“i’m going to tell you how god came to be god. we have imagined and supposed that god was god from all eternity. i will refute that idea and take away the veil so you may see…he was once a man like us: yeah, that god himself, the father of us all, dwelt on earth, the same as jesus christ himself did.”
from teachings of the prophet joseph smith
with mitt romney challenging barack obama for the presidency, i thought it would be something to read up a bit and spell out some of the particular beliefs of the church of jesus christ of latter day saints, since many in this country know very little about the mormons.
interestingly, at the first republican party convention in 1856, their platform contained the following language: “fight the twin relics of barbarism – polygamy and slavery”. the republicans were anti-mormon because of polygamy and various anti-american stances the mormons had taken. the church leaders also endorsed slavery. democrat stephen douglas, in the following presidential election, counted on the mormons and backed their squatters rights of sovereignty. he was defeated by abraham lincoln.
but given the current presidential race, a lot are calling it the ‘mormon moment’ – a time prophesied to come when a mormon would take power in the americas. but romney isn’t the first mormon (or even the first romney) to take a stab at the presidency. mitt’s father ran but didn’t get the nomination. this has puzzled me a bit because he was born in mexico while his parents were living on a mormon mission there. george romney wasn’t a natural born us citizen, nor was he born in a us territory or on a us military base, so i don’t know that he had a legal basis for running. why were his parents in mexico in the first place? it wasn’t simple missionary work. many mormons originally went to mexico so that they could continue to practice polygamy. and yes, mitt romney’s ancestors practiced polygamy.
in addition to the two romney’s running for president, the church founder, joseph smith, also ran for president in 1844.
up front i think i should say that i have never been close to being mormon. i currently live in utah, but did not grow up here. i came to utah for the first time in 1994 or so, and up until then i had only heard the word ‘mormon’ in an offhand way. i never had reason or cause to investigate it, and i don’t think that before i moved here i had ever talked to a single mormon.
but being in utah, it’s a thing you learn something about. a lot of non-mormons here are really hard on mormons. they complain that they stifle and ruin the culture, that they are judgmental, boring, uninspired and sheeplike. i don’t see them as any different from anyone else or any other religious group, as far as the individual goes.
mormons believe and follow a totally self serving belief system which comforts them and assures them of certain rewards and blessings if they believe, behave and contribute.
it’s just the odd specifics of some of their beliefs, some of them beliefs they don’t like to talk about publicly too much, that i mean to share for those who might not be aware of them.
it is a religion which borrows liberally from other faiths and scriptures. it has a curiously comic but very specific origin story, because it is so historically new. the mormons have a history of being anti-american, until it suited them – with spates of violence and rebellion filling that gap. they believe in revelation and prophecy, and despite the moniker ‘the church of jesus christ of latter day saints’ they really are not ‘christians’.
mormons believe that the book of mormon is the most correct book of all. they believe that every person that has ever existed is a spiritual brother or sister. nothing new there so far…. but they go on to believe that there really is not just one god, but many gods. mormons are essentially polytheists.
for them, god was once a human being and grew to be a god. they believe jesus was the first born son to god and one of his 1000′s of wives. they maintain that jesus wasn’t born to be our savior, but that he became one through a vote of a ‘council’ of gods.
mormons believe that they too can become gods. they further believe that if they reach the highest level of glory they will eventually get their own planet when they die. god supposedly lives on a planet called kolob.
for mormons, there are three degrees of glory for all mankind: the telestial kingdom (doctrine and covenants 76:103), the terrestrial kingdom and the celestial kingdom (76:58). the celestial kingdom is, of course, the highest.
maybe i’m getting ahead of myself. let’s go back to the beginning:
“the bible is so full of errors, one can hardly believe a word in it”
mark e peterson (mormon apostle)
from the book the way of the master
joseph smith was the founder of the church. he was born in 1805. he was born into an area of upstate new york that was given to revivals and end of days preachers, so much so that it became known as the ‘burned over district’. joseph, his brother and his father all had some limited involvement in the occult. his father was said to have the ‘gift’ of visions. i am not certain if this involvement was because they actually believed it or because inciting occult practices helped in short term con games.
joseph engaged in glass looking. this was a con wherein a special stone or glass is used to ‘determine’ the location of treasure, other valuables or even water. by and by this leads to joseph being charged in court.
where they were living was home to many indian burial grounds, and the idea that they were living in an area where ‘treasures’ could be found permeated. so too did the idea already exist that the lost tribe of israel might be somehow interred there.
in the spring of 1820, as a teenager, he went to a grove to ask god what church to join. he said that god and jesus both appeared to him over the sun and told him that all the earths churches were wrong, and that all their creeds were an abomination.
six years later is when smith is criminally charged for his necromantic exercises of glass looking and money digging. this link is for the 1826 court proceeding against joseph smith
it is some months after this that joseph smith said that he was visited three times (religions are real big on things in threes: visitations, trinities, books, etc) by an angel named ‘moroni’.
joseph smith will eventually provide at least 9 different version of these ‘visitations’. he was told that the true gospel of jeus christ had been lost to the world early in the 1st century – and that he should uncover it. the angel moroni appeared and instructed him what to do next in the holy restoration. he was directed to a stone chest which was supposedly buried in the hill cumorah, luckily not far from where smith lived. it contained a book written on gold plates. it was left there by jewish settlers who came 600 years before christ.
likely due to a fascination smith had with ancient egyptian culture, he reported that the word of god was written in reformed eqyptian characters on the gold plates. the question of why jews would write and bury a holy book in egyptian is never explained. smith translated these via two ‘seer stones, the thummim and urim, which were also provided.
several people were enlisted to help in his ‘transcribing’, starting with martin harris. they would be separated by a sheet and smith would put the seer stones in his hat, as he did when money-digging. he would ‘read’ what he saw there. why didn’t smith just write down the book of mormon himself? because he may not have been able to write, or if he could, he couldn’t write very well.
after the translation was complete, the golden plates ascended into heaven. not harris, oliver cowdery (another helper), or even joseph smith’s wife emma, ever saw the plates.
the book of mormon itself is really tiresome to read. the phrase ‘and it came to pass’ is used over 2000 times. a lot of text appears to have been liberally repeated from the bible itself – 25,000 words form the old testament and 2000 or so from the new. many other ideas appear to have been culled from ‘view of the hebrews’ by ethan smith. this book’s tales were well known around the time smith would have been supposedly getting his divine direction.
looking at joseph smith and mormonism through the lens of history, it seems he plagiarized a great deal of, if not the words, then the character of the religions he knew a little about: the texts of christianity, ideas from islam, and the character of the jews, going so far as to refer to non-mormons as gentiles.
the definitive biography of smith is ‘no man knows my history’ by fawn brodie.
later, smith reports that john the baptist returns to earth and baptizes he and oliver cowdery into the aaronic priesthood. he further claimed that peter, james and john also come to earth to bestow the melchezinuk priesthood upon him. in this way, followers of smith who were baptized could trace their spiritual lineage back to the ‘beginning’ of christianity. it’s a kind of spiritual genealogy. mormons are big on genealogy too.
more visitors appear to smith over time: moses, elias, elijah all appear to smith with special messages and different keys for the restoration.
and so joseph begins to build his church. over his life he would have at least 30 wives, many of whom were married to other men at the time of being sealed to him. he had a lot of range when it came to women. while many of his brides were underage children, many were also over 40.
he models himself on the islamic prophet muhammad, even appropriating an islamic slogan for himself: either joseph smith or the sword. he actually says “i shall be to this generation a new muhammad”, which is interesting because both were essentially illiterate men who were supposedly charged by god with writing lengthy holy books and who, in turn, borrowed like crazy from religious stories that illiterate men would be familiar with at their given times.
eventually he lands in nauvoo, illinois with 20,000 members. on april 11, 1844 his council declares him king of the kingdom of god. he’s also mayor of nauvoo, as well as the chief judge. all this power and his numerous declarations, not to mention all the wives he takes and the men he casts out of his church because he wants their wives, begins to rub many non-mormons the wrong way.
at this time he also has an ‘army’ of 2500 men he leads under the title ‘general joseph smith’
1844 is also the year smith runs for president. smith is reportedly asked by a subordinate “why run for president when you’re already present pro temp of the world?”. joseph smith was trying to build his political kingdom of god. he meant to fulfill his own prophecy. he and his apostles are constantly making anti-american statements, bucking the federal government and fomenting basic disorder among non-mormons around them. the mormons, especially during the first 50 years of the church, tended to see the authority of the government as at worst a hinderance and at best secondary to the word of their prophet, and therefore the word of god.
eventually, joseph smith is bound over for trial on treason and is jailed. quite fed up with him by then, an angry mob storms the jail on june 27, 1844. smith and his brother hyrum are killed, unintentionally granting smith martyrdom and reinforcing for mormons for 100 years the doctrine of blood atonement.
a jupiter talisman is found on joseph smith when he died at carthage, illinois.
the mormons begin an exodus , eventually stopping in utah, under the direction of brigham young
“the father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. the son also”
doctrine and covenants
prophesies of joseph smith
the city of new jerusalem – smith said a temple would be built in missouri in his generation on ‘mount zion. this did not happen.
the coming of god in 1891 – smith was very specific about the time frame, which is always a shaky move for a revelator. smith said jesus would return within 56 years of the revelation. this did not come to pass. (history of the church vol 2, pp 189)
white horse prophecy – this is the real biggie. this is what many are excited about with the ‘mormon moment’ chatter. this is the idea that the united states would fall under theocratic rule of mormons. this has yet to pass. and even if mitt romney gets elected, do you think it’s likely? and yet, a lot of mormons might secretly think this is a possible and even realistic outcome.
civil war prophecy – smith, like a lot of americans, could see a civil war coming. he thought that the entire world would become embroiled in it and that the confederacy would align with the british
he also actually and incorrectly predicted that the sun would disappear for ‘many days’ (doctrine and covenants 88:87)
“no, i don’t believe in the traditional christ. the traditional christ of whom they speak is not the christ of whom i speak. for the christ of whom i speak has been revealed in this the dispensation of the fullness of times”
gordon b hinckley
deseret news, june 20, 1998
brigham young’s many adventures, misadventures, wives, crimes and conspiracies are worth a blog entry all their own, so i’ll cover just a few things here for historical continuity.
young succeeded joseph smith as president of the mormon church after smith’s murder. but it wasn’t immediate. there was a gap of over two years where the mormons fought among themselves. he is the one who, like moses, leads his people west to fulfill more prophecy but also get out away from the government and the locals with whom they were in nearly constant conflict with.
over his life, brigham young had at least 55 wives in his life time, and had 57 children.
they arrive in salt lake city and brigham young is appointed governor by millard fillmore. he sets up what would become the university of utah and starts mail delivery. but he is also very isolationist.
in 1855, president franklin pierce appoints a non-mormon governor for the utah territory. this incenses young and he starts a plan for cessation. he tries to foment revolution among the native americans, too, because at this point they are often cooperating with the us government.
in 1857, brigham young has the faithful involved in the mormon rebellion, which is not referred to as the utah war. it was really the first civil war in the united states.
brigham young employs a deadly group of militant mormon solders called the ‘danites’. they are an armed militia and act as the political police of the mormon church. the are ruthless enforcers and some tales revolving them will also get their own blog entry soon.
eventually, president buchanan sends troops to try to steady things. but on august 11, 1857 – young tells a crowd in salt lake city “i have fixed my determination to not let any federal troops into this territory”. immigration to utah ceases, and travel through utah becomes a touch matter for any travelers.
all this comes to a head when some travelers from arkansas are traveling through utah. they are eventually attacked by the mormons and 140 are killed. the date of the final attack? september 11. this would become known as the mountain meadows massacre.
brigham young remained president of the mormon church until he died. and like joseph smith, brigham young wore a blood stone around his neck as protection.
below, watch a wonderful animation that explains a lot about mormonism:
parley parker pratt has been called the archer of paradise. he opened a private toll road that runs from the park city area to salt lake. to this day the road and the canyon bear his name. he was great-great grandfather of mitt romney.
some accounts i’ve read say that the aforementioned mountain meadows massacre was allowed to take place because the mormon hierarchy circulated the rumor that the people from arkansas were somehow involved with or related to hector mclean. who was hector mclean? he was the legal husband of pratt’s twelth plural wife. after a court battle in which pratt was cleared, mclean tracked down parley pratt and shot him.
i mainly only mention parley pratt because he is mitt romney’s ancestor and was a devout polygamist. he had 12 wives and 30 children. mitt’s father, george romney, was born on a polygamous colony in mexico, as well. this is just background information. it does not indict mitt romney or mormonism. i’ve actually mentioned polygamy very little here, if only because i’m a little bored by the subject.
mormonism and freemasonry
joseph smith joined the masons in 1842. he adapts many masonic rituals and dress from freemasonry for mormon ceremonies. for example, the temple endowment ceremony is introduced just two months after he joins the masons. additionally, the nauvoo temple architecture is very masonically influenced.
freemasonry is a curious fraternal organization i mean to talk about more in the future, but for now let me just provide some extremely basic information.
freemasonry most likely began so that men who worked with masonry could know if someone else knew what they were doing. hundreds of years ago, as they were building huge buildings and temples with masonry, there were different levels of craftsman. it was dangerous work, especially if you weren’t sure of someone else’s skill level. this was before schools and certifications for trades, this was before social security cards and calling on the phone to check references. masons formed an organization so they could ferret out who knew what. they essentially certified themselves. they would have meetings to teach each other tricks of the trade. they would make each other swear upon death and other calamities not to share this information with anyone else because it was their bread and butter. through all this, they were able to share knowledge and techniques only with each other and to quickly identify other master masons. they developed various hierarchies inside the organization – replete with secret words and handshakes.
eventually ceremonies evolve and the organization expands. in the modern age, freemasonry has little to do with masonry work. the guy working on your house is likely not a mason. now it’s a private group that boasts about it’s secrets and has long had men of power who enjoy whatever shadowy fun and knowledge is to be had there.
masonic ceremonies and dress are curious things and a lot of them are ripped right from the occult. it is a lot of these aspects which smith lifted (again plagiarizing) for his own church to use.
baptizing the dead
the way mormons baptize, you can trace your baptism all the way back to john the baptist, peter, james, john and jesus.
one thing: joseph smith claimed that john the baptist descended from heaven and restored the levitical priesthood of aaron upon him, but so far as i can tell, john the baptist never held the levitical priesthood, so how could he restore it to joseph smith? but that’s just splitting hairs.
the point is, mormons are big on baptizing. they don’t just baptize new members or eight year olds who can’t possibly know enough about god or the world to make an informed decision. they have found a funny workaround for the fact of all those people who perished without knowing the good news joseph smith and mormonism had for them.
in secret temple ceremonies, the baptize dead people into their church.
the huge mormon genealogical database in salt lake city doesn’t exist just so that people can research their family trees. it exists so that the mormons can systematically pray into the church, i suppose, everyone who has ever existed, save for those that they excommunicate.
this still goes on.
38 major cities located in south america are mentioned in the book of mormon, built over 1000 years, with temples and huge buildings and everything that goes along with ancient civilizations. archaeologists cannot find any evidence of any of these places.
at least geographically, the bible, is based on many actual places that existed, that still exist. this is just more evidence that joseph smith was mimicking bible stories as he made most of this up.
in the book of mormon, there are references to animals that would not/could not have existed at that time in the places smith mentions. there are references to chariots and ‘steel’ swords which could not have existed at the time (and of course, of which no evidence can be found). the book of mormon is full of these types of errors, because smith was describing a story that takes place hundreds of years before christ, but he was telling it through the eyes of someone living in america around 1830. he just didn’t know enough about history to fabricate correctly enough.
for example, 500,000 people are reported to die at the battle of cumorah. this would make this one of the largest battles in human history. but nothing has ever been found – not even an arrowhead, at the the purported location.
antinomianism, blood atonement, voting, racism
the mormons had a very anti-law tradition, especially in the first 50 years of the church. they paid dearly for their antinomian ways and slowly began to take a different tack. when church president woodruff officially denounced plural marriage so that utah could finally become a state (in 1896), they can be seen of at least trying to appear they were coming into the modern age. it would take another 40 years or so for this really to click into place.
it wouldn’t be until 1978 that the revelation would come down that black men could hold the priesthood in the church, an usually slow change. there may have been a couple of freed slaves who held the priesthood back when joesph smith was still alive, but the church would officially become pro-slavery as it was trying to expand into southern states around the time joseph smith was murdered.
in the past 100 years they got much more savvy. now the church of jesus christ of latter day saints is a diverse organization with an array of diverse, tax-exempt corporations under it’s umbrella. they evolved their ceremonies away from the more occult aspects and cast out those among them who wanted to remain more fundamentalist. they have a great pr organization that puts on a great show for those with just a passing interest in the church.
the mormons also engage in monolithic block voting. this means that they essentially will all vote the in the same manner. if you speak to mormons individually, they will say that this isn’t the case, that no one instructs them how to vote. and how could they? but the result of the conference talks and all the sitting in church is the same: they vote almost exclusively republican. and given the origins of the republican party, this is a curious outcome. but then again, mitt romney is a long, long way from abraham lincoln. so too is the rest of what the republican party is today. but to be fair, there’s certainly no lincoln on the other side of the political spectrum, either.
jesus supposedly gave joseph smith special knowledge. this is not really christian and more like gnosticism. the idea that a mormon could ‘become’ god is a facet of the original teachings of joseph smith that hasn’t been abandoned by many in the church. and it’s what makes mormons un-christian, despite their branding.
i spent a lot of time on the origin story of mormonism here, which was wonderfully parodied in an episode of south park.
religions lean heavily on their origin stories and i don’t know why. there is this needless, eternal justification of religions having to be true and correct and the ‘one, true faith’ that they all go through. they needn’t do this.
if religions stuck to the tenets of: here is what human nature is, bad things will happen and this is how you can deal with it. good things will happen and you ought not to get to swell a head about it. this is why you often are unhappy, here is how you can be happy since, as people, that feeling is very important for you. if religions could stop at teaching people that they will be happy if their life has meaning and purpose and went on to show them here is how to give yourself meaning and purpose so that you can live a kinder, better, richer life, who could find fault?
if religion were just a guide for life, religion might have a great deal to recommend itself. instead, religion insists on itself. teachings that merely help you live without having to define yourself as this-one or that-one are referred to as self-help and are relegated to something below religion, because they don’t require faith in some silly backstory that was written in a primitive time when people understood very little about the natural world.
they have to put forth the notion that you aren’t righteous enough or holy enough to know the truth, as you are. you need more than just morality lessons for life. you need to accept the church’s origin and history as fact and be prepared to defend it. mormons take it a little farther to believe that the real truth is only for some. in fact, some people, though study and time and more importantly, money – can themselves become more than human. this is a good basis for cult.
the mormon church is big on disciplining members who say or do things the church elders think they ought not to. joseph smith’s own biographer, fawn brodie, was excommunicated almost immediately for her book.
even more recently, blogger david twede, who ran mormonthink.org, criticized mitt romney and was threatened with ex-communication. he resigned the church instead of waiting to be cast into outer darkness, but as of this writing, his blog and all of his writing has disappeared. maybe it’ll pop back up after the election?
mormons seem nice when you deal with them – but i often wonder if it’s because they really want to be friendly or help me, or if they are simply trying to prove their worthiness. maybe it’s a mingling of both. it’s not a bad habit to have, but i always wonder what’s behind it.
mormons are instructed to never question the church leaders. it is the word of god. to question your leaders is essentially to doubt god. this seems like a doomed path not just for religion but for man kind.
looking at the origin story of mormonism, it seems to show that smith was just making it up as he went along, cherry picking various ideas from occultism, christiaintiy, islam, freemasonry – a cafeteria approach to creating a religion. and with whoever the current leader (prophet) of the church is at any time having the power of ‘revelation’, he is allowed to do just as joseph smith did: improvise!
i initially intended this blog to be much more comprehensive than this, covering topics like:
märk hofmann and salt lake bombings
ervil lebaron – crimes he and his followers committed
brigham young in general
the kirtland, ohio mormon cult murders
warren jeffs and the flds church
the mountain meadows massacre
gordon b hinckley sexual controversy
freemasonry basics and history
the john birch society (strong mormon ties)
joseph smith and the mummies (papyrus)
brief history of mormon temple ceremonies and changes to them
instead i’ve pulled out the stuff related to these because this is getting too long. i will do a post or so a week on each of these topics until i get bored.