Someone asked what religious tradition I was brought up in and how it helped me grow spiritually and accept other traditions. My response may open a whole new world for you.
Of Prophets and Men and Women
I grew up in the Utah Mormon church. For me, this was the key to everything. Joseph Smith Jr., like all prophets, mystics, and gurus, came to free the people from dogma and traditions that disempowered them. He was told all the religions were wrong not because there were no true Christians or disciples of Christ on the earth, but because all creeds were wrong. Because creeds, or a “bill of beliefs” that one is obligated to swear to for social acceptance, is a type on mind control and prevents people from learning “line upon line, here a little and there a little until they come to a fullness of truth” as led by the Spirit (DaC 128:21c CJCLdS; See also DaC 98:12 CJCLdS, 953a-b CoC; Isaiah 28:9-11). Joseph taught us that to be saved, we had to become our own prophets. And, that’s what defines real prophets: they empower others to become like them, not keep them ever dependent upon them.
The entire point of the Book of Mormon was for us to go to God and obtain our own witness, to thereby practice gaining revelation for ourselves. The book claims to have errors, so we are to treat it like inspiration, not authority (See Book of Mormon: Title Page). Joseph then went and made drastic changes to the Bible, demonstrating how corrupted it had become. He made changes to every book in the Bible, showing the breadth of the problem, and only drastically altered the first book of each Testament, showing the depth of the problem, but intentionally did not complete any book because ambiguity is necessary for growth.
We are supposed to do as he did and receive revelation for ourselves to interpret, and not take anything for granted, and certainly not lord the text over people and demand they follow the letter of it. When religious authorities change the holy books, as they have throughout the ages, we then become enslaved by our own traditions unless we follow the spirit of truth, which will teach us all things. He said that many of the things we think of as sin are not sin, and that he came to break down superstition. He said we can learn more about God by going directly to Him than from all the books ever written.
Be Ye Therefore One
Joseph taught us the importance of community, and the importance of living a simple life and sharing and cooperating instead of competing. Wealth, and the pursuit of it, is a trap. His communities practiced the United Order, in which they held all property in common. Our individualistic society keeps us all separate and working to own “things” and compete with our neighbors in order to validate ourselves, when what really matters is our community and how we serve, learn and enjoy life.
We spend so much of our lives serving ourselves and our immediate dependents that we have little left to give to strangers, and it is because we have allowed ourselves to be controlled by social expectations. It is disempowering to feel that we don’t have the security to be generous, and it disconnects us from our neighbors as well. Serving and giving makes us powerful, which is what makes us grow into godliness.
Joseph was not dogmatic about religion, indicating that his personal beliefs were far beyond what Latter Day Saints and Mormons believe. He told his own apostles, “if I were to rell you all I know of the kingdom of God, I do know that you would rise up and kill me” (Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star, Vol. 55, No. 36, Sept. 4, 1893, p. 585). In fact, some now believe that they did kill him and took over his movement, creating the exact type of orthodoxy he came to disrupt. Regardless, recent access to original documents shows scratched out portions and additions in different handwritings, showing that some of his history and revelations have been altered. We cannot even be dogmatic about what he did and said, but we can be inspired by the spirit of what he created, which is possibility.
Like every major prophet, he was a restorer, not starting a new religion. True prophets counter the egotistical lust for power that always turns something good for the people into an institution of control. As Jesus said, “the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). But these avatars do not come to control us, and can’t make us learn. The teachings are there, the example is set; let the one with eyes to see, see it. “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14)
A Stepping Stone
Millions of Latter Day Saints and Mormons missed the point, along with how many Christians, Muslims and Jews? The Old Testament prophets were social reformers who were opposed to the abusive priest caste and animal sacrifice, who said “I hate, I despise, your new moons and sabbaths” (See Isaiah 1:13). The smell of your burnt offerings is a stink in my nostrils, who told you to do this? “I, the Lord, demand mercy and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). And they stuck them in the same book with their corrupted Torah and pretend like they are of the same faith.
Mormonism, like anything, is true when it is a stepping stone to something else, and false when you just stand there. To really get this message and example will help you understand everything in the world.