Minding Business

A Note on “The Mormon Creed”

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On Christmas Day 1844, William Wines Phelps wrote a letter to William Smith in which he described Mormonism as “the great leveling machine of creeds.” Smith would have understood Phelps’s meaning. His late brother, the Prophet Joseph, had always maintained that Mormonism should not only resist the pat confessions of Christian orthodoxy—which, as he said, “set up stakes . . . to . . . the Almighty”—but also resist pat formulations of Mormon belief itself. “The Latter-day Saints have no creed,” Joseph had once said, “but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.” Yet in September 1844, three months before Phelps wrote his Christmas letter, William Smith scolded a New York congregation for forgetting “the Mormon Creed,” a creed, he observed, that consisted of a single well-known phrase: “mind your own business.”

 

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