The word “Mormon” is a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you live in the United States, you probably know someone who is a Mormon; if you live in Ukraine, where the Church was prohibited until the 1990s, you may not know one yet. But there are Mormons in Ukraine, and in nearly every country in the world.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is sometimes inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church” in the media, is a Christian faith, as it name implies. There are over 14 million Mormons worldwide. You can find Mormons in every profession and walk of life. Some Mormons are famous; others live quiet lives with their families. Some are young; some are old. Some are descended from generations of Church members; others are recent converts. But what all Mormons have in common is this: they love and worship the Lord, Jesus Christ, and strive to follow Him. Mormons are, above all, Christians. Jesus Christ is at the very center of their lives and their faith.
Mormon Beginnings: The Prophet Joseph Smith
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830 on a small farm in upstate New York, in the northeastern United States. Mormonism began when a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith prayed to God in the woods near his home, asking which church he should join from among the many seeking converts in his area. To his great astonishment, his prayer was answered with a vision of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, who instructed the young Joseph that he should not join any of the churches then in existence. God explained that over the centuries, many truths known to the ancient Christian church had been lost. Joseph Smith was to wait, study the Bible, and pray. Jesus Christ would soon restore His original Church, as it existed during and after His mortal ministry, to the earth. Joseph Smith would be called as a prophet, and God would restore His ancient doctrines through Joseph to the people of the earth.
When Joseph Smith came of age, he received from an angel an ancient record, inscribed on plates of gold, which he translated by revelation from God. This record, known as The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, recorded God’s dealings with a group of people who lived in the Americas anciently. The people of The Book of Mormon were taught by their prophets about the mission of Jesus Christ, just as the people in the old world were, prior to His coming to earth. After His resurrection, Jesus visited the Book of Mormon people, teaching them His gospel. The entire religious history of this people, which spans many centuries, was abridged and recorded on gold plates by the ancient American prophet Mormon. It is from Mormon that The Book of Mormon got its name. Mormons acquired their nickname from the same prophet.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Joseph Smith established the Church of Jesus Christ by revelation from God. The Bible and the Book of Mormon together clarify many ambiguous points of doctrine, making it much easier to know what is true. The prophet Joseph Smith also asked questions of God, receiving many revelations from Him. Through study and revelation, Joseph organized a new Christian church that followed the same teachings and practices as the church Jesus organized during His ministry on earth.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown from its early beginnings to a world-wide organization, with its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the United States. More Mormons live outside of the United States than inside. The Church continues to be led by a modern-day prophet, Thomas S. Monson. President Monson has been ordained to his calling through the priesthood passed down from Joseph Smith, who was ordained by heavenly messengers in the 1800s. Twelve living Apostles of Jesus Christ lead the Church and bear witness of the Savior to the world.
The modern Church of Jesus Christ is known for its emphasis on traditional moral values. Mormons strive to follow Jesus by keeping His commandments as set forth in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and The Book of Mormon. They believe in faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. They strive to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost as it guides them in making decisions and serving others. When they break God’s commandments, Mormons believe they can repent by asking forgiveness from God through the atonement of Jesus Christ, by making restitution to the best of their ability, and by forsaking their sins. Through the atonement of the Savior, all human beings can repent, change, and be forgiven for their sins. We can be sustained through all our trials if we turn to Jesus Christ. The Savior has also conquered death, meaning that one day, all humanity will be resurrected, just as Jesus was resurrected. Those who have repented of their sins and followed the Savior can then return to live with Heavenly Father in joy and peace with their families.
Mormons believe that God has given us our families, and that they are central to our happiness both on earth and in the eternities. In Mormon temples, families can be “sealed,” or bound together, not just for this life but also after death. Faithful Mormon couples come to the temple to be married, so that their marriages will last beyond the grave. Children are also sealed to their parents in Mormon temples. The LDS Church teaches that building and maintaining a loving eternal family is the most important work we can do in this life. Our family will also be a large part of our joy and reward in heaven.
Mormon Missionary Work
Because it is imperative that all of God’s children have the opportunity to learn about and follow Jesus Christ, Mormons send missionaries throughout the world, just as Jesus did when He was on earth. Nearly every Mormon will serve a mission at some time during his or her life. Most missionaries serve as young men and women, giving up two years of schooling, work, and friends to teach, at their own expense, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Missionaries share messages about the Savior and about His Church as it has been restored through Joseph Smith and the prophets and apostles of our day. They encourage people everywhere to have faith in Christ, repent of their sins, be baptized, and follow Jesus’s example in their everyday lives.
Most of all, Mormons seek to follow Jesus Christ in everything they do. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is known for its humanitarian efforts throughout the world. However, it is in their day-to-day choices that Mormons, like people everywhere, make the biggest difference. Just as the Savior healed the sick and cared for the needy, Mormons seek to help those around them every day in their families, neighborhoods, and communities. If someone is sick, they strive to be there to help; if someone is in need, Mormons attempt to meet those needs. The Church has a large network through which goods and services can be provided to those who are hungry physically, socially, or spiritually. Jesus reached out to all those around Him, sacrificing even His life so that we might live. As members of His Church on the earth today, Mormons strive to spread His gospel and dedicate their lives to His service. A Mormon is a follower of Christ.
The Mormon religion centers on Jesus Christ. In fact, the name of the church shows this, but because the nickname “Mormon” has been continually used, that is the term the general public seems to identify with the most. The name of the church which other people call the “Mormon Church” is officially The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Latter-day Saints (or “Mormons”) are trying to teach people that the term “Mormon” is a misnomer and that the people to whom the term often applies are followers of Jesus Christ.
Mormonism, as the world religion is now identified, was organized during a period of religious revival in the United States in the early 1800s. A young farm boy named Joseph Smith grew up in a religious home and was confused by the many differing Christian sects which surrounded him, which each claimed to be the only church which had the truth, and which all seemed to disagree with each other on important points of doctrine. In his confusion, Joseph sought answers through studying the Bible. One day, he read James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” The fourteen-year-0ld boy took this advice to heart and went into a grove of trees on a spring morning to pour his heart out to God. In answer to his prayer, Joseph received a vision. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph and told him that none of the churches on the earth at that time contained the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, he should not join any of them.
Over the next ten years, Joseph received more heavenly instruction and was prepared to restore the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. The Mormon religion teaches that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been lost from the earth when the people turned away from its truth in a period Latter-day Saints call the Great Apostasy. This period spanned from the time the twelve apostles were martyred and the authority of the priesthood (or the power and authority to act in God’s name) was lost from the earth to the time when Christ’s church was restored through that same power in 1830.
Joseph Smith was led to an ancient record kept by inhabitants of the Americas. This record contained the dealings of Jesus Christ with these people and His teachings to them. Latter-day Saints believe that these people are descendants of the House of Israel and were led to the Americas by the hand of God to preserve them. However, they also drifted into unbelief. One of the last faithful survivors was named Moroni, and he was instructed to bury the record of his people which his father, Mormon, had abridged. Joseph was led to this record and translated it by the power of God. It was published and is known today as the Book of Mormon. This is where the misnomer “Mormon” comes from.
While some other Christian religions accuse Latter-day Saints of not being Christian because they replaced the Bible with the Book of Mormon, this is not true. Latter-day Saints believe the Bible to be the word of God. However, they also believe that many points of doctrine were lost from its pages over time and through the designs of certain men. The Book of Mormon does not replace the Bible; it is a companion book of scripture to the Bible, clarifies confusing doctrines in the Bible, and is a second testament that Jesus is the Christ.
Latter-day Saints do not worship Mormon or Joseph Smith. They worship Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer. They do recognize, however, that God continues to speak to His children today through a living prophet, and Joseph Smith was the first living prophet of our day.
While the Mormon religion differs from other Christian religions on certain points of doctrine, including, but not limited to, the definition of the Trinity, the principle of continuing revelation, infant baptism, and eternal families, they are most certainly Christians. They recognize that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God, as He claimed to be. He is our Intercessor with the Father. He took upon Himself the sins and sorrows of the world. He overcame death, both physical and spiritual, that we may all have an opportunity to return to God the Father and partake of eternal life.
The Kiev Mormon Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths, the “Mormon Church”) recently received first place for the best religious building construction for 2010. It is the first Mormon temple constructed “in the former Soviet Union.” The Kiev temple was announced back in 1998 just a few weeks after the dedication of the first Ukrainian meetinghouse.
Latter-day Saint temples are different from regular church meetinghouses. Temples are literally Houses of the Lord. They are places where Mormons go to make sacred promises or covenants with Jesus Christ. They promise to follow Jesus Christ and live a life of virtue and service to Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints also bring names to temples to perform ordinances such as baptisms and sealings that unite families in an eternal relationship, in behalf of their ancestors who have passed away. It is a place of love, peace, and holiness for those who attend.
For the full report, please visit the official Mormon news website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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Learn more about why Mormons build temples at the official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Temples are houses of the Lord where sacred ordinances are performed. Learn more about what goes on in Mormon temples.