Regarding the 2012 presidential election, it is extremely important for Conservatives to prepare pro-actively for attacks. For instance, if Mitt Romney truly is the presumptive GOP nominee, well then we must familiarize ourselves with the most frequently criticized elements of Mormonism. Even if this enquiry into an honorable man’s religion is against our instincts. This is so because most Americans simply don’t know LDS theology, and the element of surprise can be used against the GOP.
For if history has taught Conservatives anything, it is that the perceived weaknesses of our candidates, fairly portrayed or not, will become fodder for the mainstream media. An example being the late Christopher Hitchen’s dyspeptic article, Romney’s Mormon Problem; Mitt Romney and the weird and sinister beliefs of Mormonism.
Undoubtedly the good works of the Mormon faith are remarkable, but Mitt will be at the mercy of the reaction of the ignorant to the more controversial parts of his beliefs. This is not to suggest that Romney could never become a great president because of his beliefs, but simply that his religion might cost him the opportunity. For this reason, this brief outline of LDS belief, especially of the more controversial elements is presented.
In 1820, Joseph Smith, a young man of 14 years old living in Manchester, New York, was visited by God and Jesus. who informed him every Christian denomination was an abomination in their eyes. Here writes Smith in his autobiographical Pearl of Great Price, a portion of the Book of Mormon.
I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight; that those professors were all corrupt…
In 1823, an angel named Moroni revealed to Joseph the existence of certain golden plates of ancient language, and where they were buried in a hill. The angel came in a vision, explaining many things about the true nature of God. In 1827, the plates were translated from Reformed Egyptian, becoming the basis for the Book of Mormon, a history of the North American continent. This included the exploits of a lost tribe of Jews, sent here by God to create a remnant for the Second Coming of Christ, becoming known as the “Latter Day Saints” as a continuation of earlier biblical saints.
Smith attracted a group of followers who mimicked his polygamous lifestyle, and were driven from town to town, deeper and deeper West as their practices made them anathema to everyday Americans. Finally, Joseph Smith was arrested for destroying printing press used to defame the Mormons in Carthage, IL. Here Smith was jailed, yet when an angry mob stormed the jail Smith used a smuggled gun to fight back, but was shot dead. He died a religious martyr, according to his followers. Brigham Young then brought the group to Utah where they established world headquarters of the LDS empire.
The most persistent criticism of the Mormon church is their belief that the works of Joseph Smith represent a continuation of the canon of scripture. Christians point to the work of the early church in establishing this position by way of the condemnation of Montanus, whose ideas were officially censured in the 2nd century AD. The Heresy of Montanism is described by Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, in part, as being “It asserted, above all, the continuance of prophecy, and hence it went generally under the name of the nova prophetia.”
Smith’s output of scripture included the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price. His followers claim the power of the works, as well as the LDS Church’s remarkable vitality and growth prove the accuracy of Smith’s vision.
Joseph Smith’s critics complain that he was a dishonest character. Is this correct? His naysayers say he was prosecuted and convicted of running a confidence game, according to NY state court records. Claims one source,
NORWICH—County historians have rediscovered historical records proving the founder of the Mormon Church was arrested on several occasions while living in Chenango County. These include legal bills from separate charges filed against Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, now the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The religious founder, the bills show, was arrested three times in the county between 1826 and 1830 for cases involved Smith’s involvement in “glass looking,” or searching for treasure, and “being a disorderly person.”
Mormons respond that such criticism is based upon biased history motivated by prejudice or jealousy.
The Christ of Mormonism is superficially at odds with the Biblical personality, admits the head of the church:
“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak’” (LDS Church News, week ending June 20, 1998, p.7).
The Jesus of Mormonism is the brother of Satan. Ensign, the official magazine of the LDS church says:
On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some—especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers… But as the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother.
Further, the Mormon God is neither a Trinity, nor monotheistic, as the next section explains. But Mormons respond that one cannot expect a previous revelation to agree exactly with subsequent ones, or there would be no point to further revelations.
Critics say Mormonism is technically a polytheistic religion, as Smith reveals in his Book of Abraham translation, part of LDS scripture, in chapter 4:3-4:
And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light. And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.
Another source describes LDS beliefs on the gods:
The Mormon Church teaches a plurality of Gods. They believe God the Father (Elohim) was once a man on a separate world who attained godhood. He then had many spirit children with his wives, the oldest one being Jesus. According to LDS beliefs, we were all Elohim’s spirit children before our carnal existence. Therefore, Jesus is our eldest brother. As former LDS Prophet Brigham Young taught: “How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity.” Therefore, the number of gods is practically limitless.
Deeper teachings in Mormonism also promote the idea that obedient Mormons can evolve into gods as McKeever describes:
“Although it is not found in any of Mormonism’s Standard Works, an expression which precisely defines the LDS teaching that men can become Gods was coined by fifth LDS President Lorenzo Snow. In June of 1840, Snow declared, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” Besides correctly illustrating the Latter-day Saint teaching that God was once a mere mortal man, this couplet also declares that man has the potential to become God! According to LDS theology, eternal life is synonymous with godhood. In the words of LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie, “Thus those who gain eternal life receive exaltation ... They are gods.” (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 237).”
Mormons dislike discussing this issue, and refuse the term “polytheist” for their religion. Instead they point out that there is only one God in this world, which is all we need to acknowledge. But we can be sure the topic will be raised repeatedly during a Romney election.
Famously, Mormons historically practiced polygamy, a notion championed by founder Joseph Smith, despite his first wife deserting him for the activity, according to Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness, The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. The practice made Mormons notorious to their “gentile” neighbors, one reason the sect repeatedly relocated in its early years. In fact, Abraham Lincoln ran with a “Defense of Marriage” plank in his platform for president, and later encouraged the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, meant to shut down LDS plural marriage in the Utah Territory.
The LDS Church teaches that obedient Mormons will evolve into godhood in the afterlife where they may take multiple wives for heavenly marriages. Says the introduction to LDS scripture Doctrine & Covenants Section 132:
“Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded 12 July 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant, and also the plurality of wives “
While the LDS no longer officially practice plural marriage, many offshoot sects still engage in this lifestyle, as notoriously reported in places like Colorado City, Utah. More importantly, Mormons teach that polygamy will again be allowed for Mormons in the afterlife. But defenders claim that all the prophets of the Old Testament were polygamists. Further, that since the LDS have changed their official stance on polygamy, the criticism no longer applies.
Mormon doctrine teaches that humans lived in a pre-existant state, being produced in celestial marital relations as “spirit babies.” The official Mormon scholarly publication Journal of Discourse, stated in Vol. 4, p. 218: ”We were first begotten as spirit babies in heaven and then born naturally on earth.” This teaching also indicates that Mormons believe intercourse will continue in the next life.
Mormon apologists claim teachings such as these nowhere directly contradict any Scripture.
Mormonism historically taught dark skin is the “Mark of Cain,” being a curse put upon Blacks for the rebellion of their forefathers in the pre-existence. Joseph Smith did not have a high view of Blacks, stating “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.’” Brigham Young especially had an extreme bias against Blacks. He stated ““But let them apostatize, and they will become gray-haired, wrinkled, and black, just like the Devil.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 332)” Young also claimed,
This people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are…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.
The LDS Church stood to lose their IRS tax exempt status in the 1970s for discrimination, but before this could happen, the Mormon Prophet had a revelation in 1978 that Blacks could attain the highest heaven, and not just as servants but ordained priests. Yet, the teaching has deep roots, as LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie further explains:
Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions impose(d) on them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God, and his murder of Able being a black skin…Noah’s son married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood…the negro are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concern(ed)...” (Mormon Doctrine, 527-28; 1966 orig. ed).
The LDS Church can fight back and claim that all of America used to be racist slave-holders and obnoxious bigots, so why pile on the Mormons? Especially, since they have come so far so quickly on race relations. But does this open the door for Obama’s very race-oriented supporters to claim Romney’s church has a despicably racist history?
The Book of Abraham, along with DNA studies of American Natives, have become the bête noire of the modern LDS church. This is because the language code of the famed Rosetta Stone was cracked, allowing ancient Egyptian to be properly translated. This then made possible Joseph Smith’s own translation to be tested.
And what did Joseph Smith claim his Egyptian papyrus named the Book of Abraham said? He stated the Egyptian words and figures depicted Abraham and Joseph of the Bible. Yet when trained Egyptologists studied the documents, this was not verified. Instead, it turned out the papyri were very ordinary Egyptian funerary documents, fragments of the Book of the Dead. This flew in the face of the LDS teaching that the Mormon Prophet can translate accurately any language, living or dead.
According to one Egyptologist, a typical comparison between Young’s work and theirs went something like this:
Joseph Smith said that Facsimile No. 1 was of a bird as the “Angel of the Lord” with “Abraham fastened upon an altar,” “being offered up as a sacrifice by a false priest. The pots under the altar were various gods “Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, Korash, Pharaoh,” etc.
In reality, this is “an embalming scene showing the deceased lying on a lion-couch.”
These facts are passed off as the debate between philologists over the definitions of obscure foreign word definitions. It is hard to know how the public at large, many of them hearing details on this for the first time, will react.
The Book of Mormon describes voyages to the Americas by ancient Israelites in 2 Nephi 1:9:
Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; ; [The Americas] and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves.
In other words, Joseph Smith taught native Americans are descended from the Twelve Tribes of Israel. But does science back up this claim? Unfortunately not, according to geneticist Simon G. Southerton in his Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church. Southerton states studies of mitochondrial DNA of Native Americans conclusively prove the Mormon claim of descent from Israeli immigrants is unsupported by DNA evidence. The LDS lost many adherents as a result.
This debate can be claimed just an argument between scientists. But what will an increasingly sceptical public think after hearing these points pounded over and over?
Mitt Romney could be the best candidate in the entire 2012 race. And yet, if his backers do not understand Mormon doctrines, or are not prepared to defend these to a skeptical mainstream media and American electorate, the race might be lost before it’s even begun.
Kelly O’Connell is an author and attorney. He was born on the West Coast, raised in Las Vegas, and matriculated from the University of Oregon. After laboring for the Reformed Church in Galway, Ireland, he returned to America and attended law school in Virginia, where he earned a JD and a Master’s degree in Government. He spent a stint working as a researcher and writer of academic articles at a Miami law school, focusing on ancient law and society. He has also been employed as a university Speech & Debate professor. He then returned West and worked as an assistant district attorney. Kelly is now is a private practitioner with a small law practice in New Mexico. Kelly is now host of a daily, Monday to Friday talk show at AM KOBE called AM Las Cruces w/Kelly O’Connell
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