As we continue to study the Mormon Church, we will take a look at its history, condensed of course. Many religions start with a vision or an angelic visitation and Mormonism is no exception.I wanted to be sure I was correct in presenting the following historical information so I checked official Mormon sources to verify the basic facts. For more detail than I can share here, please research the many books and online sources concerning the Mormons.
The story of the Mormon faith began with a vision received by its founder, Joseph Smith. According to the Church, Joseph Smith was selected by God to be His messenger. In 1820, when Joseph was only 14 years old, he retreated to a grove of trees nearby to pray and seek God.
Joseph was trying to determine where God’s truth was to be found and which denomination held the true message of the Church. As he sought an answer, according to his testimony, a light descended down upon him and he beheld a vision of the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
As the vision continued, Jesus told Joseph not to join any of the established churches. Jesus said that none of them had the authority to baptize or perform other ordinances of the Church necessary for salvation. This vision marked the beginning of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth, which God authorized to be established 10-years later by a wiser, heaven-tutored Joseph Smith, once again allowing everyone to receive the joy and blessings that come from living it.
About three years later, the angel Moroni visited Smith. It was then that he received some golden plates that had the ancient record of earlier inhabitants of North America. These records would be later recorded in Smith’s future book, The Book of Mormon. He also obtained two “seer stones” during Moroni’s visit. Smith used the stones, which many associate with the occult today, first to seek treasures but later to receive revelations from God.
In 1830 the Book of Mormon was published and the Mormon Church was officially established. The Book of Mormon is considered by Mormons to be Scripture, equal with the Bible. Millions of copies have been distributed worldwide. You can even find them in many hotel rooms along with a King James Bible.
On June 27, 1844, Smith was murdered by a mob. His brother Hyrum was also killed. At the time Smith was the Mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois and was running for President of the United States.
The question we have to ask is who was Joseph Smith. This depends on who you ask. The Mormons, of course, believe he was a prophet of God. Others think he was a fraud, a magician, a conman, or worse. Again, you have to decide.
Next week, we will look at Mormon theology. Some of it is very controversial especially among mainline denominations. Most mainliners would label the Church of Latter Day Saints as a cult and in the same category as Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science, or Scientology. The verdict will be left up to you.