In this article I want to go through several key aspects of Mormonism – from the life of its founder, Joseph Smith, to Mormon practice – and highlight how ridiculous this recent American religion is. The Mormons are also known as the Latter Day Saints (LDS). (On a side note: I was also glad to find out that Mormons could appreciate the humour and satire in Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s musical, The Book of Mormon, so we can at least give them credit for being friendlier and less abusive than the Christians who boycotted Jerry Springer: The Opera and Monty Python’s The Life of Brian).
Mormon cosmology, or the Mormon view of the universe, says that the Earth is not unique, but one of many inhabited planets. This, in itself, is not a very controversial or ridiculous idea, except that each planet has been created and designed by Jesus to bring about eternal life for humanity. In Mormonism, it was Jesus who created the universe, his dad, God the Father, lived on Earth as a human. (The pre-mortal Jesus in Mormon theology, who created the universe, is called Jehovah).
In Christian theology, it is believed that the Mother Mary gave birth to Jesus without the need for sexual intercourse. In Mormon theology, however, since God the Father (who is also called Elohim) walked the Earth in mortal form, God physically had sex with Mary so that Jesus could be born in mortal form. I’m not sure why God had to have sex with Mary – couldn’t Jesus, being the creator of the universe, just have manifested himself in human form? I suppose Joseph Smith was just a little bit obsessed with sex, hence his emphasis on the importance of polygamy. Another reason why Mormon cosmology is a bit silly relates to the belief that these other worlds will have inhabitants who are similar or identical to humans. You don’t really get more anthropocentric than that. In Mormon teaching, it is even suggested that key events in human history, such as the tempting of Adam and Eve by Lucifer the snake, have taken place on other planets as well.
God himself, Elohim, also procreated with his many wives on these different worlds, and this acts as a theological justification for the Mormon practice of polygamy. These wives then gave birth to “spirit bodies” who became the sons and daughters of God – looks like God is a bit of a player! God eventually provided an Earth for these spirit children in which they could take on a physical form and prove to God that they would choose a life of righteousness through the exercise of free will. Jehovah volunteered to be the Savior, who the spirit children would accept in order to achieve salvation. In the Mormon picture of the afterlife, an individual gets to live with God forever (described as the greatest gift imaginable) if they unite with a “celestial” partner of the opposite sex either on Earth or after death in a celestial temple. So if you want to live for eternity beside a horny, polygamous God, you will have to be married to one woman, forever. Sounds great.
Up until 1978, the Mormon Church was also explicitly racist. From 1849 to 1978, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) banned blacks from the priesthood and banned black men and women from taking part in LDS ceremonies. Brigham Young, the 2nd leader of the LDS after Joseph Smith, asserted that the reason black people have black skin is that they have received the Curse of Cain (Cain, one of Adam and Eve’s children, murdered his brother, Abel). Blacks were descendants of Cain and had, therefore, received his “mark” or “curse” – having this innate defect meant they should not be allowed to take up priesthood within the Mormon Church. In the Journal of Discourses (1854-1886), Young writes:
You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind …. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the ‘servant of servants’; and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree.
You don’t really get more racist and pro-slavery than that. As a Mormon, it’s just a bit embarrassing to have these views expressed by one of the early leaders of your religion. Prior to 1978, it was also taught that blacks could enter heaven (at least they get some reward), but as eternal servants to God (oh, I guess not). Part of the justification for this racial discrimination came from the belief that black people’s pre-mortal spirits were inherently less virtuous than pre-mortal white spirits. Nice.
According to Mormon doctrine, Jesus travelled to North America after his crucifixion. How did he get there from Jerusalem? Who knows – maybe he walked, flew or teleported. In any case, Jesus taught his gospel in ancient North America (supposedly to the Native Americans) and healed the sick. It seems unlikely that the Native Americans would have abandoned their long-standing wisdom tradition, indicated by the fact that Native American Mormons are unheard of! Mormons also believe that when Jesus returns to Earth, he will specifically return to Missouri, USA, in order to reign for 1,000 years. Mormons believe that American Indians are descendants of ancient Jews (which can be disproved by genetic analysis) and Joseph Smith taught that the original Garden of Eden was located in Missouri.
Another reason why Mormon is ridiculous and embarrassing is based on the life of its founder, Joseph Smith. In 1819, Smith was involved in something called scrying. This is the practice of looking into a translucent ball, or other material, in order to receive spiritual visions. The stones that Smith used were called “seer stones” and he used them to receive revelations from God – ‘revelations’ that he would eventually use to found the LDS or Mormon Church. Smith practised scrying by putting the stone at the bottom of a hat and putting his face over the rim of the hat in order to block the light. Local residents would pay Smith for revealing insights that would be relevant to their life. In 1825, Joseph Smith, along with his male family members, were involved in treasure hunting. Smith was hired to use his ability in ‘crystal gazing’ to look for precious metals, such as silver and gold. Unsurprisingly, Smith found nothing. In 1826, Smith was arrested and brought to court for being an “imposter” and for committing fraud. There is no doubt that Smith was an obvious con-man, charlatan and trickster.
While working as a treasure hunter, Smith claimed to have uncovered “golden plates” situated on top of a hill near his home. In Smith’s own account, an angel named Moroni visited him and told him about the golden plates which contained the gospel preached by Jesus to the Native Americans. In one account, Smith located the mysterious location of the golden plates using one of his seer stones. According to Smith, the plates “had the appearance of gold” and were engraved in ancient Egyptian. No-one ever saw the plates directly, except Joseph Smith, yet his family believed his account of them and were admitted as members of his new Church. The plates were hidden and moved to various locations, but there is no evidence that they ever existed – it seems like Joseph Smith the con-man did a pretty good job of fooling everyone.
A strange practice of Mormonism is the wearing of “temple garments”, more commonly known as “magic underwear”. They are a type of underwear worn by the majority of Mormons both day and night and when in a Mormon temple. They are supposed to be symbolic of the covenants made in the temple ceremonies and are seen by many to be protective against evil spirits. Another unusual practice in Mormonism is the baptism of the dead. This involves baptising someone who is alive on behalf of someone who is dead. The LDS Church teaches that baptism is required to enter the Kingdom of God and that the deceased can either accept or reject the baptism. This practice has created some controversy – the LDS Church has baptised thousands of Holocaust victims, for example, which Holocaust survivors and Jewish organisations have found deeply offensive, both to the living and the dead. Anne Frank was one of those who was vicariously baptised.