As our homeschool studies history and ancient civilizations we plan to study allot of the literature, legends and stories of the civilizations. I wanted to keep stories and legends from other religions in perspective. While reading through Cleon Skousen's book The First Two Thousand Years in chapter 23 and 24 I found the answers I needed. Now as we read the legends and religious stories we will evaluate them against the elements of a heathen religion, compare them, and see how many elements each story has.
The Origin of Heathen Religions
“Modern revelation has confirmed the declaration of ancient prophets that ethics, religion and the related philosophical concepts growing out of them all came by direct revelation from God in the earliest times. Authoritative sources now available to us also indicate that heathen religions and heathen philosophies came later as diluted substitutes designed to satisfy the people who felt disinclined to subscribe to the ideals and standards of conduct revealed from God.” Cleon Skousen The First Two Thousand Years (F2KY) page p200
Nimrod set up the first heathen religion in the post flood world.
“And it came to pass that many journeyed from the east and as they journeyed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and dwelt ther in the plain of Shinar. And they said one to another, come, go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and they had slime [asphalt] for mortar And they said, Come, go to, let us build a city, and a tower whose top will be high, nigh unto heaven; and let us make us a name least we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 11: 1-3
The Historian Josephus described Nimrod. The brackets below are included from Cleon Skousen.
“Now it was Nimrod who excited them [the people of Shinar] to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it [their prosperity] to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning man from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged of God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that we should build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers.”
“Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it as a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work; and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner then anyone could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.”
Elements of the Heathen Religion Nimrod set up, and the structure that other heathen religions followed.
- To place man above God. “Josephus states that he [Nimrod] belittled God and tried to destroy men's confidence in God. He did not deny his existence. He just said God wasn't important. He said men were their own benefactors and didn't need to thank God for the prosperity which they had worked so hard themselves to acquire.” Cleon Skousen, F2KY page 195
- “The next step is to worship great conquerors such as Nimrod and call them gods. This is exactly what Nimrod undertook to do. As the historian [Josephus] says. 'And not all this sufficed unto Nimrod's evil desire. Not enough that he turned men away from God, he did all he could to make them pay divine honors unto himself. He set himself up as a god, and made a seat for himself in the imitation of the seat of God. It was a tower built of a round rock, and on it he placed a throne of cedar wood, upon which arose, one above the other, four thrones, of iron, copper silver and gold. Crowning all, upon the golden throne, lay a precious stone, round in shape and gigantic in size. This served him as a seat and as he sat upon it, all nations came and paid him divine homage.' ” Cleon Skousen F2KY page 195
- “The next thing... was the elevating of animals above humanity... Heathen religions delivered human begins over the real or fancied whims of animals. In many cases animal life was made more sacred than human life, and humans were sacrificed to animal gods. The curse of animal worship and false philosophy associated with it survive to this day among large segments of humanity.” Cleon Skousen F2KY page 195
- Next is “the idea that human beings are somehow influenced in their daily actions by the sun, moon and stars. These astronomical bodies were credited with the power to bestow special gifts, talents, tendencies and qualities of personality upon each person... This destroyed the concept of “free agency” and “will”. What ever a person did he could always excuse himself by blaming it on the stars. As Jeremiah declared in his day: 'thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.' Jeremiah 10:2 ” Cleon Skousen F2KY 196
- The heathen religions put sins into their rituals. So the more a person was devoted to the false religion the more ritual sining they would have to do. “Heathen ritual was frequently devoted to almost exclusively to the stimulating and satisfying of human passion. The words adultery and idolatry both came from the same derivation. The heathen religions institutionalized immorality... This included the sacrifice of human beings by burning or slaughter.” Cleon Skousen F2KY 196-197
Important points to know in regards to Heathen Religions or Institutes
- “Heathen religions did not evolve they were promoted. They were not the outgrowth of man's instinctive desire to worship but the outgrowth of mans instinctive desire to grasp for power. Nimrod conceived of his man-made institutes as a tool to alienate the loyalty of mankind from their Creator and his priesthood and attach it to himself” Clean Skousen F2KY p199
- “Heathen institutes were set up to destroy true religion which had been revealed by God through direct revelation.” Cleon Skousen F2KY page p199
- “Idolatrous practices did not come into existence until long after true religion had been revealed from heaven.” Cleon Skousen F2KY page p199
- “Heathen worship was set up by defiant and rebellious men to compete against true religion As Nimrod had declared 'Depart from the religion of Shem and cleave to the institutes of Nimrod.'” Cleon Skousen F2KY page p199
- “These abominations were originally germinated in the sophisticated intellects of the apostate men who lived when the gospel was on the earth...Heathen philosophy was brewed in the dark minds of men who had apostatized from the truth and had set about to destroy the gospel and the influence of the priesthood by any means they could think of. “Cleon Skousen F2KY page p 200
- “Their technique consisted primarily in taking concepts which the people already believed and then rationalizing and twisting them so that they might become more appealing to the common man by making allowances for vices and indulgences which true religion forbade.” Cleon Skousen F2KY page p200
- “Revealed religion is the original source for most of the ethical and philosophical knowledge generally attributed to the intellectual leaders of heathen nations.” Cleon Skousen F2KY page p200
- Studies have been made which show that all of those basic ethics and philosophical beliefs which have been found in one form or another among nearly every people of the hearth have common origin. They are actually remnants of true gospel principles which originally came from the prophets of God.” Cleon Skousen F2KY page p200
- “In the hands of such men as Nimrod these teachings of the prophets and patriarchs were deliberately distorted.” Cleon Skousen F2KY page p200
- Subsequent generations therefore received only a few crumbs of truth, and these had been camouflaged by man-made mysteries and fabricated superstitions” Cleon Skousen F2KY page p200
“You will observe that the scriptural material now available to us repudiates the interpretation of many modern historians who have tried to determined the origin of religious philosophy and religious practices. The majority have concluded that religious understanding and religious expression “evolved.” They feel that heathen religions are merely a primitive means of expressing the “instinctive desire to worship.” They look upon idolatry and its attendant rituals as just part of the 'upward reach of man.' they seek to excuse the cruelty, immorality and barbarism of heathen worship on the grounds that it was the best their primitive mentalities were capable of producing... “
“It was for this very reason that God warned his modern servants against pseudo-scholarship – where men are ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. The Lord knew that whole libraries have been loaded with misinformation and therefore he said: 'Harken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed. Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit; and ye are to be taught from on high.” Cleon Skousen F2KY page p200