religion”. It is essentially witchcraft. It is organized through covens rather than Wards and Branches.

    Plato and Aristotle were members. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were members. Ayn Rand was a member. Machiavelli and Nietzche and Carl Marx and Charles Darwin were members. Madonna and Tupac and Jay Z and Beyoncé are members.

    Alesteir Crowley and Barbara Pierce Bush and George HW Bush and Bill And Hilary Clinton are members.

  4. Frank Pellett
    January 11, 2016 at 10:49 am #

    You’ve invoked “Caesar”, yet left out the one scripture that this comes from, which really needs to be addressed if you’re going to call it the enemy of the Church of Christ.

    Luke 20:25
    And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which be Cæsar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.

  5. Sara
    January 11, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    Frank, referring to Luke 20:25, the point that is often lost among those who wish to serve two masters is that nothing is Caesar’s. Everything is God’s.

  6. Connor
    January 11, 2016 at 11:30 am #

    Frank — an earlier draft of this article had a response to Christ’s “render” statement—and the opening image in the article is from that exact scene—but it was removed because I felt it didn’t flow well.

    Sara’s response sums it up. The question ultimately becomes, what actually belongs to Caesar? To what can “he” legitimately lay claim? Over what does he have true authority?

  7. Frank Pellett
    January 11, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

    Kinda flabbergasted. So you mean when Jesus said to “render to Caesar what is Caesars”, he really meant, “nothing belongs to Caesar”?

    Sorry, I can’t even begin to imagine how you got to this, and feel like arguments would be completely useless. Good luck, God bless, ‘n all that.

  8. Gabriel Fink
    January 11, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    Thank you Connor for your article. Perhaps you would agree that the term Caesar is not limited to a single definition being the state, but to include the concept of the natural man.

    The latin word for church is ecclesia. One definition of this word is “assembly of citizens of an ancient Greek state”. Many people hear the word church, and immediately think of Christianity. But if we look at the Book of Mormon use of the word church under the definition “assembly of citizens”, we can see a much broader array of ‘assemblies’.

    “For the time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.”
    (1 Nephi 22:23)

    Any assembly of people, or any organization that you are a part of, whose ultimate purpose it is to get gain, to seek power over others, or to become popular from a worldly perspective, or to lust after the flesh and things of this world, are contrary to the assembly of God. All such organizations will eventually be destroyed.

    Such assemblies are in direct opposition to the principles of obedience to God, sacrifice, the gospel, the law of chastity, and the law of consecration.

    The true enemy of God is the natural man:

    “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
    (Mosiah 3:19)

    Gain, power over others, popularity, infidelity, and selfishness are what an enemy of God submits himself to. Such any enemy has definitely used the state as a means to secure those desires.

    Anytime we as individuals choose a course of action that is contrary to God, we seek to become as God is by defining for ourselves what is right or wrong in opposition to God’s definition (think of Eve’s reasoning in the Garden of Eden). When we defy God, we make ourselves a type of Caesar and attempt in vain to exalt ourselves (see D&C 88:35). When we submit to God in all things, we become a type of the Son, and God will in turn exalt us.

    Again, thank you for your thought provoking article.

  9. Mark
    January 11, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    Very interesting, and well written, article. Thank you.

    Regarding the comment by Chaske concerning The Mystery Religion — and its members, what is your basis for making such claims (e.g. CS Lewis, Barbara and George Bush, etc.)? I neither agree nor disagree, but would like to understand where this is coming from.

  10. Matt
    January 11, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    You state that the notion of the Church of the Devil being the Roman Catholic Church has been discredited. While I don’t disagree with your assessments in this article, I am curious what your reference is for so flatly stating that position has been discredited. Where has it been shot down/corrected?

  11. Mike
    January 11, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

    Great post Connor. Thanks for the great read. I had the same thought as Phil about H. Verlan Anderson’s work – “The Great And Abominable Church.”

    For anyone interested, someone has posted this book in PDF form (along with some other works of Verlan Anderson) here: http://www.redhotlogo.com/1-Great%20and%20Abominable.pdf

  12. Rob Smith
    January 12, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    A while back I wrote a post describing the membership of the great and abominable church.

    http://upwardthought.blogspot.com/2015/12/what-is-great-and-abominable-church.html

  13. Clumpy
    January 13, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    No offense, Connor, but every time the relationship between the individual and the state has come up in modern times in Mormonism, the tone of the counsel has pretty well mirrored the 12th Article of Faith:

    “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

    Now we have here listed several types of governance which are far more overtly self-serving and authoritarian than a sometimes dysfunctional and corrupt constitutional republic. But by your argument here, the Twelfth Article of Faith exhorts us not only to be subject directly to Satan, but that Mormons BELIEVE in doing so as as fundamental tenet of their faith! By your framework, how else could the LDS Church’s statement on the Oregon militia (that they resolve their disputes through lawful means and the courts) be interpreted as anything but the same as well, if the war between the state and the individual is really the world-ending Armageddon prophets spoke of and Thomas S. Monson has access to that same source of information? Would the LDS Church teach political science at BYU, invite state officials to give speeches at CES-owned schools, and involve themselves in local and national politics as much as they do if such entailed directly entangling themselves with an organization which must be stopped as part of the war against evil?

  14. Burb
    January 21, 2016 at 10:54 am #

    The 2 beasts of Revelations both have one thing in common, which is their objective – to impose a financial system on the whole world that can be used to control all the peoples of the Earth. The first beast begins the implementation, while the second completes it. The book of Mormon warns that our downfall will be secret combinations.

    Today we see there are, indeed, secret combinations which seek to overthrow our nation and enslave the world in a financial system which can be centrally controlled. The means to monitor all private communications are in place and functioning. The Chinese are now experimenting with a rating system which examines communications and assigns a government loyalty rating. When connected to the system of financial control in a cashless society it will match exactly that system described by John.

    The main players in all of this are the banking, financial and political systems of the world. They have created an oligarchy of greed which has at it’s openly stated goal the elimination of all but half a billion people on the planet. It may not be clear which personalities will lead Satan’s charge, but the institutions are all here now. This cabal of aligned interests is the Babylon John spoke of.

    Rome (including the Vatican) may very well be destroyed as part of Babylon, but if I had to pick any city, I’d pick New York as the center of world commerce and greed. When the US falls, all the world will lament it’s loss. We are the Egypt of which Isaiah spoke (Isa 19), which will be destroyed first by civil war from within, then by invasion. No country aligning itself with the US or depending on US protection will prosper.

    Unfortunately, the LDS Church seems to have tired of it’s role of watchman. It’s official, wholly owned, news organs spew the same unquestioning propaganda as any other. Nothing over the pulpit warns us to beware and resist the spreading influence of these combinations. Instead, we are told that while the general condition of the world continues to deteriorate, all is well in Zion (although we can improve). Those who take their watchman role seriously are marginalized, if not maligned.

    All the while members speculate as to why their leaders are silent: “The Lord must have told them to be silent”, “They have warned us so much in the past that anyone who doesn’t get it has only themselves to blame”, “The brethren are quietly preparing”, etc. The only actual advice dispensed is that”it doesn’t matter which party you vote for, they all have some good”.

    Utah’s political delegations are as corrupt as any other, easily fooling their constituents at election time. Waiting for these guys to lead us out of a Constitutional crisis will result in a lot of death and destruction. Wake up and save yourself – no help is coming from above until the Lord sends his King to take charge.

  15. Kelly W.
    January 24, 2016 at 9:12 pm #

    @ Burb,

    Wow, I like the things you said. Secret Combinations are all present among us, but there are but few LDS who can name any of them. Probably because they will refuse to admit that the RNC is one of the combinations.

  16. Burb
    January 25, 2016 at 10:31 am #

    Kelly
    Agreed. The funny thing is that we’re all aware of the quote about the Elders saving the Constitution when it’s hanging by a thread, but what is neglected is the role that the Elders of the Church have played in getting the Constitution to hang by that thread.

    Marriner S. Eccles was the head of the Fed during Roosevelt’s administration, which was a critical period for undermining the Constitution. All the money that he made in that pursuit has been (and still is) spread around the state of Utah as a reminder that if you play on Satan’s team, there are benefits.

    Reed Smoot, an apostle and senator from Utah was one of the sponsors for the Smoot-Hawley tariff act which deepened the Great Depression and gave Roosevelt carte blanche to intervene even more in the economy.

    In modern times, of course, we have Hatch who wrote the forward for the 5,000 Year Leap, then forgot about it. Hatch theoretically vetted and promoted some of the worst Supreme Court justices ever and has since gone on to push the Patriot Act and every other New World Order program down our throats. But now that he’s cool because he gets Secret Service protection, it’s all okay. When Church leaders call, he drops everything and runs to see them, but apparently they never talk about Freedom or Liberty, because that’s not the message he takes back to Washington.

    The other members of Utah’s congressional delegation are just as bad. Chaffetz lasted a whole term before emulating the guy he replaced as a member of the good ole boys club. Bishop is content with going along with the reduction of Liberty as long as it gets him re-elected. Love waited like two days before showing her true colors; voting for Boehner as the best possible Speaker. They all voted on the omnibus bill without bothering to read it. Lee’s the only one who still seems to be voting for the Constitution most days, but honestly I’m not optimistic.

    Isaiah 19 talks of the downfall of Egypt. Egypt was the lone Superpower of it’s day (incidentally ruled by a black, foreign-born pharoah). Isaiah says that “the princes of Noph are fools”. Noph was the Hebrew name for one of Egypt’s capital cities, equivalent to Washington DC. The Princes spoken of here are the legislative elite and the Lord is telling us that they act foolishly in support of a Pharoah (President) who thinks he’s as wise as the founding fathers. I think this scripture is being fulfilled before our very eyes. We are fools if we expect Congress to act in our best interest. In the end, Egypt was successfully invaded by the Assyrians following an internal civil war and all the nations that leaned on it for protection were betrayed, including Israel.

  17. Saxoclese
    January 25, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    All of this fear and paranoia makes for fascinating reading. Please keep it coming. It is great entertainment for those of us who don’t subscribe to any of these thoughts and ideas. Although it makes one grateful not to have to live inside any of the writer’s heads.

  18. Brian
    January 30, 2016 at 7:03 am #

    “Nothing belongs to Caesar?” Well… nothing of any value belongs to Caesar. Fine, I’ll render my hard-earned cash so I don’t go to prison, and more hard-earned cash so I can clothe and feed my children, and more hard-earned cash so I can keep my home out of the clutches of my county. But in the end, that hard-earned cash has no value that I care about. It exists to help us get by in this world.

    Hopefully, I’ll render unto God the only thing I can – my heart.

    Great article, Connor. Since we’ve already had stake conference this year, I’m teaching lesson #4 in Sunday School tomorrow (Nephi’s vision) and brushing up on your article to see what I can use. Thanks!

  19. Clumpy
    February 1, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    @Saxoclese

    It’s really a Cleon Skousen thing—he changed Mormon politics forever. I’m sure modern Birchers would exist in Mormonism regardless (Ezra Taft Benson held similar views that the civil rights movement was a Communist front and that national policy destroyed economies, for example), but Skousen’s really the guy who created an entire generation of Mormons who intertwine their faith and their fringe political leanings to the point where they can’t even tell the difference between them (often ironically using the example of the Mormon scriptural character Captain Moroni, who massacred nonviolent dissidents using the military he commanded).

    It’s not a coincidence that the mob in Oregon carried Constitutions annotated by Skousen—their ideology stems directly from his own and is a logical extension of the alarmist doctrine that middle-class white straight Christians are being put to the sword by an oppressive government targeting them and only them. Twelfth Article of Faith be hanged—Skousen was never a Mormon leader but he’s THEIR prophet.

  20. Dave Nielsen
    February 15, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    I think there are very good reasons to believe that “Government” is the beast of Revelation.

    “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. 2And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. 3And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. ”

    John sees rising out of chaos, governments. Governments have always been based on force and John counts seven governments, one of them wounded. (Seven suggests completeness). What does he mean? Traditionally, governments have been basically monarchies or dictatorships. They were adopted by Lucifer to rule mankind. So were these. Strong, corrupted monarchies that controlled the world and men.

    But, one that arose was wounded and crippled. What does that suggest? I propose it refers to that government originally established in America. It was an exception to everything that ever came before or concurrently. It was a rising government wounded by God and established to be a unique and different government. Notice, though, it says it was healed. What does this suggest? Again, I propose it suggests that the new government of America never really had a chance to be what it was intended to be. Immediately after its formation, forces entered in to alter its original establishment, and it became, for all practical reason, just like the other governments of the world, dark dens of iniquity where the works of darkness could flourish. For one, bright shining moment it was there and then gone.

    Think about it.

  21. Gary Sorrells
    June 15, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    Yep, It lasted only a few short years before falling into shambles. Then God said, Jehovah, send Moroni down to wake Joe up. And here we are today, eyeball deep in latter day prophesy, on final approach, gear up…

  22. Jesse @ Building Zion.org
    July 17, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    The dilemma mentioned here in the comments is this:
    If the G&A Church is “government”
    then why Article of Faith 12? and “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”?

    Possible answer:
    D&C 58:22 suggests that we are to submit to illegitimate (ie. not God’s) governments until Christ subdues all of them. The verse states, “Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.” What enemies will Christ subdue? Illegitimate governments.

  23. Anthony Emmel
    November 3, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    Nice article.

    When I was still lecturing at the university level, I flabbergasted my World Religion class by telling them they weren’t really Christians, but Secular Nationalists. I started out by asking if they they had ever pledged allegiance to the flag? Stood for a judge as he enters the court? Sang a national anthem?

    I then went into my lecture on the creation of Secular Nationalism in late 19th C. Western civilization and the idea that was prominent among leaders that religion would be replaced by the state, even down to the creation of creeds, rituals, and hymns.

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