Mormons, how much do you know about church history? I’m sure there’s a lot you can tell me about some of it—the First Vision, the translation of the Book of Mormon, the names of some of the cities where Mormonism was based in the first couple decades such as Kirtland and Nauvoo, some of the persecutions they faced, the trip to Utah, and you’d probably end with the Salt Lake Temple taking 40 years to build. If you’ve read up a bit and have a good memory, you might even be able to tell me some dates and specifics.
Ye the average Mormon can give very little history from the time the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley on. And unless you’re a Mormon apologist—perhaps not even then—the Mormon reader to whom this question is directed probably aren’t an exception to this rule. Why is that, do you think?
Was it lack of interesting history or teachings? Even brief research shows that it’s the exact opposite.
Was it lack of records? Hardly. There were scribes recording faithfully, producing multi-volume collections of sermons (e.g. the Journal of Discourses, referred to as the JoD) under the direction and approval of the leadership. Plenty of people kept journals.
Was it the kind of teachings and history going on? Most definitely.
Some of Brigham Young’s teachings, delivered from the pulpit as from God and as good as scripture (JoD 13:264) have outright been denounced, begging the question, who was right, and how can the wrong prophet be a true prophet? Either Brigham Young was right and the later prophet(s) proved to be false by denouncing God’s truths, or Brigham Young was false. Whichever was false, it potential renders all subsequent prophets false as well.
So what are these things that are hidden and denounces? Let’s look at a few. (Note: this is far from a complete list, not the least because my studies on this time period are relatively limited as yet.)
Multiple times, Brigham Young taught blood atonement from the pulpit. This is basically the idea that Jesus’ blood doesn’t’ cover all sins, so we have to have our own blood spilled to cover the most serious transgressions. Some have speculated that this is why Utah kept execution by firing squad long after every other state had abandoned it.
“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. I would at once do so in such a case; and under such circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands. … There is not a man or woman who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The Blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it; and the judgments of the Almighty will come, sooner or later, and every man and woman will have to atone for breaking their covenants.” (JoD 3:247)
“There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground. … It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit. As it was in the ancient days, so it is in our day; and though the principles are taught publicly from the stand, still the people do not understand them; yet the law is precisely the same.” (JoD 4:53-54)
This strange and convoluted doctrine was denounced later on, and it has been falsely denied that it was ever taught. Church published documents (primarily the JoD, still sometimes sold at Deseret) contain the doctrine.
“Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, profession Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.” (JoD 1:50)
“Some have grumbled because I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam. There are many who know that doctrine to be true.” (JoD 5:331)
Brigham Young was the absolute authority in early Utah—he could even tell the women how to wear their hair. He even called himself a dictator in a few instances. His word was law, both in civil and religious matters.
|Porter Rockwell, Brigham Young's bodyguard and a disreputable enforcer of Young's law.|
Racism/Teachings on Blacks
Brigham Young strongly taught that darker skin color was due to a curse from God for lesser righteousness. This is reflected in the Book of Mormon when the Lamanites were cursed with darker skin because of their sinful ways. Blacks were thought to have been less valiant in the pre-existence. This doctrine did not change until the 1970’s, when social pressure and church expansion outweighed the teachings of previous prophets and the ban was lifted, becoming one of the declarations at the end of D&C.
“When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity.” (JoD 2:143)
“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. … How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon t hem, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof.” (JoD 7:290-291)
“Treat the slaves kindly and let them live, for Ham must be the servant of servants until the curse is removed. Can you destroy the decrees of the Almighty? You cannot. Yet our Christian brethren think that they are going to overthrow the sentence of the Almighty upon the seed of Ham. They cannot do that, though they may kill the by thousands and tens of thousands.” (JoD 10:250)
Strange and False Teachings
Here are some things that will make Mormons do a double take. Mormons, before you read this, remember these are church published and approved sources that these quotes originally came from. Like all the quotes above, these are from Brigham Young unless otherwise noted.
“Does the earth conceive? It does, and it brings forth. … Where did the earth come from? From its parent earths.” (JoD 6:36 Heber C. Kimball)
“…no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are.” (JoD 7:289)
“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? …when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows. So it is with regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain. It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets; and so will this earth with it is celestialized.” (JoD 13:271)
Mountain Meadows Massacre
September 11, 2001 is not the first massacre for religion in America. On September 11, 1857, in southern Utah, approximately 120 unarmed non-Mormon men, women and children were murdered in cold blood by Mormons and Indians. This massacre of Americans by Americans was surpassed only by the Oklahoma bombing in 1995. Only one man was convicted for this horrible act, and went to his death declaring that Brigham Young had made him a scapegoat. There is much indicating that Brigham Young at least knew of the impending attack on the travelers, if not that he ordered it. See http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no98.htm for more information.
As we can see, there are many practices and teachings from this time that just plain don’t look good or sound good for the Mormon church. While they cannot be done completely away with while non-Mormons have so much reliable documentation on them, this time period is studiously untaught on Sundays. Why? Well…you tell me.