The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is often referred to as the LDS Church or Mormon Church. Mormonism refers to the doctrines taught by Joseph Smith and the succeeding prophets and leaders of the Church, but those doctrines are believed to be eternal and part of the original gospel preached by Jesus Christ.
Mormonism is a branch of Christianity, often called Restorationism, encompassing numerous religious denominations, but Mormonism is generally associated with the theology and subculture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Most people who are members of the Mormon Church prefer to be called Latter-Day Saints. Other generally acceptable terms are LDS or Mormons. Even though they are widely used terms, some people in the Church view the terms Mormon and Mormonism as offensive. They prefer to be known as Christians and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The term "Mormon" derives from the Book of Mormon, first published in 1830 and more recently subtitled "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" to highlight the importance of the information about the Savior contained in the book. The Book of Mormon is accepted by the Church as divine scripture, along with the Bible.
The Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Church reports a worldwide membership of 12,275,822 as of December 31, 2004, with 6.7 million residing outside the United States. It is the fourth largest religion in the United States. 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.)
Basic Beliefs and Activities
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The most common statement of basic beliefs is contained with the Articles of Faith, as given by Joseph Smith to a questioning reporter of his day. This brief recitation by Joseph Smith establishes on the basic beliefs of Mormonism, and is not intended to be exhaustive.
Latter-day Saints are widely known for:
- Active proselyting by full-time volunteer missionaries.
- Belief in modern day revelation through prophets, beginning with Joseph Smith, Jr., and continuing today with Gordon B. Hinckley.
- Acceptance of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as works of scripture.
- A dietary code called the Word of Wisdom, which requires abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs.
- Belief in God the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Ghost existing as three separate individual beings or personages.
- Belief in a plan of salvation or eternal progression.
- Tithing (donating 10 percent of one's income to the church)
- Chastity, including abstinance from sexual relations outside of marriage, fidelity within marriage, modesty in dress and behavior, avoidance of homosexual activity (homosexual marriages are not performed nor supported by the Church), avoidance of pornography in any form, and avoidance of R-rated and NC-17 movies, or any form of media which glorifies violence, contains excessive vulgar language, or is pornographic in any way.
- Lay (non-paid) leadership
- Family Home Evenings (families are encouraged to meet weekly for prayer and other activities - typically on Monday)
- Home Teachering and Visiting Teaching (members regularly visit one another in their homes for prayer and study).
- Tattoos and body piercings (except for one pair of earrings for women) are strongly discouraged.
- Church members are encouraged to marry and have children, and as a result, Mormon families tend to be larger than average, even though Mormons
- Morality. The Church emphasises the moral standards taught by Jesus Christ, including personal honesty, integrity, and obedience to law.
- Family. The Church puts notable emphasis on the family, and distinctively, the concept of a united family which lives and progresses forever. (See celestial marriage.)
- The church opposes abortion, except in cases where the health of the mother is at risk.
- The Church opposes gambling.
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 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 was true. This event has come to be known as the First Vision. 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 other 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.
At one time in its early history, the Church endorsed a form of polygamy called "plural marriage," but this is no longer the case. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early members and leaders of the Church were married to more than one wife. The practice was officially withdrawn as stated in a declaration called "The Manifesto" which was given by President Wilford Woodruff in 1890 (see Official Declaration 1), and which advised Church members to obey the marriage laws of their land. Mormons who engage in multiple marriage relationships are excommunicated from the Church.
Formal public and personal prayers are addressed to "Heavenly Father" and offered in the name of Jesus Christ, followed by "amen." When a prayer is given in public, it is customary for all attending to say "amen" at the prayer's conclusion. English-speaking members generally use "thee," "thou," "thy" and "thine" when addressing God, as a form of both familiarity and respect. Members who speak other languages use similar formal syntax in prayer. Most prayers are extemporaneous and may be said while kneeling, standing, sitting, or in any other position.
Certain prayers associated with ordinances are defined and must be delivered verbatim, while others must follow a certain pattern. For example, the prayer to bless the sacrament (Eucharist) is a set prayer which is delivered the same way each time. The priesthood holder kneels to say the prayer; if he accidentally deviates from the form, he is instructed to repeat the prayer until it is correct. Likewise, the prayer for baptism must be given verbatim. Other ordinations and blessings have a pattern, for example, in a confirmation prayer, the priesthood holder is to address the individual being confirmed by his or her full name, state the priesthood authority by which the ordinance is given, confirm that person as a member of the Church, and bestow the Holy Ghost with such words as "receive the Holy Ghost." This is usually followed by an extemporaneous personal blessing as directed by the Spirit.
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), and Brigham Young University-Hawaii. 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.
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 home, 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.
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 full-time missionaries, members of the Quorums of the Seventy, and 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 councilors 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."
With the exception of "Elder", those who formerly held the callings listed above retain their titles, especially bishops. Former stake presidents and branch presidents are almost always referred to by their old title, especially by those people for whom they were responsible.
Official websites of the Church
- LDS.org - the official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — with links to Gospel Library, Church History, Family Home Evening programs, and more.
- Mormon.org - information on basic beliefs, a meetinghouse locator, and a place to email questions.
- FamilySearch.org - search for ancestors.
- JosephSmith.net - the official Web site on Joseph Smith by the Church.
- ProvidentLiving.org - spiritual and temporal welfare provided by the Church.
Church-friendly Web sites, unaffiliated with the Church
- LDS Today - news related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Meridian Magazine - webzine for Latter-day Saints; updated every weekday
- Mormon wiki - wiki for and supported by Latter-day Saints
- Nauvoo.com - a gathering place for Latter-day Saints, including discussion forums, owned by Mormon author Orson Scott Card
- LDSFAQ at byu.edu - a comprehensive index answering many common questions. Uses large portions of The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
- FARMS - Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (BYU)
- FAIR - Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research; faithful answers to critical questions