Mormonism is a heretical religion founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. Most of its adherents comprise the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or "LDS" Church, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah; its second-largest sect is the Community of Christ, in Independence, Missouri. Total membership for the LDS church as of 2008 is 13,000,000, with 250,000 in the Community of Christ and perhaps 50,000 in several smaller sects.
- 1 Brief History
- 2 Compared To Holy Orthodoxy
- 3 =Mormon Organization
- 4 Distinctive Mormon "Scriptures"
- 5 Mormonism and Polygamy
- 6 Citations
- 7 Sources and External Links
Mormonism began on April 6, 1830 in Fayette, New York, as an alleged "restoration" of the original Apostolic Church. Its originator, Joseph Smith, Jr., asserted that he had seen two celestial "personages" in 1820 who claimed to be God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. These "personages" told Smith that all existing churches--including the Orthodox Church--were false, and that he had been chosen to "restore" the one true Church. This restoration included a variety of things, including modern prophets, new revelations of scripture (chief among which was the Book of Mormon), and a calling of a modern group of Twelve Apostles. From the Mormon perspective, the most important elements of this "restoration" was the claimed appearance of a resurrected John the Baptist to convey upon Joseph Smith and his cohort Oliver Cowdery in May of 1829 to "restore" what Mormons call the "Aaronic Priesthood" and the authority to baptize and administer the Mormon version of holy communion and then, according to Mormons, later that same month the resurrected Peter, James, and John, the same as the biblical Apostles, appeared before Smith and Cowdery and conferred upon them the higher or "Melchizedek" Priesthood, which Mormons believe holds the power to do things like confirm membership in the LDS Church, confer the Gift of the Holy Spirit, and give anointings and blessings to the sick so that they may be healed ( perhaps best understood as the Mormon parallel of Holy Unction.) It was also at this time Mormons believe Smith was given the "keys of the kingdom" by the Apostles and ordained as an apostle himself. It is from these "visitations" that Mormons draw their claims of priesthood and divine authority.
Attracting a host of converts, Smith's new religion also garnered intense persecution, necessitating moves in turn to Ohio, Missouri, and finally Illinois, where Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith were murdered in 1844. Smith's movement fragmented following his demise, with the majority eventually following Brigham Young, then head of the LDS Church's Council of Twelve Apostles, to Utah.
As a matter of course, most Mormons prefer to be called by their official name, the "Latter-day Saints." The usage of the word saint here follows the biblical meaning of the terms as meaning one who has dedicated themselves to God and His service. The term "Latter-day Saint" is often abbreviated as "LDS." The moniker "Mormon" was originally used as a derisive name by non-Mormons and was derived from the "The Book of Mormon."
Plural marriage proved a source of dissension, especially between the Utah Mormons and the smaller Community of Christ, which rejected the doctrine. Polygamy also caused trouble between the LDS church and the U.S. government, until its practice was banned in 1890. Throughout the last century, Mormons fought to project an image of wholesome, family-oriented Christianity, reaping millions of converts and emerging as a formidible presence on the world religous scene.
With the fall of communism, the LDS extended their prosletyzing efforts into traditionally Orthodox countries, including Russia, which passed a law in 1997 designed to hamper their efforts and those of other Western sects.
Compared To Holy Orthodoxy
(This section is concerned with the organization and theology of the Utah LDS church, which contains the majority of the world's Mormons. While the Community of Christ church is similarly organized, its beliefs differ rather sharply from LDS Mormonism in many respects, as do the beliefs and organization of the smaller sects. However, all Latter Day Saint sects remain diametrically opposed to Orthodox Church teaching in most essential regards.)
Mormonism as a whole encompasses a mélange of many different religious beliefs, the vast majority of which are contrary to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Joseph Smith gleaned inspiration from various religious movements of his time, including Campbellite, Restorationist, and Universalist. However, the foundation of Mormon belief is the acceptance of modern prophecy and revelation, and an "open canon" of Holy Scripture.
While Joseph Smith taught that any person with a testimony of Christ may have the spiritual gift of prophecy, the LDS Church remains a hierarchical organization. At the head of the organization is the President of the Church who Mormons believe is a prophet in the mold of the Old Testament prophets, such as Moses. This President is usually assisted by two "counselors," who, along with the President, form what is called the "First Presidency." Most members of the LDS church believe that their current president, Russell M. Nelson (as of 2018), is the sole person authorized to speak definitively for God on the earth today. Below this "First Presidency" is the "Quorum of the Twelve Apostles" who are also considered "prophets, seers, and revelators," but who do not exercise the prerogatives of leadership held by the President of the Church, who has "final say" in all matters. This First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles constitute the highest leadership bodies in the LDS Church and Mormons believe they hold and exercise the "keys of the kingdom" as Jesus promised Peter. Beneath these are the various "Quorums of the Seventy" concerned with heading up Mormon missionary efforts and representing the leadership of the church to the various members throughout the world. Along with the First Presidency and the Twelve APostles, the Seventies are referred to as General Authorities as they are considered to have authority over the entire church in general. The "Presiding Bishopric" oversees the temporal needs of the LDS Church and manages its massive welfare programs. 
A local Mormon congregation, called a "ward" (equivalent to an Orthodox parish), is headed by a "bishop" (equivalent to an Orthodox parish priest). A group of wards occupying a specific geographical area is organized into a "stake" (equivalent to an Orthodox diocese), headed by a "stake president" (equivalent to an Orthodox bishop). The disparity between Mormon and Orthodox usage of "bishop" can cause confusion for the uninitiated!
An important point to understand that all Mormon males above age 12 who attend church regularly and live the church's moral guidelines are ordained into an office in the LDS priesthood. At 12 young men are ordained Deacons and given responsibilities in distributing the bread and water used for holy communion to the congregation (Mormons do not generally use wine.)At 14 young men are ordained as Teachers and have responsibilities to prepare the bread and water for blessing as well as distributing it to the congregation. At 16 young men are ordained as Priests and are given, along with all previous responsibilities, the authority to baptize and bless the holy communion.
Generally, at 18, Mormon men are ordained as Elders. While Orthodox Christians use "elder" to refer to a holy person who has been given a special gift of spiritual insight and direction (but who is not necessarily a priest, or even a male), Mormons use this term to refer to the first office in the "Melchizedek Priesthood." Along with all previous responsibilities, it is at this time Mormon young men go on a preaching mission for two years where they try to convert everyone who will listen to their beliefs. Elders also have the authority the the LDS Church to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit, oversee church meetings in the absence of a bishopric, anoint and bless for healing, bless children, bestow the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, and ordain men to the offices of deacon, teacher, priest, or elder.
"Patriarch" also has a different usage for Mormons than for Orthodox Christians. Instead of referring to the chiefest of bishops a sit does among the Orthodox, the term "patriarch" is used by Mormons to describe an office in the higher Mormon priesthood mostly concerned with the giving of special "patriarchal blessings" to church members. Mormons believe that patriarchal blessings declares a person’s lineage in the house of Israel and contains personal counsel from the Lord to that person, something of a personal revelation from God through the Mormon patriarch. As Mormons believe their patriarchs declares the will of God, if not His exact words, in these blessings they equate patriarchs with the biblical term evangelist.
The "Doctrine of Eternal Progression"
A major pillar of Mormon belief is their concept of deification, which they refer to as the "Doctrine of Eternal Progression." In opposition to the Trinitarian dogmas of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils, Mormons believe that God the Father, whom they refer to by the Old Testament Hebrew term "Elohim" (which, translated into English literally, means "gods") as a way to refer to God the Father separately form His Son, Jehovah/Yahweh, who Mormons believe incarnated on Earth as Jesus Christ. Mormons also refer to God the Father as "Heavenly Father" as Mormons believe that He is literally the father of the human spirit. Mormons believe that all human beings are literal spirit children of God and lived with Him in Heaven before being born on this Earth. (It should be noted that this LDS doctrine of per-existence of spirits, by which we all are alleged to have existed "spiritually" in heaven prior to our birth on this earth, was specifically condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council.) Thus, Mormons believe the difference between is not one of kind -Created v. Uncreated- but of degree -Fallen v. Perfect and Eternal. Because of this Mormons believe that through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ all people can be made perfect and be made like God by God, i.e. they can become gods. This is laid out in one of Joseph Smith's "revelations" known as Doctrine and Covenants section 132, verse 20 which says: "Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them."
For a casual observer, this may seem similar to the Church's teaching of theosis, but this is most emphatically not so:
- First, there is a definite distinction in the Church between God and mankind, between the Creator and His Creation. God is eternal, and existed for eternity prior to (and entirely separate from) His creation (which, unlike its Creator, is not eternal), until the incarnation of the pre-eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, as Our Lord Jesus Christ. This was a unique union between God and His creation, which never existed before. Mormonism, on the other hand, teaches that man and God are of the same "race" and men have the potential not just to achieve complete union with God but to become gods as He is now.
- Second, the Orthodox Church clearly teaches that the Most Holy Trinity has always existed precisely as one God: "the Trinity, One in Essence, and Undivided." Mormonism, on the other hand, teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in purpose, power, and perfection but most emphatically are not one in essence or hypostasis (as the Orthodox Church teaches). They are three completely individual beings and "gods," say the Mormons, and not "one" in substance. Mormons thus reject the Trinity.
- Third, Theosis is a unification between God and mankind, not the creation of an entirely separate deity (or deities).
Mormonism's designation by Orthodoxy as being "heretical"--instead of "heterodox," as is the case with the Roman Catholic and most major Protestant faiths--stems primarily from their spurious doctrines on the Holy Trinity and the nature of God, together with various other specious beliefs.
Mormons have a very difficult time understanding why Orthodox and other Christians deny that they are Christian. The simplest answer to this question is that the Mormon god is simply not God--at least not the God worshiped by Orthodox Christians (and other Trinitarians). This does not mean that the Mormons are necessarily immoral or wicked people, simply that they worship a god different from the God worshiped in the Christian Trinity.
Attaining to "Godhood"
While Mormonism focuses on salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ, their concept of exaltation goes far beyond this. All of mankind, say the Mormons, will be saved from death through the resurrection of Christ; but it is only those whom God judges as obedient and faithful, and who receive specific saving ordinances (which will be offered to every person that has ever lived), who will be exalted to the highest of the three "degrees of glory" which comprise the Mormon heaven. Mormons, building on Paul's explication that there are three types of resurrection -one with a glory like the Sun, another with a glory like the Moon, and another a glory like the Stars- combined with the teachings of Joseph Smith have developed a Heaven with multiple glories and rewards. Only those exalted to the greatest or "Celestial glory" will become "gods." Those in the lower two degrees, referred to in order of glory as the "Terrestrial" and "Telestial" glories respectively in Doctrine & Covenants Section 76 will enjoy a blessed and happy state but will still be damned as their spiritual progression will be frozen and they will never have the chance to move to a higher existence.
To attain to "Celestial glory," one must be baptized as a Mormon by "true authority" (meaning a member of their church ordained to the LDS priesthood), "confirmed" by the same, and receive certain sacred ordinances that can only be had within a Mormon temple. Orthodox Christians often tend to use the term "temple" to refer to any Orthodox Church building. Mormons, hearkening back more directly to ancient biblical concepts of temples as places where God Himself could dwell directly and in which certain sacred ceremonies took place that members not of the faith were not allowed to take part in have specific structures specially dedicated solely as temples. The regular Mormon meetinghouses are generally called "chapels" (where Mormon congregations meet) or "stake centers," (larger chapels designed for large stake wide church meetings- much as if all the congregations in a diocese met together in one place) and unlike their temples, are open to the public.
Within these temple structures, Mormons practice (for themselves, or on behalf of others who have died) certain rituals:
- Baptism for the Dead, where living proxies are baptized on behalf of deceased persons which Mormons believes gives those who never had the chance to accept baptism into their church in this life the opportunity to do so though the person could still conceivably accept or reject the baptism performed on their behalf; names are obtained from genealogical research, for which the Mormons are world-famous. This practice was rejected by the Council of Hippo and the Third Council of Carthage, and St. John Chrysostom associated it with the heretical Marcionites. St. Clement of Alexandria indicated that Baptism for the Dead was a doctrine also particular to the Gnostics.
- The "Endowment," where initiates go through a ritual presentation of the Creation of the Earth and the temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve as well as the preaching of the Gospel to Adam. As part of the ceremony, Mormons learn certain signs and tokens that they promise to never reveal and covenant to live the Law of Chastity, consecrate all their lives and possessions to God and His kingdom, to serve Jesus Christ, and avoid impure thoughts and actions. Some elements of this rite are similar to practices of the Freemasons, and Joseph Smith and many early Mormon leaders were themselves Masons. That said, the similarities are few and the differences are very important to understanding the different rituals- that is Masonic ritual and the Mormon Endowment. "
- Eternal Marriage, Mormons believe an essential part of being exalted is being married "for time and all eternity" within Mormon temples. This ceremony, often called a "sealing," is believed to join or "seal" couples together on Earth so that they will be joined or "sealed" together as husbands and wives, parents and children, in Heaven. For Mormons, not only does the family explicitly continue into eternity but it is also the basis for deification. In order to become a "god" Mormons believed they must be married or sealed within a Mormon temple.
Hell, in Mormonism, is generally temporary. Those who reject a testimony of Jesus Christ suffer the punishment for their evils and sins in Hell. Ultimately they pay the punishment for their sins and are released form Hell but because they rejected Christ they are damned, never able to be exalted, and only gain the lowest, or Telestial glory, in Heaven. Only Sons of Perdition are damned to Hell eternally. In Mormonism, the only way to become a Son of Perdition is to have an absolute knowledge of God, to reject Him, to commit murder, and to seek to destroy His church and His work. The classic examples of this for Mormons are Satan, who as an angel in Heaven knew of God's actual reality and rebelled, seeking to dominate and destroy the souls of men and Cain, who under the influence of Satan, knowingly rejected God (who Cain knew was a reality through revelatory communication)and murdered his brother Abel. In Mormonism, those condemned to an eternity in Hell are incredibly few.
Alleged "brotherhood" of Christ and Satan
In Mormonism, all people are children of God. This includes Jehovah, the pre-mortal Jesus Christ, who Mormons believe is the Firstborn spirit child of God, and Lucifer, as well as all humans who have ever lived. In Mormonism, all people are spiritual brothers and sisters. Nor do Mormons see angels as a separate class of being, but simply as people given tasks by God (see section below on angels for more information.) The result of this doctrine is the belief that all people, including all humans, are spiritual brothers and sisters of Jesus and also that Jesus and Lucifer are also brothers.
The June 1986 Ensign, official magazine of the LDS Church, affirmed the teaching that Christ and Satan are, indeed, "spirit brothers"--albeit diametrically opposed "brothers."
All of these teachings, needless to say, are emphatically rejected by the Orthodox Church.
The Mormon Concept of Angels
In contrast to Orthodoxy, which views angels (whether righteous or fallen) as a separate class of beings created by God prior to--and separate from--humanity, Mormonism sees angels as being either pre-existent spirits of human beings not yet physically born, the spirits of departed righteous men, or righteous men who have been resurrected already. Mormons believe the references in the Bible to angels having wings are symbolic, not literal.
"The Great Apostasy" and Apostolic Succession
Like many Restorationist heresies, Mormons believe that the Church entered an age of error and apostasy by the end of the first century AD. In doing so, they say, it lost all right to perform sacraments, consecrate priests, or otherwise act in God's name. And from that moment until 1830, say the Mormons, there was no true Church anywhere on the earth. The Orthodox Church, which traces her unbroken succession to the Apostles themselves and alone teaches the fullness of their doctrine, is ergo in apostasy (with all other non-LDS churches) according to the Mormons.
Mormons point to New Testament scriptures that they assert as speaking of a complete apostasy of the entire Church, as proof of their claims. While Orthodox Christians would agree that these passages did indeed speak of apostates to come--such as Arius, Nestorius and Paul of Samosata, for instance--they emphatically reject the Mormon interpretation (advanced to varying degrees by nearly all Protestants) that the entire Apostolic Church would fall into heresy. In St. Matthew 16:18, our Lord clearly states that the "gates of Hades shall not prevail" against the Church He had founded--a Church which the Mormons agree existed, but which they claim to have been subsequently "lost." While the Orthodox interpret this scripture as saying the church would never fall into complete apostasy, Mormons note that Hades is the land of the dead, not Hell, and argue that death did not ultimately triumph over the church as they believe it was restored by resurrected personages, i.e. people who had conquered death. Others argue that the Lord's words apply more to Peter's divinely granted witness that Jesus was the Christ and not the actual church.
Gethsamene and Golgotha
Mormons of the mainline church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, generally use the Holy Cross as a symbol. The Mormon church teaches that the atonement of Christ took place in three stages. Mormons believe the Atonement of Christ began first in the Garden of Gethsemane, where the weight of the sins of humanity brought, "suffering [and] caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit." (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18) The second stage of the Atonement of Christ was His crucifixion upon the cross, where Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught "while he was hanging on the cross for another three hours, from noon to 3:00 P.M., all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred. And, finally, when the atoning agonies had taken their toll—when the victory had been won, when the Son of God had fulfilled the will of his Father in all 'things—then he said, “It is finished' (John 19:30), and he voluntarily gave up the ghost." Mormons believe the third stage of the Atonement took place on the third day after His death when He was resurrected form the dead, thus ensuring to all the promise of resurrection.
As for the wearing of the cross, Mormons have an interesting history with the symbol. In the early history of the LDS Church in the 1830s up through the early 20th century, the cross appears in many places. Historian Michael G. Reed found the cross all over early Mormondom. It appeared as jewelry on Mormon Prophet Brigham Young's wives and daughters. It appeared in floral arrangements in funerals. It appeared as tie tacks on men's ties and watch fobs on men's vests. It appeared on cattle as the official LDS Church brand. Crosses were on church windows, attic vents, stained-glass windows and pulpits. They were on gravestones and quilts. Even two temples, the Hawaiian and the Cardston, Alberta, Canada Temple were described in a 1923 general conference as being built in the shape of a cross. According to Reed it wasn't until the mid-20th century, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, that Mormons began to stop using the cross as a way to separate themselves from the Roman Catholic Church. 
Since the 1960s, Mormon ambivalence to the cross as a symbol has grown and is more of a cultural phenomena than a doctrinal one. Some Mormon leaders have denounced the wearing or display of the Cross by Mormons. Most focus more on the symbolic meaning of "taking up our own cross" in imitating of Christ. In this respect, Gregory A. Schwitzer, a member of the Seventy and an LDS General Authority, taught: "We may wonder why we Latter-day Saints don’t place a cross on our churches or wear a cross to show that we are Christians, thereby making it easier for others to identify in whom we believe. Is the cross important to our faith? The answer is an unequivocal yes! The Redeemer’s suffering on the cross is vitally important to us and is an inseparable part of the Atonement, through which He suffered and died for our sins and thereby provided us with a clear path to salvation and exaltation. The Savior was clear when He stated that in following Him we should take upon ourselves a cross—not the Roman cross that was the instrument of death but our own cross, whereby we present a sacrifice to the Lord of our own heart to be obedient to His commandments."  Mormon Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley taught this regarding how Mormons view the cross:
"Following the renovation of the Mesa Arizona Temple some years ago, clergy of other religions were invited to tour it on the first day of the open house period. Hundreds responded. In speaking to them, I said we would be pleased to answer any queries they might have. Among these was one from a Protestant minister. Said he: “I’ve been all through this building, this temple which carries on its face the name of Jesus Christ, but nowhere have I seen any representation of the cross, the symbol of Christianity. I have noted your buildings elsewhere and likewise find an absence of the cross. Why is this when you say you believe in Jesus Christ?”
I responded: “I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian colleagues who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the Living Christ.”
He then asked: “If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?”
I replied that the lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship."
On the other hand, the late Fr. Michael Pomazansky, author of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, shows the Orthodox teaching on the Cross as both the path, power and banner of the Church. In his essay "The Cross of Christ" , he gives the Orthodox teaching on the vital importance of our Lord's Cross as the indispensible weapon, not merely in the general victory against Satan and his angels won at Calvary, but equally in our own individual struggles for salvation.
Original Sin and Infant Baptism
Mormons teach that there is no need to baptize children because, thanks to the Atonement of Christ, they are saved from the spiritual consequences of the Fall of Adam until they become old enough to become accountable before God for understanding that their acts are right or wrong. Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught: "Our revelation says: 'Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning'—meaning that spirits started out in a state of purity and innocence in preexistence—'and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God' (D&C 93:38)—meaning that all children start out their mortal probation in purity and innocence because of the atonement. Our revelations also say, 'The Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.' (Moses 6:54.)
...They [babies] are saved through the atonement and because they are free from sin. They come from God in purity; no sin or taint attaches to them in this life; and they return in purity to their Maker. Accountable persons must become pure through repentance and baptism and obedience. Those who are not accountable for sins never fall spiritually and need not be redeemed from a spiritual fall which they never experienced. Hence the expression that little children are alive in Christ. “Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten,” the Lord says. (D&C 29:46.)" Mormons believe that babies, like all people, are born mortal and imperfect and, if they grow up, will inevitably sin. But they are not born already sinful or tainted by sin. They are born innocent in Mormon teaching.
The second Mormon "Article of Faith" (contained in the Pearl of Great Price) teaches: "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression." Accordingly, infant baptism is vehemently rejected by the Mormon church. Referencing the Book of Mormon, McConkie taught: "Few false doctrines have ever deserved and received such a vigorous and forceful denunciation as that heaped upon infant baptism by the prophet Mormon. When that inspired author inquired of the Lord concerning the baptism of little children, he was told: “Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them.”
Thereupon Mormon, speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost, taught that “it is solemn mockery” to baptize little children; that they “are alive in Christ from the foundation of the world”; that it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of Christ to them; that such a belief sets at naught the power of Christ’s redemption; that those who believe such a false concept are “in the bonds of iniquity” and if cut off while in the thought shall be thrust down to hell; and that those who humble themselves and repent and are baptized shall “be saved with their little children.” (Moro. 8:8–25.)" 
Speaking about what would happen if babies died before being baptized, McConkie taught: "Are all little children saved automatically in the celestial kingdom? To this question the answer is a thunderous yes, which echoes and re-echoes from one end of heaven to the other. Jesus taught it to his disciples. Mormon said it over and over again. Many of the prophets have spoken about it, and it is implicit in the whole plan of salvation. If it were not so the redemption would not be infinite in its application. And so, as we would expect, Joseph Smith’s Vision of the Celestial Kingdom contains this statement: 'And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.' (D&C 137:10)"
In contrast, Orthodoxy teaches (unlike Roman Catholics and most Protestants) that while only Adam and Eve bear the guilt for their sin in the Garden of Eden, they transmitted the consequences of that sin to their progeny. St. Anastasius the Sinaite wrote: "We became the inheritors of the curse in Adam. We were not punished as if we had disobeyed that divine commandment along with Adam; but because Adam became mortal, he transmitted sin to his posterity. We became mortal since we were born from a mortal." Thus, in keeping with Holy Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, the Orthodox Church baptizes infants by triple immersion (as she does with adult converts, as well)--not to cleanse them of "original sin," but rather to give them the grace this holy sacrament imparts, together with access to the Holy Eucharist and all of the other means of grace she offers.
Miracles and Martyrs
Mormons assert that one proof of their claims is the miracles claimed by members of their sect--and the comparative absence of these in other Christian denominations. This was emphasized during the early years of Mormonism, where their assertions of the "restoration" of the "gifts of the Spirit" contrasted sharply with Campbellite and other Protestants' assertions that such miracles had entirely ceased among Christians. Mormons insist that this cessation of such "gifts" comprises proof of their alleged "Great Apostasy" of the entire Church (see above). It is important to note that Mormons believe all members of Christ's church should be miracle workers. Mormon men often give blessings of healing and revelatory guidance wherein they believe the sicknesses and illnesses of those being blessed are healed and God gives them direction. Mormonism doesn't discount miracles in other churches. Rather, Mormons claim that anytime someone has true faith in Jesus Christ they could be a conduit through which He works to do miracles. But Mormons note that this seems to be a rare exception instead of a general rule, arguing that in churches where the true gifts of the Spirit are found everyone should be a miracle worker, at the very least those with priesthood authority. And Mormons claim that their church is just such a church where miracles happen commonly and are performed widely by the general body of the church across the world.
Orthodoxy, however, can offer an unbroken twenty-century history of wonderworkers, miracles and gifts far surpassing anything the Mormons can adduce. The twentieth century alone saw SS Nectarios of Aegina, John Maximovitch of San Francisco and John of Kronstadt, among others; each preceding century offers additional proof that the true "gifts of the Holy Spirit" never ceased in the one, true (Orthodox) Church of Christ.
Mormonism believes in the concept of martyrdom, offering various persons who have been murdered for professing the LDS religion since its inception. While it does not pray to these people, as Orthodox do to their martyrs and saints, it does venerate their memory and uphold them as examples to other Mormons. The LDS church offers its founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., and his brother Hyrum Smith as its chief "martyrs," as they were murdered by an anti-Mormon mob in Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844. However, whereas a martyr has always been understood by Orthodox Christians as one who dies voluntarily for the Faith without resisting his persecutors in any way (and indeed, while praying for and forgiving them), Joseph Smith did not die in this fashion. Rather, Smith used a six-shot pistol against his attackers, wounding three of them before being killed himself.
While the murder of Smith was indeed a deplorable and henious act, it cannot be described as true "martyrdom" by Orthodox standards--not only because of Smith's resistance to his killers, but equally because he died for a false religion.
In contrast, Orthodoxy offers numerous genuine martyrs throughout her 2,000 year history, including nearly twenty-million who died during the twentieth century under Communist persecution. This list extends from the Holy Apostles themselves and their immediate disciples, right up to the present day. Fr. Alexander Men, for instance, was martyred in Semkhoz, Russia in 1990, and Priestmonk Nestor Savchuk of Zharky, Russia was martyred there in 1993. Other Orthodox Christians have been martyred in the Serbian provice of Kosovo, within the past decade.
In Mormonism, you do not have to be Mormon to be a martyr for the cause of Christ. Mormons look at all who die for their religion and for Jesus in all the varying forms of Christianity as martyrs.
Distinctive Mormon "Scriptures"
The Book of Mormon
In 1823 Smith claimed to have been visited by an angel named Moroni, who told him of a chronicle of ancient history supposedly engraved in "Reformed Egyptian" on tablets of gold, and buried in a hill near Manchester, New York. Smith allegedly obtained these plates in 1827 and translated them into English via the use of two seer-stones which he called the "Urim and Thummim." These stones should not be confused with the Old Testament Urim and Thummim (the stones on the High Priest’s breastplate used to relay messages from God to the Israelites), though Mormons sometimes try to connect the two.
This translation became The Book of Mormon, which is revered as "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" by Mormons. The monikers referring to Smith's church as "the Mormon Church" and its members as "Mormons" are derivations fromThe Book of Mormon. This book purports to be a religious and secular history of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas--called Nephites, Lamanites, Mulekites, and Jaredites--from about 2200 B.C. to A.D. 421. It claims that at least some Native Americans are descended from groups of Near Eastern peoples (mostly Jews) who immigrated during pivotal periods in Israel’s history.
The Book of Mormon claims that many of these people were openly-practicing Christians, before the birth of Christ, with a functioning church organization that mirrored that later taught by Joseph Smith. According to Smith's text, the godly "Nephites" openly administered baptisms, "confirmations" and the Holy Eucharist eons before the coming of the Savior. The book even claims that our Lord came to visit these peoples Himself after His Ascension--after raining down several days of death and destruction on the evildoers among them. About four-hundred years after this alleged event, the "Nephites" were destroyed by the wicked "Lamanites," who became among the ancestors of the Native American peoples.
This points to a Mormon perspective on the sacrifice of the Savior that is fairly unique. Mormons believe that the sacrifice is as retroactive as it is proactive, meaning that people could be saved by Christ's Atonement before Christ had chronologically sacrificed Himself to atone for the sins of mankind. Mormons believe ancient biblical figures such as Adam, Abraham, and Moses all received the Christian Gospel and were saved by Christ even before His birth.
Interestingly, over 3,000 changes have been noted between the Book of Mormon currently published by the LDS Church, and the original 1830 edition published by Joseph Smith. Most of these alterations were made by Smith himself, in later editions of the book printed during his own lifetime. And most of them were spelling corrections, printers errors, or formatting corrections (the original copies of the Book of Mormon had no verses and only basic chapters- more detailed chapters and verses were added later on.) Some changes though were to the text itself. For instance, in I Nephi 11:32, our Lord was originally referred to as "the eternal God," but is now referred to as "the son of the eternal God." In I Nephi 11:18, the Theotokos was initially referred to as "the mother of God," while today she is referred to as "the mother of the Son of God."
Connections between the history and civilization portrayed in The Book of Mormon and evidence found by archaeologists in the Americas is debatable. Evidence of horses, elephants, cattle, barley, wheat, steel swords, chariots, shipbuilding, and other Old World paraphernalia has not been found to exist in the Americas until the advent of Europeans. Evidence of these people, the gold plates, or the "seer-stones" has yet to be found.
Other Mormon "Scriptures"
Mormons have an open canon. As a result they have multiple sources of scripture. They accept as Scripture the Doctrine and Covenants, containing 138 "revelations" and two "official declarations" allegedly given to Joseph Smith and his successors. They also accept as scripture a text Mormons call the Pearl of Great Price, which contains a variety of disconnected by Mormons believe revealed texts. These include the "Book of Moses," a text that Joseph Smith claimed was a revealed restoration of text written by Moses but which had been removed from the first part of the Book of Genesis and that focuses on the Creation of the world and the ministry of Enoch; the "Book of Abraham," a text Smith claimed to have translated form an ancient Egyptian scroll and which professes to be an account of the Patriarch Abraham, his early life in Ur, and the Creation which references to multiple "gods" in the act of creation rather than one God as Mormons do not accept the Trinity as discussed above. Some Mormons also interpret the "council of gods" mentioned in Abraham to possibly refer to pre-mortal human spirits which are here referred to as "gods" in the same manner that Psalm 82:6 calls those to whom the word of God has come as "gods" and to the way which the Savior refers to this scripture in John 10.
Additionally, Joseph Smith rewrote sections of the Bible "by inspiration" during his lifetime, making substantial additions to the text which he claimed were originally there but removed, and otherwise shaping its text to conform to his own teachings (including an alleged prophecy of his own coming). While this text was never officially adopted by the main LDS church (it was adopted, on the other hand, by the Community of Christ), a portion of -Joseph Smith's reworking of Matthew 24- it appears in the Pearl of Great Price and as footnotes in the official LDS editions of the King James Version of the Bible, the KJV being the official English language Bible for the LDS Church.
Lastly, there is a section in the "Pearl of Great Price," titled the "Articles of Faith." These are 13 basic statements of official LDS beliefs. Joseph Smith first wrote them in a letter to John Wentworth, an American newspaper editor, in response to Mr. Wentworth's request to know what members of the Church believed. They were subsequently published in Church periodicals. Eventually they were canonized.
Mormonism and Polygamy
Plural marriage was practiced by early Mormon church leaders. Many sources say that Smith had as many as twenty to thirty wives, while Brigham Young counted 20 wives. Between 1852 and 1890, Mormons openly practiced "plural marriage," which was their term for their form of polygamy. Most plural families lived in Utah. Women and men who lived within plural marriage attested to challenges and difficulties but also to the love and joy they found within their families. They believed it was a commandment of God at that time and that obedience would bring great blessings to them and their posterity.
Although some leaders had large polygamous families, two-thirds of polygamist men had only two wives at a time. Church leaders recognized that plural marriages could be particularly difficult for women. Divorce was therefore available to women who were unhappy in their marriages; remarriage was also readily available. Women sometimes married at young ages in the first decade of Utah settlement, which was typical of women living in frontier areas at the time. At its peak in 1857, perhaps one half of all Utah Latter-day Saints experienced plural marriage as a husband, wife, or child. The percentage of those involved in plural marriage steadily declined over the next three decades.
During the years that plural marriage was publicly taught, not all Latter-day Saints were expected to live the principle, though all were expected to accept it as a revelation from God. Indeed, this system of marriage could not have been universal due to the ratio of men to women. Women were free to choose their spouses, whether to enter into a polygamous or a monogamous union, or whether to marry at all. Some men entered plural marriage because they were asked to do so by Church leaders, while others initiated the process themselves; all were required to obtain the approval of Church leaders before entering a plural marriage. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy until 1890, when they claim to have ended it after then Church President and Mormon Prophet Wilford Woodruff claimed to have received a "revelation" where God commanded the end of the practice. This came after 30 years of intense persecution for Mormons as the US government sought to use the force of law to compel Mormons into giving up their polygamous practices.
Today about 70% of Utah is Mormon. Around 60,000 or so belong to polygamous splinter churches which the the mainline LDS Church sees as apostates. It excommunicates anyone advocating or practicing polygamy. Despite the huge publicity campaign the LDS Church has constructed to disassociate itself from polygamy, Mormons and plural marriage are still commonly associated in contemporary culture. While it may have been renounced by the main LDS body, there is no doubt that Mormonism and its practice of plural marriage remain closely entwined, especially since mainline LDS members are still required to affirm the propriety of polygamy when it was authorized by their church (prior to 1890).
The Orthodox Church condemns all forms of plural marriage as an unnatural practice.
- "LDS Church says membership now 13 million worldwide", Salt Lake Tribune, June 25, 2007.
- http://www.cofchrist.org/news/GeneralInfo.asp. This organization was known as the "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" until 2001.
- All Utah LDS priesthood offices are limited to men; the Community of Christ, on the other hand, ordains both men and women (since 1984).
- LDS Bible Dictionary, Entry "God," at http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bd/g/43.
- Similarities and differences can be explored here. https://www.fairmormon.org/archive/publications/ask-the-apologist-similarities-between-masonic-and-mormon-temple-ritual
- Read the entire article at https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/06/i-have-a-question/how-can-jesus-and-lucifer-be-spirit-brothers-when-their-characters-and-purposes-are-so-utterly-opposed?lang=eng.
- I Timothy 4:1, II Timothy 3:1-5, Acts 20:28-31, among others.
- Pomazansky, Protopresbyter Michael, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1997, pp. 326-30.
- St. Anastasius the Sinaite, 19. Vide I.N. Karmirh, SUNOYIS THS DOGMATKHS THS ORQODOXOU EKKLHSIAS, s. 38. Quoted from Kalomiros, Dr. Alexandre, The River of Fire, ch. IV, found at http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm.
- Pomazansky, pp. 268-69.
- History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 7, p. 100, 102 & 103.
- See, for instance, the Smithsonian Institute's offical statement on the Book of Mormon, at http://www.irr.org/mit/smithson.html.
Sources and External Links
- The Official LDS Website
- Mormonwiki.com (A Mormon version of the Wikipedia)
- Wikipedia: Mormonism
- Community of Christ (Website for the Community of Christ, the second-largest Mormon sect)
- To Those Who Are Investigating Mormonism by Richard Packham (Packham is a former member of the LDS)
- HBO’s Big Love (Big Love is a television drama portraying Mormon polygamists living secretly in modern-day Utah)