VARIOUS ESOTERICA, ancient, medieval, and modern, are invoked in this Haaretz
article by Tomer Persico as influences on Joseph Smith: How kabbala shaped Mormon faith.
In his effort to establish 'Zion on American soil,' the founder of Mormonism was deeply influenced by the seminal Jewish mystical work, not to mention the polygamy practiced by the Patriarchs.
The most interesting section for PaleoJudaica is here:
Where did Smith derive his inspiration? He was undoubtedly an exceptional person, with a vivid imagination and enormous creativity. But every creative spirit needs raw material. Smith found his in the esoteric literature of his era, which led him to the kabbala.
As a curious teenager, Joseph Smith was able to read a fair share of Western esoteric literature at his neighbor's homes or in different public libraries.
The esoteric literature of the period included the legacy of the Renaissance, Hermetism, the kabbala, Neoplatonism, alchemy, astrology and Magianism.
Hermitism was an esoteric practice based on ancient texts that were apparently written by a god/king/prophet/ master sorcerer named Hermes Trismegistus. This Hermes was, apparently, a contemporary of Moses and revealed to humanity the secrets of the universe at the exact same time that Moses gave the Torah to the Israelites. The historical source for the more ancient parts of the hermetic corpus is found in the early centuries of the Common Era, in Greco-Egyptian Alexandria, and therefore contains a mixture of Greek and Egyptian myths.
In contrast to many Western tracts, the Hermetica emphasized the greatness of man and the ability for the complete synthesis of spirit and matter. Based on this doctrine, the soul is a refined type of matter, and therefore this materialist and sordid life is not a thing unto itself; there is even the possibility of achieving divinity without separating from life.
"You are the light and the life, as God the Father from which man was born," states Hermes, echoing similarities with Mormon theology.
Kabbala for Christians
With respect to the kabbala mentioned here, this wasn't the same Kabbala diligently pored over by the students of the Vilna Gaon or the Lubavitch Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Hasidism, during this time period, but rather the kabbala translated into the vernacular for a Christian readership. In the eyes of the Christians who were interested in it, the kabbala was thought to be the secret Torah that Moses gave to Joshua, and from him to the elders of Israel, and from them to the prophets. But unlike traditional rabbinic Judaism, the Christians believed that the kabbala was also given to the Israelite priests. The inclusion of the ancient Israelite priests was likely due to every story about the Temple in Jerusalem being seen by Christians as having some esoteric and mystical value (this was also true for the Freemasons, another movement that flowered around the same time). The Christian kabbala included different translations of the Hebrew texts into vernacular with additional commentary that presented it as a universal bible that in practice was philosophically Perennialist (meaning, that it stands at the base of all human knowledge).
Smith’s interest in the Hermetica and the kabbala alone are enough to shed light on the sentence found at the beginning of the Mormon cannon [sic], in the Book of Nephi, the first volume of the Book of Mormon. After the first verse in which the narrator presents himself, the second verse states: “I will make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” The Jews were a muse to Joseph Smith. The use of “the language of the Egyptians” ties the Book of Mormon to the Hermetica.
I don't recall any direct echoes of Hermetica or Kabbalah in the Book of Mormon, but it's been quite a while since I read it. Indirect theological influence sounds plausible enough, although Latter Day Saints would probably reply that Smith's interests in such esoterica as a young man simply helped prepare him for his later revelatory role. John Dee
, the English Renaissance scholar whose Enochian angelic revelations
were transmitted in strikingly similar ways to Mormon revelations, was also immersed in ancient and medieval esoterica.