When Was Mormonism Founded?

Mormonism is a religion that centers on Jesus Christ. Its followers follow a healthy lifestyle that includes abstaining from alcohol, tobacco and coffee. They also value family life and respect for authority.

The church also teaches that the Earth was created from existing matter and that there are many inhabited worlds with governing heavenly bodies. Its founder, Joseph Smith, claimed to have received a divine revelation in 1823.

Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith and his followers believed that God spoke directly to them through revelation. In addition to the Bible, Smith produced three major modern revelations, including the Book of Mormon (translated from gold plates) and Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of modern revelations). He also instituted new church leadership bodies, which included a First Presidency, High Council, Quorum of Seventy, and Council of Twelve Apostles.

The Book of Mormon taught that the Bible was corrupt, and the golden plates provided a more accurate record. Smith’s revelations covered a broad range of religious subjects, from cosmology to family structures, and political organization. They also touched on broader religious impulses, such as evangelical conversion and spiritual rebirth, and millennial expectancy (Smith declared that on Christ’s return, the world would be transformed into an ideal utopian kingdom). They embraced the practice of polygamy, allowing church members to take multiple wives. This stance put the church at odds with many Protestants, particularly those in the Evangelical movement.

The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon is considered scripture alongside the Bible in the Latter-day Saint faith. It is believed to contain an account of a visit by God and Jesus Christ to ancient American peoples and to convince Jews and Gentiles of the truth of the Bible’s message. The book also reflects the Latter-day Saint belief that Christ is the savior of all the worlds.

The Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph Smith received the Book of Mormon as an additional scripture to the Bible, and he translated it during the years 1827 and 1829 using seer stones. The massive work was published in 1830 and became one of the foundations of a distinctive American religion.

Modernist skeptics argue that the Book of Mormon is not historically accurate. They note that the story of the Gadianton robbers, for example, contains parallels to nineteenth-century anti-Masonry. However, apologists point out that the Book of Mormon is not intended to serve as a historical record.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Like the ancient Church, Smith’s new church was a missionary church. Its millennialist beliefs (belief that the Second Coming of Christ will inaugurate a 1,000-year reign of peace) inspired its early members to build Zion, the kingdom of God, on earth. The church also adapted several modern secular institutions such as communal ownership and polygamy.

In 1830, Joseph Smith claimed to have received a series of revelations from the angel Moroni that led him to discover an ancient record, buried in a hillside near Palmyra, NY. The book was translated by Smith using a pair of special stones called the Urim and Thummim, and published as the Book of Mormon.

The resulting strife with non-Mormons in Jackson County, Missouri, escalated into armed skirmishes that forced Smith and his followers to move from Missouri to Illinois, where they built Nauvoo. In the midst of this escalating violence, a mob killed Smith and his brother Hyrum in 1844.

Polygamy

Mormons believe that the Lord sanctioned polygamy for a brief period in the nineteenth century as the church was emerging. They see it as part of a “restitution of all things,” including Old Testament polygamy.

It enabled the church to obey the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, giving Mormon families the ability to have twice as many children as they could with a single wife. And it allowed men who had been ritually “sealed” eternally to a dead wife to later receive a sealing to a living one, thus allowing them to have a plural marriage in the afterlife.

But polygamy was controversial in the US, and government laws slapped the church with hefty fines and disfranchised its members and confiscated property, crippling missionary work. In 1890, church president Wilford Woodruff formally stopped the practice with the “1890 Manifesto.” But Smith’s widow Emma and his son Joseph III remained steadfast in their opposition to polygamy, and their Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ) still teaches that the Mormon prophet never taught it was a revealed doctrine.

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