Joseph Smith and the Book Term Paper

  • Length: 21 pages
  • Subject: Mythology - Religion
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #24061704

Excerpt from Term Paper :

On June 27, 1844, hundreds swarmed the jail and brutally murdered the Smith brothers, leading their followers to conclude that they were martyred (Sisk).

At Joseph's death, Brigham Young was president of the Twelve Apostles of their church and became the leader of the largest faction within (Sisk 1992). Some who separated from Young's group formed their own, called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, under the leadership of one of the brothers of Joseph Smith. In 1846, Young's group declared that the "saints" would leave Nauvoo and they settled in Utah the following year and, for the next 20 or so years, many moved to Salt Lake Valley to join those "saints (Sisk)." The growth was so tremendous that many ascribe greater magnetism to Young than to Joseph himself in attracting followers. It is noted that the current-day Mormon Church has millions of such followers and billions of dollars, realized from real estate, publishing, department stores and radio and television stations (Sisk).

Everything that Mormonism teaches or does is founded on the Book of Mormon. If this book is true and from God, then Mormonism is true. If not, then Mormonism is a false religion (Sisk 1992). The Book of Mormon is a collection of writings by prophets and historians about an ancient American civilization during the time of Christ and Mormon was supposed to be a great prophet and military leader of that time and civilization. Among his greatest accomplishments was the abridgement of the writings of earlier prophets, which he entrusted to his son Moroni, who added his own thoughts and then buried them in a hill for preservation (Sisk).

This Book is viewed as an account of two ancient civilizations in the American continent - one, which left the tower of Babel, and the other, which left Jerusalem around 600 BC. The first was led by Jared and his people were called Jaredites. They became extinct as punishment for their apostasy (Sisk 1992). The second group was composed of righteous Jews led by Nephri, later divided into the Nephites and the Lamanites, which warred against each other. The Book says that Jesus Christ visited the Nephites after His ascension and there preached the gospel, established baptism, the communion service, the priesthood and other mystical ceremonies (Sisk).

Mormons will say at one time that they believe in the King James version of the Holy Bible and, at another time, that it has been rendered inaccurate and corrupt so that the Mormon Church must translate or correct the inaccuracies before it can be considered truth (Sisk 1992). After making those "corrections" on the Bible, the Mormons add the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, authored by Joseph Smith, to the "authorized scripture" of their Book. It also includes the Journal of Discourses, a series of sermons and lectures by the church's apostles and presidents from the date of its founding, which they claim as all coming directly from the mind of God (Sisk).

Not only does the Book of Mormon reveal occult influence but also that of freemasonry, as many critics and other observers point out. Joseph Smith himself admitted that he was a mason of the first degree in the Nauvoo Lodge, as contained in volume 4-page 551 of his "History of the Church.(Institute for Religious Research 1999).

Freemasonry has sharp impact also on Joseph's personal life and the Latter Day Saints temple ceremony. John L. Brooke, in his own work, noted the prevalence of Masonic fraternity lodges and chapters in Ontario County as background of Joseph's Book, particularly the discovery the golden plates in a stone vault on a hilltop. This is reminiscent of the myth of Royal Arch freemasonry concerning the prophet Enoch who was assumed to have been similarly and previously "instructed" in a vision to preserve Masonic mysteries by carving these mysteries in a golden plate. Enoch was believed to have the golden plate in an arched stone vault, which was marked with pillars and this golden plate was later discovered by King Solomon (Institute for Religious Research). Enoch also figured prominently in Joseph's cosmology.

The impact of Freemasonry on Joseph went further. In 1829, he told Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris that, besides the golden plates, they would also see the Urim and Thummim on the priestly breastplate, the sword of Laban, and "miraculous directors (Institute for Religious Research 1999)." Cowdery and Joseph's wife Lucy would later describe three or four small pillars holding up the plates. All these had Masonic analogues on them (Institute for Religious Research). Moreover, Oliver Cowdery's father and brother were Royal Arch initiates and that Oliver himself was described as a mason. Joseph's wife Lucy also wrote in a manuscript in the 1840s that the Smith family tried to "win the faculty of Abrac, drawing magic circles, or sooth-saying," which indicated familiarity with Masonic manuals, the faculty of Abrac held as one of the Masonic mysteries (Institute for Religious Research).

The influence of freemasonry reached a height later in Joseph's personal life. Many of Mormon saints were masons, including Joseph's brother Hyrum, Heber C. Kimball, Elijah Fordham, Newel K. Whitney, James Adams and John C. Bennett. These mason-members petitioned the Grand Master of Illinois for permission to build a lodge in Nauvoo and it was granted on March 15, 1842, when new members, including Joseph, were inducted (Institute of Religious Research). He rose to the sublime degree right the following day.

The influence of his Masonic involvement was most pronounced in the ensuing development of the Mormon temple endowment ceremonies, which he introduced in less than two months after his entry into freemasonry. The president of the Mormon History Association, Dr. Reed Durham, expressed conviction that the study of masonry was essential in understanding Joseph Smith and the Church, considering that masonry pre-existed him and the Mormon Church (Institute of Religious Research 1999). Durham noted that Joseph's older brother Hyrum had already received the first three degrees of Masonry in Mount Moriah Lodge 112 of Palmyra, New York when Joseph was just getting initiated in the "presence of God (Durham as qtd in Institute of Religious Research)." The impact grew stronger after he became a member. The Endowment ceremony, which he introduced, was so sharply inspired by freemasonry that an observer referred to the ceremony as Celestial Masonry.

Masonic influence can also be inferred from the Nauvoo Temple design and architecture and the establishment of a Female Relief Society to include the women of the church (Institute of Religious Research 1999). The organization was viewed as Joseph's deliberate attempt at expanding Masonry in including the women. This happened in the Masonic Lodge room and only the day after Masonry was given to the men. Joseph's kind words to the women or sisters included Masonic-sounding, such as ancient orders, examinations, degrees, candidates, secrets, lodges, rules, signs, tokens, order of the priesthood and keys (Institute of Religious Research).

Durham also pointed to existing evidence that connects the beginnings of the Church to Masonic thought and influence. The entire political structure, including the Council of Fifty, the living constitution, the proposed flag, and the anointing and coronation of the king, links up with Masonic principles and ceremonies (Durham as qtd in Institute of Religious Research 1990). To him, the link was so inherent that Joseph must have first become a Mason and simply adapted, expanded or "glorified" freemasonry. Durham referred to Joseph's mission to restore all truth - the "mysteries" - and to incorporate these pieces into a whole. Now, these mysteries are part of the Priesthood in the Mormon Church, hence the Masonic influence on Joseph and his church is undeniable (Institute of Religious Research).

The overlap between occultism and Freemasonry within Mormonism is not unusual because Freemasonry itself developed out of the occult and occult rituals. What is striking was for Joseph and his followers to overlook the Bible's express prohibition of dabbling in the occult in Deuteronomy 18:9-12, such as in using divination, observing the times, enchanting or consulting with familiar spirits or necromancy (Institute of Religious Practice 1999).

The establishment of the Mormon Church by Joseph Smith occurred at the time of the Second Great Awakening of the revival movement in the early 1800s, starting in New York and spreading out until its disappearance in the 1840s (Klepp 2004). Vigorous preachers and large followings encamped themselves in tents where they held meetings for several days in an intensely religious atmosphere. Combined democratic idealism and evangelical Christianity screamed for moral regeneration by devoted Christians through reforms that would cleanse American society, especially in the industrializing North, of evils. These reforms included women's rights, temperance, educational improvements, the humane treatment of the mentally ill and the abolition of slavery (Klepp).

The Second Great Awakening was the overwhelming response to the series of social and political occurrences at the time. The abolitionist movement in the North contributed to the Civil War and, just before it, the…

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