Rejecting the Mormon Claim
Part 2A
Joseph Smith's background,
Overview of the Mormon scriptures

I am writing these "Part 2" sections for the purpose of acclimating Christadelphians with some specifics about Mormonism. They represent the Mormon position...I am not endorsing them as my own views.

First off, a brief note about "Joseph Smith", since there are 5 important Mormons who have carried the name. Mormons generally refer to the founder as The Prophet Joseph, but I will call him either Joseph Smith, Jr., or drop the "jr." if the context is clear.

"Jr." was born in Vermont in 1805, and his family remained there about ten years. They then moved to Palmyra, NY, on the Erie Canal about 20 miles from Rochester. A few years later, they moved to next-door Manchester Township. The family was quite poor, and although nominally Christian, did not attend church. Joseph and the other family members did not have much formal schooling, although "Sr." was a part-time schoolteacher and their mother Lucy did teach them to read from the Bible.

According to Smith, the area became greatly excited in the winter of 1819-20, and in the early spring of 1820 Smith went out into the woods to pray. At that time he was visited by the Father and by the Lord Jesus Christ, and they informed him that all of the churches were wrong and that he should join none of them, for they were all in apostasy. Smith told the local Methodist preacher about this "First Vision" and has been persecuted ever since.

On September 21, 1823, Joseph Smith received another vision, this time from the angel Moroni. Moroni showed him some gold plates hidden in a nearby hill, along with the Urim and Thummim by which he was to translate the plates into English, but told Joesph that the time to translate had not come yet.

Moroni returned each year on the same date, in 1824, 25, and 26. In 1827, however, the time had come and the plates were given to Smith. Smith found a helper by the name of Martin Harris, a wealthy local farmer, and started the translation work, with Harris as his scribe, in 1828. Harris' wife was very opposed to what was going on, and at one point Harris brought the 116 finished pages to his house in the hope that his wife would be convinced. She burned the papers, and the translation ceased for a time.

The work began again in April, 1829, with a distant relative named Oliver Cowdery working as Smith's chief scribe, and the entire book was dictated in about 63 days. During this time, in May, Smith and Cowdery received a vision of John the Baptist, who gave them the "Aaronic priesthood". The "Melchizedek priesthood" was later conferred on them by Peter, James, and John. 5000 copies of the Book of Mormon were published in early 1830, and the Church of Christ was officially organized on April 6 of that year.

There are several branches of Mormonism. Far and away the largest of these is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", or LDS, headquartered in Salt Lake City. The LDS have four "standard works". (Other branches sometimes have less) These are: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The Bible is the standard 66-book Protestant Canon, and the LDS are heavily disposed toward the King James Version.

The Book of Mormon claims to be the historical records of several peoples who came to the Americas, and who witnessed the preaching of Jesus Christ here following his resurrection. First is the Jaredites, a small group who came over at the time of the Tower of Babel but then eventually died off. Next is the family of Lehi, who left Jerusalem in 600 BC, shortly before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. His family split into the Nephites and the Lamanites. Finally a small group known as the Mulekites, a group from the tribe of Judah, who were absorbed into the Nephites. At the time of the last great battle between the Nephites and Lamanites, in about 400 AD, their records were hidden away, not to be found until revealed to Joseph Smith. They almost totally obliterated each other during the last battle, and their descendants are the American Indians.

Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) is the record of a number of specific revelations given in modern times. Most of these were given to Joseph Smith, but some were given to others.

The Pearl of Great Price (PofGP) contains a variety of short items; by far the most important is "The Book of Abraham". In 1835 Joseph Smith came across some ancient Egyptian papyri and proclaimed that the two scrolls had been written by none other than Abraham and Joseph (son of Jacob). Smith translated part of the Abraham scroll before his death in 1844. He also included three "facsimile drawings" from the papyri, along with inspired explanations, with the translation. Smith also claimed that Moses used this very scroll as the basis for what he wrote in Genesis about Abraham: Moses' work was just an abridgement of what Abraham himself had written.

Dean Brown
Avon, Indiana, USA

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