Nauvoo: Persecution or provoked reaction to zany cultism?

Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier
By Benjamin E. Park
Liveright Publishing, 2020, 324 pp.

5 Stars

Joseph Smith Jr. founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) in 1830 in Fayette, New York. The Mormons moved from Western New York to Kirtland, Ohio, to Far West, Missouri, to Nauvoo, Illinois, and finally to the Great Salt Lake Basin in Utah. The bizarre tenets and practices of the cult alarmed the local populations wherever they moved and fomented opposition.

In this excellent book, historian Benjamin Park focuses on the Mormons’ settlement at Nauvoo, Illinois from 1839 to 1846. Non-Mormons in neighboring Illinois towns were increasingly alarmed and antagonized by 1) the unified Mormon voting bloc in state elections, 2) Nauvoo’s charter whereby the city (at Smith’s direction) granted itself extraordinary powers, 3) the city’s large and intimidating militia, the Nauvoo Legion, comprised of 2500 volunteers, and 4) the spreading rumors of Mormon polygamous marriages. Smith’s defensive measures further escalated the tensions. He ordered an opposition party’s printing press destroyed and declared martial law. Smith was arrested and he and his brother were murdered by an angry mob at the Carthage, Illinois jail on June 27, 1844. Smith was age 38 years old. Brigham Young assumed leadership of the church and led the 15,000 Mormon residents of Nauvoo to the Great Salt Lake Basin in Utah.

Mormons contend the LDS church was the victim of diabolical persecution at Kirtland, Far West, and Nauvoo, but, as Park shows, much of the angry opposition was the result of Smith’s own making.

Park details how Mormon theology “progressed” during the Nauvoo period, including proxy baptisms for the dead and polygamous marriage “sealings.” Some of Smith’s most passionate opponents were disaffected members who were shocked by their “prophet’s” increasing megalomania and secretive promotion of polygamy. Some historians put the number of Smith’s plural wives at Nauvoo as high as 49, including several under the age of 18, and many women who were already married to other church members.

I enjoyed reading this very interesting history of the Mormons’ Nauvoo period, but it’s sad thinking about the millions of souls who have been entrapped by the Mormon false gospel. Many Mormon tourists flock to Nauvoo in the summer months. The city is called the “Mormon Williamsburg.” Tourists can visit the rebuilt temple and the former homes and commercial buildings belonging to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc. This is another example of how unsaved pseudo-Christians build religious monuments that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Above: The Mormon temple looms over the city of Nauvoo in this 1846 daguerreotype. The temple was subsequently destroyed by arsonists and a tornado after the Mormons had departed for Utah.

Throwback Thursday: “Dad, let’s get out of this blank blank place!”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on August 31, 2016 and has been revised. The last two throwbacks were related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). Today, I’ll finish up this short series with a humorous memory from long ago.

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This story may be a little offensive to some so I apologize in advance. I mean no offense to my Lord or fellow believers, but I think the words are a valuable part of the story. As a little background, our youngest son, Steve, was around five years old at the time and I hadn’t accepted the Savior Jesus Christ yet. The language around our home may have been a little raw at times.

Sometime back around 1982-83, Steve and I packed into the car and headed to Fayette, New York, about 50 miles away. I had studied the origins of the Mormon church for several years and had already visited the church-sponsored visitor centers and historic sites in Palmyra (Smith family home, Sacred Grove, Hill Cumorah, and Grandin print shop where the Book of Mormon was printed). In Fayette was the Peter Whitmer farm and visitor center. Whitmer had been an early follower of Joseph Smith. The Mormon church was formally organized at the Whitmer farm in 1830.

Steve and I arrived at the Whitmer site and we began strolling through the visitor center exhibit. The elderly husband and wife Mormon missionary couple assigned to the center came over to greet us and commenced with their sales pitch. I had no intention of joining Mormonism (I was already well aware of much of the church’s dubious history and theology at that point), but I enjoyed engaging the couple in conversation and impressing them with how knowledgeable I was. After about ten minutes of conversation, our young son began losing his patience and piped in, “Dad, can we go now? ” I replied with that pat parental answer, “In a little while.” After ten more minutes of talking, a much more frustrated Steve said, “DAD! Can we go now???” I was disappointed my son had interrupted us again, so I gave him the fatherly stink eye and said once again that we would be leaving soon. Sensing their opportunity was coming to an end, the elderly couple began pushing VERY hard to “close the deal.” After several more minutes, Steve could no longer contain himself and angrily blurted out, “DAD, LET’S GET OUT OF THIS G** D*** PLACE!” The couple’s jaws dropped right down to the floor. I was stunned and very embarrassed. My son had never spoken that way to me before, in private or public. But I was also relieved that he gave us a good reason to walk away. I apologized and we scooted out the door. As I looked back, the old couple was still standing there in a state of shock. I think I remember buying my son an ice cream cone on the way home. Steve, was only five, but he had nailed it right on the head.

The chronology is a little fuzzy after 40 years, but I believe my wife and I accepted the Lord just a few months after this encounter. That poor couple was selling a false gospel of works religion and much of their church’s unorthodox doctrine had no connection to the Bible. We Christians proclaim the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone! And we stand on the Truth of God’s Good Word, not on some home-brewed religion or traditions.

Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone.
Sola Gratia, salvation by God’s grace alone.
Sola Fide, through faith alone.
Solus Christus, in Jesus Christ alone.
Soli Deo Gloria, to the glory of God alone.

http://www.gotquestions.org/sinners-prayer.html

Steve is now 43-years-old and, sadly, has not accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, but we’re still praying!

Throwback Thursday: More “problems” with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on August 30, 2016 and has been revised. This is the second installment in a three-post “Throwback Thursday” series on Mormonism.

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As I mentioned in last week’s post (see here), several decades ago I spent a lot of time studying the origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). I learned the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, claimed to have translated some Egyptian papyri into the “Book of Abraham” in 1835. When the papyri were discovered 132 years later, they were found to be only simple Egyptian funerary instructions rather than the writings of Abraham. Smith was proven to be a charlatan.

But the “Book of Abraham” hoax is far from the only embarrassing and incriminating item in LDS history. Today, let’s look at 4 other problems the LDS church has a difficult time explaining.

1) Origin of Native Americans disproved

In early 19th-century America, there was endless speculation and debate on the origins of the Native Americans. Joseph Smith was allegedly directed to golden plates by the angel Moroni in 1823, which he subsequently translated into the Book of Mormon. According to the Book of Mormon text, a group of Israelites traveled by boat to the Americas around 600 BC. The immigrant group eventually split into two factions, the warlike, dark-skinned (natch) Lamanites and the peaceful, godly, fair-skinned Nephites. Jesus Christ supposedly appeared to the Lamanites and Nephites after His resurrection and peace reigned for a short time, but conflict then resumed. The unbelieving Lamanites slaughtered the last of the Nephites at a cataclysmic battle in 385 AD at Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, NY. According to the Book of Mormon, the Native Americans are descendants of the Lamanites. However, modern science has thrown a wrench into the Book of Mormon narrative. Researchers agree that the ancestors of the Native Americans migrated from Eastern Asia to the Americas over the ancient Bering Strait land bridge. DNA evidence totally debunks the Book of Mormon’s claims that Native Americans are of Semitic origin. Native Americans have no Israelite/Jewish DNA. This is irrefutable evidence that “should” cause Mormon leaders to shut down their temples and padlock the doors.

2) No evidence of grand Nephite civilization

The Book of Mormon describes a highly advanced Nephite civilization with cities scattered across the Americas. However, not one shred of archaeological evidence has ever been unearthed which supports the Book of Mormon’s claims of a vast Nephite civilization with its “Reformed Egyptian” language. Despite intense efforts by the Mormon church, archaeology offers Smith’s Book of Mormon tale zero support.

3) Blacks denied priesthood then allowed

The second prophet and president of the LDS church, Brigham Young, declared in 1852 that Black men could not be Mormon priests. He claimed Blacks were descendants of Ham and their dark skin was the curse of Cain and, as such, they could not attain the priesthood. Due to mounting societal pressures, the twelfth prophet of the church, Spencer Kimball, reversed Young’s declaration in 1978 and accepted Black men into the priesthood. How could one God-led prophet reverse the teachings of another?

4) Polygamy encouraged then abandoned

Joseph Smith introduced polygamy into the church as a sanctioned and blessed practice. His early successors continued to condone and encourage polygamy. However, in the face of mounting pressure from the U.S. government, Wilford Woodruff, the 4th prophet and president, claimed to receive a revelation in 1890 discontinuing plural marriage. Hmm, the Mormon god seems to be quite a vacillating character, reversing himself on such important issues as the priesthood for Black men and polygamy.

Yes, false prophets and false religions abound. There are many denominations that claim to be “Christian” but do they uphold the orthodoxy of the Word of God? Do they proclaim the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone? Be cautious of what and who you embrace. The Lord God has provided more than enough proof for even the most credulous LDS that Joseph Smith was a deceiver and Mormonism is a false religious system. If your favorite TBN “evangelical” preacher embraces Mormon, Glenn Beck, cut your ties. You’re in trouble if you’re getting your theology from TBN.

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the (false) prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” – Jeremiah 23:16

Throwback Thursday: The “Book of Abraham” hoax: Iron-clad proof that Joseph Smith and Mormonism are frauds

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post about Mormonism that was originally published back on August 29, 2016 and has been revised. The next two Throwbacks will be about Mormonism as well.

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In the past, I’ve posted some messages about how politically-conservative pundit, Glenn Beck, has been invited to participate in evangelical-sponsored events. Beck is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. Some misguided evangelicals argue that Beck shares the same “moral values” as conservative Christians and “loves God righteously” according to his own belief system. They argue evangelicals would be better off embracing religious Americans like Beck who share the same “moral values” rather than checking the fine print of their denominational membership cards in this age of encroaching secularism.

Really? I say not so fast.

I’m a bit of a history geek and back in the late-1970s and early-80s I was curious about the Mormon church, which had its beginnings in Palmyra, New York, about 25 miles from where I live. Joseph Smith claimed that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him in 1820, which later led to his receiving “golden tablets” and producing the Book of Mormon. Smith founded the Mormon church near Palmyra, and it subsequently relocated to Ohio, then to Missouri, then to Illinois, and finally to Utah.

The Mormon church has some extremely strange, unbiblical theology, but I will only touch on a few particulars for this post. Mormons do not preach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. They teach baptismal regeneration and that God the Father was once a mortal man who advanced to deity by obeying a different god. Mormons believe that by following their church’s requirements, they can achieve deity themselves and rule over their own universe.

Joseph Smith claimed to be God’s prophet and to receive direct revelation. But while studying Mormonism, I discovered some irrefutable proof that Joseph Smith was a deceiver and a false prophet.

After the church had moved to Kirtland, Ohio, a traveling exhibit came to town, which included some ancient Egyptian papyri. Smith got his hands on the papyri and translated them into “The Book of Abraham,” alleged writings from the Old Testament patriarch, which was subsequently canonized as Mormon scripture. In 1967, the very same papyri in question were discovered in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Trained Egyptologists examined the hieroglyphics and found they were Egyptian pagan funerary rites. Smith’s “translation” was proven to be a complete and total lie, a fabrication.

“When Joseph first gave his translation, hieroglyphics were undecipherable. Today they are. He was safe in saying anything he wanted to, and there would be no way of proving him wrong. But with the resurfacing of the same papyri he used to do his Book of Abraham translation and the fact that he did not in any way do it correctly should be proof enough that Joseph Smith lied about his abilities from God. He has been shown to be a false prophet.” – from “The Book of Abraham Papyri and Joseph Smith,” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (a link to the complete article is at the bottom)

Mormon apologists backpedaled by declaring that the papyri were simply a “catalyst” for revelation! Oy vey.

Smith was proven to be an absolute, 100% fraud, yet the Mormon church marches on, drawing more poor souls into its false gospel. And now we have the “evangelical” compromisers on TBN inviting Mormon Glenn Beck to help them defend “American values” and the “gospel.”

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1

For more on the “Book of Abraham” and Mormon scam, see here.

A biased examination of “convent escape narratives”

Escaped Nuns: True Womanhood and the Campaign Against Convents in Antebellum America
By Cassandra L. Yacovazzi
Oxford University Press, 2018, 202 pages

American Protestants of the 19th-century viewed Roman Catholicism with a good degree of well-earned mistrust and antagonism. Popes had openly condemned democratic forms of government and freedom of religion. In Catholic countries, Protestants were not tolerated (to put it mildly). The determined efforts of the Jesuits to counter and reverse the spread of the Gospel were known to all.

As large numbers of Irish and German Catholics began immigrating to America in the early 19th-century, they were accompanied by priests and nuns. Convents were seen by Protestants as especially vile institutions, where it was suspected some nuns were abused and/or held against their will. It was also feared that Catholic schools staffed by nuns would draw an increasing number of Protestant children who would be indoctrinated into the Catholic religion. The very idea of unmarried women living together communally, dressed in their strange, 12th century habits was antithetical to the Protestant ideals of female virtue, marriage, and domesticity.

In this book, historian Yacovazzi, examines the Protestant reaction to the alarming influx of Catholic immigrants and especially the growing number of convents. In 1835, “Six Months in a Convent” was published in which ex-nun, Rebecca Reed, documented her escape from a convent and the abuses that took place therein. Ex-nun, Maria Monk’s “Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk” was published the following year to a large and receptive audience. Similar “convent escape narratives” would continue to be published into the mid-20th-century.

Yacovazzi dismisses all of these books, just as Catholic spokespersons did at the time they were published, as anti-Catholic fiction meant to appeal to prurient interests and Protestant sectarianism. To what degree those works were fiction or fact is still roundly debated. It’s interesting that Yacovazzi makes no mention of Herbert Wolf’s “The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio” (2013) in which the award-winning historian documented the abuses in a single 19th-century Italian convent, abuses that were no more “outlandish” than those told by Reed, Monk, and the rest (see my review here). It’s also very interesting that Yacovazzi’s only mention of the Catholic church’s ongoing pedophile priests and hierarchical cover-up scandal is encompassed in one sentence on the second-last page of the book. Given the sheer enormity of the ongoing 20-year scandal, it’s amazing to me that Catholic apologists and academicians like Yacovazzi still attempt to discredit Reed, Monk, and the other ex-nuns who penned “convent escape narratives.” Catholicism’s rule of clerical celibacy led to widespread abuses then and now. Objections to historical accounts of abuse in Catholic celibate institutions reminds me of when Mafia-funded, Italian-American organizations protested the “defamatory” nature of the film, “The Godfather,” while it was being filmed in New York City in 1970.

In building her case against 19th-century American Protestant anti-Catholicism, Yacovazzi unsurprisingly makes no mention of those historical anti-Protestant factors that I cited at the outset. The omission is not an accident and serves the author’s agenda. A reader of this book would unwittingly assume American Protestants’ fear and anxiety regarding Catholicism were hatched in a vacuum.

Given the academic credentials of the author and publisher, I was quite surprised at the sectarian nature of this book.

Postscript: Ms. Yacovazzi included a short chapter in which she paralleled American Protestantism’s strong reaction to nuns and convents with its negative reaction to Mormon polygamy. Well, of course 19th-century American Christians saw the convent and polygamy as threats to women and orthodox Christianity! Yacovazzi’s argues from her 21st-century progressive soapbox that the nuns and Mormon women of the 19th-century were actually farther ahead in the proletarian feminist struggle than Protestant women!

Postscript II: I don’t pretend to be an academician, but I do know more than a few things about Catholicism and Mormonism. In the chapter on Mormon polygamous wives referenced above, Yacovazzi cites Emma Smith, wife of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, as 1) being opposed to her husband’s polygamous marriages, but that she 2) remained “a willful, vocal member of the church until her death” (p.118). Both claims are entirely untrue. Following her husband’s death in 1844 and the subsequent power struggle within the church, Emma Smith split from the main body of the Mormon church (led by Brigham Young) in 1846. Throughout the remainder of her life, she held firm to her denial that her husband had ever suggested or practiced polygamous marriage, attributing that novel doctrine to Brigham Young and others. In 1860, she joined the newly-formed Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with her son, Joseph III, as the appointed president. The RLDS condemned polygamous marriages. Yacovazzi’s inaccurate assertions regarding Emma Smith reveal some very shoddy scholarship.