The Church of Latter-Day Saints: Mormonism
The topic of my research paper is the Mormon religion. Particularly the original form of the religion as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With this paper I will answer the following questions as to where did the religion started, who were/are the main leaders and places of worship for the religion, are there any divisions or sects that are associated with the religion, how has the religion changed over time, and what does the future hold for this religion? To find my answers I searched many online articles, books, and magazine articles.
I found that the Mormon religion is a lot more complex than I believe many people think it is and there are many misconceptions made about the religion. Mormonism is not only a religion but a way of life for the people that call themselves LDS (Latter Day Saints). The religion was founded by Joseph Smith Jr. and has devout followers worldwide. “Mormonism, is the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ; of which I myself am not ashamed. ” This quote by Joseph Smith summarizes how true and pure the follows of this religion believe it is.With this paper I will give a brief history of the Mormon religion and try to address key issues and topics surrounding this controversial religion. Joseph Smith established the Mormon religion in 1830 after a vision from God. He said that while praying in the woods God came to him in a vision and instructed him to start a new true religion. When God appeared, Joseph asked him what was the right religion to follow. “The Lord answered that he must join “none of them, for they were all wrong” and “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight. He said that they had a “form of godliness,” but they denied “the power thereof” (Ingleton,2005). With this new found understanding and the power of God’s words Joseph started The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church was founded with just six followers to start; many of which were Joseph’s family members. (Ingleton, 2005) Three years after the First Vision, God sent Joseph a messenger to instruct him. The messenger, Moroni told Joseph of gold tablets that had the word of the Lord, the everlasting gospel written on them they were buried in the hills.Joseph found the templates and began translating them. The finished product would be known as the Book of Mormon. (Joseph Smith, Jr. Wikipedia) Joseph used the Book of Mormon as a secondary Bible. He still believed the words of the Bible but this was what came after the times described in the Bible. He did believe although that this was a better version of the Bible from God. He states, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book. (McConkie, 1959) He began to preach to people using the Book of Mormon as his basis. Many were not happy with Joseph’s ideas and they drove him and his people out of the east. Joseph claimed the only place the Mormon faith would survive is in the mountains. He said he had a vision of a place they would call Zion and he would lead his people there. With his teachings he drew the attention of a man named Brigham Young. Brigham Young studied the Book of Mormon for two years before he was convinced that this was the one true book and religion.Therefore, after Joseph Smith died Brigham felt compeled to carry out the vision of Joseph Smith. Young was the one who lead the people to find the Zion in what is now Salt Lake City, UT in search of religious freedom. This is where the Mormon religion has been based since July, 1859 when the settlers petitioned for statehood. (Joseph Smith Jr. Wikipedia) Joseph Smith had visions of a Holy Temple that would be built at the Zion where his people could worship without religious persecution and God had commanded he build the House of God. Four days after entering the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847, Brigham Young designated where the temple would be built, and on 6 April 1853, he laid the cornerstone of the temple foundation.That event marked the beginning of a long construction process. Work on the temple stretched from years to decades until finally, 40 years after it was begun, the temple was completed and dedicated on 6 April 1893” (Abanes, 2003). The Church now has many temples, or Houses of God. The Latter Day Saints view building these temples as the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Malachi 3:1. Abanes, 2003) “As of Dec 2008, there are 129 Temples in operation, 9 temples under construction, and an additional 8 temples announced for construction in the near future. These figures give a grand total of 146 Temples that will be or are in operation in the near future” (Abanes, 2003). The temples differ from the church meeting houses that are used for weekly worship. They are only used for special occasions such as endowment ceremonies and marriages to be sealed. A weekly meeting house or church can be found every few blocks. There is one church or meetinghouse for every ward.A ward consists of 200 to 500 active church members that live within a reasonable distance from the meetinghouse (Abanes, 2003). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is technically considered a type of Christian religion. Mainly this is because they believe in God and his son Jesus Christ. Beyond that their beliefs differ and the LDS follow different religious leaders. There are many prophets of God, such as Joseph Smith that the church looks to for guidance. These prophets also serve as Presidents of the Church and direct the affairs of the Church.There have been sixteen church Presidents since the beginning of the LDS Church. There isn’t a term to their presidency and many remain President until their death. The current President is Thomas S. Monson and he has served as the Church President since 2008 (Mormonism, Wikipedia). There are many sects associated with the original Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before migrating to the Utah Valley the church split into a few different groups because they didn’t believe in some of Joseph Smith’s practices such as plural marriage. The largest of these, the Community of Christ (originally known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), was formed in Illinois in 1860 by several groups uniting around Smith’s son, Joseph Smith III.Most denominations existing today that follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr. have some historical relationship with the movement. ” There were five main denominations of the LDS Church which include, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But none of these have caused quite the stir as the most recent denomination that split from the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1935. FLDS, Wikipedia) The split occurred largely because of the LDS Church’s renunciation of polygamy and its decision to excommunicate practitioners of plural marriage, who would not discontinue the practice. The current headquarters can be found in Eldorado, Texas where the FLDS Church built their temple. The FLDS have been in the news in recent years surrounding the controversy of the polygamy practiced by their members. Not only were they marrying multiple women but they would marry women that were under age.The youngest bride of the leader of the FLDS was just 14 years old. As you can imagine, this caused many people to look upon the Mormon faith in a negative way. Polygamy is no longer practiced within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its other sects. The only group to follow this way of teaching that stems from Joseph Smith are the FLDS. (FLDS, Wikipedia) This is just one of the changes that have taken place over time within this religion. The LDS religion as we know it today is very widespread due to the increasingly large numbers of missionaries.Every boy at the age of eighteen is encouraged to go on a mission trip for two years. This makes up a large portion of the missionaries. Also now that there are temples it is favorable of the LDS member to be married and sealed together in the temple. Tithing is a big part of the Church as well. You are to give one-tenth of the money you earn to the church to help build up the church and spread the Lord’s word (Oakes,1994). The changes that have taken place in the church are all for the benefit of a growing religious community. The future of this religion looks bright.On the cover of the November, 2007 issue of US News & World Report was an article about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the growing popularity of the Mormon religion. One of the article’s main points is the remarkable growth of the Utah-based religion, and the interesting observation that the emergence of Mormonism represents the first world-wide invention of a new religion since the prophet Mohamed gave the world Islam. Among the article’s more remarkable statements is a prediction about the growth in Church membership.It says: “If current trends hold, experts say Latter-day Saints could number 265 million worldwide by 2080, second only to Roman Catholics among Christian bodies. Mormonism, says Rodney Stark, professor of sociology and religion at the University of Washington, “stands on the threshold of becoming the first major faith to appear on Earth since the prophet Mohammed rode out of the desert” (Sheler, 2007). With this prediction I feel it is safe to say that this may become one of world religions that students in the future will study more closely in their World Religion classes.