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Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 08:54 am
For most, Mormonism conjures up the image of clean-pressed Mormon missionaries dressed up as if they were going to Church, riding bicylces, knocking on doors, soliciting people to accept copies of their Book of Mormon. For some, maybe nothing comes to mind. For others, you might think of Mormonism as a multi-billion-dollar industry with its own universities, schools, and companies. Mormonism is a highly successful industry, religion, and educational institution that almost became an independent nation. [1]

Most notably there is the Marriott Corporation: J. W. Marriott, the late founder of the hotel chain who started his empire selling R&W Root Beer on the Mall in the early 1940s. Next on the list: Stephen R. Covey, author of the bestselling book: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and CEO of Franklin Covey, Inc. Top executives at Dell, AOL, Novell, Black & Decker, the list goes on. During the heyday of the 90's investment watch there was even a Mormon Stock Index. You could also include the sports and entertainment careers of Steve Young, Danny Ainge, and the Osmonds.

The Mormon Church is frequently branded as a business in its own right. In 1997, Time Magazine ran a cover story entitled: "MORMONS, INC. The Secrets of America's Most Prosperous Religion." Trumpeted Time: "The church's material triumphs rival even its evangelical advances." They estimated the Church's worth at about $30 Billion. This is a bit overboard as I see it, but the church does require a tithe from its members, which sustains the church's coffers very well.

The purpose of this essay is to explain my personal experiences as a Mormon in order to educate other people on the dangers of being a member of a cult. While I do not feel Mormonism is indeed Satanic as many Christians like to believe, or evil as others believe, it's important to understand that it's not so much a religion as it is a multi-billion-dollar industry.

My Experiences with Mormonism
When I was three years old, my parents divorced. My mother met a man named Darrell and they married.

Over the span of 9 years, we moved 11 times to a total of 6 different states (California, Kansas, Iowa, Alabama, Texas, and Oregon). After my brother was born, came two sisters, and a brother.

When I was 8 years old, I was baptized into Mormonism (instead of baptizing infants, Mormonism baptizes 8 year olds if they give consent. Knowing that children are easily controlled, there's hardly a refusal from the child in question) put into Mormon Boy Scouts, different from the regular Boy Scouts in that the staff was Mormon and the lessons were largely religious in nature.

When I was 11, I had a religious awakening away from Mormonism. I began to realize it was a cult, and that the beliefs were fraudulent, and so were the leaders. I didn't act upon this, though, until I was older. When I was 12, I was annointed into the Aaronic Priesthood.

The Priesthood is comparable to the Force from Star Wars. It's basically a force of the Holy Ghost that can be used only by annointed males to heal and bless people, and to perform miracles. There's two levels: Aaronic [3], and Melchizedek [4]. There's a third, rarely-recognized type called the Patriarchial Priesthood [5]. After attaining the Melchizedek Priesthood at age 18, you are given a vial of holy oil you use when you perform miracles by letting a single drop fall onto the head of the one you will bless or heal, before performing a blessing/healing prayer. [6]

After turning 12 and holding a post in the Priesthood, I was allowed the "honor" of attending Temple blessings for the dead. In the eyes of Mormonism, I probably baptized 10 dead souls by allowing myself to become a vessel for them.

When I was approximately 14, we moved to Oregon. Shortly thereafter, my mother had enough of Darrell, and kicked him out of the house. For about a year more she clung to Mormonism as a form of support. Once I left the Church (after being physically forced for 2 years to attend), she soon left as well, but not after marrying an abusive Mormon husband named Kelly (a guy). After I left the Church, my Mormon friends left me, and that was the end of that.

Looking back, I think the signs it was more of a cult than other notable cult-religions was we never really read the Bible except for Easter and Christmas. Not saying the Bible is good or true, just saying that as a "Christian" sect, Mormonism had few relationships with Christianity.

The History of Mormonism
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is usually referred to as the "Mormons". I will use the term Mormon in this text. The founder of the Mormon Church was Joseph Smith, Jr., however in common usage today Mormons tend to drop the "Jr." and refer to him as just Joseph Smith. I have followed that practice here also.

According to official church history, Joseph Smith started the Mormon Church in response to direct revelations from God (in 1820, onwards). These revelations were received in response to his asking about which church of his day was the "True" church. He was then asked to return the true church to the earth. This church was organized in 1830.

In its early history, the Church moved from New York state, to Ohio, to Mo., to Ill., and then to Utah where most people know it today. [Most of the interesting history omitted, catch it in the preface to the Book of Mormon, or in the official history of the church. Any Mormon missionary can give it to you in detail, or you can try your local library, or (if you are in Utah) you can pick relevant books at Deseret Book.

In response to a letter by a non-Mormon, Joseph Smith wrote a letter explaining the basic beliefs of the Church. They give a quick, but authoritative, overview of the basic beliefs. This letter can be found in the History of the Church, Vol 4, p535-541. The basic articles are also called the "Articles of Faith" and are printed in the Pearl of Great Price, and are therefore part of the canonical scriptures.

The canonical scriptures of the church are:

The Book of Mormon
Translated by Joseph Smith, from golden plates he was guided to by the angel Moroni, and that he translated with the aid of divine revelation.

The Doctrine and Covenants
A collection of revelations received by the church. Mostly these were given to Joseph Smith in the early years of the Church, but some are modern.

The Pearl of Great Price.
Collection of items written by or translated by Joseph Smith.
In addition, the Mormons accept the Bible "in so far as it is translated correctly". Joseph Smith started on a translation of the Bible, but there is some argument as to its readiness for publication at the time of his death. It has been published by the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). The translation used by the LDS church is the King James Version. The LDS church publishes a version that includes the KJV as the main text, and includes parts of the Joseph Smith translation in footnotes and endnotes.

The Aprocrypha (other books having some claim to "scripture" but not in the King James Bible) were asked about by Joseph Smith, and the revelation he received (D&C 91) was basically that there was some truth there, but lots of mistakes, corruption, and interpolation, also. The Aprocrypha are NOT accepted as scripture.

There are also a number of classroom style clarifications of scripture, such as the "Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual", which are not scripture but are intended to illuminate them. They are part of the Church's educational curriculum. They can be obtained from the Church distribution system.

Following Joseph Smith's death at the hands of a mob in Illinois, the Mormon Church basically up and moved to Utah with their new leader, Brigham Young, after a small split with one of Joseph Smith's numerous wives, who founded the Reorganized Church. More information on this can be gathered here.

The last bit of important Mormon history is the Meadow Mountain Massacre. From here at wikipedia, "the Mountain Meadows massacre was a mass killing of emigrants, mostly from Arkansas, at Mountain Meadows, a stopover along the Old Spanish Trail in southwestern Utah, on Friday, September 11, 1857. Estimates of the number of men, women and children killed range from less than 100 to 140 individuals. The causes and circumstances remain highly controversial."

The only reason it's "controversial" is because the Mormons still largely deny their role in the killing of innocent pioneers.

The events occurred largely as follows: a group of about 200-300 pioneers (approximately) travelled from Arkansas and elsewhere to their destination which was to be Oregon, most likely at the time. Some of the members of the wagon group caused a stir by light harassing of Mormons living scattered throughout Utah. Apparently, this was justification for the pioneers' murders. One day, at the bidding of Brigham Young, Ute Indians attacked the caravan of pioneers. Taking up a defensive posture, a group of Mormons came to their "rescue", promising to deliver them out of Indian hands. Believing them, the pioneers followed the Mormons, to be slaughtered by the Mormons. The women and children were placed into Mormon families. Things then set in motion where the US Army became involved, setting up a base south of Salt Lake City. The Mormons withdrew their demands to become an independent nation, and later became the Utah State, after renouncing various practices such as polygamy.

The Values of Mormonism
Most people think of Mormons as cheerful people who abstain from premaritial sex, tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol. That wouldn't be an incorrect assumption. The Book of Mormon teaches against the drinking of alcohol, "dark drinks" (later assumed to be tea and coffee, and thus assumed to mean caffeine itself), and the eating of "red meat" (beef, for example), although few Mormons follow the abolition of beef.

Mormonism is a family-centered religion. The father is considered to be in charge, while the wife submits and becomes a homemaker in most cases. Children are raised largely without freedom of religious choice, such as myself and others.

Politically, Mormons are encouraged to be Republicans, but it's not official, and being anything other than Republican won't get you excommunicated.
Being unmarried is considered shameful. To enter into the highest kingdom of Mormon heaven, you must be sealed in a Temple with another man or woman, depending on if you're a man or woman. Single parents in the Church are often unofficially ostracized.

A former Mormon value was the taking of multiple wives. In fact, Joseph Smith was quoted as saying that if you do not have multiple wives, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. This value was abolished in order to become a State. Apparently, God told the Mormon Prophet/President (their two actual titles) that polygamy shouldn't be practiced. Wow, I didn't know God changed his mind! Wink

Another "value" is the giving of tithing. It's completely optional, but highly encouraged. A plethora of books exist in Mormon literature dedicated to this, especially children's books. Mormon tithing involves the giving of 10% of your monetary assets to the Church. The money is then used to build Temples and what have you.

Mormon Beliefs
The Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was visited by God himself, and his son Jesus Christ, as well as an angel named Moroni, or Macaroni if you wish to upset a Mormon. Joseph Smith was revealed to that no religion in the world was true, and that he would someday found and lead God's true church. Joseph Smith found the Plates of Brass in literally his backyard. Inscribed upon those plates was the history of a Jewish civilization in the New World prior to the coming of the Europeans, and prior even to the Vikings and Olmecs.

According to Mormon doctrine, in approximately 600 BC, a group of Jews from Israel led by Nephi were told by God to build a small group of ships, and then travel across the sea to a new land. They were led to the New World, where they built up rival empires that spanned a milennia. Of course, there's no evidence left, but I've been told by several notable Mormons that's the result of "wagon-wheels". I kid you not.

Additionally, the Book of Mormon describes elephants in the New World. Go figure.

The Mormons have different beliefs than Christianity, obviously. They believe that the trinity is separate: that God the father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Ghost are three different people. They also believe that Jesus was a Mormon and that he held the Mechizedek Priesthood.
For Mormons, being married in one of their numerous Temples is the highest honor. In fact, you can't enter into the highest level of heaven without being sealed (married) in the Temple.

Mormons wear special clothing under their overt clothing, called "garments". These garments are inscribed with two Masonic symbols: one with a backwards "L" to signify a square, and one with a "V" (I think it was straight-up like that, it's been a while since I've seen the garments up-close) to signify a compass. These garments are meant to protect physically and spiritually the person wearing them. Common rumors in the Church include stories of people who've been burned, but suffered no burns where the garment covered their skin. Such rumors are pretty common in the many churches I attended throughout my stint as a Mormon. Other such common rumors in the Mormon Church are rumors concerning the End of Times. Somewhat similar to Christian rumors, many of the Mormons I knew think that before Judgment Day, all-purpose ID-cards will be issued, money will be turned into electronically-based wealth, and that if you do not have the mark of 666, you won't be allowed to buy foodstuffs. Therefore, it's VERY common among Mormons I know to begin stockpiling a year's supply of food. If I didn't know any better, I'd assume it was official. My mother and stepfather did it, and so did many of our Mormon friends try to stockpile one year's supply of food.

Additionally, Mormons are highly encouraged to become missionaries. The cost is about $2,000 a month, provided not by the Church, but by the missionaries themselves. Males are encouraged to become missionaries after graduating High School, and females aren't very encouraged, but are allowed to at age 20.

Perhaps the most insane Mormon belief is the belief that all Mormon males who enter into the highest kingdom of heaven will become Gods themselves, and be able to rule their own world. Mormons believe that God is a flesh-and-blood character, with blood and the whole works.
Last but not least, the structure of the Mormon afterlife is thus as follows:

Outer Darkness: the place where Satan and the worst of humanity resides. Who goes there is unclear. Provided by Wikipedia, scripturally speaking, for Latter-day Saints Outer Darkness or hell is a condition in the Spirit world for those who "chose evil works rather than good" in mortality (see Alma 40:13). It is considered to be a place of great torment, and lacks the presence of God or Jesus Christ. In this sense, outer darkness is the opposite of paradise.

Telestial Kingdom: Provided by Wikipedia, the telestial kingdom is the lowest of the three degrees of glory, in which the highest or celestial kingdom is compared to the sun, the middle or terrestrial kingdom is compared to the moon, and the lowest or telestial kingdom is compared to the stars. According to the Church's interpretation, the Bible also indicates that these three kingdoms are connected with the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:40-42). Also, "in addition to the degrees of glory, there is a place of no glory, called perdition (or "outer darkness"), reserved for those who commit the unpardonable sin."

People who will attain the telestial kingdom in the afterlife include those "who received not the gospel of Christ, nor the testimony of Jesus" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:82) as well as "liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:103). These people, who will rise in the second resurrection, must first suffer for their sins in the Spirit Prison (similar to the Catholic concept of Purgatory - see Common Latter-day Saint perceptions) until the Last Judgement, at which time they will be assigned to the telestial kingdom, for they are identified as "heirs of salvation" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:88). However, the telestial kingdom is not unpleasant: "the glory of the telestial...surpasses all understanding".

Terrestrial Kingdom: Provided by Wikipedia, the Terrestrial Kingdom is the middle of three "degrees of glory," in which the highest or Celestial Kingdom is compared to the sun, the middle or Terrestrial Kingdom is compared to the moon,[1] and the lowest or Telestial Kingdom is compared to the stars. The terminology is also used in 1 Corinthians 15:40. Also, "in addition to the degrees of glory, there is a place of no glory, called perdition, reserved for those who commit the unpardonable sin." (Bible Dictionary: Degrees of Glory)

Persons who will attain the Terrestrial Kingdom in the afterlife, according to D & C 76:71-79, include those who lived respectably but "were blinded by the craftiness of men" and thus rejected the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ when it was presented to them in this life, "but afterwards received it," or "are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus" after receiving the fullness of the gospel while on Earth. Ultimately, the kingdom of glory (either the Celestial or the Terrestrial) received by those who accept the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the spirit world will be based on the Lord's perfect knowledge of whether they "would have received it with all their hearts" as manifested by their works and the "desire of their hearts" (D & C 137:8,9); thus, the LDS Church's emphasis on genealogical research and temple work for their deceased ancestors (this latter doctrine being emphatically rejected by virtually all other Christian polities).

Those who inherit the Terrestrial Kingdom enjoy the presence of the Son but not the fullness of the Father (see D&C 76:77).

Celestial Kingdom: Provided by Wikipedia, according to this doctrine, only those who attain the Celestial Kingdom will be united with their families in the eternities. It will be the residence of those who have been righteous, accepted the Gospel (Mormonism) and its ordinances and covenants, and lived their lives in harmony with their covenants or received the ordinances and covenants with all their hearts in the spirit world.

The Celestial Kingdom is the residence of God the Father and Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost dwells there. Those who are worthy to dwell in the Celestial Kingdom will be exalted, and become God-like.

Quotable Sayings by Mormon Leaders
Joseph Smith boasted that he did more than Jesus to keep a church together:

"God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil--all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the 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 . . . "

Joseph Smith Claims God Was Once a Man:
"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens...I say, if you were to see him to-day, you would see him like a man in form -- like yourselves, in all the person, image, and very form as a is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see....and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did."

Sermon by Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses 11:272 he said; "Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a sin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to."

Quotes provided by Mormon Quotes from Mormon Leaders - Life After Ministries
Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 12:10 pm
@Mephistopheles phil,
What does this have to do with the Philosophy of Religion?
Mephistopheles phil
Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 12:44 pm
GoshisDead wrote:
What does this have to do with the Philosophy of Religion?

There is no other religion subforum.
Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 05:04 pm
@Mephistopheles phil,
this could be an interesting discussion if it were about comparative doctrine, socio-cultural ramifications of a mormon upbringing, or moved to a political forum and talk about the business politics of mormonism etc... But I'm pretty sure that a disaffection story rittled with bitterness, isn't what this forum is about. But you could ask a moderator where would be a good spot for this post.
Mephistopheles phil
Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 07:39 pm
GoshisDead wrote:
this could be an interesting discussion if it were about comparative doctrine, socio-cultural ramifications of a mormon upbringing, or moved to a political forum and talk about the business politics of mormonism etc... But I'm pretty sure that a disaffection story rittled with bitterness, isn't what this forum is about. But you could ask a moderator where would be a good spot for this post.

No problem. Having your interest is no particular gain and losing it is no particular loss. I did not write this to compare it to other religions, but rather to write about my experiences with Mormonism, and what I know about it. If you don't like it, that doesn't really bother me. As far as I know, this is the only appropriate spot.

One last observation I should make, I can't think of anyone who writes completely unemotionless. All writing is biased to some degree. This is about my experiences with Mormonism, thus, it's entirely appropriate to talk about my problems with it, and with Mormons I've known in my life. If you don't like that, it doesn't really bother me.

Anyways, I generally don't respond to pettiness, so unless you contribute something constructive instead of complaining, you should expect no further replies.

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