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.