What was, once upon a time, regarded as an off-color cult with a highly shady history, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has risen to prestige and power, with many American businessmen (including founder of the Mariott hotel chain) and many celebrities and atheletes standing at the forefront of this uniquely westernized religion. We know about Mormons in terms of their commercials that seem to advocate family values and the varied doctrines that have been implemented by Mormon leaders over the years, but I find many people do not understand much about this group today. It is to a point that most often just consider Mormonism a Christian sect – perhaps extreme, but still upholding Christian values.
Mormon history is littered with colorful chracters, charlatans, and beliefs, and NONE of them had any interest in associating Mormonism with Christianity. In fact, Brigham Young, who was the second leader of the Mormon Church, spoke clearly that they wanted nothing to do with Christian value or identity. While more modern exposure and attempts to mainline the church in the 1970s have been effective in PR and marketing, it does not change the roots of what the church is about and much of the deeply-rooted and held ideals of doctrine, right down to this day.
The following sections are taken from my book, The Truth About…Mormonism, which was originally published by Apostolic Fellowship International Ministries in 2004 and updated in 2006. This work is Copyright 2006 and is currently in revision for expanded publication. It is still available from my ministry in its current edition.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons (also called LDS, LDS Church, Latter-Day Saints, Mormon Church, and Zion [only among members]), is a unique religious denomination with no ties to traditional mainline denominations, but rather occultism, that was founded by Joseph Smith, Junior in 1830 in Fayette, New York. He is hailed as the first and founding prophet and president of the church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has approximately ten to twelve million members, operating on a rotating basis, in countries all over the world, and is growing fastest abroad rather than in the United States, which has seen a decline in membership. The Mormon Church is best known for three things: 1) Missions, including door-to-door evangelism, 2) The Book of Mormon, and 3) Polygamy. All of these issues will be discussed and examined at their value, both spiritual and temporal.
At best, Mormon theology is truly its own, and for that reason, it tends to be an area where Mormons become particularly dishonest, whether because they don’t understand their own theology or deliberately to avoid the truth and protect their denomination. There are three answers to the question, what do Mormons believe about God, and I will present all of them here, and attempt to explain all of them here.
If you were to ask a Mormon if they believed in the Trinity doctrine, espoused by many in the religiously Christian world, they would say yes. Yet the Mormon “trinity” concept that exists is anything but the mainline Trinitarian understanding. First and foremost in terms of obviousness, Mormons are classified as tritheists, or people who believe that the trinity is three separate gods: the father is a god, the son is a god, and the holy ghost is a god, which is a counter to trinitarianism, which states that there is one God manifest in three divine persons. The father god of Mormon theology’s true name is Elohim, and he is only one of an infinite number of gods in the universe ruling over an infinite number of planets much like ours. “God” was once a man, who lived on another planet and due to his great obedience to the god on his planet, he was allowed to, in obedience, come to this planet, was crucified, died, and resurrected from the dead, and became the god over ours due to his works of obedience. (Note: this is not a reference to Jesus Christ, although one can understand the confusion by similarities in actions). This doctrine translates to the following Mormon teaching: because their “god” was once a man and became “god” out of obedience, men (not women) may also ascend to godhood through observance of Mormon regulations and beliefs.
Mormons teach Jesus Christ’s true name is Jehovah and he is always subordinate to the father, Elohim. Jesus is the “spirit brother” of all men, including Satan. They also teach that Jesus Christ was conceived by a sexual union between Mary and the “god” of this planet and existed as this god’s son, preexistent through spiritual sexual union between the father and mother gods. As Jehovah of the Old Testament in preexistent form, he was ordained by the Grand Council of heaven to “condescend” to earth, volunteering to sacrifice for sins, whereas Satan also volunteered, but with conditions that were not acceptable to the gods. Jesus is also taught to have been married, as marriage is essential to godhood in Mormonism.
The Holy Ghost is a nameless, literal “spirit man who can only be at one place at one time…” (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pg. 359)
The Holy Ghost is contrasted with the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) that is the influence of the godhead. It fills the immensity of space and enables God to know what is going on at all times, and is likened to electricity. (see The Doctrine and Covenants 130:22-23) The Holy Spirit is distinguished as the presence of God.
I’ve been asked many times to explain Mormon theology, because it is greatly confusing. First of all, it is a blend of theologies rather than one set principle. Second of all, it is confusing because Mormons use the same terms as Christians but with markedly different meanings. It is important to comprehensively understand exactly what Mormon theology is and see its evolution, which we shall explain now.
Joseph Smith’s concept of deity has gone through approximately four stages of evolution. The first stage was, ironically enough, monotheism, or the belief in one god. The standard church teaching in 1830, it can be seen in Alma 11:22-31 in The Book of Mormon and in Moses 1:6 in The Pearl of Great Price. Binitarian modalism was the next stage of Mormon theology, and manifested in 1831. Binitarian modalism is the belief that the Father and Son are not understood as distinct persons, but as different modes in which God has manifested himself. Seen in Mosiah 15:1-3 (The Book of Mormon) and in The Joseph Smith Translation of the Holy Bible (1833) in which he made alterations to the Biblical text, such as Luke 10:22, to make it reflect binitarian modalism rather than monotheism. Stage three of Mormon theology was binitarian monotheism, which believes the Father and the Son are in the godhead and the Holy Ghost is the shared bond of the two.
The fourth stage was polytheism, or the belief in many gods, and can be seen in The Doctrine and Covenants 121:26,28. The Book of Mormon was also altered to fit the new belief in plural gods, which also entered in tritheism, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate gods.
Modern Mormon theology falls under two further classifications of theology: henotheism and process theology. Henotheism is a form of polytheism in which one god is believed as the deity of a race, tribe, etc. without claiming he is the only god. (The World Book Dictionary, 1963) Mormonism falls into this classification as it only believes that its deity is the god supreme over this planet, but that there are other deities in existence as gods over other planets, therefore indicating that their god is not the only god and is not supreme over all.
Process theology, on the other hand, is the belief that a god or deity is a part of creation and is evolving along with it. As Mormons believe their god was once a man and is now an exalted man who has become god, this indicates that through his “evolution” to godhood, their god was actually a part of the creation rather than being its creator, and separate from it. Their god is therefore subject to a continuing evolution rather than being supreme, because he evolved into his position as god.
The Church Itself
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believes itself to be a restoration of the true church on earth which was lost through thousands of years of apostasy. This restoration has taken place in the last days or latter days before Jesus Christ returns in the Second Coming and is the sole avenue for salvation. Therefore, Mormons believe their church is the only true church of Jesus Christ, and that all other churches and religions, including Christianity, are of the devil.
Salvation, therefore has a unique concept for Mormons not shared by mainline religions. According to Mormon belief, all are entitled to be saved and salvation is for all through the Mormon church. The cross does not atone for all sin and therefore “exaltation into godhood” requires works and obedience to LDS teachings and leaders. Just as their god became god through obedience to the god ruling on his planet, so must men become gods through their obedience, that when they die they too may become gods over their own appointed realms. “Freedom” is an option that one might use it for the choice of following Mormon precepts to the end of godhood.
Most central to Mormon philosophy is its emphasis on its leaders and their teachings, in particular those of leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. It was these two men who largely shaped what is Mormon doctrine today.
Joseph Smith, Jr.
Joseph Smith, Junior was born on December 22, 1805 in Sharon, Vermont to Joseph Smith, Senior and Lucy Mack Smith. The family was extremely poor and as a result, Joseph grew up on a series of tenant farms in Vermont, New Hampshire, and spent most of his time in New York. He had little formal education but had great training in occult practices, particularly a practice called “money digging.” Money digging involved secret rituals and ceremonies to conjure up the dead with the purpose of obtaining buried treasure guarded by evil spirits. Done with his father, Joseph Smith, Jr.’s role in the practice was with the “seer stone.” The seer stone ritual is done by placing a small rock, most likely clear quartz which is believed to hold magic powers in a hat after gazing into them for a long time, and then the hat is pulled up over the face to block out all light. Once done, Joseph would claim he could see “supernaturally” and these “visions” would help them to know where to dig. They also used the divining rod, a practice by which a split branch is used to determine where underground water or buried treasure is found. Joseph learned the practice from a magician who came into town when Joseph was an adolescent, offering divining rod and money digging services. Joseph took an interest in learning the practices and as a result, both he and his father are documented by Alan Taylor in “Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780-1830” in The American Quarterly 38.
Although the practices were largely unprofitable for the Smith duo, Joseph and his father engaged in these practices until Joseph was arrested on March 20, 1826 for being a “glass looker” and “disorderly person” as “one who pretended to have skills in the area of palmistry, telling fortunes, or discovering where goods might be found.” Although no penalty was administered for this crime, probably due to it being a first offense, Joseph was declared guilty. And despite the fact that the practice was unprofitable and caused him legal trouble, Joseph kept his “seer stones” and claimed several later revelations by them.
In 1820, at the age of fifteen, Joseph Smith claimed to have had his “first vision,” in which God the Father and Jesus the Son appeared to him while he was praying in the woods as to which church he should join. At the time, he belonged to a Methodist Church Class and participated in Methodist meetings. In the vision, he was “instructed” by Jesus that he should join no church, for they all were corrupt and all wrong and that all of Christianity was an abomination. (see Joseph Smith – History, 19, found in The Pearl of Great Price) According to Joseph Smith, 1820 was the year when a great revival broke out near Manchester, New York (History, verses 5-8,14-19,22) but no 1820 revival near Manchester, New York ever occurred. If indeed Joseph Smith was referring to a revival it was most likely one that occurred in the spring of 1824; but naturally, this disrupts his claims and theories as not enough time elapsed between 1824 and 1830 for all his claimed events to have taken place.
Also notable is the fact that the present form of the first vision story was written in 1838 (History, verses 14-20). There are at least ten accounts of the first vision story dating from 1827 to 1859 and none of them match. One account found in Joseph Smith’s handwriting makes no mention of the Father and the Son but an angel, a spirit, many angels, or Son. Clearly the foundation vision on which the Mormon Church makes its claims is of much debate.
In the meantime, Joseph Smith married Emma Hale on January 18, 1826. Although they had eleven children, two of which were adopted, only five lived past infancy. Joseph and his father-in-law did not get along and his father-in-law described Joseph as being “lazy,” “arrogant,” and “fraudulent.” He was unwilling to work on the farm and his father-in-law felt that, while he was working on The Book of Mormon, that Joseph was preparing a “great fraud.”
In 1827 Joseph claimed another revelation in which the angel Moroni (who began appearing to him after the first vision) allowed Joseph Smith to retrieve a set of golden plates buried in a hill in Palmyra, New York. This work, which became The Book of Mormon was supposedly translated from these plates between 1827 and 1830. For the job of “translating” these plates, Joseph used his occult and “seer stones” by gazing into the stones and then placing them in his hat for gazing in the dark. No one was permitted to look at the stones or gold plates but Joseph Smith himself. In its completed form, The Book of Mormon was published in 1830, the same year the Mormon Church was first organized and growing.
From this point until his death in 1844, Joseph Smith led the church and governed the Mormon body of believers through the guise of “divine revelation.” As a result, doctrines such as polygamy, polytheism, and others, were introduced. Joseph also made assorted prophecies which failed to come true. Some of these false prophecies included the following (note: many of these prophecies can be found in The Doctrine and Covenants):
- A temple was to be built in Zion, Missouri (1831)
- The end of all nations (1832)
- Church member David Patterson was destined to go on a mission for the church; he died before he ever went (1838)
- The United States Congress was to be broken up as a government by their god for not submitting to Mormon interests (1843)
- A great treasure was to be found in Salem, Massachusetts and Salem was to be turned over to the Mormon Church (1836)
- The Lord would return within fifty-six years to wind up all things on earth (1835)
- The United States government would be overthrown (1843)
Wherever the community went, Joseph Smith quickly established himself as the mayor, sole holder of any liquor licenses, and eventually the self-declared governor of provinces. Despite multiple relocations on the part of the Mormons to protect their people and their prophet due to the illegal nature of much of their religious practices including polygamy and the marriage of other men’s wives, Joseph Smith, Junior was killed in Carthage, Illinois on June 27, 1844 along with his brother Hyrum, the same year that he announced his intention to run for president of the United States. His successor in the prophecy and presidency of the church was a man named Brigham Young.
Joseph Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, was born on June 1, 1801 in Whitingham, Vermont to John Young and Abigail (“Nabby”) Howe. He was ninth of eleven children in a poor family and at the age of three, the family moved to upstate, New York. Brigham’s mother died when he was fourteen years old and the father’s remarriage caused conflict in the home. As a result, Brigham left home at sixteen to work as an itinerant carpenter, jointer, painter, and glazier. He converted to Methodism in 1823 and married his first wife in 1824, settling in Mendon, New York in 1829 which was forty miles from the site for the publication of The Book of Mormon.
Brigham Young was immediately attracted to The Book of Mormon. On April 14, 1832, he was baptized into the church and went to Canada as a missionary. After the death of his first wife in 1833, he led several family and friends to join Joseph Smith in Kirkland, Ohio, the center for Mormonism at the time. He also worked as a missionary in England, the eastern states, and defended Joseph Smith in the Kirkland settlement. He was named President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1841 by Joseph Smith and was second only to him in authority.
Brigham Young became President of the church in December of 1847. There was a great controversy surrounding his takeover as president; in fact, the church went through the first of many factions as a result of Brigham’s commanded leadership. It was he who led the Mormons into the Salt Lake Valley in Utah and, once there, directed all their affairs: religious, political, economic, cultural, and educational. He promoted isolation, economic self-sufficiency, local manufacture of goods, and discouraged enterprises that would attract outsiders, such as mining. He was also the leader of the church during the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which took place on September 11, 1857. On this day, Mormon militia and Paiutes killed an entire wagon train of Arkansas farm families known as the Francher Party traveling to California with a group from Missouri called the Missouri Wildcats. One hundred twenty unarmed men, women, and older children were killed, with eighteen younger children spared, all but one were sent back to Arkansas. There is much speculation and debate about the incident but some does point to the fact that Brigham Young might have given orders for the massacre.
Much of the doctrine Mormons claim today were instituted by Brigham Young or expanded by him. One such doctrine is the Blood Atonement Doctrine, which teaches that the blood of Christ is not sufficient for all sins and that the shedding of one’s blood is required for the forgiveness of some sins, including murder. Although taught more by Mormon splinter groups today than the mainline church, it is the reason why the Utah death penalty is by firing squad to this very day. A very controversial doctrine instituted by Brigham Young is called the Adam-God Doctrine, which states, “Adam is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” It teaches that Adam, the first man, was the god and father of Jesus Christ, and is our god, too. Although it has now been rejected as false in terms of publicity, it was largely accepted by fundamentalists rising in the 1920s and 1930s. This doctrine is also notable because it is still found in the Mormon Endowment Ceremony in the “Lecture at the Veil,” which reads as follows: “Adam was an immortal being when he came. On this earth he had lived on an earth similar to ours…and had begotten all the spirit that was to come to this earth. And Eve our common Mother who is the mother of all living bore those spirits in the celestial world…Father Adam’s oldest son (Jesus the Savior) who is the heir of the family is Father Adam’s first begotten in the spirit World. Who according to the flesh is the only begotten as it is written: in his divinity he having gone back into the spirit World. And come in the spirit [glory] to Mary and she conceived for when Adam and Eve got through with their Work in this earth, they did not lay their bodies down in the dust, but returned to the spirit World from whence they came.” (Journal of L. John Nuttall, personal secretary of Brigham Young, February 7, 1877; kept in BYU Special collections)
It was under Brigham Young that the doctrine on polygamy flourished as well; Brigham Young, in fact, was believed to have an undetermined number of wives. Some accounts say twenty, others say as many as sixty-three. He is the most famous polygamist in early Mormon Church history. He is nicknamed as “the modern Moses” and was the founder of the University of Utah and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, architect of the Mormon colonization of Utah, and Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah is named in his honor. He died on August 29, 1877 and his final words were those that called out to his predecessor, Joseph Smith.
In descending rank, the offices of the church are as follows: Prophets, Apostles, Seventies, Evangelists (Patriarchs), Pastors (Presiding Officers), High Priests, Elders, bishops, Priests, Teachers, and deacons.
Mormons on the local level have no “professional clergy” and offer the opportunity for all men to hold responsibility and participate. In fact, any man in the priesthood may be called upon to act in the church without compensation and are expected to continue in secular work for livelihood. All men are admitted to the lesser priesthood, called the Aaronic Priesthood, when they are twelve years old, given good standing with the church. The Melchizedek Priesthood is the higher priesthood and is served in by higher ranking members of the church. (For both priesthoods, see The Doctrine and Covenants 107). It is undisclosed how much men serving in these offices under the Melchizedek Priesthood classification make.
Missionaries are often called upon by the church for active, full-time duty between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six or until marriage and is made up of young men and women who at the expense of their families and selves mission door-to-door and distribute literature as well as serving in local churches, doing temple work, and working in areas where Mormonism isn’t a standard religion. The missionaries are selected due to their good standing within the religious body.
Until 1978, black and dark-skinned men were forbidden to serve within the Mormon priesthood. The racism of the Mormon Church reflects much in the attitudes toward blacks of the time when the church was founded and it instead translated to a church doctrine, teaching that black skin was a sign of sin. It continues to be a church understanding that dark skin will turn to white skin at the coming resurrection. To this very day, there are no Mormon temples in Africa, due to this notion. Women are still forbidden to hold the Mormon priesthood, and are believed to “receive” its graces through their husbands. Except for an occasional short talk or leading of prayer, Mormon women hold no official position in Mormon services. This is contrary to the original church during Joseph Smith’s time, in which women were a documented part of the priesthood.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints acknowledges four books as Scripture: The Holy Bible in the Authorized King James Version, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine And Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.
- The Holy Bible in the Authorized King James Version – According to Article 8 of The Articles of Faith, it is, “The Word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” It is believed to be in error and is the only document of the four standard works that is not believed to be infallible.
- The Book of Mormon – Part of a record, both sacred and secular, of prophets and peoples who were among the ancestors of the modern-day Native Americans. These people were believed to be of Asiatic origin, living among the house of Israel, who left Jerusalem during the reign of King Zedekiah. They crossed the sea to the western world and brought the Old Testament with them. They later destroyed themselves in warring with each other; yet these records were written by historians, statesmen, and prophets and were kept on golden plates until Joseph Smith discovered them in 1827 and translated them. The Book of Mormon covers from approximately 600 BC to AD 421, and its title comes from a “later prophet” named Mormon who lived in the western hemisphere and tells that Jesus Christ visited inhabitants of this hemisphere after his ascension. The Book of Mormon contains grave geographical and historical errors, and bears a striking resemblance – to the point of plagiarism – of several works of its time, especially View of the Hebrews, by Ethan Smith, published in 1823 (seven years prior to the publication of The Book of Mormon and four years prior to Joseph Smith’s supposed discovery) less than one hundred miles away from where Joseph Smith’s parents lived. It was first published in 1830, and has undergone many revisions since, including 3,913 textual and editorial alterations.
- The Doctrine and Covenants – A collection of “divine revelations” and “inspired declarations” given for the establishment and regulation of the Mormon Church. It is not a translation of any documents but rather was given for the modern times and are all of modern origin. It was given to and directed by the leaders of the early church and explains fundamental doctrines such as the nature of the godhead, origin of man, purpose of mortality, ordinances and performances relating to salvation, the eternity of marriage and the family, the necessity of obedience, and the workings of their holy spirit. It was originally published in 1833 under the title A Book of Commandments for the Government of the Church of Christ and under its current title in 1835. It is in The Doctrine and Covenants that a number of Joseph Smith’s false prophecies can be found.
- The Pearl of Great Price – A selection of materials relevant to aspects of Mormon faith and doctrine produced by Joseph Smith and published in his day. It was first collected under its title in 1851 by Elder Franklin D. Richards who sought to make documents more accessible that were in circulation in the day of Joseph Smith. It was named a standard work of the church in 1880 but has been revised a number of times to suit the needs of the denomination. The president edition of The Pearl of Great Price has been edited to bring it into conformity with earlier documents. It contains selections from The Book of Moses (extract from the book of Genesis in The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), The Book of Abraham (a translation of Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith obtained in 1835 containing writings of the Patriarch of Abraham; now proven fraudulent), Joseph Smith – Matthew (an extract from the testimony of Matthew in The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), Joseph Smith – History (excerpts from Joseph Smith’s official testimony and history, prepared in 1838), and The Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a statement by Joseph Smith published in 1842 in company with a short history of the church known as The Wentworth Letter).
Family and Theology
One cannot properly understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints without understanding its emphasis on family values. It has its origins in the belief that “god” has a family and that to enter into godhood, one too must be married and have a family as a part of the ascent to godhood. As a result, Mormons believe the family is an eternal unit, which is sealed only through Mormon temple marriage. Only marriages Performed in a Mormon temple as part of a sealed ceremony are recognized as valid in Mormonism and ensures the family will be an eternal unit in this life as well as the life to come. Those who marry outside of the Mormon system will not be sealed in the church without conversion and are regarded as “unsealed.” It is from this teaching that matters of contraception and birth control are regarded as “contrary” to the teaching of the Mormon Church rather than personal matters. Their emphasis on family values encourages close family ties, genealogical research, and family involvement in decisions otherwise regarded as individual or personal.
This is also where the teaching of plural marriage, or polygamy, came into being. Mormonism teaches that the trillions of gods in existence including the one of this planet all have an infinite number of “spirit wives” who spend much of eternity pregnant and an infinite number of “spirit children” as the result. So for one to become a god, the new covenant for this godhood is to have multiple wives. Records indicate that Joseph Smith considered polygamy as a church doctrine as early as 1831, although it was not established as church doctrine until 1842. Joseph Smith was practicing polygamy, however, before it became a church doctrine and before this time was even a reported infidel and adulterer, known specifically with nineteen-year old Fanny Alger in Kirkland, Ohio, whom he later made one of his many wives. As his wife, Emma, was staunchly against his polygamy, his thirty-three “secret wives” were all to hide his relationships with them, although each of them were physically consummated. He also took wives of other men while they were still married to their husbands, and at thirty-eight, used “divine revelation” claims to justify coercion of teenage girls, some documented to be as young as fourteen years of age. Much of the so-called “persecution” of the early Mormon communities was over polygamy, as it was illegal. Long-time regional settlers took issue with the fact that these people were coming into their towns and settling in with plural wives, sometimes even taking women of the city who were married to original settlers, and breaking the law in their formerly law-abiding towns. It was not a “freedom of religion” issue, as the Bible instructs us to follow the law (see Romans 13); but rather, a disruption of illegal actions with an arrogant and controlling leader expecting all to bow to his leadership.
Despite the fact that polygamy was abolished as a general church teaching in 1890, it is still practiced today among a group of high-ranking Mormon officials known as “the little flock,” or members of the 144,000 believed to reign in heaven with Christ. Part of the secret rite initiating one into this circle is for the initiate to take a second wife, as this rite initiates one into exalted godhood on earth. The practice occurs today and polygamy is indeed practiced by a group of Mormons in the mainline church, despite protests against it. In a sense, it has to exist because the polygamy practices are so closely united with the theology of the church, to remove the polygamy all together would require Mormon polytheistic theology also be altered, which has not happened unto this day. The theology also creates a great sexism within Mormonism, whereas a woman’s sole salvation relies upon that of her husband’s priesthood, not of Jesus Christ. She is expected to do, be, and tolerate much – including the sharing of her husband unto salvation. The doctrine of
polygamy will never die in Mormonism, as it is essentially the very “salvation” doctrine of Mormon theology.
Mormonism and Freemasonry
Mormonism bears striking similarities and resemblances to Masonic rites and rituals. The freemasons are an occult group that has existed in its modern form since at least the 1600s and is best known for its secret rites and rituals, exclusive only to worthy male candidates. Although Mormonism denies its connection to freemasonry and prohibits its members from belonging so that they may not discover where their rites have their origins, there are many facts that prove otherwise. Freemasonry was, first and foremost, a dominant feature in the culture of Ontario County, New York, where Mormonism was first founded. Oliver Cowdrey, a prominent follower of Joseph Smith, and his father were both freemasons. The Book of Mormon itself echoes the Enoch myth of Royal Arch Freemasonry, which states the prophet Enoch, prompted by a vision, preserved the Masonic mysteries on a gold plate and placed them in an arched stone vault marked with pillars to be rediscovered by Solomon. The most powerful evidence, though, is found by Joseph Smith himself, recorded in History of the Church, vol. 4, pages 551 and 552 which states the following: “In the evening I received the first degree in Free Masonry in the Nauvoo Lodge, assembled in my general business office…I was with the Masonic Lodge and rose to the sublime degree.” Clearly, Joseph Smith was not only engaging in Masonic practices, he was even bringing them into the church offices located within the Mormon Nauvoo temple, as it states the Nauvoo Masonic lodge was his general business office! Less than two months later, the Mormon Endowment Ceremony was established, which we shall discuss a little later.
Outlined in ten major points showing the similarities between Mormon temple ceremonies and occult rituals, D. Michael Quinn lays it out in his book, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View:
- Revealed by God in the beginning but are distorted through apostasy.
- Place emphasis on the worthiness of initiates.
- They include washing and anointings, a new name and garments.
- They emphasize vows of non-disclosure.
- There are both “lesser” and “greater” rituals.
- They feature presentation of the ritual through drama.
- They contain an oath of chastity regarding strict purity and virtue of participants.
- They feature prominent use of the sun, moon, and stars as key symbols.
- The purpose of the ritual is to assist mortals to attain godhood.
- They employ titles and offices of prophets, priests, and kings to those in leadership.
The most convincing pieces of evidence in regard to Mormons and Masonry are the temple rites of Mormonism, all described below.
- Baptism of the dead – This is the first rite performed by an individual in a Mormon temple. Although it is guarded in secret, and some of the details are unknown, the theology behind the baptism of the dead is that the deceased who did not hear of the Mormon gospel in their lifetime will hear of it in the next, with the opportunity to accept it. This is the reason for preoccupation with genealogy – if an ancestor is found in the records, that indicates the baptism of the dead has been performed on their behalf in a Mormon temple. The ceremony is usually performed in a temple basement, in a baptismal font mounted on the full-sized statues of twelve oxen. The officiator of the ceremony and the patron both wear white jumpsuits and at least two witnesses observe. One is baptized according to Mormon practice in the name of the deceased person, the names of which are published on a closed-circuit television screen. Usually the baptismal ceremony of the dead is done with teenagers as the stand-ins, to introduce them to the temple work, and by converts in good standing as their first temple rite. Between two and three hundred baptisms are performed on behalf of the dead every day.
- Anointing with holy oil – Follows the baptismal ceremony for the dead. One is consecrated with oil as a preparation to “becoming a King/Queen and a Priest/Priestess unto the Most High God, hereafter to rule and reign in the House of Israel forever.” A temple worker places some drops of oil on the patron’s forehead, moistens it, and then touches every member of the patron’s body, declaring a blessing upon it, specifically to the shoulders, back, breast, vitals, bowels, and loins. Two workers then come forward to pray a blessing over the patron’s head, announcing the “seal of anointing.” This, in addition to bearing resemblance to freemasonic rite, is also done in pagan and, specifically, Wiccan rite as well.
- Clothing in the temple garment – An individual is then placed in the “Garment of the Holy Priesthood” while a temple worker gives him the instructions on wearing this garment twenty-four hours a day throughout his life. It is promised to be a shield and protector from the enemy, and one is instructed not to defile it in any way. One is then given a new name at this time. This new name is cited as “the one by which he will be called forth on the morning of the first resurrection” by the Mormon god. It is also the name by which he shall be called throughout eternity. Every person receiving the Endowment Ceremony on the same day all receive the same name or an alternate name when the name of a deceased person in the baptismal ceremony has that name. Usually the names are taken from either the Bible or the Book of Mormon, and men receive male names and females receive female names. And while the men must know their wives’ names and call them forth, the women may never know their husbands’ names, because at the resurrection Mormons believe only their god shall call the men forth, with the men then to call forth the wives he desires in eternity, possibly choosing to leave some behind.
- Preparation for the Endowment Ceremony – The patron returns usually to a locker room or another room, and removes the clothing from the temple ceremonies. He takes a slip of paper with the name of the deceased from the baptismal ceremony for the dead and a bag containing clothing for the Endowment ritual (a robe, sash, hat/veil [veil for women], and fig-leaf apron) to the Endowment Room (upstairs), which is a theater-like setting set for drama reenactments. The officiator of the ceremony seats him, with women on the left of the room and men on the right of the room, where they sit for up to twenty minutes in complete silence.
- The Endowment Ceremony – A two-hour drama ceremony presented to a group of patrons. The purpose is to demonstrate a knowledge of Mormon secrets to finish the ritual. It is similar to occult rites and is set in nineteenth century drama. Lucifer is portrayed as a villain, Elohim is the victor, Adam and Eve are portrayed as victims, the archangel Michael becomes Adam, and other roles are of Peter, James, John, Jehovah, and a Christian minister. All secret signs, tokens, names, and penalties are acted out. Within the ceremony are certain dramas, including The Creation Drama (seeks to alter consciousness and lower one’s mood, almost to the point of drowsiness; shows hypnotic scenes and explains the first five creative periods of time; shows the agents, Jehovah and Michael, reporting on creation; most are drowsy at the end due to the hypnotic effect), The Garden of Eden Drama (Elohim comes down to earth with Jehovah to create bodies; Michael becomes Adam and then Eve is created. Once in the garden and tempted, Adam recognizes after receiving the fruit who Lucifer really is and it is Lucifer in this drama who instructs Adam and Eve to make fig leaves when they hear Elohim and Jehovah approaching. During this time of the drama all put on fig-leaf aprons and wear them for the remainder of the time. Elohim becomes angry and curses Lucifer to remain in spirit form for eternity, never receiving a body and therefore not ever receiving the chance to ascend to godhood. Lucifer defies God and is cast away from God along with Adam and Eve, who receive a secret token in the form of a handshake and its name, sign, and penalty), The Christian Minister (hired by Satan to confuse and destroy all of humankind along with Adam and Eve; preaches to them a distortion of the Nicene Creed, which Adam rejects). Finally, either seven or eight couples are called forward, form a circle around the altar, and then follow the officiator in performing all of the signs, names, tokens, and penalties of the priesthoods formerly initiated into. The women cover their faces with the veils, and everybody assumes the position of their left arms raised square and resting upon the left shoulder of all next to them. The officiator then leads the group in prayer. The dramatic portion of the Endowment Ceremony is usually now done by video recording, although it is still performed live in some temples.
- The Ceremony at the Veil – This is the official conclusion to the Endowment Ceremony, each patron is tested by a veil worker representing the “Lord behind the veil.” The veil itself is seven feet high by three feet wide of ivory fabric with seven marks of the priesthood on it, corresponding to the four marks on the temple undergarment. One is tested in their knowledge of the four tokens and their names given during the Endowment. If necessary, the worker behind the veil coaches the patron on what he can’t remember because his answers must be verbatim. He then receives the name of the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Patriarchal Grip, or Sure Sign of the Nail, and embraces the Lord in the Five Points of Fellowship, which are “inside of the right foot by the side of the right foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back, and mouth to ear.” The name of the token is: “Health in the navel, marrow in the bones, strength in the loins and sinews. Power in the Priesthood be upon me, and upon my posterity through all generations of time, and throughout all eternity.” (Note that this is done between two men.)
- The Celestial Room – A large, elegant, and highly furnished sitting room for people to sit while they wait for someone to come through the veil. It is in this room that a Mormon has the sole opportunity to inquire about temple ceremonies, and is specifically set up to meditate or seek answers about an issue. People are seldom given this opportunity however, as people are only allowed in the rooms for a short period of time.
The history of racism in the Mormon Church
Until 1978, black men were forbidden from admittance into the LDS priesthood. The truth is that Mormonism wasn’t unlike the other established churches of their time, all of which did have racial issues, and even though don’t seem to foster an inequality today, they do indeed still seem to be predominately white in membership. Black skin was believed at one point in history to be a sign of sin, and Mormonism went as far as to teach that blacks would become whites upon baptism and later, at the resurrection! Some commentaries on blacks by Mormon leaders include:
- “Had I anything to do with the negro , I would confine them by strict law to their own species and put them on a national equalization.” – Joseph Smith
- “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable, sad, low in their habits, wild, and seemingly without the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind…Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” – Brigham Young
- “…after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation a upon a the earth as well as God… ” – John Taylor
Passages of The Book of Mormon originally contained overtly racist statements, implying this theory, but have been edited out to suit the image of the church. The issues, however, still remain, as the majority of Mormonism remains Caucasian. The church itself is still not over the prejudices enough to build a temple in Africa, which does say something right there.
Article Copyright (c) 2012 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.