Mormonism is among the fastest growing religions in the worlds and boasts a membership of between 10 and 20 million people depending on who you ask. The Mormon Church is also among the wealthiest of the world’s religions. In order to get the most out of this series I feel it is important for you to have a basic understanding of the beginnings of Mormonism. I have read many different summaries of the beginnings but the one I feel is not only thorough but concise is found on CARM’s website. I have decided to print it in its entirety here because I feel it is that important for you to have a firm grasp of how Mormonism started:
Mormonism began with Joseph Smith Jr. who was born on Dec. 23, 1805, in Vermont. He was the fourth child of Lucy and Joseph Smith. Joseph senior was known as a money digger and sought after buried treasure, particularly that of Captain Kidd. His mother was highly superstitious.I realize I will probably step on many people’s toes throughout this series, especially those who are members of the Mormon Church. That is not my intention. My intention rather is to force you to take a good, objective look at the teachings of your faith. I will quote from different Mormon texts as well as great Mormon leaders. As always I would never want you to simply take my word for it but I encourage you to investigate it for yourself. As a Mormon you are very familiar with praying and asking God to show you whether or not something is true. I ask you to pray now and ask God to show you whether or not the Mormon religion is true. If it is true than you have nothing to worry about but a reaffirming of your faith. But if it isn’t true, well, eternity is a long time to be wrong.
Joseph Smith Jr. stated that he was disturbed by all the different denominations of Christianity and wondered which was true. In 1820, when he was 14, he went into the woods to pray concerning this and allegedly God the Father and Jesus appeared to him and told him not to join any of the denominational churches.
Three years later, on Sept. 21, 1823, when he was 17 years old, an angel called Moroni, who was supposed to be the son of Mormon, the leader of the people called the Nephites who had lived in the Americas, appeared to him and told him that he had been chosen to translate the book of Mormon which was compiled by Moroni's father around the 4th century. The book was written on golden plates hidden near where Joseph was then living in Palmyra, New York. Joseph Smith said that on Sept. 22, 1827 he received the plates and the angel Moroni instructed him to begin the translation process. The translation was finally published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. Joseph claimed that during this translation process, John the Baptist appeared to him and ordained him to accomplish the divine work of restoring the true church by preaching the true gospel which, allegedly, had been lost from the earth.
The Book of Mormon is supposed to be the account of people who came from the Middle-East to the Americas. It covers the period of about 600 B.C. to 400 A.D. It tells of the Jaredites, people from the Tower of Babel who came to Central America but perished because of their own immorality. It also describes some Jews who fled persecution in Jerusalem and came to America led by a man called Nephi. The Jews divided into two groups known as the Nephites and Lamanites who fought each other. The Nephites were defeated in 428 A.D. The Lamanites continued and are known as the American Indians. The Book of Mormon is the account of the Nephite eader, Mormon, concerning their culture, civilization, and appearance of Jesus to the Americas.
After the publication of the Book of Mormon, Mormonism began to grow. Because their religion was so deviant from Christianity, i.e., plurality of gods, polygamy (Joseph is said to have had 27 wives), etc., persecution soon forced them to move from New York to Ohio, then to Missouri, and finally to Nauvoo, Illinois. After being accused of breaking some laws in Nauvoo (for destroying a printing press that was publishing harmful information on Mormonism), Joseph and his brother Hyrum ended up in jail. A mob later broke into the jail and killed Joseph and his brother.
After the shooting, the church divided into two groups: One led by his widow which went back to Independence Missouri. They are known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They claim to be the true Church and lay claim to the legal succession of the church presidency which was bestowed upon Joseph's son by Joseph Smith himself. The other group was led by Brigham Young and they went to Utah where, in 1847, they ended up in Salt Lake and founded Salt Lake City. Brigham had 25 wives and accumulated much wealth.