At a time when polygamy is shining in the spotlight; when Salt Lake City blesses us with at least one national news frenzy per year, and with the Mormon Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney being one of the Republican front-runners for the 2008 Presidential Election, one can’t help but to wonder…What is a Mormon? Is the Mormon faith a Christian faith? Are they really as weird as my grandparents say they are? Many questions arise, but we must remember that questions are the path to enlightenment.
To answer these questions we must first push the term “Mormon” to the wayside. It’s not a derogatory word, but it does blur the line between Latter-day Saints, and “traditional” Christians. The formal name of the LDS Church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. The name clearly implies that the doctrinal focus of the LDS church is centered on Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is clear that they are a Christian church.
Many people are leery of the LDS Church simply because it is new and different. As human beings we seem to be hardwired to be cautious of new and different things. This is not a new concept.
Yes, they do have a companion to The Bible (The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ), and yes, they do worship and attend temples. They also have a prophet to speak the will of the Lord concerning his people. While most Christians find these things blasphemous we must ask ourselves another question- Are these concepts really new or different? Is it really weird for a church to claim the same types of rights and blessings that are contained on almost every page of The Bible? I suggest that things only seem weird until they are understood, and to understand the LDS Church one must know a little about its history.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church, was only a boy of 14 years old when the series of events that led up to the church’s foundation began. Joseph Smith felt the religious turmoil that was taking place in the state of New York during the early 1800’s. He felt torn between all of the many churches that were boasting truth and righteousness while at the same time defaming and slandering other sects in the area. He was reading The Bible and happened upon a particular scripture that grabbed his attention and pressed upon his heart. James 1:5 reads, “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”. Joseph understood that scripture to mean that if he prayed with an open heart, that God would answer his prayers.
He went to a secluded spot in the woods in upstate New York and began to pray. Soon after praying, he beheld a pillar light above his head. Then he saw two personages. It was God, the Father and Jesus Christ. They spoke to him and told him that he should not join any of the churches on the earth at that time and that the church that Jesus established while on the earth resulted in great apostasy shortly after the apostles’ deaths. He was also assured that the true church should once again be restored to the earth. This was the beginning of a long and tumultuous process resulting in a fast-growing Christian church, a newly translated scriptural account of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, and even the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in 1844.
The church undoubtedly had a rocky start because the misunderstandings and the persecution. The effects are still felt today. Ask the oldest member in your family what they think of Mormons. Unless they are Mormon you will likely get a negative response. In fact, until the 1970’s it was a lawful to kill a Mormon in Missouri because of the “Extermination Order given by Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs in the 1800’s.
Polygamy is another issue that so many people have with the church. It must be understood that the church does not, in any way, condone polygamy. That practice was discontinued in the 1870’s. Anybody that practices polygamy is consequently excommunicated from the church. All of the reports on the news that mention “Mormon polygamists” or the news anchors that film their news reports in front of the Latter-day Saint Salt Lake City temple are simply adding to the confusion about Mormons and it is this kind of attitude that keeps the LDS Church in obscurity for so many people.
Infinite volumes could be written to clear up the many misconceptions about the Mormon Church, but the fact of the matter is this: There are plenty of resources by which the truth about Mormons might be obtained (mormon.org is a great one), but in the end, only a curious mind or a wondering spirit will guide you to seek out the answers.