The New Student's Reference Work/Mormons

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Mor′mons, believers in the Book of Mormon. They call themselves Latter-Day Saints, though the term Mormon is not particularly offensive to them. They constitute a religious community whose belief is founded upon revelations said to have been made to Joseph Smith in Manchester, N. Y. Born in 1805 in Vermont, he was 15 when he had his first vision; his call, as he considered it, to the work of a prophet. This was followed in 1823 by a revelation of the place where he would find the metallic plates on which were engraven the history and religion of the ancient inhabitants of America. In 1827 this record was put into his hands together with two transparent stones fastened to the rim of a bow somewhat resembling a pair of spectacles, but larger. This peculiar instrument was called the Urim and Thummim or Interpreters, by means of which he translated the unknown language of the record. Three persons were permitted to see the original record and Interpreters in a miraculous manner, while eight testified that Smith showed them the book of plates. When Smith had completed the translation, they were given into the custody of the angel Moroni, who had brought them to Smith. Such is the story of the origin of the Book of Mormon, the first edition of which was published in 1830 at Palmyra, N. Y. The name Mormon comes from the prophet who was commissioned to abridge the history of his people, a race said to have come from Jerusalem to America about B. C. 600; which abridgment constitutes the Book of Mormon. It is considered by the Mormons to be of equal authority with the Bible. The Mormon church was organized in Fayette, N. Y., April 6, 1830, with six members. Converts soon were numerous, and branches were founded in New England, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 1831 they formed a colony in Missouri, at Independence, Jackson County, which place was revealed to them as the site of their future capital, to be known as the City of Zion. Both here and in Ohio they were persecuted. At Independence their printing-press was destroyed, some of their leading elders were tarred and feathered, and finally 3,000 of their colony were driven across the Missouri River. A company of missionaries went to England in 1837 and made 2,000 converts. In 1837-8 they settled in upper Missouri, founding the cities of Adam Ondi-Ahman and Far West, but in the late autumn of 1838 the entire church, numbering 12,000 souls, were driven from the state. They fled into Illinois where they were kindly received, and in 1839-40 founded the city of Nauvoo; but in a few years the popular dislike broke out afresh, and the prophet and his brother Hyrum, while in prison under a charge of treason against the state, were murdered by a mob on the 27th of June, 1844.

Brigham Young, president of the Twelve Apostles, came to the leadership, and with a thousand families left Nauvoo in February, 1846. They wintered in Iowa and Nebraska, and in the spring of 1847 Young with a band of 147 set out for the Rocky Mountains, reaching Great Salt Lake on the 24th of July. Others followed in the autumn and in the next year. They have many settlements in Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, besides Utah, and colonies in Mexico and British America; there are also numerous branches of their church in northern Europe, in many of the states of the American Union and in the Pacific islands. They number upwards of 300,000 members, the great body of which are in Utah. Their church is officered as follows: Three of the First Presidency; 12 Apostles; 200 Patriarchs; 6,800 High Priests; 9,730 Seventies; 20,000 Elders, a total of what they call the Melchisedek Priesthood of 36,745; while 25,700 bear what is called the Lesser Priesthood, making a total of those who hold the priesthood of 62,445. Since their removal to Utah the chief opposition to them has been due to their doctrine of plurality of wives. For years this doctrine prevented the admission of Utah as a state. In September, 1890, however, Wilford Woodruff, then president of the church, issued his famous manifesto, discontinuing plural marriages; and in 1896 Utah was admitted into the Union. A new sect of Mormons, calling themselves the Reorganized Church have their headquarters at Lamoni, Iowa. The latter is said to have 542 churches, 860 ministers and 52,000 communicants.