What Do the Mormons Believe


Times and Seasons

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“What Do the Mormons Believe?” Times and Seasons (Nauvoo, Illinois) 4, no. 9 (15 March 1843):141–44.

From the Boston (Mass.) Bee


This is a question often asked, and the following sketch from the pen of Elder Adams, the big gun of Mormonism in these parts, will throw some light upon the subject:—

A short sketch of the Rise, Progress and Faith, of the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons.

The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was first organized in the state of New York, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty, on the sixth day of April. At its first organization, it consisted of six members. The first instruments of its organization were Joseph Smith, Jun. and Oliver Cowdery, who received their authority and priesthood, or apostleship, by direct revelation from God—by the voice of God—by the ministering of angels—and by the Holy Ghost.—They claim no authority whatever from antiquity, they never received baptism nor ordination from any religious system which had previously existed; but being commissioned from on high, they first baptized each other, and then commenced to minister its ordinances to others. The first principle of Theology as held by this church, is faith in God the Eternal Father, and in his Son Jesus Christ, who verily was crucified for the sins of the world, and who rose from the dead on the third day, and is now seated on the right hand of God as a mediator, and in the HolyGhost who bears record of them the same to-day as yesterday, and forever.

The second principle is Repentance towards God; that is, all men who believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, are required to turn away from their sins, to cease from their EVIL DEEDS, and to come humble before the throne of grace with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The third principle is Baptism by immersion in water, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for the remission of sins with the promise of the Holy Ghost, to all who believe and obey the gospel. The fourth principle is the laying on of t he hands in the name of Jesus Christ, for the gift of the Holy Ghost. This ordinance is to be administered by the apostles or elders of the church, upon all those who are baptized into the church. Through these several steps of faith and obedience, man is made partaker of the Holy Ghost, and numbered with the children of God. Through this process man is adopted into the church and kingdom of God, as one of his saints; his name is then enrolled in the book of the names of the righteous, and it then becomes his duty to watch, to pray, to deal justly, and to meet together with the saints as oft as circumstances will admit of it; and with them to partake of bread and wine in remembrance of the broken body, and shed blood of Jesus Christ; and in short, to continue faithful unto the end, in all the duties which are enjoined by the law of Christ. Fifth, it is the duty and privilege of the saints thus organized upon the everlasting gospel, to believe in, and enjoy all the gifts, powers and blessings which flow from the Holy Spirit. Such for instance, as the gifts of revelation, prophesy, visions, the ministry of angels, healing the sick by the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus, the working of miracles, and in short all the gifts as mentioned in scripture, or as enjoyed by the ancient saints.

This is a brief outline of the doctrine of this church, and we believe that it is the only system of doctrine which God ever revealed to man in a gospel dispensation, and the only system which can be maintained by the New Testament.

Now as far as all other modern religious systems differ from the foregoing principles, so far we disfellowship them. We neither recognize their priesthood, nor ordinances as divine. But at the same time we wish well to the individuals of all societies; we believe that many of them are sincere, and that they have the right to enjoy their religious opinions in peace. We do not wish to persecute any people for their religion.

But we wish to instruct them in those principles which we consider to be right, as far as they are willing to receive instruction, but no farther. We also believe that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are true; and that they are designed for our profit and learning and that all mystical and private interpretation of them ought to be done away;— that the prophecies, and doctrine, the covenants and promises contained in them have a literal application, according to the most plain, easy and simple meaning of the language in which they are written. We believe that the scriptures now extant do not contain all the sacred writings which God ever gave to man, for it is easily demonstrated, that they contain but a small portion indeed of the things which God has made known to our race, for it is evident that a communication has been kept open be- [41] tween God and man from the days of Adam to the present day, among all nations, kindreds, tongues and people; except such communication has been withheld by reason of transgression.

Thousands of communications were received during the progress of these writings, besides those which are written in it, and thousands of communications have been received since the Bible was completed. Thousands of communications have also been received among other nations, and in other countries remote from the scenes where the Bible was written. And in short the Holy Ghost is a spirit of revelation and prophecy, and wherever it has been enjoyed by mankind, there communications from God have been received.

We therefore believe in the Book of Mormon, which is an ancient American record lately discovered, containing a sketch of the history, prophecies, and doctrine of the ancient nations who inhabited this country. And we also believe in many communications which God has been pleased to make us in the rise and progress of this church, as he has often revealed his word to us, by visions, by dreams, hy angels, by his own voice, and by the Holy Spirit of prophecy and revelation; and lastly, we believe that God will continue to reveal himself to us until all things are revealed concerning the past, present, and future; until we have come in possession of all knowledge, intelligence or truth, which is in existence. We believe that the Jews and all the house of Israel will soon be gathered home to their own lands, from all the countries where they have been dispersed, and that they will become one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, never more to be divided or overcome, and that they will all be brought to the knowledge of God, and will become a holy nation. We also believe that Jesus Christ will come in person, in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and all the saints with him to reign on the earth a thousand years and that he will destroy the wicked from the earth by terrible judgments at the time of his coming. We also believe that the saints will rise from the dead at his second coming, and that they will live and reign on the earth one thousand years. We do not believe that the wicked will rise from the dead until the thousand years are ended, but that their resurrection is after the millenium and connected with the last judgment. We further believe that the restoration of Israel and Judah, and the second advent of Messiah are near at hand, and that the generation now lives who will witness the fulfilment of these great events, and that the Lord has raised up the Church of Latter Day Saints, and has set the truth in order among them as a commencement of this great restoration. For further particulars as to our doctrine and principles, I refer the reader to a work entitled The Voice of Warning, which is particularly designed as an introduction to our faith and doctrine. I must, however, before leaving the subject, contradict certain reports which are in circulation concerning our principles in regard to property. It is a current report, and often credited by those who have no acquaintance with our society, that we hold our property in common. This is a base falsehood without a shadow of truth.—The members of this church have ever held their property individually, the same as other societies, with the exception of that which they freely give for the use of the society, to minister to the wants of the poor, and for the building of houses of worship, &c. The property thus given is managed by proper officers, who render a strict account for all their incomes and expenditures, and who have no right to apply one shilling for any other purpose than that for which it is given.

Having given this brief sketch of our religious principles, we will now proceed to our account of the rise and progress of the church until this present time. After the church was organized as stated in the foregoing, they gradually increased in numbers from that time until June, 1831; the whole church numbered near two thousand. A general conference was then held in Kirtland, Ohio; and was attended by something like sixty of our preachers. From this time until 1835 it rapidly spread throughout all the United States of North America, insomuch that in 1836 branches of the church and general conferences had been organized throughout this vast republic, and at the present time the number amounts to over 50,000. In the latter part of the same year it was introduced into Toronto, Upper Canada, when it soon spread through that province; and in 1837, several of the elders sailed to England, under the direction of O. Hyde and H. C. Kimball, where they soon baptized between one and two thousand; from that time the work of the Lord has rapidly spread through England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and we have now flourishing societies in the principle towns and cities of Great Britain; numbering over twenty thousand*. This glorious message has also spread into Germany, a part of France, and reached even Constantinople, Jerusalem, the East Indies, and the islands of the seas.—It is still spreading in every country where it is known, and we anticipate a time not far distant, when a knowledge of the great work which the Lord has set his hand to do in these [142] last days will be enjoyed by all the nations of the earth, for to this end was it sent into the world. The apostles and elders of this church have a special mission to fulfil to every nation, kindred, tongue and people under heaven, and this is the gospel of the kingdom which was to be preached for a testimony unto all nations, and then shall the son of man come. If the people oppose this great mission, it will only injure themselves; it will not hinder the rolling forth of the work of God, or the fulfilment of his purposes, for he has set his had a second time to bring about the restoration of Israel, with the fulness of the Gentiles.

From the Boston (Mass.) Bee.

Mr. Editor, SIR—As you have (in justice) given the Mormons a chance to defend their principles from the attacts of those who are ignorant of its true tendency, and some who from self interest, or what is worse, join in the cry of the hounds and huntsmen

*About ten thousand.—ED. Times and Seasons. against the flying and defenceless stag—for no other reason under heaven than because they see others do it. I think if they reflect for an instant on the unmanly, despotic and unjust principle of persecuting the innocent, without knowing the ‘why and the wherefore’—I say if our calumniators reflect, they will say you have done what justice and honor requires of man—given us a weapon to defend (what is dearer to us than life) ‘the immortal part of man,’ our reputation.

I thought myself (three weeks ago) an unchangeable infidel, and lived with a family that some of its members were of the Mormon faith. I had an opportunity of witnessing their private meetings. and every thing connected with them. I have heard General Bennett’s lectures, and left not a stone unturned to find its character. I have argued with their elders on the truth of the Bible, and ridiculed their belief with every argument of science, philosophy and convictions of common sense, and accounted for their revelations and miracles as common effect, from a common cause—the works of ‘ a mind diseased.’ Yet I have always given them credit for honesty, from the very fact of their suffering for principle’s sake. Show me a christian denomination in existence that are so liberal in their principles as the ‘poor deluded Mormons.’ They believe that every honest man, who acts up to the principle of reflection, and obeys those dictates of conscience that show him wrong from right, will be saved, no matter what his belief— whether Turk, Jew or Heathen. And surely if God is just, he will not condemn a man for his belief, when he thinks from his heart he acts right.

The Mormons do not want persons to believe all that they do, as is falsely affirmed—they do not want to ram Joe Smith or revelation down people’s throats, without their knowing for themselves: all they want is to obey the words of Christ for the remission of sin. They want to terrify no man into belief. They do not say it is sinful to read Shakspeare or Byron or any book that you can get an exalted idea from, as your judgment (if you have any) will point out the good from the bad. Let those who contend that the writings of these giants of genius have an immortal tendency, remember there never yet was a general good without a partial evil.

We are charged with advocating a plurality of wives, and common property. Now this is as false as the many other ridiculous charges which are brought against us. No sect have a greater reverence for the laws of matrimony, or the rights of private property, and we do what others do not, practice what we preach.

A conversation I had with a friend, soon after joining the Mormons, will strongly illustrate public opinion, and show in what light men ought to be held, who condemn without knowing for what, and have only the same reason to offer as Bardolph had for running away—‘faith I ran when I saw others run.’

‘Mr. R——, why did you join the Mormons?’

‘Because I thought they were right.’

‘Well, I never thought you were a fool until now.’

‘And why do you think I am a fool now?’

‘Because you joined the Mormons.’

‘How does that prove me a fool?’

‘Because none but fools would join them.’

‘Why do you think so?’

‘Because every one says so.’

‘Do you know any of their principles?’

‘No—but I know they cannot be good.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because every one says so.’

‘Do you think I am dishonest?’

‘I know you are not.’

‘Well, before I was a Mormon, I did not believe in God or devil; yet I was considered an upright man—and now as I believe as you do, in Christ and the remission of sins, you call me a fool; do you not think I can judge for myself?’

‘I know you can.’

‘Why then do you blame me for using my judgment.’

‘Because every one says they are humbugs, and they are scouted out of every place.’

‘Then your reason is this: because you see a dog running down the street, with an appen[143]dage to his tail, and people shouting and pelting him with stones, you pick up a stone also and pelt and shout after the poor animal; and you call me a fool, because I know the master of the ill-treated dog, and strive to remove the appendage, and protect the poor brute from such treatment.’

It is thus we are condemned without a hearing, and persecuted without a cause.

As a parting word, I would suggest a sentence which no sophistry can refute; and let our calumniators remember they are the words of Christ. ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’

I remain, sir, your obliged servant, H. R.

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