Mormonism is a source of certain fascination in America. There are millions of Mormons who have lived among us for hundreds of years, yet there is still something almost mysterious about them even though most of us know, attend school with, or work with at least one Mormon. In our everyday lives, they seem no different than you or I, and for the most part, they are not. Everyone is entitled to freedom of religion, but for a lot of people, this religion that considers itself a sect of Christianity is very difficult to comprehend. Almost like Scientology, its beliefs and rules and practices make no sense a lot of the time, almost seeming as if someone just made it all up one day. That someone, the founder of Mormonism (a.k.a. the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) was named Joseph Smith. He created a whole new world for many people in the 1820s. This was the beginning of Mormonism.
Perhaps more than mysterious, Mormonism is just confusing. Why people would follow this mortal man and his seemingly crazy ideas is beyond comprehension. Like many religions, it comes off as controlling, oppressive, sexist, and a little loony, feeling more like it is based off of stories from a fiction book than anything close to Christianity. Even Islam, Buddhism, and atheism seem to be easier for people to understand than the often eerie teachings of smaller religions like Mormonism, which is labeled a cult religion by many Christians.
Even though Mormons call themselves Christian, their religion is very unlike it. From eternal pregnancy to outer space to Joseph Smith outright calling Christian beliefs an abomination, Mormons’ branding of their religion as Christianity is just one more baffling aspect to it all. Well, I am here to baffle you further with the 15 following dark and creepy facts and teachings of the Mormon Church.
15. Temple Garments
Also known as “Mormon underwear”, temple garments are two-piece underwear worn every day by faithful Mormons that represent the covenant they have made. Mormon women have always (quietly) complained about the fit and fabric of such undergarments, and have hope that changes can be made to them. Can you imagine wearing something against your skin that is uncomfortable every day of your life (especially while pregnant, nursing, or recovering from a C-section) and having to pretend not to mind it because the men of the Church of Latter-Day Saints says so? No, thanks. In an annual survey by the Church to see whether their followers have been wearing them and will remain in good standing, it is decided whether female followers can continue to visit a temple, which is sacred to Mormons. Some women even elect to wear their own underwear and bras over or under the temple garments, which as you can imagine is quite uncomfortable, too. For many, issues with these temple garments are representative of their inequality within the Church.
14. Pregnant For All of Eternity
That sounds just awful! Called the Doctrine of Eternal Increase (ew), it is the ability of Mormon couples who have achieved “celestial exaltation” to procreate forever. That, of course, means the woman would be pregnant forever, and I don’t know any woman who would want that. The couples hope to create “spirit children” (creepy) who will eventually take on human flesh and live in the world. An eternity of pregnancy- with spirit babies or otherwise- does not sound appealing to me, although it probably pleases the men who will get to sit back and relax, the way a heavenly eternity is generally thought of. If a woman has to literally go through billions of pregnancies and births in order to fulfill a “posterity as numerous as the dust particles on earth”, that is not very heavenly for her. She must have sex the same way she did on earth, and while it probably sounds pretty good to guys, it might get tiring after awhile, celestial or not.
13. Mandatory Tithing
First of all, you may not become a member of the Church if you do not agree to tithe, therefore making it mandatory. Tithing is a commandment. It does rely heavily on honesty, although there is also an audit of sorts. Members are annually labeled full, partial, or non-tithe payers. Members declare their status as one of the three at the end of the year. This is called a tithing settlement. If they don’t do it, the bishop will make his best guess. Members should pay 10% of their income to tithing and/or donations to the Church, however how that 10% is calculated varies from 10% of one’s pre-tax income, each paycheck, or even after one has paid for all of their necessities. So there is some wiggle room. Some Mormons quote a scripture that states you will be saved from burning in hell if you tithe. Tithing is prioritized over any and all earthly debts; it is owed to the Lord, in their eyes, and is thus fundamental. It is biblical law and necessary to be “temple-worthy”. Failure to tithe may also mean you are not “heaven-worthy”.
12. Spirit Prison and Paradise
It kind of sounds like your regular, run-of-the-mill heaven and hell, but in Latter-Day Saints theology, the spirit world is a place where the dead await the resurrection. It is divided into two conditions, prison and paradise. There is not much to argue about when it comes to paradise, a place for spirits to continue their spiritual growth and embrace the teachings of Christ. Spirit Prison, on the other hand, is reserved for those spirits who have either not yet heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, or those who have heard it but rejected it. The ones who rejected it suffer in hell. These wicked souls will remain in the prison (also known as the Outer Darkness) forever because they have committed an unpardonable sin. Depending on the teaching you follow, the Outer Darkness can either be temporary or permanent, but considering how strict they are even about tithing, I would think most choose to punish such sins with eternal damnation, and not just damnation for a little while.
11. Multiple Heavens
To expand upon the idea of a Mormon paradise, they believe that there is not just one, but three eternal dwelling places. They believe in a Celestial Kingdom, a Terrestrial Kingdom, and a Telestial Kingdom. When you consider orthodox Christianity, or even Catholicism with its purgatory, nothing is even comparable to the belief in three separate kingdoms. Some call it blasphemy, others call it crazy. Mormons call it doctrine. To distinguish between the three, the Celestial Kingdom is the highest heaven and it is where God lives. The Terrestrial Kingdom is second-best, but it is still heaven, for those who followed the Law of Moses but not Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism). The lowest heaven of the three is the Telestial Kingdom, where one would find those who only managed to follow “carnal law” but not Mormon religious laws. To each his own, but the majority of the world, regardless of their religion, believes in one God and one heaven, and thus would probably find this theory ludicrous. Mormons do not necessarily flaunt their belief in three heavens; they are not secretive, but the average non-Mormon Joe does not know this about them, and let’s be honest; it is kind of strange, and leads one to wonder exactly how all these details of different heavens came about. At the very least, it raises questions.
10. The Mormon Law of Health
The Mormon Law of Health (a.k.a. the “Word of Wisdom”) states since the human body is a sacred gift from God created in His image. Until the time people are reunited with their spirits and resurrected, they are responsible for taking the best care of their bodies. That means that coffee and tea are a big no-no for Mormons (or it means that they succumb to yet another form of control over their lives). Some Mormons also don’t drink soda, taking the no caffeine rule to a new level. I get that caffeine is bad for you, but to live your whole life doing nothing bad for you whatsoever is both boring and impossible. This law specifically names hot drinks as being bad for the body and belly, but says nothing about hot chocolate. However, as silly as it sounds, studies have in fact shown that Mormons do tend to be healthier and live longer. In one UCLA study of 10,000 Mormons, it was shown that the death rates due to cancer and cardiovascular diseases are about half that of non-Mormons. Also, they live eight to 11 years longer than the general population. So as creepy and controlling as it is, maybe there is something to be said for cutting the caffeine (just not forcing people to do so by threatening to cast them out of the church- or worse).
9. God Boinked Mary
This one is a biggie for the Christians of the world. It is debatable if Mormons should be considered Christians or not, and even though there are several key reasons why they should not be, people of the Christian faith still get offended by their belief that there was no virgin birth. This is one of the most (if not the most) controversial topic when it comes to Mormonism. Mormons disavow what many Christians would call the core of their religion: the birth of Jesus Christ by the Virgin Mary. They believe that God took human form and had sex with Mary, thus impregnating her with baby Jesus. The Mormon Doctrine even says, “Christ was begotten by an immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.” Couldn’t be much clearer than that. Mormons, however, try to sneak their way around this sensitive topic by declaring that they do, in fact, believe in the virgin birth because technically, since God is immortal, Mary was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. Ok.
8. Humans Have the Potential to Become God
Yes, they really believe this. In addition to believing that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are separate entities, they believe that they have bodies and “flesh and bone”. This is not inconceivable when you consider that, being God, He can be anyone and do anything. But Mormons do hold the firm belief that God was once a man with a tangible body. This is considered one of the real issues with Mormonism among Christians, that God is an “exalted man”. To someone interpreting these words quite literally, this would mean that we are all, as humans, capable of becoming God one day. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, even said, “God himself was once as we are now… We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea.” I wonder if, when Mormons ask their children what they want to be when they grow up, they ever hear the answer, “God”?
7. Blaming the Victim
Even today in modern times, young Mormon women are taught that virtue is essentially synonymous with chastity, meaning that even if they are raped, they can be considered unclean. A woman who is raped is already going through enough physical and emotional trauma without the fear of being thought of as “unclean” by her church, and thinking that is a possibility could likely make her not want to report it. Already, there are a large percentage of rapes that go unreported. Especially at LDS-owned schools, young women are taught that they are at least partially responsible for sexual assault because of their actions and clothing, or even for not fighting back hard enough (as if a young girl or woman could fight off an aggressive rapist). At Brigham Young University, several students who claimed they were raped were recently investigated by the Honor Code Office for violations like drinking, breaking curfew, or hanging out in guys’ rooms, all things that allegedly led to their assaults. It is implied in Mormonism that rape is essentially the victim’s fault for being a sinner. This is the true belief for some (not all) Mormons, and it is sickening.
6. Water is the Devil (Literally)
If you are a Mormon, stay away from the water! They are of the belief that Satan has power over the water, including rivers, lakes, and oceans. Since water covers approximately 71% of the earth’s surface, that is quite a lot of domain that the devil rules over, according to Mormons, anyway. If you are near the water, you are at risk as you are in Satan’s realm and away from God’s protection. For this reason, Mormons are not the best swimmers, and they steer clear of water activities such as boating on Sundays. Missionaries avoid it at all times unless it is for some reason imperative that they go boating or swimming. One passage that supports this belief about water comes from D&C 61:14-22. Paraphrased, it says, “Behold, I, the Lord, in the beginning blessed the waters, but in the last days, by the mouth of my servant John, I cursed the waters… the days will come when no flesh shall be safe upon the waters.” And so on and so forth.
5. The Other “Hub” of Mormonism
You may think of Utah as the happening place for Mormonism, and you would be correct. But Missouri is also very important in the religion. In 1831, the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, declared that the righteous would come together in Independence, Missouri for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Missourians were none too thrilled with this plan, however, so the Mormons were ordered to leave the state. Still, according to Mormon doctrine, Missouri and not Utah is the place to be. It is supposedly where the Garden of Eden is, and also plays a big role in the Mormon prophecy of the end times. Today, the state of Utah has the most (over two million) Mormon residents (a whopping 68% of the people who live there!), and Missouri has 69,500 (one percent of their population). These 69,500 Mormons of Missouri are more than triple the number living there just three decades ago.
4. The Mormon Wars
There were a few Mormon “wars” that took place in the 1800s, most notably the Missouri Mormon War in 1838, in which 22 people were killed before Joseph Smith surrendered. The conflict was over the Mormons being evicted from Jackson County, Missouri. In 1857, another war began, this time in Utah. Aptly called the “Utah War”, this was an armed confrontation between Mormon settlers in Utah and the United States government’s armed forces. This was more of a cold war than anything, although both sides prepared for battle (the Mormons were fearful that the government was going to annihilate them, since the military was sent there when they settled). Third is the much lesser-known Illinois Mormon War. Like the others, it is known by many other names, as well. After Joseph Smith was assassinated in 1844, Illinois went on a sort of witch hunt to rid their state of Mormons. It escalated, and vigilante bands roamed Nauvoo County, forcing many to flee their homes. By the end of 1845, it was clear that there would be no peace between the LDS church and the residents of Nauvoo County, so they began to discuss a truce. Then in 1846, 1,000 anti-Mormons attacked Nauvoo. Three of the 150 Mormon fighters were killed. The Mormons surrendered and evacuated to Iowa Territory.
3. Skin Color is a Blessing (White) or a Curse (Black)
Huh? That was my thought exactly upon hearing about this for the first time, but really, we should be used to the kookiness by now. Africans and people with dark skin are considered by Mormons to be descended from Cain, and are thus cursed. However, if you are black and want to convert to Mormonism, it is believed that God will lighten the color of your skin. Black men could not even be Mormon priests until 1978, and white supremacy and racial discrimination has been a source of wide criticism for the Latter-Day Saints. In The Way to Perfection, it states that, “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race… It was well understood by the early elders of the Church that the mark which was placed upon Cain and which his posterity inherited was the black skin.”
2. “Plural Wives” Are Necessary for Attaining “Godhood”
The LDS Church has routinely denied that polygamy is part of its doctrine, but it most certainly is. They like to deny that Joseph Smith, himself, was a polygamist, but the doctrine of plural marriage was revealed to him in 1843, and was subsequently enshrined in 1876 as Section 132 of Doctrine and Covenants, which is one of the Church’s scriptures. In the revelation, God declared that having multiple wives is a must for attaining godhood. Those who reject the idea are damned. Joseph Smith also “saw” that if his wife, Emma Smith, rejected his other marriages, he would destroy her. All of this was kept a secret from the general members of the Church until 1852, when Brigham Young revealed the information. In his lifetime, Joseph Smith married at least 33 women (poor Emma!). Emma, in fact, never did accept this way of life, and after her husband’s death she joined an anti-polygamist group called the Reorganized LDS Church, nowadays known as the Community of Christ.
1. Jesus and Lucifer are Brothers
The relationship between Jesus and Satan in Mormon context is that they believe God created everyone and everything. That goes for both people and spirits good and evil. This means we are all his spirit children, including Jesus and including Satan. Ergo, Jesus and Satan, in the eyes of Mormonism, are, in fact, brothers created by God. It is clear by the writings of Mormon prophets and church officials that they believe and teach this unsettling theory. Many have written that Lucifer is the second son, known as the “Son of Morning”, and that Jesus is the elder son. In The Mortal Messiah, Bruce McConkie wrote that, “There is… a devil, and he is the father of lies and of wickedness. He and the fallen angels who followed him are spirit children of the Father. As Christ is the Firstborn of the Father in the spirit, so Lucifer is a son of the morning, one of those born in the morning of preexistence. He is… comparable in any form and appearance to any of the spirit children on the Eternal Father.”