TO THOSE WHO ARE INVESTIGATING "MORMONISM"
If you are investigating Mormonism (the "Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-Day Saints" or "LDS Church"), you are probably studying
it in private meetings in your home with missionaries from that
church. Here are some of the key things that they are probably
- Mormonism began when Joseph Smith, a young man in western New
York, was spurred by a Christian revival where he lived in 1820
to pray to God for guidance as to which church was true. In
answer to his prayers he was visited by God the Father and God
the Son, two separate beings, who told him to join no church
because all the churches at that time were false, and that he,
Joseph, would bring forth the true church. This event is called
"The First Vision."
- In 1823 Joseph had another heavenly visitation, in which an
angel named Moroni told him of a sacred history written by
ancient Hebrews in America, engraved in an Egyptian dialect on
tablets of gold and buried in a nearby hill. Joseph was told it
was the history of the ancient peoples of America, and that
Joseph would be the instrument for bringing this record to the
knowledge of the world. Joseph obtained these gold plates from
the angel in 1827, and translated them into English by the spirit
of God and the use of a sacred instrument accompanying the plates
called the "Urim and Thummim." The translation was published in
1830 as The Book of Mormon.
- The Book of Mormon is a religious and secular
history of the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere from about
2200 BC to about 421 AD. It tells the reader that the American
Indians are all descended from three groups of immigrants who
were led by God from their original homes in the Near East to
America. One group came from the Tower of Babel, and two other
groups came from Jerusalem just before the Babylonian Captivity,
about 600 BC. They were led by prophets of God who had the
gospel of Jesus Christ, which is thus preserved in their history,
the Book of Mormon. Many of the descendants of
these immigrants were
Christians, even before Christ was born in Palestine, but many
were unbelievers. Believers and unbelievers fought many wars, the
last of which left only degenerate unbelievers as survivors, who
are the ancestors of the American Indians. The most important
event during this long history was the visit of Jesus Christ to
America, after his crucifixion, when he ministered to (and
converted) all the inhabitants.
- Joseph Smith was directed by revelation from God to
reestablish ("restore") the true church, which he did in 1830.
He was visited several times by heavenly messengers, who ordained
him to the true priesthood. He continued to have revelations
from God to guide the church and to give more knowledge of the
Gospel. Many of these revelations are published in the
Doctrine and Covenants.
- Joseph Smith and his followers were continually persecuted
for their religious beliefs, and driven from New York State to
Ohio, then to Missouri, then to Illinois, where Joseph Smith was
murdered in 1844 by a mob, a martyr to his beliefs. The church
was then led by Brigham Young, Joseph's successor, to Utah, where
the Mormons settled successfully.
- The LDS church is led today by the successors of Joseph
Smith. The present president of the church is a "prophet, seer
and revelator" just as Joseph Smith was, and guides the members
of the church through revelations and guidance from God.
- The modern LDS church is the only true church, as restored by
God through Joseph Smith. Other churches, derived from the early
Christian church, are in apostasy because their leaders corrupted
the scriptures, changed the ordinances of the original church,
and often led corrupt lives, thus losing their authority.
- By accepting baptism into the LDS church you take the first
step necessary toward your salvation and your ultimate entrance
into the Kingdom of Heaven (the "Celestial Kingdom").
WHAT THE MISSIONARIES WILL NOT TELL YOU
Here is a summary of important facts about the Mormon church and
its history that the missionaries will probably not tell you. We
are not suggesting that they are intentionally deceiving you --
most of the young Mormons serving missions for the church are not
well educated in the history of the church or in modern critical
studies of the church. They probably do not know the all the
facts themselves. They have been trained, however, to give
investigators "milk before meat," that is, to postpone revealing
anything at all that might make an investigator hesitant, even
if it is true. But you should be aware of these facts before
you commit yourself.
Each of the following facts has been substantiated by thorough
historical scholarship. And this list is by no means
Although we cannot possible include the evidence in this
summary without making it overly long, we will be happy to
provide you with the details of the evidence on any point, at
- The "First Vision" story in the form presented to you was
unknown until 1838, eighteen years after its alleged
occurrence and almost ten years after Smith had begun his
missionary efforts. The oldest version of the vision is in
Smith's own handwriting, dating from about 1832 (still at least
eleven years afterwards), and says that only one
personage, Jesus Christ, appeared to him. It also mentions
nothing about a revival. It also contradicts the later account
as to whether Smith had already decided that no church was
true. Still a third version of this event is recorded as a
recollection in Smith's diary, fifteen years after the alleged
vision, where only one "personage" appeared, specifically said
to be neither the Father or the Son, accompanied by many
"angels," which are not mentioned in the official version you
have been told about. Which version is correct, if any? Why
was this event, now said by the church to be so important,
unknown for so long?
- Careful study of the religious history of the locale where
Smith lived in 1820 shows that there was no trace of a
religious revival there at that time. There were revivals in
1817 and 1824, but none in 1820.
- In 1828, eight years after he says he had been told by God
himself to join no church, Smith applied for membership in a
local Methodist church. Other members of his family had joined
- Contemporaries of Smith consistently described him as
something of a confidence man, whose chief source of income was
hiring out to local farmers to help them find buried treasure
by the use of folk magic and "seer stones." Smith was actually
tried in 1826 on a charge of moneydigging.
- The only persons who claimed to have actually seen the gold
plates were eleven close friends of Smith (many of them related
to each other). Their testimonies are printed in the front of
every copy of the Book of Mormon. No disinterested
third party was ever allowed to examine them. They were
retrieved by the angel at some unrecorded point. Most of the
witnesses later abandoned Smith and left his movement. Smith
then called them "liars."
- Smith produced most of the "translation" not by reading the
plates through the Urim and Thummim (apparently a pair of
sacred spectacles), but by gazing at the same "seer stone" he
had used for treasure hunting. He would place the stone into his
hat, and then cover his face with it. For much of the time he
was dictating, the gold plates were not even present, but in a
- The detailed history and civilization described in the Book
of Mormon does not correspond to anything found by
archaeologists anywhere in the Americas. The Book of
Mormon describes a civilization lasting for a thousand
years, covering both North and South America, which was
familiar with horses, elephants, cattle, sheep, wheat, barley,
shipbuilding, sails, coins, and other elements of Old World
culture. But no trace of any of these supposedly very common
things has ever been found in the Americas of that period. Nor
does the Book of Mormon mention any of the features
of the civilizations which really did exist at that time in the
Americas. The LDS church has spent millions of dollars over
many years trying to prove through archaeological research that
the Book of Mormon is an accurate historical record,
but they have failed to produce even a shred of pre-columbian
archeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon
story. In addition, whereas the Book of Mormon
presents the picture of a relatively homogeneous people, with a
single language and communication between distant parts of the
Americas, the pre- columbian history of the Americas shows the
opposite: widely disparate racial types (almost entirely east
Asian - definitely not Semitic), and many unrelated native
languages, none of which are even remotely related to Hebrew or
- The people of the Book of Mormon were supposedly
devout Jews observing the Law of Moses, but in the Book
of Mormon there is almost no trace of their observance
of Mosaic law or even an accurate knowledge of it.
- Although Joseph Smith said that God had pronounced the
completed translation of the plates as published in 1830
"correct," many changes have been made in later editions.
Besides thousands of corrections of poor grammar and awkward
wording in the 1830 edition, other changes have been made to
reflect subsequent changes in some of the fundamental doctrine
of the church. For example, an early change in wording
modified the 1830 edition's acceptance of the doctrine of the
Trinity, thus allowing Smith to introduce his later doctrine of
multiple gods. A more recent change (1981) replaced "white"
with "pure," apparently to reflect the change in the church's
stance on the "curse" of the black race.
- Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon
contained the "fulness of the gospel." However, its teaching
doctrinal subjects has been ignored or contradicted by the
present LDS church, and many doctrines now said by the church
to be essential are not even mentioned there. Examples are the
church's position on the nature of God, the Virgin Birth, the
Trinity, polygamy, Hell, priesthood, secret organizations, the
nature of Heaven and salvation, temples, proxy ordinances for the
dead, and many other
- Many of the basic historical notions found in the Book of
Mormon had appeared in print already in 1825, just two years
before Smith began producing the Book of Mormon, in
a book called View of the Hebrews, by Ethan Smith (no
relation) and published just a few miles from where Joseph
Smith lived. A careful study of this obscure book led one LDS
official (the historian B. H. Roberts, 1857-1933) to confess
that the evidence tended to show that the Book of
Mormon was not an ancient record, but concocted by
Joseph Smith himself, based on ideas he had read in the earlier
- Although Mormons claim that God is guiding the LDS church
through its president (who has the title "prophet, seer and
revelator"), the successive "prophets" have repeatedly either
led the church into undertakings that were dismal failures or
failed to see approaching disaster. To mention only a few:
the Kirtland Bank, the United Order, the gathering of Zion to
Missouri, the Zion's Camp expedition, polygamy, the Deseret
Alphabet. The most recent example is the successful hoax
perpetrated on the church by manuscript dealer Mark Hofmann in
the 1980s. He succeeded in selling the church thousands of
dollars worth of manuscripts which he had forged. The church
accepted them as genuine historical documents. The church
leaders learned the truth not from God, through revelation, but
from non-Mormon experts and the police, after Hofmann was
arrested for two murders he committed to cover up his hoax.
This scandal was reported nationwide.
- The secret temple ritual (the "endowment") was introduced by
Smith in May, 1842, just two months after he had been initiated
into Freemasonry. The LDS temple ritual closely resembles the
Masonic ritual of that day. Smith explained that the Masons
had corrupted the ancient (God-given) ritual by changing it and
removing parts of it, and that he was restoring it to its
"pure" and "original" (and complete) form, as revealed to him
by God. In the 150 years since, the LDS church has made many
fundamental changes in the "pure and original" ritual as
"restored" by Smith, mostly by removing major parts of it.
- Many doctrines which were once taught by the LDS church, and
held to be fundamental, essential and "eternal", have been
abandoned. Whether we feel that the church was correct in
abandoning them is not the point; rather, the point is that a
church claiming to be the church of God takes one "everlasting"
position at one time and the opposite position at another, all
the time claiming to be proclaiming the word of God. Some
- The Adam-God doctrine (Adam is God the Father);
- the United Order (all property of church members is to be
held in common, with title in the church);
- Plural Marriage (polygamy; a man must have more than one
wife to attain the highest degree of heaven);
- the Curse of Cain (the black race is not entitled to hold
God's priesthood because it is cursed; this doctrine was not
abandoned until 1978);
- Blood Atonement (some sins - apostasy, adultery, murder,
interracial marriage - must be atoned for by the shedding of
the sinner's blood, preferably by someone appointed to do so
by church authorities);
All of these doctrines were proclaimed by the reigning prophet
to be the Word of God, "eternal," "everlasting," to govern the
church "forevermore." All have been abandoned by the present
- Joseph Smith claimed to be a "translator" by the power of
God. In addition to the Book of Mormon, he made
several other "translations":
- The Book of Abraham, from Egyptian papyrus scrolls
which came into his possession in 1838. He stated that the
scrolls were written by the biblical Abraham "by his own
hand." Smith's translation is now accepted as scripture by
the LDS church, as part of its Pearl of Great Price.
Smith also produced an "Egyptian Grammar" based on his
translation. Modern scholars of ancient
Egyptian agree that the scrolls are common Egyptian funeral
scrolls, entirely pagan in nature, having nothing to do with
Abraham, and from a period 2000 years later than Abraham.
The Grammar has been said by Egyptologists to prove that
Smith had no notion of the Egyptian language. It is pure
fantasy: he made it up.
- The "Inspired Revision" of the King James Bible. Smith was
commanded by God to retranslate the Bible because the existing
translations contained errors. He completed his translation in
1833, but the church still uses the King James Version.
- The "Kinderhook Plates," a group of eight metal plates with
strange engraved characters, unearthed in 1843 near
Kinderhook, Illinois, and examined by Smith, who began a
"translation" of them. He never completed the translation,
but he identified them as an ancient record, and translated
enough to identify the author as a descendant of Pharaoh.
Local farmers later confessed that they had manufactured,
engraved and buried the plates themselves as a hoax. They
had copied the characters from a Chinese tea box.
- Joseph Smith claimed to be a "prophet." He frequently
prophesied future events "by the power of God." Many of these
prophecies are recorded in the LDS scripture Doctrine and
Covenants. Almost none have been fulfilled, and many
cannot now be
fulfilled because the deeds to be done by the persons named
were never done and those persons are now dead. Many
prophecies included dates for their fulfillment, and those
dates are now long past, the events never having occurred.
- Joseph Smith died not as a martyr, but in a gun battle in
which he fired a number of shots. He was in jail at the time,
under arrest for having ordered the destruction of a Nauvoo
newspaper which dared to print an exposure (which was true) of
his secret sexual liaisons. At that time he had announced his
candidacy for the presidency of the United States, set up a
secret government and secretly had himself crowned "King of the
Kingdom of God."
- Since the founding of the church down to the present day the
church leaders have not hesitated to lie, to falsify documents,
to rewrite or suppress history, or to do whatever is necessary to
protect the image of the church. Many Mormon historians have
been excommunicated from the church for publishing their
findings on the truth of Mormon history.
YOUR LIFE AS A MORMON
If you should decide to become a member of the LDS church, you
should be aware of what your life in the church will be like.
Although you will find yourself warmly accepted by a lively
community of healthy, active and generally supportive people,
many of whom are very happy in Mormonism and could not imagine
their lives without it, there is another side:
- You will be continually reminded that to enter the highest
degree of heaven (the "Celestial Kingdom"), you will have to go
through the endowment ceremony in the temple and have your
marriage to your Mormon spouse "sealed." (If your spouse is
not Mormon, you cannot enter the highest degree of heaven.) To
permission to have these ceremonies performed in the temple,
you must prove yourself to be a faithful and obedient member of
the church and do everything commanded by the church
authorities, from the Prophet down to the local level. You
will have to undergo a personal "worthiness" interview with the
local church authorities inquiring into your private life and
your religious and social activities.
- You will be expected to donate at least ten percent of your
gross income to the church as tithing. Other donations will be
expected as the need arises. You will never see an accounting
of how this money is spent, or how much the church receives, or
anything at all about its financial condition; the church
keeps its finances secret, even from its members.
- You will be expected to give up the use of alcohol, tobacco,
coffee, tea, and cola drinks.
- You will be expected to fulfill any work assignment given to
you. These assignments may be teaching positions, clerk
positions, helping with various support tasks - any job that
needs to be done. Each task you perform successfully will make
you eligible for others, with more responsibility and more
demands upon your time. The members who perform these jobs, even
those involving sensitive pastoral counseling, receive no
formal training whatsoever (there is no paid, trained clergy).
You will be told that God has called you to your assignments.
Many Mormons find most of their spare time taken up with church
work, trying to fulfill the numerous assignments that have been
- You will be expected to be unquestioningly obedient to church
authorities in whatever they might tell you to do. "Follow the
Brethren" is the slogan, and it means to follow without doubt
or question. Discussion of whether a decree from above is
correct is discouraged. You will be expected to have faith
that the leaders cannot possibly lead you astray. Even if they
should tell you something which contradicts what a previous
prophet may have said, you will be told "A living prophet takes
precedence over a dead prophet."
- You will be able to "vote" on those who have been called to
positions of authority over you, but the voting will be by the
show of hands in a public meeting. Only one candidate for each
office will be voted on (the one "called by God"). The voting
is therefore always unanimous in favor of the candidate.
- You will be told not to read any material which is "not
faith- promoting," that is, which may be critical or questioning
of the church or its leaders, or which might place the church
or its leaders in an unfavorable light.
- You will be told not to associate with "apostates," that is,
former Mormons. (You will probably be asked in your
"worthiness" interview about this.)
- If you are unmarried, you will be encouraged to marry a good
Mormon as soon as possible. When you do marry, in a wedding
ceremony in the temple, your non-Mormon family members and
friends will not be allowed to attend the ceremony, because
only "worthy" Mormons are allowed to enter the temple.
- If you are homosexual, you will be pressured to abandon this
"evil" aspect of your nature. If you do not, you will probably
not be fully accepted by other church members. If you do not
remain celibate, you may be excommunicated.
- If you are a male over 12 years of age and "worthy" (that is,
if you are obedient, attend meetings, do not masturbate, etc.),
you will be ordained to one of the levels of priesthood, and,
if you continue to be faithful and obedient, you will gradually
advance through the priesthood ranks. If you are female, you
will receive the benefits of priesthood authority only
indirectly, through your Mormon father or your Mormon husband.
The role of the Mormon woman is to be a wife and mother and to
obey and honor her priest husband (or father).
- If you prove yourself to be faithful, hard working and
obedient, you will eventually be considered worthy to "receive
your endowment" in a Mormon temple. You will not be told in
advance exactly what to expect in this lengthy ceremony, except
that the details of the ritual are secret (Mormons prefer to
say they are just "sacred," but they treat them as though they
are secret). As part of that ceremony you will be required to
swear a number of oaths, the penalty for violation of which is
no longer stated but until 1990 was death by various bloody
methods, such as having your throat slit from ear to ear. You
will be given the secret signs and passwords which are required
to enter heaven. (Although most Mormons who have not received
the endowment know very little about the ceremony, the entire
liturgy is now available on the Internet to Mormon and non-
Mormon alike.) After receiving the endowment you will be
required to wear a special undergarment at all times.
- If you should ever decide that you made a mistake in joining
the church and then leave it, you will probably find (judging
from the experiences of others who have done so) that many of
your Mormon friends will abandon and shun you. If you are
unable to convince your family members to leave the church with
you, you will find that the church has broken up your family
and your relationship with them may never recover.
Consider very carefully before you commit yourself, and
remember that any doubts you may have now will likely only
Examine carefully both sides of the Mormon story. Listen to
the stories of those who have been through an unhappy Mormon
experience, not just those Mormons who may speak glowingly of
life in the church.
The Mormon missionaries are often charming and enthusiastic.
They have an attractive story to tell. At first it sounds
wonderful. But remember the old saying, "If it sounds too good
to be true, it probably is!" Be careful not to fall into the
trap of believing something simply because you want it to be
true. Mormons may tell you that those who criticize the church
are lying, misquoting and distorting. If you examine the sources
used by the critics, however, you will discover that most of
their source material is from official or semi-official Mormon
writings. You, too, should examine those sources.
Is Mormonism a "cult"? Many experts on religious cults see in
Mormonism the same fundamental characteristics as cults which
have entrapped the unsuspecting, even though most people think of
"cults" only as small, unknown groups. Use a "cult checklist" to
evaluate Mormonism, or any group, before you commit yourself.
To get more information about the other side of Mormonism, or
to see the evidence supporting any of our statements about the
church, feel free to contact us. Our only aim is to make sure
that you hear both sides. We promise not to preach at you, but
only to provide you with facts to balance the Mormon story.
Please indicate the topics on which you would like more
information and evidence for what the missionaries won't tell