ANGELS OF LIGHT
Is the Spirit of Mormonism Being Revisited in the
Contemporary Charismatic-Revival-Prophetic Movement?
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 Jn. 4:1).
Someone has rightly said, “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are bound to repeat them.” I see the distinct possibility of this happening with the contemporary charismatic-revival-prophetic movement unless serious steps are taken to implement Biblical injunctions such as 1 Jn. 4:1 above. For example, did you know that the early Mormons experienced speaking in tongues, prophecy, falling under the power, visions, and angelic visitations–that this heretical cult emerged out of one of the most powerful revivals in Christian history, the Second Great Awakening? In fact, an examination of their beginnings reveals many similarities with the present day charismatic-revival-prophetic movement. Their example is a wake-up call for all who embrace the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit to be diligent in carrying out the Biblical commands to test the spirits and to judge prophetic and supernatural manifestations. After all, Satan does not come in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork, he comes as an “angel of light”
(2 Cor. 11:14).
Peter Cartwright’s Autobiography
Peter Cartwright was a circuit-riding Methodist preacher and one of the most famous revivalists of the Second Great Awakening. His autobiography offers intriguing reading and provides valuable information concerning the religious landscape in early and mid-nineteenth century America. His autobiography also offers a personal glimpse into the origins of Mormonism and how it began in the milieu of religious revivalism. His account provides an historical example of the dangers of naively embracing everything sensational and the importance of obeying the Biblical injunction to test the spirits and to judge prophetic and spiritual manifestations.
The Mormons Speak in Tongues
Cartwright tells about a particular campmeeting he was conducting in which a certain group remained behind at the end of one of the services, singing, and praising God. Eventually one of the women began to shout and then “swooned away” and fell into the arms of her husband and lay as if in a trance. Her husband announced that she was in a trance and that when she came out of it she would speak in an unknown tongue and he would interpret. This was obviously not something new for them.
By this time a large crowd had gathered and Cartwright decided to break up their meeting, as he believed they were merely drawing attention to themselves. As he walked into the midst of the group the woman in the trance suddenly opened her eyes, laid her hand on his arm, and said, “Dear friend, I have a message directly from God to you.” Cartwright, who was a gruff sort of personality, said, “I stopped her short and said, ‘I will have none of your message.’” The woman’s husband, who was to interpret the message, angrily replied, “Sir this is my wife, and I will defend her at the risk of my life.” Cartwright retorted, “Sir, this is my campmeeting, and I will maintain the good order of it at the risk of my life.”
After an exchange of emotionally charged words, the group finally left. Cartwright identified them as Mormons, followers of a “Joe Smith” with whom he had had several conversations.
Cartwright Meets “Joe” Smith
Cartwright tells about “Joe Smith” sharing with him his vision for the restoration of the church of the New Testament. According to Smith, during a time of revival in upper state NY he had prayed about which church was the right one. Smith said that during this time of prayer,
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.
According to Smith, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit appeared in this vision and told him not to join any of the churches, for none was the true church.
Cartwright says that Smith told him that, of all the churches then in existence, the Methodist church was the closest to the church of the New Testament, “But they had stopped short by not claiming the gift of tongues, of prophecy, and of miracles.” He went on to tell Cartwright,
If you will go with me to Nauvoo (a Mormon community), I will show you many living witnesses that will testify that they were, by the saints, cured of blindness, lameness, deafness, dumbness, and all the diseases that human flesh is heir to. And I will show you that we have the gift of tongues, and can speak in unknown languages, and that the saints can drink any deadly poison and it will not hurt them.
Visions & Angelic Visitations
Joseph Smith and his early followers, not only claimed the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, they claimed to experience visions and angelic visitations on a regular basis. Those of the contemporary prophetic movement would have, if they had been there, designated Smith as a prophet or seer. On one occasion an angel named Moroni appeared to Smith and told him where to find the plates on which were inscribed the Book of Mormon, written in an ancient Egyptian text. Smith claimed that while he and an associate, Oliver Cowdery, were translating the book, John the Baptist as well as Peter, James, and John appeared to them and ordained them to the priesthood of Melchisedech. How impressive! Demons will always play on a person’s pride, telling them how important they will be if they accept this revelation.
Smith Proves to be Angry & Un-teachable
In his meeting with Smith, Cartwright began to question him about his doctrine. As he proceeded, it soon became obvious that Smith had left behind Biblical truth and was following sensational teachings based on prophecies, visions, and angelic visitations. As Cartwright continued pointing out his error, he said that Smith’s “wrath boiled over” and “he cursed me in the name of his God.” Smith angrily retorted, “I will show you sir, that I will raise up a government in these United States which will overturn the present government, and I will raise up a new religion that will overturn every other form of religion in this country.”
The Dedication of the First Mormon Temple
In 1831, based on a revelation from God, Smith and many of his followers migrated to Kirkland, Ohio. There they built and, in 1836, dedicated the first Mormon temple. According to one Mormon historian, there was a spiritual outpouring almost unmatched in ecclesiastical history. Smith himself wrote a detailed description.
A noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; other saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting on the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place. This continued until the meeting closed at eleven P.M. (Ruth Tucker, Another Gospel, 61).
What Can We Learn From Mormonism?
Out of this movement that based its beliefs on prophecies, visions, and angelic visitations, has grown a cultic movement that today numbers millions of followers around the world. While many of their beliefs are obviously Christian in origin, they also hold to many beliefs that have no basis in Scripture and are at odds with Biblical Christianity. This happened because they exalted their experiences and writings, such as the Book of Mormon, to equal status with the Bible. Here are some suggestions that can help us avoid repeating the same mistakes as this movement.
- Make the diligent study of God’s word our number one priority. Anything can be proved by proof-texting (quoting verses out of context). Let the Bereans of Acts 17:11 be our guide. They were commended because, instead of naively accepting what Paul and Silas preached, they searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether those things were so. When I was a student in Bible school I heard the Holy Spirit instruct me to take 1 hour each morning, of the 2 hours I was spending in prayer, and use it for serious reading and study of Scripture. Some today need to modify their “soaking” time and spend time “soaking” their minds and hearts in the truths of God’s word.
- Don’t be afraid to “test the spirits.” We will not quench the Holy Spirit by doing what He has commanded us to do. We may quench spiritual pride and religious ambition, but not the Holy Spirit. Smith and the early Mormons did not test the spirits nor did they judge their prophetic-supernatural experiences. Instead they twisted Scripture to make it fit their experience. Avoid this at all costs.
- Stop chasing the sensational. Let the supernatural happen, don’t try to force it. The early Mormons were obviously enamored with the sensational–visions, angelic visitations, etc. This led to their departure from Biblical truth. Get back to practical Christianity. Read the Sermon on the Mount. Don’t be afraid of using some sanctified common sense, which the Bible calls “wisdom.”
- Avoid spiritual pride. Stop trying to be important. Cartwright says that Smith told him that if he (Cartwright) would join with him (Smith), “We could sweep, not only the Methodist church, but all the churches, and you would be looked up to as one of the Lord’s greatest prophets.” Do you see and hear the pride in that statement? Remember that, “the stronghold of deception is pride.”
- Avoid an elitist mindset. Smith claimed that he and his followers were the true restored church of the New Testament and that all other churches were false churches (the Mormons still believe this). This too was based in pride and an unhealthy lust for importance and power.
My prayer is that God will have mercy on us, and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us, that His ways may be known upon earth and His salvation among all nations (Psalm 67). May God give us a love and hunger for His word, a sharpened sense of discernment, and the courage to speak and walk in His truth. Amen!
Hyatt Int’l Ministries • P.O. Box 3877 • Grapevine, TX 76099-3877
Taking Spiritual Awakening & Biblical Thinking to the Nations