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Founder of Mormonism

Always a controversial figure, Joseph Smith II was born in Sharon, Vermont, one of nine children to a family of possibly Scottish origin. Another version is that he was the fifth of 11 children Thereafter there are so many contradictory stories that it is very difficult to distinguish truth from fiction and revelation from possible delusion or even deliberate attempts at fraud. I make no judgments either way, but merely record what was said in the sources that I found. It was in Manchester, New York, some 15 years later, that Smith received the call to be a prophet.

He tells in his history of the church how many different branches of Christianity there were around in his childhood and how confusing he found this. Hi s mother said that he spent a lot of time in meditation and study. He discovered the words of James 1 v 5 which tells anyone who feels that they lack wisdom they should seek God and this he did. According to Smith Jesus appeared and God told him that all churches then on earth had ignored God’s orders. The words used apparently claimed that the creeds of the churches were an abomination.

and Smith should join none of them, but should start a new religion and so restoring true teaching. He apparently told no one about this for some three years. Smith recorded his early life story in his history of the church, a church which grew with the support of his father’s family and of David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and later Sidney Rigdon Cowdery and Whitmer , together with Martin Harris were the three witnesses whose names and testimony are recorded in each edition of the book of Mormon, and later another 8 people would state that they too had seen the plates.

Yet Smith had declared on a number of occasions that no one but he could see the plates and live. It was Harris’s money that paid for the publication of the Book of Mormon. Whitmer was later to be very hostile to the Mormons, yet despite this he always maintained the truth of the story of the discovery of the plates which he said he had seen. Cowdery would later renounce Mormonism and became a Methodist Sunday School superintendent. Whitmer, also said to have been a witness to the plates, would later deny this. and was eventually excommunicated as a dissenter.

When this occurred Whitmer lost his property and subsequently sued. The problems and general alarm that followed led to the Mormon wars of 1838. I t has to be said that despite claims against mainline churches the Mormon church of the present day typically believe that most traditional Christians have much truth, and strong faith in Christ. They would also say that all who truly have faith in Christ will be saved . According to W. A. Linn the Smith family, especially on the maternal side, had a great belief in revelation.

Lucy Smith’s father, Solomon Mack claimed on several occasions to see bright lights in a dark sky and a voice calling to him His grandson is described by William Linn in his1902 book ‘The Story of the Mormons’ as being of low birth and very limited education and of uncertain morals. Mormon biographer Orson Pratt said of Joe Smith, as he was known then:- He could read without any difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand, and had a very limited understanding of the elementary rules of arithmetic.

These were his highest and only attainments, while the rest of those branches so universally taught in the common schools throughout the United States were entirely unknown to him. Some would view him as a monomaniacial polygamist and fraudster and others as a great man, murdered by a mob who didn’t understand him. In his 1989 book ‘The World’s Religions’ Ninian Smart describes Smith as someone who could vivify the faith of more ordinary folk. Others would say that, apart from the production of the Book of Mormon, it was Sidney Rigdon who was the major force in the early days of the new church.

In order to conform with a revelation to Smith and Rigdon of December 1830 they made a new translation of the Bible. This was at first a great secret. In 1867 however, at Plano, Illinois, a book was at last published with the title ‘The Holy Scriptures translated and corrected by the Spirit of Revelation, by Joseph Smith Jr, the Seer The majority of this book does not really differ in any consequential form from the King James Bible except for passages in the 50th chapter of Genesis and the 29th chapter of Isaiah.

In the Genesis passage the chapter is extended by 12 verses which tell of how a branch of Joseph’s people would travel to a far place and that these people would be given a seer who would confound his enemies and write the word of the Lord. Something similar happens in the Isaiah passage which is extended from 24 to 32 long verses which describe how words would be delivered to a man who would deliver the book as a revelation.

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