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Religion Library: Mormonism

Beginnings

Written by: Stephen Taysom

The years from 1828 to 1830 marked an important period of transition for Joseph Smith. He found his prophetic voice and began to grow into his roles of church elder, prophet, and translator. Gradually, a distinct theology began to emerge, centering around the restoration of ancient beliefs, rituals, texts, and powers. Underpinning this theology was the core belief that God had spoken, and would continue to speak, through Joseph Smith and other designated leaders. Ongoing revelation thus formed the basis for all aspects of the new faith.

With Emma and others serving as scribes, Joseph dictated the text of The Book of Mormon, which was published in 1830. As a new American scripture, the book instantly set Mormonism apart from all other sects. It also contributed to the development of early Mormon theology. (The unofficial name "Mormons" derived from The Book of Mormon. In 1834, the official name was changed from Church of Christ to Church of the Latter-day Saints, and in 1838 it was changed to the present name, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Smith soon dispatched missionaries to spread the message that a new dispensation was at hand, that God had called a prophet as in ancient times, and that the fullness of the Christian gospel was contained in a new book of scripture. By the end of 1830, around a hundred individuals had been baptized in New York, and a similar number in Ohio. Converts were grouped into formal church units in three locations.

This formative period of Mormonism came to a close when a revelation directed church leaders to gather the entire body of converts in Kirtland, Ohio. By May 1831 nearly all Mormons had left New York.


Study Questions:
1.     When, where, and how did Mormonism originate?
2.     What was the role of Christian denominations in the creation of Mormonism?
3.     Who was Joseph Smith? Why was his status as a prophet important to the beginning of Mormonism?
4.     What was the First Vision?
5.     Where did the name Mormonism come from? What is the church now called?

 

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