One of the most curious and peculiarly American Christian groups is known as The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints. Informally, they are known as ‘Mormons’. Famous devotees include The Osmonds, author Stephenie Meyer and former US Republican candidate Mitt Romney. They have some 15 million members worldwide with over half living in North America. Most people are not aware that they have some bizarre beliefs.
1. Settled by the Near East
Contrary to what the evidence tells us about settlement of North America, Mormon doctrine has it that it was found and settled by Middle Eastern tribes who crossed the Atlantic in small boats and found their ‘Promised Land’. By their reckoning, both the North and South American continents should be populated with Phoenicians, Levantines and Egyptians. The boats that would’ve been available to those people could never have made an Atlantic crossing, and the less said about water and food supplies the better
2. Archaeological Claims
Related to above, the Mormon Church makes some pretty bizarre claims about the type of plants and animals that existed in the time when the events were supposed to have occurred. Horses, sheep, goats, oxen, donkeys, wheat, barley and elephants were all supposedly in North America (the Promised Land) having been taken there by the migrating Levantines. However, archaeologists have yet to find a single trace dating to before Columbus. Mormon Archaeology stands alone with no support outside of the church and it has made no progress since its foundation to prove its claims
3. Monogamy is Evil
Though the official position of the church has for a while been to promote monogamy and cast off polygamy of its past, there are a number of splinter groups who still cling to the idea that a man may take multiple wives if he so desires. The official position of the church was in the beginning to proclaim monogamy as evil. Prophet John Taylor once said: ‘The one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people.’
4. Book of Mormon – Failed Genetics
Based on the stories in the Book of Mormon, doctrine dictated that the Native Americans are the so-called Lost Tribe of Israel which found Promised Land. The LDS church still holds the position that the Native Americans are of Semitic stock. Luckily, genetics has proven time and time again that they are more closely related to oriental peoples of China, Japan and Mongolia than to the Holy Land. Not only do they lack the basic physical features, but recent testing confirms their crossing into North America correlates with the overall global picture of human migration
5. It Wasn’t Dan Brown’s Idea!
What got most people up in arms a decade ago about Dan Brown’s book was the central claim that Jesus not only married Mary Magdalene, but also went on to father a number of children with her. Though Brown got most of his inspiration from Baigent and Leigh, none of them were the first to claim that Jesus had had children ‘ it was the Book of Mormon. The book claims that Jesus married three times and had numerous children with all of his wives.
It is perhaps not difficult to believe that a holy book written in the 19th century would have the most outrageous racism and in the 21st century that same racism would be played down. The Second Book of Nephi 5:21 states that God cursed sinners by turning their skin black and rewarded the pious by turning their skin white. More than this, Joseph Smith was open about his feelings that all black people everywhere are the ‘Cursed sons of Cain’. The doctrine of black skin being a curse was finally abolished in 2013
7. Golden Plates
The story of the foundation of the religion is bizarre from beginning to end. Smith claimed that he had discovered golden plates in a cave which he immediately set about translating from a ‘Reformed Egyptian’. Smith was not an Egyptologist and no expert on hieroglyphs and The Rosetta Stone had only been translated the year before Smith apparently found the plates. To date, no written language has been discovered that could have been classed as a reformed Egyptian and no examples of Egyptian hieroglyphs have been found in situ outside of North Africa and the Middle East.
8. The Original Bible Conspiracy
Due to some heinous acts of the last two thousand years, it is not difficult to accept the possibility that the Catholic Church has systematically lied and covered up a lot of things. This is a more believable proposition now than it was in the 19th century but long before Dan Brown, Joseph Smith was claiming that The Vatican had struck out a great many books that it felt challenged its authority. Certainly there are a great many Testaments that never made it, but Mormons today believe that The Book of Mormon contains written works that were removed and destroyed.
9. Joseph Smith’s Character
Religious figures are often held up not just as pious but also as all-round decent people who did good wherever they went. Though Smith is today painted in this light he was spoken of by people who knew him as arrogant, deceptive, a drunkard (and he founded a church whose members are not permitted to drink alcohol) and that his family had a negative reputation in the community. He was regularly in trouble with the law and had to defend himself in no fewer than 48 criminal trials.
10. Baptising Your Ancestors
Remember your Jewish Great-Grand-Parent who died in a Nazi concentration camp? Or the famous medieval Catholic Bishop you were delighted to find was an ancestor of yours? They’re not Jewish or Catholic any more, they’re Mormon and they had no say in the matter. When people are re-baptised into the Mormon faith they are permitted to re-baptise a deceased member of the family without proof that they were related. Famous re-baptisms include Anne Frank and Marilyn Monroe.
This list is not extensive, for example despite their disparaging nature toward the various splintered Christian groups they can be rather dismissive of the various splinters within their own church. Often accused of racism and founded on 19th century imperialism and American Exceptionalism, the Mormon Church remains for many a bizarre cult straddling Christian and cultist beliefs.