On October 14th at Gospel Baptist Church in Archdale, NC, at 6:00 pm, I am going to discuss New Mormonism. Part of the presentation of New Mormonism will be a look at the history of Old Mormonism in order to make a comparison. The video is by Matt Slick at CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry). Below is a summary of the history of Mormonism by Stephen Davey. Both these are helpful introductions to the background of Mormonism.
In 1820, a man, by the name of Joseph Smith, experienced, what he called, the “First Vision”. In that vision, as he would later write, he was told,
All existing churches are wrong . . . all Christian doctrine is an abomination . . . all Christian leaders are corrupt.
Three years after this vision, Smith claimed to be visited in his room by an angel, named Moroni. This angel showed Smith a set of golden plates that were buried near his home. He told Joseph that, because of his direct descent from Jesus and one of his wives, he was qualified to serve as the next prophet. Joseph would be allowed to uncover and translate the golden plates. Ten years later, the Book of Mormon was published.
In that same year, April of 1830, Smith organized, what was then called, the Church of Christ. In 1831, Smith and his followers bought land in Independence, Missouri, and began to build a temple. They were motivated by the promise of Joseph Smith that Jesus Christ would return during their lifetime and reign from that temple with Joseph Smith at His side.
Primarily because of Smith’s views on polygamy, he and his followers eventually were forced to move. They moved to Illinois and founded a city where they began to build another temple. It was during their stay in Illinois that Joseph transferred many of his Masonic rituals and ceremonies into the Mormon Church. And, in the meantime, even though he publicly denied his polygamy his entire life, he had already married at least fifty women in secret.
Some disillusioned followers, who had been expelled from the church, published a newspaper attempting to expose Joseph’s polygamy. Since Joseph was the mayor of the town, he ordered that the printing press be smashed. That created a riot, so Smith declared martial law. Charged with rioting and with treason for having declared martial law, he avoided arrest by crossing the Mississippi. As he prepared to flee, his wife (his first wife Emma, to whom, by the way, he had always denied his polygamy), convinced him to turn himself in, rather than risk being killed in his escape. That night, after Smith surrendered to authorities and was placed in an upstairs holding room, a mob attacked the jail in Hancock County. On June 27, 1844, after firing his own gun and killing two men, Joseph Smith died while attempting to jump from the upstairs window.
Is that the end of the story? Hardly. For Joseph Smith, according to his followers, immediately gained the unique status of martyr. They spoke of his, “shedding his blood for their sakes”. In the aftermath, the followers were divided. Led by the influence of Emma Smith, a reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints emerged, which refused to practice polygamy and other beliefs. The largest faction, still known today as simply, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, moved to Salt Lake Valley. There they were led by a terrific administrator and leader named Brigham Young.
By the time of Brigham Young’s death, Mormonism’s key doctrines of man becoming God, God being an exalted human man with many wives, and Jesus also being an exalted man, became the cornerstones of their beliefs.
Approximately one hundred years ago, the fourth president of the Mormon Church began the process of accommodation and compromise to the American religious scene. That process has been further defined until today, in our generation, the church of Joseph Smith is attempting to be recognized as simply another Christian denomination.
A more recent Mormon leader wrote,
Latter-day saints are Christians because they emphatically believe in Christ, use His name in their official church title and believe in the Bible and the Book of Mormon which testify repeatedly of the reality of Christ and the truth of His teachings.
We will examine what Mormons mean when they say that Jesus Christ is their Savior.