Friday, January 18, 2008

A Brief Look at Mormons

So what is it like being a Mormon? Well, for starters, I like it. Let me clarify a point though. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon is a nickname that people called church members beginning in the 19th century. Mormon is the name of a man who lived in approximately the fourth century A.D. somewhere on the American continents. He served as the principle writer and editor of the book of scripture known as the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

But back to the initial question. In many respects Mormons are just like their non-Mormon friends and neighbors. We work and go to school. We love God and seek to serve Him to the best of our abilities. We play sports, listen to music, and even watch movies.

I suppose what makes Mormons interesting to the rest of the world are a few theological peculiarities that separates us from the so-called “mainstream” or “historical” Christianity. Unfortunately, some of our fellow Christians believe that we aren’t Christians at all precisely because of these differences.

For example, we do not hold to the creedal belief that God the Father and Jesus Christ are one and the same Being, that is of one substance. We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost (Article of Faith 1:1). But we do not believe in the Trinitarian formulations of the Nicene, Athanasian, or Apostles’ creeds. We believe that God is literally the Father of our spirits; that He has an immortal body of flesh and bones (D&C 130:22) very similar to but distinct from the body of the resurrected Christ of whom the ancient apostles bore record (Luke 24:36-40).

Additionally, we believe that the divine authority which Jesus Christ gave to His apostles during His mortal ministry was lost with the death of the apostles, including the keys of the kingdom to bind and seal things on heaven as they are bound and sealed on earth (Matthew 16:19). But after centuries of apostasy and darkness, God has once again restored the power and authority to act in His Name to earth. This power and authority is called the priesthood.

My next point is that whenever God has established His priesthood power and authority on earth He does so by delegation to at least one man who is then called a prophet. Prophets speak in the Name of God, that is, they are God’s mouthpieces. When people obey God’s commandments which they receive from prophets they prosper. When they don’t obey God’s commandments they don’t.

In 1820 God called a prophet, a young boy from upstate New York by the name of Joseph Smith. It took some time for Joseph to be prepared to receive the priesthood, but in 1830, Joseph Smith, being fully authorized by God, received and followed the commandment to officially organize God’s Church as it was organized by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Mormons believe that since Joseph Smith, the priesthood power and authority including the keys of the kingdom once given to Peter have continued with the prophets and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Without this power and authority baptisms and other sacred and essential ordinances would not be binding, that is, acceptable to God.

Furthermore, Mormons don’t believe in a closed canon. While we believe that the Bible is the word of God, we also believe that God has given additional scriptures in ancient and modern times. So in addition to the Bible, Mormons believe in and study from the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. We also value the words of the living prophets and apostles as the word of God just as the children of Israel considered the words of Moses to be God-given.

Some other practices and beliefs make Mormons seem peculiar. We don’t drink alcohol, smoke or chew tobacco, and we don’t use illegal drugs. We don’t shop on Sundays; instead we go to Sabbath meetings for three hours to take the sacrament and to learn about Jesus Christ and His teachings. We give 10% of our income as a tithe, or voluntary donation, to the Church to build temples and chapels and to maintain institutions of higher learning like Brigham Young University. Each month we fast, or go without food or water for two meals and give money to help the poor, sick, and assist in worldwide humanitarian efforts generated by famine, earthquakes, and much more.

By far the most important belief of us Mormons is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He bore our sins and iniquities; He died on the cross; and He rose again on the third day. Jesus Christ lives! And because He lives all of us are ransomed from the grave and death. We will all be resurrected too and become immortal. If we repent of our sins then we can be clean from the same by the Grace of God and Christ, and we can live in God’s and Christ’s presence forever in their Kingdom.

So now that you know a little bit more about Mormons’ beliefs feel free to engage us in conversation about what we believe in or anything else. We really are a friendly people.

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