What is the central claim and conviction of the Church?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the original faith of all of the peoples of the earth. It was revealed to prophets such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. The truth was repeatedly rejected and corrupted. Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ Himself taught His gospel. Incredibly, even Jesus was rejected. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not simply a religion spawned in the 19th century. Neither is it an American church. Nor did it begin in what is called the Christian era. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that was taught from the very beginning.
It has been given back to the earth one final time. The re-established Gospel gives clarity on the fact that we are all the spirit children of Heavenly Parents with whom we lived before this world was and helps us understand that we are here in mortality to progress and learn through mortal experience and to form the family bonds that will be the organization and structure of God’s family when we return to Him.
The reason the Church proselytes is that we wish to share this expanded view of families and of our relationship to God with those who are interested, and we believe that God’s authority or Priesthood, which was part of this final restoration, can lead people to faith and can strengthen and unite families. We are proud of the more than 50,000 young “missionaries” who serve throughout the world at any given time and who do humanitarian and service work as well as sharing their beliefs.
Are Mormons Christian?
Mormons are thoroughly Christian, but are also unique and different from other Christians. We believe in the New Testament, in Christ as our Savior and in His atonement for all sin. We also believe Jesus was Jehovah, creator of Heaven and Earth and the God of the Old Testament and that He is separate and distinct from God the Father and from the Holy Ghost, the three of which make up the eternal Godhead.
In addition to the Old and New Testaments, Mormons believe that God still speaks through newly revealed scriptures and through living prophets and apostles just as He did in the original Christian Church, thus the official name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (signifying the same Church, doctrines, and organization, but in a later time.)
For divine direction, Mormons look back to scripture and also forward to the same spiritual power of living revelation that ancient prophets and Christians have had in all dispensations
Why is there so much emphasis on family in the Church; and what about Polygamy?
Mormons have a highly family-centric theology, believing that God is literally our Spiritual Father and that we lived as spirit persons with our Heavenly Parents before coming to this earth. Marriage and procreation provides the physical bodies that allow additional spiritual siblings to come from the spiritual pre-life into mortality. Hopefully understanding that Mormons have these beliefs makes it easier to see why they want to protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and to understand that the Church is not anti-gay but pro-marriage. Mormons are married with husband and wife as equal partners, and believe that the family bonds and relationships formed here continue in the hereafter as part of the progression of God’s family. Wedding vows say “For time and for all eternity” rather than “till death do you part”, and the divorce rate among practicing** Mormons is about one fourth of the national average.
Church members believe that it is within families that we learn our greatest lessons on love, sacrifice and other God-like attributes; and Mormons think of their Church as a support mechanism in building a happy and eternal family. Thus families and extended families tend to be very close, holding weekly ‘family home evenings’, and participating in all kinds of neighborhood Church programs, including sports, arts and service activities for youth. Because of their eternal view of families, Mormons are also noted for their high level of interest in researching their ancestors and family roots.
For well over 100 years, the Mormon Church has not allowed polygamy, and has no connection to or allegiance with any splinter group that still practices plural marriage. In the early, pioneer-and-covered-wagon days of the Church, polygamy existed on a limited basis partially because the frontier life and the persecution the Church was suffering had limited the number of active male members and there were women and children that needed to be taken care of. (The temporary practice was similar to certain Old Testament periods when God permitted polygamy to build up the numbers of His people during difficult times.)
How does the Church view gender, and what is the status of Women in the Church?
God created both men and women. He did not intend men and women to be alike, nor did he intend either gender to be regarded as or treated better than the other.
Mormon doctrine places women equal to and yet distinct from men. Both men and women have unique strengths, divine gifts, roles and responsibilities. The Church has championed the equality and rights of women from the beginning. In fact, women living in the Utah Territory were the first in the United States to obtain the right to vote.
The Church believes that fathers are to lead their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide for and protect them. We also believe that motherhood is the supreme privilege of women. In these sacred responsibilities, men and women are equal partners.
Though men are ordained to hold the priesthood, women have been integral and vital to the leadership and governance of the Church from the beginning. They preside, lead, teach, preach, pray, organize, and sit in council with male leaders. The Church’s Relief Society, which is believed to be the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world, champions womanhood and mobilizes millions of women worldwide to serve in humanitarian causes.
What is the purpose of Temples in the Church, and why are only practicing members allowed inside?
Unlike the twenty thousand chapels and churches around the world where Mormons meet and worship and invite all to join them, their far fewer (132 at last count) Temples are not churches or cathedrals but are places where worthy members go for ordinances like baptisms and marriages and other beautiful rituals that bond people to their ancestors and serve as reminders that all people are part of the family of God.
To facilitate this, it is necessary to know the names and histories of forbearers, so the Church has been at the forefront of the growing, worldwide interest in Ancestors and in the fascinating pursuit of connecting with people to their roots and their extended families. For more than 100 years the Church has pursued extensive Genealogical research in all parts of the globe, and the ancestral files that have been compiled are available to everyone through www.familysearch.org. Mormons believe that knowing how we are all linked to each other fosters peace and understanding, and anyone who discovers his ancestry also finds a sense of identify and belonging.
How much diversity is there in the Church, and why such emphasis on religious freedom?
Mormons are particularly sensitive to the need for religious freedom because early in their history they were driven literally across this country from their origins in New York State to the deserts and mountains of Utah in their covered wagons and handcarts by some of the most vicious mobs and religious bigots this nation has ever known. Because of their own experience, and because they hold the right of personal worship sacred, Mormons are staunch defenders of Religious Freedom for all people everywhere.
Mormons are a welcoming people, and as one of the fastest growing religions in the world, they are highly diverse, with membership in 145 different countries made up of every imaginable race, culture and political persuasion (there are 21 Mormons in the U.S. Congress, on both sides of the aisle.) Mormons are the fourth largest Christian denomination in the U.S., but have more members outside this country than within. The Church’s headquarters are in Utah, but only 13% of their membership lives in that state. Mormon scriptures (used hand in hand with the Holy Bible) are translated into 132 languages, and there are now approximately as many Spanish speaking members of the Church as English speaking.