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The Sin of Jeroboam

By Bill McKeever

Following the death of King Solomon, the nation of Israel went through a brief power struggle that tore the country in two. When Solomon’s son Rehoboam listened to bad counsel and promised to rule with a heavy hand, ten of the tribes rebelled under the leadership of Jeroboam. The remaining two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) formed what is known as the Southern Kingdom.

Jeroboam knew that if his rebellion was to be a success he must somehow maintain the loyalty of the people. This would best be served through a religious means. The problem was the specified place of worship was in Jerusalem and unfortunately for Jeroboam, Jerusalem lay in Rehoboam’s territory. But even the wicked king Jeroboam probably knew that a religious unity among the two nations could eventually lead to a political unity as well, so in order to minimize the temptation of his people to return to Jerusalem, Jeroboam erects two places of worship, one in Bethel and the other in Dan (Bethel was a prominent worship site prior to Jerusalem).

Jeroboam also reinstituted the idolatrous worship of Baal among the Israelites by erecting the images of two golden calves. In setting up these competitive places of worship, Jeroboam compounded his outright disdain for Mosaic Law by ordaining “priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi” (1 Kings 12:31).

Jeroboam’s disregard for God’s ways would be followed by many of his successors. In fact, the Northern Kingdom of Israel would never be so fortunate as to have a king who was known for doing “that which was right in the sight of the Lord.” His introduction of false worship in Israel, as well as the ordaining of unqualified priests, would be known among the people as the “sin of Jeroboam” (see 1 Kings 13:34; 14:16; 2 Kings 3:3).

You may ask, “What does all this have to do with Mormonism?” Quite a bit actually, for in the make-up of the LDS Church we see the sin of Jeroboam being practiced once again.

First of all, we see the LDS Church erecting temples in places all over the world. If temple worship were to be restored as Joseph Smith said, it would seem likely that the rules surrounding it would be restored as well. If is not the same, the Mormons cannot claim their temple worship is a true “restoration.”

That Jerusalem was the recognized place of temple worship among God’s people is not disputed. The Bible clearly states that it was God’s desire that His sanctuary be built there (1 Kings 11:36; 14:21), and Jesus undoubtedly held to this position when he confronted the Samaritan woman in John 4. The Samaritans had built a temple on Mount Gerizim after the Syrians conquered the Northern Kingdom in 721 B.C. Although the building itself was destroyed around 130 B.C., they continued to worship there. The woman defended her people’s actions when she told Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” In an amazing response, Jesus not only acknowledged that the Samaritan’s place of worship was incorrect, but that true worship was a matter of the heart, not location.

Like Jeroboam, Joseph Smith instituted the worship of a God foreign to that recognized throughout Christianity. Neither Jew nor Christian ever worshiped a God that fits the description given by Smith. The worship of a finite “exalted” human being that evolved to the level of deity has always been considered blasphemy among God’s people.

Like Jeroboam, Mormonism ordains unqualified people to the priesthood. Joseph Smith claimed John the Baptist appeared to him and Oliver Cowdery on the banks of the Susquehanna River in 1829 and conferred upon them the “priesthood of Aaron.” Again, if Smith wishes to claim this priesthood is the same as that of old, he must also accept the qualifications associated with it. If it is not the same, it is not “restored.”

First of all, it is unthinkable that John the Baptist, described by the Lord Himself as being the greatest prophet born among women (Luke 7:28), would ordain Smith to such a priesthood. In doing so, he too would be partaking in the sin of Jeroboam. It would be unlikely that John the Baptist was unaware of the strict command found in Numbers 3:10 that stated, “And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest’s office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.” Joseph Smith was hardly a “son of Aaron,” making him unqualified for this office.

Most Mormons, when asked what tribe they belong to, say that they are of the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh. How they arrived at this is purely speculation, and even 10th LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith seems to admit there is no absolute certainty in such conclusions. He wrote:

“The Book of Mormon states that Joseph Smith the Prophet was a descendant of Joseph, son of Jacob. By revelation we learn also that he is of the tribe of Ephraim, but it is evident that he also had some Gentile blood in him, for it is written in the Book of Mormon, that it came forth, “by way of the Gentile,”2 and it came by Joseph Smith. It is reasonable, therefore, to understand that we one and all have come through a mixed relation-ship, and that the blood of Ephraim and also of Manasseh could be in the veins of many of us, likewise the blood of others of the twelve tribes of Israel, and that none of us had come through the ages with clear exclusive descent from father to son through any one of the tribes” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:63,64).

Unlike the LDS method mentioned above, the tribes of Israel were not distinguished by way of “revelation.” To protect the rights of those who had a legitimate inheritance in the newly conquered Promised Land, genealogical records were kept. This practice also served another very important function as explained by Christian theologian R.K. Harrison:

“Genealogies also served a fundamentally important purpose when the hereditary Aaronic Priesthood was established. Pentateuchal tradition uniformly regarded the priesthood as restricted to the tribe of Levi and the house of Aaron in particular, and one had to meet these conditions to be eligible for the priestly service of the sanctuary in the tabernacle and the later temples. To be able to trace one’s descent from Aaron was therefore mandatory for the Levitical priests, and in the time of Josephus every priest was expected to be able to prove such a descent” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 2:425).

In light of the above comparisons it is apparent that the sin of Jeroboam persists within the structure of Mormonism. Certainly this would disqualify it from being a Christian religion.

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