In addition to the Old and New Testaments, Mormons also believe in the Book of Mormon, discovered, they believe, in the 1820's by Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805-1844) which restored the authentic Church. Two later books by Smith include Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
Joseph Smith claimed to have had several "heavenly visitations" beginning in 1820. He says he was told that all existing Churches were in error and he would be the one to restore the true Church on earth. The angel Moroni led Smith to Manchester, New York where he found a book written on gold plates buried in a hill left there by Mormon, an ancient prophet. A "seer stone" later given to Smith enabled him to translate the writings resembling hieroglyphics. This book contained the history of ancient North Americans, specifically Jews who fled Jerusalem around 600 B.C. and sailed in an ark. Eleven others claimed to have seen this book before he returned it to the hill.
John the Baptist conferred on Smith and his scribe the "priesthood of Aaron" referring to the Old Testament ministry of Aaron, Moses brother, in the temple of ancient Israel. In 1829, Peter, James and John bestowed on them the "priesthood of Melchizedek" and gave them the "keys of apostleship". A year later, in 1830 at Fayette, New York, Smith organized the movement which soon would become Latter Day Saints.
Religious fear and bigotry showed itself in vehement persecution even after leaving New York and settling in Kirkland, Ohio. Smith would later move on to Independence, Missouri in 1838 where he hoped to build his temple. Further persecution forced them to journey on to Illinois, where after announcing he would run for president of the United States, he and his brother, Hyrum, were murdered by a Carthage, Illinois mob.
Today the Mormons are considered politically and morally conservative with a strong emphasis on country and family.
Soon, a Quorum of Twelve Apostles was accepted as the new leadership of the fledgling Church. Brigham Young (1801-1877) was made quorum president and after considerable dissension over his appointment led the remaining Church on to the deserts of Utah in 1846. Those who felt Smith's descendants should have been appointed successor along with Joseph Smith III became known as "anti-Brighamites" and began what is today known as the "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".
Arriving in Salt Lake City in July of 1847 the famous Mormon Tabernacle was constructed. Polygamy was soon revealed as having been commanded by God. After the U.S. Supreme Court denied all citizenship rights in the Edmunds Act of 1882 to polygamous followers, the Church president issued a writ in 1890 stating that it was officially discontinued. During these tumultuous years the Church had been legally unincorporated by the government and its assets were confiscated in 1887.
Today the Mormons are considered politically and morally conservative with a strong emphasis on country and family. They have established themselves as one of the outstanding religious communities in America with a remarkable ability to garner loyalty and dedication from its followers. Despite one the most tumultuous histories of any religion in the U.S. they were able to build one of the most popular Churches in America from the middle of the deserts of Utah.
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