The Changing World of Mormonism
A Marvelous Work?
In 1830 the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon—a book which purports to be a history of the "former inhabitants of this continent." The same year he organized a church in the state of New York.
Today, the two main groups which claim to base their teachings upon Joseph Smith's works are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is by far the largest of these two groups, claiming to have over four million members. Church leaders predict that if the church continues to grow at the same rate, it will have ten million members by 2000 A.D. (Deseret News, Church Section, October 21, 1967, p. 1). At a Mormon conference meeting on March 31, 1979, it was reported that in 1978 the church had "27,669" full-time missionaries and that "152,000" converts were baptized into the church (The Ensign, May 1979, p. 18).
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, are commonly referred to as "Mormons." In this book we will deal primarily with this church.
Besides being one of the fastest growing churches in the world, the Mormon Church is one of the richest. Bill Beecham and David Briscoe comment in Utah Holiday Magazine:
Today, the LDS church is a religious and financial empire with...assets in the billions of dollars and an income in contributions and in sales by church-controlled corporations estimated at more than $3 million a day....
There has never been an accounting of modern church income or wealth. The church's last disclosure of expenditures was made 17 years ago, when it was reported in a church General Conference that $72,794,306 was spent the previous year on the church's far-reaching religious and social programs.
LDS Office Building
Asked by two Associated Press reporters why this information is now withheld, President N. Eldon Tanner of the church's First Presidency said, "It was determined that continued publication of the expenditure was not desirable." He did not elaborate. Asked about church income, he replied, "I don't think the public needs to have that information." President Tanner acknowledges that one of his assignments in the church as First Counselor is to oversee the church's financial interests....
Church holdings, as outlined in the Associated Press report, would rank the church among the nation's top 50 corporations in total assets—those with $2 billion or more. Church property includes more than 5,000 mostly-religious buildings throughout the world, a 36-story apartment house in New York City, a 260,000 acre ranch near Disney World in Florida, a village in Hawaii and an estimated 65 acres of business and religious property in downtown Salt Lake City, including a $33 million headquarters building (Utah Holiday, March 22, 1976, pp. 4-6).
The Salt Lake Tribune for July 2, 1976, reported that Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball "was asked on the NBC 'Today' show about an Associated Press estimate last year that the church and corporations it controls bring in more than $3 million a day....
"He neither disputed nor confirmed the AP estimate that would place the church among the nation's top 50 corporations in total assets."
The validity of Mormonism rests upon the claims of Joseph Smith. When he was a young man, his family moved to the state of New York. Within a few miles of his home there was a hill, which Joseph Smith later called the Hill Cumorah. According to Joseph Smith, this was no ordinary hill, for on this hill two of the greatest battles in history were fought. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie says that "both the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations fought their final great wars of extinction at and near the Hill Cumorah (or Ramah as the Jaredites termed it), which hill is located between Palmyra and Manchester in the western part of the state of New York. It was here that Moroni hid up the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated" (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 175).
Apostle McConkie further stated: "It is reported by President Brigham Young that there was in the Hill Cumorah a room containing many wagon loads of plates" (p. 454).
An ordinary person would probably see nothing of importance about this hill, but to the Mormons this is one of the most important places on earth.
While Joseph Smith was digging a well for Clark Chase, he found "a chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone" (Comprehensive History of the Church, by B. H. Roberts, vol. 1, p. 129). This might have been just an ordinary stone (maybe a little unusual in appearance), but to Joseph Smith it became a seer stone." This stone was supposed to have been prepared by God, and through it Joseph Smith received revelations.
Joseph Smith claimed that on the night of September 21, 1823, he had a visitor. But this was no ordinary visitor, it was an angel sent from God. The angel told Smith that gold plates were buried in the Hill Cumorah. The next day Joseph Smith found these plates, and, if his story is true, he made the greatest discovery in the history of archaeology. Archaeologists have searched for years trying to piece together the history of the ancient inhabitants of this land, but Joseph Smith turned over one stone and found all the answers. Underneath this stone he found a box which held the gold plates. The plates contained "an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang." More important than this, however, they contained "the fulness of the everlasting Gospel." According to the Mormon leaders, the Book of Mormon is far superior to the Bible because it contains the "pure" words of Christ. The Bible, they charge, has been altered by wicked priests. Mormon Apostle LeGrand Richards claims that "the 'everlasting gospel' could not be discovered through reading the Bible alone...this is the only Christian church in the world that did not have to rely upon the Bible for its organization and government..." (A Marvelous Work And A Wonder, 1966, p. 41).
After the Mormon church was organized, Joseph Smith gave a revelation which stated that the Saints were to gather at Jackson County, Missouri. To the Mormon leaders, this was no ordinary land; they taught that it was the place where the "Garden of Eden" was located. Apostle McConkie explains: "The early brethren of this dispensation taught that the Garden of Eden was located in what is known to us as the land of Zion, an area for which Jackson County, Missouri, is the center place" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 20).
In Daviess County, Missouri, Joseph Smith found some rocks which he claimed were the remains of an altar built by Adam. McConkie continues: "At that great gathering Adam offered sacrifices on an altar built for the purpose. A remnant of that very altar remained on the spot down through the ages. On May 19, 1838, Joseph Smith and a number of his associates stood on the remainder of the pile of stones at a place called Spring Hill, Daviess County, Missouri" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 21). Oliver B.
Huntington adds further details in an article published in the Mormon publication, The Juvenile Instructor (November 15, 1895, pp. 700-701):
Adam's Altar,...I have visited many times.... Joseph said, "That altar was built by our Father Adam and there he offered sacrifice." ...according to the words of the Prophet Joseph, mankind in that age continued to emigrate eastwardly until they reached the country on or near the Atlantic coast; and that in or near Carolina Noah built his remarkable ship, in which he, his family, and all kinds of animals lived a few days over one year without coming out of it.
In the year 1835 a man came to Kirtland, Ohio, with some mummies and rolls of papyrus. Joseph Smith examined the rolls and stated that "one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt" (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 236). When Josiah Quincy visited Nauvoo in 1844, Joseph Smith showed him the papyrus rolls. Quincy later wrote:
"And now come with me," said the prophet, "and I will show you the curiosities."...There were some pine presses.... These receptacles Smith opened, and disclosed four human bodies, shrunken and black with age. "These are mummies," said the exhibitor. "I want you to look at that little runt of a fellow over there. He was a great man in his day. Why, that was Pharaoh Necho, King of Egypt!" Some parchments inscribed with hieroglyphics were then offered us.... "That is the handwriting of Abraham, the Father of the Faithful," said the prophet. "This is the autograph of Moses, and these lines were written by his brother Aaron. Here we have the earliest account of the Creation, from which Moses composed the First Book of Genesis."... We were further assured that the prophet was the only mortal who could translate these mysterious writings, and that his power was given by direct inspiration (Figures of the Past, by Josiah Quincy, as cited in Among the Mormons, 1958, pp. 136-37).
The Mormons claimed that Joseph Smith's power as a "seer" extended even beyond the earth. In February 1881 Oliver B. Huntington recorded the following in his journal:
Inhabitants of the Moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the Earth, being about 6 feet in height.
They dress very much like the quaker Style & are quite general in Style, or the one fashion of dress.
They live to be very old; comeing [sic] generally, near a thousand years.
A photograph of two pages from the Young Woman's Journal, vol. 3. This was published by the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Associations of Zion in 1892. Notice that O. B. Huntington claimed that Joseph Smith taught the moon was inhabited.
This is the description of them as given by Joseph the Seer, and he could "See" whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see ("Journal of Oliver B. Huntington," book 14, original at Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.; also vol. 3, p. 166 of typed copy at Utah State Historical Society).
For many years after Joseph Smith's death the Mormons continued to teach that the moon was inhabited. On July 24, 1870, Brigham Young, the second president of the Mormon church, stated: "Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?... when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 271).
As late as 1892 the teaching that the moon was inhabited appeared in a church publication. In an article published in the Young Woman's Journal, O. B. Huntington stated:
Nearly all the great discoveries of men in the last half century have, in one way or another, either directly or indirectly, contributed to prove Joseph Smith to be a Prophet.
As far back as 1837, I know that he said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth, and that they lived to a greater age than we do, that they live generally to near the age of a 1000 years.
He described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style.
In my Patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and—to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes (The Young Woman's Journal, published by the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Associations of Zion, 1892, vol. 3, pp. 263-64).
While very few Mormons today would try to defend Joseph Smith's ideas about the "inhabitants of the moon," the church still teaches that the Book of Mormon is Scripture, that Adam's altar is in Missouri, and that the Book of Abraham was translated from the Egyptian papyrus.
Although Joseph Smith lived to be only 38 years old, the Mormon leaders claim that he had numerous visits from "glorious personages" from heaven. Not only was he visited by God
the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, but by John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elijah, Elias, Michael, Raphael, Nephi, Moroni, Mormon and possibly others.
It should be obvious that Joseph Smith was either one of the greatest prophets who ever walked the face of the earth, or the whole thing is a fraud from beginning to end. John Taylor, the third president of the church, set forth the issue in these terms: "... if God has not spoken, if the angel of God has not appeared to Joseph Smith, and if these things are not true of which we speak, then the whole thing is an imposture from beginning to end. There is no halfway house, no middle path about the matter; it is either one thing or the other" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 21, p. 165).
Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth president of the church, maintained that "Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground.
"If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who wilfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false,... I maintain that Joseph Smith was all that he claimed to be" (Doctrines of Salvation, 1959, vol. 1, pp. 188-89).
The Mormon church sends missionaries throughout the world with the message that God has spoken from heaven and restored the true church of Christ to the earth. These missionaries are instructed to teach that the Mormon church is the only true church and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. They are supposed to persuade the contact that his church is false and that he should join "the true church of Jesus Christ."
The Mormon church definitely teaches that all other churches are in a state of apostasy. More than fifty pages of the introduction to the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are devoted to proving that all churches except the Mormon church are in apostasy. The following, for example, is found on page XL: "Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Mormons claim that in 1820 God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ visited Joseph Smith and told him that he "must join none" of the churches, "for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an
abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof'" (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:18-19).
Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt wrote: "The gates of hell have prevailed and will continue to prevail over the Catholic Mother of Harlots, and over all her Protestant Daughters;...the apostate Catholic church, with all her popes and bishops, together with all her harlot daughters shall be hurled down to hell..." (Pamphlets by Orson Pratt, p. 112).
Although the present-day leaders of the Mormon church are becoming more subtle in their attacks on other churches, they still teach that the Mormon church is the only true church and that all others are in a state of apostasy.
The Mormon church makes claims that most other churches would not dare to make. Their third President John Taylor boasted: "...we are the only people that know how to save our progenitors, how to save ourselves, and how to save our posterity in the celestial kingdom of God;...we in fact are the saviours of the world..." (Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p. 163).
Joseph Fielding Smith, tenth president, maintained that the Mormons "are, notwithstanding our weaknesses, the best people in the world. I do not say this boastingly, for I believe that this truth is evident to all who are willing to observe for themselves. We are morally clean, in every way equal, and in many ways superior to any other people" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol.1, p. 236).
In the History of the Church (vol.7, p. 287), Brigham Young even claimed that "Every spirit that confesses that Joseph Smith is a Prophet, that he lived and died a Prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true, is of God, and every spirit that does not is of anti-Christ."
President Joseph Fielding Smith added that there is "no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith. If Joseph Smith was verily a prophet, and if he told the truth.... No man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol.1, pp. 189-90).
Thus we see that the claims of the Mormon church are of such a nature that it cannot be considered as just another church. It is either the only true church, or it is nothing but a shadow. The Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt said that if the Mormon religion had errors in it the members would be grateful if someone would
point them out: ". . . convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds" (The Seer, pp. 15-16). After making a long and careful study of the Book of Mormon and the history of the Mormon church, we have come to the conclusion that the claims made by the Mormon church leaders are false. In this book we will present some of the evidence which has led to this conclusion, in the hope that Mormons will be grateful for the information.