Originally posted by buckky
How did this wacked out religion get so big, and powerful ? It makes Christianity look tame in it's strange beliefs. Here is this guy Joseph Smith, and he has this acid trip of an experience, and he gains followers that seem to think it all makes total sense. I can't imagine the same thing happening today with a new revelation coming through some farm boy in Iowa. He would be locked up for being insane.
You'd have to understand the American Primitivism movement of the late 1700's and early 1800's. Mormonism wasn't the only 'odd' Christian belief to propagate from this movement, which if I recall correctly was very hot in the New England area at the time. A lot of Christian beliefs came from that - Jehovah Witnesses, Millerites, Quakers, Shakers, etc.
An interesting piece of history (or not; if you don't think so then move on to interesting reading): Joseph Smith and his brother were killed by a mob and then some political fallout happens in the church. You see, the Mormons are highly patriarchal and the role of prophet and the head of the church was to fall on Joseph Smith's son, Joseph Smith Jr. Problem was, Junior was only about 13 when his dad died. Brigham Young noodled around for a couple of years and then decided that politics and power were more important than following the direction of the prophet, so he thusly decides that there's no reason for him not to be prophet and he took the majority of the followers out to Utah.
After about 20 years, Joseph Smith Jr. felt he was old enough and ready to lead those who stayed behind and were no doubt in a loose conferderation under his mother, Emma. In 1864 he began leading the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and his descendants headed that church until the 1990's, when Wallace B. Smith decided that there was nothing magical about his name and patriarchy, and allowed for non-Smiths to head the church. That church is known these days as the Community of Christ.