Mormonism and Pentecostalism

Many are little aware of the parallel that exists between the spiritual side of Mormonism and the spiritual side of the Pentecostal movement. They run along nearly indistinguishable paths. Actually the early Mormon movement was a predecessor of Pentecostalism.

You can literally take statements made by Mormons concerning their spiritual experiences, exchange them with statements made by Pentecostals about their spiritual experiences, and you would see no difference. Let's talk about a subject that should not be neglected.

This is Bible Study DU022 - Mormonism and Pentecostalism.

For you who wish to do personal research on early Mormonism here are books that I recommend.

(1) No Man Knows My History - The Life of Joseph Smith, by Fawn M. Brodie. (This book is a must. It is written by the descendent of a high ranking Mormon official.)

(2) In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, by Todd Compton. (Documentation throughout from diaries, etc. Also highly recommended.)

(3) An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, by Grant H. Palmer.

(4) Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, by Richard S. Van Wagnoner.

At the beginning of this study I want to provide a few direct quotes from varied writings including quotes from the diaries of Joseph Smith's wives. These quotes are intended to show the parallelisms between the spirituality of Mormonism and of Pentecostalism.

We will begin with In Sacred Loneliness --

"The supernatural--revelations, prophecy fulfilled; miraculous healings and glossolilia; visitations from dead relatives, from angels, from demonic spirits, and from the Three Nephites--comprise a major element of nineteenth-century Mormon writings." (Intro - Sacred Loneliness.)

"This was a time of frequent blessing, tongue-speaking meetings, which were dominated by women. On the first day of 1847 Louisa (very large with child), Eliza, Zina Young, and Patty celebrated with a blessing meeting filled with glossolilia and prophecy." (Sacred Loneliness.)

[Patty's and Eliza's diaries.] "'Went to a meeting to Eliza Beamans with many of the sisters.' ... all spoke in tongues on June 2. The next day Louisa, Elisa, Zina, and Emily laid their hands on Patty Sesions's head and gave her a prophetic blessing. After another blessing meeting during a rainstorm on June 9, Eliza 'went home with Louisa & Z. in the mud rejoicing.' The next day Louisa, with others, spoke in tongues..." (Sacred Loneliness.)

[Zina's diary.] "The gifts of the gospel were manifest the first time I ever sang in tong[ue]s after being baptized into the church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints - around me was a light as the blaze of a candle - I was surrounded [it was] a heavenly influence and no unpleasant sensation from that day the gift has remained with me."

Note: According to Zina the gift of tongues rested upon her with such "overwhelming force" that she became "alarmed" and "checked its utterance." As a result the gift left her, and she felt she had offended the Holy Spirit. ... The gift returned, and Zina kept her vow; she would partiicipate in glossolilia and interpreting tongue speech throughout the rest of her life. She and Eliza Snow, with Elizabeth Whitney, would be the most enthusiastic tongue-speakers in the early [Mormon] church. Thus women practiced a prophetic mode in early Mormonism ...

Emmeline Wells would later write that Zina gave "the interpretation of hymns, psalms and sacred songs in the most musical and happy manner, without thought or hesitation. There is something divinely beautiful in thus rendering, by the gift of inspiration, words uttered in an unknown tongue."

So far I've quoted just a bit from 'In Sacred Loneliness.' It would be too much to continue quotes from this writing. In all these quotes we see a parallel to many Pentecostal experiences.

In No Man Knows My History we read about "nervous spasms and swoonings" that were attributed to the Holy Ghost. Here is a quote from this book:

"There were now about one hundred and fifty converts in Kirkland, more than twice the number that had followed him from New York State. But Joseph was disturbed by the fanaticism that possessed this people. Prayer meetings were punctuated by fits and trances. Converts would roll along the floor to the church door and out upon the frozen ground in a mascochistic frenzy. Some would mount stumps to preach to imaginary congregations in unknown tongues..."

Note: Joseph Smith finally forbade the preaching of Mormonism by anyone but an elder who had been ordained by the church.

Again for members who are not familiar with Mormonism the book you need to acquire is No Man Knows My History by Fawn M. Brodie.

There is an interesting fact concerning one of Joseph Smith's teenage wives. He married Lucy Walker when she was about sixteen years old. This is what Lucy writes: "[At the next prayer meeting the newly baptized children] "spoke in tong[u]es, others prophesied; again another has the gift of faith, to heal the sick, etc."

The reason I draw attention to Lucy Walker [Smith] is because it appears that she was the last of Joseph Smith's proxy wives to die. Lucy passed away on October 1, 1910. Compare the date of her death with the beginnings of 1900 Pentecostalism.

According to Pentecostal tradition the Pentecostal movement celebrates its origin in Topeka, Kansas in 1901 and also Azusa Street, Los Angeles, California in 1906. The pioneer Pentecostal was Charles F. Parham. But it is William J. Seymour who is credited with bringing the Pentecostal experience into world-wide attention.

It seems that Pentecostalism picked up where the early Mormonism pioneers had passed on. Makes you wonder what Lucy Walker Smith thought about the Pentecostal movement before she died. There was an overlap of nearly ten years from the beginnings of the Pentecostal movement until her death.

The Mormons to this day believe in speaking in tongues and believe that this gift was a validation of the truth of Mormonism.

From this we can see that speaking in tongues is not merely a Pentecostal experience. It is a known phenomena in just about every grouping of people on planet earth. This is how the Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible defines glossolalia:

"...the ecstatic utterance of emotionally agitated religious persons, consisting of a jumble of disjointed and largely unintelligible sounds. Those who speak in this way believe that they are moved directly by a divine spirit and their utterance is therefore quote spontaneous and unpremeditated."

What do Mormons today believe about speaking in tongues? Here is a quote from the seventh President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Heber J. Grant. (1856-1945):

"....my wife...was waiting for me, and she started to lecture me, saying that I was breaking the Word of Wisdom. She suddenly stopped, and by the gift of tongues she gave me a most remarkable and wonderful blessing and promised me that I should live to pay off all my debts, which I did live to do....Unless the gift of tongues and the interpretation thereof are enjoyed by the Saints in our day, then we are lacking one of the evidences of the true faith. ­­YWJ [Young Woman's Journal], 16:128." (Gospel Standards, page 11-12 by President Heber J. Grant)

Think about this. The United Pentecostal Church and the Mormon Church both teach that speaking in tongues is the [an] evidence of the true faith.

It is not enough for a Pentecostal to say that 'our speaking in tongues is of God. Their speaking in tongues is of the devil.' How would you go about to prove such a statement?

What is the answer? The answer is that a believer should never base their belief system on an esoteric experience. Experiences can be self-deceiving. Our entire belief system must rest squarely upon the rightly divided Word of God.

Does this mean that we should suspect any spiritual experience that we may have? Not at all. All of our experiences should line up with God's Word and with the Spirit of Truth. These two witnesses will always be together.

The apostles consistently taught that a true child of God carries in his or her person the ability to discern truth and error. This ability grows as the child of God learns to walk in the ways of the Lord.

What can we add to what Jesus said?

"When he [Jesus] puts forth all His own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, cause they do not know the voice of strangers...

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." (Cf. John 10:4,5, 27,28 nasb.)

I've limited this study to a spiritual comparison between Mormonism and Pentecostalism. Perhaps it should go without saying that most every charismatic-type movement throughout the church age have included most all the same manifestations.

"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."


This study was originally shared on February 10, 2007. It was written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.


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Page added February 10, 2007

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