Religious revivals were common in the Finger Lakes region of New York in the early 19th century. A young farm boy named Joseph Smith was encouraged to become a part of such a movement. This teenager went into a grove of trees near his home to ask God which church was right. God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and declared that all the churches were wrong, and all their creeds were an abomination in God’s sight. Smith was told to join none of the churches. This is a significant event, called the “First Vision” in Mormonism.
Later Joseph was visited by an angel named Moroni. Moroni revealed to him the existence of a set of golden plates on which was inscribed the history of the ancient people of the New World. After several years, Smith was allowed to remove these plates from where they had been buried on a hillside, a hill called Cumorah. Through supernatural means, Joseph Smith was able to translate the plates. The translation became a book called The Book of Mormon, which was published in 1830. Later that year Smith organized a church which he claimed was the true, restored church of Jesus Christ.
Thus was born the American home-grown religion of Mormonism. This religion, officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is one of the most bizarre religions ever concocted by man (or devil). Many whole books have been written describing the complicated and confusing teachings of the Mormon Church. Allow me to just summarize a few of these:
• God is an exalted man, and has a physical body
• God has spiritual wives in heaven, who give birth to spirit children.
• We were all born as spirit children in a place called the First Estate
• The Fall was necessary for salvation to occur.
• The Father and Son are two separate beings—two different gods
• God is the literal father of Jesus in the flesh
• The LDS Church is the only true church
• The LDS are the true Israelites
• The living Prophet and President of the Church is inspired and speaks for God
• God has restored the priesthoods through Joseph Smith and the LDS Church.
• The two priesthoods are necessary for salvation. These priesthoods are the Aaronic and Melchizedek.
• Baptism is the new birth; and baptism forgives us of our sins
• There are secret Temple ceremonies, based on Freemasonry, which a devout Mormon is expected to observe.
• You can be baptized for the dead
• We must work and obey all of God’s commands to have eternal life
• There are three heavens (but only Mormons go to the third and highest heaven)
• There is a process of eternal progression—people can go from being born as spirit children, to becoming physical beings, to exaltation as a god.
• Being sealed in a Temple marriage ceremony is required for eternal life
• You can become a god
• Once deified you will have your own spirit children
Summary of Beliefs
God: God is an exalted, resurrected man, with a physical body. There are many gods. The
trinity consists of three separate gods.
Jesus: Jesus was the first-born spiritual son of God in spiritual realm. He was born of a literal
physical relationship between God and Mary. Jesus had to advance to become a god.
Salvation: All men are saved by grace in the sense that they can be resurrected. But to achieve
eternal life in the highest heaven requires baptism, good works, the priesthood, and
Human nature: We are “gods in embryo” and have the potential to advance to become gods.
Sin: There is no such thing as original sin. Each person is accountable for his own sins.
Afterlife: There are three heavens. Only good Mormons go to the highest heaven. There is a
hell, but it is temporary for most people. There is a strong belief in bodily resurrection.
Scripture: There are four standard works of Scripture: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine
and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price.
Truth: Truth is revealed by God, through the Scriptures and through living prophets. God can
redefine and alter truth as need be. The words of a living prophet are more important
than the written Scriptures.