A critique of the church of the Latter Day Saints - a Christian sectIntroduction
Our usual contact with a Mormon comes with a knock at the door and the appearance of two clean-cut young men who ask if they might " leave a blessing." If you are a housewife then you may be offered the 10 minute housewife special. Although they are fairly persistent they are usually well-mannered and trustworthy.
If you allow them into your home, they will give you a well prepared recital of their beliefs. In brief: God has given the world a modern day prophet named Joseph Smith who was commanded to found the true Christian church of the fullness. All other Christian denominations are wrong, their creeds are an abomination in God's sight, they are devoid of truth, they contradict each other, and are divided. Only the LDS (Church of the Latter Day Saints) has the truth. You are then asked to search your heart, to pray that God will confirm in your heart that what they say is true by a warm feeling within. You are then asked if you would like to join the church by baptism and the laying on of hands.
In responding to a Mormon visitor we may touch on the following, although they are well practiced in answering every possible criticism:
i] It should always be stressed that the points of agreement between Christians far outweigh the disagreements.
ii] The major points of agreement have been held firmly by the Christian church from the 1st century till today. eg. the person of Christ, monotheism (one God) etc. Such truths have never been lost.
iii] Although Mormons imply that there is unity in their church only, there have been numerous splits in the Mormon church. The main split occurred after the death of Joseph Smith in 1844. Confusion developed and although Brigham Young took direct control, Smith's son headed a separate group in 1860, which centred on Independence, Missouri, USA. Most of Smith's descendants are members of this group today called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.
Joseph Smith was the son of an impoverished New England farmer. As a young man he gained quite a reputation as a fossicker for buried treasure. In 1820 he claimed to have a vision of God the Father and God the Son in a neighboring wood. He was told that all the churches were false and that he, Joseph Smith, had been chosen to restore true Christianity. In 1823 the angel Moroni appeared at his bedside and told him of the writings of an ancient man called Mormon who wrote upon gold plates. In 1827 he received the plates, unearthed in the hill Cumorah near Palmyra. Here was a book that would again restore the truth of the gospel lost since the third century.
The Lord, he said, gave him some magical goggles ("Urim and Thummin") to translate the "reformed Egyptian" of the plates. The English stood out as he read the plates and was transcribed by an assistant. When all was written he gave the plates to an angel, who disappeared with them.
People began to join with Smith and so communities were set up at Kirtland, Ohio and Missouri. There were growing troubles with the non-Mormons. On one occasion Smith was tarred and feathered. Fights also developed in the church. In 1839 the Mormons were forced to leave Missouri.
Joseph Smith built a new city, Nauvoo, in Illinois, and became its mayor. Again trouble developed. Plural marriages and Smith's questionable land deals stirred up the locals. After rather revealing articles in the local press, some Mormons raided the newspaper office. Smith was arrested and subsequently murdered by Illinois militiamen in June 1844.
Brigham Young took over the leadership of the Mormon church and led a heroic migration to the Great Salt Lake, Utah, where they established their home. In 1851 Brigham Young became Governor, and in 1852 he made polygamy legal in the state. This brought the state into direct conflict with the federal government which dispatched troops to bring Young to heel. Mormon militiamen were able to hold off the federal troops using a scorched earth policy. There were massacres on both sides and finally the church in 1890 abandoned polygamy.
i] History deals harshly with the beginnings of the Mormon church. Murders, riots, fraud etc. yet it should be noted that most of the troubles were caused by their opponents.
ii] The so-called golden plates that so conveniently disappeared, tend to stretch one's credibility. Quite a number of the so-called witnesses who claimed to have seen the plates denied this claim in courts of law at the time. Again, it must be noted that the witnesses were pressured to deny their story.
iii] The source of the story contained in the Golden Plates (the Book of Mormon) has long been disputed. Philastus Hurlbut, who was excommunicated from the Mormon church in 1833, published a book containing affidavits signed by eight persons, claiming that Smith had plagiarized the work of a minister novelist, Solomon Spalding, who had died in 1816. Some recent research has shown strong similarities in the handwriting of Solomon Spalding and parts of the Mormon text attributed to "an unidentified scribe". The issue is unresolved.
The book of Mormon
This is the book Joseph Smith was supposed to have translated from the golden tablets. It tells of the story of two migrations of people to the American continent.
The oldest group, called the Jaredites, left the Near East just after the tower of Babel incident and were largely destroyed by civil war soon after 600BC. The second group was led to America by a prophet, Lehi, who tried to warn king Zedekiah of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Lehi was of the tribe of Manasseh.
At the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (586BC), Zedekiah's daughters fled to Egypt. A son of Zedekiah, referred to as Mulek, along with others, also escaped to Egypt and from there migrated to America. He was of the tribe of Judah. After about three hundred years, the more civilized part of the Lehi colony, called the Nephites, joined with the Mulekites, but were largely destroyed by the other part of the Lehi colony called the Lamanites. This occurred around 420AD.
The Lamanites forgot their beliefs and became savages. They were the ancestors of the American Indians. The Nephites, on the other hand, had developed culturally and built great cities. After Jesus' ascension, he came and visited the Nephites and repeated much of the teachings he had given his disciples in Palestine.
The history and teachings of this people were abridged and written on gold plates by the prophet Mormon. His son, Moroni, made additions and buried the plates in the ground where they remained for about 1400 years until Moroni, as an angel, delivered them to Joseph Smith.
Comments about the book of Mormon
i] The massive civilizations referred to in the book of Mormon bear little relationship to archeological remains in the Americas.
The Nephite civilization supposedly developed in Peru and is to be identified with the Mayans. No archeological site has been identified with the names of the cities mentioned in the book of Mormon.
The geography of the book of Mormon bears no correlation with modern map names. The writer paints much of the action in North America ("The Promised Land"). The final years of the Nephite civilization was in the "North Land", and finally "the land of Cumorah", "a land of many waters, rivers and fountains". This is clearly New York State. The final battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place on the hill of Cumorah where Moroni buried the plates and where Joseph Smith later found them. He described the hill where he found the plates in a stone box covered by a large stone as "convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York".
Where is the evidence of this massive civilization, millions in population, "covering the whole land", great cities, sea ports, ships, massive buildings, temples, synagogues, cement houses etc.? There were no such civilizations in North America. The finding of ancient civilizations in Central and South America was a great relief for Mormons, even if it's nearly impossible to relate them to the book of Mormon.
The Smithsonian Institute states" It can be definitely stated that there is no connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book of Mormon."
ii] When the book of Mormon describes these civilizations, it lists things that just did not exist in the Americas.
Silk, cattle, oxen, cows, sheep, swine, goats, horses, asses, elephants, machinery, weapons and tools of iron, copper, brass and steel, armor of shields, breast plates, helmets, etc. It is possible for Mormons to argue for some of these. The Mastodon (an ancient elephantine animal) existed in North America and possibly only became extinct a few thousand years ago. It was much smaller than the elephant and was covered with long red/brown hair. Also the Incas and Mayans used ceremonial breast plates of gold, but this was not really armor.
iii] What evidence is there that there was once a white race in the Americas pre Columbus?
A Mormon once showed me a photograph of a family of Amazon Indians with two albino children. Case proved? As long as you know nothing about genetics you are safe. Albinos don't mean white ancestors. Some South American art shows fair skinned people pre Columbus, but these designs portray religious significance, ie. they are "sons of god". Of course it is possible that Europeans migrated by raft or boat to the Americas, it's just that there is no evidence to support the theory.
iv] Use of American Indian legend to support the Book of Mormon.
The great white God Quetzalcoatal is identified with Jesus Christ because he was a god who performed miracles and healings and knew the future. He was actually one of the major deities of the Mexican pantheon, known as the Feathered Serpent. Initially a vegetation god linked to the rain god Thaloc. Later a war God ( human sacrifice) identified with Venus..... and finally the wind god. It is quite absurd to compare such a person with Jesus.
Because the ancient Americans believed in a god, life after death, etc., shows they are made in the image of God, not that Jesus once visited them and taught them.
Ixlilxochitl, an ancient Mexican historian, speaks of the migrations by sea of their forefathers. He even tells a story similar to the tower of Babel, "The Great Tower". We shouldn't be surprised that ancient peoples throughout the world preserve similar traditions of human origins.
v] The King James Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Large slabs of the King James Bible are recorded in the Book of Mormon supposedly coming from the Gold Plates. How is it possible that the same textual errors that crept into the King James Bible should have found their way into the Nephrite record when the Lord visited them after his resurrection and taught them his original (and uncorrupted) teachings?
vi] The first edition of the Book of Mormon contained quite a few errors, not all just grammatical.
There was some 2,000 changes in the text, eg. Nephi 11:21. "Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the eternal Father" becomes "even the Son of the Eternal Father".
vii] the origin of the American Indian.
According to the Book of Mormon the American Indians are of Mediterranean extract, ie. Caucasoid - Jews given a dark skin by God because of their evil ways. Actually they have an Asian (Mongoloid) stem line, but have become genetically separate from the peoples of other geographical regions because of their many thousands of years of isolation.
Other Mormon scriptures
"Pearl of Great Price". A doctrinal revelation.
"Book of Abraham". An inspired papyrus translated by Smith. He produced some facsimiles which were later shown to be parts of common Egyptian funerary texts. The originals are held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
"Doctrine and Covenants". A selection of revelations to Smith and one to Young.
1. There are many gods
Christianity is a monotheistic religion. There is but one God, Lord and Creator of the whole universe. As far as the world is concerned, "there are lords many and gods many, but to us there is one God, the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ."
The Mormons teach that there are many Gods. "In the beginning the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it", Journal of Discourse.
2. Adam was God the Father
The clear teaching of Genesis is that Adam was created by the Lord God creator of the whole universe.
The Mormons think differently. "When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body and brought Eve, one of his celestial wives, with him .... he is our Father and our God and the only God with whom we have to do", Brigham Young.
3. The Gods are beings of flesh and bone
Christians, following the Bible, regard God as Spirit. Jn.4:24.
The Mormons teach: "The Father has a body of flesh and bone as tangible as man's", Doctrine and Covenants. They get this from verses in the Bible like "the arm of the Lord", yet these are only metaphors, otherwise we have problems with Psalm 91, where God is spoken of as "covering with his feathers" and man "trusting under his wings".
4. The Father had actual intercourse with Mary to conceive Jesus
Christians, following the clear teaching of the Bible, hold that Mary was a virgin up until the time of giving birth to Jesus. Also the actual conception was the work of the Holy Spirit. "She was found with child by the Holy Spirit", Matt.1:18.
Mormon' teaching is quite opposed to this - "He (Jesus) was not begotten by the Holy Ghost..... Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden and who is our Father in heaven", Brigham Young.
5. Salvation involves faith and works
The Bible clearly states salvation is solely a free gift through faith in Christ, Eph.2:8 -10.
The Mormons hold that there must be baptism, good works and keeping of the commandments. "Some of our old traditions teach us that a man guilty of atrocious and murderous acts may savingly repent on the scaffold and upon his execution will hear the expression: 'Bless God, he has gone to heaven to be crowned in glory through the all-redeeming merits of Christ the Lord.' This is all nonsense. Such a character will never see heaven." Journal of Discourses. Prophet Young never did explain how the penitent thief, crucified beside Jesus, could be told by Jesus, "today shalt thou be with me in paradise".
6. Millennial scheme
At the moment the true church is pointing the way (the Mormon church). Soon Jesus will return to Zion (Utah or Missouri, USA, depending on which branch of the Mormon church you belong to). Then will occur the 1st resurrection followed by a 1,000 years of activity at Zion (Baptizing the dead etc.). Then will come the 2nd return of Christ and all will go into one of three kingdoms:
i] Celestial, Mormons who will become gods;
ii] Terrestrial, good people;
iii] Telestial, the rest.
7. Other teachings
i] The human soul is pre-existent
ii] A human can become God
iii] Jesus was the brother of the Devil
iv] Jesus was married to both Martha and Mary
v] All people are Sons of God. The Bible teaches, "but as many as received him to them gave he power to become sons of God", Jn.1:12.
The wilder teachings of the Latter Day Saints church tend not to be openly taught. Many LDS would not be aware of these views. In some cases they are conveniently forgotten, or kept to the deeper orders of membership. Quite a few of the views originate from Brigham Young who was the source of some strange ideas.
There are two main issues:
i] An unwillingness to rest solely upon the Bible for an authoritative word from God.
ii] An unwillingness to rest solely upon faith in Christ for salvation. Baptism and laying on of hands by an LDS minister, membership in the LDS church, and good works, are all necessary requirements for salvation.
Remember, the members of the LDS church are for the most part, decent and caring people. There are also many who believe in Jesus, but who are theologically confused. One may visit you soon. Will you love him as a brother when he calls? Sharing your faith should be your response to an LDS missionary.
Index of studies. Resource file.
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons