Joseph Smith was not without opposition from within the newly formed Mormon church. His brother, Hyrum, also a “witness” of the Book of Mormon, began to baptize and confirm new members. The same was true of Oliver Cowdery. The two men had attempted to exercise independent authority. Joseph Smith’s response was swift he proclaimed himself a prophet with exclusive communications with the Almighty Father and Jesus Christ.
At this time Joseph Smith dispatched Oliver Cowdery to Missouri in search of what he was convinced had to be the site of the New Jerusalem. The location of Independence was chosen and later abandoned by the church. The second part of Cowdery’s mission was to expand the church membership, specifically targeting the American Indians. A man by the name of Sidney Rigdon1, a minister of the “Disciples of Christ” church made the acquaintance of Oliver Cowdery at this time. As a result of being converted, Rigdon and his congregation joined the Mormons, doubling the size of the church membership. Smith would also dictate another “lost” book of Enoch, stating that the biblical figure had established a city so righteous that God had taken it to heaven.
Pressure and opposition continued to grow in New York State so Joseph Smith told the congregation that the saints must relocate to Kirkland, Ohio. He promised Rig-don, now second in charge, that the executive body would receive “spiritual gifts” when they arrived. During the first days in Kirkland, and by his own authority, Smith “endowed” his top followers with the Melchizedek priesthood. He declared that while still in New York, the apostles Peter, James, and John had appeared to him shortly after John the Baptist and conferred the high priesthood upon him. The Aaronic priesthood gave the authority to baptize, but only those brethren with the Melchizedek authority could perform “higher” ceremonies like marriage. This is because marriage in the Mormon church includes a sealing ceremony after the vows are exchanged, binding the couple for “time and eternity”. So “till death do us part” is no longer applicable. Procreation continues in the new kingdom for worthy couples. This ceremony can only be held in a Mormon temple. It is signified at the time of its initiation with the couple kneeling and facing each other, with a mirror behind each person. The mirrors reflect into each other signifying eternity.
Joseph Smith tried to establish the church in Missouri but bitter opposition prevented his endeavours. Also, the governor’s office did not offer him their cooperation or support. Smith returned to Ohio to oversee the building of the Kirkland Temple. He set up a church bank to fund the project, coercing monies from the followers by offering them bank notes which they bought as a religious duty. At the 1836 dedication of the temple, the new church was deeply in debt. Many of the members abandoned Smith because of pressure from creditors and the “prophet” was arrested and charged with bank fraud.
Joseph Smith then fled by night to Missouri. He and his followers established the town of Far West. There was much anti-Mormon sentiment throughout the state which led to mob attacks and acts of violence by vigilantes. The Mormons would then decide to become more militant, “establishing the faith by the sword”, in the words of Joseph Smith. The result of this policy would lead to war with the state militia in the Battle of Crooked Creek after a Mormon initiated attack. The governor then ordered the extermination of all Mormons, citing them as a threat to the security of the American people. Before the order was issued however, more mob attacks rendered eighteen Mormons killed. The church surrendered and the war ended. Joseph Smith was imprisoned awaiting trial for treason along with Sidney Rigdon and other prominent leader of the group. The relationship between the two men became strained, creating a vacuum within which Brigham Young rose to prominence by defending Smith. All escaped custody on the way to trial and fled to Illinois where they then encouraged the membership to settle. Smith sent Rigdon and Young to Europe where they gained many converts, mainly the poor who then emigrated to the United States. A few wealthy converts joined as well. One of renown was Dr. John Bennett who was Illinois’ quartermaster. Using his influence and connections he obtained a charter for the new found city of Nauvoo (Hebrew meaning “to be beautiful”). Joseph Smith also gained a legal ruling preventing his extradition to Missouri. He had established the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, still in situ today. In Nauvoo, Smith instituted baptisms for the dead and the building of the temple began. For the women he established the Relief Society wherein the sisterhood would be of service to the congregation. He promised them the keys of heaven for their efforts.
In 1843 Smith petitioned the US congress to declare Nauvoo an independent territory with the privilege of calling on federal troops in the event of needful defence. He also lobbied Presidential Candidates from all parties asking for their pledge to protect Mormons. When they would not commit he announced his own candidacy. He was actively practising polygamy at this time as were many followers. He had had a “revelation” that in the kingdom righteous men would have many wives in order to propagate new earths, given as a reward to the faithful by God himself.
In March of 1844 Smith organized the “Council of Fifty”, to determine which laws should and should not be obeyed by Mormons. He also designated that more settlements be established in north and south western states which were, at the time, beyond government rule. This was a foreshadowing of world government; a creating of a theocracy to usher in the Millennial kingdom age. The Millennial Monarchy would see Joseph Smith as King, Priest, and Prophet. This would be enacted by the Council of Fifty.
Later that spring a serious conflict developed between Smith and about six of his leading counterparts. They claimed that Smith had proposed marriage to their wives. They also differed in their economic views for the city of Nauvoo and how it should be managed. Smith ex-communicated them as he thought they were plotting against his life. They began a competing church and secured indictments against him for polygamy and other crimes. The newspaper published this, calling for church reform. It declared Smith’s “Doctrine of Many Gods” as apostate. Indeed, Joseph Smith believed, as do Mormons today, that the Heavenly Father was once a man; mortal upon the earth, but who, through his acquisition of knowledge, rose to the situation of a Deity which he is today. It is thought that all men can achieve this if they live according to Mormon doctrine without wavering. Acceptance of the “divinely appointed” dictates of the current “prophet” ensures this.
There are three degrees of glory in the after-life; the celestial (the highest) the terrestrial (2nd) and the telestial (3rd). After this there is only outer darkness. It is only in the celestial kingdom that one can obtain “God” status. All designations are subject to the judgement of Christ. Entrance to the celestial kingdom is only for those married and sealed in a temple.
Smith had the Nauvoo newspaper destroyed after its articles on him appeared. This incited a riot by the non-Mormons, and Smith declared martial law. He activated the Mormon militia, causing Illinois to mobilize a small group of its own militia. The governor threatened to bring in more soldiers, and Smith fled across the Mississippi River. He returned and surrendered to the state. He was jailed for inciting a riot, but while incarcerated the charges escalated to treason against Illinois. On June 27, 1844 an angry mob stormed the jail. Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were both shot. Hyrum died instantly. Trying to escape through a window, the “prophet” fell to his death after taking many bullets to his body. As he fell he was quoted as crying, “O Lord My God!”
After Joseph Smith
The present day Mormon church has become a huge building project with temples increasing in number globally. It is the writer`s opinion that the fallacy that is the Mormon church is evident, in that over three thousand of Joseph Smith`s “revelations” have either been abandoned or changed since his death. The church has its own publishing company under the name of Deseret Press, its own Children`s Aid Society to ensure Mormon placement of LDS orphans, farms and food warehouses, along with its own Welfare Program. It is one of the fastest growing and most prosperous churches in the world today.
A collection of Joseph Smith`s revelations comprise the publication known as the “Doctrine and Covenants”, which also contains the “Word of Wisdom. “ An example of one of its statements is that hot drinks are not for the body. Smith interpreted this to mean coffee and tea. Therefore Mormons do not partake of these. If they are caught, it is cause for a bishop to revoke a temple recommendation — a slip of paper issued and shown at the temple doors that allows a worthy Mormon entrance. One cannot enter into the celestial kingdom if, at the time of their death, you do not have a temple recommendation slip.
The Mormons also believe that others may have the gift of being a seer. A “patriarchal blessing” is given by a designated member of the church. He is predictably called a patriarch. There is one for each region or “stake”. A stake is a group of “wards” in an area. A ward is a single congregation. The patriarch tells about a member`s life; what has been, and what is to come, supposedly. By gift of divine inspiration they are able to know these things.
All Mormon males aged nineteen are expected, but not forced, to go on a two year mission for the church at their own expense. Therefore, along with tithing ten percent of any and all earnings, boys save from an early age for their mission. They are sent out in twos all over the world to spread the doctrine of Joseph Smith. They are told what to wear, how to wear their hair, what curfew they must abide by, and what time to rise in the morning. Non-compliance with the rules can result in the missionary being sent home to sure disgrace and whispers. One can see the pressure to conform throughout the church. It is a form of control by which children are indoctrinated and trained.
Many of the members of the church follow blindly not knowing the deeper doctrines of the church, such as mentioned in this article. They are told not to question that which is divinely appointed. I was excommunicated in 1996 because I would not comply with what I saw as inaccurate hypocrisy. When I was a Mormon, I was taught that no one had done more for the salvation of mankind than Joseph Smith, save Jesus Christ himself. I say, Outrageous!
The main LDS church no longer sanctions polygamy in this life, but believes it to be a part of the next. The reason is that the laws of the land are now something to be obeyed. Members are taught to obey kings, magistrates, etc. They are not above political ambition as can be clearly seen with the current Republican Presidential Nominee being a Mormon.
Mary St.Onge (Hamilton Book Rd, ON)
Note: this article follows after previous ones in the series, January and February 2012, but was deferred by the press of other series.