The word “Mormonism” is a term that refers to the beliefs and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. People tend to call members of the Church “Mormons,” because of the Book of Mormon, the translation of an ancient record kept by Israelites in the Americas. This is sad, really, because the doctrines of the Church are not only centered on Christ, the Church is led directly by the Savior Himself through revelation to living prophets. Therefore, the Mormon Church is Christ’s church, and calling the Church by any other name belies its reason for being.
Some Christians believe that Christ did not organize a church upon the earth, but that the apostles did it after His death. Christ did indeed organize His church, and calling the apostles was part of that organization. Later, others were called to help with the ministry. Through the laying on of hands, authority and power was bestowed upon chosen, worthy servants to take the gospel to the Gentiles throughout Asia Minor. The authority and power of the apostles of Jesus Christ was manifest in the myriad miracles they performed as they ministered in their callings. However, the authority to act in the name of Christ, and the power that accompanies it, were lost with the death of the original apostles. Miracles then ceased. The philosophies of men mingled with true doctrine over the course of tens and hundreds of years. Course corrections were attempted, especially later by “Protestant” churches, who protested the corruption of orthodoxy and tried to return lost truths. The fact that there are so many Christian sects today shows that the ideas of men have taken Christianity in many directions.
The Lord’s house is a house of order. God had a plan for us before the earth was created. It was always His plan to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins. Thus, all the prophets beginning with Adam, have testified that Christ would come, and the ancients looked forward to the atonement. In various dispensations of time since the beginning, the Lord has sent prophets to bring the people to repentance and teach them the gospel. After the authority was lost with the passing of the original apostles, and after the falling away predicted by Paul, the Lord spent hundreds of years to create an environment into which He could restore the original church and the power and authority that goes with it. The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Reformation were all steps in that direction.
Eventually, the United States came into being under the guidance of God. Freedom of religion was guaranteed. Into this culture, the Lord restored the true church in order to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This restoration of the gospel ushered in the “last dispensation of time” predicted in the Bible, a time of increasing wickedness and chaos in the elements and the nations, but also a time of the fulness of the gospel and the restoration of all things.
In 1820 in the northeastern United States there was a huge religious revival. Upstate New York was called the “burned-over district,” because there were so many revivalist tent meetings. There was also a “restorationist movement” going on, wherein people looked for the ancient church to be restored. Many had spiritual experiences testifying to them that Christ’s original gospel and church were needed and about to be restored upon the earth, and some formed study groups and even churches to watch for that restoration. The family of Joseph Smith, who was then a youth of 14, were very religious Christians, but not members of a certain congregation. They attended tent meetings whenever possible, and some members of the family joined the Presbyterian faith, while others became Methodists. Young Joseph, however, was thoroughly confused. He could not fathom how all the sects claimed to have the truth, yet mightily disagreed with each other. More amazing to him was that they all relied on the same book, the holy Bible, for their doctrines, yet they all had different ideas. After reading the admonition of James (James 1:5) that one could ask God and receive truth, Joseph determined to do that very thing.
On a spring morning, he went to the woods on the family’s farm in Palmyra and attempted for the first time to pray vocally. His question was simple: “Which church should I join?” The second he began to pray, however, he was nearly destroyed by an unseen, evil force. Calling upon God, he was delivered, and the woods filled with light. Joseph saw two glorious personages in the light above his head. They looked like men, but were radiant beyond description. One introduced the other as His Son, Jesus Christ, and bade Joseph to hear Him. Joseph managed to ask his question and was told to join none of the Christian churches, that the true church was about to be restored. Joseph reported his vision to his pastor, and immediately, “all hell broke loose.” Joseph’s vision conflicted with the trinitarian belief, common to all the Christian sects, that God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost are all manifestations of the same being, a being of spirit, without body parts or passions. Persecution against Joseph began immediately and never ceased until he was martyred in 1844. But he could not withdraw his witness:
It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and dreviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.
However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.
So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation (Joseph Smith History 1:23 – 25).
Later, Joseph and others began to receive visits from heavenly messengers, proceeding with the business of organizing Christ’s church again on the earth. The Aaronic priesthood was conferred by the laying on of hands to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith by John the Baptist, and the higher priesthood (named after the Son of God, but called the Melchizedek Priesthood to refrain from using the name of deity too often) was conferred in the same manner by Peter, James, and John. Elijah conferred the sealing power; Moses conferred the keys to the regathering of Israel, and on, until all the keys and powers had been restored. The result is that Christ’s true and living church is again found on the earth, miracles are everyday occurrences, and preparations are being made for Christ’s Second Coming. The Church that teaches “Mormonism” continues to be led by Christ through living prophets by continuing revelation. Those who believe in and follow the teachings and ordinances of “Mormonism” have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, and they are privy to many blessings unknown to the rest of the world, including personal revelation on a continuing basis. Many things have been revealed through modern prophets that clarify parts of the Bible that have confused the Christian world for centuries. Knowledge increases day by day.
So, Mormonism, is not some sect or cult based on a charlatan’s invented scripture, but Christ’s own Church, with the power to save and to bless.