They call it "America's Religion" - the only major world religion truly native to our shores. Well, except for Scientology, but that's a slightly different story. Yet in its time and even today, Mormonism has been regarded with much the same degree of skepticism and outright dismissal as anything created by any science fiction writer. Not least of which because it does contain some elements that sound a little sci-fi.
Mormonism raises some interesting philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and free will, and the role of family and personal ethics, as well as some less laudable ideas. It's true, Mormonism's history (some of it fairly recent) is shot through with beliefs, biases, and actions many would find abhorrent today - though the same could be said about any major religious tradition.No matter how you see the religion itself, though, few people outside of Mormonism really understand its beliefs. Here are some facts about the faith, its fundamental beliefs and unusual practices, that will increase your understanding of this fast-growing religion.
Mormon Founder Joseph Smith Produced Almost 600 Pages in Three Months
Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, who says he had a vision instructing him to produce The Book of Mormon. Smith claims that the angel Moroni led him to golden plates covered in a mysterious form of Egyptian writing and buried in a hillside in New York. The angel instructed him to translate these plates into English, creating The Book of Mormon. Whether he was composing or translating, Smith produced a 584-page book in about three months of 1829.
The Book of Mormon tells the story of the Nephites, a group of Israelites who settled the ancient Americas along with three other groups (the Lamanites, Jaredites, and Mulekites). The book then tells of a conflict between the Nephites and Lamanites.Modern Mormons consider Smith to be a prophet.
White Mormons Have Been in the Americas Since 600 BCPhoto: Brigham Young Museum of Art / via Wikimedia
According to Mormonism, America was settled by four early groups: the Nephites, Lamanites, Jaredites, and Mulekites. Nephites are white Europeans, Jaredites might be the Aztecs or Toltec peoples, and Lamanites are native Americans. The Lamanites (Native Americans) were reportedly a lost tribe of Israel, wicked and dark-skinned (naturally). These groups arrived in the Americans around 600 BC. (Archaeologists generally agree Native Americans have been here at least 10,000 years).Lamanites and Nephites existed somewhat peacefully for a while, until a great war happened about 230 A.D. The white Nephites wiped out most of the Lamanites using technology and weapons commonly attributed to the Roman Empire. This includes chariots, bronze swords, and armor - none of which have ever been discovered in the Americas. And for good reason: North America is almost completely devoid of accessible tin, the crucial ingredient in bronze alloy.
God Lives on a Planet Orbiting the Star KolobAccording to Mormon belief, the god of Abraham was a real, physical person from a distant planet circling a star called Kolob. As all-powerful king of the planet, he engaged in "celestial sex," and had tons of kids. You've likely heard of two of them; but in fact, even these celestial deities aren't substantially different from any human, apart from the fact that they happen to be older and they inherited their planets earlier.
Jesus Was Satan's BrotherYup. Both Jesus and Satan were products of Yahweh's endless celestial sex - a term which does actually appear in Mormon literature. The two began as friends, but had a falling out over a philosophical debate (more on that in another section). Jesus, despite being technically a demigod like Hercules or Achilles, is no more or less a "child" of Yahweh than any angel - and that includes Satan.