Mormonism

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Mormonism, is a religious movement founded by Joseph Smith in the early 1800's. The official name of the church today is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes shortened to LDS to refer to both the church or its members. Mormonism is one of the few young religions, based on Christianity, along with Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology, to have survived with any significant membership.

Contents

Church History

The LDS church was founded by Joseph Smith. The official story is that a fourteen-year-old, Joseph Smith, walked into a grove of trees, near his home in Palmyra, New York, to pray. During his prayers, he asked God to tell him which church was true. In answer to his prayers, God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, appeared to the young Smith and told him that there was no true church on this earth. Furthermore, Joseph Smith proclaimed that God and Jesus (although this version of the revelation would be changed many times) told him that he had been chosen by God to restore God's "true church" on this earth. This first revelation is usually set in the Spring of 1820.

He likened himself to Moses and Paul of Tarsus, of biblical times.

It is the claim of Joseph Smith that, over the next ten years (from 1820-1830), he was visited by other heavenly messengers. Mainly an angel named Moroni. Moroni was the last historian of a people that lived in ancient america named the Nephites.

He told Joesph that hidden in a near by hillside was a record engraved on golden plates, that contained the history of his people. HE told Joseph he was to get these plates and translate them. This is what ultimately became the Book of Mormon.

The church was orginized on April 6th, 1830.

Church members are known as Mormons, or amoung themselves the saints. The Mormon Church is officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Church headquarters are located in Salt Lake City, Utah.

(need to add more detail and expound)

Great Migration to Salt Lake City

Prophets

Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith Jr. was born in Sharon, Vermont, to Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith, on December 23, 1805. Smith grew up on a series of tenant farms in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. Smith's education consisted of a very limited exposure to the reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is known however that his Father Joseph Sr. was a school teacher.

In 1823, Joseph Smith said he was visited by an angel named Moroni, who told him of an ancient record containing God's dealings with the former inhabitants of the American continent. These writings served as the foundation of the Mormon religion, with Joseph Smith as prophet.

Brigham Young

Brigham Young became the second prophet, or president, of the Mormon church after Joseph Smith was killed. He led the great migration from Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley.

Holy Books

Despite claims that they are Christians, LDS members do not solely rely upon the Bible as a basis for their beliefs. According to Mormonism's eighth Article of Faith, "(they) Believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." The "in so far as it is translated correctly" leads to the ninth Article of Faith: "Mormons believe in continuing revelation." So, while the LDS Church recognizes the King James Version of the Bible as "a text", the understanding is that the Bible is not correctly translated and may be added to by later prophets.

Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon (BoM) is, according to Mormons, "another testimony of Jesus Christ." This tome is a saga that spans from approximately 600BC to 421AD. It proports to tell the story of the "Lost Tribes of Israel" that floated to the North American Continent. The BoM has 15 books, which are divided into chapter and verse, much like the Bible. Mormons believe that this work, by Joseph Smith, is more accurate than the Bible itself.

Joseph Smith claims that he was shown the "golden tablets", upon which the BoM was written in "reformed Egyptian", during the second vision. An angel, Moroni, proportedly entered the bedroom of Joseph Smith, in 1823 (although this date changes depending on the source), and revealed the location of the buried, Golden Tablets. Moroni also instructed Joseph in the use of the Urim and Thummin (seer stone) which would help translate the tablets. Moroni apparently came a third time and cautioned Joseph that he should not try to make any money off of the golden plates/tablets. The next day, Joseph claims to have found the golden plates buried on the hillside that Moroni had dictated. Each day, for four years, Joseph claims to have revisited the spot (where the plates were buried), only to be turned away by Moroni. Finally, in 1827, Joseph was allowed to unearth and take home the plates. Joseph claimed "each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common tin.... The volume was something near six inches in thickness....”(Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, v3:9, March 1, 1842, 707.) Scholars have pointed out that, if Smith's description were true, the plates would have weighed around 200 pounds. Yet, Smith claims that he "ran, with the plates tucked under his arm" through the woods, to his home. His wife, Emma Smith, later recalled that she "occasionally lifted the plates, covered in cloth" to dust under.

A translation of the plates began in 1829. Eyewitnesses claimed that they saw Joseph; place the seer stones into a hat, cover his head with a cloth, and then dictate the translation to transcribers. After 116 pages of the BoM had been transcribed, Martin Harris asked Joseph if he might take those pages to his wife, Lucy. Lucy was skeptical of Smith's claims about the BoM and wanted to see the work for herself. Smith agreed to let Harris take the 116 pages home to Lucy. Upon receiving the pages, Lucy destroyed them (though, by what means is still unknown). She told her husband that; If Smith was the prophet, then he should be able to retranslate the work with ease. Harris returned to Smith with great trepidation. Smith was angry! He spent two days in prayer. When he emerged from prayer, he told Harris and Emma Smith, that an angel had appeared before him and told him not to re-write the missing 116 pages. The angel had instructed him to cease work on the "Book of Lehi" and instead write the "Book of Nephi". The Book of Nephi would be similar to the Book of Lehi, but since they were written from different point of views, of course, there might be a few differences.

The Book of Mormon was printed in 1830.

Doctrine and Covenants

The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of "revelations" that Joseph recieved from Jesus Christ. It contains amoung other things instructions for how the church should be run. It was originally called the "Book of Commandments"

A key section is D&C 132 which gives the requirements for Polygamy. Specificly versus 61-65.

Pearl of Great Price

At 60 pages, the Pearl of Great Price is the thinnest of Joseph Smith's works. The main section is the Book of Abraham. Smith bought Egyptian papyri from a travelling mummy exhibit and proclaimed, to his followers, that the papyri contained the Book of Abraham. He claimed it was written by Abraham in his own hand. According to Smith, the papyri recounts the story of Abraham's early life as well as a vision he received concerning the creation of the world. The book is a source of some distinctive and controversial Latter-day Saint doctrines such as the exaltation of humanity, the plurality of gods, priesthood, pre-mortal existence, and other inhabited worlds in the cosmos.

For many years the original papyri were considered lost. In 1966 eleven fragments of the papyri were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Modern Egyptologist have studied these and found them to be a funerary document for a man named Hor, dating to around the 2nd century B.C.

Also contained in the Pearl of Great Price are several other texts. included are The Book of Moses, The Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith—Matthew, Joseph Smith—History and The Articles of Faith. The Joseph Smith history was written in 1838 and is considered the offical account by the modern LDS church. However several other histories written or orated by Smith exist and have some contraditory accounts.

Other official Mormon publications

Journal of Discourses

The Journal of Discourses (often abbreviated J.D.) is a 26-volume collection of public sermons by early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first editions of the Journal were published in England by George D. Watt, the stenographer of Brigham Young. Publication began in 1854, with the endorsement of the church's First Presidency, and ended in 1886. The Journal is one of the richest sources of early Mormon theology and thinking. It includes 1,438 sermons given by 55 church leaders, including most numerously Brigham Young, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, and George Q. Cannon.

While the J.D. is not considered scripture by the modern church it is still important to it's history.

Church Doctrine

Mormon world view

The following statement best sums up how LDS members understand the universe and their purpose: As humans are, God used to be; as God is, humans may become. The conclusion might be drawn, then, that Mormonism is a polytheistic system. For if you accept that all humans might become God, you then set up the potential for more than one God. Mormons often argue that the beings of this earth need not concern themselves with those "other Gods" since their allegiance is only to God the Father, of this earth.

Mormons believe that a person's existence doesn't begin with their birth. Mormons believe that all people lived, as sprirts, in another realm before being born on this planet. Mormons view this earthly life as a test. For Mormons, there is no beginning and end to their lives, because each person has an eternal essence that has always existed. Mormons explain the physical form (or body) as the "house that God built" for your eternal soul.

Mormons beleive that the faithful will be exalted to the Celestial Kingdom (the highest of three levels of heaven). Here they will become Gods and populate their own planets with spirit children. It is believed that in order to become a God a man must have at least three wives. While polygamy is not practiced by the modern main branch of the Mormon church, devote members beleive there will be Polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom.

Polygamy

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the largest church devoted to the Latter-Day Saint movement, openly endorsed and encouraged polygamous relationships for nearly the first century of its existence. Early church leaders such as Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, Jr. had as many as 50 wives, and preached that it was the only way to enter heaven. As the Utah Territory, settled by Mormon pioneers, fought the government of the United States for recognition as a state, the Church came under criticism for its practice of polygamy, and in 1890, Church president Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto that renounced the practice, as a condition of Utah's statehood.

Today, practice of polygamy can lead to disfellowship (excommunication) from the LDS church, and the church claims it works with the government to stop those who practice polygamy. Nevertheless, many Latter-Day saint sects, collectively known as fundamentalist Mormons, continue the practice of polygamy, outside the recognition of the LDS church or the US government, seeing it as a sacrament. The largest of these groups is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church), which is based in Texas and has approximately 10,000 members across North America.

Temples and ceremonies

The Priesthood

The two priesthoods that the Mormons claim are the Aaronic priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood, referred to collectively as simply the Priesthood. Both of these priesthoods are constituted by various offices and priviledges, called keys, that constitute the Mormon leadership heirarchy. The priesthood is passed, by the laying on of hands, from one priesthood holder higher up on the heirarchy.

Mormons believe that these priesthoods are the only authentic priesthoods on Earth, and that all other churches claiming divine authority from God are without authority. Mormons believe that Peter, one of Jesus's original apostles, was given the priesthood keys. But they believe that the chain of heirarchy was broken and that the Catholic church is bereft of any authority. God supposedly restored these priesthoods to the earth through Joseph Smith.

All the rituals of the Mormon church are conducted by authorized priesthood holders, including baptisms, temple weddings (known as sealings), and general-purpose blessings.

Women's roles in Mormonism

Mormon society, like most of Christianity, is a patriarchy. Women are subordinate to men in the organization of the church and family structures. Women are prohibited from holding either of the church's two priesthoods, and thus are prohibited from holding priesthood based callings or leadership positions within the church. Women do hold leadership positions in the church's women's organizations, such as the Relief Society.

During the Mormon church's bi-annual broadcasts, known as general conference, the majority of the speakers are the male leaders of the church.

As children, girls and boys are separated by gender into separate Sunday school classes. They also share co-ed classes and meetings as part of the regular three hour block of Sunday meetings.

Church leaders repeatedly recommend that women, when possible, should stay at home and rear children rather than pursue professional carreers.

Adam-God doctrine

Brigham Young (who was the 2nd prophet of the LDS church) taught that Adam and God where in fact the same being. He taught that God came with one of his many wives to the Garden of Eden, and he was Adam. - Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50

Eternal progression

Eternal progression refers to as the continual development of the soul. Mormons consider each human soul to be the spiritual offspring of God, the Father. All humans who have lived, or will live on Earth, are considered to have been spiritually conceived, as spirit children, by God and one or more of his presumed wives. Jehovah is considered the firstborn spirit child of God. Satan and his followers are also spirit children. Mormons also believe that there are other habitable planets (such as Kolob) in the universe, also inhabited by God's children, though Christ lived, died and was resurrected only on this planet. Thus, Mormons believe that Jesus died for the sins of all human mortals, on all planets in the universe. Presumably, there would be other gods' children in the universe, all with their own saviours, going through the same cycle of eternal progression. Whether Mormons consider these humans, belonging to other gods, to be in a separate universe of ours is the matter of some debate.

All spirit children have the potential, through eternal progression, to become gods in their own right, provided they follow God's plan. God himself is considered by Mormons to have once been a spirit child of yet other gods, an also passed through a mortal life, gaining a physical body and following his own eternal progression to his current state of godhood. Gods are thought to be eternally progressing, even though they are considered perfect, through the maturation of their spiritual progeny.

The cycle of spiritual death, physical death and redemption from both through a messianic sacrifice is continual according to this model. The goals of the cycle for each individual include: baptism by immersion, receving the gift of the Holy Ghost, achieving the highest levels of the Mormon priesthood and the various Mormon temple rites. Those who follow God's plan will eventually live with God and Christ in the Celestial kingdom. Those who do not follow that plan will receive lesser degrees of glory and live in either the Terrestrial kingdom, Telestial kingdom or Outer darkness.

Counter-apologetics

The concept of Eternal progression, and of humans as gods in the making, runs into the infinite regress of Who created God?.

Eternal families

Mormons believe that marital and familial bonds can continue beyond death if those family members are sealed in a Mormon temple by a priesthood holder designated as a sealer. Sealed families will remain families in the afterlife, and will be together if they all go to the same kingdom. Deceased family members may also be sealed, provide they have been baptised posthumously, by proxy.

The doctrine of eternal families is problematic, as the Mormon church does grant petitions to divorced couples to have their sealings annulled. Also, only those who have been baptised into the Mormon church and are vetted through an interview process may enter a temple to perform temple rituals. So Mormons, who's spouses are not baptized, may not be sealed to their children.


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