The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter - Day Saints (Mormons)
Paul Young, Maesteg, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The Mormon Church still has strong political influence in the state of Utah in the U.S.A. It owns the second largest financial institution west of the Mississippi, ‘The Beneficial Life Insurance Company’, has enormous land holdings, as well as a controlling interest in the Los Angeles Times. It is very missionary orientated and encourages its most promising young people to dedicate two years of their lives to missionary work on a self-supporting basis. These young people are always well dressed, polite, and provide a very wholesome image. This cult is unusual in that it does not try to keep its people in ignorance, but actively encourages education, especially university and college qualifications.
Joseph Smith Jr. (b. 1805 in Sharon, Vermont, U.S.A.), founded the Mormon Church. In 1817 his parents moved the family to Rochester in New York State and there most of them joined the local Presbyterian Church. Smith was undecided about which denomination to join – an indecision that became the basis of his future church. He claimed to receive a number of visions. The first, apparently, was in 1820 when he was told not to join any denomination, as they were all evil.
In 1823 he claimed that the angel Moroni informed him of buried golden plates, and in 1827 he was granted permission to dig them up. He then claimed to have translated those inscriptions (supposedly written in ‘Reformed Egyptian’), and then published the results in 1830. An angel then removed the plates! This unlikely episode is made even less credible by the fact that there were no reliable witnesses to verify the existence of such plates.
April 6th, 1830, marked the official organizing of ‘the Church of Christ’ at Fayette, New York, with an initial membership of six. Membership grew and many moved west to Kirtland, Ohio, where Smith supervised the first printing of his divine revelations. This book was originally entitled ‘Book of Commandments’, but has since undergone many significant changes and is now called ‘Doctrines and Covenants’.
Following persecution Smith was imprisoned. He managed to escape and lead his followers to Nauvoo, Illinois, where he organized a small army and designated himself as Lieutenant General. His followers built a temple and attempted to gain new members for their church. However, Smith and his followers found themselves criticized in the pages of the local newspaper, The Nauvoo Expositor, and they attacked and destroyed the presses and burnt copy. These actions led to the arrest and imprisonment of Smith and though briefly released, he was rearrested and jailed at Carthage, Illinois. He was killed when a mob stormed the prison on June 27th, 1844. Thus, the founder and prophet of the movement had been lost, but his martyrdom ensured his revered place in Mormon history.
Smith’s successor was Brigham Young, who became president of the ‘Twelve Apostles’, with most followers accepting his leadership. To escape the continued persecution he led the great trek westward in 1847 to Salt Lake Valley. This was established as Mormon headquarters, and occupies that position to this day. Young had a great influence on the development of Mormonism but was also a ruthless leader. He it was who ordered the ‘Mountain Meadow Massacre’ of 100 non-Mormons, an episode that is a severe embarrassment to modern Mormons. Membership had risen to 150,000 by 1877 when Young died, and numbers have continued to grow. Today the organization claims well over five million adherents.
A rival organization was founded, and set up headquarters in Wisconsin, in 1853. This minority has stayed loyal to the Smith family, maintaining that Joseph’s son was the only true and rightful successor. The organization is known as ‘The Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’, and refused to be termed ‘Mormon’, but with over 200,000 members has not thrived like the parent church. However, it is an irritant to the Mormon Church.
Mormons believe that they are the restoration of the true church established by Jesus Christ and that all other churches and denominations are both wrong and evil. They use four books as the basis of their authority.
- The Bible: to them it is inspired, but polluted. They maintain that certain passages have been added and others removed, especially by the Catholic Church. Thus, they do not really trust the Bible, and place much more faith in the three other books.
- The Book of Mormon: they believe that God inspired this book and that it is a purported history of two great civilizations in America. The original author of the book was supposedly the prophet Mormon.
- Doctrines and Covenants: this gives 136 revelations outlining distinctive Mormon doctrine, including baptism for the dead and celestial marriage.
- The Pearl of Great Price: which contains:
a The Book of Moses: which is equivalent to the first six chapters of Genesis.
b The Book of Abraham: which is a claimed translation from Egyptian papyrus and has been proved fraudulent.
c A History of Joseph Smith.
d Articles of Faith.
3. BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
Mormons do not believe in just one God. They deny the deity of Christ and hence the Trinity. They deny the doctrine of hell and punishment, and seem to believe that salvation is for everyone.
i God: they view God in a number of ways.
a Polytheistic: they accept many gods. ‘In the beginning the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods’. (Joseph Smith)
b An Exalted Man: they accept that God was once a man. ‘God was once as we are now, and is an exalted man’. (Joseph Smith)
c Physical: ‘The Father has a body of flesh and bone as tangible as man’s’. (Joseph Smith)
ii Jesus Christ: they claim that Jesus is not the unique Son of God, only being different from other men because He became the firstborn of God’s ‘spirit children’.
iii Man: they believe that man is a preexistent soul, who takes his body at birth.
iv Salvation: they claim that everyone goes to one of three levels of glory:
a. The Celestial Kingdom: this is reserved for the Melchizedek priesthood, and consists of members who will become gods. (There is a tone of blasphemy to this claim). This is the highest of the three heavens in Mormon teaching.
b. The Terrestrial Kingdom: this is reserved for those who failed the requirements of exaltation to the Celestial Kingdom.
c. The Telestial Kingdom: reserved for those who have no belief in Christ or the Gospel.
v. Polygamy: this is the belief in the doctrine of plural marriages, namely that, a man may have many wives. This belief and practice led to some of the early persecution of Mormonism. Brigham Young’s polygamy is recounted in a book by his twenty-seventh wife.
vi. Racism: Mormons relegate black people and Indians into a class of their own. Such people cannot become priests and very little work is done among them to draw them in as members of the church. Thus, very real discrimination has been practised against black people. In the ‘Pearl of Great Price’ Joseph Smith wrote, ‘For behold the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness come upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised . . . for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them’. Thus, historically, Mormonism has not looked favourable upon black people. In the present climate of civil rights and anti-racism it seems that this policy has, at least officially, been changed.
NOTE ON THE BOOK OF MORMON
This book gives a very definite account of the origin of the American Indians and how they came to live in the Western Hemisphere. It was supposedly translated from ‘Reformed Egyptian’ and is very much revered by present day Mormons. Yet, it has been scrutinized by academics and been severely critiqued. ‘The book is untrue biblically, historically and scientifically,’ (William Duncan Strong, Columbia University). Essentially, there is no evidence archaeological, linguistic or historical to support the accounts contained in the Book of Mormon. No names, cities, persons, nations or places mentioned in the book have ever been found or identified. Also, no genuine Egyptian inscriptions have ever been found in America, and nothing has been remotely similar to Smith’s ‘Reformed Egyptian’. There is no such language.
Joseph Smith claimed that the Lord told him that the ‘saints’ would build a temple in Zion, Jackson County, Missouri, during his generation, and that Zion would never be removed from its place. ‘This generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord…upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed’, (Doctrine and Covenants). These prophecies failed since a temple was never built at the appointed place. Moreover, two weeks before Smith gave the prophecy that Zion would not be ‘moved out of her place’ the Mormons were unceremoniously run out of Zion, their printing presses were destroyed and some of their leaders were tarred and feathered. Smith was in Kirtland, Ohio at the time and so was uninformed of the situation in Jackson County when he gave his prophetic statement.
The Bible says, ‘When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him’. Deut. 18. 22. Clearly, in the light of such a biblical statement, Joseph Smith must be classified as a false prophet and therefore the Mormon faith is founded on falsehood and must be described as a false religion.