Mormonism - officially known as 'The church of Jesus Christ of the latter day saints''

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Joseph Smith  (1805 - 1844)

To understand Mormonism one must first understand the importance of Joseph Smith. 

"Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly anointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground'"- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, chapter 12, p 188

The 2nd Mormon President Brigham Young wrote

"Well, now, examine the character of the Savior, and examine the character of those who have written the Old and New Testaments; and then compare them with the character of Joseph Smith, the founder of this work... and you will find that his character stands as fair as that of any man's mentioned in the Bible. We can find no person who presents a better character to the world when the facts are known than Joseph Smith, Jun., the prophet and his brother Hyrum Smith, who was murdered with him." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 14 p. 203)

    " man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith.... Every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance... I cannot go there without his consent.… He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven." (vol. 7, p. 289)

When a pair of Mormon missionaries arrive at your door one of the first things they will do is show you a picture of Joseph Smith and proclaim that he was a prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is true and that there is a living prophet upon the earth today.  Indeed while a Christian's testimony is the unique story of how, through the work of the Holy Spirit, they came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour, each Mormon has the same testimony which is simply a memorized statement of belief. "I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and died a martyr for the faith, that the book of Mormon is true, that the church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day saints is the only true restored church, and that there is a living prophet upon the earth today"  

As will be seen from the facts below, this Mormon testimony is a total deception emanating from a man who was an occult practitioner, a 32nd degree Freemason and an arrogant, convicted impostor.

Early life influences Occult involvement The court case
The angelic visitations Freemason Arrogance
Womaniser Liar & manipulator Gunman

 Early life influences

Joseph Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, on December 23rd 1805.

He was the 4th child of Joseph and Lucy Smith - a family that was poor even by local neighbourhood standards of the day. His paternal grandfather Asael rejected - with a passion - the institutionalised church and its creeds. This suspicion and spurning of the traditional Christian faith was passed down from father to son to grandson. 

However, while Christianity was rejected, spirituality was not. Both Lucy and Joseph Smith (senior) experienced dreams and visions that strengthened their belief in the supernatural.

Joseph Smith senior's visions are worth taking note of.

Donna Hill relates the details in her biography of Joseph Smith..

'Lucy says that in the first of seven visions he had, her husband was travelling through a field of dead timber with a spirit who told him this represented the world without religion, but that Joseph would find a box of food that gave wisdom. Joseph was happy, though he was kept from eating the food by horned beasts. Lucy says that the dream confirmed her husband's belief that the preachers of their day knew no more than anyone else about the kingdom of God, thereby echoing the conviction of his father Asael'

Young Joseph not only grew up in this supernatural atmosphere of such dreams and visions, but also in the climate of superstitious beliefs that permeated the region during the early nineteenth century.  Legends of great Indian civilisations and of buried treasures abounded and many people were caught up in the excitement.

Indeed his mother recollected his youthful imagination very clearly..

'During our evening conversations, Joseph could occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelling, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare, and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them' 

Biographical sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and his progenitors for many generations, Page 87,  Lucy Mack Smith

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Occult involvement

  • Witch-hazel stick divining for treasure.

Author Fawn Brodie writes, "Hundreds of burial mounds dotted the landscape, filled with skeletons and artefacts of stone, copper and sometimes beaten silver. It would have been a jaded curiosity indeed that would have kept any of the boys in the family from spading at least once into their pitted surfaces, and even the father succumbed to the local enthusiasm and tried his hand with a witch-hazel stick. Young Joseph could not be kept away from them' 

Fawn M Brodie, 'No man knows My History. The life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet' page 19

  • Peep stone (or 'seer stone')

Donna Hill writes, 'Money digging' as the activity was commonly referred to became an avid pastime for young Smith, who used a peep-stone to detect buried treasure. Even before he had reached the age of twenty he had acquired such a reputation that a local farmer came from many miles away to secure his services to locate mineral wealth on his property. 

 Donna Hill's biography,  'Joseph Smith: The first Mormon' pages 61-65

  • Magic dagger, talisman etc

D. Michael Quinn - former professor of American history at Brigham Young University - in his book 'Early Mormonism and the Magic World View' exposes the Smith families occultism. He documents and reproduces photographs of Joseph Smith's seer stones. magic dagger, talisman, and other occult paraphernalia. (Also in Gerald and Sandra Tanner's book, 'Mormonism, Magic and Masonry')

  • Necromancy

Local Methodists refused to let him attend church in 1828 because they believed it wrong to have an unrepentant practicing necromancer in the membership.

  • Using a friend's divination powers

Oliver Cowdrey was asked to get involved in the translation of the golden plates into the book of Mormon because, according to Smith, he claimed to have divination powers and a divining rod of nature. [more details]

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The court case

Joseph Smith's claims for his supernatural (occultic) divination gifting were soon found to be without substance and in 1826 he was brought to trial for misrepresenting his ability to locate buried treasure. The charge was that of being a 'disorderly person and an impostor'  - Donna Hill's biography,  'Joseph Smith: The first Mormon' pages 61-65

In 1971 the Rev. Wesley P. Walters discovered the original court bill showing Smith's arrest, conviction, and fine for glass looking the practice of finding lost items or buried treasure by looking at a stone called a seer stone. The court bill has been reproduced by a number of writers (e.g. Walter Martin, 'The Maze of Mormonism'  Gerald and Sandra Tanner, 'The changing world of Mormonism')

click here for full details and photograghs

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Even at this early stage of investigation it becomes obvious that Joseph Smith's incredible claims are predictably in keeping with his anti-church upbringing, his father's vision-relationship with 'a spirit', his imaginary story telling of ancient inhabitants of the American continent, his occult involvement and his character conviction - in a court of law - as an impostor..

His claims would be that..

  1. God the Father and Jesus personally told him that the traditional Christian church is an abomination.

  2. An angel from heaven showed him where to find buried gold plates telling of a lost civilisation on the American continent.

  3. He used 'special glasses and seeing stones' to interpret these mysterious writings


The angelic visitations 

"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed'   Galatians 1:6-8

Six years after his conviction in court Smith talked of visions during his youth that led to his digging up gold plates on the hill Cumorah - plates that when translated contained the Book of Mormon.

Smith tells that he ''retired to the woods ..on a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty". His purpose was "to enquire of the Lord ..which of all the sects was right".

"He kneeled down" and was "seized upon by some power which entirely overcame" him. " Thick darkness gathered around" and then " a pillar of light" appeared over his head, "above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon" him. 

It was then he saw "two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description"  One of the two 'personages' then called him "by name and said, pointing to the other - This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him"   [see page from book]

There is absolutely no indication in Smith's testimony that he fell on his face and worshipped as might be expected of one who suddenly comes face to face with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  Rather from his account he seems to have taken it all in his stride, and even had the presence of mind to ask what was on his mind. Which of all the sects was right" and "which should I join?"  

The answer was that "they were all wrong"

He wrote..

'The personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof"

Three years later he had 'another visitation' this time from an angel called 'Moroni'  He writes that this visitation occurred when he was in his bedroom asking God for forgiveness for his sins - "not great or malignant sins" but sins of "levity" and associating with "jovial company"  

He wrote..

"While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

He had on a loose robe of exquisite whiteness.

He called me by name, and said onto me that he was a messenger sent from the Presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do..

He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent.."

Smith was not permitted to dig up the plates immediately, and in the meantime he received another message.  The 'personage' not only gave him instructions regarding the treasure but also regarding the woman he would marry. After courting Emma Hale against her father's wishes he returned to Pennsylvania to his home where in the fall of 1826 he again visited the Hill Cumorah. There the 'personage' told him that he could at last see the buried plates - "if he brot with him the right person"

Who was that person?  Joseph looked into his glass and found it was Emma Hale. In January 1827 he returned to Pennsylvania and eloped without the consent of her parents.

On May 15th 1829 Smith and Oliver Cowdrey went into the woods together  They later reported that there they had received a message from John the Baptist who appeared to them in a vision. He conferred on them the 'Priesthood of Aaron' and then instructed them to baptise one another

Again in May 1829 Smith and Cowdrey were praying in the woods when, they claimed, Peter James and John appeared to them and conferred the Melchizedekian priesthood upon them'

This means that Smith had visitations from God the Father, Jesus Christ, the angel Moroni, Peter James and John, and John the Baptist.

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Despite many writings against secret societies Joseph Smith became a member of the Masonic fraternity.  So did his brother Hyrum. So did Smith's successor Brigham Young. So did the first five presidents of the Mormon church (its first five 'living prophets')

'Joseph Smith joined the Masonic Lodge in 1842 at the very peak of public knowledge and awareness of the wrong things concerning Freemasonry. When almost everyone knew about Masonry, especially the things wrong with it, when the rest of the nation was leaving the Lodge and rising up against it, Joseph rushed, eyes wide open, to embrace and join it!

Joseph and Hyrum not only became Masons, but almost immediately there was trouble. Because of the Mormon practice of polygamy. most Grand Lodges took a stand against admitting Mormons, so the charter for Joseph's Lodge was withdrawn. This didn't stop him though; he just got busy and organised his own, chartering them himself. The ensuing conflicts over Mormons in Masonry lasted many years, and, in a sense, continue to this day'  - Tom McKenney,  'Please ask me..' footnotes: page 185

(Indeed most of the secret Mormon temple ritual is lightly modified Blue degree Masonic ritual)

The following statement is recorded in Joseph Smith's History under the date of March 15, 1842:

"In the evening I received the First degree in Freemasonry in the Nauvoo Lodge, assembled in my general business office." (History of the Church, Vol. 4, page 551)

Never a man to be satisfied with the lowest place he immediately went to the top.

The next day Joseph Smith stated: "I was with the Masonic Lodge and rose to the sublime degree"  (History of the Church, Vol. 4, page 552)

The sublime degree is the 32nd degree and the details of this degree can be read here.

An angry mob attacked the jail where Smith was incarcerated - and according to most accounts, 

'when Joseph saw that he had no chance, he gave the Masonic 'Grand Hailing Sign of Distress' lifting his hands above his head and crying out, "Oh Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow's son?"'  Tom McKenney 'Please ask me..' page 184

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- King of all the earth!

In 1844 Smith ran for President of America as his intoxication with power began to run rampant. He had established a special governing body to preside over the non Mormon world with himself installed as king. George Millar the presiding Bishop of the Church and one of that council's members gave the following account.

"Joseph told me.. we will call together some of our wise men and proceed to set up the kingdom of God by organising some of its officers. And from day to day he called some of the brethren about him, organising them as princes in the kingdom of God, to preside over the chief cities of the Nation, until the number of 53 were called. In this council we ordained Joseph Smith as King on earth"

- Better leader than Jesus!

"Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet...When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go." (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 408, 409)    

Note: There have been over 125 factions within the Mormon church since its foundation by Smith. His death came about as a result of some of his followers turning against him and exposing his womanising.  See 'Gunman'

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This section is taken from Ruth Tucker's 'Strange Gospels' pages 64-67

Smith "inquired of the Lord more wives than one is a true principle, but the time had not yet come for it to be practiced." From the events that would soon come to light, it is not difficult to surmise that Smith was seeking to justify adultery - repeated sexual relationships with women other than Emma, his wife. It was in 1831, that he told Mary Rollins, who was then twelve, that she "was the first woman God commanded him to take as a plural wife." She eventually did become one of his wives, but she was not the first. That distinction was given to Fanny Alger, "a varry nice & Comly young woman," who at nineteen had come to live with the Smiths to help Emma with household tasks

Emma found them there at least once, and forced Fanny to leave when it was learned she was pregnant. When Oliver Cowdery learned of the matter, he was incensed, castigating Smith for the "dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s.

As rumours spread, some of Smith’s associates sought to take matters into their own hands. While Smith was on a trip in 1835, the general assembly voted on an "Article on Marriage" to be added to the Doctrine and Covenants. It was simple and direct: "Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." Interestingly, that article was not removed until 1876, long after polygamy had officially been instituted by the church It was in Nauvoo in the early 1840s when the issue of polygamy came to a head both personally and publicly for Smith. On the personal level, it was abundantly clear that Emma bitterly opposed the practice. Her opposition was such that Smith felt he needed a revelation in an effort to settle the matter: "And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord."  The revelation not only confirmed that Smith could take additional wives, but it contained a death threat for Emma: "And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.""

The revelation did not silence Emma, however, as Francis Gibbons relates in his laudatory biography of Smith:

 She rejected it and fought bitterly against it. In her moments of anguish, she was greatly influenced by prominent but weak men who had rejected the doctrine. Torn between her knowledge and better instincts and the basic jealousy of her nature, Emma oscillated between joy and despair, outgoing love and suspicion, depending on whose company she was in. Thus was manifested in her character a gross inconstancy that was both reminiscent of her agnostic father and prophetic of the wavering course she would follow once the steadying influence of her husband was gone.

The thought of sharing her husband with another woman was an extremity Emma was not prepared to face. After her first violent reaction to the idea, she moderated even to the extent of participating in the selection of other mates for her husband, but her basic insecurity then dominated, and she returned to her original stance of unyielding opposition. It was in this rigid mould that her attitudes were finally cast, and so inflexible did they become that after the Prophet’s death, she refused even to admit that he had ever taken another wife.

It is not difficult to understand Emma’s mixed reactions to her husband’s escapades. On the one hand she was seeking to protect his image as the "prophet," and in that capacity she played the role of a facilitator. On the other hand, she was deeply hurt and angered by his attraction to other women and his obvious insensitivity to her. "Polygamy caused Emma long and agonizing doubts," writes Donna Hill. "Her Puritan ethics were affronted by plural marriage; she felt that her status was undermined and her prerogatives as a wife were threatened. She wondered if Joseph could be right in every other respect regarding the restored gospel and yet be led astray by overpowering sexual desires."

The most oft-repeated story of her outrage is her confrontation with Eliza Snow. The accounts vary, but Eliza, who was pregnant by Smith, was either beaten with a broom handle or pushed down a stairway, injured to the point of miscarrying the child. Another incident that may reflect Emma’s inability to accept plural marriage involved the poisoning of her husband. Smith "became suddenly sick at dinner and vomited so hard that he dislocated his jaw and ‘raised fresh blood." That same day, according to one of his close associates, he accused Emma of trying to kill him. On one occasion after that it was reported that she demanded her husband renounce his other wives, threatening suicide if he did not.

Historians differ on the precise number of women 'married' to Smith. Andrew Jensen arrived at the number twenty seven, from actual testimonies from the women involved or from witnesses. Fawn Brodie calculated the number at forty eight, and Stanley S Ivins at eighty four. It is believed that Emma knew of at least seven of these women and perhaps more, and Smith had children by at least four of these women - though they were not publicly regarded as his children.

"Having married Joseph Smith at the age of fourteen, Helen Mar is the youngest of Smith's known wives." - In Sacred Loneliness, page 487

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A careful examination of Mormon history reveals that this pattern of dishonesty stemmed from Joseph Smith himself. Smith always publicly denied the practice, and as we have already shown, he was even willing to perform a fake excommunication to hide the practice. On May 3, 1844, the History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 411, reported that Joseph Smith responded as follows to the accusation that he "kept six or seven young females as wives": 

"What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one...I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers."

In his article in Dialogue, page 21, D. Michael Quinn noted that Joseph Smith had "more than thirty plural wives" at the time he made this denial

We have previously cited a notice printed in the Times and Season in which both Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, who was a member of the First Presidency of the church, signed a statement saying Hiram Brown had been cut off from the church for "preaching polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines." The following month, Hyrum Smith wrote the following for the Times and Seasons (March 15, 1844, vol. 5, p. 474): " Richard Hewitt... states to me that some of your elders say, that a man having a certain priesthood, may have as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrine is taught here: I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrines, for there is no such doctrine taught; neither is there any such thing practised here. And any man that is found teaching privately or publicly any such doctrine, is culpable, and will stand a chance to be brought before the High Council, and lose his license and membership..."   

                                                 Utah Lighthouse Ministries Newsletter No:66 'Trail of dishonesty'

..and manipulator

When Smith translated the Book of Mormon with the aid of his seer stone he then needed money to publish it.

His neighbour Harris had offered to sell his property for that purpose but Harris's wife so strongly opposed this that he reneged. This problem was easily solved.  Smith received a revelation this time for Harris.

"I command you to repent. Repent lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and my anger, and your sufferings be sore..and again I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon"

This was just one of many 'divine revelations' that Smith would have when someone would not do what he wanted.

In the previous section 'womaniser' we read of these attempts to keep his first wife Emma quiet about his other women by using death threats from 'The Lord'

"And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord."  The revelation not only confirmed that Smith could take additional wives, but it contained a death threat for Emma: "And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.""

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Smith's death is seen by Mormons as a martyr's death. 

It is claimed that before Joseph Smith was murdered in the Carthage jail he stated: "I am going like a lamb to the slaughter"... (Doctrine and Covenants, 135:4).

Nothing could have been further from the truth. 

'Smith was incensed when some of his followers, in an effort to make reforms in the church, turned against him. They purchased a printing press and published a newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, exposing the gross immorality that was being practiced so widely among church members.  

Joseph Smith ordered the press to be destroyed and his henchmen dutifully "dumped the press, type, and printed sheets into the street. Joseph blessed them in the name of the Lord and promised that not a hair of their heads should be hurt"

With that violent action, events moved quickly. On the following day June 11th 1844, a large crowd of people gathered in Carthage and vowed to 'exterminate...the wicked and abominable Mormon leaders'

On June 12th Smith and seventeen other men involved in the destruction of the press were arrested and incarcerated in the nearby Carthage jail., where they remained for more than two weeks. Then almost without warning the local militia and town residents turned into a violent mob, and within a short time it was over. Smith and his brother Hyram were dead'.

Strange Gospels, Ruth Tucker, pages 67, 68

How did they die?

Most Mormons believe that Joseph Smith died without putting up a struggle, but the actual truth is that he died in a gunfight. In the History of the Church the following account is given concerning Joseph Smith's death:

Immediately there was a little rustling at the outer door of the jail, and a cry of surrender, and also a discharge of three or four firearms followed instantly... Joseph sprang to his coat for his six-shooter, Hyrum for his single barrel....

When Hyrum fell, Joseph exclaimed, "Oh dear, brother Hyrum!" and opening the door a few inches he discharged his six shooter in the stairway (as stated before), two or three barrels of which missed fire.

Joseph, seeing there was no safety in the room, and no doubt thinking that it would save the lives of his brethren in the room if he could get out, turned calmly from the door, dropped his pistol on the floor, and sprang into the window ... and he fell outward into the hands of his murderers... (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp.617-18).

In the introduction to volume 6 of the History of the Church, page XLI, Joseph Smith is praised for his part in the gunfight: "... the Prophet turned from the prostrate form of his murdered brother to face death-dealing guns and bravely returned the fire of his assailants, 'bringing his man down everytime,' and compelling even John Hay, who but reluctantly accords the Prophet any quality of virtue, to confess that he 'made a handsome fight.'..."

John Taylor, who became the third president of the church, testified concerning the death of Joseph Smith:

He, however, instantly arose, and with a firm, quick step, and a determined expression of countenance, approached the door, and pulling the six-shooter left by Brother Whellock from his pocket, opened the door slightly, and snapped the pistol six successive times; only three of the barrels, however, were discharged. I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges, two of whom, I am informed died (History of the Church, vol. 7, pp.102-3).

From the preceding information it can be seen that the death of Joseph Smith can in no way be compared to the death of Jesus. Jesus did go like a "lamb to the slaughter," but Joseph Smith died like a raging lion.

Utah Lighthouse Ministries

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