Sunday, November 20, 2022

President Joseph F. Smith Explains What “Mormonism” Really Is

(submitted by Dennis B. Horne)

Editorial Note: In the below article, President Smith defines the label “Mormonism” very much as President Russell M. Nelson has. These prophets are one in their views on this matter. President Smith also expounds in some detail on many facets of church practice and doctrine, including the future. Most of the material is as true and relevant today as it was a hundred and twenty years ago—there is great consistency in church teachings and practice. One effect of his message is to make one proud to be a faithful member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. The original article is titled, The “Mormonism” of Today:

            [Two and a half pages of explanatory material regarding plural marriage omitted.] Marriage is regarded by the Latter-day Saints as a sacrament. Under its higher ecclesiastical law it involves an everlasting covenant. That does not end with death. The marriage does not take place in the resurrection, but in time and in this world. It is of the nature of that marriage in the Garden of Eden between a man and a woman in whom then there was no death. It was a wedding of immortals. That which was lost through sin in the fall, was restored through obedience and the atonement of Christ in the regeneration, and the resurrection brings the parted pair together again as one, “no more twain but one flesh,” spiritual but tangible and eternal. That which is sealed on earth today by divinely revealed authority is sealed in heaven and remains in spite of death, immutable, and abides forever.

            The family thus formed is the basis of an ever-increasing kingdom and dominion continuing in worlds without end.[1] Marriages are permitted for time only, as all persons are not fitted for the higher conditions and the pure and sacred obligations they impose. The secular law in all cases whether for time or eternity, is honored, and that requires a license and a ceremony to be recorded under the State statutes, which provide heavy penalties for their violation. Monogamic wedlock is thus established by law in Utah, and is really more rigidly observed than in any other part of the Union.

            “Mormonism” inculcates chastity of life, self-restraint, temperance, abstinence from stimulants, order, peace, charity and fraternity. It teaches submission to law and promotes true patriotism. It recognizes the institutions of this country as established under Divine direction. It does not unite church and state. It supports each in its own sphere, but regards them as separate and distinct, and holds that neither should encroach upon the domain of the other. The “Mormon” Church does not dictate the politics of its members or direct citizens how they shall vote. The only restraint it claims to exercise as to political office is, that before any man who holds an ecclesiastical position which demands his entire services for the Church, becomes a candidate for a secular office which would take him from his Church duties, he shall obtain permission to do so from its presiding authorities. This is absolutely necessary to proper Church discipline, and is only reasonable and just. When that consent has been obtained, no man occupying a political office in this land is freer than he to perform his duty to his country, nor enjoys greater liberty as an American citizen. Notwithstanding all that is said and imagined as to the interference of the Church in political affairs, no citizen can truthfully assert that he has been deprived by the Church of his freedom, or that the Church has attempted to coerce or control conventions, elections, or legislatures.

            “Mormonism” is a term coined by its adversaries. It cannot mean anything but that which was taught by Mormon. He was a prophet of God on this hemisphere about sixteen centuries ago. His doctrines can be learned from the book that bears his name. It was translated by Joseph Smith from metallic plates covered with ancient hieroglyphics and deposited by Mormon when his nation was about to perish, under the warlike race from which our present Indian tribes descended. Those doctrines are, simply, the gospel of Jesus Christ as he delivered it in person on this land, after His resurrection and ascension from Palestine. They are unmixed with the precepts of men. They are the principles of Salvation. They teach faith, hope and charity. They show the necessity of belief in God and obedience to His commands. They require repentance from sin, baptism by immersion in water by one having divine authority, for the remission of sins through Christ’s atonement, and they promise the gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands and all the gifts of that Spirt enjoyed of old. They explain the true order of the Church organization and make plain the religion of the Redeemer.

            The Book of Mormon gives the history of this continent back to a remote period. It describes the customs and doings of the early inhabitants of the land and traces their origin. It gives the places of cities, temples, fortifications and buildings, the ruins of many of which have been discovered since the book was published. It treats of the wars, troubles, divisions of tribes, their religion, rebellion, travels, triumphs and tribulations, and forms a study for the archaeologist and the antiquarian.

            “Mormonism,” then, is the pure gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ revealed anew in these latter times. Its advocates are not “Mormons” any more than they are Isaiahs or Ezekiels, Peters or Pauls, for they believe in the Old and the New Testaments as well as in the Book of Mormon. Their proper name is Latter-day Saints, in distinction from that of the former-day saints. They claim to have a mission to proclaim the “everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people,” and brought to earth by the angel predicted by John the Divine in the Apocalypse. They gather in places appointed of God and his elect, called from all quarters of the earth. They “seek first the kingdom of God;” that is, His spiritual kingdom set up on the earth for the last days and for the last time, in the “dispensation of the fulness of times,” in which all things in Christ are to be gathered in one. The elders of the Church go into the world for this purpose, without pay or support other than that which is voluntarily bestowed by their hearers. They travel “without purse or scrip.”[2] They are often despised and rejected. They are men of pure lives devoted to the welfare of humanity. They are constantly libeled and maligned. They bear their cross with patience.[3] Their reward comes from above. They invade no man’s family. They have no inducements to offer to converts except the blessings that come from obedience to the truth, and a witness from God to each soul that accepts the message of salvation. To these may be added the assurance of persecution and obloquy and in many instances mobocracy and violence.[4]

            The “Mormons” or Latter-day Saints are baptized by one spirit into one body. They are striving to live together in love, and to observe the golden rule. They are organized into a compact ecclesiastical body, and are guided by apostles and prophets, pastors and teachers, and all the ministerial authorities had in the primitive Christian Church. These are inspired by divine revelation for the work of the ministry and the perfecting of the saints, and to give counsel and advice to them in all things pertaining to their welfare. But everything in the Church has to be done by common consent. The people prosper under the system. They are advised to own the land on which they live and the homes that shelter them. The home is held sacred by the saints as the beginning of their heaven. They rear their families in the fear of God. The song of praise and the voice of prayer are heard in their habitations. They are becoming a power in the earth because of the virtues and the strength of the religion that is intensely spiritual and also eminently practical.

            “Mormonism” is for the body as well as for the spirit. It is a religion for today. By right living now, its votaries are prepared for the future. By laying a firm foundation in their world, they expect to be able to build upon it in the world to come. No one need fear the spread of “Mormonism,” for that means the spread of righteousness and order and peace. It is light in the midst of the darkness of this world. It contains the solution of every religious problem that has vexed and divided Christendom for centuries. It holds for future development the settlement of the conflict between capital and labor. It bears divine authority sent down from heaven in the nineteenth century, and it will not be taken from earth again. It will prepare the way for the coming of the King of kings, whose right it is to reign, and until then its people and their leaders are required to remain “in subjection to the powers that be,” and to live honoring kings, presidents, magistrates and municipalities and to upholding wholesome law wherever they reside.

            “Mormonism” will be opposed and fought against, but it will not be overcome. It is of God and not of man. It is vital in every part. It puts down sin and vice and regards lust with abhorrence. It brings its devotees not only to the “unity of the faith,” but to concert of purpose and of action. It leads them to individual communion with Deity, and at the same time to perform their duties to one another on the earth. It promotes industry, thrift, education, progress, the fine arts as well as the common labors of life, and seeks for the acquirement of everything that is useful and beautiful in this world, and the securing of all the highest glories and exaltations in the world to come. “Mormonism” is God’s truth manifested to man, and it will endure and conquer and abide forever.


[1] For further information about this concept, see:

[2] This is no longer current practice, the Church having gradually moved away from that method of missionary service during the early part of the last century. Yet most missionaries still bear the expenses of their own missions today.

[3] For further explanation of this phrase, see Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s October 2022 General Conference address here:

[4] Regarding the persecution most members experience, see Pres. Nelson’s article here:

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