Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

The name Mormon is a term used to describe the adherents, practitioners, or followers of Mormonism. The term refers mostly to a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which is commonly called the Mormon Church. The LDS Church believes that "Mormon" may only properly be applied to its members, but, the term is also used to describe any individual or group that claims belief in the Book of Mormon, including other Latter Day Saints groups. According to Latter Day Saint belief, Mormon is the name of the prophet who compiled the book of scripture known as the Book of Mormon, which is believed by Latter Day Saints to be a collection of writings and teachings of the ancient prophets and followers of Jesus Christ who lived in the Americas from approximately 600BC to AD421. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith Jr. (Junior, his father was also Joseph Smith) translated the Book of Mormon into English by divine inspiration from golden plates that he received from the angel Moroni. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is another scriptural witness of Jesus Christ in addition to the Bible, which they also believe to be the word of God. There are some 13.5 million members worldwide and the headquarters are at Salt Lake City, Utah USA, where a great mormon temple stands.

Although Mormons consider themselves Christian, Mormonism has historically had an uneasy relationship with traditional Christianity, i.e. Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and most branches of Protestantism. This is due in part to the Mormonism claim that the movement is a "restoration" of the earliest Christian and Judaic doctrines.
Mormons teach that the Gospel of Christ has existed since the days of Adam and Eve, and that throughout history a series of apostasies have occurred each time followed by a restoration; meaning that the doctrine taught by the LDS church was on the Earth throughout history, but at some points was lost, and later restored again. Mormons teach that one such apostasy occurred after the death of Saint Peter and the other original twelve apostles, that the spiritual truths were absent from earth during that period and that the calling of Joseph Smith, Jr. marked a new restoration was has continued to this day.
The publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, in New York, USA. aroused great animosity among Protestants. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is holy scripture and as another testament of Jesus Christ, a companion to the Bible. Some of the Mormons' practices and political power in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois (states of the USA) also contributed to early animosity. Mormonism's greatest conflict with other branches of Christianity has been over the issues of traditional views of Christ, additions to the scriptural canon and plural marriage (a form of polygamy, where a man can marry multiple wives, that was officially discontinued by the LDS Church in 1890). In fact, animosity to plural marriage was so great in the 19th century that for the only time in U.S. history, a law was passed nullifying a particular practice associated with a religion, in direct contravention of the first amendment! This ruling was however in keeping with the dominant cultural norms.
Since the early 20th century, Mormonism has engaged in a long-term campaign to counter perceptions that it is not a Christian faith. It has also joined with many other Christian denominations in political operations, such as opposing same-sex marriages and conducting service and humanitarian operations worldwide. Many conflicts between Mormonism and other Christian denominations have remained and several Protestant and Catholic denominations have declared Mormonism as not part of the apostolic Christian tradition, and have declared Mormon baptisms to be invalid. Today, the major differences between Mormonism and other Christian churches include the LDS's unique beliefs on the Trinity, temple worship, and its expanded canon. Yet the majority of Americans (and other nationalities) view Mormonism as a Christian religion.

Mormonism and Judaism
Because of the incorporation of many Old Testament ideas into its theology, Mormonism has a historical affinity for Judaism and things Jewish. Mormons as a religious body generally embrace Jews, Judaism, and some elements of Jewish culture with enthusiasm. This commitment derives primarily from what Mormons believe are historical and doctrinal connections with Judaism.
Joseph Smith Jr. named the largest Mormon settlement he founded 'Nauvoo', which means "beautiful" in Hebrew. Brigham Young named a tributary of the Great Salt Lake the "Jordan River." The LDS Church created a writing scheme (language) called the Deseret Alphabet, which is based, partially, on Hebrew. The LDS Church has a Jerusalem Center in Israel, where college-aged youth study and learn to appreciate and respect the country and its history and culture.
Reciprocally, there has been some controversy involving Jewish groups who see elements of Mormonism as offensive. In the 1990s, Jewish groups vocally opposed the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead on behalf of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. According to LDS official Monte J. Brough, "Mormons who baptized 380,000 Holocaust victims posthumously were motivated by love and compassion and did not understand their gesture might offend Jews ... they did not realize that what they intended as a 'Christian act of service' was 'misguided and insensitive' ".

Picture Right: Latter Day Saints Temple at Salt Lake, City Utah, USA. from Utah visitor website.
Mormonism, Marriage and Polygamy
Mormonism has been associated in public discourse and in LDS scriptures with polygamy. In the 1830s, Joseph Smith, Jr. instituted a form of polygamy referred to as 'Plural Marriage', which Brigham Young first acknowledged and promoted after the LDS church's move to Utah USA. According to his own statements, Joseph Smith, Jr. was more than a little unhappy with the institution of plural marriage, and said that he suported it only after being warned through revelation that he should agree to it or "be destroyed." Polygamy was not practiced all members.
Upon learning about the practice of 'Plural Marriage', mainstream religions and political forces in the United States mounted a vigorous campaign to stamp it out. The United States Congress passed laws outlawing the practice and dissolving polygamous families; it disincorporated the LDS Church, and began seizing church property. A few months after a U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld the legality of the church's disincorporation and forfeiture of property, the church issued its 1890 Manifesto renouncing the practice of polygamy. However, the action of the U.S. government was in contravention of the first amendment rights of a religious group to develop its own practices, but was in keeping with the cultural and religious norms of the majority of Americans. Today, the LDS Church strongly rejects the practice and excommunicates members who engage in any form of polygamy.
The 1890 renunciation of polygamy by the LDS Church led to a number of schisms involving relatively small groups described as Mormon fundamentalists, who still practice polygamy as well as other elements of 19th century Mormonism that have been rejected or denounced by the LDS Church. These organizations believe that their doctrines and practices are true to the original teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr. and Brigham Young.
Sidney Rigdon, an early church leader, and others within the Latter Day Saint movement strongly opposed plural marriage and repeatedly labeled it as sin. The largest group from this part of the movement is The Church of Jesus Christ, which has its headquarters in Pennsylvania, USA.

Picture below: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, picture from their website.


Beliefs and Practices

Mormons believe in two sources of scriptural authority: The Book of Mormon and the Bible. Other writings like the 'Pearl of Great Price' are considered to contribute to understanding also. Mormons believe that God is the Supreme Being of the universe and that he has a physical body not just a spiritual one. Humans exist before their birth according to Mormonism and are given physical bodies at birth. Jesus is seen as a son of God and Satan is seen as his spiritual brother. Jesus chose to accept God's plan for the world and salvation whereas Satan rejected this in favour of his own plan. Mormons believe that Jesus overcame physical death at His resurrection guaranteeing also resurrection for mankind. Spiritual death is seen as the severest consequence of sin, and spiritual death can only be avoided by total obedience to God's will. Mormons believe that the dead may be baptised postumously and that the living should research their ancestry and offer the proper ordinances for their dead. The Mormon beliefs are represented by their 13 articles of faith which are given below:-

Articles of Faith
The 13 Articles of Faith, written by Joseph Smith, are the basic beliefs of the LDS Church and a good summary of what Mormons believe. They are:
1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
13. 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.

Geneology
The LDS and mormonism in general require the members to research their geneology and have gathered a huge database, in fact the largest collection of family tree and geneology records in the world.


Links
LDS Church website
Mormon church website
FamilySearch.org
Mormon Tabernacle Choir

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