The Mormon religion is a Christian faith, with the worship and followership of Jesus Christ at its very center. The Mormon religion is not a branch of Christian orthodoxy, nor is it a Protestant faith. The Protestant churches were created to reform Orthodoxy, which they believe had gone astray. Instead, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restoration or re-establishment of the ancient church of Jesus Christ, with the true doctrines, power and authority that can come only from Him. The Mormon religion is led by prophets of God and is organized the same as the ancient church with twelve apostles and quorums of seventies. As in ancient times, there is no trained ministry. Rather, lay people are called from their worldly vocations (in which most continue to serve to support themselves) and are guided mostly by revelation. Some of the doctrines of Mormonism seem odd to others, because of the truths that have been lost over the centuries. Mormons call this the “Great Apostasy,” the gradual drifting away from the knowledge and authority of God toward the philosophies of men. During this falling away, predicted by the apostle Paul, the authority to act in God’s name was withdrawn, and miracles ceased.
In 1820 in the northeastern United States, there was a general religious revival called the “Second Awakening.” The area of upstate New York was actually nicknamed the “burned-over district,” because of all the religious tent revivals held there and the competition between various Christian sects. The family of Joseph Smith, Jr. were devout Christians, but unaffiliated. They attended as many tent meetings as possible with the demands of the family farm and their relative poverty. Part of the family was drawn to the Presbyterian faith and others to the Methodist faith. Joseph, however, then aged fourteen, could not figure out why the sects relied on the same Bible, but had so many interpretations of it. They all claimed the truth, but they could not all be true together, because they couldn’t agree on doctrine. While studying the Bible, Joseph came across some verses in James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
Joseph reported in his history how he felt:
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible. At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture (Joseph Smith History 1:12, 13).
Joseph retired to a grove of trees on the family farm and for the first time in his life attempted to pray vocally. He was nearly overcome by an evil, unseen force that threatened to take his life, but calling upon God, the dark power was dismissed, and the woods filled with light. In the light, Joseph saw two personages of unspeakable glory. One introduced the other: “This is my beloved Son. Hear him.” Joseph’s vision shattered the trinitarian belief shared by all the Christian sects, that God was a spirit and Christ the incarnate version of God. Joseph saw two glorified, resurrected men of flesh and bone, God the Father and Jesus Christ. When Joseph had composed himself, he ventured to ask his question — which church should he join. He was instructed by Jesus Christ not to join any of them, that the truth was about to be restored upon the earth.
This event ushered in what is known as the “last dispensation of time.” It is the time of the fulfillment of all things, the last prophetic period before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Lord is establishing His church and kingdom in preparation for that event. Joseph Smith was led to a scripture that had been hidden up by a group of Israelites, who had been led to America to escape the Babylonian captivity of 600 B.C. Their record is a second witness that Jesus Christ lived in Israel, served His ministry, and was crucified, rose the third day, was resurrected, and now reigns in heaven, for He visited them after His resurrection. The record ends around 400 A.D., when the people fell into wickedness and thus were destroyed by their enemies. They had begun by living the Law of Moses, but their prophets prepared them for the coming of Christ. They witnessed signs of his birth and death, as promised by their prophets. After Christ visited them and established His church, they enjoyed over 200 years of perfect peace and prosperity, until they declined and were destroyed. Thus, the “Book of Mormon” is the record of a fallen people and contains many warnings for us.
Jesus Christ, personally and through heavenly messengers, restored the priesthood of Aaron (Levitical) and the higher priesthood to the earth. Through heavenly messengers, He also restored the authority to act in His name, and the power to again perform the miracles of the apostles of old. Worthy men of the Mormon Church hold this same priesthood, and all the miracles performed by the ancient apostles are common in the restored church today.
Because the Church is led by revelation, it is vital and living. Doctrines do not change, but enlightened practices enable the Church to grow and serve its members all over the world. Mormons do not isolated themselves but are “in the world, but not of the world.” Lest they be confused with secretive sects who practice polygamy and call themselves “Mormons,” the real Mormon religion has over 14 million members who are good citizens wherever they live and do not practice polygamy.
Mormons believe in a God of commandments, and they strive to follow Christ by keeping those commandments. The two greatest commandments are to love God with one’s might, mind, and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matthew 22:36-39). Mormons build temples as houses of God. They are places to worship and meditate, but also places of personal revelation. They also serve mightily their fellow men. The welfare and humanitarian aid programs of the Mormon Church are known worldwide.
People who belong to the Mormon religion are taught to keep the Law of Chastity, which forbids sexual activity outside of marriage. Marriage is sacred, and Mormons marry for eternity through vows exchanged in their holy temples. Mormons believe in traditional marriage, which is not the marriage of the ’50’s in America, but the marriage of Adam and Eve, which was eternal and holy. They were commanded to multiply and fill the earth, and families are central in the Mormon religion.
The Mormon religion also has a law of health, called the Word of Wisdom, which was originally received by revelation to Joseph Smith. It forbids the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea, and drug abuse. The Word of Wisdom also instructs church members how to eat healthful foods in their season and promises added knowledge as well as physical strength. Mormons obey the law of tithing, which is the donation of 10% of their income for the building up of God’s kingdom on the earth. They fast one day each month and donate the monetary value of the two missed meals to the poor. They also donate to missionary funds, temple-building funds, humanitarian aid, and other programs.
Many members of the Mormon religion set aside years of their life and support themselves on full-time missions. They might proselyte during their missionary service, but they also perform community service or humanitarian aid. There are missions of all sorts for retired couples to serve, but most missionaries are young men ages 19-21 (who serve for two years) or young women ages 21-23 (who serve for 18 months). Missionary service transforms those who perform it. They often master a foreign language in its cultural context, and learn to lead and serve with the help of the Lord. Many articles have shown up lately in the media assigning missionary service the major role in creating many top CEO’s and government leaders from Mormon Church membership.
Some people have heard crazy rumors about Mormon doctrine and behavior, and they spread those rumors without finding out the real truth about the Mormon religion, or the truth about religious history. But one can see from the fruits of the faith that Mormonism produces amazing, moral, happy, healthy people ready to serve their fellow men.