“Did I not tell thee: Unite my people in Kabbalah? And thou didst seek to know the meaning of this. And at the first thou thought Kabbalah meant the power of God, then thou thought Kabbalah was a way to help mankind understand my Word, and then understood Kabbalah to be the holy traditions given to mankind of me through my servant Moses, and still thou thought Kabbalah to be something more. And I say unto thee: it is all these and more: Yea, Kabbalah is a mysticism, a theology, and a thaumaturgy; Kabbalah is the tradition of Israel, it is my doctrine, and thus it is a mysterious art, for my doctrine is too simple for mankind to comprehend.” -Doctrines of the Saints 125:4-8
To understand Kabbalah we must first understand the Hebrew idea of “tradition.” Though many might argue that “tradition” is something passed down, Kabbalah is not a legacy of keys, authority, or dogma. Rather, it is the ever changing form or understanding of God, or what we might refer to as “the Divine mystery,” as it unfolds itself to mankind.
Kabbalah: a Tradition
“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth, I will give more.” -2 Nephi 12:36-38 RAV, 28:30 OPV
While Nephi warned us against stagnation, he also taught the Kabbalistic idea of continuing ever forward in God (2 Nephi 12:30-39 RAV, 28:24-31 OPV). Kabbalah should be understood as both a restoration and remembrance of that which came before, and understanding that the power of God is alive and that Israel is open to further revelation. The visionary and revelatory interactions with God through a living system of writings, symbols, stories, and—most importantly within the Latter Day Saint movement—new prophetic vision, is the very core of Kabbalah. This is the Kabbalist’s understanding of tradition and therefore of the heritage of Israel.
Mormon: into the Wilderness
Why then Mormon Kabbalah? Is the term “Mormon” merely added to infer a separation from Judaism? No, Mormon is a term with its own meaning that helps us to better understand Kabbalah. From the Dictionary available in the Torah of Moses from the plates of brass:
Mormon: Hebrew, מורמן. A word of unknown origin translated by the Holy Spirit as “a wild or untamed place,” or “wilderness.” According to Gordon Thomasson, the toponym Mormon (MRMN) and the toponym Hermounts (HRMN) might be the same word, and can be found in the Book of Mormon referencing a wilderness infested by wild beasts: “…a place which was called Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested by times, or at seasons, by wild beasts” (Mosiah 9:32 RAV, 18:4 OPV). In addition, both Mormon and Hermounts may share the root RMN.
See 3 Moses 18:14, 54:5; “What’s in a Name? Book of Mormon Language, Names, and [Metonymic] Naming” by Gordon C. Thomasson, Broome Community College, in Binghampton, New York, pages 12-13 (https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/vol3/iss1/2/)
Based on this understanding, Mormon Kabbalah would signify the journey into the “wilderness” to find God. Mormon Kabbalah would be the unbridled and untamed Gospel of Jesus Christ focused on the Law of Love, rejecting the creeds and divisions of mankind.
Let us dive into this understanding as we explore the above revelation defining Kabbalah for the Latter Day Saint movement.
Kabbalah as the Power of God: Thaumaturgy
“Thaumaturgy: the performance of miracles… from a Greek word meaning “miracle working,” is applicable to any performance of miracles…” –Merriam Webster
God is not a theological or philosophical concept. As Christians, we understand that God is real, and God has real power and authority. God is not supernatural, God’s power and authority come from the reality that He is the Creator of everything. Therefore, His power and authority is true natural law. As human beings, we are granted access to this divine power of miracle working. It is one of the signs we are told to look for as followers of Jesus Christ.
In the Latter Day Saint movement, many of us use the term “priesthood” as both the group of individuals authorized to use the power of God in and for an organization, and for this power of God. This conflates our understanding and confuses those outside the movement. Churches may have priesthoods, but all Saints have access to Kabbalah, the power of God. Just as the pure love of Christ has no end and endures forever (Moroni 7:52 RAV, 7:46b-47 OPV), so to does the power of God (Moroni 10:7 RAV & OPV). Therefore, just as salvation is available to all, so to is Kabbalah, the priesthood and power of God.
Kabbalah as an Understanding: Theology
“Theology: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience.” –Merriam Webster
Once we understand that God is real, we begin a journey of discovery, building upon those that came before us. This understanding will very from person to person, allowing us to learn from one another. As we grow in grace, we grow in wisdom and knowledge. That wisdom and knowledge creates unique theologies. No two people have identical understandings, therefore no two people have identical theologies.
As Latter Day Saints, we can and do form churches based on mutual understandings and beliefs, but even in these groups, even at the core level, our understandings very. This is the beauty of the Kingdom of God. Through Kabbalistic teachings, we learn to accept others where they are and learn from them. That is the base theology of all Kabbalists and the core of Kabbalah itself: Love God (the Creator) and love your neighbors (the creation), even (and maybe especially) our enemies, and not to fight when our theologies do not align perfectly (Matthew 22:36-40, 5:43-48; Mark 9:38-41).
Kabbalah as a Holy Tradition: Mysticism
“Mysticism: the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (such as intuition or insight).” –Merriam Webster
With this understanding, we begin to realize that theology isn’t merely an understanding of mankind. Rather, it is divine utterance spoken to each of us through the Holy Spirit. When we disagree, this doesn’t mean that one person or another is wrong, but that the two understandings need more revelation to clarify how both may be understood together. This is the holy tradition and mysticism of Mormon Kabbalah, continued revelation. Revelation comes to us as needed by the power and love of God. God wants us to know and understand Him, as the better we understand and love the Creator the more we will love and understand the creation.
This is the secret tradition of Kabbalah: love.
“There was another incident involving one gentile who came before Shammai and said to Shammai: Convert me on the condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot. Shammai pushed him away with the builder’s cubit in his hand. This was a common measuring stick and Shammai was a builder by trade. The same gentile came before Hillel. He converted him and said to him: That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.” –Talmud, Shabbat 31a