Beliefs and Practices
1. God. Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (The Articles of Faith 1).
The Father and the Son have a body of flesh and bones, like we do (D&C 130:22; The Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses 6:9).
God has progressed, according to some early Mormons. Orson Hyde, an early Mormon apostle, said “Remember that God, our Father, was perhaps once a child and mortal like we ourselves, and rose step by step in the scale of progress… until He has arrived at the point He now is” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 1, p. 123, jod.mrm.org). Wilford Woodruff said, “God himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge, power, and dominion, and will do so world’s without end” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 6, p. 120). [Note: This doctrine of progression seems contrary to the Book of Mormon (Mormon 9:9-10, 19; Moroni 8:18) and The Doctrine and Covenants (20:17,19).
Brigham Young said that Adam of Genesis was “our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 1, p. 50). This is the God who beget Jesus (ibid). Note: Most Mormons today reject this Adam-God view.
2. Man. Man is said to have a pre-mortal existence (The Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham 3:22-23). Weldon Langfield, a former member of the LDS church, writes, “The theory that all humans existed before birth in a spirit world is now a bedrock doctrine of the LDS church. In fact, Mormon parents, as they have babies, believe that they are providing bodies for those spirits. That is why they tend to have large families” (Weldon Longfield, The Truth About Mormonism, p. 78).
Man is accountable for himself. Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgressions” (The Articles of Faith 2).
Man has free-will. This is plainly taught in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2:27; 10:23; Alma 13:3; 30:8; Helaman 14:30-31).
Man can become like God. Lorenzo Snow, fifth President of the LDS church, said, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become” (The Grand Destiny of the Faithful, churchesofjesuschrist.org).
3. Salvation. Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost” (The Articles of Faith 3-4).
The Living may be baptized for others who have died. This is how they understand 1 Corinthians 15:29. This is why they keep genealogy records. However, The Book of Mormon seems to teach that one’s destiny is sealed at death (Alma 34:35). I suppose that Baptism for the Dead provides an exception.
Blood Atonement has been taught. Some sins are believed to require the sinner’s blood for atonement. Brigham Young taught this (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 247, Vol. 4, p. 54). Brigham Young said, “Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 247).
4. Marriage. The LDS church use to condone polygamy (D&C 132:34, 52). Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives (Mormon Church Polygamy: Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives, bbc.com). Brigham Young had a total of 55 wives (Polygamy, Brigham Young and His 55 Wives by John G. Turner, huffpost.com). Wilford Woodruff, President of the LDS church in 1890 gave an official declaration saying, “In as much as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages… I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with members of the church of which I preside to have them do likewise.”
There are two types of marriages. Civil marriages end at death. Temple marriages or celestial marriages are for time and eternity (D&C 132).
5. Morals. Mormons today, tend to be very moral people. Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men” (The Articles of Faith 13).
They abstain from wine, strong drink, tobacco, and hot drinks (D&C 89). Hot drinks mean coffee and tea.
6. Heaven and hell. Their beliefs may be summarized in the following words, “In Mormon theology, there are three heavens: the telestrial, the terrestrial, and the celestrial. The lowest heaven is designated for the heathen people who reject the Gospel, who are… suffering in hell pending the resurrection. The second heaven will be inhabited by Christians who did not accept the Mormon message, Mormons who did not live up to their church’s requirements, and men of good will of other religions who rejected the revelation of the saints. The final or celestrial heaven is itself divided into three levels, the highest of which is godhood or the possession of a kingdom for one’s self and one’s family” (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 224). See D&C 76:67-ff; 88:21-ff.
7. Other beliefs. (a) They believe in modern-day miracles (The Articles of Faith 6-7). (b) They are millennial in eschatology (The Articles of Faith 10). (c) They believe in two classes of priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood is for younger Mormon. It is conferred at the age of twelve. The Melchizedek priesthood is conferred at the age of eighteen. They seem to believe that this is essential to church restoration (The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:71-ff; D&C 13; The Articles of Faith 5). (d) They believe that it is permissible to use water in place of the fruit of the vine in communion (D&C 27:1-2). (e) Many Mormons wear temple garments (Mormon undergarments or underwear). “Temple garments are worn by adult members who have made sacred promises of fidelity to God’s commandments and the gospel of Jesus Christ”(Temple Garments, church of jesuschrist.org). “Mormon undergarments must be worn day and night by members who have received the ordinance of the temple endowment to remind them of the commitment they made to God, according to Brigham Young University. The LDS Church’s handbook states the garments also “provide protection against temptation and evil” (Lindsey Bever, Mormon Church peels back mystery of sacred underwear, Washingtonpost.com). “The power is in the symbolism of the garments, not any kind of miracles that result from wearing them. Within Mormon folklore, there are stories of garment wearers receiving physical protection…but this isn’t part of official LDS doctrine” (McKay Coppins, A Brief Guide To “Mormon Underwear,” buzzfeednews.com).
Branches of Mormonism
There are many branches to Mormonism. Wikipedia currently lists twelve. Religionfacts.com says there are over 100. Most are small in number. Here are a few:
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This is by far the largest branch. It is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
2. The Community of Christ (Previously known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). This is the second largest branch. It currently numbers about 250,000. This branch is headquartered in Independence, Missouri. They rejected Brigham Young as a prophet. They were organized by Joseph Smith III. They reject polygamy, the idea of God progressing, the Adam-God doctrine, and blood atonement, and baptism for the dead.
3. The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite or Rigdonite). This is the third largest branch. It currently numbers about 23,000. This branch is headquartered in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. They reject polygamy, celestrial marriages, two separate priesthoods, and many other LDS teachings. They believe that many teachings of Joseph Smith were not from God. They rejected the leadership of Brigham Young. They accept only the Bible and the Book of Mormon as scripture.
4. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This branch is estimated to number 10,000. It is based out of Hildale, Utah. They are especially known for their practice of polygamy.
5. Church of Christ, Temple Lot (Hedrickite). This branch numbers about 7,000. It is headquartered in Independence, Missouri. They reject polygamy, celestrial marriage, baptism for the dead, and the LDS organization. They accept only the Bible and the Book of Mormon as scripture. They own the lot on which Joseph Smith prophesied that a temple would be built (cf. D&C 84:1-5; 57:1-6). It is still not built.
[Sources on branches: Encyclopedia Britanica; Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations; Weldon Longfied, The Truth About Mormonism; Religionfacts.com; and Wikipedia].