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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is often referred to as the LDS Church or Mormon Church. Casual names for the Church and its members mostly originate outside the Church, and they tend to perpetuate misunderstandings about what Latter-day Saints believe. The Church emphasizes its central belief that Jesus is the Christ. Church doctrine revolves around Christ's atonement as the defining event in world history. Mormon doctrine rests upon the principles taught by the Savior during His ministry; relayed through ancient prophets as recorded in scripture; restored through the prophet Joseph Smith; and continued through the voice of succeeding prophets and leaders of the Church. The doctrines of Christ are believed to be eternal. The Church calls itself "the restored Church," the original gospel preached by Jesus Christ having been corrupted after the death of the original apostles. [1]

The nickname "Mormon" is actually derived from the name of an ancient prophet who lived in the Americas and who recorded, organized, and abridged the scriptural history of his people. His account (along with the accounts of others who left Jerusalem around the time of the Babylonian captivity) is contained within an inspired record known as the Book of Mormon. Translated by Joseph Smith and first published in 1830, the Book of Mormon stands with the Bible as "Another Testament of Jesus Christ." It reveals the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, His plan for our salvation, and His dealings with the early inhabitants of this continent. It contains a marvelous account of His appearance to a multitude shortly after His resurrection. Christ appeared to these ancient peoples, because they were offshoots of the House of Israel. They lived the Law of Moses, looking forward to the coming of their Messiah. Their prophets testified to them that this Messiah would be the Christ, and that he would live and teach in Judea. The Book of Mormon peoples received signs of His birth and crucifixion before His appearance to them as a resurrected being. The Book of Mormon is accepted by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as divine scripture, along with the Bible. Other scriptures comprising the Standard Works of the Church are The Pearl of Great Price, which includes accounts of Abraham, Enoch, and Moses, and the Doctrine and Covenants, a compilation of modern revelations.

The Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Church reports a worldwide membership of over 15,000,000 as of 2013, with over 7.0 million residing outside the United States. It is the fourth largest religion in the United States. And one of only four religions in the U.S. that are growing, according to Pew Foundation reports. According to statistics released by the Church, 47% of its members live in the United States and Canada, 36% in Latin America, and 17% in other parts of the world. (See Membership Distribution.) The Church is growing by about 300,000 members per year, worldwide.

Basic Beliefs and Practices

The most referenced statement of basic beliefs is the Articles of Faith, as given by Joseph Smith to a questioning reporter of his day. This brief recitation by Joseph Smith establishes the basic beliefs of Mormonism, and is not intended to be exhaustive.

Latter-day Saints are widely known for:

  • Belief in modern-day revelation through prophets, beginning with Joseph Smith, Jr., and continuing today with Thomas S. Monson.
  • Acceptance of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as works of scripture.
  • Belief in God the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Ghost existing as three separate, individual beings. Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, His "only begotten in the flesh." God the Father and Jesus Christ are perfect, glorious, resurrected beings and have corporeal bodies. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.
  • Belief that all things were created by God the Father through His son, Jesus Christ, also called The Word.
  • Belief that God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful.
  • Belief that worthy, baptized members can have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, which serves as a testator of truth, and enables one to discern good and evil and to receive inspiration from deity.
  • Belief in a plan of salvation or eternal progression.
  • Belief that Christ will come again to the earth and will initiate His millennial reign—one thousand years of peace. Latter-day Saints do not believe in a "pre-tribulation rapture," but the Book of Mormon and other scriptures support the Biblical claim that the righteous will be caught up to meet the Savior when He comes in glory. [2]
  • Belief that the authority to act in the name of God has been restored to the earth.
  • Belief in the charismatic gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc., through the power of the restored priesthood.
  • Belief that husbands and wives can be sealed through covenants made in temples, so that they can be married eternally. Belief that children can be sealed to their parents, yielding a chain of family relationships that can continue into the eternities; therefore, the belief that we are reunited with loved ones after death. As an appendage to this belief, Latter-day Saints engage in family history work to seek out their ancestors.
  • Active proselyting by full-time volunteer missionaries. During 2013 the number of Mormon missionaries surpassed 80,000, as the age of service for young members was lowered from 19 to 18 for young men, and 21 to 19 for young women.
  • A dietary code called the Word of Wisdom, which requires abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs and encourages the use of grains, herbs, and fruits in season, as well as moderation in all things.
  • Tithing (donating 10 percent of one's income to the church)
  • Chastity, including abstinence from sexual relations outside of marriage, fidelity within marriage, modesty in dress and behavior, and avoidance of homosexual activity (homosexual marriages are neither performed nor supported by the Church). The Church also recommends that members avoid any form of media which glorifies violence, contains excessive vulgar language, or is pornographic in any way.
  • Lay (non-paid) leadership
  • Family Home Evening (Families are encouraged to meet weekly for prayer, gospel instruction, family planning, and other enriching family activities, typically on Monday nights.)
  • Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching (Members regularly visit one another in their homes to minister to others' needs and to share uplifting spiritual messages).
  • Strong family values and lower divorce rates, as families are the central unit of sociality here and in the world to come.
  • Morality. The Church emphasizes the moral standards taught by Jesus Christ, including personal honesty, integrity, and obedience to the laws of the lands in which they dwell.
  • Opposing abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, where the health of the mother is at risk, or when the fetus is judged by competent medical authority unlikely to survive past birth. In such cases, the decision should only be made following sincere prayer—often with the help of a Priesthood leader—such that the Lord’s will be made known.
  • Opposing gambling and other addictive behaviors.
  • Encouraging self-reliance and preparedness. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to develop vocational, educational, and other skills, avoid debt, and to lay aside stores for possible emergencies.

A summary of the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Wikipedia's article on the Church

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Christian Church

As the name of the Church implies, Latter-day Saints regard Jesus Christ as the head of their Church and count themselves as Christians, but do not consider themselves part of the Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant traditions. Rather, they believe the Church to be the restoration of the original church established by Jesus Christ on Earth.

See Mormonism vs. Christianity or Mormonism and Christianity

History

See Mormon History for a full history of the Church.

Church members believe that in the spring of 1820, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith in response to his prayer regarding which church he should join. Although this event is technically considered a visitation (as the Beings in question were actually present), it has come to be known as the First Vision.

While conversing with the Father and the Son, Joseph was commanded to join none of the existing churches, and through other angelic visits was eventually called as the first prophet of the restored church. This event set in motion the events that led to the earthly restoration of the ancient Church of Jesus Christ with its truths and priesthood authority. Ten years later, after a series of revelations and visitations to Joseph and others, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was officially organized by Joseph Smith and five associates on April 6, 1830, in Fayette, New York.

Education

Latter-day Saints believe that one of the most important aspects of life on earth is the opportunity for individuals to learn and grow. Accordingly, the Church strongly emphasizes education and subsidizes Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University-Idaho (formerly Ricks College), Brigham Young University-Hawaii, and LDS Business College. Brigham Young University is the largest private university in the United States and its various colleges rank highly among U.S. institutions of higher learning. BYU also has a campus in Jerusalem, Israel—The Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. The Church also has a seminary program for high school students and an Institute of Religion program for college-age Church members. All members twelve and above attend Sunday School classes, which emphasize personal scripture studies and other forms of education and self-improvement. There are over 391,000 high school students enrolled in seminary and over 352,000 college students enrolled in institute programs of religious study. Mormons are among the most educated of Christians, and the best educated Mormons are the most engaged in church activity. A high percentage of LDS women have college degrees.

The Church Educational System oversees many programs around the world. [3] CES sponsors primary schools and high schools in Mexico and the islands of the South Pacific.

In addition, the Church sponsors a low-interest educational loan program known as the Perpetual Education Fund. This fund is designed to benefit young men and women from all parts of the world who have served a mission, returned to their homes, and need further education to become productive citizens in their respective countries. As they finish their education and enter the work force, they then are able to pay back the funds provided so that other individuals can attend both vocational technical schools and university.

Family History

Mormons are actively engaged in genealogical research to find their own family history. The Church sponsors a free data-base of millions of records mounted by LDS volunteers called Family Search.org. Anyone may use this resource. The Church of Jesus Christ had 4,689 family history centers in 2013 in 128 countries. These centers are open to the public and staffed by volunteers. Computers on site are free to use, and instruction and guidance are provided.


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Philanthropy

Through LDS Philanthropies, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides relief all over the world for the poor, sick, and needy. The Church is often the first to arrive and last to leave when there is a major disaster. Relief supplies are prepared in advance by volunteers, so that they are ready to be shipped out at a moment's notice. The Church has given humanitarian material assistance valued at $705 million since 1985. The Perpetual Education Fund is part of LDS Philanthropies.

To see a video describing the Church's humanitarian aid efforts, click here [4] and then click on humanitarian aid.

Welfare

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has its own extensive welfare system. Members of the Church fast one day each month and donate the value of the missed meals to the Church. The Church produces some of its own food and supplies, and purchases others. Supplies are available for the needy at a number of "Bishop's Storehouses." [5]

The Church's Provident Living website A news release about "Welfare Square"

LDS Family Services

LDS Family Services provides psychological and emotional counseling, adoption services, and addiction recovery programs for members of the Church and sometimes for friends of other faiths. [6]

Culture

The Church sponsors the Mormon Tabernacle Choir[7], one of the most respected choirs in the world. In 1999, under the direction of President Gordon B. Hinkley, the Church established the the Orchestra at Temple Square, which has become a nationally recognized symphony orchestra. Like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the orchestra is made up of talented volunteers. Also in 1999, the Temple Square Chorale was established. The chorale acts as an in-service program and training venue for the Tabernacle Choir. New members of the choir spend some months in the chorale. This enables the Choir to master extremely demanding vocal pieces. In March of 2005, the Church created the Bells on Temple Square under the auspices of the Tabernacle Choir. The ensemble of twenty-eight musicians performs with hand bells and hand chimes.

The radio program, Music and the Spoken Word has been presented live on Sunday mornings since July, 1929. It is the longest-running radio program in American history and is presented by KSL.

The Church sponsors the Polynesian Cultural Center on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. The PCC is a world famous cultural theme park, helping to preserve and showcase the cultures of the South Pacific Islands. The PCC is a non-profit institution, and helps to provide educational opportunities for students at the adjoining Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Since the Center opened in 1963, "nearly 17,000 students have financed their studies at BYU-Hawaii by working at PCC." [8]

The Church maintains a number of historical sites, including restored venues at Nauvoo, Illinois, Kirtland, Ohio, and Palmyra, New York.

The Church encourages Latter-day Saints to magnify their talents and contribute to the culture of the areas in which they live.

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Buildings and Membership

As of 2013, the Church had over 8,000 meeting houses for over 29,000 congregations, and over 140 temples worldwide. Landmark edifices located in Salt Lake City at or near "Temple Square" include the Salt Lake Temple, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall, the Lion House, the Beehive House, two visitors' centers, the Church office building, the Family History Library, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the LDS Conference Center, and the Museum of Church History and Art.

How Mormons Live and Worship

Mormons tend to have large families, due to their beliefs. They strive for a clean, family-oriented lifestyle and participate in family councils, family and individual prayer, hard work, and wholesome recreational activities. Mormons worship on Sunday in Christian societies, but may meet on Friday in Moslem countries, and Saturday in Israel. They believe in keeping the Sabbath day holy and avoid shopping, recreating, or working on the Sabbath day.

Sunday meetings usually last for three hours, divided into three types of meetings. "Sacrament meeting" consists of taking the sacrament in remembrance of the Savior. Sermons are given mostly by lay members requested to speak before the congregation. The first Sunday of each month is usually "fast and testimony meeting," wherein the saints (who fast for two meals and donate "fast offerings" to the poor) spontaneously bear testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel and reality of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints address each other as "brother" or "sister" and then usually append the last name (such as Brother Smith, or Sister Young). Additionally, those that hold specific leadership positions may be addressed by their title and then their last name (such as President Hinckley). Some frequently-used titles are as follows:

  • Bishop - The bishop of a ward, but not his counselors, is addressed by the title of "bishop". Generally, only the title is used—because bishops are confined to a small geographical location—the last name being used only to disambiguate.
  • Elder - While most adult male Church members hold the office of Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood, in general only elders serving as full-time missionaries, members of the Quorums of the Seventy, or members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are addressed with this title.
  • Patriarch - A Patriarch is generally an older priesthood holder charged with providing blessings for individual members of the stake.
  • President - In a ward, the Relief Society President and the Elder's Quorum President are referred to as "President So-and-So." Occasionally, other presidents within the ward, such as the Deacons Quorum President, may be referred to with this title. In addition to the above presidencies, in a branch, the branch president and his counselors are referred to as "President So-and-So." All members of a stake presidency, a temple presidency, a mission presidency, the Presidency of the Seventy, and the First Presidency are referred to as "president."

Official websites of the Church

Church-friendly Web sites, unaffiliated with the Church