Introduction/History of the Mormon Church
What follows are links to explanations of common questions and misunderstandings about Mormon beliefs.
The articles will cover the following subjects:
‘Magic’ Underwear (Garments)
Ordinance Work for the Dead
Heaven and the Afterlife
Nature of God and the Godhead
Modern Day Prophets
Local Church Leadership
A Brief History of the Church:
The official name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. People refer to it as the LDS Church or Mormon Church, and call its members Mormons, after the Book of Mormon (see Scriptures).
The LDS Church started in the early 1800s in upstate New York. The founder, Joseph Smith, was a young man at the time (see Joseph Smith). He was exploring the various religions, considering which church to join. He was not comfortable with the differences between religions and confused that they all claimed to teach from the bible. Smith said that while reading in the New Testament, in James 1:5 (“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”, KJV), he felt that he could find the correct church to join by asking God in prayer.
According to Smith’s accounting, he went into the woods near his house to pray for guidance. While praying he saw a pillar of light, and in the light were two separate beings (see Nature of God), who identified themselves as God and Jesus. They told Smith not to join any religions because they were all false. They also told him he would receive later instructions about Gods plan for him.
Several years later, according to Smith, a being who identified himself as Moroni visited Joseph. He said he was a prophet who lived on the North American continent around the year 400 CE. Moroni told Smith about gold plates that were buried near his home. The plates contained the writing of a people that lived in the Americas around the time of Christ.
Along with the plates, Smith received the tools to interpret the writings found on the plates. The interpretations are known as the Book of Mormon, recognized by members of the LDS Church as scripture equal to the bible. Later two more books of scripture were added to LDS cannon (see Scriptures).
Smith organized the church in 1830. It began in New York, but moved around the east and mid-West states, mostly due to opposition from locals who were not comfortable with their doctrine. In 1844 while Smith was in jail in Carthage Illinois, a group of men stormed the prison and killed him.
The remaining church leaders selected Brigham Young to be Smith’s successor (see Modern Day Prophets). Young was responsible for leading the members of the church west, eventually settling in Salt Lake City. The headquarters of the church remains in Salt Lake City, but due to missionary work, the church has spread all over the world. (See Missionary Work).