Question 191:

Who are the Mormons?



The theologian Dr Rüdiger Haupt writes about Mormons:

1. Founder

Joseph Smith was born in 1805 in the US State of Vermont. In his family superstition and religious restlessness were dominant. As a young man he had tried to discover buried treasure using crystal balls and was therefore convicted of fraud. Later he reported that God and Jesus had appeared to him and had requested that he should restore the original gospel. The reason: All Churches had fallen away from the true faith and were an abomination in Gods eyes. In 1827 an angel called Moroni had revealed to Smith secret writings (golden tablets) buried in a hill, which he translated and published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. For a variety of reasons his critics had him imprisoned in the prison of Carthage/Ill in 19844, where on 27th June he was shot to death by an angry mob.

2. Genesis & History

On 6. April 1830 J. Smith and some friends founded the Church of Christ in the State of New York. This name was changed in 1883 by the General Conference to Church of the Latter Day Saints. In the same fashion, this name was again changed by the General Conference in 1938 to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The community soon gained numerous followers and spread towards the West: Ohio, Missouri and Illinois were the most important stages. Because of the many new revelations of their prophet stranger and stranger teachings and practices developed among the Saints over time, so that this community could soon no longer be accepted by the church based society it found itself in. And so there were constant arguments with non-Mormons but also with government bodies. After the violent death of the founder of Mormonism, the Saints, led by Brigham Young, travelled towards the West in 1845/46, and in the summer of 1847 they reached the Great Salt Lake valley in the Rocky Mountains. Here they developed their centre Salt Lake City, later capital of the US State of Utah. A flourishing cultural centre had arisen from a salt desert. Thanks to their active mission the religion of the Mormons spread across the whole world (In Germany it has existed since 1952). Today more than 8 million people are followers of this new religion, the highest growth is found in Latin America and in East Asia.

3. Teachings & Practice

The Mormons consider themselves to be the only true Christian church on earth. They claim that God was once a human being and that people too can, assuming the right conditions, eventually become God. They stress the need for new revelations. Alongside the Bible, the Book of Mormons is their sacred literature. The core of Mormon practice are the secret temple rituals:

* Vicarious Baptism for the dead;

* The Endowment. The participants receive secret instruction, gestures and signs in order to be admitted to the kingdom of God;

* Marriage (sealing) for time and eternity; married couples remain together also in the afterlife.

4. Evaluation

Because of its unbiblical teachings which are based on the new revelations and the secret temple rituals, Mormonism is not part of the broad spectrum of ecumenical Christianity. Rather, it has to be seen as an American, syncretistic new religion. The meaning of almost all terms taken from the biblical-Christian context (e.g. sin, God, Christ, creation, disciple, resurrection, baptism, salvation etc.) has been changed almost completely and has been mormonised. Also, Mormonism calls America the continent of salvation, as the centre of Gods salvation story: The Garden of Eden was in the State of Missouri; Christ appeared on the American continent after his resurrection and would reside there after his second coming in the Independence Temple, Mo etc. Conversion to Mormonism is therefore not merely a change of religion, but a complete turning away from the Christian-ecumenical communion of churches. Mormonism represents a completely different, unfamiliar world. The consequence of this is great strain on the previous relations with society and in particular within families. The extreme beliefs of Mormons and the enormous amount of time individual Mormons are required to devote to their faith by individual Mormons are a constant source of tension in mixed faith families.

5. Critical Literature

* Haack, Friedrich-Wilhelm: Mormonen. München: EPV, 1989

* Hauth, Rüdiger: Kleiner Sektenkatechismus.

* Hutten, Kurt: Seher, Grübler Enthusiasten.


See also Wikipedia entry:

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