Term Paper: Early Influences on Joseph Smith and Origins of the Book of Mormon

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Joseph Smith and the Book Of Mormons

Joseph Smith, Jr. was the fourth child of Joseph Sr. And Lucy Smack and born in Sharon, Vermont on December 23, 1805. The Smith family lived under arduous and unstable financial circumstances that compelled them to move in and around New England several times in those years (Wikipedia 2004). One of Joseph's legs got seriously infected when he was 7 years old and the doctors wanted to amputate it but the Smiths refused. He later recovered but he had to use crutches for several years and limped for the rest of his life (Wikipedia).

His parents both indulged in mysterious habits. His father, Joseph Sr., engaged in treasure hunting, witchcraft and superstition, while his mother was superstitious and observed and practiced extreme religiosity (Sisk 1992). Joseph followed their example and, even as a young boy, sought for hidden treasures like his father and became intensely interested in religion like his mother.

The Mormon Church would later say that Joseph spent much time seeking spiritual truth and so he attended church services in the area, including the Methodist and Baptist churches, but was unable to satisfy his search (Sisk 1992). Hopelessly confused and at a loss, Joseph asked God in prayer, "Who is right?" The Mormon Church believes that Joseph received the answer from God in a vision in 1820 (Sisk).

Other accounts had something else to say. Local court records, for example. Show that Joseph was tried and found guilty of money-digging activities with the use of a supposedly supernatural seer or peep brown seer stone to locate treasure under the soil (Wikipedia 2004). Those who came to his defense said that the court documents presented were either forged or changed to put Joseph in bad light and that treasure-digging was a folk habit, which Joseph did not exclusively practice His critics, however, insist on this court suit as early evidence of Joseph's deceptive nature and involvement in the occult. His advocates maintained that Joseph was not even present during the trial, which occurred only 10 years after the allegation.

Joseph's and his father's money digging practice consisted of special rituals and ceremonies for detecting and obtaining hidden or buried treasures guarded by evil spirits (Institute for Religious Research 1996). Their money-digging activities and the occult practices of the Smith family and relatives in the late 1700s and 1800s are likewise included in other documentations (Institute for Religious Research 1999). These records relate that Joseph would place a small and special rock in his hat and then pull the hat down to his face in order to block the light out. When this happened, Joseph claimed that he could see supernaturally and based on what he claimed to have seen, he guided those digging for buried treasure by observing the spirits guarding the treasure (International Research Institute). Joseph himself admitted having been a treasure or money digger but said that it was not quite profitable. He and his father persisted in the activity until 1826 when Joseph Jr. was arrested, charged and convicted for being a "glass-looker" and disorderly character (International Research Institute), according to the then prevailing Vagrant Act. This law defined a disorderly person as one who pretended to know palmistry, tell fortunes or locate lost things. The same court records said that no penalty was imposed on Joseph because it was his first offense (International Research Institute).

On January 18, 1827, Smith married Emma Hale after they eloped because Emma's family had disapproved of Joseph (Wikipedia 2004).

After his bout with the law, Joseph ceased public money-digging activities in 1827 to 1830, but continued to use his magic brown seer stone in private, such as when he claimed to have found the golden plates and written the Book of Mormon (International Research Institute 1999), for which he more intensely used his brown seer stone. This stone that has remained in the possession of the First Presidency of the Latter-Day Saints Church establishes the connection and continuity of Joseph's early occult practices and the beginnings of Mormonism, extending to the construction of the LDS temple and the development of its ceremony (International Research Institute).

The Mormon temple ceremonies are viewed to share common characteristics with occult rituals. Both are supposedly reveals by God from the beginning but distorted by apostasy; emphasize the unworthiness of initiates; include and perform washings and anointing, new names and garments; stress on members' vow of non-disclosure or secrecy; conduct "lesser" and "greater" rituals; dramatize rituals; observe an oath of chastity and require strict purity and virtue; use the sun, moon and stars as key symbols; perform rituals to help mortals attain godhood; and their leaders assume titles and offices of prophets, priests and kings (Quinn 1987 as qtd in International Research Institute 1999).

The Mormon Church believes that God's answer to Joseph's prayer and question was God the Father's appearance with His Son, Jesus Christ. In this appearance or vision, Joseph claimed that Jesus Christ told him that the true Church of Jesus Christ was then not on earth and that they had chosen Joseph to rebuild it (Intellectual Reserve 2004).

According to his followers, Joseph since then, worked hard in God's service to establish the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in building up or preparing His Kingdom on earth on the latter days. These followers hold fast that Jesus Christ directs His Church today through a prophet and they maintain that Joseph was and is that prophet (Intellectual Reserve). Among Joseph's many accomplishments, his followers consider his discipleship and witnessing or testimony of Jesus Christ as the most important. They also insist that those who decide to receive Joseph's testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost would know the truth of the work to which he was called and also receive the peace and happiness of the Savior Jesus Christ whom Joseph worshipped and served (Intellectual Reserve).

Joseph's followers relate how he received God's calling in that spring of 1820 when he retired and prayed in the woods for an answer. He prayed aloud and was suddenly overcome was some power, binding his tongue and thick darkness swallowing him up. At first, he was said to have feared that some demonic power was trying to destroy him, so he asked for God's deliverance. It was then that a "pillar of light" brighter than the sun shone over him and descended upon him. In that light, Joseph and his followers claimed that he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, with God the Father calling him and pointing to Jesus Christ and saying, "This is my beloved son, hear him!" Joseph and his followers further claimed that one of the two personages, Jesus Christ, told him that all the religious sects were all wrong and "an abomination in his sight (Sisk 1992)."

They also testify that, three years later in another one of Joseph's visions, a light in his room enlarged into a personage, whom they describe as an angel named Moroni. The Church of the Mormon says that Moroni was a prophet in the American continent who was equivalent or parallel to the Palestinian prophets of the Bible. They relate that this brilliant angel they name as Moroni told Joseph that God wanted him to work on a book that was buried and written on gold plates. This book was supposed to contain an account of the former inhabitants of the American continent and that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, as delivered by the Savior to those ancient inhabitants (Sisk 1992).

They add that Moroni also told Joseph that whoever possessed the two stones with the gold plates would be a "seer" or prophet who would use these stones to translate the golden plates. At this point, Moroni was supposed to have quoted Malachi, Isaiah, Joel and other scriptures through the night (Sisk 1992). They further testify that Joseph went to the place and found the plates but could not take them but wait for four years to pass. After four years, Joseph was allowed to take the plates and translate them. When translated, they say that Joseph passed the golden plates on to a messenger who came for them and then these were taken up to heaven (Sisk). They maintain that the translation Joseph wrote, using the two stones from the golden plates, is the Book of Mormon, which in their belief, the perfect word of God. In their eyes, Moroni's derisions and corrections of the Christian Bible corrupted and invalidated the Holy Book (Sisk).

Joseph eventually acquired a following, which he organized and indoctrinated. Fearing religious persecution, they chose to establish their religion in Nauvoo, Illinois where the group increased and prospered (Sisk 1992). In 1842, a certain man named John C. Bennett revealed the Mormons' practice of polygamy among themselves in an anti-Mormonism publication, and, in reaction, Joseph and his brother Hyrum burned down the printing press. The Smiths were later charged for the offense and jailed… [END OF PREVIEW]

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