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Friday, January 25, 2008

What Do Mormons Believe? - The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon is remarkable. Even if you don't believe it, you have to respect it for its position in American literature and its influence on society.

The book is filled with amazing histories, noble people, and fascinating doctrinal insights, but the aspects I've thought about most are two promises, one at the beginning, and one at the end:

1) From the Introduction :

"[The Book of Mormon] puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come."
(emphasis added)
It isn't just about some far away pearly gate. We can have peace now. And those who read the book do feel peace. It isn't a conspicuous leap into serenity. It's gradual, so you have to pay careful attention.

I recall one particular week I got busy and every single morning I overlooked my usual study of the Book of Mormon. By Friday I was in a notably sour mood, and when I went to give a friend some spiritual advice nothing came. I couldn't think. The well I was used to drawing from had gone dry.

2) From Moroni 10:3-5
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
Countless sermons have been given, dissecting every word of these three verses, but I just want to point out the obvious:
  • This book claims to be scripture; it claims that holy prophets transcribed it under God's inspiration.
  • God knows whether this claim is true or false.
  • It matters to Him: if it's false he'll want to warn you against it; if it's true he'll want you to read it.
  • He will wait for it to become important enough for you to ask Him yourself.
  • He will give you the answer by the power of the Holy Ghost.
This promise has stood against the test of my experience. For two solid years I introduced hundreds of strangers to the book and pointed them to this promise. A large proportion did not read it at all, and fewer people prayed about it. But out of every single person who did pray, 100% told me that they felt the answer was yes.

You can find out too. Get a copy for yourself. You can order a free copy online here, or read the entirety of it online here. You can even download mp3's of the book on tape here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Find Out for Yourself: Are Mormons Christians?

If you're still wondering about the "Christianity" of Mormons, I suggest you ask yourself what a true Christian is. Make a list. What are the beliefs that define Christians? What kind of behavior would you expect to see? Who are the prime examples of Christians you have met in your life?

Write out the list on a piece of paper. Or, write it below in the comments.

The best way to see if Mormons match your list is to meet some for yourself. We are everywhere, but we blend in, so you might have to watch carefully. Your best bet is to locate an LDS meetinghouse in your area and pay them a visit this Sunday. Our churches often have tall steeples, and neatly kept grounds. You won't see crosses or illuminated signs, but you will invariably see the name of our Church followed by the two words, "Visitors Welcome."

A Mormon service consists of three meetings, one after another. 1) Sacrament meeting is for the entire congregation. We sing hymns, say prayers, listen to sermons, and most importantly, we partake of the sanctified bread and water to remember the sacrifice of our Lord.

2) Sunday school is a smaller group setting where we learn from a teacher about doctrines of the gospel. It's a good place to get involved and ask questions, and ideal for your "Christianity" experiment here. In fact, most congregations have a class called "Gospel Principles" which is geared primarily toward those who are just getting their feet wet in the Church, and those who are just curious.

3) Priesthood and Relief Society are separate meetings for the men and women respectively. The priesthood quorum can be thought of as a brotherhood. Our lessons focus on the unique challenges and responsibilities we face as men in the Church and in our families. Likewise, the sisters have lessons devoted to their roles. I personally, have never attended a Relief Society meeting, but from what I hear the sisters love it.

I should add that all the sermons, lessons, and leadership I mentioned are provided by members of the congregation without pay. We are all called to serve in various positions for a period of time. For example, my bishop (pastor) works at the hospital as an orthopedic surgeon.

Once you've met a few Mormons and listened to their talks and lessons, you may decide for yourself if we are Christians. I'd love to hear your verdict.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What Do Mormons Believe? - Baptism

I met a man once who thought that baptism was a good idea, but not necessary for salvation. He suggested it was sufficient just to "believe in Jesus," and you'll be fine. And then there are some others who say that once you're baptized you're good to go (to heaven, that is).

Mere belief (which is a much smaller thing than faith), is like believing that a college can make you an attorney. It can. Your belief is right, but there's still the matter of being accepted. Getting baptized, and baptized properly, is like the ACT or the SAT. And as any attorney can tell you, getting into college is not the same thing as getting out.

The purpose of college, like the purpose of life, is to emerge from the struggle a different, better person. Sure, you could theoretically learn everything a lawyer or a doctor knows through diligent, independent study at a local library. But there are at least two problems with this:

1) Do you really think you'll study as hard if you never commit to it? Will you push yourself to learn the integumentary system if you aren't in classes and there are no final exams?

2) Who will hire you? Your knowledge and experience may be high, but your sheepskin is still unofficial and unauthorized.

Now, this is just a simple analogy, but it helps get the point across. Baptism is a rebirth; a new starting point, and for most people it is the disposal of a sinful life in favor of one devoted to God and to godly living. It exhibits your commitment to Jesus Christ, both in His eyes and in yours.

Just like in the SATs, you aren't allowed to cheat, either. The exam must be proctored by a testing official appointed by the head of the testing organization. Similarly, baptism must be administered by a person who holds the authority to act in behalf of God. This is why people went to John the Baptist. He had the Levitical priesthood.

Baptism is a requirement for salvation. Consider the baptism of Jesus Himself. He was not turning from a life of sin, nor committing Himself to follow His own path. He had two reasons for doing it: 1) because it is a required step to salvation for all people and 2) to show us how important it is. (see Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 31:9)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Who are the Trinity?

I just finished teaching an intro to philosophy class with the University of Phoenix and the section on metaphysics spent a lot of time on the idea of proving God's existence. What struck me was that all of the European philosophy about God and spirit was based on the concepts outlined in the Nicene Creed.

In the King Follett lectures Joseph Smith makes the comment that you need to start right! If you don't start right you can never expect to find the truth. The main argument dealt with at Nicaea was the nature of God...which is a pretty good starting point. After many months of argument most of those attending agreed to the concept that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are the "Trinity" which is this mystical mixture of spirit and material that isn't effected by passion. It is large enough to cover the whole earth and small enough to dwell in your heart. Part of the dignitaries had left the convention and went back to the Eastern church where they proposed that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were separate beings, laying the groundwork for the Orthodox Greek and Russian churches.

For over 1,000 years most Europeans were taught the ideas agreed to at Nicaea, therefore all the philosophers who were trying to prove the existence of God were trying to prove the existence of the Trinity. Joseph Smith at age 14 gained a greater insight into the nature of God than all those learned men in AD 325. He saw God and Jesus as two separate, physical beings. Now by having the truth to start from, the restoration of the gospel could begin. The first Article of Faith is an answer to the false beliefs perpetrated since the council of Nicaea, "We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost" Articles of Faith 1:1

Submitted by William G.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that isolated systems must go in the direction of greater disorder. But an individual component of the system may become more ordered if a separate component or components increase even more in disorder.
Telestial living tends toward sin. The entire world is steadily becoming worse in this respect. It would be hopeless, except for the Savior who has taken all "sin entropy" on himself. An infinite amount of it. This permits us ~ an infinite number of us ~ to increase in order and goodness and glory, but only if we rely on his payment.

Thermodynamics is a tough subject to get your head around. So is the gospel's idea of atonement, but luckily we have some great teachers.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mormon Women

I love being a woman in the LDS church. I feel totally liberated and understood.

Some sections of society look upon LDS women with pity - they want to come and free us from my brain-washed bondage. But not only do I not need any intervention from "those who know better", I don't want it.

This is a church that celebrates women. It follows the example of Christ in loving, respecting and honoring women. Jesus first appeared to Mary, after His resurrection; his last instructions on the cross were for the well-being of his mother; He taught women as much as He taught men. His gospel is good news to EVERYONE - men, women and children, from all over the world, and His church plays no favorites. Women are just as much welcome to His love and salvation as men are, and that is one reason why I feel liberated as an LDS woman.

Another reason is that I am allowed and expected to be a woman. To do things that women enjoy doing. Deep down in the hearts of most women, they want to be home, with their children, nurturing and teaching them how to be contributing members of society. Financial obligations and social pressures make this very difficult for the majority of women in the world--but living an ole' fashioned family life is something that LDS women are encouraged to do. Does this make us slaves in the kitchen? No. It just allows us to become unfettered by the social chains that demand that we "contribute" to society (all the while letting other people raise our children without any investment in their well-being). I've worked in an office. I've taught school. I've planned conferences and made travel arrangements and handled logistics and gone to fancy dinners (that I had to plan) and it does not even compare to being a mother. There is nothing as rewarding as loving and caring for a baby (or two) every day. Sure, I don't sleep as much as I'd like, and I just got peed on while in the process of writing this blog. My shirt is often covered with baby-fluids, and my life has revolved around a 3-hour schedule for the last year, but I am so happy. I don't dread anything in my day--no presentations, no ornery co-workers, no long boring meetings, no disrespectful teenagers and no tech malfunctions that put everything on hold. I find so much satisfaction in watching my son learn to walk and talk (and growl, thanks to his Dad), pick up food and feed himself, notice things around him and get excited about his toys. It can't be explained, but it is wonderful. Trust me.

Not all LDS women stay home with kids, of course, and that is fine too. Many women work and enjoy it, and they are in total compliance with the church as well. Liberating, isn't it? We can choose what we want to do, but we are encouraged to do what we have been pre-programmed to enjoy. Families are strong, marriages are strong, people are happy--all doing exactly what God put us here to do.

Those who demand that women have a career may think that the only way to have equal respect is to have identical roles. This approach is like putting a thick and juicy steak and a flaky, delicious fresh peach pie in a blender so that one flavor will not dominate over the other – A well-cooked steak is just as satisfying as a well-prepared pie! (From the perspective of one who would prefer a pie to a steak). Grinding up steak and pie together would ruin the meal — the texture would be lost, the flavor combinations, the distinct tastes. These attributes make them unique, but they do not make one superior over the other. Likewise, putting men and women in a societal blender would not only not work, it would ruin the balance that we need.


Friday, January 4, 2008

The Mormon Majority

I ran across a blog that raised concerns for children growing up in areas like Utah, Idaho, and Arizona where Mormons tend to be the majority. The concern was that in areas like this Mormon football players or cheerleaders or debaters, etc. seem to get preferential treatment and the non-Mormons feel left out and rejected.

The social aspect of LDS-majority living is complex. On the one hand, most Mormons feel they can trust other Mormons, so they do often receive preferential treatment in areas predominantly populated with them. Follow that by non-members in the media, and local evangelical congregations who constantly complain about and scorn Mormons and you might see why we keep to ourselves.

On the other hand, the Church encourages us to meet with and become friends to non-members (largely to promote missionary work). Most Latter-day Saints you meet will generally be genial, but some are scared that all you'll see is someone looking for a new convert. Often, we just genuinely want a true friend.

Henrietta22 commented, "If these are public schools something should be done about it."

We have all the same insecurities anyone has. We don't want to be isolated either. Believe it or not, Mormons are much more often found in the minority seat in high schools all over the rest of America. We can break down the barriers with honest communicating. This problem will not go away with litigation.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

About the Authors

Thaddeus - I grew up in a grand LDS family and served a two-year mission in beautiful Wisconsin. It was a fantastic experience to share with people the joy that comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ. I taught people of all backgrounds, many of whom knew next to nothing about the Church. Now, back in Utah, I'm a student at Utah State University, studying mechanical engineering. I had a kind of inkling to do a blog like this months before it happened; it finally tumbled out when I heard Elder Ballard's encouragement to 'join the online conversation' about the Mormon Church.

Megan - I was raised in an active LDS family and have been a member of the LDS church since my baptism at age eight. I was married in the Manti temple in 2003 and have a lovely growing family that I delight in caring for and nurturing full-time. Currently, our family consists of an almost four year old son, a two year old daughter and a newborn baby boy. It is horribly humbling and hugely rewarding to see my children learning the gospel in our home!

Ben - I grew up in Southern Utah. At the age of eighteen I finally decided that I needed to find out for myself the truth of the religion that I had grown up in, the LDS religion. As I searched the Book of Mormon, the truthfulness of this book and the man by whom it was translated, Joseph Smith, was affirmed in my heart and mind that it was correct and from God. I went to Russia to teach the people there the knowledge that I had received and share with them the happiness and joy that my religion brings me. I love my religion and I love God and Jesus Christ. I currently attend medical school, am married and have two children. Life couldn't be any better, there is nothing but happiness to be found in living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jancisco - I also grew up in an active LDS home (very similar to Thaddeus' - okay, exactly the same home). I became converted to the church myself, though, in high school. I also served a mission in Russia for a year and a half and saw the miracle of joy that enters people's hearts when they understand their purpose on earth and God's love for them. That's why I am so excited about sharing the gospel--it makes people happy. Currently, I live in Texas with my attractive husband and two wonderful children.

Bret - Grew up near Seattle until I was 12 and in Highland, Utah since then. I am a student in the USU Electrical Engineering program and I served two years as a missionary in Southern Brazil, teaching the people there and loving it. I am a great fan of fine music and literature.

Curtis - You may recognize me as the guitarist of Coldplay. If you do, however, you are wrong. But, however, I do love playing and recording music of all kinds. I also believe that basketball and ultimate frisbee are the two greatest activities ever invented by humans. And my life went like this: I was born in Alaska and lived in Germany for a time while my dad served in the military. Then, eventually we settled in Utah where I lived till the ripe age of 19 when I went to serve for two years as an LDS missionary in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I now profess to study mechanical engineering at BYU. I owe much to the man who, in their english class, introduced my dad at age 19 to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's ridiculous the amount of good that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has brought into my life.