Mormons are a religious order following the tenet of Mormonism, the principal branch of the Christian Latter Day Saint (LDS) movement. Mormonism was created by New Yorker Joseph Smith in the 1820s and diverged from mainstream Christianity over the next two decades to incorporate a sizeable following. After Smith’s murder in 1844, his successor, Brigham Young, led a group of Latter Day Saints westwards, ending up in Utah on July 24th 1847 (Pioneer Day); Young then served as tyrant governor of the State of Utah until 1856.
There are now an estimated 15.8 million Mormon followers worldwide, the majority living in the USA (and 190,000 in the UK). What’s more the religion, which is erroneously synonymous with polygamy, is increasingly featured in mainstream entertainment and national politics. Take for instance award-winning musical, “The Book of Mormon” and Stephanie Lee Meyer‘s “Twilight saga” both incredibly popular in their own right; the reasons for Mormonism’s transformation from America’s dirty-word religion to a populated centre stage movement may be just that…popularity in media and a new transparency.
That said, along with the historic shaming of Catholicism, the Anglican church and American Protestantism, Mormonism has had a rough ride over the years and some still view the order with a little suspicion, rightly or wrongly. For research purposes we give you some shocking tales from past and present of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. God be praised.
15. Facts About Mormons
According to the Mormonism Research Ministry, the following statements are true of the LDS: Mormons believe there is salvation only through LDS and no other church doctrine or faith is valid; women receive salvation only through their Mormon husbands; additionally, fundamentalist Mormonism calls for women to be “expected or encouraged to adhere to a strongly patriarchal perspective on women’s roles and activities”; Mormon indoctrination encourages the belief that, after death, Mormon men will have many wives in heaven, the subject of plural marriage never too far away in the living realm; Jesus had at least three wives and children while he was on this earth, according to MRM; the origins of LDS can be found in the orders and processes of Freemasonry; Mormons consider the Christian Bible to be untrustworthy and full of errors; prophet Joseph Smith was heavily involved in the occult when he founded Mormonism; the scriptures of Mormonism allude to the suggestion that black people are “inferior”.
14. Mixed Race Marriages Punished By Death
Racism within the early Mormon hierarchy is well documented. The second prophet of Mormonism who governed the new Zionist Utah state with military zeal, Brigham Young, was considered by many to preach the word of God which, to his people, was thus undisputed in its authority. However, as is so often the case, those who claim to be uttering the word of a deity may also be doing so for self-serving purposes. Whatever Young’s motive at the time, his undeniable xenophobic tendencies led his own followers to view skin colour in an extremely un-Christian way. At a General Conference in 1856 Young was quoted as saying, “If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain [those of African descent], the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot.”
13. The Twilight Saga
Twilight is a series of fantasy romance novels written by Stephanie Meyer. Having been educated at Brigham Young University (sound familiar?), Meyer is best known for her authorship of the four vampire-themed books which were then made into blockbuster films. She is also known for being a Mormon and admitted in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in 2008 that, “Her faith has influenced her work.”
In fact, feminists have criticized the Twilight series as an allegory of the Mormonist “seal” of marriage and for its allusion to a binding together of two souls in the afterlife. Further criticism was made of Meyer’s depiction of a “physically abusive relationship, pointing to red flags that include Bella’s entire life revolving around Edward; never being in control of her own life; being absolutely dependent on Edward’s ability to protect her life, her virginity, and her humanity.”
12. “Revealing Clothing Will Incite R–e”
The advocacy of plural marriage for fundamental Mormons is widely considered an act of oppression. But recent reports suggest the religion’s wider view of women as objects and possessions is as prevalent now as it was at the start. An article in Pacific Standard in 2014 highlighted the most recent teachings for women concerned about sexual violence and stated that, “In the Mormon community, teenage boys and girls are taught that preventing sexual violence is a woman’s responsibility.” Additionally, the church’s own Modesty Standard defines a woman’s required dress code as being “an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behaviour designed to glorify God while not drawing undue attention to oneself”; these guidelines are backed up by Sunday School teachers teaching young women that “revealing clothing will incite rape” according to the report.
11. The CIA / FBI Mormon Recruitment Programs
With covenants such as, “Behold, I send you out to reprove the world of all their unrighteous deeds, and to teach them of a judgment which is to come” it is no wonder that strict Mormons are often perceived to have greater than normal integrity and respect for others. In fact, even the federal government of the United States considers the faith a no-brainer when it comes to the search for honest individuals to assist in homeland security and law enforcement.
Mormons are disproportionately represented in the CIA, according to reports in the Salt Lake Tribune from a few years back, which can be attributed to their righteousness, abstinence from addictive substances, respect for authority and incorruptibility. With obedience being one of the most indoctrinated virtues of the LDS faith, it is logical to assume that such character types are much sought after.
10. The Mormon Church Agrees With Polygamy…Still
Although the Mormon Church abolished the practice of polygamy (the practise of having more than one wife or husband at the same time) in 1890, the church defended the practice as a, “Matter of religious freedom” for over 60 years. Considered abhorrent and anti-Christian by most non-Mormons, and often termed in conjunction with slavery as a “relic of barbarism”, polygamy or plural marriage was one of the most controversial aspects of the LDS church. Today, the church maintains its indoctrination that plural marriage “can be practised when specifically authorized by God” and according to its ancient scriptures and ministers, the practise is not ruled out of a comeback. While the federal government was complicit with public condemnation of it, late 19th Century critics went as far as to call it nothing more than a beneficial arrangement for men to “enter into illicit relationships with women.”
9. Mormon Murderers
Having finally settled in Utah, the Mormons enjoyed relative peace within the confines of their self-styled Zion. Following Smith’s death in 1844, his successor Brigham Young ruled the new Utah territory to the letter of God’s Word and martial law. Mormon settlements sprang up along the California Trail and Old Spanish Trail. In late summer of 1857, a wagon train of emigrants travelling the Old Spanish Trail entered Utah State and, although reasonably law-abiding, had the misfortune of arriving among a Mormon people distrusting of strangers and on high alert.
Resting up in Mountain Meadows just a short distance from the Old Spanish Trail, the Baker-Fancher wagon train broke for rest and recuperation. Around a week later they were attacked by Mormon militia dressed as Native Americans; after a three-day assault the Mormon’s had killed all men, women, and children over the age of eight.
8. Church Assets Are Worth More Than $30 Billion
It was said that founder Joseph Smith had a series of visions in the 1820s which culminated in the Book of Mormon, named after a prophet-historian of the ancient Americas. Apparently the book is mostly a fiscal study with, “88 out of the 112 revelations” received by Smith being related to money-making; worded in such a way as to promote the concept of tithing.
“And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me.”
Paying a tithe was not an uncommon practice for the Anglican Church and although it no longer exists, there is still a “suggested donation” at most services. The Mormon Church however relies on the obligatory tithe of one tenth of its members’ earnings which affords the church an estimated $5 billion-a-year income.
7. Mormons Threatened To Kill All Missourians
As conflict continued between the new order of Mormons and New York residents, members relocated first to Ohio in 1831 and then further west to Missouri in the hope of establishing “a permanent New Jerusalem or City of Zion.” However, their doctrines were a constant source of irritation for non-Mormons and after being expelled from Jackson County too they fled to other parts of Missouri in 1838. The move didn’t help matters and violence broke out on both sides, with the governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs, issuing an “Extermination order” for the Mormons. In reply, spokesman and friend of Smith, Sidney Rigdon, declared in the same year that Mormons would no longer tolerate persecution by the Missourians and also spoke of a “War of extermination” if Mormons were attacked.
6. The Church “Teaches Prejudice”
According to Chris Tolworthy writing for exmormon.org.uk, “Gospel teachings are often prejudiced,” even to this day. He carries on citing from Mormon scripture to reveal the biased nature of the early writings such as, “God created slavery, and abolishing slavery was against the will of God.” Bearing in mind this was just a few years before the abolition of slavery in the States and the passing of the 13th Amendment, the rhetoric hardly set a helpful tone. These days, Mormons claim not to be racist or homophobic yet only two years ago (2015) a communique within the church was leaked stipulating that “the children of same-sex couples would not be allowed to be baptized until they turn 18” and that “[people who had a] same-sex marriage were considered apostates and could be excommunicated”. This prejudice, Tolworthy believes, was directly based on earlier Mormon scripture.
5. Mormon Militia Burned Villages To The Ground
On August 6, 1838, non-Mormons in Gallatin, TN attempted to hold back the Mormon faction from voting in the county election. So began the Mormon war of the same year in which non-Mormon vigilantes raided and burned Mormon farms in protest against their pre-supposed ownership of land and unorthodox way of life (in October of the same year a party of Missourians killed a group of Mormons in the Haun’s Mill massacre).
In retaliation, the Mormons formed a small army and attacked Gallatin (Missouri state militia) as well as the nearby village of Millport, looting shops and setting fire to numerous properties. Records from the time also testify to the Mormons having “forced pregnant women and children out into the cold, stole livestock, and took prisoners for interrogation.” The following day saw the yield of the Mormon army to 2,500 state troops with an agreement to forfeit their looted goods and leave the state for good.
4. Assassination Attempt
Following on from their expulsion from Missouri, the Mormons tracked North West to Illinois; the state was welcoming Mormon “refugees” who were soon regarded as a persecuted minority. Their troubles and battles with the neighbouring state were not forgotten however, especially by prophet Joseph Smith. In 1841, Smith prophesied that governor of Missouri Lilburn Boggs (who had previously issued the “Extermination order”) would meet a violent death.
A year later, Boggs was the victim of an assassination attempt but, despite being hit by large buckshot in four places, he survived. Recalling the date, one of Smith’s friends Dr Bennett suspected the former’s bodyguard Orrin Rockwell had something to do with the shooting. Rockwell never directly denied the crime, even when he was tried for it, insisting, “I’ve never shot at anybody. If I shoot, they get shot. He’s still alive, isn’t he?”
3. More Of Brigham’s Punishments
In founding the new enclave in Utah, Brigham Young was able to enact his interpretation of both the word of God and the scriptures as laid out by his predecessor Joseph Smith. This interpretation, as we’ve already seen, came in many shapes and forms of prejudice and fear. In addition to his intolerance of non-Mormons, Young would treat those who doubted the faith with harsh discipline, worse still those who left the state altogether. According to reports from those around Young at the time, the punishment for dissent, a wavering faith or abandonment of the theocracy, was death. Although there is little evidence to suggest that such religious murders were carried out, the doctrine contributed to “a culture of violence that, combined with paranoia from the church’s long history of being persecuted, incited several extra-judicial killings by Mormons”, according to Michael Quinn’s book, “The Mormon Hierarchy”.
2. Joseph Smith’s Visions
Founding prophet Joseph Smith claimed that as a 14-year-old he received a vision of God and Jesus Christ; the details of the vision were later to form the cornerstone of Mormon scripture as the “Pearl of Great Price”. However, the vision he received first mysteriously changed in its character and detail between the age of 14 and its first written record in the Book at the age of 32. Some of the varieties of vision included: Spirit shows Smith where to find a “record in a gold book” (1827); an angel tells Smith where to find hidden treasure, which turns out to be a gold book (1830); many angels talk of Jesus, but there is no gold book (1835); an angel tells him all other churches are wrong (1844). In the end Smith told as many as 10 versions of the story and many had serious contradictions.
1. Joseph Smith Papyri
Without wishing to paint a negative picture of Joseph Smith, it is worth mentioning that, in 1838, the founder and prophet of the Mormons received an Egyptian mummy and a set of papyri which he promptly declared to be scrolls written by religious patriarch, Abraham. His translation thereafter has caused controversy with many believing the translations to be erroneous and simply made up by the “ignorant” Smith. Tragically, Smith’s translation was then canonised by the LDS and forms its doctrinal foundation despite critics calling it a “Work of fiction”.
After disappearing for years, the scrolls were rediscovered in the early part of the 20th Century and translated by various scholars who agreed that Smith’s interpretation was something akin to an, “Erroneous invention”. Certainly his mislabelling of the Egyptian fertility god, Min as, “God, sitting on his throne” caused some to consider his authenticity.