Some facts: Largest denomination of Mormons – LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) Smaller groups consider LDS false church because they have strayed from original teaching of Joseph Smith. Currently estimated over 15 million Mormons worldwide, with over 60,000 full time missionaries. Over 30 billion in assets, with over 6 billion a year gross income.
Founder – Joseph Smith (1805-1844) Born in Vermont – Parents religious but not affiliated with a church. Brother Jason patriarch of thirty families in religious semi-communistic community in New Brunswick. Parents ventured into capitalism – lost everything (some say bad investments, some say they were cheated). Moved to Palmyra, New York in 1816. Smith was known by many as a con-man, and was convicted of swindling people by convincing them he could find buried treasure by using special “seer stones.”
Mormonism’s beginnings – Smith wrote two separate accounts of what happened to him in the woods of western New York, and the date is given as anywhere from 1820-1824. The official Mormon version says that in 1820, after attending a revival, Joseph Smith prayed to God to show him the true church so that he could join it, because many Christian churches existed. He went to the woods where he was visited by 2 heavenly beings: God the Father and God the Son. They instruct him not to join any existing church because they were all false. Instead Joseph was to bring forth the true church as a prophet. Smith was a teenager at the time.
Following this first vision, Smith claimed to receive another vision from an angel named Moroni. He said this angel told him of an ancient tribe of Israel, the Nephites, that lived in America, and that their history was recorded on sacred golden tablets that had been buried in the woods near where he lived in the 4th century AD. Four years later in 1827, the angel Moroni gave Smith these tablets that were written in ancient Egyptian.
Smith claimed to use “seeing stones” which he called the Urum and Thummim to receive the translation of these tablets from God. Basically he had two magic stones, and he put them in his hat, and he would stick his face in the hat and the translation of the tablets would appear, then he would have it written down. No one ever saw these plates. Smith claimed that he was told not to show them to anyone else. This translation was published as the Book of Mormon in 1830.
Mormons were heavily persecuted and forced to free from New York. Mormonism was a poor man’s religion at first. The Book of Mormon shows God’s plan for poor to be given the earth, while the rich judged. Mormons slowly moved west, and formed settlements along the way. They finally reached Utah, which is still the world headquarters of the Mormon religion.
Mormonism’s teaching Smith began teaching some new things such as:
– polygamy Smith had 27 wives
– polytheism (more than one God)
God was a man like us, and we can become gods
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!…I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see….It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did… (Smith)
Smith taught that men become gods of each world in eternity.
Racism: (non-white people were under a curse – the mark of Cain). Until late 70’s blacks excluded from temple priesthood; “new revelation” allowed blacks in.
Revelation: Three books of Mormon, Bible, and the head prophet. When Joseph Smith died, Brigham Young was the next prophet. There has been a succession of prophets ever since with authority to receive revelation.
Reconstruction: Take over country, food in basement
Ecclesiology: no clergy, forced tithing, secrecy
When Mormons are considered “temple worthy” they undergo a secret ritual at the temple where they are initiated into the priesthood. After they have received this special temple endowment, they must wear their priestly temple garments. The garments look like baggy underwear with both a top and bottoms that both guys and girls wear, and they have special symbols sewn in to remind them of the covenants they made in the temple.
These garments cannot be simply thrown away when they wear out. The symbols must be cut out and ritualistically burned. Then the remaining garment can be thrown out.
Works salvation, levels of heaven, Christians originally called “Babylon” in writings, now LDS calls itself one of many Christian denominations. Focus on strong families, helping one another. Only ex-Mormons go to hell.
Difficulty of witnessing to Mormons
2. Taught not to question