Many people are unfamiliar with what actually takes place during a worship service in a chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Research also shows that there are many people who feel that they are not welcomed inside an LDS chapel to worship with Latter-day Saints to be able to observe for themselves that Mormon worship is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is often the basis for misunderstandings among communities where Latter-day Saints live and leads many to believe that the close-knit ties of the Latter-day Saint community is both clannish and secretive. Part of this misconception may be caused by the differences between worship services in LDS chapels and temple worship. All are invited to attend services in LDS chapels, but only those members of The Church of Jesus Christ who are deemed worthy and hold a valid temple recommend are permitted to enter the sacred temple – the House of the Lord.
The infographic below is an excellent comparison of worship in an LDS chapel and temple worship.
You are invited to worship with a local LDS congregation
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.
There are many people in the world who refer to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the “Mormon Church.” Perhaps one of the main reasons for this nickname is the fact that the Latter-day Saints use an additional volume of scripture called the Book of Mormon, which they undeniably testify is Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It is also for this reason that many people, including many mainstream Christian denominations, argue that the teachings and doctrine (known as Mormonism) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are false, and that members of the Church are not Christians, but are practicing members of a cult.
One definition of the word cult is: “A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.” By that definition alone, almost any Christian denomination could be classified as a cult. A second definition of the word, and perhaps the one that those who oppose the teachings of the LDS Church refer to is: “A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.” It is interesting to note that as of 31 December 2010, it was reported that there are approximately 14.1 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide, indicating that the members are not small in number. And so, it is not the number of members per se that people have issues with, but rather it is the beliefs and practices of the Church that they deem as being strange or sinister.
There are those, however, who do not necessarily believe that Mormonism is a cult, but rather are intrigued by the beliefs and teachings of the LDS Church and genuinely seek to find answers to their questions to help gain a better understanding of those things that seem to be a mystery, but in reality are not. In his book titled The Complete Christian, Elder Robert S. Wood of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and former international affairs advisor, recounts an experience he had with a Russian diplomat in the mid-1980s. The Russian diplomat asked Elder Wood if he had ever heard of Joseph Smith. Elder Wood answered that not only had he heard of Joseph Smith, but that he was also a member of the Church Smith had organized. Having been introduced to Mormonism by a book entitled A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, the Russian diplomat proceeded to offer his profound, sincere summary of meaning of the LDS religion:
As I understand it, Joseph Smith brought together two ideas that are generally in conflict with each other and combined them in a remarkable synthesis. On the one hand, the Latter-day Saints believe that mortality is but a moment in eternity and that men and women do not spring into existence at birth and are annihilated at death. We existed before birth and shall persist after death. Moreover, there is a link between those who are yet to be born, those who now live, and those who have passed beyond the grave; there is, in fact, communication across those seeming barriers. Some who have lived have returned and communicated with the living, and there is a great cooperative enterprise that links the unborn, the living, and the dead, aimed at their mutual salvation and perfection.
At the same time, the Latter-day Saints seem very concerned with improving the lot of mankind in mortality. They do not believe that happiness is simply for another world but needs to be established here through common temporal as well as spiritual efforts. You seem to be community builders. You’re very pragmatic as well.
Describing the character of Latter-day Saints, Newsweek magazine wrote: “No matter where Mormons live, they find themselves part of a network of mutual concern; in Mormon theology everyone is a minister of a kind, everyone is empowered in some way to do good to others, and to have good done unto them: it is a 21st century covenant of caring. This caring is not limited to Church members alone, but extends far beyond.”
Although there is a considerable amount of positive reporting about the Church in the media, there is also an overshadowing of negativism about the Church that appears in media resources as well. As noted by Church spokespersons in the LDS Newsroom article “Mormonism 101″:
For instance, reporters pressed for time tend to take peripheral aspects of the faith and place them front and center as if they were vital tenets of belief. Additionally, sincere commentators often overemphasize what others see as “different” about Latter-day Saints at the expense of highlighting the Church’s most fundamental doctrines in their reporting. Unfortunately, as many members attest, this kind of journalism paints a distorted picture of the Church and continues to confuse the public.
Despite these complications, the Church welcomes honest inquiry from all types of media outlets. The Church expects journalists to be accurate and honest and to focus on the faith as it is lived and believed by its members.
In spite of all of the good reports from the media and from people who have shared their positive experiences about the Church, there are still many sincere people who continue to debate whether or not Latter-day Saints are Christians. One might ask why anyone would even need to ask such a question. Doesn’t the name of the Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stand as its own witness and testimony that this is a Christian church? Do not the members of the Church worship Christ and preach and teach His doctrines? If a person would take the time to prayerfully read and ponder the Book of Mormon, would they not discover for themselves that it is Another Testament of Jesus Christ?
Stephen E. Robinson in his article titled “Are Mormons Christian?” which appeared in the May 1998 isssue of the New Era magazine stated:
There are a number of arguments used supposedly to “prove” that we are not Christian. It is important to recognize that none of them have anything to do with whether or not Latter-day Saints believe in Jesus Christ. Rather, what they basically boil down to is this: Latter-day Saints are different from the other Christian churches. (We understand that these differences exist because traditional Christianity has wandered from the truth over the centuries, but other denominations see things otherwise.)
Robinson further stated that, “Their arguments against the Latter-day Saints being Christian generally fall into six basic categories:” (1) Exclusion by special definition, (2) Exclusion by misrepresentation, (3) Name calling, (4) Exclusion by tradition, (5) The canonical or biblical exclusion, and (6) The doctrinal exclusion. The following are his definitions of each of these six categories:
Exclusion by special definition
What is a Christian? The term is found three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16), but it is not defined in any of those passages. According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, the term Christian may be defined in a number of ways, but the most common is “one who believes or professes … to believe in Jesus Christ and the truth as taught by him … one whose life is conformed to the doctrines of Christ.” The second most common meaning is “a member of a church or group professing Christian doctrine or belief.”
Under either of these two definitions, Latter-day Saints qualify as Christians. However, if a special definition is created under which Christian means “only those who believe as I do,” then others might claim Latter-day Saints aren’t Christians—but all this would really mean is that while Mormons believe in Christ, we don’t believe exactly as they do. Excluding us in this way by inventing a special definition for the word Christian is like defining a duck as an aquatic bird with a broad, flat bill, webbed feet, and white feathers, and then concluding that mallards aren’t ducks because their feathers are the wrong color. . . .
Exclusion by misrepresentation
Some people insist on condemning Latter-day Saints for doctrines the Saints don’t even believe. They say, in effect, “This is what you Mormons believe.” Then they recite something that is certainly not taught by the Latter-day Saints. It’s easy to make LDS beliefs seem absurd if critics can make up whatever they want and pass it off as LDS doctrine. . . .
Another form of misrepresentation is to claim something is official LDS doctrine when it may merely be an individual opinion or even speculation. The official doctrine of the Latter-day Saints is clearly defined and readily accessible to all. Doctrines are official if they are found in the standard works of the Church, if they are sustained by the Church in general conference (D&C 26:2), or if they are taught by the First Presidency as a presidency. Policies and procedures are official whenever those who hold the keys and have been sustained by the Church to make them declare them so. . . .
Name calling has often been used in religious controversies. At one time, Catholics called Protestants “heretics,” and Protestants called Catholics “papists.” But this sort of tactic amounts to nothing more than saying, “Boo for your religion, and hurrah for mine.”
The negative term most frequently flung at the LDS is “cult,” a term which can suggest images of pagan priests and rituals. But the truth is there is no objective distinction by which a cult may be distinguished from a religion. Use of the term cult does not tell us what a religion is, only how it is regarded by the person using the term. It simply means “a religion I don’t like.” . . .
Exclusion by tradition
It is sometimes argued that to be truly Christian, modern churches must accept both biblical Christianity and the traditional Christianity of later history. In other words, one must accept not just biblical doctrines, but also the centuries of historical development—the councils, creeds, customs, theologians, and philosophers—that came along after New Testament times. Since the Latter-day Saints do not accept doctrines originating in the early Church after the death of the apostles and prophets, we are accused of not being “historical” or “traditional” Christians.
In fact, we believe that revelation to the early Church stopped because of the death of the Apostles and the growing apostasy, or falling away, from the truth. In the absence of Apostles, the church eventually turned to councils of philosophers and theologians, for guidance. These councils, after lengthy debates, in turn interpreted the gospel according to their best understanding. Often they drew upon the philosophies of respected men (like Plato), concluding, for example, that God has no body or physical nature; or that the three separate persons of the Godhead—the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—are only one being. The declarations of these councils are still generally accepted today by traditional Christian churches as official doctrines. Yet these creeds were formulated centuries after the deaths of the Apostles and the close of the New Testament. . . .
The canonical or biblical exclusion
The term “canon of scripture” refers to the collection of books accepted by any group as the authoritative word of God. For most Christians the canon of scripture is limited to the Bible. But Latter-day Saints have a larger canon of scripture that includes the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The canonical exclusion, in its simplest form, says that since Latter-day Saints have books of scripture in addition to the “traditional” Christian Bible, they cannot be Christians.
One of the problems with this canonical exclusion lies in the assumption that there is only one “traditional” Christian Bible. Over the centuries, there have been a number of different versions of the Bible, and many Christian churches and individuals have disagreed about which books should be included. Even today, the Bible used by Catholics contains a number of different books than the Bible used by Protestants. Yet Catholics and Protestants continue to call each other Christians—even though they have different canons of scripture. . . .
One of the most common arguments used by critics of the Church as evidence that the Bible forbids adding to or taking away from the canon of scripture is based on the scripture found in Revelation 22:18–19:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
What many critics fail to realize or admit is that when John wrote Revelation, the Bible as we know it today did not exist. Therefore, “this book” that he refers to is in reference to his own book—the Book of Revelation—and not the entire Bible. If that were the case, and if there were any validity to the argument, then would it not follow that Christians should not read past the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy (also known as the fifth book of Moses) in the Bible because in Deuteronomy 4:2 are recorded these words, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you“?
In his New Era magazine article, Stephen Robinson further stated, “The truth is that prophets have usually added to the scriptures—almost all the biblical apostles and prophets did this. There is, in fact, no biblical statement whatever closing the canon of scripture or prohibiting additional revelation or additional scripture after the New Testament.”
The doctrinal exclusion
This type of argument claims that since the Latter-day Saints do not always interpret the Bible as other Christians do, we must not be Christians. But, in fact, other denominations also differ among themselves doctrinally, and it is unreasonable to demand that Latter-day Saints conform to a single standard of “Christian” doctrine when no such single standard exists.
For example, the Latter-day Saints are accused of worshiping a “different god” because we do not believe in the traditional Trinity. “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (Article of Faith 1) as taught in the New Testament. What Latter-day Saints do not believe is the non-Biblical doctrine formulated by the councils of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and Chalcedon (A.D. 451) centuries after the time of Jesus—the doctrine that God is three coequal persons in one substance or essence. We do not believe it because it is not scriptural. As Harper’s Bible Dictionary states: “The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.”
Not one of these aforementioned arguments, as defined and addressed by Stephen Robinson in his article as to why some people consider Latter-day Saints to be non-Christian, holds water. Careful notice will show that none of the arguments presented by critics addresses the question of whether Latter-day Saints accept Jesus Christ as the Divine Son of God and Savior of the world. Why is this? It is because in all actuality it isn’t the LDS doctrine that is objectionable to critics.
What is objectionable to critics is the claim that a 14-year-old, uneducated farm boy saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in the sacred grove in upstate New York in the Spring of 1820, as he knelt to pray to inquire of the Lord which of all the sects was right, that he might know which to join; that Joseph was given the answer he must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and that the Personage who addressed Joseph said, “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof’” (see Joseph Smith—History 1:18–19).
What is objectionable to critics is the fact that this uneducated farm boy was called to be God’s Prophet and was the Lord’s instrument for bringing about the restoration of the fulness of the everlasting Gospel. Critics object not to what the Book of Mormon says, but rather to the Book of Mormon itself and the fact that Latter-day Saints believe that it, like the Bible, is the Word of God and is another testament of Jesus Christ.
Finally, what these critics find objectionable is that the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth in its fulness in these the latter-days. It is these beliefs and teachings of the Latter-day Saints that critics of the Church find to be strange and sinister, and which they therefore use to justify considering The Church of Jesus of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be non-Christian and its members to be practitioners of a cult.
In the Bible it says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:1,6). The home is the best place to learn and apply the teachings found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often misnamed the Mormon Church) believe that nothing on earth can compensate for failure in the home.
God designates each of His children into families on this earth, where they can further develop their talents and attributes. God wants His children to obey His commandments so that they will experience long-lasting and complete happiness as they strive to live righteously here on earth. It is in the rearing of Mormon families in which all of us can receive the blessings of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is in the four corners of our home where vital lessons can be learned and applied in life.
Many past and present prophets have testified about the value and importance of the family, whether that family is a Mormon family or not. “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and a woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
Mormon families love to mingle and to share with others the blessings they have received as they obey the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Moron families are also willing to share they have and would gladly lend a hand to those who might stand in need of help. There are so many other things that Mormon families can share and testify of concerning the effect of the gospel in their lives when Christ’s teachings are shared within the Mormon family units.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the central core around which these Mormon families build their strong foundation. “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power to beat you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
Throughout the history of the Church, the Mormon family has been one of the most important aspects being discussed and emphasized. For example, the Church reserves Monday evening free of church responsibilities for members to focus and have time with their families. Likewise, Mormon missionaries all the world are instructed to put emphasis on teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in their investigators’ homes where their families can gather together and hear the glorious message of the gospel as well.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the admonition of the Lord. He said, “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). The wonderful thing about Mormon families is that they know, through obedience to God’s commandments, families can be together forever when they are sealed for eternity in a Mormon temple. The blessings which come to faithful Mormon families are the greatest gifts that God has to bestow upon His children.
Roy Patrick is currently working as a Call Center Agent in the Philippines. He served a full-time mission in San Francisco, CA. His family is one of the pioneers of the LDS Church in Panay Island, Philippines.
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.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often nicknamed Mormons) believe that the Book of Mormon is scripture. This does not mean, however, that they do not accept the Bible as scripture as well. Most Christians accuse Latter-day Saints of having a “Mormon Bible.” This is not true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses the King James Version of the Holy Bible as its English Bible all over the world. Obviously, different translations are used in different languages, but the KJV is considered the most accurate translation available in English. Latter-day Saints do have their own edition of the KJV published with footnotes and references to other scripture, but the translation is the same as any other copy of the KJV.
The Bible is considered to be the word of God by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, it has been revealed that many plain and precious truths have been lost from the Bible over the course of nearly two thousand years. Some things were lost through the translation and transmission of the text. Other truths were lost due to the wickedness of men who changed doctrine to fit their own preferences.
The Book of Mormon is a companion book of scripture to the Bible. It is a religious and historical record of two different groups of people who were led to the Americas by the hand of God. This record was kept for more than 1000 years before it was buried to protect it from being destroyed. For hundreds of years it sat buried until the time was right for it to come forward, and God led a young boy by the name of Joseph Smith to find the record. Joseph Smith was called of God to be the first prophet of our dispensation. A dispensation is a period of time when the fulness of the gospel is on the earth. Due to the wickedness of men, the fulness is eventually lost in each dispensation. Then a prophet must be called again in order to restore the fulness. After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, His apostles were systematically martyred. The fulness of the gospel lost fairly quickly. In 1820, though, God and Jesus Christ visited the young boy named Joseph Smith and called him to restore the gospel in our day.
Joseph Smith was able to find and translate the ancient record that was then published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. This book does contain the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a companion book of scripture to the Bible because it restores and clarifies doctrine lost from the Bible. It is another testament that Jesus is the Christ, the immortal Son of God. Reading the Book of Mormon brings a power into the reader’s life that cannot be gained in any other way. The Spirit of God can testify directly to the heart of whoever reads this sacred text.
Latter-day Saints believe there is other scripture in addition to the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Unlike most other Christians, “Mormons” believe that God has not ceased speaking to His people. Thus, He is constantly adding to our scripture. The Doctrine and Covenants is another book in the Latter-day Saint canon. It contains many modern revelations which were given in answer to questions asked about the gospel. Most of these were given to Joseph Smith, though some were given to other church leaders.
The Pearl of Great Price is the last of the four printed books which make up the Latter-day Saints’ standard works (or canon). However, as stated above, Latter-day Saints believe that God continues to speak to us today through His prophets. Thus, the words of modern-day prophets are also valued as scripture. Twice a year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a General Conference in which church leaders speak to members worldwide and share spiritual messages with them. These words are considered inspired and are also scripture.
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Personal revelation is inspiration given to us personally, by God, through the gift of the Holy Ghost. Everyone arrives on earth at birth with the light of Christ. People often call this “conscience.” This light dims when we commit sin, or when we reject it. The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and being spirit, can dwell within us. The Holy Ghost testifies to us when things are true, leads us toward God and Christ, warns us of danger, and comforts us. After baptism by immersion by the proper authority, the “gift of the Holy Ghost” can be conferred by the laying on of hands. This is a permanent gift, as long as the person receiving it remains worthy. The gift of the Holy Ghost is something that is always with us, guiding us through life. Through our actions, we chose whether to listen to that guidance or to drown it out with the voices of the world, beckoning us to join in its sin.
How does one recognize revelation from God? While I know, from personal experience how I receive revelation, I do not know how you, the reader, or anyone else in this world receives revelation. It’s a personal thing that is given differently, conforming if you will, to each individual’s personality and ways of processing information. One of our great tasks as we sojourn on earth is to recognize the voice of God when He speaks to us.
Revelation can be given and received in many different ways. One example is having a thought in your head, which you never would have come up with on your own. This could be an idea or a choice of words that sound a little different than your normal thought process. There are times, when I’m writing or I’m talking about the gospel. I can go on for hours conversing and discussing different topics with someone, and then at the end of the discussion, I don’t remember one thing that I said. I know, during those times, that I was speaking through revelation that was being given to me, through the gift of the Holy Ghost.
There are also times, when the small voice in your head, can get rather loud. This is necessary to jolt your system, when you are in danger and need to get away, or do something as fast as possible. I would like to share two experiences where that loud voice in my head, saved me from something terrible.
The first experience was when I was 13 or 14 years old. It was during the summer, at the time when certain fireworks were legal in Utah. I didn’t have much experience with fireworks, because I had spent most of my life in foreign places, where they didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July. Wanting to get some fireworks of my own, I went around to my family members and asked them if they could take me to the store. Being the youngest and smallest, I was ignored, while the others were in an intense conversation. I do not remember the topic, but I remember that all their faces were serious. Getting annoyed and frustrated, as I often got as a child, I decided to do it myself, another thing that I was quite known for doing. So, I hopped onto my bike and rode down the hill to the grocery store. When I got to the store, I found out that my funds were not sufficient enough to buy the things that I desired. Being very stupid, I went around the store and asked people for small amounts of change. There was a particular man, whom I asked and he gave me a dollar. After collecting enough to buy the fireworks I wanted, I went to the check-out stand, only to find out that I was too young to purchase fireworks. Down-hearted and sulking, I went around the store to find the people I had borrowed money from and one by one, returned their change to them. When I got back to the man who gave me a dollar, he asked me what was wrong. I explained my situation, to which he offered an exchange. He would buy my fireworks with what money I had, if I helped him put his groceries in the car. With a now wide smile on my face, I agreed, gave him my money, and then waited for him by the front door. He purchased his things and mine, afterwards showing me to his truck, he handed me my fireworks, then proceeded to put his bags away himself, which I found odd. After he was done, and put his cart away, he looked at me, and said, “Hey, why don’t you hop in the front seat of my truck and we can have a talk.” Now, I had not been taught about “stranger danger” to the extent that other American children had, since I lived in little towns where everyone knew everyone. But the second that he said that, my body shocked, and something in me (I know now that it was the Holy Ghost) yelled. “RUN.” So, I politely excused myself, smiled, then turned and casually got on my bike. Once I got around the corner, I hid behind a fence and watched him pull out of the parking lot. When he went the other way, I got back on my bike, and I tell you, Mount Everest would have been a breeze to bike, the way I was peddling.
The second experience, funny enough, also had to do with my bike and me. Riding home on my bike one very dark night, I followed the path that I was familiar with, since my night vision was not the best. Suddenly, that loud voice in my head, told me to close my eyes. A flash of thought about how stupid that was (since it was pitch dark) entered my head, but I heeded the thought and closed my eyes. The second that I did, a branch that was sticking out over a fence, hovering over the sidewalk, whacked me across the eyes, scratching my eyelids, eyebrows and the bridge of my nose. Without a doubt, I knew that the Holy Ghost, to save me from what was sure to be a major eye injury, had guided me.
I have had other revelations in my life, but those are things that are between Heavenly Father, and me and should not be discussed casually. But I want to bear my testimony, that the power of personal revelation is real, and that if we surround ourselves with positive things of the Gospel and not of the world, that voice will become more and more clear every day, guiding us along the path that will lead us to eternal salvation, with our Heavenly Father.
Your Own Idea, or God’s
Discerning personal revelation is a life-long journey, and all believers must learn to recognize God’s voice. The “still, small voice” of the Holy Ghost can be heard by the heart and mind, and the words uttered sear into one’s soul. Sometimes gentle promptings will repeat again and again, and we can act on them or ignore them. If we want to be God’s hands in serving others, we need to heed His promptings to visit the sick or call a troubled friend.
One measuring stick that we can always use in discerning whether promptings are from God is that revelation from God will ALWAYS urge or guide us to do things that uphold the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It will never lead us in a direction that will harm us, or have us go against Christ’s commandments.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes strongly in the sanctity of the family and the bond and commitment between a husband, his wife and their children. God would never go against His own teachings and instruct an individual to stray from that sacred covenant. Recently I heard of a wife and mother in a seemingly happy family who felt instructed by God to abandon her husband and children and enter into a relationship with another woman. She claims that she has submitted to the will of God and has received daily confirmations from God in prayer. Her “inspiration” has not passed the test and could not be from God.
In the LDS Church, when we are confused, we have recourse to blessings from men who hold the Holy Priesthood. With the laying on of hands, they can convey messages from the Lord that will help us on the path to eternal life and enable us to serve others.
When Jesus Christ walked this earth, He performed many miracles. After His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, His apostles continued to perform miracles in His name. The power by which these miracles were performed was the same as it had been in the Old Testament, when prophets such as Moses and Elijah did mighty miracles. This power is the priesthood, or the power and authority to act in God’s name. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) is the only church on the earth today which has this power.
The power of the priesthood was lost from the earth due to the wickedness of men who did not believe in Jesus Christ and killed His apostles. After the martyrdom of the twelve apostles, there was no man who had the authority to lead and guide Jesus Christ’s church on the earth. This period is referred to in Mormon doctrine as the Great Apostasy. Great men such as Origen and Augustine recognized that this authority was gone. They tried to use logic and the schools of thought to understand the gospel, but by bringing these things into the Early Church, they destroyed the foundation of faith and simplicity which Jesus Christ had built.
For nearly two thousand years, the earth remained in this dark state, with bits of the truth of Christianity among them, but no clear authoritative figure to speak for God. This changed in the early 1800s, when the priesthood power was restored to the earth. Joseph Smith had been chosen by God, for his humility and for his desire to find the true church of God, to restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. Those men who had held the keys of the priesthood anciently were called to restore that power to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The beginning of the restoration of these keys began on May 15, 1829, when John the Baptist appeared to Joseph and Oliver and ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood, the priesthood which the descendants of Aaron had held for centuries in running the temple. Between May and June of the same year, Joseph and Oliver received the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John. This was the higher priesthood and held keys of higher ordinances, while the Aaronic Priesthood hold the keys for the power of baptism and the ministering of angels.
Today, any worthy male member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may hold the priesthood beginning at the age of 12. Worthy young men may, from the age of 12, begin to participate in the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood, which is described as the lesser priesthood or the priesthood of outward ordinances. They may begin to pass the Sacrament (similar to the Eucharist) at Sunday meetings. As young men get older and faithfully fulfill their priesthood duties, they can advance through the offices (or levels) of the Aaronic Priesthood, which include deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop.
Deacons: are given the responsibility to watch over the Church and its members by warning, expounding, exhorting, and teaching, inviting all to come unto Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 20:59). As mentioned above, deacons pass the Sacrament to members of the congregation during Sunday meetings. They also collect fast offerings, assist the bishop and his counselors, care for the meetinghouse an grounds, serve as messengers of Jesus Christ, and may participate in baptisms for the dead in Mormon Temples.
Teachers: are ordained from age 14 and up. They have the responsibility to watch over and strengthen the Church by encouraging no lying, gossiping, or evil speaking among congregation members. They also prepare the Sacrament, serve as home teachers, and serve as ushers in Church meetings.
Priests: serve from age 16 and up. They have the responsibility to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and visit the house of each member (mostly through home teaching). Priests bless the Sacrament. They also have the authority to perform baptisms, under the direction and approval of the bishop, but they do not have the authority to confirm a member with the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Bishops: serve in the highest office of the Aaronic Priesthood. All Mormon Church clergy are volunteers. They do not get paid for their service. The invitation to serve as bishop is extended and the usual length of time for a bishop to serve is about 5 years. The bishop is president of the priest quorum and the whole Aaronic Priesthood. Though this is an office in the Aaronic Priesthood, men who serve as bishops also hold the Melchizedek Priesthood so they have the authority to preside over the entire congregation.
The Melchizedek Priesthood, or higher priesthood, is named after the high priest Melchizedek from the Old Testament. A man is typically ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood when he turns 18 and prepares to serve a mission. Any worthy male 18 or older, however, may receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. The offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood include elder, seventy, high priest, patriarch, apostle, and prophet. This higher priesthood has been held by every patriarch and prophet authorized by God since Adam. However, when the children of Israel refused to live the higher law Moses brought them, the Aaronic Priesthood was given to them to govern the constricted form of the gospel they were willing to live at that time. Jesus Christ restored the Melchizedek Priesthood to His apostles, and they in turn restored it to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Each office of each priesthood encompasses all offices below it, thus any elder has authority to perform all the duties of the Aaronic Priesthood (except bishop; a man must be specially set apart for this office). The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the keys for all the spiritual blessings of the Church.
Elders: baptize and confirm members to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are able to confirm members with the gift of the Holy Ghost. This office also holds the authority to give blessings of comfort and healing to those who have faith in Jesus Christ.
Seventies: are general authorities of the Mormon Church and fulfill their duties under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Seventies direct missionary work and build up the Church across the world.
High Priests: have the authority to officiate in the Mormon Church. Certain callings in the LDS Church require men to be ordained high priests.
Patriarchs: are called on stake levels and ordained by general authorities of the Church. A patriarch gives special blessings of guidance (called patriarchal blessings) to worthy members of the Church. Patriarchs are ordained for life.
Apostles: are special witnesses of Jesus Christ. They also serve for the remainder of their lives. Apostles serve in the Quorum of the Twelve under the direction of the First Presidency. They travel throughout the world building up and organizing the Church. Each apostle holds all the keys of the kingdom, but only the president and prophet has the authority to exercise them all. Apostles exercise their keys under the direction of the president.
Prophet: there is only one at a time. The prophet is the mouthpiece of God and has the authority and responsibility to direct His affairs on the earth. The prophet is the president of the Church and holds all the keys of both priesthoods.
The fact that the priesthood has been restored is one of the greatest blessings of the gospel. The authority to act in God’s name does exist on the earth. Miracles are still performed, and Jesus Christ leads His prophet to guide His Church.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His twelve apostles ran the affairs of the Church and governed it with the authority of the priesthood which Jesus Christ had bestowed upon them. However, once the twelve apostles were dead, the Church went through its own dark ages, called the Great Apostasy, which lasted for nearly two thousand years. During this time, the authority to act in God’s name was lost from the earth. This was due to the wickedness and apostasy of many members of Christ’s Church. Over the course of several hundred years, many Church members and leaders despaired about the loss of authority and the adopting of many of the world’s elements into the gospel.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) differs from all other Christian denominations because it is the only one which claims and has direct authority from God. While good men such as Martin Luther lamented over all of the major differences between the Church in his day an in Christ’s day and did all they could to start a reformation back to the old ways, there was no way to extract the pure Church out of what it had become. A restoration was essential to bring things back to the way they had been when Jesus Christ organized the Church on the earth.
This restoration began in the early 1800s. In 1820, a young farm boy named Joseph Smith was confused by the tumult of religious opinion going on all around him in upstate New York. Every sect seemed to interpret the same passage from the Bible differently, and he did not know which way to turn. He received guidance in his scripture study when he came across James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upraideth not; and it shall be given him.” As Joseph pondered this scripture, he determined to ask God for guidance. As a result of that prayer, Joseph received a vision. God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph. They told him that the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been lost from the earth and needed to be restored. They instructed him to not join any church at that time.
Over the next ten years, Joseph received more instruction and guidance from heaven. He had been chosen by God to restore the gospel to the earth. Joseph received countless revelations clarifying doctrine which had been lost from the Bible. Some of this doctrine included baptism by immersion, the eternal nature of the family, missionary work for the dead, the true nature of the Godhead, and many other things. Finally, Joseph was instructed to organize the church on April 6, 1830. This was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was the same as the Primitive Church, organized by Jesus Christ when He was on the earth.
The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most significant event that has happened on the earth since the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ Himself. The authority to act in God’s name, known as the priesthood, has been restored to the earth, and all who hold that priesthood can trace that authority directly back to Jesus Christ. Revelation continues today through a prophet of God, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This man acts as the mouthpiece of God, leading and guiding God’s people today.
The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) in Ukraine is not a very long one. Once part of the Soviet Union, completely closed off to Mormon missionaries, Ukraine only opened up for the preaching of the gospel in October 1990. By September 1991, about 70 people had baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Official recognition for the Church was granted by the government on September 9 of that year, and visas were granted to a total of 20 missionaries. Then-Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the country for the preaching of the gospel on September 12. In his dedicatory prayer, he said:
We are gathered here as missionaries and as members, a small group. This gathering is prescient of the tens and the hundreds and the thousands and the hundreds of thousands that will yet join Thy Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in this land. We see the day when there will be scattered in the villages here and there a member and yet another member and then a gathering and then a branch and, in due time, stakes of Zion set firmly and permanently upon the fertile soil of the Ukraine. And in due time, the spires of temples will be seen across this great land. . . .
As we dedicate this land, our Holy Father, we remember those who have lived here in generations past and now are gone. We pray that this moment might be the beginning of an emancipation of their spirits in the world beyond through the sacred sealing ordinances of the work for the dead that thou hast revealed. We pray that there will be an outpouring of the Spirit of Elijah, that the names will come forth, the records made available, and the ordinances performed for them in temples in other lands, and in due time in temples in this land.
By mid-1994, the first Ukrainian Mission had split into two. More than 4,000 people had been baptized.
The prophecy of a temple being built on this land was fulfilled fewer than twenty years after it was given. No other country has had a temple built so soon after being opened to the preaching of the gospel. The purpose for Mormon temples is made clear from Elder Packer’s prayer: to gather together and seal family members from all generations.
No history of the LDS Church in Ukraine could be complete without mentioning Howard L. and Colleen Biddulph, first mission president and wife over the Ukraine Kyiv Mission. The Biddulphs were miraculously able to attend the open house and dedication for the Ukraine Temple, despite the fact that Colleen is in a wheelchair and is legally blind, the result of a stroke seven years ago. They were greeted with joy by the members of the Mormon Church who were also attending the open house.
“It is so wonderful to come back for the temple open house and the dedication, to see the members get the blessings of a temple in their land, and in our lifetime,” Biddulph said. “Not many missionaries get to live to see the fruit of their labors. It is hard to imagine that within 20 years of the missionaries first arriving, there is now a temple here.”
Biddulph also said, “We saw all of those things happen to a dramatic degree during our mission of three years and then since. I’ve had occasion in capacity of working for BYU [Brigham Young University] of coming to Ukraine with students and watching what has transpired. This is not only a temple for Ukraine, in less than 20 years, but the first stake in eastern Europe is also here; that was organized by Elder Russell M. Nelson in 2006.”
The Kyiv Temple open house was held from August 7 through August 21, a period in which members of the general public were invited to tour the building before its dedication on August 29. It is the first LDS Temple to be built in what was formerly the Soviet Union.
An interview with one of the two first LDS missionaries to enter Ukraine: