The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its adherents follow a path known as Mormonism. What differentiates this secretive group from other branches of Christianity? Why were Mormons persecuted? Does the Vatican agree with the belief structure of Mormons?
Mormonism actually has several factions. The most dominant branch is that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This Church has around 16 million members worldwide.
During the early 1800s, a person from New York by the name of Joseph Smith claimed to have seen visions of two entities which he assumed to be God and Jesus Christ. He claimed that these entities—along with other beings—led him to a series of buried golden plates; and that these plates spoke of a people that migrated from Jerusalem to North America around 600 BC. This nation grew, and then it split up and divided, and they often fought each other. A tale also described Jesus Christ coming to visit these people after his ascension to heaven.
Mormon is supposedly the name of the author of one of the golden plates. Mormon’s son Moroni was supposedly an angel and led Joseph Smith to the plates. Joseph Smith had thus acquired the plates, and they were written in an ancient “Reformed Egyptian” language. He was then gifted by Moroni with the ability to understand and translate them. Thereafter, Joseph Smith came to believe that Christianity—as practiced during his time—was false. He taught and proclaimed that the religious leaders were corrupt and that the Church had strayed far from the reality of God. This was when the movement of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) began.
All the members of the group are considered saints, and due to the fact that they are found in latter-day times—in contradistinction to Biblical Times—they called themselves Latter-Day Saints.
LDS members believe in the Bible like other Christians do, but they feel that they recognize the errors—caused by translations—which had crept into the text over thousands of years. They complement the Old Testament and New Testament with the Book of Mormon as well as other documents which they also consider to be the word of God. They give preference to newer documents over older ones because they feel that the later translation has been carried out more accurately.
A question that comes to mind:
How do Mormons decide what has been translated correctly or incorrectly when they don’t even possess the original scriptures in order to compare between them?
Articles of Faith
- God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Ghost are three distinct beings. God and Jesus Christ have physical bodies, but not the Holy Ghost.
- Man will be punished for his own sins, not the sins of Adam. Mormonism does not believe in the Original Sin concept like other Christian denominations do.
- Jesus Christ atoned for all sin so that mankind can be saved.
- Ordinances: Baptism, faith, repentance, and confirmation.
- A man should be called by prophecy to lead the Church and should be authorized by past leadership to preach the Gospel and administer ordinances.
- The structure of the Church must resemble the Church of old, including roles like apostles, prophets, and teachers.
- Belief in the gift of tongues, prophecies, vision, healing, etc.
- The Bible is the word of God if translated correctly. The Book of Mormon is also the word of God.
- God is always revealing truths to mankind that pertain to the everlasting kingdom of God.
- All the tribes of Israel will be reunited in America under the rule of Jesus Christ.
- Respect others who believe differently than you and people who have different ways of worshipping.
- Obey the Rulers and follow the laws.
- Followers should be honest, true, and virtuous; doing good to all men. Seek after anything lovely or good.
Some LDS members memorize these articles and most live by them.
Some thoughts that arise:
How can Mormons persuade the rest of the Christian world that the Book of Mormon is also the word of God?
What position do Mormons hold within the Christian world for denying the concept of original sin?
Polygamy was made popular by the LDS during its early days. Joseph Smith was called out for polygamy and acts seen as hypocritical by a newspaper in Illinois. Joseph Smith called this libel and caused the newspaper to shut down by using the City Council. The newspaper responded with claims of treason from Joseph Smith. He then surrendered to the police. In jail, Joseph Smith and his brother were attacked and killed by a mob. The LDS stopped polygamy later on. Rare cases of polygamy among Mormons are still found today.
Persecution of Mormons
After his death, many Mormons were killed in Illinois and Missouri. Mormons were classified as enemies of the state and militias attacked Mormons violently during the 1830s. Brigham Young led the Church followers and took them to the area where Salt Lake City now is. Utah is now the base for Mormons in the USA.
Young Church members engage in missionary work to spread the Gospel or for humanitarian causes. This is voluntary work. Door-to-door propagation has brought the movement hundreds of thousands of new followers.
Mormon was previously used as a derogatory term but was later accepted and utilized widely. However, Mormons prefer the term Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Mormons significantly differ from other Christians when it comes to belief in the afterlife. Mormons believe that every person will be given a moment to accept their salvation or to deny it and that this moment will occur either in this life or in the afterlife. According to them, most will deny salvation and will resist it, and those who deny salvation will end up in ‘outer darkness’ for eternity.
The rest of the people will be divided into three tiers, called Kingdoms.
The highest kingdom is the celestial kingdom, which is for people who believed in Jesus Christ, lived faithfully and repented continuously. It is said that they will be with God, enjoying this heaven with their families.
The second kingdom is the Terrestrial Kingdom, which is for those who did good works but were swayed by earthly means. It is said that they will be visited by Jesus Christ but not God.
The third Kingdom is the Telestial Kingdom, which is for those who did not accept the Gospel when presented with the opportunity. They will have to spend time in ‘spirit prison’ facing punishment. ‘Baptism for the Dead’ can be performed in order to redeem such people. However, this is done only upon the families’ request as Jews objected to it being done for Holocaust victims. The imprisonment time will eventually end, after which the person will live in the lowest Kingdom for eternity. This Kingdom will have neither God nor Jesus but is still understood to be beyond comprehension.
Mormonism and the Christian World
Christians would be reluctant to include Mormons under the umbrella of Christianity. In fact, other Christians send missionaries to Mormons.
The tension probably stems from the highly secretive Mormon Church. For example, only Church members are allowed to enter a Church and they are not allowed to discuss anything that happens inside. In fact, guests cannot enter even at weddings, but they are shown an educational video regarding what the ceremony entails.
In 2019, the Church reversed its position on the blessings and baptisms of the children of LGBTQ couples, saying that such baptisms no longer need special approval from church leaders. In addition, gay marriage—while still considered ‘a serious transgression’—is no longer treated as apostasy in terms of church discipline.
Something to ponder upon:
Whilst Mormons are ostensibly virtuous, it seems that even they have fallen in line with others regarding the LGBTQ issue. What would the Book of Mormon say about all this?
We can only look on in amazement at the bizarre state of affairs. After studying the above, we raise our hands in gratitude to Allah Ta’ala for the guidance of Islam.
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