Sunday, 24 April 2011

Mormonism’s Cross-less Easter

"Crucifixion" by Carl Bloch
As I write this the Christian world celebrates the great good news that on a Friday some two thousand years ago Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, betrayed by a friend, denied by another, abandoned by still more, rejected by a world he created, a people he came to save and to serve, died a terrible death on a Roman instrument of torture and execution, suffered and died to bear away our sins so that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

More, we celebrate on Easter Sunday morning the miracle of his rising from the tomb in triumphant victory over death. Sin and shame nailed to the Cross and made a spectacle there and death disarmed and made impotent by life bursting forth from the tomb. “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
The Bible tells us that he suffered the judgement of God, judgement that should have been ours, on a Cross at Calvary. Peter writes, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Paul, writing to Christians in Collosae, in what is now modern Turkey, says that it is through Christ that God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself, bringing peace “through his blood, shed on the Cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20) Later in the same letter he writes:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with it's regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15)

The writer to Hebrews urges believers, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Again, Paul writes to Christians in the Greek city of Corinth, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24)

The picture of Jesus in the Bible is a picture of crucifixion, “Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified...” (Galatians 3:1) and the message preached in the first century was exclusively a message of Christ crucified, “When I came to you brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Finally, it was Jesus himself who said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” and John goes on to explain, “He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:32-33)

The Cross where Christ bore our sins;

The Cross where Christ's shed blood brings peace and reconciliation;

The Cross where Christ triumphed over powers and authorities;

The Cross that Christ endured for the joy set before him;

The Cross which, alone, is preached and which is the power and wisdom of God;

The Cross which is the clear message of Scripture;

The Cross to which all men will be drawn when Christ is lifted up on it.
Artful Mormonism
The artwork in a typical Mormon Ensign magazine is rarely less than splendid and the Easter issue is no exception. The cover features a painting of the Last Supper by LDS artist Walter Rane, while the inside front cover features the famous Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Antonio Ciseri.

The first article, an Easter message from Mormon Church president Thomas S Monson, features paintings of the empty tomb and of Mary Magdalene encountering the risen Christ. The on-going series What we Believe addresses the subject of the atonement, illustrated with paintings of Gethsemane and of a post-resurrection Christ appearing in the Americas.

An article by Mormon apostle Todd Christofferson is about communion, called “the sacrament” by Mormons, and is illustrated with paintings of Christ in Gethsemane, the risen Christ and Jesus healing a blind man. Then an article by the late Mormon apostle Bruce R McConkie addresses The Purifying Power of Gethsemane and is illustrated with paintings of Christ in Gethsemane and the resurrected Christ appearing to his disciples.

The magazine's inside back cover is a painting entitled Resurrection Morn by Steven Edwards and features a view from inside the empty tomb looking out past the stone that is rolled away into the morning sun.

But the pièce de rèsistance is a wonderful photo journal of an exhibition of some of the magnificent altar pieces by the 19th century Dutch artist Carl Bloch. It features a piece based on Christ's encounter with doubting Thomas (John 20:25) , Christ healing the sick at Bethesda (John 5:8), Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane (comforted by an angel), The daughter of Jairus (Mark5: 36-42), Christus Consolator (Christ our consolation) and Christ blessing a little child.

Anyone perusing this magazine might be carried away in rapture with the fine artwork and the fine words. Familiar words of resurrection, repentance and healing, atonement, prayer, sacrament and commemoration. So carried away they might easily fail to notice the absence of the one thing that defines Easter for Christians, the one thing central to the message of the Bible.


Where is the Cross?

To be sure, the Cross is not entirely overlooked. In Thomas Monson's contribution the Cross is seen as the instrument of Jesus' death, but he is strangely silent about what the Bible clearly teaches was achieved on the Cross. Passing quickly over Golgotha he writes, “No words in Christendom mean more to me than those spoken by the angel to the weeping Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they approached the tomb to care for the body of their Lord, 'Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.'” (Luke 24:5-6)

Certainly, these are thrilling words but consider for a moment words more thrilling still, words more treasured by Christians even than those spoken by the angel at the empty tomb - “It is finished.” (John 19:30) These words spoken by Christ from the Cross indicating the completion of a task, the discharging of a debt. As someone has said, my debt, paid in full, on the nail! This Cross is absent from the Mormon prophet's thoughts and words.

In an article on repentance much is made of relying on Christ's atoning work, “He suffered in His body and spirit to pay the penalty for our sins if we repent.” But what follows is not the familiar account of Calvary pressed on us by the Bible but a quote from the Mormon book of Doctrine and Covenants:


For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering cause myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit...” (D&C 19:16-20) This is not Golgotha but Gethsemane; where is the Cross?

As though to confirm our rising suspicions, the What we Believe article explains, “As part of his Atonement, Jesus suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary.” This is illustrated with a painting of Jesus in Gethsemane and contains again text from D&C 19:16-20. Once again we are in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Todd Christofferson, in his article on communion, refers to “His suffering and death on Gethsemane and on Golgotha.” Perhaps here we have a clue to the order and place of each element of Christ's work; suffering in Gethsemane and death on Golgotha.

Bruce R McConkie's article, originally a general conference address given on April 6, 1985, two weeks before his death, might throw further light on this question. The title is telling, The Purifying Power of Gethsemane; a strange thing to the ears of a Christian used to looking to the Cross on which the atoning and purifying blood of Christ was shed.

McConkie declared, “this holy ground (Gethsemane) is where the sinless Son of the Everlasting Father took upon himself the sins of all men...” He goes on to describe how “He sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup His Father had given Him.” Again and again we find ourselves in Gethsemane as we consider the Mormon message.

The Cross is there as he declares, “while He was hanging on the cross for another three hours...all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred” and he says of the atonement, “I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha” but the emphasis throughout is Gethsemane.

He draws parallels between Eden, Gethsemane and the empty tomb, saying, “We must cast aside the philosophies of men and the wisdom of the wise and hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth...As we read, ponder, and pray, there will come into our minds a view of the three gardens of God – the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden of the Empty Tomb...” Where is the Cross and what are these philosophies of men we must cast aside as we seek truth?

These seem almost the words of a double-minded man and I take no pleasure in saying this given the portentous circumstances in which this address was given. But Christian Scripture is clear, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

Yet McConkie keeps returning to Gethsemane while looking back almost in a token gesture to Golgotha, as indeed does the whole magazine. It is as though Golgotha is an official stance presented to the world while Gethsemane is where the heart is. Maybe something he wrote earlier can shed some light on this:

"As He came out of the Garden, delivering himself voluntarily into the hands of wicked men, the victory had been won. There remained yet the shame and the pain of his arrest, his trials, and his cross. But all these were overshadowed by the agonies and sufferings in Gethsemane. It was on the cross that he 'suffered death in the flesh', even as many have suffered agonising deaths, but it was in Gethsemane that 'he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come to him'" (The Mortal Messiah, McConkie, pp 127-28)


mere death on the cross

There you have it, the way Mormons think about the atonement. Here is atonement in the garden but mere death on the Cross. Here, I believe, is the explanation for the absence of the Cross in this Easter Ensign. It is not there because it is not at the forefront of Mormon thinking as it has been in the thinking of Christians down the ages.

It seems almost perverse, certainly confusing, when the Bible is so clear and unequivocal on the subject. But then this is one of the marks of a counterfeit of Christianity. Paul warns of those who “are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ”, and where better to pervert the gospel than to strike at the heart of the message, the Cross?

Everything we know and understand about the atonement, its means, purpose and ends, rests at the Cross. The message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone is given breath and life at the Cross. Take away the Cross and you take away grace, take away grace and you end up with “a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all.” (Galatians 1:6-7)

We should heed the warning of Paul, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:8)

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood. (Isaac Newton)

You can read more about what Mormon leaders have to say about the Cross in an article entitled Special Witnesses or Enemies of the Cross of Christ?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Mormon Covenant With the Dead

In an article in the Meridian Magazine the story is told of how Thousands of Hands Brought Joseph Smith’s Descendants Together. It is a powerful story of an apparently Herculean effort to bring the descendants of Joseph Smith together to celebrate his 200th birthday in 2005. A story that testifies powerfully of the exalted place given the man of whom Mormons sing, “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah.” It must be cold for Jesus there in his shadow.

What is both striking and disturbing about this account however is the means by which these faithful Mormons believe it was achieved. The mail services of the world were used, phone calls no doubt were made, invites were sent out and no doubt prayers were uttered. Oh, and by the way, the dead were recruited to help.

Having received a charge from the late Mormon prophet Gordon B Hinckley “to create opportunities for the posterity of Joseph Smith to be receptive to the teachings of the gospel”, Michael Kennedy Jr,, third great-grandson of Joseph Smith, set about his task. His wife, writing the article, reports:

The first impression Michael felt guiding him towards accomplishing this charge was, “If you do not have very many members of your family on this side of the veil who are members of the Church, it is because you do not have very many members of your family on the other side of the veil who are members of the Church; for it is those whose temple work has been completed who can impact the lives of their living posterity so they become receptive to the teachings of the gospel.” [quotes in original, emphasis added]

She goes on to explain how they went about achieving their goal, contacting and persuading people to come to a gathering in Salt Lake City:

“Over 500…colorful invitations to Joseph’s 200th Birthday Celebration were made and laid inside the cover of a personally autographed book by Matthew Brown, “Joseph Smith: The Man, The Mission, The Message.” The book with the invitation was mailed to each descendant with faith that all the temple work we performed over the last two decades for the deceased families of the Prophet would enable them to impact the lives of their living posterity, and there would be a great desire to accept the invitation and come to this celebration. And they came, many testifying of impressions and feelings they could not explain but knowing they had to come.” [emphasis added]

She ends the article with these words:

“May the Lord bless all those who have had a part in this gathering including those who were with us in the years 1987-2000 as hundreds gathered in the temple with our families and acted as proxies to do the work for Joseph and Emma’s children. This temple work gave our ancestors on the other side of the veil access to their children on this side of the veil. This in turn perpetuated a desire to help and softened hearts, providing a way to bring about the charge Michael was given; “to create opportunities for the posterity of Joseph and Emma to be receptive to the teachings of the gospel. “ Our hearts are full of gratitude to all of our friends who have stood by us and continue to support our efforts to gather the Prophet’s family.” [Emphasis added]

You will no doubt remember from Sunday School, the story of Dives and Lazarus:

There was a certain rich man who was customarily clothed in purple and fine linen and making merry in luxury every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table But even the dogs came and licked his sores.

And it happened that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich one also died and was buried. And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.”

But Abraham said, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things. But now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, there is a great chasm fixed between you and us; so that they desiring to pass from here to you cannot, nor can they pass over to us from there.”

And he said, “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”

Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them.”

And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if one should go to them from the dead, they would repent.”

And he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded, even though one rose from the dead.” (MKJV)

Wasn’t Judah chastised and punished for making a covenant with the dead (Isaiah 28:15,19) and didn’t God tell Judah that as a consequence Jerusalem would be to him like an altar hearth, that her prophets would be blind and that her voice would be “low out of the dust” as though from the realms of the dead (Isaiah 29 – No it is not a prophecy about the Book of Mormon but a judgement on disobedient Judah)

Isaiah wrote, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people enquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony. If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19-20)

The psalmist wrote, “I life my eyes up to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps.121:1,2) The Mormon, on the other hand, seems to look to the dead, appears prepared to make a covenant with the dead.

While the gospel of Christ is that death and sin have been conquered the message of Mormonism seems to be that the great gulf between the dead and the living, a gulf described by Jesus as unbridgeable, has been bridged and the dead once more have communion with the living. I really think Mormons need to go back and read Isaiah 29 again and grasp the dire consequences that fall to those whose covenant is with the dead and not with the LORD.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Book of Mormon in the Bible–Isaiah 29

Mormons believe and teach that Isaiah 29 prophesies the Book of Mormon:

Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! Add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel. And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and they speech shall whisper out of the dust (Isaiah 29:1-4 KJV)

This, they say, is a coded reference to coming events in America. Ariel, the city of Jerusalem, is to be virtually destroyed sometime in the future (“Add ye year to year, let them kill sacrifices”, or as the NIV puts it, “let your cycle of festivals go on. Yet I will besiege Ariel”). Then, claims the Mormon apostle LeGrand Richards, “[Isaiah] seems to be carried away in a vision to witness a similar destruction of the cities of Joseph, ‘and it shall be unto me as Ariel’”. (A Marvellous Work and a Wonder, p.67-69).

Isaiah, then, is seeing in vision the destruction of Jerusalem and a similar destruction of Book of Mormon cities, the cities of Joseph. It cannot be Jerusalem spoken of here, it is reasoned, because the plight of whoever is being besieged is being compared with the plight of Jerusalem.

These people will be brought low and would speak out of the ground. Their speech would be “low out of the dust”. LeGrand Richards reasons, “The only way a dead people could speak ‘out of the ground’…would be by the written word, and this the people did through the Book of Mormon. Truly it has a familiar spirit, for it contains the words of the prophets of the God of Israel”. The prophet goes on:

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed. And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as these people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” (Isa.29:11-14 KJV).

Here is the Book of Mormon, whose bringing forth is counted “a marvellous work and a wonder” by the LDS Church. A sealed book understood only by revelation and not by the wisdom of men; shades of Prof. Charles Anthon. Typically, they have decoded this vision with very little reference to the facts.

Ariel is Ariel

Ariel certainly is Jerusalem and her destruction is foreshadowed in this vision. God’s people had turned to an alliance with Egypt to against Assyria. God warned them that their dependence on political alliances instead of on Jehovah would be their destruction; Assyria would be the downfall of Jerusalem. In their arrogance they refused to believe Isaiah and were judged for holding their cycle of festivals and offering their sacrifices, having a semblance of religion, but ignoring God’s mouthpiece.

And it shall be unto me as Ariel”, (v2).

What shall be as Ariel? Jerusalem shall be as Ariel. Jerusalem shall be as Jerusalem? It makes no sense! Yes it does. The Old Testament prophets used a variety of literary and rhetorical devices, to lend vividness and emotion to their messages. Through these devices they expressed their theological themes. The most common technique they used was wordplay.

Wordplay might involve the repetition of a single word with the same sense as in Hosea 8:3, 5. Verse three tells us that Israel had rejected (zānah) what is good by breaking her covenant with God (v.1) and turning to idolatry. Consequently the Lord rejected (zānah) Samaria’s calf-idol (v.5) which would be broken to bits in judgement (v.6). This wordplay draws a direct correspondence between God’s response and the sin that prompted it.

It can involve the repetition of a single word in a different sense (explicit polysemantic). Isaiah 1:19-20 is a very good example. The LORD promises that if the people obey (vv 16/17) they will eat (tờkēlû) the good things of the land. However, if they rejected God’s demands they would be destroyed (tukklu) (let. eaten or devoured) by the sword. The use of the idea of eating in the two senses highlights the contrast between the promise and the threat.

It can involve the use of a single word with two meanings (implicit polysemantic). In Amos’ time those who rebelled against the prophet expected to be delivered by the LORD, such deliverance described by the word nāsal. In Amos 3:12, however, Amos uses the same word to describe Israel being not saved but salvaged as a sheep might be from the mouth of a wolf. Israel would not be triumphantly delivered (nāsal) but salvaged (nāsal) drawing out the contrast between what they expected and what would happen and injecting the prophecy with irony.

Then we come to the word play used in Isaiah 29. This involves two or more words with identical sounds (homonymy). The Hebrew word for Ariel (ar-ee-alẻ) sounds like the Hebrew word for altar hearth (har-alẻ). In Ezekiel 43:15 we come across the same word to describe an altar hearth.

She [Jerusalem] will be to me like an altar hearth.” (NIV)

Jerusalem, after the fighting and bloodshed of siege warfare, shall be turned into a virtual “altar hearth”. This is exclusively Jerusalem’s fate being prophesied. Her people will be brought low to beg for mercy with their faces in the dust. This is a gruesome picture of defeat at the hands of a brutal enemy.

“…and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust” (v4)

Necromancy

This is a most unfortunate misuse of scripture by the Mormon Church. In Isaiah 8:19 Jehovah expressly forbids his people to “seek unto them that have familiar spirits”. These are mediums and spiritualists. Tragically, in their crisis, Judah had turned, not only to political alliances for safety but to mediums. They boasted that they had made a bargain, or covenant, with death and that, “when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us” (Isa.28:15).

This bargain was a form of necromancy, or consultation with the dead. God made it clear that there would be no protection for them in such bargains, “Your covenant with death shall be disannulled and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it” (Isa.28:18). Judah expected to escape death but would, herself, speak as from the realm of the dead, “out of the dust”.

A Sealed Book

What about the sealed book? This is simply saying that God’s word had become to them like a sealed book. The key to understanding this is the previous verse:

For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed…”

The book is God’s word that had become closed to them because God had closed their eyes (the prophets and seers). Their own wisdom in understanding these events would fail them, for the book

[is delivered] to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed. 12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.”

Neither the learned nor the ignorant could read what God had sealed.

A Marvellous Work and a Wonder

God will perform wonder upon wonder (Isa.29:14 NIV) among his people, the result of which will be that the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish. All they have come to depend upon will come to nothing. What seems like wisdom to them will be shown to be folly. What seems safety will be no safety and, where they imagined they saw foolishness, i.e. in the words of the prophet, they would see God’s wisdom working its course. Paul uses part of this same text in reference to God’s provision of salvation through Christ:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. (1 Cor.1:18-19 NIV)

This, then, is the marvellous work and a wonder. It is the foolishness of God frustrating the wisdom of men, For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe…For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man” (Cor.1:25 NIV)

Monday, 4 April 2011

Monday Mormon: How Well Do You Know Your Mormon Leaders?

In anticipation of the April General Conference just passed the March 2011 issue of the Ensign magazine carried a sickly dull piece entitled How Well Do You Know Our Church Leaders? Alongside a list of the fifteen current leaders of the Mormon church was a list of asinine biographical facts and readers were challenged to match the fact to the man.

I cannot imagine anything so mind-numbing as trying to guess which General Authority moved to a dirt farm in Pocatello, Idaho when he was five, or which is known among his family as Hal. To be fair I can’t imagine many Mormons reaching for their pens to take this challenge except perhaps those who have two years food storage, their four generations completed and a picture of the Mormon leadership on the wall of their “family room.”

It did strike me as a good idea though, it just needed spicing up a bit. So here is a roll call of Mormon leaders past and more recent and some biographical data. The question is simple; How Well do you Really Know Your Mormon Leaders?

Which of these seven key Mormon leaders fit the facts? Some appear more than once:

Joseph Smith,  Brigham Young, Henry D Moyle, Joseph Fielding, Spencer W Kimball, David Whitmer, Gordon B Hinckley Heber J Grant.

As a young man he was tried in 1826 for imposture after deceiving people that he could find buried treasure on their land by means of a seer stone?

The Mormon Health law, the Word of Wisdom, was given in 1833 and forbade the drinking of alcohol. Ten years later this man had a bar built in his home and passed a law giving the mayor of Nauvoo authority to “sell or give spirits of any quantity as he in his wisdom shall judge to be for the health and comfort and convenience of [travellers]”

As a young General Authority he arranged to buy forgeries of original Mormon documents in 1985 from Mark Chapman, the Salt Lake City Bomber, including some, the originals of which,  the Mormon Church already owned.

He was convicted in 1899 of “unlawful cohabitation” (polygamy) nine years after the Mormon Church had renounced the practice and in 1903 he  fled the USA to avoid arrest.

He entered the Salt Lake Valley virtually penniless and died a millionaire.

He declared all previous covenants null and void and married other men’s wives.

He said that everything he preached was scripture.

He taught that the first man, Adam, had come to earth from another planet, was God and was the literal father of Jesus Christ.

When he died in 1945 he was the last leader of the Salt Lake sect of Mormonism to have practiced polygamy.

He introduced baseball baptisms in post-war Britain and Europe, a programme in which parents were asked to sign permission slips to have their children baptised, being told that they were nothing more than parental permission for their children to play baseball.

In 1837 in Preston, England, he preached in the pulpit of his brother, a Christian minister, and stole a large part of his congregation before his brother realised what was happening and barred him.

He said that within fifteen years of conversion he saw Indian people (Lamanites) change colour because of their righteousness, becoming “white and delightsome” (2 Nephi 30:6, pre-1981 Book of Mormon)

He was excommunicated in 1838, never to return to the Mormon Church.