Mormon teachers have the audacity to say that the "stick of Judah" is the Bible and the "stick of Joseph" is the Book of Mormon. And thus, the Bible and the Book of Mormon have become "one in God's hand," according to Mormon belief. It has always been a source of amazement to me that intelligent people can accept this interpretation, and yet Mormons have used this to their advantage in their proselyting work. Many who are ignorant of the Scriptures are impressed by their presentation and application of this portion of the Scriptures and have been influenced to join the LDS church.
The central theme of Ezekiel 34-37 is the regathering of the people of Israel back to their own land. This section of Scripture is devoted to the hope and restoration of Judah from Babylonian captivity. The vision which God gave to the prophet Ezekiel of the Valley of Dry Bones, in chapter 37, represents the nation of Israel. The Israelites had been out of their land, had been buried among the Gentile nations, and were, in a sense, devoid of life. But God promised that He would bring His nation back to its land once again.
At the time of this prophecy the nation of Israel was saying, "Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off" (Ezek. 33:11). But God assured the people He would keep His covenant with Abraham and David -- He would fulfill His word to them -- "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel" (Ezek. 37:12).
In Ezekiel 37:21 we have the explanation given to us again, "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land." The first prophecy of Ezekiel 37 portrays the moral, national and physical resurrection of Israel, while the second prophecy (Ezek. 37:15-28) predicts the future union of the twelve tribes and their restoration to Palestine under one Shepherd. After King Solomon's death the nation of Israel was divided in two kingdoms (1 Kings 11-12). Only two of the tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were given to Rehoboam to rule over. The other ten tribes were taken from Rehoboam and placed under the leadership of Jeroboam. This division persisted, and so, in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were designated as "Judah" and composed of the southern kingdom.
"Joseph," "Ephraim" and "Israel" were the collective names of the ten tribes who established the northern kingdom. When Israel's history is studied, the prophecy under consideration becomes very clear. God promises that He is going to unite the two kingdoms and make them one again (cf. Ezek. 37:21-15). It is then and there that He will make His covenant of peace with them and be their God.
These "sticks" of Ezekiel 37 are simply the divine edicts of God which He gave to Ezekiel to deliver to the people. It is stated in Ezek. 37:20 that these royal decrees were to be in Ezekiel's hand before the eyes of the people. This was to show them that all twelve tribes would be united and become "one nation" in God's hand (Ezek. 37:22). This prophecy was fulfilled when God allowed His people to return from captivity in 536 B.C.
Under Zerrubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, the "twelve tribes" which were divided in 931 B.C., some of whom became captives to Assyria in 721 B.C. and the rest to Babylon in 606 B.C., would return to the land of Israel as one nation. This is summarized in Ezekiel 37:22, "and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again." This section of Scripture simply pictures the future glory under the reign of the Messiah, Jesus Christ!
"A distinctive Latter-day Saint teaching is that marriage can be for eternity. Such marriages must be performed in a temple by someone who holds the priesthood, which is the authority to act on earth for God. For temple marriages to remain in effect, a husband and wife must love and be faithful to each other and continue Christlike service and commitment throughout their lives." ("Temples Make Forever Families," www.lds.org).
Unless they are not physically able, Mormons are required to marry and reproduce. Good Mormons who possess unquestioned loyalty to the church are permitted the rite of Celestial Marriage executed in the temples. This "seals" a marriage for eternity-they believe they will be married even after death and produce offspring (cf. Matt. 22:24f).
The Reorganized church insists that Joseph Smith never taught or practiced plural marriage (polygamy). Documentation now exists to prove otherwise. In 1887, LDS Historian Andrew Jensen listed 27 wives of Smith. Nauvoo temple records record names of 30 women sealed for eternity to him. Other sources show that Smith married 22 of these 30 women. Mormons claim that Smith received the revelation on polygamy and recorded it on July 12, 1843 at Nauvoo (D and C, 132:4, 59, 61-62).
"Polygamy... was an important part of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a half century. The practice began during the lifetime of Joseph Smith but became publicly and widely known during the time of Brigham Young. Today, polygamy is outlawed in the Church-and has been for a century. Any Church members adopting the practice today would be excommunicated- the most severe penalty the Church can impose. But polygamous groups and individuals in and around Utah cause confusion for casual observers and sometimes for visiting media. Church founder Joseph Smith wondered about the ancient, Old Testament practice of plural marriage. His prayerful inquiry on the subject in the 1830s eventually resulted in the divine instruction to reinstitute the practice." ("Polygamy: Latter-day Saints and the Practice of Plural Marriage," www.lds.org).
The "Edmunds Bill" of 1882 made polygamy a punishable crime, and many church officials were incarcerated and church property was confiscated, including temples. Mormon President John Taylor went into exile and died. The Edmunds-Tucker Act dissolved the corporation of the church, which destroyed it as a political and economic institution. By 1887 approximately 200 Mormon men were in jail.
In 1890 Mormon president Wilford Woodruff claims to have received a "special revelation" from God suspending plural marriage. Now Mormons had to decide which revelation to obey-Smith or Woodruffs. Polygamy is still a problem in some isolated areas of the West.
Mormons do not practice infant baptism, but they do immerse converts, though not in public ceremonies. However, in temple ceremonies, members may be baptized by proxy for those who died without accepting the teachings of Joseph Smith -- such as the heathen, or ancestors who lived while the "church" was in apostasy. This is the main reason Mormons spend so much time in genealogical research -- they do not want to miss anyone!
Mormons have a religious obligation to trace their own genealogies and perform temple ordinances for their ancestors. The Mormons have the largest genealogical library in the world, the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City -- they have gathered millions of volumes of birth, marriage and death records.
"Millions of people have lived and died without ever learning about the teachings of Jesus Christ and without belonging to his Church. For these people, the Church teaches that ordinances such as baptism and eternal marriage should be performed on earth in behalf of the dead. Latter-day Saints stand as proxies for their own ancestors in these ceremonies, which are held only in sacred temples. They believe these ordinances are valid only if the ordinances are willingly accepted by their deceased ancestors, who even in the next life retain the moral agency to choose. Church members are taught they have a religious obligation to trace their own genealogies and perform temple ordinances for their ancestors. For Latter-day Saints, temples and family history are therefore inextricably connected ... To help trace deceased ancestors, the Church operates the largest genealogical library in the world, the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. The Church and its members have gathered millions of volumes of birth, marriage, death and other records. Today these microfilmed records are available to the public for research at no cost. The microfilms are available at the library in Salt Lake City, or they can be ordered for use at over 3,400 Family History Centers around the world." ("Temples Make Forever Families," www.lds.org).
Departed souls, according to Mormon doctrine, will have another opportunity to hear the gospel preached to them in the spirit world (cf. Heb. 9:27). Since they cannot be baptized because they are without bodies, the living may serve the dead by being baptized for them. All of this comes from a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 15:29.
The Truth About Mormonism, the largest of all American cults, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) has grown to a worldwide membership of over 11 million people -- yet it began in 1830 with just six members. This sixteen page booklet contains two sermon outlines on this cult (PDF file size: 264k).
Also, you can listen to David Padfield and Mormon elder Paul Meade debate the "Inspiration of the Book of Mormon." This debate on Mormonism is available as an MP3 file from this website.