The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

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Birmingham temple

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,[1] informally known as the Mormon Church, is the largest denomination originating from the Latter Day Saint movement founded by Joseph Smith. Its members are colloquially referred to as "Mormons." As of December 31, 2008, the Church reported over 13.5 million members worldwide. [2][3] This authentic American-founded religious group has contributed greatly to the United States. As just one example, they have devoted millions of man hours to humanitarian efforts around the globe.

Contents

Overview

The church was organized in 1830 in the "Burned Over" district of upstate New York, by Joseph Smith. As the Church grew, new converts gathered in Ohio and Missouri. While the Latter-day Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, experienced persecution, those gathered in Missouri were repeatedly driven from town to town by angry mobs. Having been forced from Missouri in 1839, Church members gathered in Illinois and built a thriving city called Nauvoo in a swampy bend of the Mississippi River. However, within seven years they were again forced from their homes. Led by Brigham Young, these pioneers trekked 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers) westward to the Salt Lake Valley, to escape persecution, and founded Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Latter-Day Saint Church continues to be headquartered today. The church has now expanded to more than 13 million members.[4][5]

Church members follow a law of health known as the Word of Wisdom that promotes healthy eating as well as avoiding tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs.[6] The U.S religious landscape survey published in February 2008 shows that Mormons have the largest families closely followed by Muslims. [7]

Mormons' relationship to Christianity

According to the Lutheran Missouri Synod, "The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, together with the vast majority of Christian denominations in the United States, does not regard the Mormon church as a Christian church." [8] In addition, the Southern Baptist Convention states that the Mormon religion is "not consistent with biblical Christianity." [9] The United Methodist Church has stated that the the Morman faith has "some radically differing doctrine on such matters of belief as the nature and being of God; the nature, origin, and purpose of Jesus Christ; and the nature and way of salvation." [10] According to Beliefnet.com there are a number of differences between the Mormon faith and traditional Christianity. [11]

Beliefs

Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe in the deity of Christ. They affirm the deity of Christ and their Church bears his name. From the organization of the LDS Church in 1830, the Church's doctrine focused on matters concerning theological issues related to Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith, Jr. wrote in 1842 to Chicago Democrat editor John Wentworth a statement of Church beliefs. The first of these 13 doctrinal declarations, later called the Articles of Faith, stated the following:
“We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."[12]

"The Articles of Faith are thirteen statements written by the Prophet Joseph Smith describing some of the basic teachings and ordinances of the Church". [13] [14]

The LDS website states:
"We believe in the Jesus of the New Testament, and we believe what the New Testament teaches about Him. We do believe things about Jesus that other Christians do not believe, but that is because we know, through revelation, things about Jesus that others do not know."[15]

Members of the church believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate and distinct glorified beings, that God, the Father of all spirits (even including Lucifer) and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in a vision in the spring of 1820 in response to Joseph's prayer requesting to know which of the many local Christian denominations he should join himself with, and that They told him that he should join with none of them. The reason behind this direction was as follows, according to LDS beliefs: the organization or "church" put in place by Jesus Christ during His ministry both before and after His resurrection was meant to remain as long as there were faithful followers, although there was clear understanding that a "falling away" (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3) or apostasy would take place, destroying for a time this organization (though not destroying faith in Jesus Christ, which did persist). This church organization provided a structure whereby two key components were maintained: the Priesthood, and continuing and direct revelation from the ascended Jesus Christ to His chosen Apostles.

According to LDS beliefs, the Priesthood is the authority given by Jesus Christ to His Apostles and others, both to direct the Church, as well as to perform the associated and necessary ordinances, such as baptism by water immersion, and giving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Without this authority, it would be impossible to perform them in an authorized manner (see Acts 8:18-23). This authority, in actuality a covenant of service, only placed on men and not at all a legitimate source of self-aggrandizement, could only be passed from one authorized holder to another worthy man through the laying on of hands. Thus, while although initially the full quorum of 12 Apostles was maintained (see Acts 1:15-26), the Apostles were killed one by one and the Lord, in His mercy, ceased to give these murderers further opportunity of condemning themselves as more Apostles were not chosen. Thus, without the Priesthood and without the continuing revelation that the Lord provided to His Apostles to lead and guide the church, it fell way, as had been prophesied.

Therefore, LDS doctrine teaches of the necessity of a complete restoration rather than simply a reformation, and for this reason, Joseph Smith was called by God to be the first prophet, in the same sense as Moses, Isaiah, or Peter, since the times of the New Testament. Mormons believe that since Joseph Smith, the leaders of the Church, from Brigham Young to Gordon B. Hinckley today, were and are prophets, with the complete Priesthood authority (restored through the laying on of hands by first John the Baptist and then by Apostles Peter, James and John). Mormons revere these men just as the Biblical prophets are revered and in particular, honor Joseph Smith for being the man through whom God and Jesus Christ chose to restore Their church to the earth.

JesusChrist.lds.org

A screen shot of the new JesusChrist.lds.org Web site.

The Church has a multimedia website about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ at JesusChrist.lds.org.

Elder Russell M. Nelson speaks about the new website JesusChrist.lds.org. video

Scriptures

The four standard works of the Church are:

Book of Mormon

President Gordon B. Hinckley said the following about the Book of Mormon in an October, 2002 General Conference address entitled "The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith":
"This remarkable book stands as a testimonial to the living reality of the Son of God. The Bible declares that 'in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established' (Matt. 18:16). The Bible, the testament of the Old World, is one witness. The Book of Mormon, the testament of the New World, is another witness.
I cannot understand why the Christian world does not accept this book. I would think they would be looking for anything and everything that would establish without question the reality and the divinity of the Savior of the world."[16]


Restoration of the Priesthood

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that on May 15, 1829 A.D., the resurrected John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery and conferred upon them the Aaronic priesthood, which includes the authority to baptize.[17] Later, the resurrected Peter, James, and John appeared to them and conferred the Melchizedek priesthood.

Special Witnesses of Christ

These prophets and apostles have given their testimonies as special witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Wards

Washington DC Temple

Wards are geographically-defined congregations of the church. The Bishop is the spiritual leader of the ward and he serves with two counselors, all three chosen from among the body of the Ward. Bishops are usually called to serve for a period of five years and do so on a volunteer and unpaid basis, without formal ecclesiastical training, and while maintaining their secular professions.

The entire ward meets every week on Sunday to worship the Lord Jesus Christ and to receive counsel. The meetings are divided into three different hours:

  • First hour - Sacrament meeting. Our main purpose in attending sacrament meeting is to renew our covenants through partaking of the sacrament and to worship our Heavenly Father through hymn singing and prayer. Sacrament meeting provides an opportunity for members to strengthen their faith, find inner peace and spiritual healing, receive inspiration, and be instructed in the gospel. A member of the bishopric begins the meeting welcoming all members and visitors. There is an opening hymn followed by an opening prayer (invocation). This is followed by conducting ward business where members are released and sustained from callings. Then the sacrament of bread and water is prepared, blessed by the priesthood, and passed to the congregation. The sacrament is a renewal of the covenants each member made at baptism to remember the Lord Jesus Christ and to keep his commandments. On the first Sunday of the month, the meeting conductor starts off the bearing of testimonies by offering his own personal testimony. A testimony is a personal witness that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. As inspired by the Spirit, other members give their testimonies. On the other three Sundays, there are talks from members. The sacrament meeting concludes with a closing hymn and prayer.
  • Second hour - Sunday School, Primary and Nursery. Its purposes are to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and strengthen individuals and families by encouraging them to study the scriptures, obey the commandments, receive the essential ordinances, and keep the associated covenants. All the adults and youth meet in Sunday School classes. Children younger than twelve and three or older attend Primary. Children who are at least 18 months old but who are not yet 3 years old on 1 January may attend nursery at the discretion of their parents.
Adult Sunday School - The adults meet in several different classes. New members to the Church usually attend a Gospel Essentials class where they learn the basic teachings of the Church. Most of the other adults attend a Gospel Doctrine class where they are instructed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the scriptures. The main subjects rotate every four years: Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and the last year is Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and Church history. The bible used by Church members is the King James Version.
Youth Sunday School - The youth meet in several different classes according to their ages. There are usually separate classes for twelve and thirteen year olds, fourteen and fifteen year olds and sixteen and seventeen year olds. When they turn eighteen, the member starts attending the adult classes.
Primary - The purpose of Primary is to teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ and help them learn to live it.
Nursery - The purpose of the nursery class is to provide a loving, safe, organized place where young children can increase their understanding of and love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, have positive experiences in a Church setting, and grow in feelings of self-worth.
  • Third hour - Priesthood, Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary and Nursery. The men meet in Priesthood, the adult women meet in Relief Society,the male youth meet in Young Men, the female youth meet in Young Women and the children continue to meet in Primary or Nursery.
Priesthood - The purpose of the priesthood meetings are to increase priesthood holders’ knowledge of the gospel; strengthen their dedication to becoming better husbands, fathers, sons, and neighbors; and help them become active participants in fulfilling the mission of the Church.
Relief Society - The purpose of Relief Society is to provide relief for the poor and needy and to bring people to Christ.
Young Men - The purpose of the Young men group is to prepare the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to receive the ordinances of the temple, and to serve a full-time mission.
Young Women - The purpose of the Young Women organization is to help each young woman, ages 12 to 18, "come unto Christ".

General Conference

The church holds a semi-annual General Conference (in April and October, five two-hour sessions over two days) during which members listen to spoken messages from the Prophet and President of the church, his two counselors, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders. These messages are received by members of the church as modern-day revelation, just as the words of Peter were received by the followers of Jesus Christ in his day. Many members travel to Salt Lake City for the two-day conference, but the proceedings are broadcast via satellite throughout the world (as well as streamed on the internet) so that the entire church can participate.

The semi-annual conference was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle for 132 years, but in 2000, the church completed construction of the Conference Center and has held the conference there since April 2000. The Conference Center's primary feature is an auditorium that seats 21,000.

History of the Church in Utah

After the move to what would eventually become Utah, members of the Church founded the Territory of Deseret. While this was soon scaled down to the Utah territory by the United states government, the name Deseret was retained in the form of a newspaper (the Deseret Times) and the symbol on the state's highways (the beehive). Brigham Young, the then president of the Church was appointed governor of the Territory. The territory thrived, with the Saints in all positions of power (a territory consisting almost entirely of Saints unsurprisingly elected a territorial legislature that was entirely Mormon).

When federal officials, placed as patronage positions, arrived in Utah and found they could not profit in the usual way (skimming money off the top of deals, insisting on bribes and kickbacks for contracts), they started a drumbeat of negativity towards the Church in Washington. This led to the United States government marching an army of 2,500 troops towards Utah in 1857. This exercise of a nation taking arms against its own people failed miserably, with the troops poorly supplied and forced to march through the Rocky Mountains in the winter. Armed conflict was averted by Thomas Kaine, who convinced the governor of the territory at the time, Alfred Cummings, to order the army to pass by Salt Lake City and camp miles away. This failed expedition helped the Saints maintain a greater part of their independence from the federal government for a while longer.

Controversy

Position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with respect to Christianity

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider themselves Christians. They worship Jesus Christ as their Creator (see John 1:3), their Savior and Redeemer, and ultimately their eternal Judge. They believe that the events described in the New Testament in reality occurred, including Jesus Christ's virgin birth, his sinless life and miraculous ministry, and his suffering, death, and literal resurrection, through which forgiveness of sin, salvation (understood in LDS doctrine to indicate resurrection and immortality, a free gift to all; see 1 Corinthians 15:22), and ultimately exaltation (returning to and eternally dwelling in the presence of God and Jesus Christ and becoming "joint-heirs with Christ"; see Romans 8:17), are made possible.

The eleventh of the above-mentioned thirteen articles of faith contains the following statement:

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." (see Articles of Faith 1:11)

African Americans and the Priesthood

African Americans were banned from the priesthood until, in June 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball is said to have received a revelation extending priesthood ordination to all worthy males of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Official Declaration 2). [27][28] [29]

The Book of Mormon attests that God invites “all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . and all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). In our present day the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have stated that all human beings are created in the image of God and that each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of Deity. [30]

In the twentieth century, various Church leaders continued to offer possible reasons why a race of people was prohibited from holding the priesthood. One explanation, carried over from the previous century, stated that blacks were descendants of Cain, the first murderer, and therefore were denied the priesthood because of lineage. Another theory held that blacks were less valiant in the premortal existence and therefore had certain spiritual restrictions placed upon them during mortality. Priesthood denial was perceived to be one of these spiritual restrictions. But by mid-century, President David O. McKay stated, "There is not now, and there never has been, a doctrine in this Church that the negroes are under a divine curse. . . .It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice will some day be changed".[27]

Views on Same-Gender Attraction

In October 2007, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote an article in the Ensign magazine entitled "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction". [31] In 2007, the Church published a pamphlet "God Loveth His Children", for those suffering from same-gender attraction. [32]

On June 7, 2006, ABC’s Nightline ran a story on members and former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who struggle with same-gender attraction. The Church published a response to the inaccuracies in the Nightline story. [33]

The Church has a section on same-gender attraction on the Newsroom website. [34]

Polygamy

Critics try to associate the Church with polygamy, but in fact the Church has denounced polygamy for most of its existence, and at least since 1905. Other belief systems, such as the ACLU's, are more supportive of polygamy than this Church is.

A 1998 statement by current LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley states:

This Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. . . . If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church.[35]

References

  1. Style Guide - The Name of the Church LDS.org
  2. Statistical Report, 2008, LDS.org, April 2009
  3. Geographic statistics
  4. LDS Newsroom - Early Church History
  5. Worldwide Church Statistics LDS.org
  6. The Word of Wisdom Scriptures.lds.org
  7. U.S religious landscape survey
  8. http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2239
  9. http://www.onenewsnow.com/2007/02/southern_baptist_convention_wa.php
  10. http://www.apologeticsindex.org/news/an200513.html#21
  11. http://www.beliefnet.com/features/mormonism.html
  12. The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith from the October 2002 General Conference
  13. [1]
  14. [http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Curriculum/home%20and%20family.htm/gospel%20principles.htm?fn=document-frameset.htm$f=templates$3.0 Gospel Principles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah. 1997
  15. Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a Christian church? As answered on the LDS Church's website
  16. Mormons Reflect Christianity in Lifestyle as stated in the April, 2007 newsroom article at lds.org
  17. Doctrine and Covenants 13
  18. Special Witnesses of Christ, President Gordon B. Hinckley at the Garden Tomb, video at JesusChrist.lds.org.
  19. Special Witnesses of Christ, President Gordon B. Hinckley at the Sacred Grove, video at JesusChrist.lds.org.
  20. Special Witnesses of Christ, President Thomas S. Monson, video at JesusChrist.lds.org.
  21. Special Witnesses of Christ, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, video at JesusChrist.lds.org.
  22. Special Witnesses of Christ, President Boyd K. Packer, video at JesusChrist.lds.org.
  23. Special Witnesses of Christ, Elder Russell M. Nelson, video at JesusChrist.lds.org.
  24. Special Witnesses of Christ, Elder Robert D. Hales, video at JesusChrist.lds.org.
  25. Special Witnesses of Christ, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, video at JesusChrist.lds.org.
  26. Special Witnesses of Christ, Elder David A. Bednar, video at JesusChrist.lds.org.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Emmanuel Abu Kissi, Book review of Black and Mormon BYU Studies Review, October 2006.
  28. The Prohibition Against Blacks in the Priesthood, Public Broadcasting Service.
  29. LDS.org - Topic Definition - Priesthood Ordination before 1978
  30. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” 23 Sept. 1995, published in Ensign, Nov. 1995
  31. Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction
  32. http://www.lds.org/topics/pdf/GodLovethHisChildren_04824_000.pdf God Loveth His Children
  33. Church Responds to Nightline Story on Mormons and Homosexuality
  34. Same-Gender Attraction
  35. What is the Church’s position on polygamy? LDS website

See Also

External Links

Links to websites favorable to the Mormon Church

Links to Groups Not in Favor of the Mormon Church

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