History Of The Mormons

Q: Give me the history of the Mormons


Our first question came in today, and I have to admit…

It kind of felt like Christmas morning…seriously.

Is it weird I was that excited about it???

So a history of the Mormons–what a perfect place to start.

I could write a novel (or a dozen) about Mormon history, but I’ll try to touch on some of the highlights, k? At least from the beginning until the Mormons arrived in Salt Lake.

If you want more information on a specific part/period/event in Mormon history, follow-up with me and we’ll re-attack it.

How (And Why) The Mormon Church Started

The Mormon Church (officially called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) is considered by many to be a “modern” religion, considering it was organized on April 6, 1830.

I intentionally said “organized” and not “created,” because a fundamental belief in the Mormon faith is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is literally a restoration of Christ’s original Church–as in, the exact Church established by Christ himself during His mortal ministry two millennia ago, reestablished by Christ Himself in our time.

So to us, it’s anything but modern…

But in order to understand how the Mormon Church started, you have to go alllllllllllllllllll the way back to the time of Christ to gain an understanding of why its creation was necessary (hang with me, I swear we’re going somewhere…).

The Loss of Christ’s Church

I think it’s safe to assume that when Christ established His Church during mortality, there were NOT dozens of different denominations with differing opinions on doctrine–He would have established His Church the way He wanted it organized, and His apostles were then charged with maintaining the order and integrity of His gospel.

After all, Ephesians 4:5 states

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

Here’s a super brief history of the events following Christ’s mortal ministry:

  1. Christ was crucified and resurrected
  2. The apostles were slaughtered

I told you it would be brief!

But with that understanding, it becomes easy to see how following the death of Christ and the martyrdom of his apostles, the order and doctrine Christ had established slowly gave way to doubt, confusion and corruption. Where there had once been revelation from God, church leaders now had to rely on assumption, human interpretation, and–in some cases–political pressure to govern the church.

Mormons view this time in which Christ’s order and authority were taken from the earth as the Great Apostasy (aka The Dark Ages). Eventually, many well-meaning and enlightened individuals attempted to reform altered and/or corrupted practices within the Christian church, and the Protestant Reformation resulted in the many many Christian denominations we see today.

But without divine revelation, as God had given through prophets all throughout history, Christ’s original Church could not be duplicated.

And while many of these denominations placed great emphasis on adhering as closely as possible to Christ’s teachings in the New Testament, none claimed to be an actual restoration of Christ’s original Church, under divine commission by God Himself, created under His direction and authority.

restore

Except the Mormons.

And it started with Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith And The Start of the Mormon Church

Joseph Smith was born in 1805 in Vermont. His family was hardworking but had serious financial trouble, and eventually they ended up in Manchester, New York. In his own words, Joseph stated that not long after they arrived “there was in the place where [they] lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion,” in which a number of different denominations were aggressively vying for new members.

As a 14 year old, and with his family dividing themselves up amongst different denominations, Joseph was unsure of which church to join and felt serious anxiety about it, admitting:

“So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong…I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”

And then one day, while reading the Bible, he read James 1:5:

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

Feeling inspired, he decided to do that (again, a 14 year old boy). He found a grove of trees near his home. And he prayed. And he testified that he had a miraculous experience:

He saw God and Jesus Christ.

Mind.Blown.

In this vision, he was told not to join any of the churches, that none had complete truth.

He told a Methodist minister of the vision he had, and you can imagine the field day people had once word got out. Even as a teenager, Joseph Smith was ridiculed and suffered a great deal of persecution because of what he claimed to have seen.

Finding the Book of Mormon

Several years later, in 1823 and at the age of 18, again after prayer, Joseph Smith witnessed another divine manifestation. In his own words, he explained being visited by a “personage”:

“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…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 fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.”

He was then shown by vision where the book of gold plates was located, buried under a stone on a nearby hill. After telling his dad about the experiences he’d had, he went to the hill and found the plates as he’d been told he would.

In 1827, he was given the plates and a means by which to interpret them, and was told to translate the book. This book is The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and contains the writings of ancient prophets from the Americas, similar to how the Bible contains the writings of ancient prophets in and around the Holy Land and surrounding areas.

The translation was completed in 1829 and published 26 March 1830.

Yes, this all sounds crazy and slightly fantastical (it did to me the first time I heard it), but what in the Bible isn’t??? Miracle manna and burning bushes and water into wine and raising people from the dead…

Exactly my point.

Cool thing is, The Book of Mormon is something tangible that anyone can actually hold and read to decide for themselves if it’s true or hogwash–if they feel so inclined. You can also find Joseph Smith’s own account of these events here.

The Early Mormon Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was officially organized on 6 April 1830 in Fayette Township, New York, with Joseph Smith declared as “a seer, a translator, a prophet, and apostle of Jesus Christ.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith

It had six members.

In 1835, 12 apostles were called to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Even in the early church, missionary work was incredibly important, and missionaries were eventually drawn west as they proselyted to the Native Americans on the edge of Missouri and what was then Indian Territory. Eventually, there were more church members in Ohio than New York, and in December 1830 church members were instructed to gather in Ohio. Soon after, Joseph Smith received revelation that they were to settle in Jackson County, Missouri.

Fleeing rampant persecution and in search of Zion, a safe place in which they would be able to settle, early Mormons often faced mob violence so constant and so severe they often found themselves displaced from their homes. By 1838, violence forced most Mormons out of Kirtland, Ohio.

Things weren’t much better in Missouri (the state militia issued an “extermination order” against all Mormons), and later in 1838 most fled to Illinois; they went on to settle in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The Death of Joseph Smith And The Trek to Utah

After having been imprisoned on multiple occasions for causing “civil disturbance,” Joseph Smith was again arrested in 1844, despite not having committed any crimes; still, many called for his death. On 27 June 1844, a mob of 200 men stormed the jail where Joseph and his brother were being held, and shot and killed them both.

Brigham Young was sustained as the new President of the Church in August 1844.

In February of 1846, groups began migrating further west to escape persecution, setting up camps in Iowa and Nebraska.

In July of 1847, Brigham Young arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, and finally declared that the Mormons had found a permanent place to settle. As Mormons traveled west over the next several years (most carrying all of their possessions by handcart), these pioneers suffered A LOT, experiencing outbreaks of cholera and malarial fever, starvation, and freezing winters; many many many of them died, including women and children. From Salt Lake, Mormon settlements continued to expand outward, even into Mexico and Canada.

Phew!

Like I said, I could go on and on–there are so many details that could be filled in; so many pivotal events that give shape and narrative to the history, but that’ll do for now. Here’s just a quick look at some of the dates that may be of interest to those who are somewhat familiar with the Mormon Church.

timeline 2Til next time.

 

18 thoughts on “History Of The Mormons

  1. you mentioned often about the “ORIGINAL” church. Tell about the original church? Who established it? By what authority was it established? What if any criteria was needed to validate membership? What is it’s governce body or guidance? And what is it purpose?

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    1. Thanks for reading and your reply!

      Original Church = Christ’s Church a.k.a the Church Jesus Christ established during his mortal ministry AND the period following his death/resurrection in which His apostles were still living.

      There are many many New Testament scriptures that indicate Christ organized and instituted a structured Church, ie:

      Matthew 16:17-18 “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

      And the foundation of His Church were apostles and prophets:

      Ephesians 2:19-20: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; AND ARE BUILT UPON THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS, JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF BEING THE CHIEF CORNERESTONE.”

      This structure also included other positions, including:

      Ephesians 4:11: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”

      Why???

      Ephes 4:12-14 “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: THAT WE HENCEFORTH BE NO MORE CHILDREN, TOSSED TO AND FRO, AND CARRIED ABOUT WITH EVERY WIND OF DOCTRINE, BY THE SLEIGHT OF MEN, AND CUNNING CRAFTINESS, WHEREBY THEY LIE IN WAIT TO DECEIVE.”

      The apostles, prophets, and governing bodies of the church were instituted to protect doctrine from the sleight and craftiness of men. It also included Bishops (1 Tim 3), Elders (Acts 14), and Deacons (Phil 1:1).

      The Church was Christ’s (see above, Matt 16:17-18), and the authority came from Christ himself:

      Luke 9:1 Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.”

      Matt 16:19: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

      Christ’s authority and power (what we call Priesthood Power) was given to His apostles, which the apostles were then able to confer on the other governing leaders of the church below them.

      The importance of this structure, order, and transfer of authority was evident following the betrayal and death of Judas Iscariot, which left a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

      Did they decide to just roll on with 11?

      Nope. The “order” of it all was so important that the vacancy was filled, ultimately by the resurrected Lord Himself:

      Acts 1:24-26 “And they prayed, and said, THOU, LORD, WHICH KNOWEST THE HEARTS OF ALL MEN, SHEW WHETHER OF THESE TWO THOU HAST CHOSEN, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered among the eleven apostles.”

      And:

      John 15:16 “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. YE HAVE NOT CHOSEN ME, BUT I HAVE CHOSEN YOU, AND ORDAINED YOU.”

      One essential requirement for membership was Baptism and confirmation (receiving the Holy Ghost):

      John 3:5 “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”

      Thanks again for reading and your comments!

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    1. Christ’s church technically would have “started” during His mortal ministry, but was also a progression from the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament, a time characterized by preparation for and the prophesying of Christ’s arrival. The Mosaic Law was fulfilled and replaced by the higher law of Christ’s gospel following His Atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church) was organized in 1830.

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      1. Ok thank you for taking the time to gather this information! Now before I ask another question I would like to clarify and discuss two points that you made. The first was about there being no competitive oppositional religions during the start of the church. The other is the origin of Christ Church…

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        1. Sure! There were MANY competitive/oppositional churches during the apostolic period, just like there were many competitive/oppositional churches since the time of Adam. From pagan worship in the OT to the numerous religious parties during Christ’s ministry, Jewish and gentile (ie: Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans, etc.), there have been and always will be a wide number and range of denominations with similar religious foundations. That being said, that doesn’t mean they operated under Christ’s authority. Christ provided the doctrine, organization, and structure for His church before and after His death, and He gave the apostles power and authority to run it in His name (see scriptures in previous comment above) and Mark 13:34 “For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, AND GAVE AUTHORITY TO HIS SERVANTS, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.” I’m not sure if I understand your question about the origin of Christ’s church, could you explain?

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          1. Origin… When was the church first established, who established it and what, if any, criteria was needed to be apart of this church…

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            1. Jesus Christ established His church. Christ has led and organized and directed His church from the beginning of time through prophets and apostles, and the higher law began after the Law of Moses was fulfilled–that’s as specific as I can be, I’m not aware of an exact date if that’s what you are asking, sorry! From the beginning, Adam and Eve communicated with the Lord, and in Genesis 4 Cain and Able were offering sacrifices; while we aren’t given any details at this point when the Lord told them they should be doing this, it’s obvious the Lord had instituted the law of sacrifice and required it of His people; the fact that He disapproved of Cain’s sacrifice indicates He had a specific way He wanted His people to worship Him–He had a church and commandments and He communicated with His people. Moses–a prophet with authority from God–was given the Law of Moses (first 5 books of OT), and those laws (and subsequent prophets) governed the Church until the law was fulfilled with Christ’s death and resurrection. At this point, Christ’s apostles took over the role of leading and directing the Church (commandments, doctrines, and ordinances directed by Christ). Aside from baptism being a requirement of discipleship (John 3:5), we also believe the other requirements would have been (based on scriptural evidence and modern revelation) 1. faith in Jesus Christ 2. repentance 3. laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

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  2. Hi! Can you explain why the Book of Mormon contains extensive, word-for-word quotes from the Bible if the LDS Church is correct in teaching that the Bible has been corrupted?

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    1. Hi there! So our 8th Article of Faith states that “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.” We believe the Bible (Old and New Testament) are Holy Scripture written by apostles and prophets of God! However, we do believe there were many priceless bits and pieces that were omitted, removed, or translated incorrectly. In 1830 Joseph Smith was divinely commissioned to revise/translate the King James Version of the Bible to its intended state. Many of these changes were very subtle and in the context of the volume of the entire Bible, are relatively small. This is why so many of the verses found in the Book of Mormon are preserved exactly as they were detailed in the Bible!

      You can read more about the Joseph Smith Translation here: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/joseph-smith-translation

      And here is a link to all JST revised verses: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/jst?lang=eng

      Thanks for your question!

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      1. Thanks so much for your quick reply and for the links! So what you’re saying is that you believe that although there are parts that are missing, omitted or translated incorrectly, you don’t believe they are significant enough to have an impact on the message as a whole?

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        1. Definitely not! We believe that the Bible is the word of God, and is Holy scripture written by prophets and apostles of the Lord. While the Joseph Smith Translations certainly give clarity to many passages–and in some cases do provide different interpretations of certain sermons/parables–the King James Version of the Bible is what we read. The singular and most important message of the Bible is that Jesus is the Christ, and the Bible certainly testifies to that.

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  3. Also, since the LDS Church teaches that there was a complete apostasy of the true church on earth, does that mean that the 3 living Nephites and the Apostle John went into apostasy also?

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    1. Hi! It does not…Apostasy is defined as “A turning away from the truth by individuals, the Church, or entire nations. It includes rebellion against authority and rejection of prophets” (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/apostasy?lang=eng). During the Great Apostasy, we believe that John and the 3 Nephites would have still *had* the Priesthood (God’s authority), but would have simply not been allowed to *exercise* or use it. As to *why* the Lord has allowed periods of apostasy to occur throughout history, even when His Priesthood authority has been on the earth, I don’t know the answer to that.

      Joseph F. Smith (6th President of LDS Church) once stated:

      “I believe there has never been a moment of time since the creation that God has abandoned the earth to Satan. There has always been someone holding the priesthood on the earth to hold Satan in check.”

      On this exact topic and in response to Joseph F. Smith’s comment above, Harold B. Lee (11th Pres LDS Church) said:

      “I have thought of Elijah—and perhaps Moses; for all we know they were translated beings, as was John the Revelator. I have thought of the Three Nephites. Why were they translated and permitted to tarry? For what purpose? An answer was suggested when I heard President Smith make the above statement. Now, that doesn’t mean that the kingdom of God has always been present, because these men did not have the authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel to the world. But these individuals were translated for a purpose known to the Lord. There is no question but what they were here.”

      Thanks for your thoughts and comment!

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      1. Thank you! I really appreciate your thoughtful and detailed responses. I also truly respect your humility and willingness to admit that you don’t have a particular answer. It’s impossible for us to know everything about everything, but it takes a wise person to able to admit that! Have a great night! 🙂

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