Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Beyond Mormonism’s Zion Curtain

In May 1844 Joseph Smith declared that he was establishing a kingdom “that will revolutionise the whole world.” (History of the Church, p.365) John Taylor, third president of the Mormon Church stated in 1865, “We do believe it and honestly acknowledge that this is that kingdom which the Lord has commenced to establish upon the earth, and that will not only govern all people in a religious capacity, but also in a political capacity” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p.53) And in 1859 Heber C Kimball, another Mormon leader, said, “And so the nations will bow to this kingdom, sooner or later, and all hell cannot help it” (Journal of Discourses, vol.7, p.170)

Council of Fifty

In March 1844, shortly before he died, Joseph Smith set up a secret organisation, the Council of Fifty. This council was charged with developing a one-world government based on a modified version of the American Constitution. The council, made up of unelected members and based along Masonic lines, was meant to become the highest court on earth, superior to any already established constitution or government. These Mormon machinations were a closely guarded secret and even today any records of those early council meetings and deliberations are unavailable for study. The existence and purpose of this secret council became known and writs were issued against seven members, “prominent citizens of Nauvoo”, for “treasonable designs against the state.”

“The scriptures indicated that Christ would rule as king over the kingdom of God. Smith took this idea quite literally and thought it only logical that he, as predecessor of the Saviour, should enjoy certain prerogatives of royalty. Consequently, shortly before his death, the prophet apparently had himself ordained as king of the earth” (Klaus Hanson, master’s thesis, quoted in the UTLM publication, Mormonism, Shadow or Reality?)

Joseph for President

In 1844 this council decided to run Joseph Smith for the presidency of the United States as a step in establishing the Mormon kingdom, “If we succeed in making a majority of the voters converts to our faith, and elected Joseph president, in such an event the dominion of the kingdom would be forever established in the United States...” (June 1855 letter by George Miller, quoted by Hyrum Andrus in, Joseph Smith and World Government, from Tanner, Shadow or Reality?)

To summarise, Joseph Smith set up a secret council to govern as a one-world government, had himself ordained to be king of the earth and ran for the presidency. His successors, Brigham Young and John Taylor, were also ordained to be king in their turn. The story of this hubristic episode in Mormon history is truly fascinating and goes a long way to explaining the imperious attitude often seen in Mormons as they take their message around the world. You can find out more about this on the Utah Lighthouse Ministry web site where I obtained much of this information on early Mormonism.

Of course, by the end of June 1844, Joseph Smith had been killed by a mob in a furious gunfight and Mormon dreams of the presidency and eventual world domination were crushed by a substantial serving of reality. By February 1846 Brigham Young was leading the Mormons in a disastrous trek west to finally settle beyond the reach and borders of the United States in the Great Salt Lake Valley. There they established a different kind of kingdom, just as secretive and despotic, but much reduced in its reach and influence from the original vision.

The Mormon Kingdom Today

Nevertheless, into modern times Mormons have entertained the idea that one day “men’s hearts will fail them”, governments will tumble and the Mormon Church with its priesthood organisation and reputation for strong self-government will be called upon to save America and the world, bringing order out of chaos. When we look at the Mormon organisation today it is well to remember that this is how Mormons see themselves. They have a self-image that reflects those early vainglorious ambitions and that belies the real state and strength of the Mormon Church today.

It is this that allows successive Mormon presidents to stand in the two general conferences every year and declare, “The Church has grown steadily since that day in 1830. It continues to change the lives of more and more people every year and to spread across the earth as our missionary force seeks out those who are searching for the truth”* while the fact is the Mormon Church has struggled to grow for some years and is described by some as “flat lining”. (*Thomas S Monson, April 2010 General Conference)

We have looked at Mormon demographics before. Here I want to look at the true geographical extent of the Mormon kingdom. It is still centred in Salt Lake City, Utah, which has a Mormon population of some 1.88 million in a total state population of 2.8 million according to 2009 stats. Utah is incontrovertibly a Mormon state and Mormonism is very much an American religion in that the great majority of Mormons today live in the Americas and the most significant concentration of Mormons is in the American Rocky MountainWest. The map on the right from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life illustrates the extent of the Mormon kingdom.

Seeking the Kingdom

The darkest colour marks Utah (51-100% Mormon affiliation according to the Pew Forum); it is currently like 67%. West of Utah is Nevada with 41-50% of people self-identifying as Mormons. North-west of Utah is Idaho (410,757), 31-40% Mormon. The other grey-blue coloured states, Wyoming (62,411), Montana (45,893), Oregon (146,617), Arizona (381,235) Alaska (31,268) and Hawaii (68,858) each boast a Mormon population of between 6% and 10%. The rest of the United States shows no more than 0-2% Mormons in its population.

Interestingly, New York State, the birthplace of Mormonism, has a trifling Mormon population of 76,811, less than 2% of the population and probably nearer 0%.

Outside these parameters Mormonism is all but invisible in terms of significant and established communities around the world. At 180,000 for instance the Mormon population of the UK is just 0.24% of the general population. In the rest of the world Mormonism doesn’t even fair as well as this. The Mormon Church outside the Mormon kingdom is truly an outpost of empire. While other churches and denominations can boast strong cultural relevance and identity across borders and traditions Mormonism is American to the core and is a stranger wherever else it goes in the world.

The strength of Mormonism in the United States, and especially in Utah is such that critics and commentators living at the heart of the Mormon kingdom sometimes talk about operating  “behind the Zion curtain.” But what of the great majority of people who, if they encounter Mormons at all, meet them beyond the Zion curtain? What will they be met with and is the Christian who lives outside the Mormon kingdom to approach his/her witnessing differently? That is what I want to address next time when we “Meet the Mormons.”

6 comments:

  1. Mormons really have no idea that Smith (and Young, etc) was essentially guilty of treason, that he intended to take over the world. It drives me freaking crazy. Especially in how "patriotic" they like to present themselves as today.

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  2. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints(Otherwise known as a Mormon) and fully active in my Faith, I would like to provide some clarity.
    We beleive that the Church is The same Church as set up by Christ during his earthly ministry, restored in these Latter Days through revelation.
    Joseph Smith is therefore a Prophet through whom God restored the fullness of his Gospel, so all who choose to live his laws can be blessed with all that our Father in Heaven desires us to receive.
    During the Milllenium (When Christ returns)the Church will become the Government with Christ as its head.
    The blessing of knowing that me and my Family are Sons and Daughters of our Father in Heaven is truelly a wonderfull thing. Knowing who we are,why we are hear and where we can go after this life provides us with much comfort and direction.
    These same blessings can be yours...all I suggest is that one studies what we beleive with an open heart and a contrite spirit.
    Than prayer to their Father in Heaven as did Joseph Smith (Following James Council in James 2:17)'If any of your lake wisdom let him ask of God....'
    God will not lie and neither will the Sirit of truth.
    As a Convert within the United Kingdom I can bare witness of this.
    Best wishes and Kind regards Gary

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    1. I cannot understand how anyone from any religous organisation can think that Salvation is found through doing good works eg going round knocking on doors being baptised for the dead or beleviing what a prophet tells us to do. All that God requires of us is that we are to belevie on the Lord Jesus Christ, for our salvation that is all. Our Salvaiton is given to us by faith and is not of works God`s word tells us this least any man should boast. John chapt 3 and Verse 16 of The World that anyone who believes in Him should not perish but have Eternal life. have you recevied this free gift from Jesus yet? There is only one Lord One Medaitor and that is our Saviour Jesus Christ.

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  3. Gary, thank you for taking the trouble to call by and leave a comment. Having been a Mormon myself for many years I do, as you can imagine, know and understand Mormonism and its teachings. While I appreciate your effort at bringing clarity I am disappointed that you have done what most Mormons do, i.e. say what you want to say and ignore the points in my carefully researched blog post.

    I don't doubt that you believe what you say you believe but what of Joseph Smith's being crowned king of all the earth? Of the council of fifty secretly charged with becoming a world government?

    The point of the post, of course, is to look at the actual extent and the Mormon kingdom and asking what are the implications of the Mormon Church's limited reach. What do you make of the Mormon expectation that your church will be called upon one day to govern in the face of pending disaster?

    I know all about Moroni's promise and the James reference Mormons imagine links to that injunction to pray about the Book of Mormon. Firstly, it is not James 2:17 but James 1:5. Secondly, James 1:5 has nothing to do with finding truth but with the wise application of truth already received; not truth but wisdom.

    I know what you believe; I believed it myself once. I ow believe differently and perhaps you will stay around to discuss further the differences.

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  4. I never knew that the Council of Fifty was based off of anything Masonic. It would be interesting to know what specifically was Masonic in the Council. I did know many of the Mormon men were Freemasons and that some of the early ritual was based off of Masonry.

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  5. Virtually all the temple ritual is a direct copy of Masonic practice, much more so the further back you go. Of course, it would be impossible to find information from original sources because the Council was and is secretive. Which raises the question, does the Council of Fifty still operate today in one form or another?

    Joseph Smith was "into" all things secretive and esoteric and one gets the impression sometimes that he really enjoyed this as a game as much as anything. The Book of Mormon preaches against what it calls "secret combinations" yet early Mormon leaders were involved in such associations from the beginning, from the cover up and lies concerning polygamy to crowning Joseph Smith to be king of the world.

    Looking back on my pre-1990 experiences of the Mormon temple I can see clear parallels with Masonry and a preoccupation with secrets and being initiated into them. Very different from the attitude of Paul who said, "We have renounced secret and shameful ways..." (2 Cor.4:2)

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