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Joseph Smith and the Grail

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Joseph Smith as the Holy Grail: The Book of Mormon - the Symbol


Kerry A. Shirts

I present Joseph Smith as restoring the Holy Grail, and is himself the Holy Grail literally. Consider the evidence.

The Holy Grail, was thought of being the Chalice that Joseph of Arimathea used to gather the blood of Christ. It also was the cup of the Last Supper of Christ, as well as the chalice at the Eucharist.[1] Through time, it gathered many symbols around itself, and each and every single symbol and the philosophical, mythological, legendary, spiritual and ethical meaning comes together in Joseph Smith and his work, without exception. First and foremost, it was the blood of Christ. Joseph Smith is of the blood of Christ.

A Dead Sea Scroll fragment says "And there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse and a branch from his ro[o]ts will spring forth, and there will rest upon him the spirit of Yahweh, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel [and might] the spirit of knowledge..." [2] This is clearly a reference to Isaiah 11. The Hebrew Bible reads "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots, a Branch will bear fruit."[3]

The Doctrine & Covenants has an entire section (113) devoted to questions concerning this chapter in Isaiah. The implications are astonishing in light of the Joseph-cycle of legends. Who is the Stem of Jesse? "It is Christ." What is the rod coming from the Stem of Jesse? A servant, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph on whom there is laid much power. What is the root of Jesse? "It is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom for an ensign and for the gathering of my people in the last days." Joseph Fielding McConkie notes "It is Joseph Smith that is being described by Isaiah."[4] This is entirely in keeping with the ancient typology of the Berechiah legend, since we are explicitly told, "The prototype of the Moreh Sedeq [the Teacher of Righteousness in the Dead Sea Scrolls] is found is [sic] Isaiah 11:1-5, where the Messiah is described." [5] This is the exact part of Isaiah which the D & C 113 is talking about.

In D & C 88: 8-10, Joseph Smith was told he could claim the Priesthood through the lineage of the Fathers. He certainly held the Keys of the Priesthood (D & C 35:17-18; 128:20-21; 27:13; 65:2).

D & C 110 proves Joseph received the Keys for the gathering of scattered Israel. The implications are far more reaching than just this however.

Observe the wording of D & C 113, which says the stem (Joseph Smith) as well as the root (Joseph Smith) was a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph (2 Ne. 3:15 also identifies Joseph Smith as a descendant of Joseph). We know that Jesus Christ was a descendant of Jesse as well, according to the geneology in the Gospel of Matthew. That clearly means that Jesus Christ had to have had children, since Joseph Smith is a descendant of not only Joseph of old and Jesse, the Father of King David, but is also a descendant of Jesus Christ. Now that is a family tie-in. It is no wonder that Joseph Smith was chosen as the Prophet for the Restoration... of God’s eternal family, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. God is gathering his family, the "Royal Priesthood. D & C 113:4 says this descendant of Jesse will have much power laid on him. Joseph Smith was told in a revelation, "For I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time."[6]

Joseph Smith’s power and might came with help from the heavens to a larger extent than some have realized. Brian L. Smith was asked "I am Impressed with the number of heavenly beings who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Do we know the nature of their visits?" Joseph was visited by God the Father, Jesus Christ, Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias, Elijah, Noah (Gabriel,) Adam (Michael), Raphael, Divers angel’s, Lehi, Nephi, Mormon. [7] Wherein Brian L. Smith proposed most of them were to instruct Joseph, confer sealing power, confer Priesthood keys, give Urim & Thummim and teach how to use it, accept Kirtland Temple (ordinances, coronations), Open the dispensation and Introduce the Son, give keys to the gathering of the lost tribes. Might and power of Joseph Smith indeed!

The Grail is also said to be a cup, a lance, (or spear), sword, or a dish, and that these four correspond to whatever sets of four, such as a Tarot card deck, etc., there are, (Cf. Book of Abraham Facsimile 1, figures 5, 6, 7, 8, and Facsimile 2, figure 6, "represents the world in its four quarters), seeing Joseph Smith’’ interpretation taps into this foursome idea. The ancient idea was the rulership over the world, the four summon arrows, or other figures such as birds, used to demonstrate the king owns the world.[8] Again a familiar Grail motif with Arthur and the knights of the round table (representing the universe) and their rule by righteous law, since their prototype was Christ with His twelve Apostles.[9] Akbar’s palace possessed the world-pillar or tree where he was enthroned. Indian domes had the 8 ribs of the wheel, which represented the universe to the Hindus, which were related to the four quarters.[10] At King Arthur’s coronation, four queens preceded Guinevere each holding a turtledove, which account, Goodrich says is not an invention. Four golden swords were also presented, as the symbols of royalty.[11]

It is a cauldron of plenty (cf. cornucopia), as well as the Grail being the spirit of love.[12] Geoffrey of Monmouth recorded that Arthur was very generous and his bravery and generosity reached the far ends of the earth, which caused the other kings to tremble and fear lest they would be conquered, because all followed after Arthur’s example of generosity and bravery.[13]

When Lancelot enters the room where the Grail is "the house was as bright as all the torches of the world," and he exclaimed after he had lain in bed for days, due to the power and glory of seeing the Grail and Jesus Christ, "Now I thank God of His great mercy of that I have seen..."[14]

The Grail has been declared to be a lost book of Christ. Others said it was his precious blood.[15] Does the Book of Mormon or Book of Abraham need any comment at all? Some say it was a golden chalice which shone so brightly it blinded the viewer. Others said it was a shining emerald, stone, or ark.[16] As a stone, the Grail was said to have miraculous feeding powers and "youth-preserving virtues." [17] Do comments on the Book of Mormon shining stones, or even that the Book of Mormon was written on gold plates need to be elaborated? Gold, incidentally, is the representative color for "immortality."[18]

Merlin is a perfect counterpart of the Angel Moroni so far as that goes, being the heavenly (Merlin - Magician) sent messenger helping the initiate through the byways and dangerous paths, leading him to safety. Both Moroni and Merlin prophecy for their friends.[19] The concept that Stonehenge (by tradition, Merlin brought this to Britain)[20] is like Delphi the Omphalos or Sacred Center of Britain, and like Delphi it was resorted to by those requiring oracular responses.[21] Robert Graves notes the stone at Delph was likely a meteorite.[22] Zeus-Ammon was also connected to a meteorite, and meteorite, thunderbolt and the omphalos, are all one and the same thing in religion.[23] The importance in this for the Grail/male/female (cup, horn of plenty, sword, dove, cornucopia of abundance, mother’s womb) symbology becomes obvious once we realize that the ancient sky-gods responsible for raining down the "treasures in the heavens" [24] were the storm gods who helped the earth multiple and divide and become abundant.[25]

This recalls the principle of Zion which was restored in Joseph Smith’s day, the New Jerusalem, the restoration of the ancient Jewish Omphalos, or oracular center, from where revelations from God would rule the world. The Grail ultimately is about the Waste Land theme, [26] the land formerly being blasted, now it will blossom as a rose, Cf. D & C 39:13; D & C 42:9; especially D & C 117:7 - "Therefore, will I not make solitary places to bud and to blossom, and to bring forth in abundance? Saith the Lord." By bringing the Grail back (Joseph Smith), the Lord can now do what he has promised.

The Grail as a cup is a stunning symbol directly reflecting facets of Joseph Smith’s life. When Ezra drank from a cup, he was completely taken over with the spirit of inspiration. He said the cup was "full as it were with water, but the colour of it was like fire...and when I had drunk, my heart poured forth understanding, wisdom grew in my breast, and my spirit retained its memory...And the Most High gave understanding unto the five men [who were writing the Holy Scriptures at Ezra’s inspired dictation] and they wrote what was dictated in order, in characters which they knew not." [27] This symbolism reads familiar to what Joseph Smith experienced in his translating the Book of Mormon under inspiration as he dictated it from "characters which he knew not." [28] The reason this is mentioned is because the cup symbolism of Ezra is also a Grail symbol. The cup/unicorn symbol is a "bestower of strength, health, and life... the horn as an emblem of vigour and strength has a masculine character, but at the same time it is a cup, which, as a receptacle, is feminine."[29] Remarkably John Tvedtnes has demonstrated how the Olive Oil is a symbol of the Holy Ghost, even the symbol of the oil from the Tree of Life.[30] The idea of the cup associated with the horns of the moon is pictorially shown on the famous Babylonian Boundary Stone (12th century B.C.) where the gigantic snake crawling up the side symbolizes the primal generative waters. Its darting tongue continually flashing forked tongue suggests flame, the life-giving fire inherent in fertilizing waters. The moon is is compared to a cup, "continually filled with and emptied of ambrosial fiery fluids of which sacramental intoxicants are the extract..."[31]

This bestowal of life, health and strength is reminiscent of the Egyptian idea of the God in the temple behind the veil, who embraces the king to his bosom and says I give to you all life, all endurance and all power, "and taken together represent the total fullness of divine gifts."[32] This is the "Health in the navel, marrow in the bones" type concept we are seeing here with the Grail as a horn of plenty, a cornucopia of abundance.

In the romances of the Grail we find three vessels, Grail, cup, and horn.[33] All three of these symbols are tied to the Eucharist, that is the sacrament, since the Grail had counterparts from Greece, Islamic lands, and Iceland! In the symbolic language we then have the number three as the number of time, past, present and future. The number four (as in the four associated with the Grail as noted above), this is associated with space, north, south, east, and west. These two, three, and four, constitute the field, the universe, where all forms are becoming manifest and then disappearing,[34] Worlds come and worlds go, or in the words of the Book of Moses (1:38) "as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words."

The cups, horns, and bowls of plenty are accounted for, and in the Prose Edda, Snori Sturlison left an account of the steaming cauldron named Eldhimnir which always served pork of the everlasting boar Saehrimnir with his renewable flesh.[35] The Great Bowl of the silver Mildenhall Treasure shows the opening of lids of vases of bounty and pitchers of plenty.[36] One key to the Grail was that it "strove to point beyond suffering toward hope and a better world.[37] The help from the heavens is a major theme in King Arthur circles, as it was with Joseph Smith, to a much larger extent than some have thought, having been visited by God the Father, Jesus Christ, Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias, Elijah, Noah (Gabriel,) Adam (Michael), Raphael, Divers angel’s, Lehi, Nephi, Mormon.[38] Truly, the Grail was brought back by God. If anyone can show me a better fit than Joseph Smith restoring the Holy Grail, I’d like to see it... seriously.

The horns and bowls and cup of plenty explains the sacrament theme involved with the Grail. The D & C 58:11 says "then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come." Associating the Grail with the earth itself, associates the earth with the vessel for the descending spirit [the dove]. This is the sky above, earth below idea, earth then being the chalice "which receives the fertilizing Logos in the same way that the legendary Grail caught the blood of Christ, and the earth was made fertile by the blood of the Mithraic bull which immediately turned to grain" [the Eucharistic wafer].[39]

Is it not astonishing that the Grail is also associated with the dove? "Wolfram von Eschenbach developed this description of the Grail as a stone taken down from heaven by angels [cf. Moroni!], who then returned on high because of the sins of mankind. On Good Friday, a dove flew down with the white host to lay on the stone - the Body and Blood of Christ."[40] In the sculptures of the cathedral of Notre-Dame, Melchizedek is carved offering the wafer in his right hand, and holding the chalice in the other hand. At Chartres, Melchizedek is carved holding a cup with a stone inside.[41] In symbolic language, the Book of Mormon (as golden cup) also has its sacred stone(s) inside, the Jaredite shining stones, which had the peculiar property of shining and giving protection and eternal life.[42] The Grail is associated with the Phoenix, the bird of resurrection.[43] "The bird [in general] is symbolic of the release of the spirit from bondage to the earth."[44] Hugo Rahner noted that even birds in flight, symbolize the cross of Christ.[45] Clement discussed the Phoenix as the semeion (sign) for the resurrection of the righteous.[46] The midrash of the Greek Baruch Apocalypse notes that the Phoenix is the guardian of the world, spreading his wings so the sun does not destroy the earth.[47] The Egyptian Bennu bird, or Phoenix actually announces the new age.[48] The turning cycle of the Great Year, as the Egyptians called it, was accomplished by the Phoenix. This caused the seasons and the planets to re-appear again.[49] Clearly a resurrection motif. It would seem that since Joseph Smith we are in the process of a literal apokatastasis (re-storation) of all things.[50]


1. Andrew Sinclair, The Discovery of the Grail, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1998: 55.

2. John Allegro, "Further Messianic References in Qumran Literature," in Journal of Biblical Literature, 75(1956): 180.

3. Kohlenberger, Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, Isa. 11:1.

4. J. F. McConkie, His Name Shall be Joseph, 108. This book is a good popular overview of the Legend of the Messiah ben Berechiah Joseph materials.

5. Manfred R. Lehmann, "Talmudic Material Relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls," in Revue de Qumran, 3 (1959): 400.

6. D & C 132:45. See Eugene H. Merrill, "Royal Priesthood: An Old Testament Messianic Motif," in Bibliotheca Sacra, 150, No. 597 (Jan-Mar 1993): 50-61 for interesting historical account of Christ’s Priesthood dating back to Melchizedek and David’s Royal Priesthoods.

7. See Brian L. Smith, "I Have a Question," in Ensign, Oct. 1994: 62-63. Also H. Donl Peterson’s interesting article, "Moroni and the Restoration: A Closer Look," in Scriptures for the Modern World, Paul R. Cheesman, C. Wilfred Griggs, eds., BYU Religious Studies Center, 1984: 13-28.

8. Hugh Nibley, "The Arrow, the Hunter and the State," in The Ancient State, Donald W. Parry, Stephen D. Ricks, eds., Deseret Book/FARMS, 1991: 5-6, 112, 105-106, 110-114.

9. Goodrich, King Arthur, 281, for parallel with Christ and his Apostles; Joseph Campbell, Transformation of Myth Through Time, Harper & Row, 1990: 225 The dux bellorum, a leader of war, had 12 great victories. The zodiac with the sun king.

10. Jack Lindsay, A Short History of Culture, Fawcett Premier Books, 1966: 504.

11. Goodrich, King Arthur, 101, p. 100 for golden swords, p. 58 for four other items of royalty, the sword, ax, cross, and hammer.

12. Norma Lorre Goodrich, King Arthur, Harper & Row, 1986: 245.

13. Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the King’s of Britain, Penguin Books, translated by Lewis Thorpe, 1966: 222.

14. Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D’Arthur, Penguin books, 2 vols., reprint, 1982: Vol. 2: 355-358.

15. Norma Lorre Goodrich, The Holy Grail, Harper Collins, 1992: xv, Chapter 1.

16. Goodrich, The Holy Grail, xvi.

17. Roger Sherman Loomis, The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol, Princeton University Press, paperback, 1991: 2.

18. Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press, 3rd printing, 1973: 130, note.

19. See Goodrich, Merlin, Chap. 5; Cf. Nikolai Tolstoy, The Quest For Merlin,Little, Brown, and Co., 1985: Chaps. 2, 5.

20. Nikolai Tolstoy, Quest For Merlin, 121.

21. Nikolai Tolstoy, Quest for Merlin, 114.

22. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, Vol. 1: 43.

23. G. A. Wainwright, "The Emblem of Min," in Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 17 (1931): 189. Cf. Wainwright, "The Relationship of Amun to Zeus and His Connexion with Meteorites," in Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 16 (1930): 35 - Also Wainwright, "Amin’s Sacred Object," in Annales du Service, 42 (1953): 183-185.

24. Hugh Nibley, "Treasures in the Heavens," in Old Testament and Related Studies, John W. Welch, Gary Gillum, Don E. Norton, eds., Deseret Book/FARMS, 1986: Chap. 7. See also his intriguing study "Sparsiones," in The Ancient State, Chap. 4.

25. Wainwright, "Some Celestial Associations of Min," 152-170, for an extended treatment. Also Wainwright, "The Aniconic Form of Amon in the New Kingdom," Annales du Service, 175-189.

26. Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology, Penguin Books, 1964: 508. Cf. Joseph Campbell’s stinging indictment against modern society being the Waste Land, in Creative Mythology, Penguin Books, 1968: 373-376.

27. R. H. Charles, Pseudepigrapha, p. 623.

28. Cf. the ideas of how Joseph Smith translated and the implications in Stephen D. Ricks, "Joseph Smith’s Means and Methods of Translating the Book of Mormon," John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, "The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information," and Dean Jesse, "Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History," in FARMS Paper & Reprint, WRR-86; Larry C. Porter, "The Book of Mormon: Historical Setting for its Translation and Publication," FARMS paper POR-93; Royal Skousen, "How Joseph Smith Translatedthe Book of Mormon: Evidence From the Original Manuscript, in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1998: 23-31; John Tvedtnes, "Mormon’s Editorial Promises," in John L. Sorenson, Melvin J. Thorne, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, Deseret Book/FARMS, 1991: Ch. 3; John Tvedtnes "Colophons in the Book of Mormon," in Sorenson, Thorne, Rediscovering, Chap. 4; Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, FARMS, Vol. 4/1, (Spring 1995): 209-217; David B. Honey, "The Secular as Sacred: The Historiography of the Title Page," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, FARMS, Vol. 3/1 (Spring 1994): 94-103; Stephen D. Ricks, Translation of the Book of Mormon: Interpreting the Evidence," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, FARMS, Vol. 2/2, (Fall 1993): 201-206; Daniel H. Ludlow, "The Title Page," in The Book of Mormon: First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, BYU Religious Studies Center, Monte S. Nyman, Charles D. Tate, eds., 1988: Chap. 2; Royal Skousen "Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript," in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, Noel Reynolds, ed., FARMS, 1997: Chap. 4.

29. Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, 470, 471.

30. John Tvedtnes, "Olive Oil: Symbol of the Holy Ghost," in The Allegory of the Olive Tree: The Olive, the Bible, and Jacob 5, Stephen D. Ricks, John Welch, eds., Deseret Book?FARMS, 1994: 427-459.

31. Joseph Campbell, The Mythic Image, Princeton University Press, first paperback, 1981: 88-89.

32. Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, Deseret Book, 1976: 252. For full discussion, pp. 241-253, and Appendices; See M. Catherine THomas’ interesting ideas in her article "The Brother of Jared at the Veil," in Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, Donald W. Parry, ed., Deseret Book/FARMS, 1994: 388-398. Cf. Hugh Nibley, On the Sacred and the Symbolic," in Temples in the Ancient World, 574, for an ancient temple veil being found with the God and Goddess embraced and intertwined, holding the compass and square symbolizing the circle of heaven and the four cornered (foundation) of the earth. Cf. Giorgio Santillana, Hertha von Deschend, Hamlet’s Mill, Nonpareil Books, 1st paperback, 1977: picture opposite of p. 273!

33. Roger Sherman Loomis, The Development of Arthurian Romance, Harper Torchbooks, 1964: 21.

34. Joseph Campbell, The Flight of the Wild Gander, Harper Perennial, 1990: 82.

35. Andrew Sinclair, Discovery of the Grail, 10-11.

36. Andrew Sinclair, Discovery of the Grail, 19.

37. Goodrich, The Holy Grail, xxi.

38. See Brian L. Smith, "I Have a Question," in Ensign, Oct. 1994: 62-63.

39. Richard Roberts, Joseph Campbell, Tarot Revelations, Vernal Equinox Press, 1987: 222-223.

40. Andrew Sinclair, Discovery of the Grail, 76.

41. Andrew Sinclair, Discovery of the Grail, 121, 122.

42. Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, Deseret Book, 2nd ed., 1978: 300-301.

43. Andrew Sinclair, Discovery of the Grail, 81.

44. Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, Betty Sue Flowers, ed., Doubleday, 1988: 18.

45. Hugo Rahner, "The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries," in The Mysteries, Joseph Campbell, ed., Princeton University Press, 5th printing, 1990: 377.

46. M. R. Niehoff, "The Phoenix in Rabbinic Literature," in Harvard Theological Review, 89/3 (1996): 251.

47. Niehoff, "Phoenix in Rabbinic Literature," 261.

48. David Fideler, Jesus Christ Sun of God, 366.

49. Louis Charbonneau-Lassay, The Bestiary of Christ, 445.

50. John Welch, "New Testament Word Studies," Ensign, April 1993: 28.

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