The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is the largest group in the Mormon movement. It was started in 1830 in New York by Joseph Smith. They believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet who restored the church Jesus Christ set up on earth when he was alive. They teach that they are the only church that has the full gospel. They also believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate individuals, but all have the same purpose. LDS scriptures include the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Members of the church, who are often called Mormons, are known for being active in missionary work. They also believe in the importance of families.
Beliefs and practices[change | change source]
Today the center of the Church is in Salt Lake City, Utah, but there are more than 14 million members living all over the world. About six million of them live in the United States; four and a half million of them in the Western United States and 1.8 million live in Utah. It is the second-fastest growing church in America, and the fourth largest in the United States. The leader of the Church is called the President of the Church, and Mormons respect him as a prophet. Right now, the President of the Mormon church is Thomas S. Monson. Mormons believe that God guides the prophet, just like Catholics believe God guides the Pope.
Mormons believe that it is important for families to spend a lot of time together, and that after they die, they can live together forever. Mormons do not drink alcohol, coffee, or tea; smoke tobacco; or use other drugs. They meet once a week on Sunday for church, where they have the sacrament and listen to short talks or sermons. They also have Sunday School to learn more about their religion. The Church also has activities during the week. Mormons also have buildings called temples. These are the most holy buildings in their religion. After a temple has been dedicated, only Mormons that are living lives in accordance with the teachings of the church can go in the temple.
Mormons believe in helping poor and needy people all around the world. Because of this, Mormons have given $1.2 billion, since 1985, in cash and assistance to other people. They also believe it is important to learn their family history, often called genealogy. They also help others to learn their family histories, and give access to all their family history records for free, through the internet, on the website Familysearch.org.
In 1842, Joseph Smith wrote 13 paragraphs describing what the Church and its members believe. These are those 13 beliefs:
- 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 paradisaical 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.
Organization[change | change source]
There are several divisions of the Church. The biggest ones are areas. An area might be a whole country, or part of a continent. Another division is a temple district. A temple district contains all the congregations served by one temple. This often means a whole state, region, or large city. Still another division is the mission, which is an area to which missionaries are assigned; almost all of the world is part of a mission, whether or not missionaries live or seek converts there.
Another division of the church is the stake. Stakes contain all the Mormons in a geographic area (for example, the stake in Whittier, California serves all the Mormons in Whittier, Pico Rivera and La Mirada). A stake often contains several thousand Mormons. Stakes are divided into wards.
In areas where the church is less established and there are not enough members to form a stake, a district is formed. Districts serve much the same role as stakes. In turn, districts are divided into branches. If the church membership grows large enough, a district will be changed into a stake and the branches into wards.
Each congregation is one ward (or branch). A ward might contain only people who speak a language other than the local language of its area. Examples include areas next to large U.S. military bases in foreign countries, where English-language wards may be organized, and major U.S. cities with many immigrants, where wards using Spanish, dialects of Chinese, or other languages are often formed. In some places, there are special wards for deaf people, where the services are held in the local sign language (such as American Sign Language in English-speaking North America). The church also has "singles wards", in which the congregation is made up only of single adults. In turn, there are two types of singles wards—Young Single Adult (YSA), for ages 18 to 30, and Single Adult (SA), for those over 30.
History[change | change source]
The church was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 in upstate New York. It was based off the Book of Mormon, which Smith had translated from gold plates that were buried in a nearby hill. Smith's followers first went to Kirtland, Ohio in 1831. The first Mormon temple was built in Kirtland, and by the mid-1830s, there were over 17,000 Mormons. In 1838, the Mormons settled in Independence and Far West, Missouri. Near here, Smith wanted to build a utopian (ideal) community. The Mormons were driven out because people in Missouri did not trust Mormons. This was called the Mormon War. The Mormons then moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. There, Smith started to practice polygamy and tried to start a "theodemocracy," which combined Mormon rule with American democracy. In 1844, an attempt by Smith to shut down the Nauvoo newspaper led to Smith being accused of treason, followed by him being killed by a mob.
After Smith's death, there was a controversy over who should replace Smith. Brigham Young led most of the Mormons to Utah in 1847. When Utah became a territory in 1850, it was somewhat of a theocracy. Later in the 1850s, there was conflict between the Mormons and the U.S. government over control of the territory. This was called the Utah War. The Mountain Meadows massacre was part of the Utah War. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Mormons settled the Mormon Corridor in Utah and surrounding states in the Western United States. Some of the places they settled were Mesa, Arizona; San Bernardino, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Cardston, Alberta. By 1890, the Mormon church had built temples in three Utah cities.
Brigham Young died in 1877. Around that time, the U.S. government made polygamy against the law. Polygamy had been practiced by Young and the Mormon church since the 1840s. Laws by the U.S. government led to many Mormon leaders going into hiding, and many polygamists being sent to jail. In 1890, the church stopped polygamy. This is thought to be the beginning of the modern era of the Mormon church.
In the early 20th century, the Mormon Church grew, and opened its first temples outside of Utah. Soon into the 20th century, tithing (giving money to the Church) was made a part of being a good Mormon. In 1995, Gordon Hinckley became President. He got the church to build many temples in the United States and elsewhere around the world. The current President, Thomas Monson, took office when Hinckley died in 2008.
Missions[change | change source]
Young people are encouraged to go on missions when they get old enough. Men go from two years after they are 18 years old (as long as they have graduated from high school), and women go for 18 months after they are 19 years old. Before an August 2012 change in church policy, men had to be 19 in most countries, and women throughout the world 21, before they could go on missions. More men go on missions than women do. These missionaries go to a "Mission Training Center" for a few months where they learn how to be good missionaries, and then live in another place for their mission. The Church tells them where they need to go. Then they work with one other missionary who is the same gender as they are (called a "companion"), and change companions sometimes so they are not always with the same person. Missionaries will go to people who live near them and teach them about the Church, and baptize people who want to join the Church. They also help people around them, even if these people are not in the Church. Often they help by building houses for people who need them.
Older people sometimes go on missions after their children grow up. They get to go with their spouse. There are many different kinds of missions for "senior missionaries". Some of them are only a few months, and some of them are a few years. These missions can be "service missions", which means that they go to help people who live in the area. Sometimes the senior missionary is a "mission president". This means that they lead and help young missionaries in the place where they go to live.
Criticisms[change | change source]
The LDS church has been heavily criticized since its creation. Some of the criticisms are listed below.
Current[change | change source]
- Requiring a person give 10% of the money they earn to the church
- Not allowing non-members, or members that do not have church permission to attend temples, to go to weddings at Mormon temples
- Continuing to believe that it is best for mothers to remain in the home and raise a family
- Allowing baptism on behalf of those who are dead, to give non-Mormons the opportunity to join the church
- Pushing to not allow gay marriage, even in areas that have a very small Mormon population (This was most clear in California's Proposition 8, which passed partially due to Mormon money from Utah)
- Not saying how much money the church has
- Believing that God was once a man
- Not allowing the drinking of alcohol, coffee, tea
Past[change | change source]
- Polygamy, allowing men to have more than one wife (the church stopped this in 1890, although some break off churches still allow it)
- Not allowing black people to become preachers or go on missions until 1978
- For Brigham Young, the second prophet of the church, teaching that God was once as Adam, though this was never official church doctrine.
References[change | change source]
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2006). "Church Is the Second-Fastest Growing Religion in the United States". http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/article/church-is-the-second-fastest-growing-religion-in-the-united-states. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
- National Council of Churches (2010). "Catholics, Mormons, Assemblies of God growing; Mainline churches report a continuing decline". http://www.ncccusa.org/news/100204yearbook2010.html. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2009). "Facts & Statistics". http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/facts-and-stats. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2008). "FamilySearch - About Us". http://www.familysearch.org/eng/default.asp?page=/eng/Policy/about_us.asp. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
- Articles of Faith in LDS scriptures
- Joseph Smith: the Wentworth letter, Times and Seasons 3:9 (706-710 pp.), 1 March 1842.
- Ostling, Richard and Joan. Mormon America. pp. 164–165.
- Pyle, Hugh F. (2000). The Truth about Mormonism. Sword of the Lord. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0873988450.
- Young (1852, p. 50). The full text from the Journal of Discourses 1:51 reads as follows: "It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum, as in all heavenly bodies, and in organizing element, perfectly represented in the Deity, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Again, they will try to tell how the divinity of Jesus is joined to his humanity, and exhaust all their mental faculties, and wind up with this profound language, as describing the soul of man, "it is an immaterial substance!" What a learned idea! Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation. I have given you a few leading items upon this subject, but a great deal more remains to be told. Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever,that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost."