So, you have a question or two about Joseph Smith and Mormonism, huh? You’re not alone. All over the world, people are searching the internet, trying to understand more about this “strange” religion they’ve heard about… Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the true name of the Mormon Church), etc. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of lies and misinformation out there, from members of other religions or members who have left the Latter-day Saint church, and have some sort of bone to pick. On the other hand, there are lots of amazing resources available, to learn the truth about the church, their history and beliefs. I’ll be sure to share some of those resources with you, at the end of this post.
One of my most favorite things about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that they’re an open book. Everything you want to know can be found on their website and supplemental resources. They share the positive and negative about their history. They address common faith concerns and questions brought up those those who are either seeking to understand or those intending to tear down the faith of others. They are rapidly uploading, printing, and sharing all documents they can find from church history, so literally all information they have is out there, despite how it makes them “look.” It’s pretty impressive, really. Humble. Confident. Truly, I believe what they’re confident in, is the ability for the Holy Ghost to testify of the truth of Christ’s gospel, no matter how imperfectly imperfect men have run God’s church on the earth. They Holy Ghost can offer personal revelation to those with an open mind and heart that can create the loyalty needed to keep the Kingdom of God pressing forward, until Christ comes.
With that said…
Why did Joseph Smith create Mormonism?
What a weird and random thing to create, right? Mormonism! Of all things. Why would someone claim to see angels, dig up a mysterious golden bible, tell everyone to wear magic underwear, and grab an extra wife while you are at it? LOL
If you were to create a religion, wouldn’t you… start simple, start small, and keep things grounded within conventional Christian doctrine?
As I mentioned, you are not alone; this ‘strange’ religion has garnered attention over the years. Many are deeply fascinated by Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (Hey, they even made a Broadway play about it!) Over the decades, various misconceptions and theories about why he established the Church have arisen.
In this post, we will dive into the truth behind these misconceptions and explore the REAL reasons behind the formation of the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) Church. Oh, and I will give you a ton of INSANE resources that will keep you busy for months to come.
Joseph Smith did not create the church; he restored it.
Let’s jump right out and say it. Joseph Smith did NOT create Mormonism, at least not in the sense of creating a whole new belief system from scratch. Instead, Joseph was a prophet CALLED by God to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ to the earth (the SAME Church that existed anciently.)
This Restoration was necessary because of a significant event in religious history known as the Apostasy. More on that in the show notes – er, resources.
So, how did this all start? Well, cozy up.
In the early 19th century, religious ‘craziness’ swept through the United States as various Christian denominations sought to understand and interpret the scriptures, and all claimed to have the TRUTH.
During this time, Joseph Smith, a young farm boy (14), began to ponder questions about God, Christ, and which Church was true – he was a special kid 🙂 In his search for truth, Joseph turned to the Bible and discovered a profound message in the Epistle of James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” (James 1:5).
And that’s what he did. He asked God which Church to join. Makes sense, right?
Church Formation Story – The First Vision
In response to this scriptural counsel, Joseph Smith went to a secluded grove of trees, kneeled, and prayed to his Father in Heaven. He received a remarkable VISION that would change the course of history. In the spring of 1820, near his home (Palmyra, NY), Joseph saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. And they spoke to him, face-to-face. Yowsers!
This event, known as the First Vision, marked the beginning of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And Their message for Joseph?? The true church was not upon the earth. HE would be the one to help RESTORE it.
Why did Christ’s church need to be restored?
I know what you are thinking… “That is great. But, why did the Church need to be restored? And, what the heck is the Apostasy mentioned above?“
It’s coming; it’s coming…
The foundation of the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) Church lies in the belief that Christ established a Church during His mortal ministry. We read this beginning in Acts, as the apostles worked to spread the Gospel and to build up His Church.
It could have gone much better. (sigh…) Due to the widespread apostasy (falling away from the true gospel), the loss of essential truths and authority, not to mention the killing off of the apostles, the original Church deviated from its pure teachings. It fell into darkness or disarray – definitely, a post for another day.
The world needed a restoration of the Gospel, and God chose Joseph Smith to fulfill this divine mission to restore His ONE true Church to the earth again.
So then, why do people attribute the Church to Joseph Smith? While he played a crucial role as the prophet through whom God worked to restore the Church, the TRUE focus is on the Savior, Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established based on HIS teachings, ordinances, and authority. Because Joseph’s story is so miraculous, it is easy to see why others attribute it to HIS Church.
This is an excellent talk, called What is the Blueprint of Christ’s Church by Tad R. Callister:
What is the politically correct term for “Mormon”?
While the term “Mormon” was historically associated with members of the LDS Church (Latter-Day Saints), the official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The word Mormon, comes from The Book of Mormon, the ancient book of scriptures from American inhabitants, that God helped Joseph translate from reformed Egyptian into English. Mormon was the name of one of the prophets in the scriptures, who had the assignment of compiling and abridging the records that had been passed down over the years. In Joseph Smith’s day, those who were angry with Joseph, for sharing the experience that he had with God, would call members of the church “Mormon,” in a derogatory way. Funny enough, members of the church adopted the term for themselves, for many, many years.
In recent years, Church leaders have emphasized the importance of using the full title/name to honor the Savior and highlight that the faith FOCUSES on Jesus Christ and His teachings. You can read more about the complete name of the church, here: “Thus Shall My Church Be Called.” by Russell M. Nelson
The Book of Mormon serves as another testament of Jesus Christ, complementing the Bible and reaffirming His love and atoning sacrifice. If you’re interested in learning more about The Book of Mormon, there is lots of great information on the site, Come Unto Christ.
The Restoration was a divine response to the Apostasy
Joseph Smith was not an inventor of a new religion but a chosen instrument in the hands of God to restore the TRUE Church of Jesus Christ.
The Restoration was a divine response to the Apostasy. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints center their FAITH on Jesus Christ and His Gospel, as taught in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
And that’s a wrap.
Some favorite resources for learning more…
The Great Apostasy
Book of Mormon