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.
If you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) and have had a Latter-day Saint friend get married in a Mormon temple, you may be wondering what the big deal is and why anyone would choose to get married in a place where so many of their friends and family could not attend the wedding. After all, a person’s wedding is one of the biggest days of their life. Why wouldn’t they want all of their loved ones to be there and to be a part of it? Understanding a little bit about the Mormon doctrine of eternal families should help resolve this question.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a unique doctrine from other Christian denominations: eternal families. While many people believe that they will be with their loved ones again after they die, it is not part of their church’s doctrine. In fact, many people are shocked when they learn that their church teaches that a marriage ends at death. The phrases “Till death do you part” and “For as long as you both shall live” have perhaps become so much a part of what we expect to hear at weddings, that we no longer think about what they mean. The person performing the wedding has no authority to extend the marriage relationship (and thus, the family relationship) beyond the bounds of this world.
However, Mormon doctrine teaches that families can be together forever; that marriages can be for eternity. Such a marriage can be performed in only one place, however: Mormon temples. God has given the power to certain men to perform marriages (called sealings in Mormon doctrine) which bind a couple together forever. Such a blessing requires a great deal of commitment, however. Attending Mormon temples requires a high standard of living in the first place, but once a person receives temple ordinances for themselves, they promise to live even higher standards. When being sealed, a couple promises to support each other for eternity. This is a very different perspective than a marriage which lasts only in this lifetime. Being sealed to someone requires a great deal of sacrifice, as does any marriage, but when a couple is sealed, they have already made certain covenants with God. With these promises made to God first, and to spouse second, an eternal marriage begins on a completely different plane than a civil marriage.
The eternal nature of the commitment in a Mormon temple wedding is infinitely more powerful than those of a civil marriage. This is why it is so important to those who understand the true nature of the temple sealing to not settle for anything less. Of course family and friends are important, but it is more important to have the best possible start to your life together.
The Mormon wedding ceremony itself is quite short. It takes place in a sealing room of the temple. The couple kneels across from each other at an altar. There are two large mirrors hanging parallel to each other over the altar, casting infinite reflections. These reflections are symbolic of the eternal nature of this couple’s relationship. An exchange of rings is not part of the ceremony, but if a couple lives in a culture where rings are traditionally exchanged, they can do this quietly after the ceremony is complete. The couple can invite whomever they wish to attend, as long as guests are temple worthy themselves.
Everything else is very traditional, or can be as traditional as the couple wishes it to be. The bride can wear a dress of her choosing, as long as it is modest. Couples often have large receptions afterwards for family and friends, especially for those who were unable to attend the wedding ceremony. A temple sealing is one of the most beautiful, spiritual events of a lifetime, and is worth whatever sacrifice is necessary to get there. The blessings which come from this union are so beautiful and strengthening to a new marriage.
Why do Mormons wear special underwear?
There is a lot of confusion about the Mormon temple garment and what it means. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as the Mormon Church is officially known) builds temples. These Mormon temples are literally dotting the earth, and more are being built every year. These beautiful edifices are very sacred to Latter-day Saints and their idea of worship. So where does the underwear come in?
Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, stand apart from the world in several ways. Their standards are living are very high, and are often at odds with the world’s standards of living. For example, Mormon doctrine teaches that Latter-day Saints should not partake of alcohol, tobacco or other harmful drugs, coffee, or tea. In addition, we should take care of our bodies by eating healthy food, going to bed early and getting up early, exercising and taking care of our bodies. Other standards include the law of chastity, which means no sexual relations of any kind except within the bonds of marriage. This means complete abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity inside of marriage. Modesty is another standard which the world does not, in general, uphold. Latter-day Saints are taught that their bodies are temples of God and should be treated with respect. We should not expose our bodies to the attention of others. While we should be neat and clean, we should also be covered and respectful. All of these things lead up to the purpose of the Mormon temple garment.
Not all Latter-day Saints wear the temple garment. Only those Saints who have gone through the Mormon temple ceremony of the endowment wear this special Mormon underwear. When an individual participates in the Mormon endowment ceremony, he makes certain covenants with God to live an even higher standard of living than he did before, to be worthy to enter the temple. The covenants that are made in this Mormon temple rite are very serious. If these covenants are every broken, the consequences are great. However, the keeping of these covenants brings countless blessings from God. The Mormon garment is a reminder of the covenants made in the temple. When it is worn properly, it offers protection to the wearer by reminding them of these covenants continuously and given them the strength to keep those covenants. Not unlike the vestments which many priests of different denominations wear, the Mormon temple garment is an outward symbol of an inward commitment. It is just a very private matter, and that is why it is worn underneath the clothing instead of on top of the clothing. The Mormon garment is also a reminder of the wearer’s commitment to modesty, since it should be covered at all times while in public.
Though the idea of ”special underwear” may seem very odd to those not of the Mormon faith, ceremonial clothing existed back into Old Testament times. The Mormon temple garment is a sacred reminder to the wearer of the sacred nature of the covenants made while in the temple. These garments are deserving of respect from people of all faiths, just like the Jewish yarmulke or a Catholic nun’s habit are.
The purpose of temples is recorded in the Old and New Testaments. The concept of worshiping in temples precedes even the actual building of temples. In ancient times, many prophets worshipped on the top of mountains. Today, one name for Mormon temples (or temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it is officially known) is the Mountain of the Lord, as referenced in Isaiah 2:2, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” Temples are sacred places; houses of the Lord. Only those who are living worthily are allowed to enter. This has led to a lot of wild speculation on the part of the world. If it isn’t open to the public, then it must be a cult, dealing with bizarre things. This is categorically untrue.
The reason Mormon temples are open to only those who are living high spiritual and moral standards is the knowledge gained therein carries a great deal of responsibility and exacts an even higher standard of living. The ordinances performed in temples require deep commitments from the person receiving those ordinances to live God’s higher law. This can be compared to when Christ taught a higher law than the Law of Moses. A general law was necessary for the people to prepare to live a more important law. So those who worship in holy Mormon temples also commit to living a higher law than those who do not worship there.
To take away some of the mystery of Mormon temples, this article will discuss the ordinances which are performed inside. The first of these ordinances is baptism for the dead. This is followed by confirmation for the gift of the Holy Ghost. These two ordinances must be completed before any other ordinances can be done. All things must be done in their proper order. All baptisms done in the temple are done by proxy. This means that the person being baptized is symbolically taking the place of someone who died without the chance to get baptized. Mormon doctrine teaches that all whose work is done in the temple have the opportunity to choose whether or not to accept those ordinances. Thus, no one is being forced to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but, if they didn’t have the opportunity in their life to receive these things, they are given the chance in the next life. This is necessary because all ordinances must be performed in this life; they cannot be done in the next.
Baptisms are performed in temple baptistries. Each baptistry is located under ground. Each temple has its own font, which rests on the back of twelve oxen, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. Mormons believe that God did choose a people, Israel, to be stewards of the gospel and share it with the world. Thus, each person who is baptized into the gospel becomes adopted into Israel and into one of the twelve tribes. The significance of the font being located underground is that the act of baptism by immersion is symbolic of death, burial, and resurrection. We are buried underground, and are reborn, spiritually clean, as we come out of the water.
After the baptism and confirmation ordinances are completed, the next ordinance is the initiatory. This is a symbolic washing and anointing which is referenced in the Old Testament when Aaron was made the priest of the Tabernacle. After the initiatory comes the Mormon endowment. This is a teaching session where those receiving the ordinance are taught more about the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The ordinance contains many covenants which those participating must make and keep. These are covenants to live a higher law, as spoken of before, and to draw closer to God, reaching out to those around us in love and charity.
The last ordinance is the sealing ordinance. The sealing power was held by Elijah, giving him the power to bind things on earth that would also be bound in heaven. This means that families can be sealed together for eternity. Mormon doctrine teaches that husband and wife can be bound together beyond the grave. Mothers and fathers can be bound to their children. What a wonderful blessing. When a couple is married in the temple of God, they are sealed together for time and eternity, not until death breaks their bond of marriage. When a couple is sealed, they kneel across from each other at an altar. On each side of the altar hangs a mirror, casting reflections back and forth forever, symbolizing the eternal nature of their bond. Through their faith and obedience, they can be bound to previous generations, and future generations can be sealed to them.
The celestial room is not a room where any ordinances are performed, but is where one goes after completing the endowment ordinance. Mormon temple celestial rooms are where we can be in the Lord’s presence. People can sit here and ponder and pray for hours if they wish. It is the most peaceful, enlightening place on this earth.
Every Mormon temple is open to the public during an open house period, prior to its dedication. Community members are invited and encouraged to attend to walk through the beautiful rooms and to see for themselves that there is nothing dark or mysterious about Mormon temple work. It is pure, beautiful, and peaceful.
The Thirteen Articles of Faith are considered to be scripture and distill some points of Mormon doctrine. They were written down by Joseph Smith in response to a query from John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as the Mormon Church is officially called) and its beliefs. They are listed below, with an explanation of each point following.
- We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
- We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
- We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
- We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
- We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
- We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
- We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
- We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
- We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
- We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
- 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.
- As opposed to other Christian denominations, which embrace the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D., Mormon doctrine teaches that the Godhead (what many other denominations call the Trinity) is made up of three distinct beings: God, the Father, is our spiritual father and created us before we came to this earth (see Plan of Salvation); Jesus Christ, the literal Son of God, came to this earth and was born of a virgin mother, Mary, atoning for the sins of the world and giving His life for all who would live upon it; the Holy Ghost, a spirit being who testifies to individual spirits of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the truth of the gospel. Mormons believe that the members of the Godhead are one in purpose, but are still separate entities.
- The Mormon understanding of “original sin” is also quite different from other Christians’. While Mormons believe that Adam and Eve transgressed God’s law by partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and fell from God’s presence for doing so, we are not punished for this act. Though we will all die as a result of the Fall, through Christ’s Atonement and resurrection, we will all rise again. Thus, we are only held accountable for the choices we make in this life, not for anyone else’s choices.
- The Atonement of Christ is a complex doctrine, but is not unique to Mormonism. Christ, the literal Son of God, took upon Himself not only the sins of the world, but also all the pains of the world. He did this so He would know all we went through, that He might succor us. He also died for us and rose again, the conqueror over death, allowing each of us to be resurrected as well, and to return to God to be judged for our thoughts, desires, and actions in this life. All will be saved in a heavenly kingdom of glory except “Sons of Perdition,” who have gained a perfect knowledge of Christ and then denied Him, thus “crucifying Him anew.”
- The first and most basic principle of Christianity is faith that Jesus Christ is our Savior. No other doctrine holds up without this. We must be baptized, as He was, to be cleansed from our sins. Baptism is more than just an act; it is a covenant on the part of the person being baptized to take upon him- or herself the name of Jesus Christ. This means to follow His commandments and strive to become a better person. Mormon doctrine teaches that one must be baptized by immersion (the whole body must go beneath the water), not sprinkling. In addition, one cannot qualify for baptism until the age of eight, what Mormon doctrine calls “the age of accountability.” Before this age, children are considered pure and are not held responsible for their actions. By the age of eight, they should have been taught the difference between right and wrong and may then can be held accountable for their choices. If a person becomes a convert later in life, the baptism is exactly the same as a child of eight’s. The laying on of hands refers to the power of the priesthood. This is the power and authority to act in God’s name. By having the gift of the Holy Ghost conferred upon you, you have the right and privilege of having a member of the Godhead with you at all times to lead and direct you, as long as you are living a virtuous life.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by a prophet of God. Mormons believe in continuing revelation, or that God continues to speak through a prophet today. Only one person can be the ultimate authority on the earth at one time, and that man is always answerable to God.
- When Joseph Smith received his First Vision, he learned that the authority to act in God’s name had been lost from the earth when the Apostles died. Jesus Christ restored the fulness of His gospel through Joseph Smith, and the organization of the LDS Church today is the same as it was when Christ organized it during His lifetime.
- Mormon doctrine teaches that there are myriad gifts of the Spirit, and they are the same today as they were anciently. Priesthood blessings can be given which perform miracles, according to the will of God and the faith of the person being blessed. The power of the priesthood has led to countless miracles in our day, including many of healing, prophecy, revelations, visions, etc.
- Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon through the power of God. It is a second witness to Jesus Christ being our Savior and is a companion text to the Bible; it does not replace it. The Lord told Joseph Smith that over time, many plain and precious truths had been lost from the Bible. Some through the evil designs of men, some through error in translation and transcription. The Book of Mormon and modern revelation have restored these lost truths.
- Mormons believe in modern revelation. God continues to speak through His prophet today. The Old Testament says that God will do nothing without revealing it to His prophets first (Amos 3:7). Scriptures also tell us that when the prophet speaks, it is as if the Lord is speaking (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38). Old revelation is always valuable, but the newest revelation always takes precedence over past revelation. In this way, the Lord can reveal what is needful to His people in each generation.
- The gathering of Israel spoken of in the Old and New Testaments is taken literally in Mormon doctrine. Scriptures declare that the Jews will be gathered home prior to Christ returning to the earth.
- Mormons believe that religious worship is a God-given right. Though they have been severely persecuted in the past for their own beliefs, they respect the freedom of others to worship how they see fit.
- The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on abiding by laws is clear: members should support their governments where they live and should contribute when they can to building a stronger community. At times when the law of the land conflicts with the law of God, however, the law of God is higher.
- Members of the LDS Church are encouraged to live good lives. Christ preached honesty and virtue. We should seek after the virtuous things in life and build them up. We should also reach out in kindness to one another.