Joseph Smith’s Religious Odyssey


Question
I have been searching for answers about the book of Mormon. What is your view on the subject? “It reads funny” to me.

Answer
The founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, called Mormonism for short, was Joseph Smith, Jr. Joseph was born in Vermont in December of 1805. Twenty-five years later in 1830, he began a religious odyssey that has fascinated historians and has grown from 30 people to more than 12 million members on its rolls (The Salt Lake Tribune).

Mormonism has been riddled with inconsistencies since its beginning. Joseph Smith recorded in The Pearl of Great Price, that in the spring of 1820 when he was fifteen years old, “an unusual excitement on the subject of religion,” produced a revival in the Methodist church. The end result of this revival was different groups stirring up division in the midst of revival. Upset by all the different convictions, Joseph asked God to grant him wisdom about his will. Immediately Joseph had a supernatural visit. Here is his account:

…immediately I was seized upon by some powers which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction— not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared that I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound (Pearl 2:15b-17a).

During this “deliverance” Smith was told by the Personages that “all of the creeds were an abomination in his sight.” Joseph records a second vision as occurring in September 1823. The problem: History reveals that there was no revival in the community of Palmyra, New York, in 1820. History does record that such a revival did occur in 1824. Thus Joseph had his second vision a year before the revival that was supposed to have spawned his first vision. This first so-called vision became the centerpiece of Smith’s prophetic authority. From this vision came the basis of the church’s teaching on the nature of God, i.e., that the Father and the Son are two separate gods with flesh and bone bodies. In addition from this “vision,” the church teaches that the true church was not on the earth in Smith’s time and that he was the “designated prophet” for the restoration of true Christianity. One “spiritual revelation” became the roots for the church to teach its converts that, from the close of the age of the Apostles till Joseph Smith, no one, including Origen, Justin, Irenaeus, Jerome, Athanasius, Luther, Calvin, Wesley to name a few, was successful in bringing the claims of Christ to his generation. The church was simply dormant until God chose Joseph Smith for its restoration, with implication that if one belongs to it, he or she is a true believer, while all others are lost.
In a little over thirteen years (1831-1844) Joseph Smith issued 135 “revelations” from which Mormon doctrine was birthed. He believed that this “first vision” summoned him to this prophetic life.

The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else that the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong, that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus (Journal of Discourses 1:171).

However spiritual these “visions” must have seemed to the beginning flock, Smith’s character was strong-willed toward deception. E.D. Howe, a contemporary of Joseph Smith, as early as 1834, stated that Smith was “destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits” (Mormonism Unveiled p. 261). One such was his belief in polygamy.
To be continued…

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