Mormons are often clean-living, Bible-toting people of impressive zeal, facts which belie their deceptive and anti-Christian heresy which makes them a dangerous cult, especially in view of their rapid growth and financial prowess. Mormons derive their name from the Book of Mormon but generally prefer to be referred to as Latter Day Saints. The fourteen million member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is actually the main expression of the Mormon tradition, based in Salt lake City, Utah, even though they have another major group of 250,000 known as the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) who split after the death of their founder and rejected the practice of polygamy (which the main group officially abandoned in 1890).
The Mormon Church was founded in 1830 on the teachings of Joseph Smith who believed that God the Father appeared to him along with Jesus and appointed him to restore the corrupt Christian church (despite the absence of support for their distinctive teachings in early Church History). His visions were recorded in the Mormon book known as The Pearl of Great Price. The revelations he received were published in what became known as Doctrines and Covenants, which contains the most controversial teachings of Mormonism, such as baptism for the dead and celestial marriage. Smith also believed the angel Moroni appeared to him revealing the location of golden plates inscribed with so-called (but unknown) ‘Reformed Egyptian’ from which was translated The Book of Mormon. This most famous of Mormon sacred books is added to the other two and the Bible as accepted inspired writings.
Although the Book of Mormon was said to have been in the possession of the Nephites, a non-existent group of people who allegedly migrated to the Americas in the sixth century B.C., there is no evidence in archaeology to corroborate this claim or the accuracy of the book’s original text. The Book of Mormon even quotes the New Testament and some Old Testament books written after this time! It also contains false prophecies (such as the building of a temple at a specific site during Smith’s lifetime and the acknowledgement of Jesus as the Christ upon the Jews’ restoration to their homeland which did not happen when Israel became a nation again in 1948). The Book of Mormon has also undergone several thousand changes since its first release in 1830.
Joseph Smith was killed along with his brother and likely successor by a mob in 1844 after they stormed the jail where they were being held for destroying a newspaper office that had printed anti-Mormon material. Smith managed to kills several rioters and died a martyr in the eyes of Mormons. A succession controversy led to the split within early Mormonism and it was Brigham Young who led the majority group that settled in Utah in 1847 and then formalised polygamy in 1852 (even though it was practised earlier). Blood atonement was also practised to redeem the souls of murderers with their own death and, though long since repudiated, it is still validated by some Mormon fundamentalists.
Today, Mormons are aggressively evangelistic, engaging young adults as missionaries. Their temples are distinct from regular meetinghouses, and are consecrated for certain acts of worship including weddings, endowments (consecration for service in the afterlife) and baptism for the dead. The highest priesthood in Mormonism is the Melchizedek priesthood (as opposed to the Aaronic priesthood), within which eligible adult men are invited into ‘quorums’ or groupings where they may be regarded as priests from sixteen years of age and can then become elders if having sufficient experience from eighteen years of age. An elder is permitted to teach and to baptise, but is typically referred to as an elder when acting in a senior leadership or missionary capacity. Civil marriages are thought to dissolve at death, but may be sealed in Mormon temples in order to be valid in the afterlife if the couple remain ‘righteous’. Married couples may also be sealed for eternity after their death.