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Former-Day Saint: A Mormoir

Former-Day Saint: A Mormoir

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Former-Day Saint: A Mormoir

Longueur:
470 pages
7 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Oct 31, 2012
ISBN:
9781301627226
Format:
Livre

Description

"Former-Day Saint: A Mormoir" offers a clear and thorough account of the turbulent early history and peculiar beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--"The Mormons"--before detailing in unabashed frankness the very personal history and irreverent disbeliefs of its author, a Utah native and lifelong Church member, as these relate to Mormonism.

Beginning with the foundational myths of this distinctly American faith--the Prophet Joseph Smith's First Vision of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, Smith's visitations by the Angel Moroni, his excavation of the "Golden Plates" and subsequent translation of these into "The Book of Mormon"--the book then follows the fortunes of the first believers in this fledgling religion as they are driven by hostile neighbors from communities in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. It then bids the Saints bon voyage on the eve of their pioneering trek to the valley of The Great Salt Lake and their successful settlement of the Rocky Mountain territory they dubbed "Deseret."

What led Joseph Smith to take the second of his multiple wives, and to keep on taking others? Why did he identify an undistinguished plot of land in Missouri as the original Garden of Eden? How did the Mormon city of Nauvoo, Illinois become more populous than Chicago? What made the Prophet think he could make a legitimate run for the U.S Presidency in 1844? And why was he being held in jail when martyred by a mob that year at the age of 38?

Why are Mormons so fanatical about genealogy--and what in the world is "Baptism for the Dead?" What goes on in their "sacred, not secret" temples? Why were African-Americans not allowed to hold the males-only priesthood until 1976? Is it true Latter-day Saints can't drink Coca-Cola? And do they really wear magic underwear?

All of these questions and more are answered between the covers of this
one- of-a-kind book--just in time for the 2012 Presidential Election.

Not "The Book of Mormon" but "The Book of a Mormon," "Former-Day Saint" also portrays its author's life as it has been and continues to be influenced by the belief system he was raised in...and has now decisively abandoned. In chapters on his outcast artist father and Latter-day Saintly mother, his proselyting mission to Ecuador, his visits to the temple and his renegade days as a "Post-Mormon"--eating, drinking/smoking, and not being married--R.S. Francis attests to the tragicomical difficulties of forging an adult identity outside a paradigm of reactivity. This template and his struggles in moving beyond it will be recognized by and resonate with ex-religionists of every stripe. Are you a Recovering Catholic? Meet a Recovering Mormon.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Oct 31, 2012
ISBN:
9781301627226
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

R.S. Francis (b. 1961, Provo, Utah) received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago in 1999. His poetry, reviews and scholarly essays appear in journals and magazines,and his writing on art in The Chicago Tribune. He lives in Chicago, where he teaches in the Department of Humanities, History and Social Sciences at Columbia College.

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Former-Day Saint - R. S. Francis

Former Day Saint

Copyright © 2012 R. S. Francis

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

An E-QUALITY PRESS BOOK

The name e-Quality Press and its logo consisting of the letters EQP over an open book with power cord are registered trademarks of E-QUALITY PRESS.

This edition published at Smashwords by arrangement with E-QUALITY PRESS

"Truth is ‘Mormonism.’ God is the author of it."

—The Prophet Joseph Smith

"Mormonism we know to be a humbug and a rather nasty one."

—The Writer Henry James

"You began Catholic, that is to say you began with a system of values in stark opposition to reality. Your mental existence is obsessed by a monstrous system of contradictions. You really believe in chastity, purity, and the personal God and that is why you are always breaking out into cries of cunt, shit and hell."

—H.G. Wells, in a letter to James Joyce

;

CONTENTS

Prologue: . . . And Many More

Chapter 1: What I Believed

Chapter 2: Pulpit Fiction

Chapter 3: Our Unheavenly Father

Chapter 4: My Dear Old Martyr

Chapter 5: Why are they then baptized for the dead?

Chapter 6: A Day at the Racist’s

Chapter 7: So What’s With the Funny Underwear?

Chapter 8: My Submission

Chapter 9: No, Not Neat—On the Rocks

Chapter 10: An Herb for Bruises and All Sick Cattle

Chapter 11: Uncontrolled Substances

Chapter 12: Coffee?

Chapter 13: The Eros of My Ways

Epilogue: From this Communication, Excommunication

Prologue: . . . And Many More

"To tell the truth, if I were reborn, and I had a choice, I’d be a Mormon."

—Ernest Hemingway

TODAY, APRIL 6TH, is the birthday of Mormonism.

The church, or sect, or cult, or communal hallucination, depending on who’s doing the defining, was formally organized on this date in 1830 by a 24-year-old named Joseph Smith and five other men, before some fifty witnesses, in Fayette, New York. (Or was it in Manchester?—differences of opinion exist on this, too). Some believers believe The Deity took time out from His busy schedule to designate the day He had in mind and to reveal it to Smith—so that Joseph might save the date?—and there are even those within the fold who assert that April 6th was Jesus’ birthday. Certain skeptics, though, who consider the charismatic Smith less an anointed prophet than a smoke-and-mirrors necromancer, think he settled on the sixth of April, in 1830 a Tuesday, because the moon was full.

That at least would account for all the lunacy. The abracadabra behind the Mormon temples’ closed doors, the bizarre underwear, the weirdly bearded patriarchs of the past with their bevies of bonneted wives. . . .

But more about these special features later; back now to our commemorative narrative. Founded as the Church of Christ, the religion goes today by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Membership recently topped 14 million, and is growing at the rate of a million fresh adherents every three years. Church headquarters are in Salt Lake City, Utah, a Rocky Mountain metropolis established in 1847 by hardy LDS pioneers fleeing Midwestern mobocrats; Salt Lake is for Mormons what Mecca is for Muslims. Congregations may be found almost everywhere, however, as an aggressive and far-flung missionary program has resulted in world-wide worship in the prescribed Mormon manner of The Superpower Threesome: God the Father, His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ, and, last but not least, The Holy Ghost.

Pejoratives when coined, and still distasteful to the faith’s leaders, who from an official website urge the gentlemen and women of the press to refrain from their use, Mormon and Mormonism derive from The Book of Mormon. This purports to be the religious history of a group of ancient inhabitants of The Americas compiled by the original Mormon, a military and ecclesiastical leader, and inscribed by his steady hand onto plates of thin, beaten gold ca. 375 A.D. Published on pages of pulped-wood white in March of 1830 by Joseph Smith, who claimed he received the golden tome from Mormon’s son, an angel named Moroni, then translated the text’s Reformed Egyptian into English before returning it to some Archive in the Sky, the book comprises narration—mostly of epic battles between the righteous and the wicked—and doctrine —mostly mainstream Christian. It is considered scripture by the denomination’s members, as divinely inspired and authoritative as The Bible—though perhaps more boring. Mark Twain certainly thought so; he marveled that Joseph Smith had been able to stay awake while writing it and dubbed the square volume chloroform in print. Read it and sleep. . . .

Said members, meanwhile, are called Latter-day Saints to distinguish them from the men and women and children they regard as the earliest Saints, i.e., the rank-and-file faithful of The Church established by Jesus Christ Himself when He walked upon the earth (and water). Because Jesus’ Church existed in its pure and perfect form for a short time only, becoming corrupted during The Great Apostasy which preceded the advent of such patent impostures as The Holy Roman Catholic Church (AK to Mormons A The Great Whore of Babylon), it fell to Joseph Smith to restore it, with all its original structural components, ordinances, dogmas, and franchising rights.

Which brings me back to that birthday. This year, 2008, it has fallen on a Sunday. Appropriate, the holiday on a Holy Day—although given that it’s the Sabbath, our festive religionists might have to mute their celebrations. Of course, given that they’re Mormons, their celebrations are always already muted. Good Latter-day Saint men and women abide by a revelation Joseph Smith received called The Word of Wisdom, which forbids the ingestion of pretty much everything injurious to one’s health, i.e. productive of fun. So no party they throw will ever feature champagne (although the merrymakers will decant into flutes with broad jollity Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider, their favorite sham-pagne); nor will beer, wine, hard cider, nor any other species of spirituous liquor ever flow. Neither coffee, nor any tea that contains caffeine, will serve as coda to the foodstuffs; nor will cigars, nor —ettes, nor pipes made of meerschaum or any other matter be smoked in the feasting’s aftermath. Reefer will never reek to the rafters, blow be hoovered, crank crank up a humble body, smack smack down an upstanding one. No snuff will be sniffled; no chew be dipped. As for peyote, speed or ‘shrooms, the sacraments of Mormonism are very other. For the LDS, no LSD; and certainly no Ecstasy, oh no-sir-ee. . . .

This is not to say the celebrant Saints will not enjoy themselves today; they are a far cry (a near laugh?) from being starveling Puritans. There will, for example, be loads of food and unfermented drink at the 178th anniversary shindig; the long, communal table, lined on either side by white-haired elders waited on by blue-haired wives and surrounded by their prodigious progeny, upright blond men and women with sons and sons and daughters and daughters of their own whose name is legion, will verily, I say unto you, groan. Mormons relish to excess anything they can gobble up or permissibly guzzle down, because comestibles and soft potables are the only things they are allowed to take into their bodies. (I take that back; Mormon women can take Mormon men into their bodies). Especially coveted are sweets, with their licit drug of sugar, and most especially chocolate, with its minim, its trace payload, of verboten caffeine. Ergo on its birthday The Church will have, as a matter of course, a cake, though no living doll in scanty cladding, contracted for the occasion, will pop out, shimmy around, and plant kisses on the liver-spotted pates of its all-male, gerontocratic hierarchy. And yes, please, The Church will take a scoop or two of ice cream with the slice of cake, just plop ‘em down right there, that’s fine, many thanks; the per capita consumption of that evanescent delectable being higher in Utah than in any other region of the material world. . . .

Now, then: let’s just picture The Church in some outsized rumpus room in downtown Salt Lake City leaning creakily over the impressive array of candles on that big, frosted, baked goody-good and about to wish its secret wish before it huffs and it puffs to snuff out every one of those 178 deliquescing tapers. And then let’s just wonder: for what is It fervently wishing?

That’s a no-brainer: for every person in the world, and the sooner the better, to be baptized and confirmed a Latter-day Saint. And to start to pay tithing, i.e. one-tenth of their income, that The Church’s already chock-full coffers might be additionally lined. Oh, and yes, The Church desires as well that every dead non-Mormon person make this change, too—minus the tithing bit, which is regrettably impracticable. (I’ll get back to this whacked fact later, when I try to describe with a straight face Mormonism’s Baptism for the Dead.) It’s exactly as that slowed-down send-out to The Happy Birthday Song, invariably crooned off-key, has it: And maaaaany moooooore. . . .

Why am I telling you all of this? Because my birthday occurred in Utah, probably on a full moon, too—and I was raised as a Latter-day Saint. Which means I am given to muse each year on this date (as on every other date, actually) just what about my self or my life might have been different, for better or worse, had this peculiar religion never been brought into offbeat being. And to ask myself whether or not, on the whole, I regret its creation and continued existence, along with my upbringing in it.

This year, as every year, my answer to this question is You know, I don’t know—I’m not sure. Which happens to be my answer to pretty much every question. This is because uncertainty, and ambivalence, and a positive genius for equivocation—I would have made a first-rate justice-eluding Jesuit—are some of my most salient traits. (If I may, for a moment, be unequivocal). And while it’s true my own date of birth is September 29th—which makes me a Libra and therefore putatively prone to weighing, as the sign’s emblematic scales have it, the two sides of everything, to going back and forth between this and that—unless astrology holds more water than I believe it does, I suspect my predilection for waffling derives primarily from today’s birthday boy, an Aries: Mormonism. From growing up, that is, among a preponderance of the homogeneous, all of us steeped in an ideology and swaddled in an institution so sure of themselves as to regard them as self-evident; and from giving credence to a set of ideas, of explanations, of stories that presented themselves as God’s one, His only, His bona fide Truth. All of which created in me a reaction formation with deep, tangled roots and maddening tenacity, so that I’m rarely sure of anything. Because I once knew that I knew, and everyone around me knew that they knew . . . I just don’t know anymore. To this day, in fact, 25 years after I woke from the dream of surety, and of security, and of assurance that Mormonism weaves, whenever I encounter a smug knower (beyond belief, or beyond the pale)—a person nailed by T. S. Eliot’s phrase assured of certain certainties—I feel compelled to get up in his or her complacent face and bluntly interrogate: "Have you never imagined you might be wrong?"

Now that I’ve clarified things by informing you just how muddy they are with me, let’s return to the first question I posed above, the how might I be different one. Here are a set of conjectures, switching between pro (I’m thankful I was) and con (what did I do to deserve that?):

PRO: Had I not been born and bored in Utah and raised Mormon, I wouldn’t so often pique the special interest of others during that initial, getting-to-know-you-and-seeing-if-I-want-to-know-you-one-bit-further exchange over cocktails. The following snatches of badinage are so typical as to seem to me by now all-but cosmically scripted:

So, where are you from?

I’m from Utah.

No kidding! How many wives do you have? Or,

So, are you a Mormon?

‘Post-Mormon,’ to be precise. Or ‘Former Mormon,’ if you like, which may be shortened to `Fo Mo,’ if you please. I kind of like ‘No Mo,’ too, if that suits. Or,

So, were you raised Mormon?

I was.

And are you practicing?

No, I’ve pretty much got it down. Or,

So, were you raised Mormon?

I was—but now I raise More Fun.

In other words, did I not hail from the nation’s strangest state, and had I not been trained up in its most deranged faith, I would have to work harder to generate intrigue and elicit chuckles. And one thing I am not, as all who know me will attest, at least under condition of anonymity, is a hard worker.

Which confession leads me to a further speculation. Might my constitutional lethargy, to employ a glossier word for laziness, then a fancier one for use, or my quasi-Oblomovian inertia, to drop a literary name liable to baffle if not offend (allusions, alas, so often elude)—might it be ascribed to the accident of my birth in the Not-So-Great Basin and sequent cultivation in the cold-house of Mormonism? Was it there and thereby that I contracted this illness of listlessness which seems to me at times the sign of a crippled will (a won’t), and which issues daily in manifestations of what I might most accurately term my can’t-do spirit? Well, if I hold fast to the tiller of the paradigm I launched a ways back, and try to understand who I am in terms of what I’m reacting to, then definitely yes. (Definitely—did I write that?) Why yes? Because the state motto of Utah is Industry, the state seal features a beehive, and circling that cellular dome zip specimens of the State Insect: the busy, buzzy, fussy bee, ever-pompous in its pinstripe suit and amply endowed with clear-cut and profitable purpose. In 1847 the Mormons came to Utah’s desert and soon had it blooming, showing up the famous mountain man Jim Bridger, who had offered a thousand dollars to anyone able to ripen an ear of corn there—and they continue to impress with their entrepreneurial zest and proselytical zeal. Twenty-five years ago I fled the state in a sweat, came to Chicago, got myself an apartment, then laid me down to rest . . . and now I’m my own worst anomie.

CON: I wouldn’t feel so much guilt about so many things. Mormons’ ultimate objective is to live so righteously that after they’ve reached the age of 100 or thereabouts and this earthly life grinds at last to a blessed halt they can become Gods or Gods’ wives (can a Supreme Being have a better half?)—and then get the chance to create and people their own dandy planets with zillions of homunculi formed in their own peerless images. (As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become runs a favored formulation of this onward-and-upward doctrine). Now the last time I checked, becoming a God meant being perfect. So anything short of impeccability is occasion for hand-wringing, soul-searching, wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth/dentures. Guilt dies hard if it ever does, which in my experience it doesn’t; instead it lives on in an underground way for the whole of your life, bulging up and out now and again just to remind you it’s still there. Even if you’ve consciously rejected the strictures you once felt culpable for disobeying, the habit of mind or soul lives on—attaching itself to the latest of your code-flouting activities, no matter how venial. I feel considerable guilt, for instance, when I fail to exercise or to practice the piano on a day I’ve promised myself I would, or when I idle away three hours watching a baseball game instead of mastering Sanskrit. Being habituated to guilt may even cause the bad behaviors; I miss the guilt, feel an indefinable lack, then do or don’t do the very things most likely to bring it back. As another Post-Mormon friend of mine used to put it, guilt is the gift that keeps on giving. Woody Allen pegs this species of psychic pathology to perfection with his echt-Jewish/Mormon observation in Broadway Danny Rose: I don’t believe in God—but I feel guilty that I don’t.

PRO: I probably wouldn’t speak fluent Spanish, the one-pure payoff of my Mormon mission in Ecuador, nor feel the great warmth towards and have the ready rapport with the many Hispanics, and particularly Ecuadorians, who live to work in my adopted hometown of Chicago. I wouldn’t teach a class in Latin American Art, Music, and Literature at this city’s Columbia College, nor would I have traveled twice to Cuba to work on the translations for a bi-lingual anthology of post-Revolution poetry.

CON: I wouldn’t overeat, and drink myself under, and smoke whatever will ignite, and toss back whatever pill or tablet or fungal cap is on offer down whatever back alley. Nor would I dwell so obsessively and incessantly on the enormously gratifying sexscapades, past, present, and future, of those who grew up with a healthy outlook on the pleasures of the flesh and ample opportunity for experiencing them. This cluster of symptoms owes its barnacle-like and abashing hold on my psyche to a sense that I was cheated when young of the good times proper to my parts and station—missed out, if you will, on the standard-issue enjoyments of my generation, the one that came of age during the wild and wooly bacchanal of the 1970s. Because I feel this way, I’m afraid, I feel compelled to overdo things—if only to catch up.

Where the sex is concerned, my suspicion of having been deprived of my due depravity was recently and painfully confirmed for me by the astonishing tales told by an exact coeval— one whose practice and preachment of hedonism in the college dorms of New Orleans ran its careening course just as I was pitching Mormon asceticism in the Sunday Schools of Guayaquil. Could our lives as red-blooded, post-sexual-revolution American men—young, dumb, and full of come—have been staged as updated productions of famous plays, he would have trod the boards in The School for Scandal—I in The Impotence of Being Earnest.

PRO: I am kind, and considerate, and polite; genial, cheerful, and essentially optimistic; trustworthy, discreet, loyal and sincere. These are all qualities highly prized by Mormons, ones all but imbibed with our mothers’ milk. They are also approved by recruiters for the FBI, CIA, and other Secret Services—which is one reason so many Latter-day Saints, the minute they’re home from their missions in foreign countries, sign up to become our country’s spooks.

CON: Had my elders not dinned into me day and night throughout my youth that our chief obligation on this earth is the creation and caretaking of a family, the sooner and larger the better, and that the only real happiness in life derives from the successful completion of this assignment in siring, I might have engendered a child or two by now. Upon whom I might fondly dote as I move ineluctably towards senescence. Who might take care of me, and joke about how fuzzy I’m getting, and provide me with a built-in, sure-fire interest in the rolling-on of life (if only because of worry that something untoward might happen to them). No other success can compensate for failure in the home warned the Mormon Prophet Harold B. Lee; if he was right, my most glaring failure in life is that I have yet to make a home for myself—one furnished with an apron-stringed helpmeet, cherished traditions, and a passel of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed chips off my block.

PRO: I wouldn’t have inherited such a rich, and quintessentially American, store of lore. In pursuing religious freedom through their exodus west, the Latter-day Saints re-enacted the Pilgrims’ Progress to our country’s shores—and in their founding of a theocratic state they matched those separatist religionists’ original efforts. (Utah’s not so much The Beehive State as it is The Behave State.) Indeed, the history of Mormonism has been, and continues to be, extraordinarily fascinating. The pure products of America go crazy, writes William Carlos Williams to begin For Elsie, his greatest poem; and few such products, I would venture, are purer than Mormons, early and late. As something of an Americanist in my academic guise, I’ve definitely benefited from my matriculation on the Empire’s fringe.

CON: I probably wouldn’t be so disinclined to learn about other religious creeds, or be as skeptical of them, had I not been subjected so overwhelmingly to that particularly preening one. It might be a comfort to credit some overarching, comprehensive account of the cosmos and our place in it, it might be consoling to observe some rote ceremony—but I just can’t. Like the post-Darwin Victorian Matthew Arnold in his Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse, I am ever Wandering between two worlds, one dead,/The other powerless to be born.

PRO (or CON?): You wouldn’t be reading this book, because it wouldn’t exist. I hope you’ll find what follows sufficiently worth your while to make you glad Mormonism does, and to wish it a resounding Happy Birthday—thanking whatever God(s) or Goddess(es) you hold dear that one Rell Sean Francis was born and brought up within its freakish fold.

What I Believed

IN 1820, ON a beautiful, clear morning in early spring, a 14-year-old named Joseph Smith repaired to a grove of trees in western New York, near the villages of Manchester and Palmyra. Bowing his head and kneeling in prayer, he inquired of the heavens which of the many sects then so energetically seeking converts in the region he ought to join—which of them, that is, was true.

If any of you lack wisdom, the boy had read in The New Testament Epistle of James, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

After an intense struggle with an invisible adversary, who oppressed him with a fog of darkness and robbed him of the power of speech, he beheld an exceedingly bright pillar of light, and within it two glorious personages: God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! spoke the Father, after which His Son proffered an answer to the heartfelt query of the youth: he mustn’t join any of the congregations, for all were false.

Three years later, on the 21st of September, Joseph was in bed at his home in Palmyra when he again prayed, this time to ask forgiveness for some adolescent shortcomings and in hope of a further manifestation or directive of the Divine. While in prayer, he witnessed the room fill up with a light brighter than the sun at noonday, and beheld amid this radiance a single figure: a messenger from God clothed in a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness who addressed him by name before introducing himself as Moroni. This angel told the young man that he had been chosen to carry out a special mission involving a book inscribed on plates of gold by himself and his father, Mormon—the last leaders of an ancient people who had emigrated from Jerusalem and lived for centuries in America, but were now extinct. Deposited in a nearby hill, the volume not only contained the history of the continent’s earliest inhabitants, Moroni said, but also the fullness of the Everlasting Gospel.

Visiting the 17-year-old twice more that night, Moroni further informed him that by means of the Urim and Thummim, an interpretive apparatus comprising two stones set in silver bows fastened to a breastplate, and buried alongside the record, he would be able to translate the book into English and bring it before the eyes and minds of the world. Some three miles to the south and east of the Smith family farm loomed a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. It was here that the golden plates were hidden, Moroni told Joseph the following morning, and directed him to the site. There the young man dug away the dirt around a large rock, pried it up with a lever, and discovered lying beneath a box made of stones set into cement. Inside were the golden book, the seer stones, and the breastplate. Dazzled by this treasure, he tried three times to lift the plates up and out, but was prevented each time by a strong physical shock. He was then visited again by Moroni, who rebuked him for his impetuosity, chastened him for having sought the Plates to obtain riches, and cautioned him that the time was not yet right for the book to come forth.

That time arrived in 1827 when, after annual visits to the cache in the Hill Cumorah and continued instruction from Moroni, the young man was allowed to transport the inscribed plates and the device for their decoding to his home. He then set to translating the Reformed Egyptian in which the book had been written. A year later he began to receive assistance in this sacred endeavor from Martin Harris, an older friend and financial backer. Harris took dictation from Smith, who, from behind a curtain, employed the Urim and Thummim to interpret the characters on the plates, and thus the work moved forward.

In an effort to advance the translation by bringing it to the attention of America’s intellectual elite, Harris made facsimiles of some of the characters and traveled with them to New York City. There he met with Professor Charles Anthon, an expert on ancient languages at Columbia. Anthon declared the Reformed Egyptian characters true, and signed a certificate avowing that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct.

When informed by Harris of their origin, however, the professor expressed a wish to see the plates. Harris responded that this was not possible, as part of them were sealed; Anthon then thundered I cannot read a sealed book, demanded the return of the certificate, and destroyed it.

Although disappointing to Joseph and Martin, this reversal confirmed the divinity of their undertaking—for they recognized in the incidents’ particulars the fulfillment of a prophecy in the twenty-ninth chapter and eleventh verse of the Old Testament Book of Isaiah: 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.

By mid-June of 1828 the men had produced 116 manuscript pages. These were lost, though, after Harris borrowed them to convince his wife of the legitimacy of their enterprise. (Some believe she burned them.) This loss occasioned a revelation, the first recorded by Smith. In it, God chastises the nascent Prophet for heeding the counsels of men rather than His own.

After a brief period in which Joseph’s wife Emma served as scribe, the advent of a young schoolteacher from Vermont named Oliver Cowdery, who had learned from Smith’s family of the translation, gave the work renewed impetus. Following his arrival and assistance in its completion, Cowdery proved instrumental as well in the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.

This came about in May of 1829, after he and Joseph, translating certain passages, had begun to wonder about the authority needed to perform baptism. Seeking guidance, they went to the Susquehanna River near Harmony, Pennsylvania, where they had been working, and prayed. Soon John the Baptist descended, and, saying he had been sent by the Apostles Peter, James, and John, laid his hands upon the heads of the two men and ordained them in the priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels and the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. The revenant John then told them that in the days to come they would receive the keys to a higher priesthood, for the laying on of hands and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Smith and Cowdery subsequently baptized each other through full-body immersion in the river, after which they ordained one another: Joseph became First Elder in the Church, and Oliver Second Elder.

Later that summer Cowdery and Smith were again visited by heavenly emissaries, with Peter, James and John bestowing upon them the power to perform ordinances through the Melchizedek Priesthood—so called after a righteous king and high priest mentioned in Genesis.

After the translation was brought to a close in June, 1829, nine more witnesses were permitted to see and handle the plates, then bore their solemn, written testimony to the world of the work’s authenticity. In mid-August The Book of Mormon was printed by Egbert B. Grandin of Palmyra, and in March of 1830 a first edition of five thousand copies was issued. Meanwhile, Joseph Smith returned the engraved metal manuscript and the Urim and Thummim to Moroni.

Then, on the 6th of April, 1830, Joseph and Oliver convened with forty or fifty others in a home north of Palmyra to organize the Church of Christ. The prophecy, received by Smith the previous May, of a great and marvelous work . . . about to come forth among the children of men was thus fulfilled: the same Church instituted by Jesus when He lived on earth, but corrupted and lost in the Great Apostasy that succeeded His ministry, had now been triumphantly restored.

Once re-established, The Church began to wax in number through the baptism of Smith’s family members, the witnesses to The Book of Mormon, and other sincere seekers. Joseph also assumed the holy mantle of seer, translator . . . prophet [and] apostle of Jesus Christ, appointing counselors and Twelve Apostles to serve with him, and receiving further revelations from God regarding the proper organization, doctrine and rites of His one true religion. In 1833 some of these divine instructions and admonitions were published as The Book of Commandments (later The Doctrine and Covenants), while others appear in The Pearl of Great Price. Along with The King James Version of The Holy Bible and The Book of Mormon, these four volumes comprise the sacred canon of Mormonism.

In The Book of Moses, revealed to The Prophet in June of 1830 and contained today in The Pearl of Great Price, God the Father addresses His children and declares His purpose: For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

In another revelation, delivered at Hiram, Ohio on February 16, 1832, Joseph Smith and his counselor Sidney Rigdon were vouchsafed a cosmic vision of The Lord’s plan of salvation. It came in the wake of their meditation on the meaning of John 5:29: And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. Following a theophanic apparition of the glory of the Lord, and the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and, around them, the holy angels . . . worshiping God, and The Lamb, the men heard the voice of the Only Begotten testifying: That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

After this manifestation, and a vision of the rebellion and consequent Fall of Lucifer, Smith and Rigdon received a detailed vision of the Afterlife. Instead of a simple division into Heaven and Hell, there exist three kingdoms or levels of heaven: the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial. The first and highest of these, the Celestial, is the dwelling of God and Jesus and all His Prophets, and is reserved for the most holy and pure of Church members—those most constant in their righteousness. Next comes the Terrestrial, diminished in glory from the highest as the moon differs from the sun in the firmament. Here, after their resurrection, reside those who died without law, i. e. without having heard the Gospel, honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men and others not valiant in the testimony of Jesus. Last is the Telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament. This is the degree of glory reserved for such as are thrust down to hell.

A later section of this revelation defines the state of perdition and describes its sons: those who denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, and crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame are beyond salvation. These are the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord . . . For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb. . . .

The last revelation of 1832, received on Christmas Day, foretold America’s Civil War— almost thirty years before the attack on Fort Sumter that inaugurated that sanguinary conflict:

1. Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;

2. And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.

3. For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.

4. And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.

In addition to issuing these revelations, God also manifested His will with regard to the earthly activities of The Church. In what is now Section 28 of The Doctrine and Covenants, He instructs His Prophet to send Oliver Cowdery as a missionary to the Lamanites—The Book of Mormon’s name for the indigenes of the Americas—while a further directive mandates the establishment of a New Jerusalem, or Zion, for the gathering of the Lord’s chosen. In response to persecution in New York that included threats against the lives of its leaders, and commanded to go to the Ohio, by February of 1831 the main body of The Church had made an exodus to that state, settling near Cleveland in the small town of Kirtland. Meanwhile Joseph Smith and other Church leaders continued on to Jackson County, Missouri, which The Prophet identified as the site of The Garden of Eden. Here, in July of 1831, he received a communication from God which exalted the area as appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints and as the place for the city of Zion. When another revelation designated a lot in the town of Independence as the location for a future temple, the property was purchased and dedicated.

While Cowdery’s mission to the Lamanites faltered due to the rigors of the winter of the deep snow, one of the worst in memory, and the enmity of federal Indian agents, some 130 new members were converted in Northeastern Ohio, including men who were to be stalwarts of The Church in Kirtland. It was there, in 1833, that construction of the first temple, or House of the Lord, began, after a vision of its exact plan given to Smith and two counselors. Its dedication in March of 1836 occasioned a tremendous, Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit, with members speaking in tongues and testifying to the presence in their midst of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Elias and Elijah, along with Christ’s disciple Peter and The Savior Himself.

As the temple neared completion, Joseph Smith embarked on another inspired translation, rendering into English the hieroglyphics of several Egyptian papyrus rolls that had fortuitously come into his possession. These contained writings by the most revered of Old Testament patriarchs: In the land of the Chaldeans, the first-person account begins, at the residence of my fathers, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence. It then goes on to detail his removal to Canaan and Egypt and his interactions with the false gods and clergy of the Pharaoh before stressing the crucial importance for those who would build God’s kingdom of possessing the legitimate priesthood power, passed down over generations from Adam. The Book of Abraham also provides the name of the residence of God, Kolob, notes that One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth, and reveals that our earth is only one of a multitude of planets.

Finally, and most importantly, it alludes to The War in Heaven and the Pre-Existence. Before the world was organized, Lucifer and Jesus proposed distinct plans of salvation to God the Father: the first compelled righteousness from His children, while the second allowed for free will and agency. At the culmination of a conflict between the hosts of pre-mortal intelligences, Satan was cast down, taking with him those spirits who pledged him allegiance. Those who sided with The Christ, meanwhile, were promised eventual existence on this earth in bodies of flesh and blood.

Completed and published in 1842, The Book of Abraham joined The Book of Moses and excerpts from The Prophet’s revised translation of portions of The New Testament in The Pearl of Great Price.

Meanwhile the Ohio city was

all activity, all animation—the noise and bustle of the teams with lumber, brick, stone, lime or merchandise, were heard from the early dawn of morning till the grey twilight of evening:

The sound of the mechanic’s hammer saluted the ear of the sluggard before the rising sun had fairly dispelled the sable shades of night, and the starting up, as if by magic, of buildings in every direction around us, were evidence to us of buoyant hope, lively anticipation, and a firm confidence that our days of pinching adversity had passed by, and that the set time of the Lord to favor Zion had come. (in Latter-Day Saint Messenger and Advocate, June 1837, 520.)

In Kirtland Joseph Smith and his fellow Elders founded The School of the Prophets and other educational institutions, along with

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