Monday, March 23, 2015

A Fairly Short History of Mormonism — Part 1

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”  Galatians 1:8

“For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness.”  2 Corinthians 11:14-15

The Mormon church, unlike any other cult, is extremely conscious and proud of its history.  This is necessarily so because their doctrine is thoroughly entangled with their origins and historical progress.  For that reason, it is important that we look at some highlights of their history in order to understand this false religious system which claims to be Christian.  This history will be a bit long, but you should find it interesting.  (This information is gleaned from several books I have on hand.)

I am breaking this series into the following parts so as to keep each “chapter” a reasonable length:

Part 1 - New York Period
Part 2 - Kirtland, Ohio & Early Missouri Period
Part 3 - Later Missouri Period 
Part 4 - Nauvoo Period
Part 5 - Utah Period

New York Period

Joseph Smith, Jr. was born December 23, 1805, in Vermont and grew up near Palmyra, NY.  As an adult Joseph was over 6' tall, judged to be handsome, and had lots of friends.  He was considered "a great favorite with the ladies."

Smith was a likeable, never-do-well, known for his tall tales and necromancy.  He was said to have had a fertile imagination and could embellish normal happenings.  According to his mother, Lucy, Joseph would tell tales describing stories of past inhabitants of the U.S.  He was described as a good orator and was charismatic.  All this is good to remember when looking at further events.

As an occupation, Joseph would dig for buried treasures that seemed to always sink deeper in the ground when he dug for them.  By age 19 (1825) he was well known as a necromancer and had people coming from as far as Pennsylvania for his services.  His father and brother, Hyrum, were also involved in this scam.

One day Joseph found a "seer stone" 24' down while digging a well.  It was black or very dark.  He claimed he could see "ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver."  He used it quite often.  (This is necromancy.)

When he was 20, Joseph met Emma Hale, his future wife; she was one year older than he.  Emma's father, Isaac, helped subsidize Joseph’s search for gold, but quit doing so when the expeditions failed.  He then considered Joseph a fraud and refused his request to marry Emma, so on 1/18/1827 Joseph and Emma secretly married and went to live with Joseph’s parents.  Eight months later he made peace with Emma's father.

In 1827 Joseph started telling stories about finding a book.  He claimed that seven years earlier he had been told that it would be given to him, but he never mentioned any religious significance.  After his "acquisition" of these Book Of Mormon plates, he moved to the Hale farm to begin translation, with the operation being financed by Martin Harris, who was a man of substantial means.  Emma was his first scribe, but she never saw the plates.  She stated that the plates were wrapped in a linen cloth while Joseph looked through his stones.

Martin Harris wanted to see the plates since he was financing he operation.  When he couldn't persuade Joseph to show him the plates, he asked for a copy of the characters for scholarly examination.  Joseph wrote out what he claimed were "reformed Egyptian" characters (the Rosetta stone, which could prove him wrong, wasn’t deciphered until late 1837).  Harris took them to Charles Anthon, professor of Greek and Latin at Columbia College.  When Harris returned home he stated that Anthon had certified that the characters were "Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic," but when Anthon was interviewed about the matter he stated the claim was untrue and that he had told Harris the whole thing was a hoax.

In April 1828 Martin took over scribe duties from Emma.  He claimed that a blanket separated the two the entire time.  When they had 116 pages finished in June, Harris begged to show them to his wife.  Joseph relented and Lucy Harris  stole the pages, which were never found; she claimed she burned them.  Lucy stated that if they were truly from God, Joseph would be able to replace them.

In July 1828 Smith got a "revelation" from God that he would be unable to retranslate the original 116 pages because Satan would alter the original ones so as to cause conflict and doubt.  God had known this would happen and He had a shortened version of the first part of the book.  After the revelation about the missing 116 pages, Martin Harris was converted to the faith that was beginning to develop into a religion.

The original 116 pages supposedly covered the political history of the people in the plates, but the new, shortened version covered religious history.  Smith started translating again in late 1828, with Martin joining him in the winter of 1828-29.

In April 1829 Oliver Cowdery took over transcribing.  He was one year younger than Joseph and was a schoolmaster who had been boarding with Smith’s parents.  Oliver had heard about Joseph’s "golden bible" from Lucy Smith.  Oliver was a better scribe than Martin, but he thought it was odd that Joseph translated with “Urim and Thummin” without ever looking at the plates.  Oliver's friend, David Whitmer, visited and watched the translation.  David said, "Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine.  A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing.  One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English.  Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery who was his principal scribe, and then it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct.  Then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.  Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man."  (If this was true, then there would be no mistakes in the Book of Mormon; remember that.)

In May 1829 Joseph discussed starting a church.  Oliver Cowdery was disturbed because Smith was not a preacher.  After discussing authority and ordination, they decided to go to the woods to pray about it.  The two claimed they had a vision of the "angel" John the Baptist.  Oliver's report was very elaborate, but Joseph’s was simple.  John the Baptist conferred the Aaronic priesthood on them and then ordered them to baptize each other.

The manuscript was finished in July 1829, and published in March 1830.  Two weeks after the Book Of Mormon was published, Smith called himself "seer, a translator, a prophet, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ."   The new religion was off and running.  Originally it was called the "Church of Christ," and was established on April 6, 1830 with six members.  Within a month it had 40.

Townsfolk who knew of Smith’s necromancy called him a fraud and blasphemer, and they tore out a dam that was built in a stream to provide baptisms.  A mob came to his house and arrested him on an old disorderly conduct charge.  When he was acquitted on that one, they hauled him to the next county for another charge and he was again acquitted.  Both trials had lots of witnesses to his necromancy.  Many folks in the villages he was taken through cried out, "False Prophet!," but apparently no one took the time to debate his theology in public.

After his trials in 1830 in New York for disorderly conduct, Smith went back to farming in Pennsylvania  for a time.  Money troubles beset the family, but Joseph had many revelations, especially for Emma.  It was almost three months from the church founding before she joined.  Joseph and Emma moved to Harmony, NY to live with the Whitmers.   Emma's father was against the whole thing and Emma never saw him again.

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