Exoteric and Esoteric are two unfamiliar words that, once properly defined, become very familiar to our current Mormon mentality.
Defined: Exoteric and Esoteric identify two different approaches toward the offering of salvation. Exoteric is defined as:
“Intended for or likely to be understood by the public, or a large number of people, identifying a literal meaning.”
Whereas, Esoteric is defined as:
“Likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest, identifying an inner teaching.”
One uses compulsory means, or some external manipulation (there are differing types and degrees of manipulation), to produce an end result. The “end result” being the objective. For the esoteric, the end result is spontaneous because the heart is the objective. These focus on an internal approach, and the outcome is simply a “bi-product!”
Exoteric: Being carnal, sensual, and devilish, are “skills” that men have acquired on earth. Men became carnal, sensual, and devilish when they adhere to the enticings of Satan, thus being shut out of the presence of God (Moses 6:49). In this condition, men constantly battle themselves in an inner civil war between the outer circumstances and the inner desires (the heart). When external circumstances governs our choices, the heart submits to the mind, to be justified by logic. Since no one can know a mans true desires (heart), men manipulate circumstances, to acquire expected results, to put on the appearance of being blessed of God. Thus, a wealthy man was wealthy because he is blessed of God, or because of his genius, …while a beggar was such because of his poor choices. This is exoteric.
Evidences of exoteric mindsets are not easy to spot, …unless you know what to look for. The idea of wolves in sheep’s clothing points to the exoteric. The sheep’s clothing is meant to appear as followers (sheep) of Christ, but inwardly their true heart is carnal, sensual and devilish. Some common traits include:
- Knowing the scriptures for face value, without seeking the patterns, messages, and mysteries being offered within (the whole church is condemned by this one)
- Faith associated with outward manifestations: Possessing rituals, wearing ritual clothing, holding offices, and claiming divine leadership
- Salvation based on institutional service: fulfilling divine church obligations, practicing religious traditions and customs, claiming a cultural identity
- Defending traditions: those prepared to enforce opinions and silence those who fall away, claiming “God’s will” as their own, especially without content or context
- External evidences to indicate inner faith: money, property, popularity, entourage, publicity, popular opinion polling, performance and speaking engagements, administrative offices
Esoteric: Opposed to exoteric, esoteric focuses it’s attention at “the heart” of the matter, and lets the cards fall where they may. The result is only a bi-product, and not the objective. In a crisis, the esoteric:
- looks to the principle of the matter,
- chooses the governing applicable value,
- digs in for the trial,
- then holds on tight to the value, until the trial is over.
These trust the value, not the appearance or perception of the result.
For the esoteric, greater knowledge of values produce greater unshaken-ness at their foundation, …in every trial. Such unshaken-ness is seen as being founded upon a sure foundation, or having placed the nail in a sure place. Such surety comes through trials and sacrifice, and no other way. To them value is never tied to external perceptions. They waste little time putting forth a horse and pony show for the public, and they labor over the mind and will of God in the words of Christ. Enlightenment offers the esoteric eternal salvation. Opinion polling to know what is publicly acceptable has no value. They follow their hearts, not the rest of the herd.
Evidences of the esoteric aren’t easy to spot either. The key to identifying the esoteric is found in the content of their language. They seek the scriptures to know the mind and will of God, to speak with the tongue of angels, to speak the language of God. They lay hold upon all truth, regardless of if it fits tradition or not, …they seek truth for truth’s sake. These are willing to be guided by the truth, rather than redefining truth to fit their current circumstances. These believe in the mysteries, the gifts of the spirit, Angelic ministration, the presence of Christ in the flesh, ascension, and salvation based on knowledge.
The Current Mormon Conundrum: A conundrum is a difficult and confusing problem or question. The problem and question we face as Mormons is identifying our individual current status, wether exoteric or esoteric. That is the separation happening today. To the onlooking public both look very similar. Both will do their church duty outwardly. Both will serve. Both will appear kind. However, their hearts are very different. One draws near with the lips and their hearts are far away from what they claim, while the other seeks to be one heart and one mind with God, focuses on breaking their hearts over and over again in repentance, humility, and faith, so that God, through His grace, can make them new creatures, with weaknesses turned into strengths (Ether 12:27).
Both can produce the perception of being blessed of God. Zion is rich with gold and silver, but debt can produce the same perception of having riches with gold and silver watches, cars, or houses. The only way to know the difference, is to judge the matter righteously, with humility and meekness, to recognize God’s content. The exoteric puts on the image of the world, which is an idol. The esoteric wants to get out of this world, to be in the presence of gods, so they seek the mysteries of the heavens for their escape. The content is clear when the real objective is uncovered. The content of the exoteric is empty and focuses on external evidences to prove discipleship, while the content of the esoteric is based in hungering and thirsting for the knowledge and attainment of the doctrine, secrets and mysteries of the heavens.
Conclusion: There are many ways to use compulsory means to get what you want. Self-discipline is a form of compulsory means. Manipulation, no matter how good you are at it, is still another form of compulsory means. Modern Doctors, Lawyers, Bankers and Businessmen regularly use compulsory means to gain advantage over circumstances. The exoteric justify the compulsory means by saying, “The end justifies the means.” These produce arrow of light awards, duty to God awards, young women’s medallions, eagle scout badges, return missionary status’, temple marriages, …yet know nothing of the mysteries of God, which Alma calls “The Chains of Hell.” (Alma 12:11)
If we are to be esoteric, we must repent and return and face God, by seeking out His mind and will, to focus on being enlightened and filled with light. Only light can dispel the darkness, thus eliminating sin completely. Alma promises us that if we receive more and more word, we obtain more and more light, until we are filled with light and know all the mysteries of God, …until we know them in full! (Alma 12:10) The esoteric, armed in the mysteries and doctrines of God become unshaken and immovable.
The esoteric are eventually entrusted with heavenly secrets, given them by ministering angels, …from mouth to ear (a personal ministering). They become hermetics, knowing the great knowledge, become an even greater follower of Christ like Abraham (Abraham 1:2). Once they have obtained this status, they have constant access to the mysteries of God, because of the presence of Christ in the flesh. Then they are under strict command concerning what they are and are not allowed to reveal:
“9. And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.”
Many are called, but the few who are chosen must be built upon the esoteric mindset, which is the foundation of the words of Christ. They must have the gift to speak with the tongue of angels, by speaking with the power of the Holy Ghost, thus speaking the words of Christ. (2 Nephi 32:2-3). Being built upon the words of Christ is equivalent to being built upon a rock when the floods arrive. Failure to being built on those words, is compared to a house tossing in the floods, because they were built on a sandy foundation. Feast upon the words of Christ, avoid being exoteric (external and outer-centric), become esoteric (internal and inner-centric), …then the words of Christ will tell you all things what you should do.