December 5, 2011
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” *Abraham Lincoln*
It is fascinating to me how people get charged up about my commentaries on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–the Mormons. What is so electrifying about my faith? What is that sparks curiosity, debate, and even outrage from other Christians? I have my theories, and yes, they do include Benjamin Franklin and a key.
Mormons, by and large, have an excellent understanding of the role of the Founding Fathers in establishing a nation whereupon all people could worship according to the dictates of their individual consciences. The Constitution of the United States is, in its purpose and transforming power, a form of scripture. Though a world-wide church, the LDS church extols individual liberty as the basis upon which God’s Plan of Salvation is validated.
The great Protestant Reformers are figures indispensable to Mormons. They paved the way for scripture to be disseminated to the masses, and they challenged the Church/State. They sought to restore the church to the form and intent evident in the New Testament. Also deeply revered by Mormons, the Founding Fathers–from Christopher Columbus to Benjamin Franklin–were men inspired by God to bring about His purposes upon the North American continent, so that the world would have a free nation, a shining city on a hill, for all other nations to emulate.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830, in the midst of the Industrial Revolution and national conflicts over slavery. The LDS Church, nicknamed The Mormon Church after the New World scripture, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ, which was translated and printed by Joseph Smith (age 24) shortly before the church was organized, has an early history that is at times arcane and incomprehensible. And, like all faiths, it is taken as a matter of faith by those who have entered into its fellowship. I would like to clarify a few of the points about which I am most often queried.
- The Book of Mormon:Another Testament of Christ is a book of scripture translated from gold plates upon which were engraved the spiritual and social history of a race of people, descended from Jews who fled Jerusalem and sailed to the New World around the time of the prophet Jeremiah. These descendants of Jewish seafarers peopled the continents of South, Central, and North America. They were visited by the glorified and resurrected Jesus Christ in the New World, where He established His gospel among them. They are the “other sheep” of whom He speaks in John 10:16. If one were to set aside the history and origin of The Book of Mormon:Another Testament of Christ, they would find a book that supports the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the critical role He plays as the Redeemer of all mankind. The Book of Mormon reiterates much of the Old Testament history and doctrine, and expands on the compassionate and loving character of Jesus Christ Himself.
- Polygamy was a practice instituted in the early days of the Mormon Church. It is one of the most perplexing component of LDS history. I have a theory, however, about why it was temporarily allowed by God, as it has been allowed during past dispensations of time, most notably during Old Testament times. The members of Mormon Church were suffering heavy casualties and many women were left widows and many children fatherless during the Missouri and Illinois periods. My theory goes that God allowed polygamy as a measure; first to give security and sustenance to many women and children who were left on their own due to persecutions and murders. Second, polygamy was a way to jump-start the population of the church and to have a way for many decedents to be sired by a few, faithful men. Great numbers of LDS people are decedents of pioneer polygamist ancestors. Those who hold that pioneer heritage are some of the most stalwart and devout members of the church–not to mention numerous–even some 150 years after the fact. As a result of polygamy, the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew quickly, and that pioneer stock begat generations of decedents who are now the backbone of the Mormon culture in America. Polygamy was banned by the leaders of the church in 1890 in accordance with the laws of the United States, and because of the desire among Utahn’s to be accepted as a state into the Union.
- The Mountain Meadows Massacre marks a dark and tragic day in the history of the Mormon church. It was the result of men acting hastily, out of fear, and upon false information. Many Mormon men participated in the terrible massacre of settlers from Arkansas who were moving through Southern Utah on their way to California. Despite stories that it occurred because Brigham Young had ordered it, the history and writings of that time indicate, to the contrary, that communications from him ordering the men to forbear violence, failed to reach the enraged band of Mormons and local Indians in time to halt the murders.
- The privilege of holding the Priesthood was withheld from individuals of certain races during the early years of the Mormon Church. Those races were primarily the black races. This is a difficult doctrine for many faithful Latter-day Saints to understand, however, the Priesthood of God has at many times throughout history been withheld from all but a few. The Sons of Levi held the keys to the Priesthood exclusively during the time of Moses. Certain of the tribes of Israel were excluded from the Priesthood. And today, women do not hold the Priesthood in the Mormon Church. The practice was, nevertheless, heartbreaking. That rule was rescinded in 1978 and now the Priesthood of God is extended to all worthy men in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church is one of the fastest growing Christian denominations on the African continent.
Every church has its warts. A religion should not be judged upon the imperfections of its history and the flaws of its members, but rather by its ability to transform the spiritually ailing into the spiritually well. Is it God’s will that Christian sects pick each other apart like frenzied chickens? I am puzzled by the antagonistic position of some Christian ministries towards the LDS Church. Are they afraid, are they merely curious, or do they want to destroy the faith of both investigators and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Whatever the motivations, like Benjamin Franklin with his key drooping from the string of a kite aloft, the Mormon Church attracts highly charged lightning storms of debate.
We are living at a time in history during which our nation, having been founded upon Christian principles, is being threatened by evil forces within and without. It is a terrible waste of time and resources for Christians to pick apart one another, to alienate, marginalize, and stir up contention between sects. Let us, instead, marshal our faith in God, our love for our dear America, and our zeal for liberty and unite to defend against Communism, Islamo-facism, lawlessness, corruption and outright sin. Christians in America have in common the only thing that really counts in the end, and that is their faith in and love for the Savior, Jesus Christ.
“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Mark 3:25.
By Marjorie Haun 12/5/11