Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Amos 3:7 - Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
As I suspect you all know by now, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons.)
This is a church that I love and which follows The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and it's been getting a lot of bad publicity lately, mostly from people who don't really understand what we believe or why.
So I want to add my voice to the whirlwind of noise, by sharing some of the basic beliefs of the church- to help non-Mormons understand what we believe about a few key things.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a like any Christian religion in many respects. We study and revere the Bible as Holy scripture. We believe that Christ literally died for our sins and was resurrected three days later- making eternal life possible for all.
The primary difference(s) between our church and other religions lies with the prophet.
Mormons believe that just as God gave men prophets throughout history- he gives us one today.
Think of it! Even those of you who know nothing about the Bible can doubtless name a few famous prophets. Adam, Noah, Daniel, Samuel, Job, Isaiah, and on and on down to that last prophet who heralded Christ: John the Baptist.
These men were not perfect or sinless (only Christ could live without sin), their purpose was not to negate or rewrite scriptures - they were men chosen by God to explain and clarify scripture and God's will for the specific time in which people dwelt.
Noah's job was to warn of the flood, Daniel stood up to the King when he tried to change the laws contrary to the commandments, and always- always, these men testified and preached of Christ, urged the people to repentance, and held up the laws of God despite the ebb and tide of society.
Wouldn't it make sense that, in this day and age- with an influx of information, with a million ways to interpret the scriptures, and people struggling to find themselves and God- that God would give us a prophet again? A man and mouthpiece on earth to help guide people to Christ?
If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever- he would not change his method of speaking on earth. Yes, individuals can feel God's love for them, learn his will for themselves and their families, and find personal answers to prayer- but when God has a message for the entire world- he uses his servants the prophets. (A note: We do not worship the prophet. We worship God, but we revere and respect the prophet as the "mouthpiece" of the Lord- someone who can help us better know, follow, and worship the Savior.)
Now, you may argue that a prophet is not all that sets Mormons apart from the rest of the world. But every difference in practice or doctrine was brought about by the prophet.
1. We believe the Bible to be the word of God, but we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is a history and record of God and his people, usually as recorded by the prophet of the day. It is a testament of Christ and does not contradict the Bible but is a helpmeet to it. It was recorded by prophets of old and translated by the prophet Joseph Smith in the 1800s.
2. Probably the most obvious and well-known difference between members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that we (strive to) live up to up to higher (seemingly stricter) standards. Famously, we don't drink alcohol or coffee, we dress with intentional modesty, we try to refrain from swearing, viewing degrading media, sex outside of marriage, or getting tattoos or piercings, etc. None of these things are evil. We don't judge people who drink alcohol or look down on people with tattoos, nor do we believe that we are better people for following these standards. But, we believe in following the prophet, and in setting ourselves apart from the world, and being our best possible selves- so we follow these (sometimes seemingly silly) commandments. We don't follow Old Testament laws like "Don't eat lobster," because the prophet of the day has not asked us to. We do continue to follow other important Biblical laws, however, as the prophets have explained that their observance is still important.
3. We have the priesthood power and authority of God on earth. The "priesthood" is another word for the "authority" of God. Just as the prophets, apostles, and Christ-himself performed miracles, healed the sick, and controlled the elements (think of Moses parting the Red Sea, or Elijah sealing up the heavens so no rain fell)- the righteous members of the church can be given that authority too. It is not a magical power, it is a responsibility to follow the commandments of God, even if the commandments seem impossible. But, I have personally witnessed miracles, I have been blessed and I have been healed. Not by a preacher crying out over me in front of a crowd, but by my father, or husband- lying their hands on my head and quietly calling down God's strength and power.
With that authority also comes the authority to baptize, bless, and ordain. I could be sprinkled with water, go swimming a hundred times, and really promise my heart to Christ - but without the authority (given from God to man), my "baptism" would be nothing more than a dunk under water. It cannot wash away my sins, merely because I want it to. All things must be done in Christ, the right way. The way that he instructed and set up while he was on the earth, and the prophet provides those keys.
4. We worship in meeting houses AND temples. You've probably seen the beautiful temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They are stunning in appearance, flawless in craft, and altogether glorious.
But the temples of the church are not where members meet on Sundays to preach, teach, and worship together. Our chapels and meeting houses are open to everyone- little children, non-Mormons, and anyone who wants to wander in. There we gather for activities and group worship. We sing hymns, we take turns teaching, we gather to uplift each other, learn of Christ, and form a community.
The temples, however, are a place of quiet, individual contemplation and worship. Only adult members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who are living the highest standards of the church are allowed to enter. This is to protect the quiet, sacredness of the temple.
As anyone who has ever sat through church with a toddler on their lap can attest, it's distracting, noisy, and at some point in time- your kid will probably escape and climb under the pews and rows of people, kicking everyone they pass. This is okay for church- lift up your joyful noise! But the temple is place of quiet, not noise.
Likewise, the temple is a place to "escape the world" and come to God, and because of this- the "world" is kept at the gates. Those who might misunderstand, disagree with, or fight our doctrine and the quiet peace of worship are asked not to enter. Those interested in learning about the Mormon church are welcome to join us on Sundays at the church buildings.
The temple is also the place where we make more sacred covenants with God. For example, men and women can be married in the temples. Unlike a traditional marriage, which is a covenant between two adults until "death do you part," marriage in a temple is a covenant between a couple and God, and lasts "for all time and eternity."
We also make other personal covenants with God in the temple. For example, we covenant to obey the commandments of Christ (including those given by the prophets of the day), to be chaste and loyal in our marriages, and to give everything to Lord if called upon. We take these promises very seriously. Because of this, only those members of the church who wish to make and keep such covenants can enter into the temple. Making these covenants are not a requirement for anyone- even many members of the church do not go to the temple to make these promises, nor are they a tourist attraction for non-Mormons to attend. They are an important, personal decision and form of worship- and so, they are kept private (but not secret.)
There is a time before the temple is dedicated and opened for use when it can be toured and viewed by anyone- and I would recommend a visit! The temples are as beautiful and intricate inside as they are out. I know there is currently a temple in Ogden Utah doing tours (throughout the month of August.)
And, as with all things in the church, we believe that Christ set down the ways should be done (from the covenants we make, to the teachings we receive) and those things have been revealed to us through the prophet. (Again, if you're looking for Biblical examples- think Solomon.)
I love this church, and I am so grateful for it. I am grateful for the strength that it affords my family, the peace it lends to my soul, and the safety I find in it. I love the Lord and I love the prophet, Thomas S. Monson. The prophet teaches the word of the Lord. He can't be swayed by public opinion, by picketing, by sarcastic news reporters, or the "disappointment" of the world. But the opinion of the world isn't that important, and I would rather follow a prophet that fears God than a prophet that fears Man.
I love my savior Jesus Christ and am trying (not always successfully) to follow him, obey his words, and learn from his example - especially when my children test my patience to the very limit.