I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also commonly known as Mormons, though we tend not to use this nickname among ourselves. We usually say members, LDS for short, or sometimes Saints (a term we understand to mean all the members of Christ’s church, not used in the Catholic sense of a really holy person classified as such by the church). I was born and raised in this church, and though I am not always great at following all of the church’s teachings, I still believe in those things.
We have thirteen articles of faith that summarize our beliefs. These were written by our first prophet, Joseph Smith Jr, who lived from 1805 – 1844. He had a vision and saw God and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees near his home in western New York when he was 14 years old. Later, when he was 17, he was visited by an angel named Moroni who told him of a buried record that God wanted him to translate. He was tested and instructed by Moroni for 4 years before being allowed to take the gold plates, and in 1829 he finished the translation of the new book of scripture. The Book of Mormon was published in 1830, the same year that Joseph was instructed to formally organize the church.
We believe the Book of Mormon is scripture, alongside the Bible. It contains an account of two groups of people, two nations, who resided in the Americas in ancient times, and tells of their spiritual heritage, their revelations from God, portions of their history, and of their visit by Jesus Christ shortly after his resurrection in Jerusalem.
To us Mormons, the idea of personal and continuing revelation is very important. We have apostles who lead the church, with the head apostle being the president of the Church and also called our prophet. We have had 16 prophets since 1830, and are today led by a man named Thomas S Monson.
Twice a year, in April and October, we have something called a General Conference, where all the church leaders in Salt Lake City, Utah, gather for five 2-hour meetings and speak to the members of the church. These conferences are broadcast all around the world on the church’s satellite system, and also on the internet, and on many radio and TV stations. I download the audio and some video files from the church’s main website, www.lds.org. Last night I was listening to one of the sessions on a portable device while I was at work. I really enjoy being able to carry these messages with me. I also use this for liberty-related content including all the podcasts I follow faithfully every week.
As part of the LDS faith, we follow a code of health called the Word of Wisdom, revealed by God to Joseph Smith in 1833. It includes several statements about things that are good for the body, and also bans a few things, saying they are not good for you. These are strong drink (alcohol), tobacco, and hot drinks (always interpreted since the second President of the Church, Brigham Young, to mean coffee and tea). It is understood to be part of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom that illegal drugs are also banned by it, or abuse of prescription drugs. It will be interesting to see what happens if church members are found to be using marijuana legally under a medical program – which technically doesn’t fall under the category of illegal drugs, except for the fact that the federal government refuses to move it from Schedule 1 controlled drug to Schedule 2.
The Word of Wisdom also says we should use meat sparingly, eat fruits and vegetables in season, and says that grain is good for food. I do have some questions about this part, but the church doesn’t really try to enforce the nutritional aspects of the revelation.
The Word of Wisdom is found in another book of scripture, called the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains modern revelations from God (mostly received by Joseph Smith prior to his murder in 1844). It is found in Section 89 of the D & C. Besides the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants, we have a small 4th book of scripture, another “standard work” called the Pearl of Great Price, which came about around the 1850s and became scripture in 1880. It contains writings and works of Joseph Smith that were not in the Doctrine and Covenants. The first reference I gave you, to the Articles of Faith, is in the Pearl of Great Price.
In addition to those 4 books of scripture, as I mentioned we believe in continuing revelation. This is one of the most important doctrines of our church, which distinguishes us from many other Christian faiths. Everyone is entitled to receive revelation from God, in our belief. In addition, our prophets and apostles receive revelation for governing the church. The general conference talks by apostles are poured over by members to find personal guidance, though they are not formally canonized as scripture they are the next best thing. We also believe the leadership receives revelation about policies for the church, and locations to build new temples and assign missionaries, for instance. I will write about the church’s temples in another post, but this is one of my big hobbies.
You will see more about my religious beliefs in future posts, but I just wanted to give a brief introduction today.