What do Mormons believe
Mormons "believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." This is the first of thirteen basic beliefs that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, once wrote to a reporter who asked what Mormons believe. We believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves us (His children) and wants us to succeed. He created us and has a plan for us to one day return to live with Him.
The Mormon religion teaches that our sins make returning to God impossible, so it was necessary for a Savior to be provided. This Savior is our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16, KJV). Jesus Christ conquered death and sin, so that a path could once more be opened for us to return to live with God. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that we can be saved.
In order to declare the gospel of Christ, God has called inspired men, called prophets, to teach the world. These men receive a personal witness of the Savior and are given authority to teach his gospel. This authority is called the Priesthood. Holy scriptures, such as the Bible, contain the words of prophets who taught about the Savior. As the prophets teach and testify, the Holy Ghost touches the hearts of people and brings feelings of peace. This is why we feel the spirit (the Holy Ghost) when we study the Bible today. This spiritual confirmation of truth is how God confirms that the message of the prophets is true.
Throughout history God has followed this pattern of revelation to inspired men, who then teach the world, with confirmation of their words through the Holy Ghost. Sadly, people do not always accept the message of the prophets. When people reject the prophets, this is called apostasy, derived from a Greek word that signifies rebellion or falling away. When we read the scriptures, we can see a history of God calling a prophet who teaches the people to repent and turn to the Lord. The people eventually turn away from the Lord and reject the prophet, and thus a period of apostasy follows.
Fortunately, God is not only loving, but is also merciful and patient. Each time that the people reject the Lord and his prophets, He waits and prepares His people. When the time is right, He once again sends His messengers to declare His words and restore His gospel.
When Jesus Christ lived on the earth, He taught the people the gospel, and called Apostles to continue to teach them when He left. Ultimately, those apostles were violently rejected, and within a century much of the church Christ had established was crippled by apostasy from within and persecution from without. A careful reading of the New Testament shows the struggles and the frustrations of the apostles as they were surrounded by unrighteousness from both the believers and non-believers. The apostles were rejected and killed, and the priesthood authority that the Lord had given to them was gone from the earth. While there were still some righteous members who lived, the people as a whole had become wicked and the fullness of the gospel with the priesthood authority, was forced from the face of the earth. This was prophesied of in the Old Testament by the prophet Amos:
- "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12, KJV)
And again in Isaiah:
- "Which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away. Why, when I came, was there no man? When I called, was there none to answer?" (Isa. 50:1-2, 21st Century KJV)
After the early church fell into apostasy, the Lord patiently waited for seventeen hundred years for the people to return to him. He prepared them and waited for a time in which He could once again restore the fullness of His gospel to the earth. Finally, the time came. In 1820 a young boy went into the woods to ask God which church was true. He described his experience, in his own words:
- "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me... When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is my Beloved Son. Hear him!" (JS-H 1:16-17, emphasis in original)
Through this marvelous visitation, Joseph Smith received a personal witness that God the Father and Jesus Christ live. From this and subsequent visits and revelations he was taught the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how Christ's church should function. As in days of old, a prophet of God had once again been called. Angels visited the earth, including John the Baptist and Peter, James and John, Jesus' ancient apostles, who gave to Joseph Smith the same priesthood authority they possessed.
As further confirmation of the divinity of the work Joseph Smith was called to do, the Lord revealed a volume of ancient scripture which had been recorded on the American Continent. Joseph Smith was given power to translate this record, which came to be known as the Book of Mormon. It contains the writings of prophets who lived and taught in the Americas at the time the Bible was being written in Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon contains many beautiful truths about our Savior Jesus Christ, and stands with the Bible as a second witness that Jesus was more than just a man: He was the very Messiah prophesied of in times of old, our Savior and our Redeemer.
Because it was translated by the power of God, the Book of Mormon also serves as a witness that Joseph Smith has been called by God, for if the Book of Mormon is a true record inspired by God, than Joseph Smith must also be a prophet. By knowing that Joseph Smith was a prophet, we can also know that the church he was led to organize is Christ's church today.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon Church) is led today by a prophet of God and twelve apostles, who receive revelation from God on how His church should be run. Thus we see that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He continues to follow the pattern He followed in Bible days, and He teaches us today in much the same way He taught the Children of Israel, or the early Christians of the New Testament.
As in ancient times, the Lord has promised that we need not rely on the words and testimonies of others to know that the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored. We have been promised that we can each receive our own witness that this is true. One such promise is located near the end of the Book of Mormon:
- "Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder them in your hearts.
- "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
- "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:3-5)
The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that church. The Lord promises us today as in times of old that the Holy Ghost will confirm truth to us. If you will pray about the things which you have read and ask the Lord, "Is this true?" He will answer you by bringing feelings of peace into your heart through the power of the Holy Ghost, "that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Cor 2:5, KJV) When you feel these feelings, follow them and learn more about the Church. You can find a meeting place close to where you live, or you can contact your local missionaries through the telephone book in order to learn more.