How the Mormons Made Las Vegas

And why we need their engagement now more than ever

Photo by Scott Jarvie

Photo by Scott Jarvie

It’s less than two miles from the old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Park to The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, but 159 years separate the founding of the fort from the Las Vegas premiere of the controversial musical The Book of Mormon on June 10. What happened in between the two events is a tale of the occasional heartbreak and extraordinary labor with which Mormons helped create modern Clark County—and in the process gained influence far beyond their numbers.

When the musical sprung from the irreverent minds of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to become the toast of Broadway in 2011, wags around Las Vegas wondered whether it could or would be performed here. That the question would even be asked is a sign of the power that many Southern Nevadans believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wields in their community. It’s also an acknowledgment of how much Mormons have shaped the community, often in ways that fit with their church’s history. Admirers praise their commitment; critics often find them insular. One longtime observer recalls that upon moving to Southern Nevada more than three decades ago, what he heard “reminded me of the old anti-Semitic line, ‘The Jews control everything.’ People talked about Mormons the same way—they stick together, they help each other a lot, the same kind of basic stereotype.”

The Mormon church reports having about 15 million members worldwide, with 180,000 in Nevada. According to statistics provided by Shannon Hiller, the church’s public-affairs representative in Southern Nevada, about 105,000 Mormons live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area—about 5 percent of the city’s population.

W. Paul Reeve, a widely published Mormon scholar and an associate professor of history at the University of Utah, agreed that “where there are high numbers of Mormons there can be a feeling of exclusion if you are on the outside looking in.” One factor is how involved Mormons are in their church and in family activities. “For Mormons, so much of their daily interactions revolve around their church community,” Reeve says, “that they can sometimes forget to look up and look around them and realize that there are other neighbors of other faiths.”

But there are also strong traditions and trends within Mormonism toward reaching out to the community. Reeve cites “The Doctrine of Inclusion,” a 2001 article by M. Russell Ballard, then one of the Council of the Twelve Apostles—the group that leads the Mormon church—that reminds members to “get to know your neighbors.” Ballard goes on to recommend that church members stop thinking of non-Mormon neighbors first as “non-Mormons.” “Personally,” he wrote, “I don’t think of myself as a ‘non-Catholic’ or a ‘non-Jew.’”

“For Mormons,” Reeve says, “community is always more important than the individual. Mormonism is a rejection of life as a Darwinian struggle of all against all. Mormons [have a] covenant to mourn with those who mourn, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Ideally, that principle extends beyond the Mormon community.”

And in Southern Nevada—where Mormons have been prominent in government, business and philanthropy—it has done just that, with tremendous impact on the history of the Valley.

Beginnings

Today, if a teenager announced that an angel had appeared to him and led him to special tablets, you might be skeptical. When Joseph Smith reported having this experience early in the 19th century, it wasn’t that unusual. It happened during the Second Great Awakening, a series of religious revivals across America that prompted the formation of new religious groups. It also created or reinvigorated reform movements that ranged from abolitionism and temperance to utopian socialist communities where groups came together and shared their land or bounty or expenses. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew out of this swirl of activity.

From the start, Mormons—with their unique cosmology and forms of organization—faced discrimination and violence. The church migrated from upstate New York, wound through several intermediary stops and settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. But in 1844, Smith was murdered in Nauvoo while in jail on charges of disturbing the peace. New church leader Brigham Young decided to move Mormons westward, away from Americans who might express their displeasure with the church’s different approach to religion. John C. Frémont’s recent report of his explorations west of the Rockies gave Young his template, and, in 1847, he led the first group of Mormon emigrants into the Salt Lake Valley. Hoping both to help his church flourish and to protect it from attack, he proposed the large State of Deseret that included access to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1855, Young extended that footprint into New Mexico Territory, dispatching William Bringhurst to lead the mission. When the Mormons reached the Las Vegas Springs, they found the Southern Paiutes whom the church had ordered them to “cultivate.” Not being sure whether the Paiutes were friendly, the Mormons followed a creek about four miles northeast and built their fort-mission on a natural bench, now the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard North and Washington Avenue.

The mission lasted only two years. The potentially lucrative discovery of lead at Mount Potosi divided the missionaries over their purpose; the debate led to Young removing Bringhurst as the mission’s president. Later in 1857, the U.S. Army headed for Salt Lake over charges that Mormons were ignoring federal law. The ongoing battle with federal officials was known as the Utah War—suddenly there were more pressing matters for the men who had established the Las Vegas outpost, and the fort was abandoned.

The fort—which is Nevada’s oldest building—served as a beachhead for subsequent settlement, passing into the hands of ranchers and becoming the home of Las Vegas pioneer Helen Stewart, who sold her land to the railroad. That sale led to the May 15, 1905, land auction and the building of the town of Las Vegas.

With a red-light district within walking distance of the train depot, early Las Vegas wasn’t the kind of community that Mormons had in mind. In the early 20th century, though, Mormons had a great impact on the development of rural Clark County. They built communities in Bunkerville and Mesquite, and in the Moapa Valley towns of St. Thomas and Overton, the site of Nevada’s first permanent stake in 1912. Mostly farming areas that also supplied nearby residents, they had a stronger Mormon presence than the railroad town that grew near the first Mormon mission in present-day Nevada. Bunkerville even started as a communitarian (and polygamist) experiment, though that effort proved about as short-lived as the Las Vegas mission.

Meanwhile, national politics hadn’t made things any easier. When the Republican Party was formed in 1856 to oppose the spread of slavery, it reserved additional moral outrage for a different institution: “It is the duty of Congress,” intoned the original Republican platform, “to prohibit  … those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery.” To most Americans, Mormons were outlaws. They fit with what the world would come to know of Las Vegas better than anyone could have imagined.

The Evolution of Las Vegas

The Mormon population grew as Las Vegas grew, with an estimated membership of just over 400 when Las Vegas finally topped 5,000 residents in 1930. That was enough to spur the construction of the first Mormon chapel and ward in 1925—20 years after Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist churches opened, but nearly two decades before the first Jewish temple.

Those who have lived in Las Vegas long enough tend to wax nostalgic for a time that never was: when the mob “ran” the town and everybody was safe. But those who have lived in Las Vegas even longer recall childhood in the 1930s and 1940s that included events at each church, open to all regardless of faith or membership. The town wasn’t large enough for any group to be exclusive.

Many of the Mormon settlers in early Las Vegas moved from Bunkerville or the Moapa Valley, apparently motivated in part by business opportunities that also led to political opportunities. The Bunker family opened its mortuary, and three brothers entered politics. Berkeley Bunker became an Assembly speaker and later the first Mormon U.S. senator (later still, he was a U.S. representative from Nevada). The Whipple family arrived from Logandale, and Reed Whipple became a banker and city commissioner. The Christensens owned a jewelry store that still operates, and became prominent in elected office.

When Las Vegas was a small town, the Mormon emphasis on community made them important leaders in setting up the trappings of civil society. Mormons, for instance, were crucial to the formation in 1944 of the Boulder Dam Area Council, now the Las Vegas Area Council of the Boy Scouts. And, as officials and volunteers, they became the driving force in Scouting and in the local and state PTA.

Remaking Las Vegas

While Clark County now has 24 Mormon stakes (something akin to a Catholic diocese), Las Vegas and its Mormon population hadn’t grown enough to have its own until 1954. That year, Mormons or those with close connections to the church began the process of reshaping Las Vegas. On January 18, the Continental Bank of Salt Lake City opened the Bank of Las Vegas in conjunction with local investors. The next year, Utah investors sent down a manager, Parry Thomas, who had a long family history in the Mormon church.

Thomas was the only banker willing to regularly lend money to casino operators—“character loans,” as they became known, since onetime illegal gamblers, mobsters or not, hated to write anything down. Asked why he would do this, Thomas said, “I’m in the banking business, and these people were good loans.” Along with the bank’s involvement in real estate through Thomas and Jerome Mack, a member of a pioneer Jewish family in Las Vegas, the loans made the operation wildly successful, and enabled several Strip and Downtown casinos to build or rebuild.

Other Mormons played a significant role in gaming. The staff that took care of Howard Hughes after he moved to Las Vegas late in 1966 became known as the “Mormon Mafia,” under the command of Bill Gay. Thomas, meanwhile, helped Hughes buy property. While Thomas and other leaders hoped that Hughes would help drive out the mob, or at least the aura it gave Nevada, Thomas knew it would take more. He engineered the sale of a parcel that Hughes owned to Steve Wynn. Thus did Wynn owe some of his success to the role played by the Mormon church, and the rest really is history—and the present.

Wynn cites Parry Thomas as a major influence on his life—and on Las Vegas. The Thomas influence even continued to the next generation: Thomas’ son Roger was the interior designer of Wynn’s hotels. The irony is that Mormons have historically opposed gambling as taking “money from the person who may be possessed of it without giving value received in return.” Although Mormons have worked on the casino floor, the general rule in the church has been that if a Mormon works in the casino industry, “don’t touch the dice.”

Las Vegas Mormon Temple | Photo courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau

Las Vegas Mormon Temple | Photo courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau

The Church and the Culture

In 2010, the UNLV Department of Sociology, led by professor Robert Futrell and working with several university and community groups, conducted the Las Vegas Metropolitan Area Social Survey. Only one-third of the residents surveyed felt a sense of attachment or identification with their neighborhood, compared with a national average of more than two-thirds.

“Valley residents’ stronger attachment to being a ‘Las Vegan’ than a ‘neighbor’ in a neighborhood raises important questions about civic involvement. If residents feel a limited sense of attachment to their neighbors and neighborhood, then they may be less willing to act together to solve neighborhood problems,” the report said. “Also, stronger neighborhood attachment could reduce transiency of residents, creating more long-term neighbors … who can help to anchor sustainable communities.”

But with less involvement in gaming and more of an investment in other industries or the community as a whole, Mormons appear to have been less transient. David Dickens, a UNLV sociology professor and co-author of Las Vegas: The Social Production of an All-American City, noted the results: “Transience has a lot to do with it, and so does turnover: People don’t identify with being from here. I think the implication for things like education, childhood sports and Scouting is that Mormons are invested in the community in a way in which a lot of groups [aren’t].”

Dickens harkens to the theory that political scientist Theodore Lowi offered in his 1969 The End of Liberalism, referring to “interest-group liberalism” as a partial explanation for how Mormons have an influence disproportionate to their share of the population. “My experience,” he says, “has been that part of their focus in their religious practices is a strong influence on the family, so whatever affects their kids, they participate in.” In turn, if the majority of parents don’t volunteer or participate, those who do will have an outsized impact.

That has been the case with educational groups such as the Clark County School District and the PTA. The LDS has encouraged education; combine that with the church’s emphasis on family, and you start to understand why Mormons have held numerous elected and appointed positions in the institutions that help give form to childhood culture in the Valley.

But these historical roles may be changing. The Mormon role in the  PTA, one insider says, has declined with the arrival of increasing numbers of Hispanic and Asian immigrants “because they disagree with many of the organization’s political views and positions they have taken” on such subjects as sex education, where the PTA is a bit more liberal than the Mormon church. Meanwhile, the influx of new arrivals to Southern Nevada inevitably has reduced Mormon influence. In 1990, Nevada’s population of just over 1.2 million included an estimated 110,000 Mormons; while the 2010 census showed that, though Nevada’s population had more than doubled to more than 2.7 million, the Mormon population had increased by less than 70,000.

That the Mormon church hasn’t kept up with the population may be significant on religious grounds, but it’s more significant on political, social and cultural grounds. Especially until the Great Recession, Las Vegas was a transient community: Not only did thousands move in and out each month, but they also moved around within the area. The stable, less transient Mormon population helped promote a sense of community—a sense that many inside and outside Southern Nevada have long seen the region as lacking.

Politics and Power

Both of Nevada’s U.S. senators are Mormon. The most powerful Mormon politician in the U.S., and Nevada’s most important political figure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a Democrat who described himself as “unchurched” before going to high school. After meeting Mormon families in Henderson, he converted to Mormonism while attending Utah State University (where he was a student of Leonard Arrington, one of the most distinguished scholars of Mormon history).

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Dean Heller, a Republican, said in 2006, when he first ran for the House of Representatives, “I’m a Mormon, and I teach Sunday school every week.” The highest-ranking Mormon state legislator, state Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, is a Democrat whose previous political activism included serving as statewide PTA president.

But Mormons are and long have been political conservatives, whatever party they have belonged to. Mormons joined the conservative exodus to the Republican Party that unfolded amid the Democrats’ Great Society liberalism of the 1960s until the rise of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and afterward.

Mormon influence in politics has been most apparent in the important positions held by church members. For example, one of Nevada’s longtime LDS leaders, James Gibson, a Henderson businessman and conservative Democrat, was a major state Senate power from the 1950s until his death in 1988. His son Jim, also a conservative Democrat, served as the mayor of Henderson from 1997-2009, ran for governor in 2006 and has been a church stake president.

Other powers belonged to the Mormon church but weren’t closely identified with it. Howard Cannon served four terms in the U.S. Senate, while the Lamb family dominated the Legislature (Floyd Lamb was a longtime state Senate finance chair) and Southern Nevada politics (Ralph, the legendary sheriff, and Darwin, a county commissioner). All were Democrats, and generally considered “Jack Mormons,” meaning they don’t necessarily abide by LDS teachings.

Mormon influence has been important to Nevada, but especially under certain circumstances. “Everyone looks at the notion that Mormons would be powerful statewide, and the church has done well at getting members to run,” says David Damore, an associate professor of political science at UNLV and a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institute. But the church’s influence has been most apparent, Damore says, in “low-turnout races,” and in some urban areas.

Another factor is when church members are especially motivated, including when church members are seeking office: Most other Republicans wrote off Nevada in the 2012 caucuses with Mitt Romney in the field, and he cruised to victory. An additional motivation can be based on a single issue.

In the 1970s, Mormons in the West turned out in force to help defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. More recently, Damore says, “The big example would have been the same-sex marriage initiative campaign, working with social conservatives to get that on the ballot to push that through.” Nevadans approved the measure in 2002, and Mormons were active in the campaign for Proposition 8 in 2008 to block same-sex marriage in California.

In Nevada, Damore sees possible changes in how Mormons approach politics. “LDS growth has not kept up with the rest of the state’s population. With the state turning Democratic, [having the same degree of influence] will be even more difficult. Also, I think you see a little bit of a generational shift, where the older generation would have been more Republican, very conservative, while some of those under 50 tend to be less so. I think the newer generation isn’t necessarily voting as a bloc.”

But Mormons have retained power in local governments. A Mormon has served as mayor of North Las Vegas for more than 30 years, of Henderson for 17 years, and four of the five members of the Boulder City Council are Mormon. Mormons occasionally have held a majority of the seats on the Clark County Commission. As Damore says, “You have Mormons in key decision-making positions, both elected and bureaucratic.”

Bob Broadbent exemplified Damore’s point. A Boulder City pharmacist when he became the town’s first mayor in 1960 (until then, the town had been under federal control), he moved up to the Clark County Commission in 1968 and went to Washington, D.C., to run the Bureau of Reclamation in 1981. (His successor, Bruce Woodbury, came from a longtime local Mormon family.) Broadbent returned home in 1987 as director of McCarran International Airport and later helped start what became the Robert N. Broadbent Las Vegas Monorail.

The Book on The Book

The Book of Mormon won nine Tony Awards in 2012 and worked its way into the nation’s cultural fabric. Controversy never really exploded, in large part thanks to Mormons’ generally calm, even bemused reaction: They welcomed the interest the show inspired; perhaps it would even prompt some theatergoers to look into Mormonism. The New York Times interviewed former missionaries who saw it. “It’s way, way too close to home,” one said. Another said, “It’s right on, but I cringed a little bit, a couple of times.”

The church’s official response, says local church spokeswoman Hiller, has also been philosophical and above-the-fray: “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but The Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”

Nearly 160 years after the founding of the Mormon Fort, it’s hard to argue with that assertion: The Book has had, and will continue to have, a far greater impact on Las Vegas than the musical. But those South Park guys are really funny anyway.

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  • JohnCBennett

    One thing this article overlooks is the increasing number of people leaving the Mormon Church. Many former members have an extremely difficult time with that transition. Much like former members of other high control groups, Ex Mormons can experience shunning, loss of jobs, friends, family and even their spouse. The positive things this article talk about have a very real flip side for those who change their mind and leave the faith.

    Fortunately, the post mormon support community is growing. If you have left the church you are not alone! There are multiple online support communities and a vibrant local meetup and private facebook group here in Las Vegas.

    http://www.newsweek.com/when-saints-go-marching-out-245158

    http://www.meetup.com/Las-Vegas-Ex-Mormons/

    • kh

      I’m so glad to hear that cracks are finally letting light thru the walls of Mormonism!

      I’m not an ex-mo but can identify, as most of my family is Mormon and I refused to convert. They made my life hard while I put myself through college as an emancipated minor, keeping the child support money I was supposed to get until I was 18 & sending missionaries instead. When they realized I was never going to convert I was not included in most family events, because by then they defined family as other Mormons, not me.

      That background made me cringe whenever Romney talked of his generosity in the last presidential election – everything he gave was to
      “someone in his (LDS) church”. Not especially generous when the motivation for giving was probably to earn points towards becoming a god
      someday (“Eternal Progression” in action right?).

      There are some excellent videos on YouTube you may be interested in, including DNA vs Book of Mormon. Here’s a link:

      http://www.youtube.com/user/lhvm

      Best wishes to you & the other freedom fighters :)

    • Joella Faith Vandever

      what a sad to leave the church. i join the church right after high school it was the greatest thing. i move to utah and they were the nicest people they treated me a way i never been treat they are great people.

  • David Tiffany

    “Today, if a teenager announced that an angel had appeared to him and led him to special tablets, you might be skeptical.”
    And the Bible tells us to be skeptical.
    Galatians 1:6-9, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or AN ANGEL from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”
    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

    • LakersTrent

      Yes, Jesus said to beware of false prophets, of which there have been many. He said that ‘by their fruits (we) shall know them’, basically that if they’re evil then that will show and if they’re good then that will also show:

      15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
      16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
      17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
      18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
      19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
      20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
      21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

      http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%207&version=KJV

      • kh

        You stopped before the verses that most affect Mormons:

        22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’

        23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    • laverl09

      Dave, as you well know, the main purpose of the Book of Mormon is to provide a second witness that Jesus Christ really is who the New Testament says he is. As you carefully read the “Gospel” taught in the Book of Mormon, you will find that it is so similar to the New Testament that Joseph Smith has been accused of plagiarism. We as Christians NEED this second witness to the atonement and resurrection of our Savior to help combat the world’s theorizing that the body of Jesus was “stolen” from the tomb and was never in actuality ever resurrected. So–when Jesus appears in America as a resurrected being and shows the crucifixion marks in his hands and feet, we as Christians can rejoice together that we have this second witness to this most grand of all news items of the entire universe!
      Let’s not kill the second witness, but rather let us rejoice together in its ageless grandiosity!

      • kh

        Mormons spew out Christian words as if we were talking about the same things but refuse to admit they define them differently.

        Mormonism defines Earth’s god as some schmuck from the planet Kolob who played his cards right, followed all the rules, got signed, sealed & married in a temple and then became a god (in a universe full of them*) through the Law of Eternal Progression.

        Jesus is defined as the spirit baby of the “heavenly father & mother”, and his spirit-baby brother is Satan. Eventually god came to earth and had sex with Mary resulting in spirit-baby Jesus being born into an earthly body. Normally god didn’t do that sort of thing, so that’s why Mormonism thinks Jesus is referred to as “his only begotten son”.

        I don’t remember how they define the Holy Spirit but it’s not consistent with Christian doctrine.

        If Mormonism has a different God, a different Jesus & a different Holy Spirit AND a different Bible then Christianity then IT’S NOT CHRISTIAN.

        Speaking of which, Mormons disregard anything in the Bible that does not agree with the B of M right? Perhaps you should challenge yourself to examine your biblical disdain by watching Bible vs Book of Mormon on http://www.youtube.com/user/lhvm.

        This is a free country, believe anything you want. But why are Mormons so afraid of their beliefs that they say they are something they are not? Who are they trying to deceive? And ultimately what is behind that spirit of deception?

        * ONE NATION UNDER GODS – A HISTORY OF THE MORMON CHURCH by Richard Abanes

  • LakersTrent

    The most recent count (Dec 31 2013) reports 15.1 million Mormons worldwide, rather than the 8.7M figure used in the article (of the 15.1 million, about 6.4 million are Americans). The 180,000 figure for Nevadan Mormons is correct though.

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics/

  • http://sunderedsheres.com Renaissance Nerd

    You can usually tell a Mormon-built town in the West. If it has wide streets that form squares, it’s very likely a Mormon settlement, if built before 1900, after which everybody started doing the same. Not like that carriage-inspired spiral in Cairo…

    • kh

      Straight lines – wow, what a contribution to society.
      I guess that explains the preoccupation the Mormon church has with whether people are straight as well . . .

  • giantslor

    “For Mormons,” Reeve says, “community is always more important than the individual. Mormonism is a rejection of life as a Darwinian struggle of all against all.”
    Someone forgot to tell Mitt Romney.

  • Ron Den Boer

    Pearl Of Great Price

    34 He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold
    plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the
    source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the
    everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the
    ancient inhabitants;

    Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I
    told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on
    earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by
    abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

    Introduction of Book of Mormon

    So if that’s the
    case why can’t we find these teachings
    in the Book of Mormon ?

    1. The plurality of Gods (Mormon Doctrine pp. 576, 577)

    2. The baptism for
    the dead done in holy temples (Mormon Doctrine pp. 72,73)

    3. Celestial marriage
    which no unworthy member or outsider can attend (Mormon Doctrine pp. 117, 118)

    4. Polygamy needed to
    become a God (Journal of Discourse, Vol. II p. 269)

    5. Blacks were cursed
    with a dark skin (Mormon Doctrine p. 109)

    6. You can become a
    God if you are worthy; celestial marriage required (Mormon Doctrine p. 118)

    7. We were all
    pre-existent spirits (Mormon Doctrine p. 589)

    8. God has a body of
    flesh and bones (Mormon Doctrine p. 289)

    9. We have a Heavenly
    Mother as well as a Heavenly Father (Mormon Doctrine p. 516)

    10. There are three
    levels of heaven. To go to the highest kingdom, you must be a Mormon. Honorable
    persons go to the Terrestrial kingdom. The dishonest, liars, sorcerers,
    adulterers and whoremongers go to the Telestial kingdom. (Mormon Doctrine pp.
    420, 421)

    11. God and his wife
    achieved a celestial marriage (Celestial Marriage Manual p. 1)

    12. Heavenly Father
    died just like Jesus (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 346)

    13. God was once just
    like us and progressed to godhood (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p.
    345)

    14. God has a father
    and His Father has a Father, etc. (Mormon Doctrine p. 322)

    15. Jesus and Lucifer
    are spirit brothers (Mormon Doctrine p. 192)

    16. Jesus and Lucifer
    each had a plan to people the earth. Jesus’ plan was chosen and caused Lucifer
    to rebel and he and the angels that followed him were cast out of heaven.
    (Mormon Doctrine p. 193)

    17. God lives near a
    star called Kolob (Mormon Doctrine p. 428)

    18. Temple endowments
    are so sacred that you must be worthy to enter (Mormon Doctrine pp. 619, 620)

    19. Jesus was not
    able to keep his church together (History of the Church Vol. 6 pp. 408, 409)

    20. In the future,
    you will need Joseph Smith’s consent in order to enter the celestial kingdom
    (Journal of Discourse Vol. 7 p.289)

    21. Not everything
    you’ll need to know concerning salvation will be recorded in the Bible but
    there will be additional scriptures (Mormon Doctrine p. 83)”

    22. Jesus was Married
    and Practiced polygamy (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p.210).

    (Journal of Discourses,
    vol.2, p.82).

    (Journal of
    Discourses, vol.4, p.259).

    23. No eternal hell

    LDS Apostle John
    Widtsoe declared, “In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
    there is no hell. All will find a measure of salvation” (E. & R., p.
    216). Yet, the B. of M. says, “The devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth
    them away carefully down to hell and behold others he flattereth away, and
    telleth them there is no hell” (II Nephi 28:21-22). Thus, the B. of M.
    explains where Mormonism got its doctrine of no hell!

    The B. of M. also
    says, “If ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until
    death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth
    seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you and
    hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the
    final state of the wicked” (Alma 34:35).

    24. Animal sacrifice
    after Jesus’ blood was shed

    RESTORATION OF BLOOD
    SACRIFICES. We are living in the dispensation of the fulness of times into
    which all things are to be gathered, and all things are to be restored since
    the beginning. Even this earth is to be restored to the condition which
    prevailed before Adam’s transgression. 44 Now in the nature of things, the law
    of sacrifice will have to be restored, or all things which were decreed by the
    Lord would not be restored. It will be necessary, therefore, for the sons of
    Levi, who offered the blood sacrifices anciently in Israel, to offer such a
    sacrifice again to round out and complete this ordinance in this dispensation.
    Sacrifice by the shedding of blood was instituted in the days of Adam and of
    necessity will have to be restored. 45

    The sacrifice of
    animals will be done to complete the restoration when the temple spoken of is
    built; at the beginning of the millennium, or in the restoration, blood
    sacrifices will be performed long enough to complete the fulness of the
    restoration in this dispensation. Afterwards sacrifice will be of some other
    character.

    3 Nephi 9:19 Jesus
    was supposed to have said: “And ye shall offer up unto me no more the
    shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done
    away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.”

    25. Atonement
    happened in Garden of Gethsemane

    The Church of Jesus
    Christ of latter-day Saints does not view the atonement of Christ in the
    biblical and historical Christian manner. Instead of the atonement occurring on
    the cross, Mormonism teaches that the atonement occurred primarily in the
    Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus shed His blood. Please consider the following
    quotes from a BYU professor and the Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie.

    •BYU professor Robert J. Matthews, who on page 282 of his
    book, A Bible! A Bible!, wrote, “It was in Gethsemane, on the slopes of
    the Mount of Olives, that Jesus made his perfect atonement by the shedding of
    his blood-more so than on the cross.”

    •Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie, stated, “Where and
    under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was
    it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? It is to the Cross
    of Christ that most Christians look when centering their attention upon the
    infinite and eternal atonement. And certainly the sacrifice of our Lord was
    completed when he was lifted up by men; also, that part of his life and
    suffering is more dramatic and, perhaps, more soul stirring. But in reality the
    pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place
    primarily in Gethsemane,” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 1, p.
    774, emphasis mine).

    26. Eternal Progression

    27. Maintaining
    genealogical records

    28. Mormons hold keys to the kingdom

    29. creation from matter and Ex Nihilo wrong

    Jacob 4:9 For behold, by the power of his a word man came upon
    the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word.
    Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man
    was created, O then, why not able to command the dearth, or the workmanship of
    his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?

  • Ron Den Boer

    Why would God tell Joseph Smith JR the Creeds were an
    abomination and professors were corrupt and the then give Joseph Smith the Book
    of Mormon which agreed with these Creeds and professors

    Pearl of Great Price
    , Joseph Smith History

    19 I was answered
    that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who
    addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that
    those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of
    men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

    Here are Joseph Smith statements against the Creeds and the
    Book of Mormon

    Joseph Smith: Many men say there is one God; the Father, the

    son and the Holy Ghost are only one God! I say this is a
    strange God

    anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious
    organization. . . . All

    are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism.
    It would make the

    biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big
    God—he would be a

    giant or a monster.“

    (History of the Church * Volume 6 Page 476 * 1844

    “God himself was

    once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits
    enthroned in yonder

    heavens. That is the great secret… …I am going to tell you
    how God came to be

    God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all
    eternity. I will

    refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may
    see. … It is the

    first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the
    character of God and

    to know…that he was once a man like us…. Here, then, is
    eternal life – to

    know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn
    how to be Gods

    yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as
    all Gods have done

    before you… (“King Follett Discourse,” Journal of
    Discourses 6:3-4, also in

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345-346, and History
    of the Church, vol.

    6, 305-307,)”

    2 Nephi 31:

    21 And now, behold,
    my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name
    given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now,
    behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the
    Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.
    Amen.

    Alma 11:

    44 Now, this
    restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both
    male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so
    much as a hair of their heads be lost; but everything shall be restored to its
    perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be
    arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy
    Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works,
    whether they be good or whether they be evil.

    Mormon 7:

    7 And he hath brought
    to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before
    him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God
    in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the
    Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a
    state of happiness which hath no end.

    The Testimony of
    Three Witnesses

    And the honor be to
    the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

    Oliver Cowdery

    David Whitmer

    Martin Harris

    Doctrine and
    Covenants 20 :

    28 Which Father, Son,
    and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end. Amen.

    2 Nephi 26:12 And as
    I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ,
    it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ,
    the Eternal God;

    Moroni 7:22 For
    behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting , behold,
    he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest
    concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good
    thing.

    Moroni 8:18 For I
    know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is
    unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.

    Mormon 9:9 For do we
    not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever , and in him there
    is no variableness neither shadow of changing?

    Hebrews 12: 8 Jesus
    Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

    2 Nephi 19:9 And I do
    this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and
    forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And
    because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak
    another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of
    man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

    Mosiah 3:5 For
    behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord
    Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity,
    shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a
    tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles,
    such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind
    to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of
    diseases.

    3 Nephi 19:

    18 And behold, they
    began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their
    God.

    Mosiah 5:15
    Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding
    in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you
    may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal
    life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created
    all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.

    An abridgment taken
    from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were
    scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they
    were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the
    house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and
    that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off
    forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the
    Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there
    are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of
    God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

    Translated by Joseph
    Smith, Jun.

    Mosiah 4: 9 Believe
    in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and
    in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in
    earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can
    comprehend.

    Mormons follow a different Christ then Christians…

    The traditional
    Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of
    whom I speak as been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fullness of
    Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the
    year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the matters
    of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.” (Church
    News, June 20, 1998, p70)

    Mormons also follow a different Jesus than Book of Mormon

    • SoundOn

      It’s nice that you are starting to see the similarities between the language in the Bible and Book of Mormon, but the Trinity as defined by the creeds is not compatible with the scriptures. Can you find a scripture that states that Jesus is the same being as His Father?

      • Ron Den Boer

        God- Godhead- Substance- Essence- Being [ all Synonyms ]

        Jesus and the Father are separate and distinct persons but consist in ONE GODHEAD

        • SoundOn

          I like the diagram and believe it to be true. Three separate beings all of which are called God. So you don’t believe these three to be the same being?

          • Ron Den Boer

            Since Being is a synonym for God- Godhead- Substance- Essence- Being [ all Synonyms ] yes, just like chart says

          • SoundOn

            Is God a synonym for substance? What scripture teaches that? Does Jesus pray to substance or a separate being called God?

          • Ron Den Boer

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkMY88DZcGU&feature=youtu.be

            Mormons teach another Jesus than Orthodox Christianity

          • SoundOn

            But as you have shown the Jesus of Orthodox Christianity is not Biblical. Again, can you find a scripture that states that Jesus is the same being as His Father? And where is the scripture that says that God is a synonym of substance?

          • Ron Den Boer

            This is the Jesus of Orthodox Christianity but not of Mormonism

            Mosiah 3:5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far
            distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is
            from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children
            of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst
            men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead,
            causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to
            hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

            3 Nephi 19:

            18 And behold, they
            began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their
            God.

            Mosiah 5:15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast
            and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God
            Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may
            have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and
            justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who
            is God above all. Amen.

            An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a
            record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord
            confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get
            to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great
            things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the
            covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the
            convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God,
            manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the
            mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found
            spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

            Translated by Joseph Smith, Jun.

            2 Nephi 26:12 And as I spake concerning the convincing of
            the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be
            convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;

          • Ron Den Boer

            http://youtu.be/T80RkOYwPzU

            Worship music is a good indication of TRUE RELIGION

          • SoundOn

            These scriptures sound similar to John 1:1, wouldn’t you agree? Still they do not say that Jesus is the same being as His Father or that substance is a synonym for God.

  • NoPurpleFlavorAid

    Great article. Very informative and yet upbeat. I am not Mormon. I don’t believe a word of the Book of Mormon, but one of my closest friends is LDS and one of the best Christians I know. A lot of people want to beat up on Mormons while giving Scientology and Jehova’s Witnesses a pass. No need to comment on the corruption and legal problems of the larger, more well-known religious organizations who are also famous for criticizing other denominations…

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