Brief History of the LDS Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to today as the Mormon Church, was founded on April 6, 1830, by a man named Joseph Smith. The roots of the church began 10 years earlier, however, when Joseph Smith, as a young man of 14, prayed to know which of all the many Christian denominations he should join. A religious revival around 1820 resulted in many denominations condemning each other, and Joseph was confused by their differing interpretations of scriptures in the Bible. During his own study, he came across James 1:5, which reads, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph decided to heed this counsel, and he prayed. In answer to his prayer, he received a marvellous vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Son. They told Joseph that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been lost from the earth, but it would be restored.
Joseph immediately received persecution when he spoke to local spiritual leaders about his experience. He was told roughly that the heavens were closed. The heavens were not closed then, nor are they now, as Joseph knew and continued to learn. Over the course of ten years, Joseph continued to receive divine instruction. He was led to an ancient record written on brass plates. He translated this record by the power of God. This book was published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. This book of scripture is a spiritual record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, who were led to the new land by the hand of God. It is a second testament that Jesus is the Christ and visited the American continent after His resurrection.
Missionary work has been a part of Mormon doctrine since its foundation. Early Church leaders went to Canada, England, and Europe and soon travelled to other far countries. Converts were encouraged to gather to Zion in the United States. What started as a church of six members has today grown to a worldwide church membership of more than 14 million. Now, however, members are encouraged to build the kingdom of God where they stand. There are now more members outside of the United States than inside it. Life has never been easy for the Latter-day Saints, however. They were pushed from New York to Ohio, then to Missouri, then to Illinois. Finally, the Saints fled the organized United States and settled in the Utah Territory. Even here, though, they were pursued.
Joseph Smith received many revelations from God. He restored, through the power of God, many precious truths which had been removed from the scriptures over nearly two millennia. He would often go to the Lord in prayer after reading in the Bible or while translating the Book of Mormon to gain clarification on certain doctrine. During one of these times, when Joseph asked about the practice of polygamy anciently, the Lord told him that it was only lawful when He commanded it. After some time, the Lord did command it. However, it was only a few members of the Church who were called to live this law. The Lord commanded the practice to cease in 1890, and it no plural marriages have been sanctioned by the Mormon Church since then. There were some break off groups more than one hundred years ago who chose to continue practicing this law. They are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though some claim to be Mormon. No person practicing plural marriage can be a member of the LDS Church. (More on polygamy.)
Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were martyred at Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. After this, the Saints were led by Brigham Young to the Salt Lake Valley, as Joseph had instructed Brigham to do. The first group of Saints arrived in the valley in 1847, and all new members of the Church continued to gather there for several decades.
Since this time, the LDS Church has grown to fill the earth. A living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, leads the Church today as its sixteenth president. Mormon doctrine teaches that he is the mouthpiece of the Lord. Jesus Christ is the leader of the LDS Church and reveals His will through His prophets today, just as He did anciently (Amos 3:7). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint has a world-class humanitarian aid program, a welfare program, education programs, and incredible organization. Mormon clergy are lay clergy, meaning they are not paid; they volunteer their time to serve when called by God. This means that a man could be called to serve as bishop in his congregation (or ward) and after his time is fulfilled could be called to be in charge of cleaning the meetinghouse. This is not seen as a demotion in the Church. Rather, all members recognize whatever call comes, comes from God. There is no demeaning service in God’s kingdom, and each job is important. These callings are opportunities to grow and learn and to serve others.
The Mormon Church continues to build temples in unparallelled numbers. More than 150 now dot the earth in countries everywhere, and more are announced every year. Temples are vital to the eternal salvation of God’s children. Learn more about the purpose of LDS temples as you visit this website.