Thank God the election is over. Allow me to say that again… thank God the election is over. Also over, therefore, is the onslaught of political advertising, negative campaigning, and adults acting more like children. Sorry. That should not be inferred as criticism of any one person or any one party. There is just something utterly unattractive about grown men and women desiring to lead and unite us who intentionally distort truth and employ rhetoric that is seemingly, purposely divisive. Personally, I find that one of the most disturbing developments of the American political system. What is good and true and right is often sacrificed for “what will get me elected.”
Multiple other developments were made manifest via the completion of the most recent election cycle. For example, we witnessed arguably increased significance of both gender and race. Also, as a nation, we began to discuss the fragility of a fiscal pattern that continuously spends more than it takes in. And in an additional, unique development, for the first time, we witnessed a national normalization of Mormonism.
Whether given or denied your vote, the placement of Mitt Romney on the Republican presidential ticket prompted more positive publicity of Mormonism than ever generated by “Idol’s” Archuleta, talk’s Glenn Beck, Sen. Harry Reid, or by any of the singing Osmonds. Many accepted Mormonism as a religion which is good and true and right. And admittedly, Mormonism — also known as the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) — is marked by people who stereotypically lead an ethical, moral life. Yet as is true with the Intramuralist, in order to discern goodness, truth, etc., it’s essential to wrestle with the facts. Hence, we ask: what exactly is Mormonism?
Let me initially suggest that no singular post could define all that the LDS Church believes, so allow me to briefly summarize what is significant but may remain less explored…
Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830. Several years beforehand, Smith said he was in the woods as a teenager praying one day when he saw a vision in which God and Jesus came to him and told him his sins were forgiven, that contemporary churches “were all wrong,” and all creeds of Christianity “were an abomination” in God’s sight. Smith was 14 at the time.
When Smith was 18, he said he was visited by the angel named “Moroni.” Moroni would reveal the secret location of the “golden plates,” which contained divine truth that only Smith had the skill to translate. The angel warned Smith not to show the tablets to anyone. When Smith was finished with the translation, he says he returned the plates to the angel. The completed translation was published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon.
Mormonism thus utilizes 4 primary sources: the Bible, the sacred texts of Mormonism (which includes the Book of Mormon), additional writings by Smith, and the writings of church leaders, especially the church presidents who are now considered to be inspired prophets of God. These create the foundation of their faith. What’s in that foundation?
As with all faiths, it is significant to examine their perspective of God, a tenet from which all disciplines and doctrine flow. Unlike Christianity and Islam, though, Mormonism teaches the existence of multiple (and many) gods. They believe an infinite number of planets exist, each with their own god(s) who were once human and have since evolved into god status. Smith once wrote, “In the beginning, the head of the gods called a council of the gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and (the) people in it.” Mormons will often suggest that they are monotheists — believers in one true god — for since they live on Earth, Earth’s own god is the focus of their current human worship.
Consistent with that teaching — and perhaps what’s most notable yet least known — is that the Mormon Church teaches that individuals have to learn how to become gods themselves. In fact, if a couple marries according to a Mormon ceremony (which only Mormons are invited to), and each lives an obedient life, the couple may then themselves attain god status. This is central to the Mormon faith: obedient humans are able to become gods based on their behavior here on Earth.
By all accounts, even before the Romney candidacy, Mormonism has become America’s most successful home-grown religion; started by Smith, they now boast a membership of approximately 15 million persons worldwide. It’s contagious. With the prioritizing of missionary work and moral lives — consistent with the persona portrayed by Gov. Romney — it is an attractive religion to many.
But let’s be certain to ask the tougher questions… is it good? Is it true? Is it right?
As always, no matter how attractive, wrestling with the facts is essential.
[Significant sources utilized for this analysis include: The History of Joseph Smith, Mormonnewsroom.org, Newsweek, Pearl of Great Price, Probe. org, and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. ]