Church of the Latter-Day Saints, Joseph Smith & the Mormons
Mormon beliefs are based on the revelations of Joseph Smith. Was he a true prophet of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints or a charismatic cult leader?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in 1830 at Fayette, N.Y., by Joseph Smith. The headquarters are in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mormon belief is based on the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and various revelations made to Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon, ascribed to the prophet Mormon, recounts the early history of peoples in America. The Book of Mormon claims to be history of “the period from 600 BC to 421 AD during which the Nephite, Lamanite, and Mulekite civilizations flourished.” It is also believed by the Mormon Church that these civilizations were descendants of Lehi, a Jew who led a colony of people from Jerusalem to the Americas in 600 BC.
The Nephite prophet Mormon and his son Moroni played major roles in bringing the lost story of these civilizations to light. War broke out among the descendants of Lehi, and as they were about to annihilate one another, Mormon wrote their history on golden plates and hid them in the hill Cumorah in New York State. The history of the Mormons began with Smith's claim that golden tablets containing the Book of Mormon had been revealed to him, and his establishment of a headquarters for his organization at Kirtland, Ohio (1831). His following grew rapidly, particularly from the intensive missionary activity in which members engaged, both in the U.S. and abroad. Stakes of Zion, as the Mormons called their settlements, were started in Western Missouri, and Smith prepared to make the region the permanent home of his people. However, the intolerance of his neighbors toward the Mormon’s communal economy and unconventional belief system led to persecution and violence. Finally, in 1838–39, Gov. Lillburn W. Boggs ordered their expulsion.
The Mormons sought a new Zion in the Illinois town of Nauvoo. There, they received a charter giving them virtual autonomy, with the right to maintain their own militia, their own court, and the power to pass any laws not in conflict with the state or federal constitutions. The town expanded as converts poured in from abroad, and in 1842 it was the largest and most powerful town in Illinois. There was even a movement to nominate Joseph Smith as a candidate for the presidency of the United States. The growing wealth and strength of the Mormon community caused envy and fear among their neighbors
Joseph Smith, as mayor of Nauvoo, ordered the suppression of church dissidents. In 1844, Smith was imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois, and charged with inciting a riot after he attempted to destroy a newspaper that exposed the Mormon’s practice of polygamy. But before he could be tried on these charges, a mob broke into his cell and brutally killed both him and his brother.
After that many Mormons fled, dissension and suspicion were rife, and there was debate over the succession to Smith's leadership. Possible choices included another brother, William Smith, and several prominent leaders including Brigham Young, whom the church leaders ultimately chose as successor.
Young proved a forceful and able leader who dominated and worked for the good of his people. Again, it became necessary for the Mormons to find a home. Under Young's guidance, a remote spot was chosen far from United States jurisdiction, the valley of the Great Salt Lake in what is now Utah. Those who rejected Young's leadership and claimed the succession for a son of Joseph Smith declined to accompany the main body to Utah; they ultimately constituted themselves into a separate church, the Community of Christ.
In July, 1847, the first settlers reached what is now Salt Lake City and began an agricultural community. The first few years were extremely difficult, but the organization of the Mormons for community welfare, their great industry, and the determined leadership of Young made for their success. Through extensive irrigation, farming prospered. In 1849, the Mormons wished to have their communities admitted to the Union as the State of Deseret, but the area became Utah Territory instead. Brigham Young was appointed territorial governor and superintendent of Indian affairs, but Mormon isolation was destroyed. Non-Mormons filtered in, resented by the Mormons. Young's formal announcement in 1852 of the doctrine of plural marriage, based on a vision of Joseph Smith in 1843, set the Mormons further apart from their fellow Americans. Thereafter, polygamy was luridly discussed in newspapers across the country. The antagonism was very strong in the 1850s, and when Col. Albert S. Johnston was sent out with an army force in 1857, Young prepared to defend the Mormon state. The Utah War did not rise to serious proportions, but the bitterness of feeling was shown after the massacre of the members of a wagon train at Mountain Meadows in 1857, for which the Mormons were blamed.
The question of plural marriage was the important point in Utah's bid for statehood. Congress passed laws against polygamy aimed solely at Utah. Despite persecution, the Mormon community was a thoroughly established commonwealth by the time of Brigham Young's death in 1877. Statehood was finally granted after Mormon president Wilford Woodruff made a statement (1890) withdrawing church sanction of polygamy: Utah entered the Union as the 45th state in 1896. Since then, the church has spread beyond Utah, becoming a world religion (about half of all Mormons live outside the United States and Canada); church membership roughly doubled in the 1980s and 90s. Mormons continue to carry out a campaign of vigorous proselytizing.
A number of Mormons, generally referred to as fundamentalists, continue to believe in plural marriage, either as members of a splinter church or quietly within the mainstream church, which excommunicates those who adhere to the practice. Some 10,000 people in North America belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the largest of the splinter faiths. Many of its members live in SW Utah and NW Arizona.
Mormons practice baptism for the dead; they believe that the deceased soul may receive the baptism necessary for salvation by proxy of a living believer. Mormons claim the Apostle Paul participated in this practice since he mentions baptism for the dead in I Corinthians 15:29 which reads: Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?
Paul was not necessarily advocating baptism for the dead but making a point that there indeed is a resurrection of the dead. The practice was forbidden by the Orthodox Church in the 4th century as an aberrant practice of heretical groups, and is not practiced in modern mainstream Christianity.
The Latter Day Saints Church holds that deceased persons who have not accepted or had the opportunity to accept the gospel of Christ in this life will have the opportunity to accept the gospel in the afterlife. This doctrine flies in the face of the following clear verses of Scripture:
The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.
The LORD, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, makes it clear that each person is held accountable for their own sins. Both the practice of infant baptism and baptism for the dead cannot remove another person’s sins.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Every person has the opportunity to accept the gospel because everyone has been presented with natural revelation that there is an eternal, divine Creator.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Each person will be held accountable and will be judged according to how they have responded to the light of revelation that he or she has been given in this life. Baptism for the dead is a vain and useless practice.
Mormons also believe in celestial marriage, whereby individuals marry for all eternity.
This concept contradicts the very words of Jesus who rebuked the ignorance of the Sadducees as recorded in Matthew 22:29-31:
Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
In Latter Day Saint theology, the Endowment usually refers to an ordinance or ritual that is performed in Latter Day Saint temples. The term may also refer more generally to any gift of “power from on high,” or more specifically to events of importance to the Latter Day Saint movement in which particular gifts or powers were “endowed” upon members of the church, although this is less common.
Among those Latter Day Saint denominations who practice the Endowment as a ritual ceremony, the most elaborate form was practiced during the 1800s by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This Endowment ceremony, introduced by Joseph Smith, Jr. and codified by Brigham Young, consisted of symbolic acts and covenants designed to prepare participants to officiate in priesthood ordinances, and to give them the key words and tokens they need to pass by angels guarding the way to heaven. This Endowment continues to be practiced by several related, Utah-based denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, and a simplified version is practiced by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
There is only one way to heaven and there are no secret words and tokens needed to bypass angels that guard the way. This is not only a practice of this Christian cult but in itself is an occult practice – a demonic deception.
Some commentators have noted similarities between Smith's Endowment ceremony and certain rituals of Freemasonry, particularly the Royal Arch degree. These specific similarities included instruction in various signs, tokens, and passwords, and the imposition of various forms of the penalties for revealing them.
All of those first initiated by Smith on May 4, 1842, were longstanding or recent Masons: Adams was the Deputy Grand Master of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Illinois; Whitney, Miller and Kimball had previously been Lodge Masters; Smith's brother, Hyrum, had been a Mason since 1827, and the remaining five participants had been initiated as Freemasons just weeks before the meeting. However, none of these Masons ever charged Smith with breaking any of Masonry's oaths or revealing its secrets. As a matter of fact, one Mormon historian has noted that these Masonic parallels confirmed to these men “the breath of the restoration impulse and was evidence of Joseph Smith's divine calling.”
If you consider that Freemasonry is Lucifer worship, then you can readily understand the Mormon Endowment Ceremony parallels to Freemasonry.
“Lying for the Lord” refers to the practice of lying to protect the image of and belief in the Mormon religion, a practice which Mormonism itself fosters in various ways. From Joseph Smith's denial of having more than one wife, to polygamous Mormon missionaries telling European investigators that reports about polygamy in Utah were lies put out by "anti-Mormons" and disgruntled ex-members, Mormonism's history seems replete with examples of lying. Common members see such examples as situations where lying is justified. For the Mormon, loyalty and the welfare of the church are more important than the principle of honesty, and plausible denials and deception by omission are warranted by an opportunity to have the Mormon organization seen in the best possible light. This is part of the larger package of things that lead many to describe Mormonism as a cult. "Lying for the lord" is part of Mormonism's larger deceptive mainstreaming tactics, and conversion numbers would drastically lower if important Mormon beliefs were fully disclosed to investigators.
According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “The King Follett Discourse” is the name given to an address the Prophet Joseph Smith delivered in Nauvoo, Illinois, on April 7, 1844, at a general conference of the Church. It was a commemorative oration for a Church member named King Follett, who had died in an accident on March 9, 1844. The discourse may be one of the Prophet's greatest sermons because of its comprehensive doctrinal teachings. It was his last general conference address, delivered less than three months before he was martyred. Key doctrinal topics in the sermon include the character of God, man's potential to progress in God's likeness, the Creation, and the tie between the living and their progenitors.
The following is a direct quote taken from the King Follett Discourse:
Of man's potential, the Prophet said that even as God is eternal and self-existent, so the intelligence of man is also eternal. The Father has become what he is through eternities of progress. Christ, who did nothing but what he had seen the Father do, followed identical paths and patterns. Since all mankind have a divine Father, they are potential “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.” In this sense, all the children of God are embryonic gods or goddesses. Obedience to the fulness of the gospel is the perfecting process through which they may go “from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation…until [they] arrive at the station of a God.”
Lorenzo Snow, the fifth President of the Church of Latter Day Saints summared Joseph Smith, Jr.'s King Follett Discourse in a couplet: “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.”
When Latter Day Saints Church President Gordon B. Hinckley's was questioned on national television over the Mormon doctrine of “God being a man and man’s potential to become a god,” he used the “Lying for the Lord” tactic. When Hinckley was directly asked, “Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?” He replied, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”
“Milk before meat” for converts is the practice that potential or new converts to Mormonism be kept from knowing the more controversial doctrines of the faith. Mormon missionaries won't tell you they think God--a man who became a god--physically lives on a planet near a star-base named Kolob, a star mentioned in the Book of Abraham. The Book of Abraham is in a volume of Mormon scripture known as “The Pearl of Great Price.” The Book of Abraham contains a creation account which differs dramatically from the biblical account. According to the book of Abraham, the gods (plural) organized and formed the heavens and the earth.
In 1823, Smith said a heavenly being or angel named "Moroni," who he claimed was the son of Mormon, a man that died about 400 A.D., appeared to Smith. Maroni, told Smith that there were hidden written records on “golden plates” of a lost people who once had a great civilization in America. These plates were conveniently buried just outside the town where Smith lived. But they were written in an unknown language Smith called “Reformed Egyptian.” Maroni instructed Smith to use two special peep stones to look through, which would enable him to translate the plates. Smith said he uncovered the golden plates, translated them with these stones and the end result is now known as the “Book of Mormon.” And Maroni is now commemorated as the golden figure perched atop Mormon Temples.
Mormon founder Joseph Smith purchased two ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls and four mummies from a traveling antiquities dealer in 1835. He claimed that he could translate the Egyptian hieroglyphics although no one else in America could at that time. Until the Rosetta stone was found and deciphered, no one could confirm or disprove Joseph Smith’s claims. Joseph Smith recorded in his diary that he was in the process of translating the individual symbols. His assertions that these were accounts of Joseph and Abraham were fabrications. The scrolls actually were prayers for a dead Egyptian priest and the names and illustrations of Egyptian gods of the netherworld.
Smith was largely regarded at the time as a con man and fraud. Later examinations of the facsimiles (Joseph Smith’s illustrations copied from the papyri), in the Book of Abraham as well as a rediscovery of the original papyri confirmed that he had no knowledge or divine ability to translate Egyptian symbols. Joseph Smith was not only ignorant when it came to Egyptian writings but had no knowledge of Egyptian culture as well. The Book of Abraham was a hoax. Joseph Smith could not produce or prove his golden plates ever existed because he claimed the angel Moroni was required to take them back to heaven after he translated them. The civilizations recorded within the Book of Mormon have never been substantiated by any historical evidence through either archaeology or corroborated by any credible scholar or historian. Instead, as originally perceived by Smith's contemporaries, they appear to be little more than a collection of fictional stories put together by Smith, based largely upon other writings and his own creative imagination.
According to the following quote, Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was superior to the Bible:
“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book…”
We are warned not to add or subtract from the words of God as found in the Bible, let alone add an entire book which contradicts the foundational teachings of the Bible.
Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
A cult is a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader. Joseph Smith was a charismatic leader who espoused unorthodox and heretical doctrines based upon fraudulent claims. He formed a religion where its members lived outside of conventional society and who practiced secret rites and rituals. The Church of the Latter Day Saints or Mormon Church certainly qualifies as a cult.