Top Ten Biggest Controversies of the Mormon (LDS) Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) is a religion mired in controversy. From the Church's beginnings in 1820 with the "first vision" of Joseph Smith (its founder) to a present day membership of over 15 million, the Church has faced countless obstacles and controversies.

Every religion has faced persecution at some point or another and almost every religion has some historical baggage. The LDS church is no exception and has, since its founding in 1830 been constantly trying to outrun its murky and somewhat shady practices. Below are some of the most controversial doctrines, historical occurrences, and blunders that the Mormon Church has tried to either cover up or downplay.

I won't provide a full explanation as each item is capable of filling a book in itself but suffice it to say that a Google search will provide adequate background and additional resources.
The Top Ten
1 Curse of the Negros

The Church's racial stance against people of African decent is well noted and the LDS Church does a pretty thorough job at distancing itself now from its doctrines then. From 1830 to 1978, African descendants could join the church but not receive the higher blessings of church membership (the Priesthood and certain temple rituals). There were many reasons officially taught by the Church - both that the "black" skin was a curse from God as Africans were descended from the Biblical Cain, and that Dark-skinned people were less valiant (or fence-sitters) in the war in Heaven during which Lucifer was cast out.

The Church, by way of its endorsed website, has publicly "disavowed" those early teachings and does a hefty attempt at downplaying the early prejudice by alluding to the rampant cultural racism of the times.
The fact remains that if so many Prophets of the church taught, as a doctrine, that prejudice was sanctioned by God, and "A Prophet will never lead the Church astray", disavowing those teachings would seem to cast doubt on the holy inspiration of the Church founders.

2 Differing Accounts of the "First Vision"

There have been differing accounts of the famed "first vision" through the early days of the church. From the number of Heavenly visitors to mixing the story with that of the visitation of the Angel Moroni, the "first vision" account has undergone revision after revision. While now considered a staple in proselyting efforts, the story wasn't a major part of early church missionary efforts and didn't attain it's final draft until the late 1830's.

3 Temple Rituals

The LDS Church's temples remain one of the biggest sources for myths and mystery outside the church. Stories of what happens within are rampant and, while you can find accurate descriptions and recordings of the inner workings of these sacred buildings, the fact is that the Church has had to do some explaining about them.

From their origins in Freemasonry (an order that organized in the medieval Catherdral-building age) to the major changes in temple ceremony from the early days of the Church till now, not much has remained constant. The church says changes were made for the sake of brevity and clarification but to go from a 12 hour ritual to about 90 minutes is pretty drastic. Plus taking out some of the more gruesome parts due to member's discomfort seems like pandering to the masses, not the will of God.

4 Disavowed Doctrines

In addition to the "priesthood" doctrine mentioned above, the Church has had to disavow and distance itself from other rogue statements by its Prophets. A few of these are Brigham Young's revelations on Blood Atonement and the Adam-God doctrine. Just look them up and you'll see why it caused controversy within and outside the church and therefore had to be silenced.

5 A History of Unfulfilled Revelations

The Church has had a poor track record with revelations not coming true. Some of these were about a temple being built in Missouri, Joseph's son to succeed him as leader of the Church, the success at Zion's Camp, and the timing of the Second Coming of Christ to name a few.

The Church generally brushes these under the rug and doesn't talk about them...

6 The Family History of Joseph Smith

The Smith family has a well documented (for the time) history of being involved with magic, treasure hunting, magic parchments/daggers, using peep stones... Etc. The church has tried to downplay the accounts and documents relating to these practices in an effort to uphold the spotless image of its founding prophet.

7 Mark Hoffman

He was a master forger who created false documents and then sold to the Church. While it wasn't the Church's fault directly that they were duped, the fact that a member of the LDS Church Presidency (the soon to become prophet Gordon B. Hinkley) was fooled by him raises doubt about the Heavenly discernment one would expect from a church leader.

Members of church leadership would personally verify the forgeries as genuine only to be proven wrong by experts.

Just Look him up on Wikipedia.

8 Book of Abraham

The official Church story was that one of their books of scripture "The Book of Abraham" was written on papyrus by Abraham himself and later translated by Joseph Smith through the use of "seer stones". However, after many, many, many scholars and translations putting that story to the test, the Church's account has failed miserably.

The Church now regards the Book of Abraham as a "good metaphorical story" and one which cannot be verified or denounced. They instruct their members to regard the book as scripture, or not - depending on which story you choose to believe.

9 Book of Mormon Origins

The cornerstone book of scripture (along with the Bible), has a questionable past. The official story of "The Book of Mormon being a direct translation by Joseph Smith from gold plates" and "the most correct of any book on Earth" has been questioned from the beginning.

The original witnesses of the gold plates (mentioned in the introduction of the BoM) gave their testimony that they had seen the plates yet Brigham Young (2nd President of the Church) said that some of those witnesses later came to doubt their experience.

No archeological, linguistic, anthropological, or DNA evidence supports the BoM story.

Many substantive mistakes in the text such as the use of steel, use of horses, camels, elephants, etc have also made the story questionable at best.

10 Polygamy and Polyandry

Between Joseph's 30 and Brigham's 50 wives, other Church leaders seem relatively tame in the field of polygamy. However, the Church's early doctrines of salvation through the family and marriage sealings were not as holy as is taught within the Church. Accounts of early Church leaders "stealing" already married women to become an additional wife, threats, coercion, bribery, and manipulation were all practiced to assure early leaders had their pick of the female population.

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