Mormonism is a restoration of the ancient Church of Christ, with a prophet of God at its head. As Christ organized the early Church with Peter, James, and John as its "First Presidency," and called twelve apostles and seventy other worthy men as their emissaries, so is the Mormon Church organized. The true name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, signifying that Christ directs the Church, not only through His prophet, but by bestowing authority to act in His name. The name of the Church also signifies that this is the "latter days," the last Dispensation of time before the second coming of Christ, a time for the "restoration of all things," a time for the fullness of the gospel to be revealed to man. The restoration of the gospel began in the early 1800s, in New York, through revelations given to Joseph Smith.
Why a Restoration?
One might ask why a restoration was necessary, when Christian denominations flourished in the western world, and when orthodox Christianity was also firmly established. When Christ's apostles were martyred, authority to act in His name was lost. There were no prophets who could receive direct revelation from God in order to reveal true doctrines. The apostles prophesied of a "falling away" from true doctrine:
- Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
- For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
- Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:28-30).
- Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
- For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
- And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2Timothy 4:3, 4).
- But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1).
Before long, confusion reigned, and councils of rulers, religious leaders, and philosophers were convened to legislate religious doctrine, including the nature of God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Their legislations did not bring forth the true doctrines of Christ as He originally established them. Instead, they initiated the Great Apostasy. Through time, there were schisms even in the orthodox churches, and eventually many sects evolved, none guided by pure revelation, and none having the true authority to act in the name of Christ. During the Enlightenment and Reformation periods in Europe, new religious leaders faced martyrdom in order to try to restore, or at least reform, the corrupted religions of their day. But no restoration could succeed unless it was enacted in a society that guaranteed religious freedom and safety. The martyrs of the reformation prepared the way for the restoration planned by the Lord since the apostasy first occurred.
Among the blessings of the restored Church is the coming forth of hidden scripture. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the hiding place of an ancient scriptural record and gave him the means to translate it. The Book of Mormon is a history of Israelite families who were led to the Americas just before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians (about 600 B.C.). The population grew, and the people lived according to the Law of Moses. However, the population split into warring factions and alternated between periods of righteousness and peace, and wickedness and discord. When the people heeded the teachings of their prophets, they looked forward to the coming of Christ. Christ visited them shortly after His resurrection and organized His Church as He had organized it in Palestine. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Christ. It contains the fullness of the gospel and upholds the teachings of the Bible.
In addition to the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the doctrines of Mormonism come from the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of modern revelations; and the Pearl of Great Price, containing writings of Moses and Abraham.
The Lord has promised to reveal more scripture as His children prove themselves worthy to receive it. Parts of the Book of Mormon have been held back, because men aren't prepared to receive the revelations therein. The "Ten Lost Tribes" will also bring scriptures with them when they return.
Along with the restoration of priesthood authority, has come the possibility of the baptisms by water and by fire. Worthy members of the Church enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because of this, and the authority of the priesthood, members have access to spiritual gifts. All the spiritual gifts are found among the members of the Church:
- For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
- To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
- To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).
- ...exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord; and that which is evil cometh from the devil (Omni 1:25).
A Plan for Mankind
Mormonism answers the important questions of existence: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? The "Plan of Salvation" answers these questions. The message is that God has a plan for His children. God is the literal father of the spirits of men, and they dwelt with Him in a loving family in a pre-mortal life before they came to this earth. Central to the plan is the agency of man. Coming into mortal life on earth allows God's spirit children to obtain physical bodies through which they can act and be acted upon, and through which they can be tested—"For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12). Opposition has been provided, so that man can exercise his agency. God is not only a personal God, but a doting, loving Father, willing to stretch out His arm all the day long on behalf of His children. He hears and answers prayer and urges His children through His prophets to pray always. Because all men sin, the atonement of Christ provides a way for man to repent; the atonement is the central message of the gospel. Resurrection is a free gift provided to all men, righteous and wicked alike, through the atonement of Christ. Salvation and exaltation come to the repentant who believe in Christ and lay hold upon the gift of His atonement for them. Thus, salvation comes through both works and the saving grace of Christ's atonement:
- For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23).
Wherever God has had a people, He has commanded them to build Him a house. The temple is the Lord's visiting place on earth, a holy place consecrated to Him and separate from the world. Holy ordinances performed and instruction received in the temple enable men to covenant with God, learn the Plan of Salvation, and to more fully understand the creation and the atonement. One of the ordinances performed in the temple is eternal marriage, wherein worthy Latter-day Saint couples can be married both for the duration of their mortal existence and for eternity. Through priesthood authority, the marriage vow can be sealed both on earth and in heaven. This marriage is the beginning of an eternal family, as children are either "born in the covenant" or sealed to their parents later. Heaven is a place of eternal felicity, eternal progression, and eternal family units.
The teachings of Mormonism, the leadership of modern prophets, and traditions of self-reliance imparted by early members of the Church result in a membership that stands out in the cultures where they reside. Mormons should be ethical, honest, morally pure, chaste, kind, hopeful, family-oriented, healthy (see Word of Wisdom), self-reliant , and the happiest people on earth. Because of the Church's vast international missionary program, many members are bi-lingual or multi-lingual and versed in the cultures of other countries. Church members are encouraged to be continually learning, increasing in secular and religious knowledge. According to the Thirteenth Article of Faith—
- We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things .
- Steve Young and Sharlene Hawkes address misconceptions about the Church
- Joseph Smith
- Basic beliefs of Mormonism
- Core beliefs and practices
- Testimonies of Church members
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