The Mormon Church is the largest Christian cult in the world today, claiming a membership in excess of 10 million.1
It is a cult for many reasons, the most important being the fact that it proclaims a false Messiah. The Jesus of the Mormons is the brother of Lucifer, one of thousands of gods created by the super-god, Adam, an exalted man. The Mormon's perverted concept of Jesus is just one of many demonic doctrines which the church inherited from its founder, Joseph Smith.2
Joseph Smith (1805-1844) was born in Vermont and raised in upstate New York near a town called Palmyra. This was the heart of what came to be called "the burned-over district" because of its frequent and fervent Protestant revivals.3
Smith claimed that his first revelation from God came at the age of 14 on the Smith family farm. In subsequent encounters, Smith said that God revealed to him that all Christian groups since the death of the apostles had strayed from the true Church of Christ. He claimed that he was given the responsibility to restore the one and only true church.4
In later visions Smith claimed that he was led to tablets of gold stored in a nearby hillside. These tablets supposedly contained a history of the ancient inhabitants of North America. His "translations," written in perfect King James English, were published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. This book was to become the sacred scripture of Mormonism.
Smith formally founded his church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — shortly after the publication of his book. His "driving personality and immense personal charisma" resulted in explosive growth for the new church.5
Shortly after the establishment of the church, Smith moved to Kirtland Mills, Ohio, where he hoped to establish the kingdom of God on earth. A banking panic in 1837 caused the economic collapse of the Kirtland settlement, and this, together with spreading rumors of polygamy, caused many Mormons to leave the church. Smith headed west to Missouri. Within a year, a civil war broke out between Smith's followers and their neighbors who feared their growing political might. The governor of Missouri ordered the Mormons to leave the state.
This time Smith and his flock headed east to Illinois. In 1839 they founded a new city called Nauvoo on the Mississippi River, near the city of Quincy. Within five years the city grew to nearly 20,000 residents. Once again, the rapid growth stirred suspicion and resentment among their neighbors. Opposition to the Mormons intensified as rumors of polygamy began to spread. (Polygamy was still a confidential tenet of the faith.)
In 1844 Smith announced that he was going to run for President of the United States. This announcement fueled a new wave of antagonism toward the Mormons. The climax came shortly thereafter when a newspaper controlled by Mormon dissenters revealed the church's practice of polygamy. Smith was outraged over this revelation, and he ordered the destruction of the newspaper's press. He was arrested for inciting a riot and was imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois. Before he could be tried, a mob broke into the jail and brutally killed both him and his brother.
The murder of the founder led to a split in the church. The majority rallied around Brigham Young who, as president of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, claimed to be Smith's rightful successor. He soon led his followers west to Utah. Those who rejected Young's leadership eventually formed the Reorganized Latter-Day Saints and selected Joseph Smith's son as their leader. They remained in Missouri and claim to this day to be the true church.6
In the second part of this two-part series on Joseph Smith, we'll look at his status as a failed prophet.
1) Christian Apologetics Research Ministry, "The Mormon Church Statistics," www.carm.org, accessed 11/02/2003.
2) Ed Decker and Dave Hunt, The God Makers, Harvest House, revised edition, 1977.
3) Unsigned article, "Joseph Smith," Encyclopedia Britannica 2002, Deluxe Edition on CD.
4) Unsigned article, "Joseph Smith," Public Broadcasting System website, www.pbs.org, accessed 9/21/2003.
6) Encyclopedia Britannica 2002.