In the past year, I have read several books about Mormonism. Many of these sources could be termed “anti-Mormon,” but not all of them. Some of these attempt to dispute Mormonism by quoting the outlandish things said by some early Mormon leaders. While many of these quotes are factual, it is a useless strategy. If you confronted an average Mormon with these strange quotes, you would likely be told something like, “I’ve never heard anything like that” or “We don’t believe that at all” or “What planet are you from?” Furthermore, prophecy is virtually impossible to disprove.
I am currently reading In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith by Todd Compton. It is a hefty book by a Mormon author, with biographical chapters for all of Smith’s well-documented wives. Right now I have read about a third of it, and I am really gaining an understanding of why so many people were attracted to Mormonism in its early years and why they claim to be the restorated true church.
It all has to do with the book of Acts. This is my favorite book of the Bible, because it is the action/adventure part. The apostles visibly receive the Holy Spirit, there is speaking in tongues, miracles happen left and right, people sell all of their possessions to join the Way, sinners are struck down by God, people praise God because their suffering allows them to be tested, and more. If you compare that to Christianity in America today, I doubt you will find many similarities. From what I have read, such a contrast also existed in the early 1800s. However, in the 1830s, Mormonism entered the scene. Joseph Smith was revealing propecy from God! New Mormons were speaking in tongues, and other ones were translating! Healing administrations were happening all the time! People were selling all of their possessions and moving to live together with other believers! And they were persecuted just like early Christians! If I was around for this incredibly display of the Holy Spirit, I quite possibly would have joined too. In Sacred Loneliness mentions one convert who had concluded that all churches had fallen away before he ever heard about Mormonism.
I am a little confused about what happened in the past 170 years. If health administration by the laying on of hands works as well as it did back then, we wouldn’t need to bother with secular hospitals. Smith’s furious rate of prophesying has not been matched by recent prophets. The growth of the Mormon church, while still quite significant, is slowing down. I can’t think of a single acquantance who converted to Mormonism, sold everything, and moved to Utah (although I bet some people still do this). I have never been to a service, but from external appearances, the Mormon Church looks more like the Roman Catholic Church than the early church in Acts.
I welcome any constructive criticisms.