Since Mormonism has been in the spotlight lately, I thought I would give a brief overview.
Mormon is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which was organized April 6, 1830 by Joseph Smith, then 24 years old, and five associates in Fayette, Seneca County, New York.
As a boy of around 14, Joseph Smith was praying about which church he should join. In the spring of 1820 he was allegedly visited by the Father and Jesus Christ who told him that all churches were wrong and not to join any of them. September 21, 1823 an angel, named Moroni, allegedly revealed to him the resting place of ancient golden plates upon which was inscribed the inspired history of the early inhabitants of America. The inscription on the plates was written in what Joseph Smith called "reformed Egyptian." Along with the plates were two stones (called "Urim and Thummim") set in bows of silver (like spectacles). With the aid of these and "under inspiration of God," Joseph Smith was able to translate the ancient inscriptions, which became the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon sets forth that in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah (600 B.C.), an Israelite prophet named Lehi, together with his family and parts of other families, migrated from Palestine to America under Divine direction. In the new world the colony multiplied rapidly, but in the course of time two opposing nations arose, known as Nephites and Lamanites.
The Nephites were finally exterminated by the Lamanites (who became the American Indians) about A.D. 400. The Nephite records were summarized by Mormon, one of the later prophets and delivered to his son, Moroni. Moroni survived the destruction of his people long enough to continue the record and then bury it in the hill Cumorah. This same Moroni became the angel who revealed the hiding place to Joseph Smith.
The Mormons recognize two sources of doctrine: (1) the written word of God - the Scriptures; and (2) direct revelation from God.
Scripture, however, to the Mormon is not just the Bible, but four books. They are: (1) the Bible "as far as it is translated correctly;" (2) the Book of Mormon; (3) Doctrine and Covenants; and (4) the Pearl of Great Price.
The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contains revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith with some additions by his successors.
The Pearl of Great Price contains principally certain revelations and writings of Moses and Abraham not found in the Bible.
The church also believes in continuous revelation. There is one man on earth at a time who may receive revelation for the guidance of the entire church. He is the president of the church, who holds "the keys of the priesthood and is accepted as a prophet, seer and revelator." His official word when speaking in the name of the Lord, is received by the church as God's word.
God. Joseph Smith taught that "God, the Father, has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's." He also taught that there are many gods, and that it is possible for man to become one of these gods.
Brigham Young, Joseph Smith's successor, taught that Adam "is our Father and our God and the only God with whom we have to do." When Adam came into the Garden of Eden he brought Eve, one of his wives with him. "Adam created man as we create our children: for there is no other process of creation."
The Trinity. Mormon doctrine speaks of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, these three persons compose the great presiding council and have revealed themselves to man: (1) God the eternal Father; (2) His son Jesus Christ; and (3) the Holy Ghost. These three are separate individuals, physically distinct from each other.
Jesus Christ. Jesus was not begotten of the Holy Spirit, but was the son of Adam and one of His wives, the Virgin Mary.
Jesus was married to several women. The marriage at Cana of Galilee was actually Jesus� marriage to Mary and Martha and the other Mary. When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection, He was naturally appearing first to one of His own dear wives.
Jesus also had children. Orson Hyde said, "I shall say here that before the Saviour died He looked upon His own natural children as we look upon ours."
In Doctrine and Covenants (68:1,4) "God said: My servant, Orson Hyde, was called by his ordination to proclaim the everlasting gospel . . . And whatsoever, they (those ordained unto this priesthood) shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation."
Angels. People who are not married for eternity cannot become gods but may become angels. They can never become gods, be married or have children, but will throughout eternity be ministering servants for those who became gods. Moroni, the son of Mormon, became an angel and appeared to Joseph Smith.
Joseph Smith. The feelings about Smith are summed up in Doctrine and Covenants 135:3, written after his death, "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it." Brigham Young taught that "Every spirit that confesses that Joseph Smith is a prophet, that he lived and died a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is true, is of God, and every spirit that does not is of anti-Christ." In other words, a person cannot be saved if they do not accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon as true.
Salvation. Salvation is attained by accepting the principles and practices of truth issuing from God as taught by the Mormon church, being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins and then following the teachings of the church. Children are baptized at age eight.
Baptism for the Dead. Since there is no salvation except by water baptism administered by a qualified Mormon priest, those who have died without this baptism cannot be saved. This would include the millions who died before the gospel was restored by Joseph Smith. Therefore God revealed to Joseph Smith that people could be baptized for the dead. This baptism must take place in the Temple. A Mormon may be baptized by proxy for his dead ancestors. This is why the Mormon church maintains one of the largest genealogical libraries in the country.
Marriage. The church recognizes two kinds of marriages. The first is for this life, the other is for eternity. "Celestial marriage" is entered into by couples who are worthy, have paid their tithes and kept their vows. This marriage takes place in the Temple and the two are "Sealed" for eternity as well as for time. Only such as are thus sealed become gods and can propagate children in eternity. Those who are unworthy of the Temple rite or do not desire it, are married outside of the temple. Such cannot become gods but only angels or ministering servants to those who become gods.
Polygamy was practiced widely by the Mormons after their move to Utah. Brigham Young, Smith's successor, was survived by 17 wives and 47 children. In 1862 Congress passed a law prohibiting polygamy. In 1890, after the U. S. supreme court had reaffirmed the constitutionality of the anti-polygamy laws, the church withdrew its sanction of plural marriages. It was not until after this change that Utah was admitted into the Union as the 45th state in 1896.