Mormonism 101: What is Mormonism
Mormonism is a term defining the religious beliefs and practices of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons. Mormonism describes the doctrines of the Church that were restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. When asked what Mormonism is, members of the Church will often speak of their love of the Savior Jesus Christ. To them, the Savior is central to Mormonism.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be found at every level of society — in business and charity, education and the sciences, political parties and government, the entertainment industry and news media.
Describing the character of Latter-day Saints, Newsweek magazine wrote: “No matter where Mormons live, they find themselves part of a network of mutual concern; in Mormon theology everyone is a minister of a kind, everyone is empowered in some way to do good to others, and to have good done unto them: it is a 21st century covenant of caring. This caring is not limited to Church members alone, but extends far beyond.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the fourth largest Christian church in America. More than half of its 14 million members live outside the United States. Yet despite the faith’s growth and presence, survey results continue to show that relatively few people are familiar with Mormon beliefs.
As an institution, the Church has the responsibility to publicly and clearly articulate its official teachings. In turn, reporters can help inform the public by accurately reporting on these doctrines. But in doing so journalists should be aware of some common pitfalls. For instance, reporters pressed for time tend to take peripheral aspects of the faith and place them front and center as if they were vital tenets of belief. Additionally, sincere commentators often overemphasize what others see as “different” about Latter-day Saints at the expense of highlighting the Church’s most fundamental doctrines in their reporting. Unfortunately, as many members attest, this kind of journalism paints a distorted picture of the Church and continues to confuse the public.
Despite these complications, the Church welcomes honest inquiry from all types of media outlets. The Church expects journalists to be accurate and honest and to focus on the faith as it is lived and believed by its members. The Church discourages sensationalized and misleading journalism that accentuates abstract ideas that do not reflect the beliefs, teachings and practices of the Church’s global membership.
What Are the Core Beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
The founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith, wrote, “The fundamental principles of our religion are … concerning Jesus Christ that He died was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”
In addition to the above, Latter-day Saints believe unequivocally that:
1. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of our loving Heavenly Father.
2. Christ’s Atonement allows mankind to be saved from their sins and return to live with God and their families forever.
3. Christ’s original Church as described in the New Testament has been restored in modern times.
1. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of our loving Heavenly Father
Latter-day Saints believe God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save all mankind from their sins (see John 3:16 ). God is a loving Heavenly Father who knows His children individually, hears and answers their prayers, and feels compassion toward them. Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are two separate beings but along with the Holy Ghost (Spirit) are one in will, purpose and love.
Latter-day Saints worship Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer. He is central to the lives of Church members. They accept His grace and mercy; they seek to follow His example by being baptized (see Matthew 3:13-17 ), praying in His holy name (see Matthew 6:9-13 ), partaking of the sacrament (communion) (see Luke 22:19-20 ), doing good to others (see Acts 10:38 ) and bearing witness of Him through both word and deed (see James 2:26 ).
2. Christ’s Atonement allows mankind to be saved from their sins and return to live with God and their families forever.
Latter-day Saints believe that God has a plan for His children to return to live with Him and become “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17 ). For members of the Church, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is central to God’s plan for our happiness. Although humans make mistakes and sin, Mormons view this mortal life as an opportunity to progress and learn. By following Christ’s teachings, embracing His mercy and accepting baptism and other sacraments, Mormons believe they are cleansed from sin through Christ’s grace and can return to live with God and their families forever.
3. Christ’s original Church as described in the New Testament has been restored in modern times.
Members believe that Christ established His Church anciently on the “foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20 ; see also Ephesians 4:11-14 ) with “one faith, [and] one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5 ). They believe this foundation of “one faith” was gradually undermined after the death of Christ’s apostles. As a result, the original foundation of authority to lead the Church was lost and needed to be restored (see Acts 3:21 ). Today, members preach that the Lord has indeed restored His Church with living apostles and prophets, starting with the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith.
Church members understand that families are the most important unit of society. Accordingly, those who follow Christ and keep His commandments are promised to live with their families forever in divinely instituted eternal relationships.
The religious experience of Church members is based on a spiritual witness from God that inspires the heart and mind, creating an interpersonal relationship directly with God. The Church’s role is to help aid its members in their quest to follow Christ’s teachings. Therefore, the Church’s core doctrines strive in every instance to align with Christ’s teachings as outlined in the Bible and other sacred scripture, including the Book of Mormon.
Latter-day Saints believe that the Church’s scripturally-based teachings change lives by motivating people to become more like the Savior. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.”
With this understanding in mind, the following series of answers to frequently asked questions about the Church’s teachings should help further illuminate what Latter-day Saints believe. The list of questions is not comprehensive but represents some of the most common inquiries from news media.
Are Mormons Christian?
Yes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church but is neither Catholic nor Protestant. Rather, it is a restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ as originally established by the Savior in the New Testament of the Bible. The Church does not embrace the creeds that developed in the third and fourth centuries that are now central to many other Christian churches.
Latter-day Saints believe God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save all mankind from death and their individual sins. Jesus Christ is central to the lives of Church members. They seek to follow His example by being baptized (see Matthew 3:13-17 ), praying in His holy name (see Matthew 6:9-13 ), partaking of the sacrament (see Luke 22:19-20 ), doing good to others (see Acts 10:38 ) and bearing witness of Him through both word and deed (see James 2:26 ). The only way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ.
What do Mormons believe about God?
God is often referred to in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as our Heavenly Father because He is the Father of all human spirits and they are created in His image (see Genesis 1:27 ). It is an appropriate term for God who is kind and just, all wise and all powerful. God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ. and the Holy Ghost constitute the Godhead or Trinity for Mormons. Latter-day Saints believe God is embodied, though His body is perfect and glorified.
Do Mormons believe in the Trinity?
Mormons most commonly use the term “Godhead” to refer to the Trinity. The first article of faith for the Latter-day Saints reads: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” Latter-day Saints believe God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are one in will and purpose but are not literally the same being or substance, as conceptions of the Holy Trinity commonly imply.
What is the Mormon view of the purpose of life?
For Latter-day Saints, mortal existence is seen in the context of a great sweep of history, from a pre-earth life where the spirits of all mankind lived with Heavenly Father to a future life in His presence where continued growth, learning and improving will take place. Life on earth is regarded as a temporary state in which men and women are tried and tested — and where they gain experiences obtainable nowhere else. God knew humans would make mistakes, so He provided a Savior, Jesus Christ, who would take upon Himself the sins of the world. To members of the Church, physical death on earth is not an end but the beginning of the next step in God’s plan for His children.
Do Mormons believe in the Bible?
Yes. The Church reveres the Bible as the word of God, a sacred volume of scripture. Latter-day Saints cherish its teachings and engage in a lifelong study of its divine wisdom. Moreover, during worship services the Bible is pondered and discussed. Additional books of scripture — including the Book of Mormon — strengthen and reinforce God’s teachings through additional witnesses and provide moving accounts of the personal experiences many individuals had with Jesus Christ. According to Church apostle M. Russell Ballard. “The Book of Mormon does not dilute nor diminish nor deemphasize the Bible. On the contrary, it expands, extends, and exalts it.”
What is the Book of Mormon?
In addition to the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. It contains the writings of ancient prophets, giving an account of God’s dealings with the peoples on the American continent. For Latter-day Saints it stands alongside the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as holy scripture.
What is a Mormon temple?
Temples existed throughout Biblical times. These buildings were considered the house of the Lord (see 2 Chronicles 2:1-5 ). Latter-day Saint temples are likewise considered houses of the Lord by Church members.
To Latter-day Saints, temples are sacred buildings in which they are taught about the central role of Christ in God’s plan of salvation and their personal relationship with God.
In temples, members of the Church make covenants with God to live a virtuous and faithful life. They also offer sacraments on behalf of their deceased ancestors.
Mormon temples are also used to perform marriage ceremonies that promise the faithful eternal life with their families. For members of the Church family is of central importance.
Do Latter-day Saints believe in modern-day prophets?
Yes. The Church is governed today by apostles, reflecting the way Jesus organized His
Church in biblical times. Three apostles constitute the First Presidency (consisting of the president or prophet of the Church and his two counselors), and, together with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. they have responsibility for leading the Church worldwide and serving as special witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each is accepted by Church members in a prophetic role corresponding to the apostles in the Bible.
Do Latter-day Saints believe that the apostles receive revelations from God?
Yes. When Latter-day Saints speak to God, they call it prayer. When God responds through the influence of the Holy Spirit, members refer to this as revelation. Revelation. in its broad meaning, is divine guidance or inspiration; it is the communication of truth and knowledge from God to His children on earth, suited to their language and understanding. It simply means to uncover something not yet known. The Bible illustrates different types of revelation, ranging from dramatic visions to gentle feelings — from the “burning bush” to the “still, small voice.” Mormons generally believe that divine guidance comes quietly, taking the form of impressions, thoughts and feelings carried by the Spirit of God.
Most often, revelation unfolds as an ongoing, prayerful dialogue with God: A problem arises, its dimensions are studied out, a question is asked, and if we have sufficient faith, God leads us to answers, either partial or full. Though ultimately a spiritual experience, revelation also requires careful thought. God does not simply hand down information. He expects us to figure things out through prayerful searching and sound thinking.
The First Presidency (consisting of the president or prophet of the Church and his two counselors) and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles receive inspiration to guide the Church as a whole. Individuals are also inspired with revelation regarding how to conduct their lives and help serve others.
Do Mormon women lead in the Church?
Yes. All women are daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. Women and men are equal in the sight of God. The Bible says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 ). In the family, a wife and a husband form an equal partnership in leading and raising a family.
From the beginning of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints women have played an integral role in the work of the Church. While worthy men hold the priesthood, worthy women serve as leaders, counselors, missionaries, teachers, and in many other responsibilities— they routinely preach from the pulpit and lead congregational prayers in worship services. They serve both in the Church and in their local communities and contribute to the world as leaders in a variety of professions. Their vital and unique contribution to raising children is considered an important responsibility and a special privilege of equal importance to priesthood responsibilities.
Do Latter-day Saints believe they can become “gods”?
Latter-day Saints believe that God wants us to become like Him. But this teaching is often misrepresented by those who caricature the faith. The Latter-day Saint belief is no different than the biblical teaching, which states, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17 ). Through following Christ's teachings, Latter-day Saints believe all people can become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4 ).
Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will “get their own planet”?
No. This idea is not taught in Latter-day Saint scripture, nor is it a doctrine of the Church. This misunderstanding stems from speculative comments unreflective of scriptural doctrine. Mormons believe that we are all sons and daughters of God and that all of us have the potential to grow during and after this life to become like our Heavenly Father (see Romans 8:16-17 ). The Church does not and has never purported to fully understand the specifics of Christ’s statement that “in my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2 ).
Do some Latter-day Saints wear temple garments?
Yes. In our world of diverse religious observance, many people of faith wear special clothing as a reminder of sacred beliefs and commitments. This has been a common practice throughout history. Today, faithful adult members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear temple garments. These garments are simple, white underclothing composed of two pieces: a top piece similar to a T-shirt and a bottom piece similar to shorts. Not unlike the Jewish tallit katan (prayer shawl), these garments are worn underneath regular clothes. Temple garments serve as a personal reminder of covenants made with God to lead good, honorable, Christlike lives. The wearing of temple garments is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior.
Biblical scripture contains many references to the wearing of special garments. In the Old Testament the Israelites are specifically instructed to turn their garments into personal reminders of their covenants with God (see Numbers 15:37-41 ). Indeed, for some, religious clothing has always been an important part of integrating worship with daily living. Such practices resonate with Latter-day Saints today.
Because of the personal and religious nature of the temple garment, the Church asks all media to report on the subject with respect, treating Latter-day Saint temple garments as they would religious vestments of other faiths. Ridiculing or making light of sacred clothing is highly offensive to Latter-day Saints.
Do Latter-day Saints practice polygamy?
No. There are more than 14 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and not one of them is a polygamist. The practice of polygamy is strictly prohibited in the Church. The general standard of marriage in the Church has always been monogamy, as indicated in the Book of Mormon (see Jacob 2:27 ). For periods in the Bible polygamy was practiced by the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, as well as kings David and Solomon. It was again practiced by a minority of Latter-day Saints in the early years of the Church. Polygamy was officially discontinued in 1890 — 122 years ago. Those who practice polygamy today have nothing whatsoever to do with the Church.
What is the position of the Church regarding race relations?
The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The Book of Mormon states, “Black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33 ). This is the Church’s official teaching.
People of all races have always been welcomed and baptized into the Church since its beginning. In fact, by the end of his life in 1844 Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opposed slavery. During this time some black males were ordained to the priesthood. At some point the Church stopped ordaining male members of African descent, although there were a few exceptions. It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended. Church leaders sought divine guidance regarding the issue and more than three decades ago extended the priesthood to all worthy male members. The Church immediately began ordaining members to priesthood offices wherever they attended throughout the world.
The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.”
Do Mormons believe that the Garden of Eden is in Missouri?
We do not know exactly where the original site of the Garden of Eden is. While not an important or foundational doctrine, Joseph Smith established a settlement in Daviess County, Missouri, and taught that the Garden of Eden was somewhere in that area. Like knowing the precise number of animals on Noah’s ark, knowing the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important to one’s salvation than believing in the Atonement of Jesus Christ .
Why do you “baptize for the dead”?
Jesus Christ taught that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5 ). For those who have passed on without the ordinance of baptism, proxy baptism for the deceased is a free will offering. According to Church doctrine, a departed soul in the afterlife is completely free to accept or reject such a baptism — the offering is freely given and must be freely received. The ordinance does not force deceased persons to become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or “Mormons,” nor does the Church list deceased persons as members of the Church. In short, there is no change in the religion or heritage of the recipient or of the recipient's descendants — the notion of coerced conversion is utterly contrary to Church doctrine.
Of course, proxy baptism for the deceased is nothing new. It was mentioned by Paul in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 15:29 ) and was practiced by groups of early Christians. As part of a restoration of New Testament Christianity, Latter-day Saints continue this practice. All Church members are instructed to submit names for proxy baptism only for their own deceased relatives as an offering of familial love.
Why does the Church send out missionaries?
The missionary effort of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based on the New Testament pattern of missionaries serving in pairs, teaching the gospel and baptizing believers in the name of Jesus Christ (see, for example, the work of Peter and John in the book of Acts). More than 52,000 missionaries, most of whom are under the age of 25, are serving missions for the Church at any one time. Missionary work is voluntary, with most missionaries funding their own missions. They receive their assignment from Church headquarters and are sent only to countries where governments allow the Church to operate. In some parts of the world, missionaries are sent only to serve humanitarian or other specialized missions.
Why don’t Mormons smoke or drink alcohol?
The health code for Latter-day Saints is based on a teaching regarding foods that are healthy and substances that are not good for the human body. Accordingly, alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee and illegal drugs are forbidden. A 14-year UCLA study, completed in 1997, tracked mortality rates and health practices of 10,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in California, indicating that Church members who adhered to the health code had one of the lowest death rates from cancer and cardiovascular disease in the United States. It also found that Church members who followed the code had a life expectancy eight to 11 years longer than the general white population of the United States.
Style Guide Note: When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.Source: www.mormonnewsroom.org