We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
The Lord has designated Israel as his own people, as the “firstborn” of the world. With Abraham, He entered into a covenant and said: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” This everlasting covenant was confirmed upon Isaac and in turn, upon Jacob who was renamed Israel, whose posterity would become a mighty nation.
However, because of their iniquity, Israel was smitten by numerous oppressors, and the twelve tribes were scattered throughout the earth. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained in the lands of their inheritance, while the 10 remaining tribes were dispersed and were since called the Lost Tribes of Israel.
Latter-day Saints believe that the blessings the Lord has promised to the people of Israel through Abraham shall all be fulfilled, and that He shall gather once again his covenant people and bestow upon them the blessings which He has promised to their fathers. This glorious promise was declared by the prophet Isaiah:
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (See Isaiah 11:11-12.)
The Work of Gathering has Already Commenced
Speaking to the Elders of the Church in the last dispensation, the Lord declares the hour for the gathering of Israel has come:
“And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.
Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:7-8).
In order to fulfill this declaration from the Lord, the Church continues to send out missionaries to gather the dispersed of Israel from all four corners of the earth. Latter-day Saints believe that the gathering will include not only the original covenant people, but also the gentiles who have taken upon themselves the Abrahamic Covenant through baptism. The Lord promised that “He will gather His elect from the four quarters of the earth, even as many as will believe in Him, and hearken unto His voice” (D&C 33:6).
Christ Shall Reign Personally Upon the Earth
When the people of Israel are prepared to receive Jesus Christ as their King, He will come to reign personally over them. The new kingdom will be established, with Jerusalem as its capital in the east and Zion in the west. Isaiah saw the glory of this kingdom, and rejoiced therein. (See Isaiah 40:9.) When that day comes, the Earth shall die and shall be quickened again (Doctrine and Covenants 88:26). Soon, there will be a “new heaven and a new earth”, and the righteous shall dwell in it (Revelation 21:1).
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.
Freedom of worship is one of the inherent and inalienable rights of every human being. It has been conferred upon man by his maker, thus, no earthly power can take it away from him without violating a divinely instituted law. While God could disapprove of some forms of worship (i.e. idolatry, spiritualism, etc.), He allows everyone to worship according to his conscience in the spirit of love and forbearance.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds that religious intolerance is unscriptural. It violates man’s freedom to choose for himself. While Mormons know what they worship and boldly proclaim that theirs is the only true Church of Jesus Christ with all its authorized doctrines and ordinances, they are taught not to regard other faiths as inferior or unworthy of respect.
Joseph Smith once reproved some members of the Church for intolerance toward the beliefs of others. He told them that even idolaters ought to be protected in their worship; that, while it is a Christian’s duty to lead such darkened minds to the truth, he would not be justified in depriving even the heathen of their freedom to worship. In the official declaration of the Church’s belief regarding governments and laws in general, Joseph Smith gave the following statement which has been included in the Doctrine and Covenants – one of the standard works of the Church:
“We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 134:4.)
Religious tolerance has been demonstrated by the Savior in numerous instances throughout his mortal ministry. Nevertheless, He has also warned the saints on many occasions to beware of antichrists and false teachers (Matthew 16:6, 7:15). His message to those who belong to the Church was to “love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you… And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”(See Luke 6:27-31.)
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
A revelation received by Joseph Smith written in the 58th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants perfectly defines the relationship between the Laws of God and the Laws of the land:
“Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet” (Doctrine and Covenants58:21-22).
As followers of Christ, Latter-day Saints believe that governments were instituted of God for the good and safety of society. It is the government’s duty to enact laws that will secure the interest of the public and provide protection to its citizens. In return, each individual is bound to sustain the government and the laws of the country in which they reside. Disobedience to these laws is tantamount to disobedience to the laws of God.
The apostles of Jesus Christ taught the same principles to Church leaders and members during the early days of the Church. In his letter to Titus who was a bishop of the Church in Crete, Paul encouraged the Church leader to teach the saints to “be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (Titus 3:1). Peter exhorted new converts in the Church to do the same (1 Peter 2:12-19). Even the Savior Himself recognized and observed the law of the land by paying taxes (Matthew 22:17-22).
In keeping of the covenants they made pertaining to allegiance to civil laws, Mormons do not participate in anti-government protests and similar activities. For them, obedience to the laws of the land means obedience to the laws of God. Mormons have been counseled through modern revelation to support and promote representative government by righteous men. Sometimes, conscience and the Holy Ghost move them to stand for the right against wicked government. (Read about Helmuth Hubener of Nazi Germany.)
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
Virtue and good works are among the fruits by which true Christians may be known and distinguished from unbelievers. Latter-day Saints hold that true Christianity is more than the mere profession of beliefs and godliness. Without works inspired by genuine love for God and other people regardless of their social or economic status, profession of religion is but (as Paul said) “sounding brass and tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). James, in his epistle to members of the Church described the characteristics of pure religion:
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of the Mormon Church, once said that the symbol of Mormonism is the lives of its members. True to this statement, Latter-day Saints conduct their lives according to the standards set by the Lord through his servants. Some of these standards may even appear strange or funny to those who are “in the world,” but could also build faith to those who want to draw closer to God. Latter-day Saints who follow the counsel of Paul to be “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity” are a light to a world where the true meaning of pure religion is unclear.
“The Articles of Faith” by James E. Talmage
Church History in the Fulness of Times
LDS Standard Works
We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
One thing that separates the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from other faiths is its claim for an unbroken line of authority that goes back to the Savior Himself. Yes, the Catholic Church claims authority passed down from Peter, but this is not so. After the death of the apostles, the authority was lost. The authority was restored by Peter, James, and John, as angelic messengers to Joseph Smith. By virtue of such authority, members of the Church are given responsibilities or “callings” to serve in the Church. Callings to serve in the Church are voluntary – those who are called to serve receive no financial remuneration for the services they offer.
Callings in the Church come from God. They are given through inspiration and by the laying on of the hands by authorized representatives of the Lord. This pattern of choosing and ordaining disciples to serve in various church positions has been practiced by prophets and apostles in the primitive Church. (See Deuteronomy 34:9; Acts 6:1-6, 13:1-3.)
The same pattern is being used by the Mormon Church in choosing and setting apart members to assist in the work of building the Lord’s kingdom here on the earth. When choosing individuals to fill certain positions in the Church, Church leaders seek the Lord’s inspiration through prayer and fasting. Once inspiration has been received, the leader holds an interview with the person, extends the call, and presents the person to members of the congregation for their sustaining vote. During a sustaining, members raise their hands to signify support or opposition to the person called. After that, the church leader or his authorized representative lays his hands of the person’s head and sets him apart in his appointed office.
Pertaining to the privilege of serving in the Church, Jesus Christ said, “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4).
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
When Jesus Christ was on the earth, He established His Church and appointed ministers necessary for the fulfillment of God’s purposes. He chose certain men and gave them authority to preach the gospel and officiate in the ordinances of the gospel. The same organization continued to exist even after the Savior’s ascension, with those who had received authority ordaining others to different offices in the Priesthood. In this way, the Lord has given unto the Church, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declare their claim to the same Church organizations mentioned above. In addition, the Church also believes in high priests (Hebrews 5:1-5), seventies (Luke 10:1-11), elders (Acts 14:23), bishops (1Timothy 3:1), priests (Revelations 1:6), teachers (Acts 13:1), and deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-12). Many of these organizations were lost during “the apostasy” which happened gradually during the several centuries after the ministry of Jesus Christ and the deaths of His original apostles.
When the gospel was restored (or re-established) through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Church of Jesus Christ was once again established in the last days, with all the offices in the Priesthood necessary “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
One of the essential characteristics of the true Church of Jesus Christ is the existence of spiritual gifts. At any given time when the Priesthood, or the power and authority of God, was operative through an organized Church, the saints were blessed in many ways with the possession of various spiritual gifts. These gifts were present in the numerous miracles performed by the Lord Jesus Christ during his mortal ministry, and after His resurrection by the apostles.
According to James E. Talmage, late member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “spiritual gifts are essentially endowments of power and authority through which the purposes of God are accomplished, sometimes with accompanying conditions that may appear to be supernatural”.
By such gifts the sick are healed, evil spirits cast out, God’s humble missionaries speak in tongues while others interpret their words, heavenly visions are received, and revelations are obtained. They are not given as proof of the power of God to the faithless, or to entertain unbelievers. Joseph Smith explained that miracles and spiritual gifts are given “for the benefit of those who love [the Lord] and keep [His] commandments”.
Mormons know that miracles and spiritual gifts are still extant in the Church as opposed to what others believe — that they are merely things of the past. A prophet of God declared that the days of miracles will not pass from the Church as long as there shall be a man upon the earth to be saved. “for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain” (Moroni 7:37).
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
Like other Christians, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept the Holy Bible as the word of God. For many centuries it has been considered by followers of Christ as an authentic record of the events that transpired in the early history of God’s people. Until this day, it is still considered, even by the Latter-day Saints, as the foremost of the Church’s standard works, and the first among the books which have been proclaimed as her written guide in faith and doctrine. In general, Latter-day Saints hold the same conviction as other faiths as to the sanctity and authenticity of this holy writ. However, the Church declares a reservation in the case of inaccuracies, especially during the process of translation, which is evident in some of the modern versions of the Bible.
Mormons believe the Bible to be word of God as far as it is translated correctly from the original records written by God’s prophets and apostles. Since many of the modern Bible translators enlist bible scholars who often rely on the wisdom of men, errors are frequently admitted during the translation and transcription of text due to human limitations. On the other hand, unadulterated translations of the word of God in another tongue can only be effected through the gift and power of God.
Some have accused Latter-day Saints of believing a “cop-out;” they say Mormons pick and choose what they will believe from the Bible, and chalk their non-acceptance up to mistranslation of what the Lord originally intended. This idea is false. All Christian churches pick and choose their doctrines from the Bible. For instance, Calvinists chose election by pre-destination and ignore the possibility that Christ desires to save all of His children. Evangelicals find much in Paul’s teaching that faith saves us, but many ignore the words of James, who said that faith without works is dead. There are no biblical doctrines that Mormons discard. However, their other scriptures thoroughly elucidate what the epistles merely mention. For example, Paul mentions baptism for the dead, and modern prophets have received more revelation on the subject. There is very little in the Bible regarding resurrection, but the Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, goes to great lengths to explain it.
Aside from the bible, Mormons believe in other scriptures written by men through the gift and power of God. The Book of Mormon, for instance, is a set of sacred records comparable to the Bible, written and compiled by ancient prophets of God. While the Bible contains records of the dealings of God with the inhabitants of the Holy Land and surrounding areas, the Book of Mormon is another witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His mission as written by His prophets (who were a branch of Israel) in the Western Hemisphere.
Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is a collection of books written independently by many prophets. Their writings were compiled and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon (hence the title of the book). Shortly before his death, Mormon delivered the record to his son, Moroni, who hid them up in the earth where it remained for more than a thousand years. In 1823, the ancient record was delivered to Joseph Smith who translated it through the gift and power of God. The Book of Mormon stands as another witness to the world of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and is designed to provide support and further explanation to the doctrines and principles preserved in the Bible.
The Savior’s personal ministry to the inhabitants of the Ancient America shortly after His ascension is the crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon. This was the fulfillment of His earlier declaration to His disciples in Jerusalem pertaining to His “other sheep” which He must also visit, according to the commandments of the Father (John 10:16; 3 Nephi 15:12-17). Aside from the Bible and The Book of Mormon, Latter-day Saints also believe that the words of the living prophets and apostles are also scriptures. (See Doctrine and Covenants 68:4.)
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
Continuing revelation from Jesus Christ is the rock upon which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands. This is in harmony with the Church’s belief that God continues to speak today through His living prophets, as He had spoken with His children in the ancient times.
God’s pattern of calling prophets to speak on His behalf started at the time of Adam. Adam was the first mortal to commune with and receive revelations from God. By revelation, he understood the plan of salvation and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After Adam, other prophets were called to warn and teach the children of men the way of salvation. The scriptures are conclusive as to the fact that God has consistently revealed His will to His authorized servants in every dispensation of His work. For “surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Modern revelation is necessary for the salvation of man.
John Taylor, the fourth Mormon Prophet, once declared the importance of continuing revelation. He spoke of the need for “a living tree – a living fountain – living intelligence proceeding from the living priesthood in heaven, through the living priesthood on earth. He said that from the time that Adam first received revelation from God to the time that John the Revelator received his communication on the Isle of Patmos, or Joseph Smith had his First Vision, it always required new revelations, adapted to the peculiar circumstances in which the churches or individuals were placed. John Taylor added:
“Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Joseph. And so must we, or we shall make a shipwreck.”
Members of the Mormon Church believe that the Lord continues to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God today as He did in the ancient days. The current president and prophet of the Church is Thomas S. Monson. Latter-day Saints believe that God communicates with him and gives him revelations that are appropriate for the present needs of the people, in the same way that He spoke to Abraham, Moses, Noah, Isaiah, and the apostles in the day of Jesus Christ.
Polygamy and Mormons have been two things which have been linked in the news quite a bit. However, the truth is that there is no such thing as a modern polygamous Mormon. President Gordon B. Hinckley, fifteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church), stated the following in October 1998:
I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.
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. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, ‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law’ (Articles of Faith 1:12). One cannot obey the law and disobey the law at the same time.
There is no such thing as a ‘Mormon Fundamentalist.’ It is a contradiction to use the two words together.
So, why does the media keep talking about polygamous Mormons? With popular shows like “Big Love” on HBO and “Sister Wives” on TLC, which claim to be about Mormons who are practicing polygamy, it is understandable. Here is a bit of history which should help clarify.
History of Polygamy and the Mormons
Mormon prophet Joseph Smith was given a commandment by God in 1831 (though it was not recorded until 1843), in response to his question about polygamous marriages in the Bible. The Lord told Joseph that only He could command men and women to practice this principle. He then gave Joseph the commandment to live this principle and to share the principle with other Church leaders. Joseph put this off for a long time, because he did not want to live it. Nor did many of the men and women called to live it. In fact, some people left the Church over it. Only a very small percentage of Church members ever did live this principle. No one was forced to, and divorce was offered as an option to those who had chosen to practice and then found it too hard or were unhappy. This said, the “principle,” as it was called, was meant to act as a refiner’s fire for the Latter-day Saints and to weed out those who were too weakly committed to the Lord. The Latter-day Saints were Victorian age people of European descent, accustomed to defined roles for a man and woman in the home, and to moral behavior. They also knew persecution, already nearly intolerable, would increase. Early prophet [[John Taylor]] said:
When this system was first introduced among this people, it was one of the greatest crosses that ever was taken up by any set of men since the world stood. Joseph Smith told others; he told me, and I can bear witness of it, “that if this principle was not introduced, this Church and kingdom could not proceed.” When this commandment was given, it was so far religious, and so far binding upon the Elders of this Church, that it was told them if they were not prepared to enter into it, and to stem the torrent of opposition that would come in consequence of it, the keys of the kingdom would be taken from them. When I see any of our people, men or women, opposing a principle of this kind, I have years ago set them down as on the high road to apostasy, and I do to-day; I consider them apostates, and not interested in this Church and kingdom (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 11:221).
After the Saints moved west, the land they had moved to quickly became part of the United States. After several years, when they applied for statehood, the government began to persecute them more than ever for their religious practice of plural marriage. Things came to a head when the government disenfranchised the Church and seized all its property. It had been decades now that the Saints had been practicing polygamy and had been constantly persecuted for doing so, but they strove to keep the commandment they had been given of God. In 1890, then-prophet Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the Mormon Church, was shown a vision of what would happen to the Church if its members continued to practice polygamy. The Lord told President Woodruff that the time had come for them to stop living this law, and He repealed the commandment. Those who had already entered plural marriages continued to live in that way, but no new marriages were performed. Since that time, it has been an offense worthy of excommunication from the Mormon Church to engage in the practice of polygamy.
A group which splintered from the Mormon Church, and which now calls itself the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), led by Warren Jeffs, has been in the news for its practice of polygamy. Its members have isolated themselves, and all members are expected to live this law; if they don’t, they are kicked out. It is easy to see the differences between this group and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No one who practices this law and claims to be Mormon is really a member of the Mormon Church.
Being a member of the Church almost a year, I have thought long and hard about whether to become endowed and enjoy all the true blessings that the temple brings. Having the temple on earth in our day and time has been such an amazing part of my life. I am fortunate enough to be just a walk across the parking lot from one of these beautiful houses of the Lord. Every Sunday as I arrive at church, I take a minute to marvel and admire the beautiful structure of this gorgeous building, within which I was able to participate in baptisms for the dead.
When I became a member of the Church I remember thinking, “I wonder exactly what all the hype of the temple was about”? Then I had the chance to go in for the first time, just a week after being confirmed a member of the Church. I was told things like it would be a place where I would be safe from all my worries, where Satan could not enter, that it was as close to feeling in life that I was in a glorified state of “heaven” as I could possibly be on this earth. I thought to myself that it was just a building; how could a building make you feel all of these things?
As I prayed to enter the temple for the first time, I did some reading of my scriptures, and found that the Lord has commanded us to build a house for Him, that the Lord desires us to use his house to endow His people with power from on high. He gave us the chance to build a gift to ourselves, to no longer walk in darkness; it was then (before I had to the chance to actually enter the temple) that I gained an understanding of what these meant.
My first experience in the temple was an emotional one; it was almost surreal to be in there. To enter only as far as the baptistery, I remember it being almost like I was living in a dream. As I was able to participate in the blessed ordinance of baptism, I remember feeling a sense of relief, that all my trials had been relieved from me as I entered through the door. I felt a closeness to my Heavenly Father that I had never felt before. It was as if he knew that this was what I needed for that day. When I walked out of the temple, I remember trying to take that image of what I had seen that day with me. People asked how I felt after leaving the temple and I could not place my feelings into words.
It was sometime later that I was able to experience something in the temple that I had yearned for 17 years to experience. After my first trip to the temple, I hesitated going back, as I knew that at this point there was something that had to be done, and that was giving my deceased father the chance to be freed from the spirit prison he had been in for 17 years. I wanted him to learn of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I wanted to forgive him for the things he had done to me and others while living here on earth. Shortly before I decided that I was ready to do this, I went for a new member lesson with the sister missionaries serving in our area. We met on the temple grounds to talk about nothing more appropriate than the blessings of the temple. It was at that time that I decided it was time to give my dad the chance to be free from the prison, at least the one that was created by my unforgiveness.
The blessings of the temple have meant more in my life than I ever thought they were going to. The temple has given me strength, courage, relief, a sense of forgiveness, and a calmness I never thought I would be able to obtain. It has been a place I can go to escape the adversary, to be able to place my trials in perspective and know that I can continue on and triumph over them. While I have yet to be endowed, I do look forward to it in the future and to enjoying the rest of the blessings that come with participation in the sacred temple ordinances that are performed there.
Missionary work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths The Mormon Church) is probably one of my most favorite principles of the gospel. Doctrine and Covenants 4:2 says “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.” Mormon missionary work is not something we just do as part of our plan to eternal salvation, but it is a duty to our father in heaven. Joining the church in my older years, I had to make a quick decision on whether to strive to serve as a full time missionary, while my prayers were answered that there would be time for that in life, the time for my education was now.
In the meantime, missionary work is still something I enjoy. From the time I joined the church, I knew that while full-time missionaries spread the knowledge of the gospel for the 18-24 months they serve, it was not just all up to them. As a member missionary, I know that the gospel will never be shared with everyone without everyone dedicating some of their time to missionary work.
So you probably are wondering why it is so important to me. For 27 years of my life I knew not of true happiness or what it felt like. I knew not of the gospel, not the atonement, I knew not how to obtain eternal salvation. I would have a great hole in my self to know of this knowledge and to not share of it, but to be selfish and keep happiness to myself. Therefore, I find missionary work not just a tool but a necessity for my happiness and the happiness of others.
I sometimes have the chance to go on a lesson or go tracting with our full-time missionaries, spreading and learning the words of the gospel, and gaining a better understanding as to how one day we can return to live with our Father in Heaven. Sometimes it’s something as simple as sharing my testimony with a member of the Church, so they know how the spirit speaks to us is often through others. I find it a special experience to be part of the Lord’s eternal plan and the gospel principle of missionary work.
Just over a year ago I was completely anti-religion. I did not want someone to tell me what the secret to their happiness was; I was oblivious to the fact that my best friend had been a member of the church for 6 years, and I did not know that she was. When she was given the challenge to write her testimony and her favorite scriptures in a Book of Mormon and pray who she would give it to, when she finally received revelation that it would be me, I remember thinking how crazy I thought she was. It has been close to a year now since I have joined the Church, and I think back to what I thought when she gave me my first copy of the Book of Mormon. I now know that be being a Mormon missionary is what brings love to my heart.
While I don’t know if it will be me that will one day help to plant a seed — the gift that a year ago she planted in my heart and in that of my family — I do know that it will happen. It is amazing that a year ago my family cared not to even ask me how my day at church went. They now wonder at the drastic change in my way of living — why I smile so much, what is it about the Church that has brought me so much true happiness. It is the simple questions in the minds of others that I know will always allow me to continue to be a missionary of the Church and continue to serve our Lord in his desire to make sure that all that come to Earth will know of His gospel.
The Mormon Health law is called the Word of Wisdom.
When I was a little kid, I heard the story about the stagecoach driver more than any other. It’s a parenting classic — like the boy who cried wolf (heard that one a lot, too) — used to teach a life lesson of some sort. It goes like this:
A man is looking to hire a stagecoach driver to deliver some important cargo. The route the driver must travel goes on along a windy road up a steep mountain. The first driver the man interviews says that he can prove what a skilled driver he is because he can drive along the edge of the cliff the entire way without falling off. The second driver interviewed says he can prove what a good driver he is, because he drives the entire way staying as far away from the edge of the cliff as possible. The man hires the second driver.
I have never had an alcohol or nicotine or heroine addiction. I don’t know whether or not I have a predisposition, mentally or physically, to be controlled in that way by substance abuse. There are millions of people all over the world who can taste or smoke or try or even use regularly without being dependent. Maybe I’m one of them.
Or maybe I’m not. I don’t know. I’ll never find out. I drive as far away from the cliff as possible. When life gets hard, as it always does for everyone, I’ll never slip into an addiction. I’ll be on the other side of the road completely. The principles in the Mormon law of heath, or the Word of Wisdom, about abstaining from drugs and alcohol are liberating, not limiting. I live my life in freedom — from addiction and from the danger of it.
In the year 1936, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon or LDS Church), formally established a Church Welfare System. The purpose of this program is to help LDS Members become self-reliant, care for the poor and the needy and to give service to others.
In the formation of this program, President Heber J. Grant, then the President of the Mormon Church said:
“Our primary purpose was to set up, insofar as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self-respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our church membership”(In Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 3).
The LDS Church believes that in order for its members to be able to effectively help others, they should first be self reliant on their own level. Mormons are given the direction to be responsible for their own temporal and spiritual needs, providing for their families the best that they can. However, if they have done everything to address their needs and when resources from relatives are already utilized, the Church stands ready to help.
Part of the Welfare System is maintaining self-reliance in the aspects of Health, Education, Employment, Home Storage, Finances and Spiritual Strength. These factors are the basis for a happy and well prepared Home in times of illness and economical uncertainties.
Mormons follow a code of health known as the “Word of Wisdom” that prohibits them from drinking coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages. They neither smoke tobacco nor use harmful drugs or substances that are addictive in nature, such as illegal drugs and others things which are physically and spiritually destructive. The Church upholds healthy practices and encourages its members to develop healthy habits.
The Latter-day Saints are counseled to get as good an education as possible, so they can get good employment or productive self-employment that will allow them to financially sustain their own families. With this admonition, the LDS Church assists its members by operating the “Perpetual Education Fund” (also known as PEF), a program that provides education and training funding to ambitious youth from developing countries, where quality education is beyond their reach, due to poverty and lack of financial resources. Also, the Church operates LDS Employment Resource Centers in many areas all around the world. These centers are run by employees and missionary volunteers who work full time to ensure that LDS members are assisted in their pursuit of temporal self-reliance. They also operate websites that help with employment and welfare programs such as www.providentliving.org and www.ldsjobs.org.
Presidents of the Mormon Church all throughout the ages have continuously counseled their members to maintain Food Storage at least for three months, if a year’s supply is not possible. Faithful Latter-day Saints give heed to these counsels by storing food, clothing, and basic needs that will enable them to be prepared in times of calamities and natural disasters, where immediate help for survival may not be available. Many Mormons also prepare a 72-hour Kit, an assortment of supplies such as food, water medicines and other materials that will allow them to live for 3 days where Disaster Relief Operations may not be able to respond right away.
The Mormon Church also teaches its members to avoid unnecessary debt that can ruin self-esteem and entangle a person in unpleasant financial circumstances. Furthermore, spiritual self reliance is also a priority for the Mormons. Members are encouraged to fortify their own families spiritually through regular scripture study, family prayer and wholesome recreational activities.
If an LDS member comes to the Church for financial assistance (such as for medicines, etc.) the Church, through the Bishop who is the presiding leader in a local congregation, assesses the members’ needs and administers appropriate financial help. In a Ward (local congregation), there is a group of Auxiliary Leaders known as the “Ward Council.” This council discusses ways to help the needy member overcome their burdens.
In some areas in the world, the LDS Church has established buildings which are called “Bishops’ Storehouses.” Under the permission of the members’ Bishop, they can go to the Storehouse and be provided with food and clothing that will help them in their immediate need. Aside from that, there is also the “Lord’s Storehouse.” This includes church members’ giving of their time, talents, and other resources for the poor and needy. In a revelation recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of modern revelation), the Lord said about this storehouse:
“And all this for the benefit of the Church of the living God, that every man may improve upon His talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church –
“Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the Glory of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:18-19).
The Mormons are not just particularly concerned about their own people but with other people as well, even from other Faiths. In natural calamities, disasters, and emergencies, the LDS Church is one of the first contributors in sending food and relief supplies and materials to distressed nations and areas. Although most of the time, not announced, the LDS Church is one of those to respond immediately to assist in these emergencies. The Mormon Church often partners with other reputable charity organizations, such as Moslem Relief, to expedite delivery of goods.
But where does the LDS Church get the funds to assist? Faithful Mormons obey the “Law of the Fast” (also known as Fasting). Every first Sunday of the month they fast by abstaining from the intake of food and water for two consecutive meals or 24 hours. The money that they would have used to buy food for themselves for the two meals is given to the Church and set aside as “Fast Offering.” This money then becomes the fund that the Church uses in assisting the needy members and non-Mormons alike. Many members contribute generously to this fund along with Humanitarian Aid donations. Mormons take happiness in sacrificing for others as the Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation…” (Lectures on Faith, p. 58).
It is one of the philosophies of Mormonism that self-reliance must be achieved so helping other people may be possible. With this guiding principle, the Mormon Church has been continually growing and becoming a positive influence in the countries where it operates, the Church itself being a “Self-Reliant” entity.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church, is known for the zeal of its members in doing genealogical research. Active Mormons do their best to research as much information about their ancestors as possible. They try to complete a pedigree chart that starts with them, their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. When information is no longer obtainable by asking immediate family or handed-down records, they expand their ancestral study using other research methods.
The Mormon Church is investing much money and resources in making this research possible, meaningful, and effective. It operates and maintains a large archive known as the Granite Mountain Records Vault (commonly known as Granite Mountain) located in Utah. This structure holds the important records of the Church, including Microfilmed genealogical records of many countries all around the world, which are carefully preserved and maintained using the latest technology. The vault is said to hold at least 3 billion pages of family history records and is increasing every year.
One may ask, “Why do the Mormons invest so much time, money, and resources for such a cause”? Mormonism teaches that there must be a link between the ancestors and their posterity. The last 2 verses in the Old Testament explain the importance of this link as recorded in the Book of Malachi:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (4:5-6).
This prophecy was fulfilled when Elijah the prophet appeared and restored the sealing power to Joseph Smith on April 1836 in the Kirtland Mormon Temple. This “Sealing Power” held by Elijah anciently was the same power given by the Savior Jesus Christ to His apostles, when He said to them while in the coasts of Caesarea Philippi: “And whatsoever thou shalt bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Using this power, a family can be bound or sealed not just until death, but for eternity. Since this power was restored on Earth, families can now be sealed for eternity through ordinances in sacred LDS temples. This has become the fulfillment of Malachi’s words about linking the hearts of the Fathers to the children and the children to the fathers.
Keeping of genealogical records was a practice in God’s church in ancient times. For a significant reason, Matthew, in his gospel, enumerated the Book of Generations of Jesus Christ from the time of Abraham down to the Savior’s birth. (See Matthew 1:1-17.) This shows how valuable lineage was for the early saints. Today, the LDS Church also has the same value and concern for these important records.
One of the major Three-fold missions of the Church is “Redeeming the Dead.” The Apostle Paul, in one of his discourses to the saints in Corinth, mentioned “Baptism for the Dead”. (See 1 Corinthians 15:29.) As the Savior taught about the importance of baptism to enter God’s Kingdom (John 3:3-5), it is thus a requirement for a man or woman to be able to return to God’s presence. This baptism taught by Jesus Christ is baptism by immersion in the water by one holding the right authority, who is commissioned by God. (See 3 Nephi 11:18-28.) So what would happen to the millions of people who died without even hearing about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and who were not baptized at all? Would God be just if they were condemned without having equal opportunity to hear about the Gospel and be baptized? No. God is just, and He loves all His children equally and has prepared a way whereby baptism can still be possible to those who have died without having the opportunity to do so while still living on this earth.
In the holy Mormon Temples, baptisms for the dead are performed by worthy LDS members by proxy. Those who are still living in mortality perform the ordinance of baptism vicariously for and in behalf of their deceased ancestors. Afterwards, these names of the deceased are grouped as families and are sealed for eternity vicariously as well. Though these ordinances are performed for the dead, the dead, who still live and have the same personalities and agency they had on earth, may decide to accept or reject those ordinances performed for them.
God has prepared a way so his children might have equal chances for salvation regardless of their race, culture, and background, because all people are literally His beloved sons and daughters. This is the reason why the Mormon Church is very anxiously engaged in the cause of family history research. Mormons give heed to the counsel of the Prophet Joseph Smith that says: “Those saints who neglect it (work for the salvation of the dead) in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril of their own Salvation” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.193).
All the genealogical research facilities and services owned by the Mormons are offered free of charge even to non-members. One may visit their family search website at www.new.familysearch.org. Also, in local Stake Centers of the LDS Church almost one in every city, there are Family History Centers which can serve all who may wish to do genealogical research using the computer or microfilms. These centers are manned by Volunteers and Church service Missionaries who stand ready to help.
The Mormon Church also has millions of members who donate their time to help digitize genealogical records from around the world, for the use of the requesting organizations (such as Ellis Island in New York), and for the general public. Anyone, Mormon or not, may help with this effort by going to www.indexing.familysearch.org and by choosing a project to work on at their own pace. Members of the Mormon Church do not perform temple ordinances for Jews who died in the Holocaust or for famous people they might have an affection for, but to whom they are not related. Mormons obtain permission from surviving family members before doing work for the recently deceased.
A personal reflection by Jhumer:
I was born and raised by loving parents who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church). I was taught since I was young that families can be eternal. I remember clearly when I was about 5 years old, my parents brought me and my two other siblings to the LDS Temple in Manila Philippines. It took some savings, sacrifice, and preparation for my parents to be able to take all of us there.
While we were in that beautiful and magnificent edifice, I didn’t quite understand then what was going on. As a young boy, I could only appreciate the inner joy of the impression I felt while inside that building. We were all dressed in white, and everyone else was dressed in white as well. People spoke softly as if they whisper while saying kind and appreciative words to my parents. There was an older couple who assisted my mother when my sister was crying. I was delighted to see such kindhearted people who showed kindness in a very simple way.
As I grew up and attended church, I was taught and learned to understand deeper what took place inside that beautiful LDS temple. My family was sealed for time and all eternity – this means that when we die, we can and will still have the same relationship as a family in the next life. By virtue of the sealing power of the Holy Priesthood (the power of God given to men to act in His name), we were pronounced as “Eternal family”. My parents will have claim on me as their son, and I to them as my parents.
In the New Testament, the Savior gave this sealing power to His Apostles which meant that whatever they bind or seal on earth using that power is also bound or sealed in Heaven. (See Matthew 16:19.) This sealing power was again restored on Earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith and is now held by worthy and appointed male members of the LDS Church who work as volunteers inside the Temple. Reflecting on this truth and the thought of God’s love to His children to allow family relationships to continue beyond grave, I cannot help but feel an outpouring of gratitude knowing that I can still keep my beloved family for eternity.
Since I was young, it became my goal to be married in the Holy Temple and not to settle for anything less. As only those who keep and uphold the standards of the Church are considered worthy to enter, I labored to keep myself in accordance to God’s commandments and the Church’s requirements. When I fell in love to the right person and it was time for us to get married, I took her to the very temple where I and my parents were sealed and there we exchanged marital vows and made sacred covenants (promises) to the Lord. As we faced each other at the altar, I looked at my wife’s eyes while contemplating the joy of being assured that as long as we both honor our covenants, our love will continue for eternity. The thought of that precious moment has become my strength in battling marital trials and daily challenges that threaten family life.
Being a Mormon in my entire life, I am a witness of the blessings that came to members’ lives as they prepared themselves and brought their families to be sealed in the Temple. While serving as President of the Elders Quorum (Organization of Male members ages 18 and above) in our Ward (local congregation), I have been a part in assisting poor families who desired to receive the blessings of marriage and family sealing in the Temple. These families though impoverished with very limited resources, were willing to work and sacrifice everything just to have the opportunity to be sealed with their dear beloved family. Some sold important and precious belongings; others doubled their income by doing more work in their job and the rest raised funds by maximizing their savings and spending minimal money on their daily needs. Above all, these people did not just labor and prepare financially, they prepared “spiritually” as well. They worked hard in safeguarding their lives from immorality and living in a way that is pleasing to the Lord and in accordance with the standards of the Church. I saw true love in their eyes. Love that is meant to last for eternity and they were willing to pay the price for that love to move forward even beyond grave because they understood and knew that the all-loving God made it possible for them.
When the second LDS Temple in the Philippines (Cebu Philippines Temple) was built and dedicated on June 13, 2010, it provided easier and more convenient transportation to faithful Mormons living in distant areas who could hardly visit the Manila Temple due to poverty. My heart is filled with joy as I think of how great a blessing it is for these families. God is truly mindful to His children. He continues to find a way so a sacred temple –even His holy house, will be within the reach of all worthy saints who seek to obey and follow His commandments.
I am a living witness of the miracles that happen in families as they enter the Temple. They come out assured of eternal union as long as they honor the sacred covenants made therein. All these blessings are true to me. I am grateful that I am sealed to my dear wife for time and all eternity. Because of that, she has become my wife not just “until death” (as marriages performed outside the Mormon temple are pronounced as such), but until forever, and all children who will be born to us will be part of that endless familial bond!
Central to the belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church, is the role of the Savior Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind. All the other teachings, doctrines, and principles taught by the Mormons are only appendages to the greatest and grandest event that ever happened in the history of mankind –the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Atonement is the ultimate sacrifice performed by the Savior by giving His life to redeem and save mankind from sin.
Paul declared to the Romans: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin is willful disobedience to God’s commandments, and when men commit sin, they are separated from the presence of God. Mormon doctrine explains that this separation from God because of sin is called “Spiritual Death.” This death, if not overcome, will forfeit men’s opportunity to return to God’s presence. Hence, the need of a Savior became mandatory, so repentance and forgiveness may be possible, and men and women can again be reunited with God.
The gospel of John proclaimed: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Savior of the world. He was prepared before the foundation of this Earth to come and atone for all the sins of mankind. (See Moses 4:2; Abraham 3:27.) He was sent to live a perfect life, sinless, and worthy to qualify as an eternal sacrifice that will appease the demands of justice for all the sins of men since the time of Adam until the very last person who will ever live on the earth.
Latter-day Mormon scriptures reveal that the atonement was a very hard and painful process for Jesus Christ. Even He, the greatest of all, trembled because of exceeding pain! (See Doctrine and Covenants 19:18-19.) Some Christians are offended because Mormons believe that Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane is part of the Savior’s atonement. In Gethsemane, Christ took upon Himself the wrath of God for our sins, plus all of our sorrows, shortcomings, and mistakes. This developed in Him perfect compassion, that mercy might temper judgment when Christ judges us in heaven.
Only those who properly repent and obey God’s commandments will have the full effects of the atonement of the Savior in their lives. Christ concluded the atonement by dying on the cross in one of the cruelest methods known to man. He did it out of his selfless love for the world and perfect obedience to his Father in heaven.
After His resurrection, He visited a branch of the tribe of Joseph in ancient America and declared:
“Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.
“Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved” (3 Nephi 9:21-22).
Aside from victory over spiritual death through forgiveness, the atonement also brought triumph over “Physical Death” – the separation of the spirit from the body at death. After three days, Jesus was resurrected and became the “firstfruits of them that slept”. (See 1 Corinthians 15:20-23.) Because of that, all men who have died will be resurrected and live again to attain immortality. The spirit will be reunited to a perfect body, never to die again. This is a free and unconditional gift for all men brought by the powerful effect of the atonement. However, although everyone will be resurrected, only those who sincerely repent and obey God’s commandments will be able to return to Him and be saved.
This repentance and faith in Christ, plus participation in earthly ordinances enables us through Christ’s atonement and grace to attain eternal life, another phrase meaning eternity in God’s presence. It is important to understand, however, that most of mankind will inherit a kingdom of glory in heaven. Hell, which Mormons call “outer darkness,” is reserved for those who receive a perfect witness of Christ and then deny Him, thus in essence “crucifying Him anew.” (To read Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s vision of the kingdoms of heaven, click here.)
Mormons have utmost respect for the Atonement. They commemorate it every Sunday by regularly participating in a sacrament meeting, where they partake of the bread and drink of the water which symbolizes the body and blood the Savior offered for the salvation of mankind.