The Mormon Church
(by Mark Mayberry)
History And Claims.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has had a very turbulent history.
It is rooted in the visions of the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. Beginning in 1820, he
supposedly was visited by an angel. God informed him that all existing churches were in
error, and that the true gospel was yet to be restored. Later, the angel Moroni led him to
discover a set of golden plates that were buried in a hill called Cumorah near Manchester,
NY. These plates, or tablets, were supposedly written by an ancient prophet and recorded
the history of the early inhabitants of America. "According to Mormons, America was
originally settled by the Jaredites, one of the groups dispersed during the confusion of
tongues at the Tower of Babel; the American Indians were direct descendants of the Hebrews
who came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. Jesus himself visited this country after his
resurrection."i It must be noted that this theory is not supported by historians or
The golden tablets were supposedly written in "Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics," however there is no such language known to man! Using a pair of "spectacles" he called "The Urim and Thummin," Smith translated the tablets into English. Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery assisted him by acting as scribes. After this manner, the Book of Mormon allegedly came into existence. After he finished translating the golden tablets, Smith claimed to have returned them to the angel.
Joseph Smith also wrote Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. These three documents contain the foundation teachings of Mormonism. They place the Book of Mormon on an equal level with the Holy Bible.
It is claimed that John the Baptist was sent to appoint Smith and Cowdery to the "priesthood of Aaron." Later they were visited by Peter, James and John who bestowed upon them the "priesthood of Melchizedek" and gave them the keys of apostleship. Then in 1830, the church was organized at Fayette, NY.
As the church grew, opposition arose. Smith became involved in numerous problems, including a large bank fraud.ii Smith and his followers left New York in 1831 and set up their headquarters at Kirtland, Ohio. A group of Mormons came to Independence, Missouri, where they planned to build a temple and establish a utopian community. However, conflict with other settlers became so great that the Mormons were expelled from Missouri in 1838-39. They moved on to Nauvoo, Illinois, but violence continued to follow them. Joseph Smith was imprisoned at Carthage, Illinois. On June 27, 1844, a mob stormed the jail and murdered the Mormon prophet and his brother, Hyrum.
Following Smith's death, Brigham Young became the president of the church. At this time, several factions split away from the main group. In February of 1846, Young lead his followers out of Nauvoo and began the great migration to what isnow Utah. Arriving in July of 1847, they gradually changed their lot for the better. "Under the iron leadership and creative energy of Brigham Young, the Mormons eked out of the desert a fruitful existence, and as the years passed Mormonism flourished in the Salt Lake Valley."iii Here they built their famous tabernacle and temple. In 1850 the Territory of Utah was formed; it was accepted as a state in 1896.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the principal formal body embracing Mormonism, had more than 9,700,000 members by the late 20th century and is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. About 50 percent of the church's members live in the United States, with the rest in Latin America, Canada, Europe, and parts of Oceania. The next-largest Mormon denomination, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is headquartered in Independence, Mo., and had a membership exceeding 200,000 in the late 20th century."iv
Characterizations Of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith, Jr. was born Dec. 23, 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. As a youth, he gained a bad reputation at an early age. It is said that, "His word was received with the least confidence by those who knew him best. He could utter the most palpable exaggeration or marvelous absurdity with the utmost apparent gravity."v Such accusations are obviously not appreciated in Mormon circles, but they have never been refuted by non-Mormon contemporaries.vi
Also we should consider a statement signed by 62 residents of Palmyra, NY, were the Smith family lived for some time: "We the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family for a number of years, while they resided near this place. We have no hesitation in saying that we consider them destitute of that moral character which ought to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly famous for visionary projects; spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth, and a large excavation may be seen in the earth not far from their residence where they used to spend their time in digging for hidden treasures. Joseph Smith, Sr., and his son, Joseph, were in particular considered entirely destitute of moral character and addicted to vicious habits."vii
This statement "cannot be impeached by any honest historian - and it certainly has never been disproved by any Mormons as attested by history."viii "Howe was a contemporary of Smith and did the most thorough job of research on the Mormon prophet and his religion; his work is today considered prima face evidence of the highest veracity."ix
Smith's father also claimed to receive visions and his mother displayed an interest in the occult and could be called a psychic.x With such parents it is not surprising that Smith's youth could be summed up by his principal biographer as that of "a likable ne'er-do-well who was notorious for tall tales and necromantic arts and who spent his leisure leading a band of idlers in digging for buried treasure."xi "Was it not inevitable that with such a background plus a highly imaginative disposition of his own, fanned by religious fanaticism which was rampant around Palmyra, New York, where his family now lived, that Joseph Smith would, in 1820, have his first vision?"xii
The Book of Mormon versus The Word of God. Mormons respect the authority of the Bible "as far as translated correctly." This is a convenient loophole to avoid Biblical teaching. The Mormon apostle Orson Pratt said, "What shall we say then, concerning the Bible being a sufficient guide? Can we rely upon it in its present corrupted state, as being a faithful record of God's word? We all know that but a few inspired writings have descended to our times... Who knows that even one verse of the whole Bible has escaped pollution, so as to convey the same sense now that it did in the original."xiii
Despite Mormon assertions to the contrary, the New Testament of Jesus Christ is absolute, complete and final. Jesus said, "When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into ALL the truth" (John 16:13). Truth was fully revealed in the first century (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Thus, the gospel is called the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25). The Faith was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). That leaves no room for the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, since God has given to us "all things that pertain unto life and godliness," then the Book of Mormon can only contain that which pertains to death and ungodliness (2 Peter 1:3). Not only is the Book of Mormon superfluous, it stands condemned as another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). Man is not permitted to add to or diminish ought from the word of God. (Revelation 22:18-19).
Discrepancies In The Book Of Mormon. A fundamental principle of truth is that it does not contradict itself. Yet the Book of Mormon repeatedly contradicts the Bible. Notice some of the outlandish statements found in their "inspired" books:
The Book of Mormon, supposedly written approximately 400 B.C., is filled with direct plagiarisms of the KJV, which was not translated from the Greek until over 1000 years later. For example compare 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 with Moroni 7:45-46. Shakespeare is also quoted. Compare Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1 with 2 Nephi 1:14. Why would the Book of Mormon contain such quotations in Elizabethan English? Is it prophecy or plagiarism? I affirm the latter.
There are great differences between the original versions and the modern Book of Mormon. Although Joseph Smith claimed divine guidance in translating the golden tablets, there have been more than 3,900 changes in the Book of Mormon since the 1830 edition. Is the process of inspiration so full of mistakes? (John 16:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Bible plainly teaches that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-8 ; Luke 2:4), but the Book of Mormon says he was born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10).
The Bible teaches baptism for remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38), but the Doctrine and Covenants teaches remission of sins before baptism (D&C 20:37). Interestingly, Mormons contradict themselves on this point (3 Nephi 12:2).
The Mormons contradict themselves on the doctrine of polygamy. Compare the Book of Mormon (Jacob 2:24-26 with the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 132:1-4, 38). One passage commands this practice and the other condemns it! Note that polygamy is not in harmony with God's will (Gen. 2:23-24).
The Book of Mormon teaches that a son can be lost because of the parents sin (2 Nephi 2:21). However, the Bible teaches exactly the opposite (Ezekiel 18:20).
The Book of Mormon teaches that sin is essential for man to know joy (2 Nephi 2:22-25), but the Bible affirms that sin brings misery and heartache (Psalms 32:1-4; Isaiah 57:20-21).
The Book of Mormon said there was darkness for 3 days following the crucifixion of Christ (Helaman 14:20, 27). However, the Bible states that the darkness lasted for only 3 hours (Matthew 27:45).
Believers were called Christians 70 years before Jesus was born (Alma 46:14-15). However, the Bible states that the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26).
The church was in existence in 147 B.C. (Mosiah 18:17). However, Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). Furthermore, repentance and remission of sins would be preached unto all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). This promise began to be fulfilled on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47).
According to the Book of Mormon, the church was commanded to keep the Sabbath (Mosiah 18:23), but the Bible affirms that the Old Covenant, with all of its ordinances, festivals and Sabbaths, was nailed to the Cross (Colossians 2:14-16). Moreover, Christians met to worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).
Unique Mormon Doctrines. There are some points where we are in agreement. Why? Because Sidney Rigdon, an apostate gospel preacher, joined forces with Joseph Smith. He supplied much of the movement's theology. However, they also hold many radical views:
Mormons have a unique concept of the Godhead. Moreover, they believe there are many gods. As men develop spiritually, they become gods. Notice the following quotation from their literature: "Are there more Gods than one? Yes, many"... "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man."xiv "And you have got to learn how to be Gods yourself, the same as all Gods have done before you."xv However, the Bible affirms there is but one God (Exodus 20:1-3; Deuteronomy 6:4).
They affirm that Adam was the God of this world: "He (Adam) is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do."xvi Mormons teach that Jesus Christ was Adam's son. However, the Bible affirms that Jesus, the Son of God, was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-23).
They claim these Gods have fleshly bodies: "There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones."xvii However, the Bible teaches that God is a spirit being (John 4:24; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Luke 24:39).
Mormons hold to both the Aaronic and Melchizedekian Priesthood. However, these orders have no place in the organization of the church. The Levitical priesthood passed away with the law of Moses (Ephesians 2:15), and the Melchizedekian priesthood belongs to Christ alone (Hebrews 5:5-10). Furthermore, all Christians serve as priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9).
Mormons teach that the apostleship still exists in the Mormon church. However, one had to be an eyewitness of Christ to be an apostle (Acts 1:21-22). No one today is qualified to serve in this office. Moreover, the work of the original apostles still goes on through their inspired words (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Mormons call their young missionaries "elders." However, this is at odds with the Biblical qualifications of the office (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
Mormons believe in two forms of marriage. "Mormons who are married by civil authority only still remain in good standing in the church, but marriage for time and eternity in the church's temples is regarded as a prerequisite for the highest opportunity of salvation."xviii They claim that temple marriages continue after death. Furthermore, they say that women continue to bear children in heaven. However, the Bible affirms that marriage is not part of the eternal realm (Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40).
Mormons practice baptism for the dead. However, the Bible teaches that baptism is individual action (Acts 2:37-38; Romans 6:3-4). Man is "dead in sin" before he is baptized. He is baptized to wash away those old sins (1 Corinthians 15:29). Furthermore, we will not be given a second chance (Luke 16:19-21; Hebrews 9:27). (Perhaps of interest is, "Polygamy and the Bible")
i Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations
in the United States, p. 98.
ii John H. Gerstner, The Theology of the Major Sects,
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), p. 43.
iii Walter R. Martin, Mormonism, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, Inc.,
1976), p. 10.
iv Encyclopedia Britannica, 2000 ed., s.v. "Mormon."
v Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism, (New York, 1867), p. 16, quoted in Walter R. Martin, Mormonism, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1976), p. 6.
vi Martin, p. 6.
vii E. D., Howe, Mormonism Unveiled, (Zanesville, OH, 1834), p. 261. quoted in Walter R. Martin, Mormonism, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1976), p. 6-7.
viii Martin, p. 6.
ix Martin, p. 7.
x Gerstner, p. 42.
xi Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, p. 1. quoted in John H. Gerstner, The Theology of the Major Sects, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), p. 42.
xii Gerstner, p. 42.
xiii Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon, No. 3, p. 47.
xiv Brigham Young, J. of D., VI:4.
xv Brigham Young, J. of D., VI:4.
xvi Brigham Young, J. of D., I:50.
xvii Smith, Comp., p. 287.
xviii Mead, p. 100.