Mormons (the popular, though unofficial, nickname for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) received significant media attention during the last presidential election. Nevertheless, many religious observers and members of the interfaith community know very little about this Christian faith with uniquely American roots, and its nearly 15 million faithful members.
As the formal name of the Church suggests, Mormons are Christians, who have faith in God their Eternal Father, strive to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, and seek the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in all areas of their lives. We study the Bible, attend weekly Sunday services and believe in “doing good” to all men and women. Why then is there often such divisive dialogue about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, as it is more concisely called by its members?
As with many faith other traditions, the roots of present day disagreements lie in the distant past. Although the LDS Church was first organized in the state of New York in 1830 by Joseph Smith, its roots reach back to the days of the ancient apostles. Commissioned by Jesus Christ to carry the message of the gospel to all the world, Peter, James, John, and Paul (along with other leaders of the “former day saints”) soon encountered persecution and opposition within and without the fledgling Christian Church. In the succeeding centuries, the Christian world became divided among Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant views of the meaning and significance of the ancient, original church teachings.
As a young man, Joseph Smith studied the Bible and wondered about the causes of these divisions. He decided to follow the counsel of James to “ask in faith” that he might receive from God the answers to his questions. He received the answers he was seeking from God and learned that a restoration of the Church of Christ, with is original doctrines, ordinances organization and spiritual gifts was to be re-established on the earth, a “latter-day” companion to the apostles and “saints” (as disciples of Jesus Christ were called in the original Church).
As part of his own prophetic calling, Joseph Smith received and translated ancient records from a Christian prophet named Mormon, who lived on the American continent with his people. They had traveled from Judea to America under the Lord’s direction when ancient Israel was scattered among the nations. This translated record was published as the Book of Mormon; Another Testament of Jesus Christ. LDS Church members consider it to be scripture along with the Bible, a fulfillment of the Biblical scripture (in Ezekiel) describing how the “sticks” ( books) of Joseph and Judah would become one in the hands of God’s children.
Members of the LDS Church join Christians around the world in their faith in the death, resurrection and atoning grace of Jesus Christ. We baptize by immersion, pray in the name of Jesus Christ, seek to repent of our sins, and experience and share the grace of God in our lives.
Unlike many other Christian faiths, we believe in a lay ministry, with all members of the congregation participating in its services and responsibilities, receiving no compensation other than the satisfaction of serving one another. We observe a code of health — which includes abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea — that encourages healthy bodies and hearts that can be sensitive to the whisperings of God’s Spirit. We emphasize the importance of families as the foundation of God’s plan for the eternal happiness of his children.
We believe in being honest, chaste, benevolent and virtuous and embrace those of all faiths that share these values. Finally, we honor those who have sacrificed to preserve our freedoms, including religious freedom. As Joseph Smith once wrote to an inquiring editor, “We claim the privilege of worshipping God according to the dictates of our own conscience and accord all men (and women) the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
For additional information or answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its beliefs and practices, please visit www.mormon.org, or talk with any Mormon that you personally know – they would be happy to answer your questions.
Thank you, Bishop Greg Geiger, for answering our question! To learn more about Bishop Geiger, please click here.