Jeffery L. Sheler in usnews.com gives one of the best factual appraisals of Mormonism. He writes: Nearly half of the world’s 11 million Mormons live in the United States. The church’s growth rate over the past 30 years far outstrips those of other major U.S. denominations. By almost any measure, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the world’s richest and fastest-growing religious movements (usnews.com The Mormon Moment).
The 2012 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, based on the 2010 census, revealed that in the last ten years The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints added 2 million new members. “It is the fastest-growing religious group in the U.S.”
Some of the more well known Mormons are author, Stephen Covey, Senator Orrin Hatch, conservative Glen Beck and of course Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Mormonism today wants to be considered just another Christian denomination. That is a departure from original Mormonism. That is why I am calling this study, New Mormonism.
1. What is New Mormonism?
Before I discuss New Mormonism, let’s trace the history of Old Mormonism. Stephen Davey provides an excellent survey of what Mormonism teaches that I will outline.
1) God the Father had a father
Many years ago, on one of the planets, a spirit child was born whose parent gods named him Elohim. Later, this spirit child was born to human parents and given a physical body. The child grew and became obedient to the teachings of certain doctrines and, after his death, he was resurrected and elevated to godhood, as his father before him.
2) God the Father has many wives
Elohim now lives with his many celestial wives far away in the galaxy near a mysterious star base named Kolob. Here, Elohim, the Father God of Mormonism lives and produces millions of spirit beings who await physical bodies on our planet earth.
3) God the Father has a son, Jesus, whose brother was Lucifer
Now, Elohim wanted to institute a plan to help his human creations find their way to godhood. Elohim called his spirit sons to him to decide. One of those spirit sons, named Lucifer, wanted to force obedience from the humans. Another spirit son, named Jesus, suggested that people be given a choice and that he be allowed to become flesh and come to earth to show them the way. A vote was taken and Jesus’ plan won.
Lucifer became so angry that he convinced one-third of the other spirit children to revolt. Thus, he became the devil and his followers, the demons. They were banished to earth and denied the possibility of inhabiting human form.
4) Jesus had many wives
Elohim, in his physical body, then came to planet earth and had relations with Mary, so that Jesus could be given a physical body and the plan of salvation could begin. Jesus grew and married Martha, Mary, and Mary Magdalene. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He came to the Americas and preached to the Indians, who were actually descendants of Israel’s lost tribes. He established a church in the Americas, yet that church failed to gain a foothold.
The last living follower, however, was able to record Jesus’ plan of salvation by writing it on golden plates in ancient Egyptian symbols.
5) In 1820, Joseph Smith experienced his “First Vision.” Smith saw both God the Father and the Son in separate physical bodies. Mormonism teaches that the Trinity is made up of three gods. Deuteronomy 6:4 clearly teaches that “The Lord our God is one Lord.”
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.
If this statement by Smith is true how can New Mormonism be just another Christian denomination?
6) In 1823, Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Moroni
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.
7) In 1830, Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon
Ten years after his first vision, the Book of Mormon was published. In that same year, April of 1830, Smith organized, what was then called, the Church of Christ.
8) In 1831, Smith bought land in Independence, Missouri
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. 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.
9) In 1844, Joseph Smith died
On June 27, 1844, after firing his own gun and killing two men, Joseph Smith died while attempting to jump from the upstairs window. 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 led by 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.
B. Change to New Mormonism
New York, NY – June 29, 2007 – Beliefnet.com, hosted a heated exchange about whether Mormons can truly be called Christians. In a blogalogue at www.FaithOff.com, two of America’s most noted and respected religious voices sounded off on this question and explored how it could potentially affect the 2008 presidential election. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., evangelical theologian and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes that Mormons cannot be called Christians according to traditional Christian orthodoxy. Orson Scott Card, an award-winning sci-fi author and committed member of the Church of Latter-day Saints, begs to differ.
Orson Scott Card in an on-line debate with Al Mohler said, “we define ‘Christians’ as the way most people would: ‘Believers in the divinity of Christ and in the necessity of the grace of Christ in order to be saved in the Kingdom of God.’
In the debate Mohler made this observation: Indeed, the subtitle printed on The Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” A “testament,” that is, other than that accepted by the historic Christian churches.
In Part 2, we will study the doctrine of New Mormonism.