Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsGeneral Information
Mormonism is a way of life practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called Mormons or Latter-day Saints. Although two-thirds of the church's membership (was) in the United States, especially the western states, members are also located in 100 other countries and 25 territories, colonies, or possessions. In 1989, the church reported a worldwide membership of about 7 million.
HistoryJoseph Smith founded the church in Fayette, NY, in 1830. Earlier he reported having visions of God and other heavenly beings in which he was told that he would be the instrument to establish the restored Christian church. According to Smith, one of the heavenly messengers directed him to some thin metal plates, gold in appearance and inscribed in a hieroglyphic language. Smith's translation of the plates, the Book of Mormon, describes the history, wars, and religious beliefs of a group of people (c. 600 BC - AD 421) who migrated from Jerusalem to America. Smith attracted a small group of followers who settled in Kirtland, Ohio, and Jackson County, Mo. Because of persecution the church moved to northern Missouri and then to Nauvoo, Ill. In 1837 missionaries were sent to England and later to Scandinavia; most of their converts emigrated to the United States.
|BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects|
In Utah the church continued to grow but was challenged by the U S government because of the acknowledgement of polygamy as a Mormon tenet. A war almost developed, but Mormon leaders decided to compromise after only sporadic fighting. In 1862 and 1882, Congress passed antibigamy laws, and in 1879 the Supreme Court ruled that religious freedom could not be claimed as grounds for the practice of polygamy. In 1890 the Mormons officially ended the practice of plural marriage.
Not everyone supported Young's election as church leader. The opposition eventually withdrew to form other Mormon churches, the largest of which (with a membership of 225,000) is the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter - day Saints, headquartered at Independence, Mo. The Reorganized Church holds that leadership rightfully belongs to the direct descendants of Joseph Smith.
Mormons use the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and two other books of revelations to Joseph Smith - Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price - as their standard scriptures. Thus they share most of the beliefs of traditional Christianity but with some modification. Mormons believe that God continues to reveal his word to individuals who seek it for their own benefit, to leaders of local units for their own jurisdiction, and to the President - Prophet for the church as a whole. In 1978, for example, Mormon church authorities announced that they had been instructed by revelation to strike down the church's former policy of excluding black men from the priesthood.
The church baptizes by immersion at age eight or older. Vicarious baptism for those who have died and marriage for eternity are two distinctive Mormon practices. Latter - day Saints believe in the eternal progress of humans from a spiritual state to mortality and then to an afterlife where resurrected individuals will receive their reward. The church lays great emphasis on genealogical research so that members may undergo baptismal rites on behalf of their ancestors.
Church members pay a tithe to support numerous church activities and building construction and work on welfare farms or other projects to produce items for the poor. Local members operate the full program in each congregation, including individual weekly meetings for men, women, children, and young people, and two meetings - Sunday School and Sacrament - for the entire church body. More than 37,000 (1989) young men and women devote two years of their lives as missionaries. The church lays great emphasis on family solidarity, which is encouraged through a weekly family evening of religious instruction and entertainment. Its strong opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment is based on its belief that the effects would prove disruptive to family life.
Ronald G Watt
J B Allen and G M Leonard, The Story of the Latter - day Saints (1976); L J Arrington and D Bitton, The Mormon Experience (1979); D Bitton and M Beecher, eds., New Views of Mormon History (1987); K J Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience (1981); J Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (1984).
The Mormons, as they are usually known, represent one of the most successful of the new religious movements of the nineteenth century. Today they are divided into two main groups, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter - day Saints, organized from Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter - day Saints, based in Independence, Missouri. In addition to these major groups a number of smaller "fundamentalist" groups exist. Today (1988) the Utah church claims over 3 million members, while the Reorganized Church claims about 600,000 adherents.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter - day Saints was first organized on April 6, 1830, at Fayette, New York, by Joseph Smith. Soon after its formation its members moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and then Jackson County, Missouri, as a result of the intense opposition they encountered. They finally settled at a place they called Nauvoo on the Mississippi River in Illinois. Here they prospered and built a thriving city.
On July 12, 1843, Smith received a revelation allowing for polygamy, which caused four disillusioned converts to found an anti - Mormon newspaper. Smith was denounced on June 7, 1844, in this paper, the Nauvoo Expositor, in its single publication. For that the brothers of Smith burned down the newspaper office. As a result Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were placed in Carthage jail, where on June 27, 1844, they were brutally murdered when a mob stormed the jail.
Following the assassination of Joseph Smith the majority of Mormons accepted the leadership of Brigham Young. A minority rallied around Joseph's legal wife and family to form the Reorganized Church. Under the leadership of Young the Mormons left Nauvoo in 1847 and trekked westward to Utah. Here for more than thirty years Brigham Young ruled the Mormon Church and laid the foundation of its present strength.
Mormonism has a dual foundation. The first is the claim of Joseph Smith to have received golden plates upon which ancient scriptures are alleged to have been written. Smith claimed to have translated these plates and subsequently published them in 1830 as The Book of Mormon. The second foundation is Smith's claim to have had an encounter with the living Jesus and subsequently to receive continuing revelations from God. The substance of these continuing revelations is to be found in the Mormon publication The Doctrine and Covenants, while an account of Joseph Smith's encounter with Jesus and the discovery of The Book of Mormon is to be found in The Pearl of Great Price. The Pearl of Great Price also contains the text of two Egyptian papyri which Joseph Smith claimed to have translated plus his translation of certain portions of the Bible. Together The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price form the basis of the Mormon continuing revelation. Since the death of Smith these revelations have been supplemented by what the church claims to be further revelations given to its leaders.
The Book of Mormon itself is a fairly straightforward adventure yarn written in the style of biblical history. The story concerns two ancient civilizations located on the American continent. The first was founded by refugees from the Tower of Babel. These people crossed Europe and emigrated to the eastern coast of central America. The founders of the second civilization emigrated from Jerusalem around 600 BC. This group is said to have crossed the Pacific Ocean in arklike boats. After their arrival in America both these groups are said to have founded the great civilizations. The first civilization was known as that of the Jaredites. This was totally destroyed as a result of their corruption. The second group were righteous Jews under the leadership of a man named Nephi. Initially Nephi's group prospered and built great cities. But like their forefathers in Palestine, many apostatized and ceased to worship the true God. As a result their civilization was plagued by civil wars and eventually destroyed itself.
The descendants of the apostates remained on the North American continent as native Indians. In The Book of Mormon the Indians are known as the Lamanites who, as a result of the apostasy, received the curse of a dark skin.
The Book of Mormon claims that Christ visited America after his resurrection and revealed himself to the Nephites, to whom he preached the gospel and for whom he founded a church. The Nephites were eventually destroyed by the Lamanites in a great battle near Palmyra, New York, around AD 428. Almost 1,400 years later, according to Mormon claims, Joseph Smith had revealed to him the record of these civilizations in the form of "reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics" written upon golden plates. With the aid of supernatural spectacles, known as the urim and thummim, he translated the unknown language into English and it became The Book of Mormon. According to the Articles of Faith of the Mormon Church and to the theology of the Book of Mormon, Mormonism is essentially Christian.
These present views that are similar to those of many other Christian churches, but this similarity is misleading. Mormon theology is not based upon its declared Articles of Faith or the teachings of The Book of Mormon. Rather, the essence of Mormon theology comes from the continuing revelations received by Joseph Smith and later Mormon leaders.
Mormonism teaches that God the Father has a body and that man's destiny is to evolve to Godhood. This teaching is summed up in the popular Mormon saying, "As man is, God once was: as God is, man may become." This belief includes the notion of preexisting souls who gain a body on earth and become human as part of the probationary experience which determines their future heavenly existence. Contrary to the teachings of the Bible man's rebellion against God, known in Christian theology as the fall, is considered necessary. Mormon theology teaches that if Adam had not eaten the forbidden fruit, he would never had children. Therefore, to propagate the race and fulfill his heavenly destiny Adam had to disobey God. Thus, in a very real sense it is the fall of man which saved man. This doctrine is built into an evolutionary view of eternal progression which reflects popular thinking and scientific speculation at the time of Joseph Smith.
In keeping with the idea of a probationary state the doctrine of justification by faith is rejected in Mormon theology in favor of salvation by works as the basis of determining one's future mode of existence. The purpose of Christ's atonement is then said to be the assurance that humans will be raised from the dead. At the resurrection, however, human beings will be assigned a place in one of three heavenly realms according to the life they have lived on earth.
The Mormon Church claims that it is the only true church because its leaders continue to receive revelation from God. In addition it claims to possess the powers of the priesthood of Aaron and Melchizedek into which its male members are expected to be initiated.
As a social organization the Mormon Church exhibits many admirable qualities. It promotes extensive welfare programs for members, operates a large missionary and educational organization, and promotes family life. Mormons are expected to participate in what is known as "temple work." This involves proxy baptism for deceased ancestors and "celestial marriage." Mormons believe that in addition to temporal marriages church members may be sealed to their families "for time and eternity" through a process known as celestial marriage.
During the 1960s the Mormon community was troubled by its denial of the priesthood to blacks. However, in 1978 the president of the church declared that he had received a new revelation which admitted blacks to the priesthood. Today one of the most troublesome issues within the Mormon Church is the place of women, who are also excluded from the priesthood. In addition to these social problems a number of historical challenges have rocked Mormon intellectual life of the past two decades. These include serious questions about the translation of The Book of Abraham and The Pearl of Great Price and about Joseph Smith, visions, and historical claims.
Much of the criticism has come from ex-Mormons disillusioned by what they see as the refusal of the church hierarchy to face serious questioning. Among the more important ex-Mormon critics are Fawn Brodie, whose biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History, seriously undermines official Mormon histories, and Gerald and Sandra Tanner, whose Modern Microfilm Company has produced numerous documents challenging the official version of early Mormon history and the development of Mormon doctrine. Within the Mormon Church itself a vigorous debate has been conducted in journals such as Dialog and Sunstone. The rigor with which younger Mormon scholars have addressed the study of their own history in these journals is clear indication of the power of Mormonism to survive sustained criticism.
Although young Mormon missionaries may often present Mormonism as a slightly modified American form of Christianity, this approach does little justice to either Mormon theology or the Christian tradition. As a new religious movement Mormonism represents a dynamic synthesis that combines frontier revivalism, intense religious experience, and popular evolutionary philosophies with a respect for Jesus and Christian ethics. This combination of beliefs holds strong attraction for many people uninterested or unschooled in Christian history and theology.
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)
T O'Dea, The Mormons; G E Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith; G / S Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality.
Additional Note from the BELIEVE Editor:|
The leadership of the Mormon Church claims openness to education and study, but over many decades, when hundreds of Mormon scholars have directed their research toward Mormon history or theology, they have all quickly been excommunicated. This has been done to even highly respected and famous Mormon scholars. They explain it by stating that no one is allowed to question or challenge the Church or its leaders, even if such comments happen to be true. Such attitudes of the leadership of the Mormon Church greatly discourage actual deep examination of many important subjects. For this reason, we have to suggest to Mormons that they should NOT attempt to study their Church or their faith as thoroughly as BELIEVE encourages all others to examine their own beliefs and Churches and religions.
I have received at least 2,000 e-mails from many Mormons over the years. Most seem to be very smart and educated people, but they have all seemed amazingly totally uninformed about many well-established historical facts about their own Church! (several such issues are briefly mentioned several paragraphs below). It seems amazing that they are so educated but with such enormous blank spots in their knowledge of their own Church. In many cases, it has seemed clear that I probably had a deeper knowledge of the Mormon Statement of Faith (actually, several different versions of it) than most Mormons do. Shouldn't THEY have been the ones to be able to educate ME about details of their beliefs?
It appears that we (BELIEVE) may have unintentionally caused hardship for a number of Mormons because of our insatiable attitude toward learning about all subjects. We had brought up what we felt were valid questions, such as the following. In extensive reading in the Book of Mormon, we had noticed the many hundreds of prominent calendar references of events according to the Birth of Jesus. The Plates are described to have been created around 420 AD after those many such references. For many years, this has seemed very confusing to us. It turns out that there was NO calendar anywhere in the world that was based on Jesus' Birth until such a calendar was established in what we now call 525 AD by a Monk, Dionysius Exiguus, who was the first to suggest that years be counted from the Birth of Jesus. It actually took the next 500 years before that calendar became generally accepted.
So during Jesus' life, and for centuries afterward, the only calendar that was in general use was still the Roman AUC calendar, where Jesus was apparently Born in 750 AUC (the 750th year of the Roman Empire's existence). In recent times, it has been determined that the Monk Exiguus was close in his calculation of it then being 525 AD but it is now nearly universally believed that he was about four years off from the getting the actual Birth of Jesus in the correct year. The point being that there is NO ONE ON EARTH who even knows the exact year that Jesus was Born, and there was certainly not any calendar that was based on that date, even by the time that the Plates were supposedly created around 420 AD. Communication between America and the MidEast did not possibly exist, so any actual news of Jesus' Birth could not have been passed across the many thousands of oceans.
So for twenty years, I have always asked all Mormons that have approached me to help me understand how those many prominent calendar references in the Book of Mormon could be true. They seem to refer to a calendar which had not even yet been invented! Whether or not the people in America could have somehow gotten news of Jesus' Birth is a different issue, which seems nearly as impossible. All I requested was a clarification on how that calendar could be possible, because it it were NOT clarified, I do not see how it is possible to believe any of those hundreds of date references in the Book of Mormon as being credible. In ALL religious texts, it is always claimed that EVERYTHING included is exactly and precisely true. That is assumed true in the Mormon Church as well. However, some Mormons have corrected me about that in saying that it is generally correct, but that incorrect statements do exist in Mormon Faith! They cite Mormon 8:12 as asking that the book not be condemned due to its imperfections! I find such a statement astounding, to be CONCEDING that the basic text of a major religion MIGHT NOT BE PRECISELY CORRECT! But that is a different matter.
So if these hundreds of very prominent dates are not true, and in fact, necessarily fabricated at some time AFTER 525 AD, (when that calendar actually existed) then that would seem to cast doubt regarding all other statements in the Book of Mormon.
Note the opposite possibility. Say that, even though the REST OF THE WORLD does NOT know the precise date of Jesus' Birth, that somehow the Book of Mormon DOES have it precisely correct. The Book of Mormon contains a substantial number of astronomical events and major natural events, any one of which might be precisely determined against modern historical evidence. Doesn't that suggest that the Book of Mormon might therefore PROVIDE a precise date for the Birth of Jesus, which is otherwise not available to anyone on Earth? This possibility seems to suggest that extremely careful study of the historicity of the Book of Mormon might be immensely important and valuable.
At first, I had not been aware that the early leaders of the Mormon Church had ALTERED many of the Original statements of Joseph Smith (including Smith himself, in 1829 and 1830) before publishing them in 1830. If this is what had happened, where the texts were altered to now include dates in our modern calendar system, that might be a possible explanation for this issue, but that would then emphasize that the Church leaders had intentionally altered many of Joseph Smith's Original texts before publishing. Apparently, nearly 2,000 unintentional changed occurred as Oliver Cowdery copied the Original manuscript (written down from the oral words of Smith) into a Printer's manuscript, around three such copyist errors per page. But many hundreds of other changes were made intentionally between those two handwritten manuscripts, many to correct facts that had been stated wrong and in other errors that needed to be corrected. Certain parts of the texts were significantly altered again (mostly by Smith) during the late 1830s and (not by Smith) early 1840s, where they then no longer even matched the earlier published texts. If there was Divine importance in the Original words that Joseph Smith spoke during 1828 and 1829, where God was involved, WHY was it later necessary to make so many corrections? Does that imply that they understand better than God does? Whatever the explanation for such matters, it seems to us that Mormon Church believers deserve to know what the real truth is in such things. ARE the dates which were recorded on the Plates around 420 AD actually referring to a calendar system which had not yet been invented? Or did the Mormon Church leaders alter the texts to make these changes in the early decades of their Church?
When I have asked that calendar question to Mormons, I have always done so in the spirit of trying to better understand things, as I do in all fields of study. More than that, it seems far more valuable to me for MORMONS to know the correct answer to such issues than whether I learn something or not! In order for the followers to truly be able to trust every detail of what their Church Teaches them, it is important to get an understanding of these sorts of things.
I had no idea that when those Mormons I asked would ask my question to any Mormon teachers or leaders, their Church has such an extremely defensive attitude that it has always resulted in each of THEM being seen as dangerous to their Church, for simply ASKING such a question, and that some of them were even excommunicated. That was certainly not my intention. In fact, I still find that calendar question needing a credible explanation by some Mormon scholar, regarding how a system calendar could have been so consistently used which did not yet actually exist. But I now understand that no Mormon would dare ask any other Mormon such a question, even to try to answer my question! Merely asking about such a question is considered so totally dangerous that the asker must be removed from the Church. Separate from my question, it appears that the Mormon Church has excommunicated over a thousand scholars and other leaders in the past two decades, as their studies and thoughts have been considered as destructive to the very specific beliefs that their Church insists can never be questioned.
The BELIEVE web-site ALWAYS questions everything, in every religion! There are HUNDREDS of aspects of Protestant Christianity which we feel the need to aggressively pursue regarding clarifying possible problems. Our attitude is that the Lord GAVE us each brains, and that He expects each of us to USE THEM to try to figure such things out! We have total confidence that Christianity can stand up to ANY examination, no matter how profound, and that in the end, our understanding of the Lord will be improved.
(I never even have ever gotten to be able to ask about some other issues which have long concerned me, such as the relatively illiterate Joseph Smith being only around 14 years old when he had his Visitation experience, and only 17 years old when he learned where the Plates were (Sept 22, 1823). Those were the two central experiences on which their entire Church is based. Is that really solid enough on which an enormous modern Church could be built? Or about the fact that Joseph Smith wrote rather brief hand written descriptions of those two events when he was around 19, but then presented very different and far more comprehensive descriptions when he was around 21 in 1827, and different still in 1828-29 when the text was being transcribed to be published for the new Church, these LATER descriptions as the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. Or about Brigham Young's very early turbulent association with several other Churches early in his life before he met and began to follow Joseph Smith. Or the many questions about why the Mormon Church chose to create such an aggressive coverup for more than forty years regarding the incident where a group of Mormons led by one of Brigham Young's sons (John D. Lee), attacked and seiged a wagon train of the (Christian) Fancher family on Sept 7, 1857, stranding the approximate 160 people of the wagon train for five days before they surrendered under a white flag on Sept. 11, at which point the Mormons took all the captives toward Cedar City. The Mormons then used hammers and guns and knives to slaughter all the Methodist and Presbyterian Christians, the men first, then the women and then the older children, except for a handful of very small children. It is certainly true that there are aberrant followers of all religions, that that event in itself may not have any great significance regarding the Mormon Church. But the Mormon Church went to massive effort to cover up every aspect of the stories regarding it, for fifty years, and to some extent, still today. The Mormon Church eventually admitted, around February 1907, that this Mountain Meadows Massacre or Fancher Massacre, was done primarily by Mormons. The Mormon Church has even built a Monument at the site of the massacre. My question regarding that whole subject was why the Mormon Church leadership resisted admitting culpability for fifty years, which does not seem as lofty and admirable as the Mormon Church generally portrays itself. An explanation for the coverup seems in order, although I don't really expect BELIEVE to ever get such an explanation.)
One more such subject which has long troubled me! Around 1828, Joseph Smith stated that the Plates were written in Egyptian Hieroglyphics. His close friend and first reliable scribe, Martin Harris, took a transcription that Joseph Smith had made from one of the Plates, along with some of the (translated) text to New York City, to some scholars there. Historical records of those meetings exist, external to the LDS Church.
By the way, after returning, Harris began regular scribe work with Smith, and the first 116 pages (about 1/6 of the entire Book of Mormon text) of transcription were completed by him. He then asked Smith to let him borrow those 116 pages to take to his wife, who had doubts as to why he was gone so much. While away, Martin, through incompetence or neglect, had the 116 pages stolen.
Those first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon were never re-translated! Joseph Smith told others that he was instructed NOT to re-translate them! That is a MASSIVE amount of important information which is forever missing from being available to any Mormons, on the order of 1/6 of the entire text of the Book of Mormon! (1 Nephi through Omni. After the entire translation project was done, Smith translated the Smaller Plates to provide an abbreviated text which replaced the original text of the missing 116 pages. They are therefore believed to be different and more brief than what was first translated.) They are forever missing from the core texts of the LDS Church! I guess a skeptic might wonder why the first 116 pages would not have been re-translated, in order to provide a more complete record for later Mormons to follow. After all, Mormons today have to base their faith on only about 5/6 of the actual contents of the Plates! The impression to me is that those first 116 pages were not considered important enough to repeat the work of re-creating them. Doesn't that seem truly bizarre?
The Plates were supposed to have been written around 420 AD. I have contacted more than two dozen experts in ancient languages, and every single one of them have said that was ridiculous. They each have stated essentially the same facts, that ACTUAL Egyptian Hieroglyphics was really only in major use prior to around 1200 BC. They explain the clear reason for that statement. Hieroglyphics were a set of picture words and in that they had great limitations. They were NOT capable of being sentences or actual language. Around 1300 BC, several actually written languages were developed, and they quickly took over because they were so much more efficient in expressing nearly any concept. Egyptian Hieroglyphs DID evolve over the next five centuries, where that language became a mix of words and concepts. But even by 800 BC, there was very little usage of Hieroglyphics in the world. True, there evolved very different versions, such as Demotic Egyptian, which then continued to evolve into modern Egyptian, but that was really only used in VERY limited groups, specifically the government of Egypt, and it was already quite different from the original actual hieroglyphics. Common Egyptians did NOT yet have the capability of reading and writing in any language. Hieroglyphics was also rarely ever used except in carving symbol messages into stone blocks. Nearly universally, the WRITTEN records of the time after around 1999 BC were always written in one of the more structured written languages.
So therefore my question is the following: WHY would the Plates which were created around 420 BC be written in an extremely cumbersome and obsolete hieroglyphics? Any God would know that there were HUNDREDS of other available (existing) written languages which existed around 420 AD which would have required less than 1/4 as many symbols to express the stories presented! In fact, those Ancient Language Experts were also asked how many hieroglyphic symbols would be required to present the entire Book of Mormon, and the answers were all compatible to many hundreds or even thousands of such Plates. Would God really have used such an obsolete and cumbersome system to record important records? If each metal Plate weighed just one pound, and there were around 2,000 such Plates necessary to present the entire Book of Mormon, does that mean that the rather young Joseph Smith carried more than a ton of Plates home to try to translate them? There just seem to be a number of troubling aspects to the LANGUAGE issue regarding the Plates. If there is a logical explanation for these matters, excellent, we would LOVE to present accurate truth to Mormons such that their Faith might be strongest!
Interviews with Smith's (first) wife and with others, decades later, included comments regarding having seen the Plates, and regarding the process of the transcription. After every few words, Smith would pause so that the transcriber could read back what had just been written down, such that Smith could then correct any misspellings or other copyist errors. In fact, about 28% of the original hand-written texts still exist, and they include large numbers of crossed-out and respelled words and other corrections. These details seem to add credibility to the validity of the transcription process. Later actions on the parts of others in the Mormon Church seemed to degrade such credibility, where they chose to re-write hundreds of portions of Smith's hand-written words into statements which have entirely different wordings and meanings. Why would they have done that? Why couldn't they have left well enough alone and simply accept the wording as provided by Joseph Smith? One answer is that Smith sometimes demonstrated his near illiteracy in making statements which are clearly contradictory to historical and geological facts. Apparently they felt it necessary to alter Smith's wording to make such corrections. But they also chose to leave out entire pages and sets of pages of Smith's texts, and to insert entirely new pages which they apparently composed on their own, which had no connection to any Plates. Why would they do that?
We have been aware that the RLDS Church in Missouri has had a set of microfiche images of the hand-written transcriptions of Joseph Smith (the Printer's Manuscript) and his transcribers from 1828 and 1829. So there has long been solid evidence that the LDS leaders had altered the text of the first (1830) edition of the Book of Mormon.
Fortunately, a wonderful event happened in 2009. A respected Mormon scholar, Royal Skousen, a Professor at Brigham Young University, had spent around twenty years in studying the originals of those hand-written documents, and he was able to publish a book on The Earliest Writings. He documented thousands of differences between the first published 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon and the hand-written notes of 1828 and 1829. Around 600 of those corrections/changes have never been published before, and Skousen says that around 250 of those changes cause actual changes in the meaning of the text! This new book seems to be an incredible advance in the scholarly understanding of the basis for the LDS Church and Faith. Bravo!
For the record, we have great admiration for countless things that the modern Mormon Church has accomplished. The ethics, principles, and morals Taught seem to be excellent! The Missionary work and the impressive generosity call nearly all other Churches to shame by comparison! So we really DO want to find LOGICAL EXPLANATIONS for these matters which we see as troubling. As with all other Churches, there are aspects which are admirable and other aspects which are terrible, since all Churches are operated by fallible humans. EACH of our Churches should have the RESPONSIBILITY of attempting to become the very best Church we can be! We simply want to try to encourage the Mormon Church to examine these matters in order that Mormons could better hold their head high when critics try to say negative things.
I believe that the results of my research regarding these things has provided an ASSET for the Mormon Church! Something that no Mormon could ever provide them! It appears to be ABSOLUTE PROOF of the validity of the Book of Mormon (in its Original wording). Consider that I was educated as a Nuclear Physicist and not as a Theologian. It happens that every day is chock full of Statistical Analyses of every little detail in Physics. So a unique feature of the Book of Mormon struck me as interesting! Consider that during three months in the early part of 1829, April through June, when Joseph Smith was then just 23 years old, and relatively uneducated, he orally spoke all the words for a book which is now around 750 pages long. He spoke 3500 to 4000 words every day, and had the scribe repeat the word and spelling to confirm that it was recorded correctly, and he corrected misspellings and such. But since this was an oral presentation which was written down, there was virtually no punctuation or capitalization in any of it! Many years later, the Head Printer said that he got the text in a form where it was essentially a single long sentence for the whole book!
Why is this important? If you have read the Book of Mormon, you know that it is a complex book, where many dozens of people and places are regularly mentioned, during a historic period of well over a thousand years. For a very poorly educated young man to have been able to speak each of those words only once, AND NOT GOTTEN STORIES or PEOPLE or PLACES mixed up, it is truly astounding! Even very educated authors often make blunders in referring to some person or place which is physically impossible, but Joseph Smith did not make a single one! Without even having to keep any storyline notes handy! Those educated authors have access to massive libraries so they can confirm that Abraham Lincoln was born after George Washington had died, so if the author's book contained a story of a conversation between the two, such a conversation could never have occurred! And ALL the many people mentioned in the Book of Mormon, from many different centuries and from several different groups of people, were all somehow kept straight by Joseph Smith! I did a Statistical Analysis of that large a number of possible loci of error, and even if Joseph Smith had taken many years to methodically check through his text over and over, the lack of such flaws is really astounding! And the fact that Smith spoke each word only once, in sequence, and remarkably quickly, did not even allow any room for later correcting names.
(He DID make some statements which contradict known facts, and they WERE corrected later, but the specific point I am making here is that the multiple and inter-woven storylines are held together far too well for any human to have been able to have done it!)
This seems to imply that the Lord MUST have provided the words to him, in order to not have gross errors in logic everywhere! Part of this reasoning is centered on the FACT that Joseph Smith was relatively uneducated, where such a person would simply not have either the skills or the access to methods of keeping so many storylines each strictly correct and independent.
I have a personal thought to add here. The later comments of people who were present seemed to make clear that Smith RARELY even looked at any of the Plates, and they were commonly covered by a cloth. But in any traditional process of translation, each symbol and each word commonly takes several minutes to decode. Instead, Smith invariably placed his hat on a table and lowered his face into it, and spoke the words from there. Notice an important fact that seems to not have been recognized elsewhere. Smith generally only required a scribe to work around eight hours per day. That is around 29,000 seconds. Including the time to hear back the transcribed copy and the time to correct spellings, they proceeded around 3500 to 4000 words every day. This then represents an average of only EIGHT SECONDS PER WORD for the entire process! NO traditional translation can proceed at that rate. In fact, just the time of examining the Plates would have severely slowed this rate! Minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, another word transcribed every eight seconds!
Basically, I see that, and especially in combination with the incredible logical purity of the many storylines, as being impressive proof that the words that Joseph Smith wrote during those months must certainly have been of enormous importance.
There is another situation which proves this even more fully! A scribe copy was being generated each day at that prodigious rate. But due to the fact that the first 116 pages of work had earlier been lost, Smith decided to have the scribes (primarily Cowdery) make an entire duplicate copy of the whole text! The original, which was hand-written directly from Smith's voice, is sometimes called the Original. The copy was supposed to be an EXACT copy of the Original, to be given to the Printer. But Cowdery made a COMMON number of copyist mistakes in making the duplicate, an average of around three errors per page. That fact simply means that Cowdery was an average conscientious human, but that the text provided to the Printer therefore contained thousands of (minor) copying mistakes! Cowdery demonstrated that he was human, but by comparison, Smith provided an oral text that seems far beyond any human abilities regarding accuracy.
In any case, this all leads me to think that the presence of the Plates were nearly irrelevant! Smith kept his face in the darkness of his hat for hour after hour, day after day, constantly speaking the words. So it seems credible that any analytical questions regarding the Plates, whether they had enough total surface area to present all the needed characters, what language they might have been in, are probably irrelevant questions! If Joseph Smith was being given the words to speak, directly, then no Plates or seerstone or Interpreter was even necessary or important. Except maybe for credibility purposes!
However, there are still some other matters which exist. The Book of Mormon claims that at least THREE DIFFERENT MIGRATIONS occurred from the area around Palestine. Such journeys certainly took many months to complete, and most such long sea journeys included many of the passengers dying during the trip, specifically of starvation. Taking enough food along for a 10,000 mile sea voyage halfway around the world is not a simple process. But most unlikely is that ALL THREE of such immense migrations could possibly have traveled to the SAME destination in America, at a time when America was still totally unknown. For ONE such journey to successfully have made it that amazingly long distance, would be incredible. For three DIFFERENT migrations to have occurred, in different centuries, and yet somehow all ended up in the same destination, truly stretches credibility!
In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl led a group of six people on an ocean voyage of less than half that distance (4300 miles or 6900 km) across the South Pacific Ocean, and even that trip took them 101 days to complete. Their trip ended in a crash that destroyed their 45 foot long raft and left them stranded on an uninhabited island, where they were later rescued. The technology used in building the Kon Tiki was many centuries more advanced than the very primitive boat building capabilities which existed at either extreme ancient history (the time of Lot in the Bible, the Jaredites) or even 600 BC, where no open sea trips were yet still ever made. Even today, with modern construction materials, the possibility of building a boat to sail from Palestine to North America, roughly 10,000 miles, is nearly impossible. There are many logical difficulties in stories of such multiple migrations, and to the same destination!
There is another matter. The Book of Mormon clearly indicates that native American Indians are allegedly descendents of the people of that first migration. Modern science has now proven that to be impossible. The DNA samples of American Indians have been examined, and checked against the DNA of people in many places in the Mid-East, and they are EXTREMELY different! Current scientific data indicates that the LATEST possible time was many thousands of years BEFORE any human civilization yet existed!
And one more that seems especially odd to me. The Book of Mormon refers to the Red Sea, such as at 1 Neph1 2:5. If God was truly providing the words for Smith to say, doesn't it seem likely that He would have provided the CORRECT words? This is important because the ACTUAL name of that Sea was the REED Sea and not Red Sea. It was also called the Weeds Sea, due to the massive numbers of reed plants in it. There is NO indication of any red color in any part of it, and indeed, no reference to RED Sea existed until the most recent few hundred years and only in English! Scholars generally recognize that the CORRECT name was Reed Sea. When that name was translated into English a few hundred years ago, it apparently got misheard and called the Red Sea, by people who had never actually seen it! It seems very peculiar that Joseph Smith would have spoken a WRONG name which has only existed for a few hundred years and which certainly did NOT exist at 420 AD or at 600 BC! A Strong's Concordance of the Bible has the word O5488 cuwph, which has a definition reed, rush, water plant for the word that now appears as 'Red' in modern English Bibles!
I realize that non-Physicists see such comments as being nit-picky. But they are not. They are intimately related to the quality of logic and factual accuracy which is present, and Physicists see immense importance in confirming such things.
An Account Written by
The Hand of Mormon
Taken from the Plates of Nephi
Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites - Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile - Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation - Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed - To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof - Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile - The interpretation thereof by the gift of God. An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven - Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever -
And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations - And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment - seat of Christ.
Translated by Joseph Smith, Jr.
The Testimony of Three Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true.
And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment - seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.
The Testimony of Eight Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
Joseph Smith, Sr.
Peter Whitmer, Jr.
Samuel H Smith
"On the evening of the...twenty-first of September (1823)...I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God.... "While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. "He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrists; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare.
I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom. "Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me. "He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people. "He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.
He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; "Also, that there were two stones in silver bows - and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim - deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted Seers in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.
"Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken - for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled - I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it. "After this communication, I saw the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so, until the room was again left dark, except just around him, when instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended until he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance.
"I lay musing on the singularity of the scene, and marveling greatly at what had been told to me by this extraordinary messenger; when, in the midst of my meditation, I suddenly discovered that my room was again beginning to get lighted, and in an instant, as it were, the same heavenly messenger was again by my bedside. "He commenced, and again related the very same things which he had done at his first visit, without the least variation; which having done, he informed me of great judgments which were coming upon the earth, with great desolations by famine, sword, and pestilence; and that these grievous judgments would come on the earth in this generation. Having related these things, he again ascended as he had done before. "By this time, so deep were the impressions made on my mind, that sleep had fled from my eyes, and I lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard.
But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before; and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father's family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building His kingdom; otherwise I could not get them. "After this third visit, he again ascended into heaven as before, and I was again left to ponder on the strangeness of what I had just experienced; when almost immediately after the heavenly messenger had ascended from me the third time, the cock crowed, and I found that day was approaching, so that our interviews must have occupied the whole of that night.
"I shortly after arose from my bed, and, as usual, went to the necessary labors of the day; but, in attempting to work as at other times, I found my strength so exhausted as to render me entirely unable. My father, who was laboring along with me, discovered something to be wrong with me, and told me to go home. I started with the intention of going to the house; but, in attempting to cross the fence out of the field where we were, my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything. "The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me, calling me by name. I looked up, and beheld the same messenger standing over my head, surrounded by light as before. He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received. "I obeyed; I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger.
I left the field, and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited; and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there. "Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth. "Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger.
The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them. "I made an attempt to take them out, but was forbidden by the messenger, and was again informed that the time for bringing them forth had not yet arrived, neither would it, until four years from that time; but he told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time, and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so until the time should come for obtaining the plates. "Accordingly, as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner His kingdom was to be conducted in the last days.
"At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: That I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected. "I soon found out the reason why I received such strict charges to keep them safe, and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required at my hand, he would call for them. For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me.
Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me if possible. But by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight."
For the complete record, see Joseph Smith - History, in the Pearl of Great Price, and History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter - day Saints, volume 1, chapters 1 through 6.
The ancient record, thus brought forth from the earth as the voice of a people speaking from the dust, and translated into modern speech by the gift and power of God as attested by Divine affirmation, was first published to the world in the year 1830 as The Book of Mormon.
1. The Plates of Nephi, which were of two kinds: the Small Plates and the Large Plates. The former were more particularly devoted to the spiritual matters and the ministry and teachings of the prophets, while the latter were occupied mostly by a secular history of the peoples concerned (1 Nephi 9:2 - 4). From the time of Mosiah, however, the large plates also included items of major spiritual importance.
2. The Plates of Mormon, which consist of an abridgment by Mormon from the Large Plates of Nephi, with many commentaries. These plates also contained a continuation of the history by Mormon and additions by his son Moroni.
3. The Plates of Ether, which present a history of the Jaredites. This record was abridged by Moroni, who inserted comments of his own and incorporated the record with the general history under the title "Book of Ether."
4. The Plates of Brass brought by the people of Lehi from Jerusalem in 600 BC. These contained "the five books of Moses, ...And also a record of the Jews from the beginning,...down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; And also the prophecies of the holy prophets" (Nephi 5:11 - 13). Many quotations from these plates, citing Isaiah and other biblical and nonbiblical prophets, appear in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon comprises fifteen main parts or divisions, known, with one exception, as books, each designated by the name of its principal author. The first portion (the first six books, ending with Omni) is a translation from the Small Plates of Nephi. Between books of Omni and Mosiah is an insert called The Words of Mormon. This insert connects the record engraved on the Small Plates with Mormon's abridgment of the Large Plates. The longest portion, from Mosiah to Mormon, chapter 7, inclusive, is a translation of Mormon's abridgment of the Large Plates of Nephi.
The concluding portion, from Mormon, chapter 8, to the end of the volume, was engraved by Mormon's son Moroni, who, after finishing the record of his father's life, made an abridgment of the Jaredite record (as the Book of Ether) and later added the parts known as the Book of Moroni. In or about the year AD 421, Moroni, the last of the Nephite prophet - historians, sealed the sacred record and hid it up unto the Lord, to be brought forth in the latter days, as predicted by the voice of God through his ancient prophets. In AD 1823, this same Moroni, then a resurrected personage, visited the Prophet Joseph Smith and subsequently delivered the engraved plates to him.
About this edition: Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
An account of Lehi and his wife Sariah and his four sons, being called, (beginning at the eldest) Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi. The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem, because he prophesieth unto the people concerning their iniquity and they seek to destroy his life. He taketh three days' journey into the wilderness with his family. Nephi taketh his brethren and returneth to the land of Jerusalem after the record of the Jews. The account of their sufferings. They take the daughters of Ishmael to wife. They take their families and depart into the wilderness. Their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness. The course of their travels. They come to the large waters. Nephi's brethren rebel against him. He confoundeth them, and buildeth a ship. They call the name of the place Bountiful. They cross the large waters into the promised land, and so forth. This is according to the account of Nephi; or in other words, I, Nephi, wrote this record.
1 Nephi 1:2. Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.
1 Nephi 1:3. And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.
1 Nephi 1:4. For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.
1 Nephi 1:5. Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.
1 Nephi 1:6. And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.
1 Nephi 1:7. And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.
1 Nephi 1:8. And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.
1 Nephi 1:9. And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon - day.
1 Nephi 1:10. And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.
1 Nephi 1:11. And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read.
1 Nephi 1:12. And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.
1 Nephi 1:13. And he read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem - that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.
1 Nephi 1:14. And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth, and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!
1 Nephi 1:15. And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God; for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him.
1 Nephi 1:16. And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account.
1 Nephi 1:17. But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.
1 Nephi 1:18. Therefore, I would that ye should know, that after the Lord had shown so many marvelous things unto my father, Lehi, yea, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, behold he went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard.
1 Nephi 1:19. And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of the Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.
1 Nephi 1:20. And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away. But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.
1 Nephi 2:2. And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.
1 Nephi 2:3. And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.
1 Nephi 2:4. And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.
1 Nephi 2:5. And he came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea; and he did travel in the wilderness with his family, which consisted of my mother, Sariah, and my elder brothers, who were Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.
1 Nephi 2:6. And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water.
1 Nephi 2:7. And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.
1 Nephi 2:8. And it came to pass that he called the name of the river, Laman, and it emptied into the Red Sea; and the valley was in the borders near the mouth thereof.
1 Nephi 2:9. And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
1 Nephi 2:10. And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!
1 Nephi 2:11. Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.
1 Nephi 2:12. And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.
1 Nephi 2:13. Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.
1 Nephi 2:14. And it came to pass that my father did speak unto them in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit, until their frames did shake before him. And he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them.
1 Nephi 2:15. And my father dwelt in a tent.
1 Nephi 2:16. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.
1 Nephi 2:17. And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words.
1 Nephi 2:18. But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words; and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts I cried unto the Lord for them.
1 Nephi 2:19. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
1 Nephi 2:20. And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
1 Nephi 2:21. And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
1 Nephi 2:22. And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
1 Nephi 2:23. For behold, in that day that they shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power over thy seed except they shall rebel against me also.
1 Nephi 2:24. And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.
1 Nephi 3:2. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying: Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
1 Nephi 3:3. For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.
1 Nephi 3:4. Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.
1 Nephi 3:5. And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.
1 Nephi 3:6. Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured.
1 Nephi 3:7. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
1 Nephi 3:8. And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was exceedingly glad, for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord.
1 Nephi 3:9. And I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness, with our tents, to go up to the land of Jerusalem.
1 Nephi 3:10. And it came to pass that when we had gone up to the land of Jerusalem, I and my brethren did consult one with another.
1 Nephi 3:11. And we cast lots - who of us should go in unto the house of Laban. And it came to pass that the lot fell upon Laman; and Laman went in unto the house of Laban, and he talked with him as he sat in his house.
1 Nephi 3:12. And he desired of Laban the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, which contained the genealogy of my father.
1 Nephi 3:13. And behold, it came to pass that Laban was angry, and thrust him out from his presence; and he would not that he should have the records. Wherefore, he said unto him: Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee.
1 Nephi 3:14. But Laman fled out of his presence, and told the things which Laban had done, unto us. And we began to be exceedingly sorrowful, and my brethren were about to return unto my father in the wilderness.
1 Nephi 3:15. But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.
1 Nephi 3:16. Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; therefore let us go down to the land of our father's inheritance, for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches. And all this he hath done because of the commandments of the Lord.
1 Nephi 3:17. For he knew that Jerusalem must be destroyed, because of the wickedness of the people.
1 Nephi 3:18. For behold, they have rejected the words of the prophets. Wherefore, if my father should dwell in the land after he hath been commanded to flee out of the land, behold, he would also perish. Wherefore, it must needs be that he flee out of the land.
1 Nephi 3:19. And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records, that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers;
1 Nephi 3:20. And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time.
1 Nephi 3:21. And it came to pass that after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren, that they might be faithful in keeping the commandments of God.
1 Nephi 3:22. And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things.
1 Nephi 3:23. And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.
1 Nephi 3:24. And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired him that he would give unto us the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, for which we would give unto him our gold, and our silver, and all our precious things.
1 Nephi 3:25. And it came to pass that when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property.
1 Nephi 3:26. And it came to pass that we did flee before the servants of Laban, and we were obliged to leave behind our property, and it fell into the hands of Laban.
1 Nephi 3:27. And it came to pass that we fled into the wilderness, and the servants of Laban did not overtake us, and we hid ourselves in the cavity of a rock.
1 Nephi 3:28. And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod.
1 Nephi 3:29. And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities? Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.
1 Nephi 3:30. And after the angel had spoken unto us, he departed.
1 Nephi 3:31. And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?
1 Nephi 4:2. Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.
1 Nephi 4:3. Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt? Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians.
1 Nephi 4:4. Now when I had spoken these words, they were yet wroth, and did still continue to murmur; nevertheless they did follow me up until we came without the walls of Jerusalem.
1 Nephi 4:5. And it was by night; and I caused that they should hide themselves without the walls. And after they had hid themselves, I, Nephi, crept into the city and went forth towards the house of Laban.
1 Nephi 4:6. And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.
1 Nephi 4:7. Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.
1 Nephi 4:8. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban.
1 Nephi 4:9. And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.
1 Nephi 4:10. And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.
1 Nephi 4:11. And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.
1 Nephi 4:12. And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
1 Nephi 4:13. Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.
1 Nephi 4:14. And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.
1 Nephi 4:15. Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.
1 Nephi 4:16. And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.
1 Nephi 4:17. And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause - that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.
1 Nephi 4:18. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.
1 Nephi 4:19. And after I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.
1 Nephi 4:20. And after I had done this, I went forth unto the treasury of Laban. And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury.
1 Nephi 4:21. And he supposed me to be his master, Laban, for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins.
1 Nephi 4:22. And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.
1 Nephi 4:23. And I spake unto him as if it had been Laban.
1 Nephi 4:24. And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls.
1 Nephi 4:25. And I also bade him that he should follow me.
1 Nephi 4:26. And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me.
1 Nephi 4:27. And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls.
1 Nephi 4:28. And it came to pass that when Laman saw me he was exceedingly frightened, and also Lemuel and Sam. And they fled from before my presence; for they supposed it was Laban, and that he had slain me and had sought to take away their lives also.
1 Nephi 4:29. And it came to pass that I called after them, and they did hear me; wherefore they did cease to flee from my presence.
1 Nephi 4:30. And it came to pass that when the servant of Laban beheld my brethren he began to tremble, and was about to flee from before me and return to the city of Jerusalem.
1 Nephi 4:31. And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of the Lord, therefore I did seize upon the servant of Laban, and held him, that he should not flee.
1 Nephi 4:32. And it came to pass that I spake with him, that if he would hearken unto my words, as the Lord liveth, and as I live, even so that if he would hearken unto our words, we would spare his life.
1 Nephi 4:33. And I spake unto him, even with an oath, that he need not fear; that he should be a free man like unto us if he would go down in the wilderness with us.
1 Nephi 4:34. And I also spake unto him, saying: Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing; and shall we not be diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord? Therefore, if thou wilt go down into the wilderness to my father thou shalt have place with us.
1 Nephi 4:35. And it came to pass that Zoram did take courage at the words which I spake. Now Zoram was the name of the servant; and he promised that he would go down into the wilderness unto our father. Yea, and he also made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth.
1 Nephi 4:36. Now we were desirous that he should tarry with us for this cause, that the Jews might not know concerning our flight into the wilderness, lest they should pursue us and destroy us.
1 Nephi 4:37. And it came to pass that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him.
1 Nephi 4:38. And it came to pass that we took the plates of brass and the servant of Laban, and departed into the wilderness, and journeyed unto the tent of our father.
1 Nephi 5:2. For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
1 Nephi 5:3. And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.
1 Nephi 5:4. And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
1 Nephi 5:5. But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.
1 Nephi 5:6. And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
1 Nephi 5:7. And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.
1 Nephi 5:8. And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.
1 Nephi 5:9. And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.
1 Nephi 5:10. And after they had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning.
1 Nephi 5:11. And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents;
1 Nephi 5:12. And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah;
1 Nephi 5:13. And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.
1 Nephi 5:14. And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.
1 Nephi 5:15. And they were also led out of captivity and out of the land of Egypt, by that same God who had preserved them.
1 Nephi 5:16. And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records.
1 Nephi 5:17. And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed
1 Nephi 5:18. That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed.
1 Nephi 5:19. Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. And he prophesied many things concerning his seed.
1 Nephi 5:20. And it came to pass that thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us.
1 Nephi 5:21. And we had obtained the records which the Lord had commanded us, and searched them and found that they were desirable; yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children.
1 Nephi 5:22. Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.
(Also called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.)
This religious body had its origin during the early part of the nineteenth century.
Joseph Smith, the founder and first president of the sect, was the son of a Vermont farmer, and was born in Sharon township, Windsor County, in that state, on 23 December, 1805. In the spring of 1820, while living with his parents at Manchester, Ontario (now Wayne) County, New York, he became deeply concerned upon the subject of his salvation, a condition partly induced by a religious revival which proselytized a few of his relatives to the Presbyterian Faith. Joseph himself was inclined toward Methodism; to satisfy his mind as to which one of the existing sects he should join, he sought Divine guidance, and claimed to have received in answer to prayer a visitation from two glorious beings, who told him not to connect himself to any of these Churches, but to bide the coming of Church of Christ, which was about to be re-established.
According to his own statement, there appeared to him on the night of 21 September, 1823, a heavenly messenger, who gave his name as Moroni, and revealed the existence of an ancient record containing the fullness of the Gospel of Christ as taught by the Saviour after his Resurrection to the Nephites, a branch of the House of Israel which inhabited the American continent ages prior to its discovery by Columbus. Moroni in mortal life had been a Nephite prophet, the son of another prophet named Mormon, who was the compiler of the record buried in a hill situated about two miles from the modern village of Manchester.
Joseph Smith states that he received the record from the angel Moroni in September, 1827. It was, he alleges, engraved upon metallic plates having the appearance of gold and each a little thinner than ordinary tin, the whole forming a book about six inches long, six inches wide, and six inches thick, bound together by rings. The characters engraved upon the plates were in a language styled the Reformed Egyptian, and with the book were interpreters -- Urim and Thummim -- by means of which these characters were to be translated into English. The result was the "Book of Mormon", published at Palmyra, New York in March, 1830; in the preface eleven witnesses, exclusive of Joseph Smith, the translator, claim to have seen the plates from which it was taken. witnesses -- declared this testimony false.--
The "Book of Mormon" purports to be an abridged account of God's dealings with the two great races of prehistoric Americans -- the Jaredites, who were led from the Tower of Babel at the time of the confusion of the tongues, and the Nephites who came from Jerusalem just prior to the Babylonian captivity (600 B.C.). According to this book, America is the "Land of Zion", where the New Jerusalem will be built by a gathering of scattered Israel before the second coming of the Messiah. The labours of such men as Columbus, the Pilgrim Fathers, and the patriots of the Revolution, are pointed out as preparatory to that consummation. The work of Joseph Smith is also prophetically indicated, he being represented as a lineal descendant of the Joseph of old, commissioned to begin the gathering of Israel foretold by Isaias (11:10-16) and other ancient prophets.
In another part of his narrative Joseph Smith affirms that, while translating the "Book of Mormon", he and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, were visited by an angel, who declared himself to be John the Baptist and ordained them to the Aaronic priesthood; and that subsequently they were ordained to the priesthood of Melchisedech by the Apostles Peter, James and John. According to Smith and Cowdery, the Aaronic priesthood gave them authority to preach faith and repentance, to baptize by immersion for the remission of sins, and to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; the priesthood of Melchisedech empowered them to lay on hands and bestow the Holy Ghost.
The "Book of Mormon" being published, its peculiar doctrines, including those just set forth, were preached in western New York and northern Pennsylvania. Those who accepted them were termed "Mormons", but they called themselves "Latter-Day Saints", in contradistinction to the saints of former times. The "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" was organized on 6 April, 1830, at Fayette, Seneca County, New York; Joseph Smith was accepted as first elder, and prophet, seer, and revelator.
The articles of faith formulated by him are as follows:
"(1) We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
"(2) We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
"(3) We believe that through the atonement of Christ all men may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
"(4) We believe that these ordinances are: First, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost
"(5) We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances thereof.
"(6) We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, viz. apostles, prophets, pastors teachers, evangelists, etc.
"(7) We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc.
"(8) We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the 'Book of Mormon' to be the word of God.
"(9) We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
"(10) We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes. That Zion will be built upon this continent. That Christ will reign personally upon the earth, and that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaic glory.
"(11) We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience, and allow all men the same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may.
"(12) We believe in being subject to kings, president, rulers and magistrates, in obeying. honouring and sustaining that law.
"(13) We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul, 'We believe all things, we hope all things' we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
Six months after its inception, the Mormon Church sent its first mission to the American Indians -- called in the "Book of Mormon" the Lamanites, "the degenerate remnants of the Nephite nation." Oliver Cowdery was placed at the head of this mission, which also included Parley P. Pratt, a former preacher of the Reformed Baptists, or Campbellites. The missionaries proceeded to northern Ohio, then almost a wilderness, where Elder Pratt presented to his former' pastor, Sidney Rigdon, a copy of the "Book of Mormon", published several months before. Up to that time Rigdon had never seen the book, which he was accused of helping Smith to write. The Mormons are equally emphatic in their denial of the identity of the "Book of Mormon" with Spaulding's "Manuscript Story", now in Oberlin College; they quote in this connection James H. Fairchild that institution, who, in a communication to the "New York Observer" (5 February, 1885), states that Mr. L.L., Rice and he, after comparing the "Book of Mormon" and the Spaulding romance, "could detect no resemblance between the two, in general or detail".
Elder Cowdery and his companions, after baptizing about one hundred persons in Ohio went to western Missouri, and, thence crossing over at Independence into what is now the State of Kansas, laboured for a time among the Indians there. Meanwhile the Mormons of the East, to escape the opposition awakened by their extraordinary claims, and to be nearer their proposed ultimate destination, moved their headquarters to Kirtland, Ohio, from which place, in the summer of 1831, departed its first colony into Missouri -- Jackson County in that state having been designated as the site of the New Jerusalem.
Both at Kirtland and at Independence efforts were made to establish "The United Order", a communal system of an industrial character, designed to make the church members equal in things spiritual and temporal. The prophet taught that a system had sanctified the City of Enoch, whose people were called "Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness," with "no poor among them". He also declared that the ancient Apostles had endeavoured to establish such an order at Jerusalem (Acts 4:32-37), and that, according to the "Book of Mormon", it had prevailed among the Nephites for two centuries after Christ.
In the latter part of 1833 trouble arose between the Mormons and the Missourians, based largely, say Mormon writers, upon a feeling of apprehension concerning the aims and motives of the new settlers. Coming from the north and the east, they were suspected of being abolitionists, which was sufficient of itself to make them unpopular in Missouri. It was also charged that they intended to unite with the Indians and drive the older settlers from the land. The Mormons asserted their innocence of these and other charges, but their denial did not avail. Armed mobs came upon them, and the whole colony -- twelve hundred men, women, and children -- were driven from Jackson County, and forbidden on pain of death to return.
In Ohio the Mormons prospered, though even there they had their vicissitudes. At Kirtland a temple was built, and a more complete organization of the priesthood effected. Mormonism's first foreign mission was opened in the summer of 1837, when Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde, two of the "twelve apostles of the Church", were sent with other elders to England for that purpose. While this work of proselytizing was in progress, disaffection was rife at Kirtland, and the ill-feeling grew and intensified until the "prophet" was compelled to flee for his life. It is of importance to bear in mind that the opposition to the Mormons in the localities where they settled is, from the contradictory and divergent statements made by the Latter-Day Saints and the neighbours not of their belief, difficult of explanation. It is safe to assume that there was provocation on both sides. The main body of the Mormons, following their leader to Missouri, settled in and around Far West, Caldwell County, which now became the chief gathering place. The sect had been organized by six men, and a year later was said to number about two thousand souls. In Missouri it increased to twelve thousand. A brief season of peace was followed by a series of calamities, occasioned by religious and political differences. The trouble began in August, 1838, and during the strife considerable blood was shed and much property destroyed, the final act in the drama being the mid-winter expulsion of the entire Mormon community from the state.
In Illinois, where they were kindly received, they built around the small village of Commerce, in Hancock County, the city of Nauvoo, gathering in that vicinity to the number of twenty thousand. Another temple was erected, several towns founded, and the surrounding country occupied. Up to this time there had been no Mormon recruiting from abroad, all the converts to the new sect coming from various states in the Union and from Canada. In 1840-1 Brigham Young and other emissaries visited Great Britain, preaching in all the principal cities and towns. Here they baptized a number of people, published a new edition of the "Book of Mormon", founded a periodical called the "Millennial Star", and established a permanent emigration agency. The first Mormon emigrants from a foreign land -- a small company of British converts -- reached Nauvoo. by way of New York, in the summer of 1840. Subsequently the emigration came via New Orleans.
The Legislature of Illinois granted a liberal charter to Nauvoo, and, as a protection against mob violence and further drivings and spoliations, the Mormons were permitted to organize the "Nauvoo Legion", an all but independent military body, though part of the state militia, commanded by Joseph Smith as lieutenant-general. Moreover, a municipal court was instituted, having jurisdiction in civil cases, as a bar to legal proceedings of a persecuting or vexatious character.
Similar causes to those which had resulted in the exodus of the Mormons from Missouri brought about their expulsion from Illinois, prior to which a tragic event robbed them of their prophet, Joseph Smith, and their patriarch, Hyrum Smith, who were killed by a mob in Carthage jail on 27 June, 1844. The immediate cause of the murder of the two brothers was the destruction of the press of the Nauvoo Expositor, a paper established by seceders from Mormonism to give voice to the wide indignation caused by the promulgation of Smith's revelation of 12 July, 1843, establishing polygamy, which had been practised personally by the prophet for several years. Another avowed purpose of this paper was to secure the repeal of the Nauvoo Charter, which the Mormons looked upon as the bulwark of their liberties. The "Expositor" issued but once, when it was condemned as a public nuisance by order of the city council, its printing-office being destroyed and its editor, Foster, expelled. This summary act of anti-Mormon sentiment, and, on Smith's preparing to resist by force the warrant procured by foster for his arrest, the militia were called out and armed mobs began to threaten Nauvoo.
At Carthage was a large body of militia, mustered under Governor Thomas Ford to compel the surrender of Nauvoo. Smith submitted and repaired to Carthage, where he and his brother Hyrum, with others, were placed in jail. Fearful of a bloody collision, the governor disbanded most of his force, and with the remainder marched to Nauvoo, where the Mormons laid down their arms. During the governor's absence, a portion of the disbanded militia returned to Carthage and assaulted the jail in which the Mormon leaders were imprisoned, shooting Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and all but fatally wounding John Taylor; Willard Richards, their fellow-prisoner, escaped unhurt.
In the exodus that ensued, Brigham Young led the people westward. Passing over the frozen Mississippi (February, 1846), the main body made their way across the prairies of Iowa, reaching the Missouri River about the middle of June. A Mormon colony, sailing from New York, rounded Cape Horn, and landed at Yerba Buena (San Francisco) in July, 1846. Prior to that time only a few thousand Americans had settled on the Pacific Coast, mostly in Oregon, which was then claimed both by Great Britain and the United States. So far as known, no American had then made a permanent home in what was called "The Great Basin". The desert region, now known as Salt Lake Valley, was then a part of the Mexican province of California, but was uninhabited save by Indians and a few wandering trappers and hunters.
The Mormon pioneers, marching from the Missouri River in April, 1847, arrived in Salt Lake Valley on 24 July. This company, numbering 143 men, 3 women, and 2 children, was led by Brigham Young. Most of the exiles from Nauvoo remained in temporary shelters on the frontier where they entered into winter quarters in what is now Nebraska. Well-armed and disciplined, they accomplished the journey of over a thousand miles to Salt Lake Valley without one fatality. A few days after their arrival they laid out Salt Lake City.
The people left upon the Missouri migrated in the autumn of 1848, and after them came yearly to the Rocky Mountains, generally in Church wagons sent to the frontier to meet them, Mormon emigrants from the States, from Europe, and from other lands to which missionaries continued to be sent. Most of the converts were drawn from the middle and working classes, but some professional people were among them.
While awaiting the time for the establishment of a civic government, the Mormons were under ecclesiastical rule. Secular officers were appointed, however, to preserve the peace, administer justice, and carry on public improvements. These officers were often selected at church meetings, and civil and religious functions were frequently united in the same person. But this state of affairs did not continue long. As soon as a civic government was organized, many of the forms of political procedure already in use in American commonwealths were introduced, and remained in force till statehood was secured for Utah. In March, 1849 thirteen months after the signing of the treaty by which Mexico ceded this region to the United States, the settlers in Salt Lake Valley founded the provisional Government of the State of Deseret, pending action by the American Congress upon their petition for admission into the Union. Deseret is a word taken from the "Book of Mormon", and signifies honey-bee. Brigham Young was elected governor, and a legislature, with a full set of executive officers, was also chosen. Congress denied the petition for statehood, and organized the Territory of Utah, naming it after a local tribe of Indians. Brigham Young was appointed governor by President Millard Fillmore (September 1850) and four years later was reappointed by President Franklin Pierce. The period between 1850 and 1858, during which the Mormons defied the authority of the Federal Government, is one of the least creditable chapters of their history.
One reason given for the persistent hostility to the Mormons was the dislike caused by the acrimonious controversy over polygamy or plural marriage. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed to have received a revelation and a command ordering him to re-introduce plural marriage and restore the polygamous condition tolerated among the pre-Judaic tribes. Polygamy now became a principle of the creed of the Latter-Day Saints, and, though not enforced by the laws of the Mormon hierarchy, was preached by the elders and practised by the chiefs of the cult and by many of the people. The violation by the Mormons of the monogamous law of Christianity and of the United States was brought to the attention of Congress, which prohibited under penalty of fine and imprisonment the perpetuation of the anti-Christian practice, refusing, however, to make the prohibition retroactive. The Mormons appealed to the Supreme Court, which sustained the action of Congress, and established the constitutionality of the anti-polygamy statutes.
The Latter-Day Saints, strangely enough, submitted to the decrees of Congress, unwittingly admitting by their submission that the revelation of their founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, could not have come from God. If the command to restore polygamy to the modern world was from on High, then, by submitting to the decision of the Supreme Court, the Mormon hierarchy reversed the apostolic proclamation and acknowledged it was better "to obey man than to obey God". So long as Utah remained a territory there was much bitterness between her Mormon and non-Mormon citizens, the latter termed "Gentiles". The Mormons submitted, however, and their president, Wilford Woodruff, issued a "Manifesto" which, being accepted by the Latter-Day Saints in General Conference, withdrew the sanction of the Church from the further solemnization of any marriages forbidden by the law of the land. One of the results of this action was the admission of Utah into the Union of States on 6 January, 1896.
Instances of the violation of the anti-polygamy laws subsequent to the date of the "Manifesto" having been brought to light, the present head of the Church (1913), President Joseph F.Smith, in April, 1904, made the following statement to the General Conference assembled at Salt Lake City, and it was endorsed by resolution and adopted by unanimous vote:
Inasmuch as there are numerous reports in circulation, that plural marriages have been entered into, contrary to the official declaration of President Woodruff, of September 24th, 1890, commonly called the 'Manifesto', which was issued by President Woodruff and adopted by the Church at its General Conference October 6th 1890, which forbade any marriages violative of the law of the land; I, Joseph F. Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hereby affirm and declare that no such marriages have been solemnized with the sanction, consent or knowledge the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints; and I hereby announce that all such marriages are prohibited, and if any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or enter into any such marriage, he will be deemed in transgression against the Church he will be liable to be dealt with according to the rules and regulations thereof, and excommunicated therefrom.
Joseph F. Smith,
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Saints (1890).
In an "Address to the World", adopted at the General Conference of April, 1907, President Smith and his counsellors, John R. Winder and Anthon H. Lund, in behalf of the Church, reaffirmed its attitude of obedience to the laws of Congress. The practice of plural marriage is indeed fast becoming a thing of the past.
Mormonism announces as one of its principal aims the preparation of a people for the coming of the Lord; a people who will build the New Jerusalem, and there await His coming. The United Order, the means of preparation, is at present in abeyance, but the preliminary work of gathering Israel goes on, not to Zion proper (Jackson County, Missouri) but to the Stakes of Zion, now numbering sixty-one, most of them in Utah; the others are in Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, Canada and Mexico. A stake is a division of the Mormon Church, organized in such a way as to constitute almost a "church" in itself; in each stake are subdivisions called wards, also fully organized. The area of a stake is usually that of a county, though the extent of territory differs according to population or other conditions. Each stake is presided over by three high-priests, who, with twelve high councilors, constitute a tribunal for the adjudication of differences among church members within their jurisdiction. Each ward has a bishopric of three, a lower tribunal, from whose decisions appeals may be taken to the high council. The extreme penalty inflicted by the church courts is excommunication. In each stake are quorums of high-priests, seventies, and elders, officers and callings in the Melchisedech priesthood: and in each ward, quorums of priests, teachers, and deacons, who officiate in the Aaronic priesthood. This lesser authority ministers in temporal things, while the higher priesthood ministers in things spiritual, which include the temporal.
Presiding over the entire Church is a supreme council of three high-priests, called the First Presidency, otherwise known as the president and his counsellors. Next to these are the twelve apostles, equal in authority to the First Presidency, though subject to and acting under their direction. Whenever the First Presidency is dissolved, which occurs at the death of the president, the apostles take the government and reorganize the supreme council -- always, however, with the consent of the Church, whose members are called to vote for or against this or any other proposition submitted to them. The manner of voting is with the uplifted right hand, women voting as well as men. Besides the general conference held semi-annually and the usual Sabbath meetings, there are stake and ward conferences, in which the consent of the people is obtained before any important action is taken. The special function of the apostles is to preach the Gospel, or have it preached, in all nations, and to set in order, whenever necessary, the affairs of the entire Mormon Church.
Among the general authorities there is also a presiding patriarch, who, with his subordinates in the various stakes, gives blessings to the people and comforts them with sacred ministrations. The first council of the Seventies, seventy in number, assist the twelve apostles, and preside over all the quorums of seventies. Upon a presiding bishopric of three devolves the duty of receiving and disbursing the revenues of the Church, and otherwise managing its business, under the general direction of the first presidency.
The Mormon Church is supported by the tithes and offerings of its members, most of whom reside in the Stakes of Zion, though a good number remain in the several missions, scattered in various countries of the globe. About two thousand missionaries are kept in the field; while they consider themselves under the Divine injunction to "preach the Gospel to every creature", they have special instructions to baptize no married woman without the consent of her husband, and no child under age without the consent of its parents. The tithes are used for the building of temples and other places of worship, the work of the ministry, the furtherance of education and indigent, and for charitable and philanthropic purposes in general. Nearly every male member of the Church holds some office in the priesthood, but only those who devote their entire time to its service receive support.
In every stake are institutions known as auxiliaries, such as relief societies, sabbath schools, young men's and young ladies' mutual improvement associations, primary associations, and religious classes. The Relief Society is a woman's organization, having a special mission for the relief of the destitute and the care of the sick. An "Old Folks committee" is appointed to care for the aged. The Church school system comprises the Brigham Young University at Provo, the Brigham Young College at Logan, and the Latter-Day Saints University at Salt lake City. There are also nearly a score of stake academies. There are four Mormon temples in Utah, the principal one being at Salt Lake City. It was begun in April, 1853, and completed in April, 1893, costing, it is said, about $4,000,000. In these temples ordinances are administered both for the living and the dead. It is held that vicarious work of this character, such as baptisms, endowments etc., will be effectual in saving souls, once mortal, who believe and repent in the spiritual state. The Mormons claim a total membership of 584,000. [Note: As of 2005, this number stood at 11 million.] According to the United States Census Report of 21 May 1910, there are 256,647 Mormons within the Federal Union.
Publication information Written by W.R. Harris. Transcribed by John Looby. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
ROBERTS, Joseph Smith: History of the Church, personal narrative, with introduction and notes, 5 vols. Already issued (Salt Lake City, 1902-9); PRATT, Autobiog. (S.L. City, 1874); FORD, Hist. Of Illinois (Chicago 1854); KANE, The Mormons, a Lecture before the Hist. Soc. Of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1852); GREELY, Overland Journey, (New York, 1860); BURTON, City of the Saints (New York, 1862); TULLIDGE, Life of Joseph the Prophet (S.L. City, 1878); IDEM, The Women of Mormondom (S.L. City, 1877); IDEM, Hist. Of S.L. City (S.L. City, 1886); ROBINSON, Sinners and Saints, (Boston, 1883); BANCROFT, Hist. Of Utah (San Francisco, 1890); CANNON, Life of J. Smith the Prophet (S.L. City, 1888); WHITNEY, Hist. Of Utah (4 vols., S.L. City, 1892-1904); IDEM, Life of H. C. Kimball (S.L. City, 1888); IDEM, Making of a State (S.L. City, 1908); ROBERTS, Life of John Taylor (S.L. City, 1892); IDEM, Hist. Of the M. Church in Americana, IV-VI (New York, 1909-10); IDEM, Outlines of Ecclesiastical Hist. (S.L. City, 1893); STENHOUSE, The Rocky Mountain Saints (New York, 1873); COWLEY, Life and Labors of Wilfred Woodruff (S.L. City, 1909); JENSON, Historical Record (S.L. City, 1889); IDEM, Latter-Day Saints, Biogr. Encycl. (S.L. City, 1901).
Visitor CommentWe recently received this comment, regarding a comment made in the first article above:
Small error in the article regarding the Reorganized LDS. We do not believe that the presidency must be of the Smith lineage. Just the way it has worked out in the past. The current prophet/president is Grant McMurray. Not related to the Smith family.
BELIVE Editor's NoteI have long seen an apparent problem with the Book of Mormon, which no Mormon has yet suitably explained to me. I look forward to learning the explanation!
The Book of Mormon has many references to Jesus and dates based on the birth of Jesus. An example is:
BOOK OF MORMON 3:4. And it came to pass that after this tenth year had passed away, making, in the whole, three hundred and sixty years from the coming of Christ, the king of the Lamanites sent an epistle unto me, which gave unto me to know that they were preparing to come again to battle against us.
There are hundreds of such references in the Book of Mormon. But there seems to be two really obvious problems! First, all the activity described in the Book of Mormon of that era supposedly occurred in North America, possibly near New York. There really could have been no possible way for the people in the Book of Mormon to even KNOW that Jesus had been Born 7,000 miles away on the other side of the Earth!
2nd NEPHI 25:19. For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
This passage confirms that they left the Mid-East for America 600 years before Jesus was Born. And they never went back. So there was really no possible way for them to even know about Jesus, much less some details that are mentioned! Such a reference seems to bring into question how the Book of Mormon could really be credible.
There are other passages, such as 2nd Nephi 26:12 that refers to the Jews not accepting Jesus, and that the Gentiles also needed to be convinced. There is no possible way that people in America could have known such societal issues. 2nd Nephi 30:5 mentions the Christian Gospels, which did not come into existence for several generations after Jesus! Mosiah 3:8 even refers to Jesus' mother being named Mary! Mosiah 4:2 and many others refer to a religious system totally based on Jesus, a Person Who they had no way of ever even knowing Existed! By the way, nothing in the Old Testament ever referred to either Jesus or Christ, so for writers who allegedly wrote many hundreds of years before Jesus, in regularly using that Name, it also seems very odd. Helaman 5:9 refers to the atoning blood of Jesus, clearly showing more very intimate knowledge of Christianity that did not actually develop until well after Jesus had Died! 3rd Nephi 7:19 mentions various Miracles that Jesus Performed. 3rd Nephi 10 describes the Crucifixion. It just seems very peculiar that the people in America were allegedly familiar with hundreds of details related to Jesus' life, when they clearly could not have known such things! Or, in some cases, attitudes and beliefs that did not develop for many generations after Jesus Died.
The second problem seems even more serious. All those hundreds of references to dates were all specifically based on the Birth of Jesus. Accepting that they could somehow have become aware of Jesus, this represents a spectacular problem! It turns out that nowhere in the world was anyone yet using any calendar that was based on Jesus! In general, the AUC calendar system of the Roman Empire was used (Jesus being Born around AUC 750). It was only hundreds of years later, what we now call 525 AD that a Monk did all the necessary calculations and first suggested the Christian calendar we know today. And even that was not broadly used until around 500 years after that! It even turns out that that Monk was apparently about four years off in his calculations.
So, if no one in the world was then using any calendar that was based on the Birth of Jesus, and the Plates were allegedly created around 420 AD, and that even a hundred years after that, that Monk was around four years off in attempting to determine the Birth of Jesus, then how could the people in the Book of Mormon be using a calendar that did not yet exist, and more, COULD not yet have existed?
Now, there could be a wonderful benefit from this investigation! Say that there WAS some way to confirm that the Book of Mormon was EXACTLY CORRECT regarding such dates. That seems to imply that it would NOT be subject to the basic flaw in the Christian calendar system where all modern dates are actually probably about four years wrong! In other words, if there is a logical and credible explanation for these matters, we might actually have a BETTER analysis for EXACTLY when Jesus was Born! All we know for now is that we THINK Jesus was Born in the Spring of probably 4 BC. It would be wonderful if there is solid credibility of the Book of Mormon where a more accurate determination were available to us!
Again, I look forward to a logical explanation from some Mormon who is knowledgeable about this issue. Of hundreds that I have talked to, none seem able to explain it! And THAT would be a really serious problem! Without a credible explanation for the calendar issue, it sure seems logical that Joseph Smith, around 1820 and a teenager and relatively uneducated, was unfamiliar with fact of the 525 AD start of the very first Christian calendar. That situation seems to suggest that a critic might easily conclude that Joseph Smith was actually making up the things he was claiming to be translating from the Plates. It does not seem possible that Joseph Smith could have made that grievous mistake, hundreds of times, if the text is not what it has always been described to be. And therefore, if Joseph Smith actually produced an accurate translation of the Plates, how would it be possible for those Plates to have contained so many hundreds of impossible references to a calendar that did not yet exist? If the Plates existed, it then seems to imply that Joseph Smith must have made many hundreds of errors in translating them! That would not reflect well regarding how well the rest of the Book of Mormon could be relied on!
So, I have two questions that seem pretty serious to me! How could the people in America know if and when of Jesus' Birth, and many minor personal details regarding His mother (which were often actually wrong but virtually identical to NON-Biblical texts [which we have included in BELIEVE]) from the centuries following Jesus' life, to somehow build an entire religious system based on Him, without any logical way of ever even learning that He was Born? And how and why would the Book of Mormon consistently use a calendar system that did not yet exist?
I attempt to have an open mind about all approaches to religion, but I expect any such a religious system to at least make a moderate amount of common sense. It is easy to historically prove that no Christian calendar existed or even could have existed. A religion needs to either provide an explanation for such a complication, or to simply state that no requirements of common sense or logic are required.
There have been a few authorities of the LDS Church who have sent in extremely critical e-mails! Often, the writer then has made statements which he felt were believable, but which were often clearly efforts to obfuscate the concerns expressed here. Some have claimed that there have never been any variations in the texts of Mormon central works (which is easily and obviously proven wrong). One tried to generate a strange new history regarding Egyptian Hieroglyphs, where he claimed that such a language was in active and extensive usage around 420 AD. That is also easily confirmed as untrue. Others have claimed that the actual text of the Book of Mormon did not include any date references and that such comments were only added in at a later time! No serious scholar or researcher would tolerate sources CHOOSING to alter their source texts from time to time!
In any case, for as intellectual and educated as the LDS Church seems to try to present itself, it is very disappointing in that their Church chooses to try to spin such subjects of concern rather than actually facing them. I suspect they might find perfectly logical explanations for issues such as we have risen here, but if their attitude is that no one is even ALLOWED to raise questions about such things, then very little intellectual growth could ever occur. It seems to me that the LDS Church leadership needs to re-evaluate their attitudes regarding such things. They seem to have a fine Church, but they clearly need to do some work to research and resolve some aspects of it.
This page - -
- - is at
This subject presentation was last updated on - -
Send an e-mail question or comment to us: E-mail
The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at: BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet http://mb-soft.com/believe/indexaz.html