In recent years young Mormon missionaries have had qualification ages of 19 for worthy young men and 21 for worthy young women. In the fall of 2012 Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, announced in a General Conference of the Church that the qualification ages would be lowered to age 18 for qualified and worthy young men and 19 for qualified and worth young women. This change in age brought in a flood of applications for Mormon missionary service, with 50% being submitted by young women (whereas young women previously composed 14% of missionaries). There has been a ripple effect through colleges with a high percentage of Mormons in their student bodies and through the sports programs of those colleges and universities eager to recruit Mormon athletes. They have had to change their enrollment expectations and athletic policies to adjust.
As usual, the Church of Jesus Christ (often mistakenly called the Mormon Church), in lowering missionary age, has done exactly the opposite of what the world expects. Studies in America have shown what is easily observed—that young people are maturing slower than ever. When people say “30 is the new 20,” they are not just referring to youthful appearance, but youthful behavior, as well. Young people are becoming responsible later in life than ever, and yet the LDS Church has decided to send its young people into the world as missionaries earlier than ever. This is what happens when decisions are made according to the dictates of God, and not the logic of the world.
It is important to realize the responsibilities young people assume in the “mission field.” They are sent to foreign places and must master a new culture and language while essentially cut off from the support of their core family. They take great responsibility in leadership in the congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ. Young men who are on missions even head congregations that lack local lay leadership.
The LDS Church and LDS families are stepping up to make sure their young people are mature enough to handle these challenges at a younger age. Young Men and Young Women’s programs in the Church of Jesus Christ teach life skills and spiritual skills. Spiritual experiences enable young members to anchor themselves on Christ; they are personal miracles that increase testimony and certitude in things which are unseen. Experience with receiving personal revelation through the Holy Ghost, prepares a young person to seek help directly from Heaven, expect to receive it when needed, to recognize when God is speaking, and then to act on inspiration received, and to do so with confidence.
Because so many LDS youth are stepping up and saying yes to the invitation to serve at a younger age, the Church of Jesus Christ is having to increase its ability to send them into the mission field. A high school in Mexico City will be turned into a Missionary Training Center. Existing Missionary Training Centers are shortening training time and expanding facilities. Mormon missions are preparing to receive an influx of new missionaries.
“I’ve never seen anything affect a generation of young people like what President Monson announced the Saturday morning of general conference,” says Elder David F. Evans, executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department and member of the Seventy. “What we’re seeing is just an absolute overwhelming response from this generation to the invitation of the Lord and His prophet to rise up and go and serve your fellow man and preach the gospel.”
Now that some months have passed since the announcement lowering the age when young people can serve, the increased interest has not waned. The new age qualification, although demanding an increase in maturity at a younger age, is actually very beneficial for youth as they plan for schooling and careers. Young men used to leave at the age of 19. Most were 18 and some months when they graduated from high school. This created a several month “dead space,” into which some were able to fit one semester of college, or even a year in college with participation on a sports team which then had to give them a leave of absence. Now, young men can associate high school graduation with departure for missionary service, without a loss of momentum.
Young women used to serve at age 21. Many were near college graduation and were forced to decide whether to interrupt college and go, or postpone missionary service until after graduation. Some were already married at 21 and therefore unable to serve. The new age of 19 means young women can go into the mission field soon after high school. More are single and enthusiastic about church service.
Studies in the United States have shown Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”) give more and volunteer more than any other group of people. Here are the many ways that Mormons help the poor and seek to do God’s work.
Mormons pay tithing, ten percent of their income, to the LDS Church. The payment of tithing is confidential. There is no collection plate passed around during meetings. It is also optional, but all temple-worthy Mormons are full tithe-payers. Sometimes, people being taught the Mormon missionary lessons or new converts think they can’t afford to pay tithing. We invite those to experiment upon God’s word when He says,
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10).
Every Latter-day Saint who pays tithing can testify of the miracles that come in times of financial trouble. Anyone who pays tithing ends up more prosperous, even having given away ten percent. Those who live this law know that everything belongs to the Lord, and He only requests ten percent back with which to run His church; then He blesses us for our obedience. We always remain in His debt. The payment of tithing also brings spiritual gifts and spiritual maturity.
Tithing funds are used in many ways. Press releases that focus only on the amount of money coming in to church coffers, are not telling the whole story. The beautiful Washington, D.C. temple and visitors’ center were paid for and are maintained by tithing funds. The LDS Church has 140 temples in operation (Fall, 2012) and more under construction. Although these Houses of God are built of the finest materials, no debt is incurred in their construction.
The Church of Jesus Christ is growing so fast that it constructs about 1 meetinghouse each week. These and other facilities are built with tithing moneys. The Church also has a vast educational network. Three university campuses (BYU Hawaii, Idaho, and Utah) and a business college charge very low tuition because of tithing funds. High school students may study the scriptures in seminary classes, while college students may study the scriptures and other religious subjects in institute classes, often housed in specific buildings near campus.
The LDS Church organization is the same everywhere, and Latter-day Saints participate in congregations established locationally. All manuals and organization materials are standardized. You can attend a Sunday School Gospel Doctrine class in New York City one Sunday for lesson 6, and participate in lesson 7 the following Sunday in Paris. All these manuals and materials are translated into many languages and paid for with tithing funds. Family history resources and libraries are also supported through the tithing of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Although Mormon missionaries support themselves on their missions, the LDS Church supports the missions themselves and pays for training and transportation, as well as materials for the missionary program. In the fall of 2012, there were about 58,000 Mormon missionaries serving, but in the October General Conference of the Church, the announcement was made lowering the qualifying age. Since then applications to serve have poured in.
More Mormon Giving
Ten percent may sound like a lot, but Mormon giving does not stop there. The first Sunday of each month is “Fast Sunday.” On this day Mormons fast for two meals (24 hours) if they are physically able and donate the value of those meals to help the poor and needy. Fast offerings support perhaps the most miraculous and remarkable welfare system in the world. The LDS Church owns ranches, dairies, orchards, farms, and canneries. Food produced at these sites go to stock “Bishops’ Storehouses” where they are made available to the poor. Since the system is based on self-reliance, employment counseling and skills development are part of the mix, and any help is expected to be temporary. These same supplies are stocked and set on pallets, ready to be transported at a moment’s notice to the locations of disasters all over the world.
At the heart of the welfare system is a recently opened facility in Salt Lake City, the Bishop’s Central Storehouse. It warehouses mountains of food and supplies, which are distributed to central storehouses in five other regions of the United States and Canada. From those five regional storehouses, food and goods are again distributed to more than 200 smaller bishops’ storehouses, to be used for the Church’s welfare system. The Bishop’s Central Storehouse also keeps emergency equipment and supplies that can be instantly dispatched whenever a catastrophic disaster occurs.
The size of the Bishop’s Central Storehouse gives a sense of scale to Mormon welfare and humanitarian efforts. Situated on 35 acres, the building’s current footprint is 570,391 square feet, with plans to add 100,000 more. The total planned capacity of the building is 65,000 pallets, and it stocks hundreds of foods—from corn, beans, and cereals to cheese, ice cream, and peanut butter—as well as toiletries, tools, and electric generators. It has its own trucking company, complete with nearly 50 tractors and 100 trailers, as well as a one-year supply of fuel, parts, and tires for the vehicles. The facility has even been built to withstand a 7.5-magnitude earthquake. (See “A Welfare System that Works“.)
Mormons don’t just give Fast Offerings to the welfare program. They also donate their time and resources. They harvest and can fruit and other products, assemble hygiene and baby kits, make hand-sewn quilts, baby booties and snow hats, make stuffed animals for children and assemble school kits from materials they purchase themselves. Humanitarian aid projects are sponsored all the time in local congregations and during larger events.
LDS Philanthopies is the name of the massive Humanitarian Aid arm of the LDS Church. Members and others may donate directly to this fund, as well as participating in the types of projects listed above. The LDS Church has ongoing aid projects at all times, but also quickly becomes involved when disaster strikes. Mormons are often the first to arrive and the last to leave the scene of a disaster. “Mormon Helping Hands” are groups of local Mormons who show up to help. In Africa over 100,000 such Mormons participate in local clean up – fix up projects at a time. These are local Latter-day Saints in African congregations. Because of so much volunteer help, 100% of monetary donations goes for relief.
Mormons may also donate to other individual funds. One example is the Perpetual Education Fund, which loans money to returned Mormon missionaries in poorer countries, so they can participate in higher education. Once they begin earning a living, they pay back the fund. This fund is modeled after the Perpetual Immigration Fund established by Brigham Young to help Mormon Pioneers immigrate to Utah.
No wonder Mormons are called the most giving people on earth. All of this is done to follow the example of Christ and to honor His statement that inasmuch as ye do it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me, or when ye are in the service of your fellow men, ye are only in service to Me.
Many people are unfamiliar with what actually takes place during a worship service in a chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Research also shows that there are many people who feel that they are not welcomed inside an LDS chapel to worship with Latter-day Saints to be able to observe for themselves that Mormon worship is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is often the basis for misunderstandings among communities where Latter-day Saints live and leads many to believe that the close-knit ties of the Latter-day Saint community is both clannish and secretive. Part of this misconception may be caused by the differences between worship services in LDS chapels and temple worship. All are invited to attend services in LDS chapels, but only those members of The Church of Jesus Christ who are deemed worthy and hold a valid temple recommend are permitted to enter the sacred temple – the House of the Lord.
The infographic below is an excellent comparison of worship in an LDS chapel and temple worship.
You are invited to worship with a local LDS congregation
It is common for people to feel suspicious of Mormon temples (temples belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) because they know so little about them. Because Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) do not openly talk about things that happen in Mormon temples which are sacred to them, those who have not been able to experience a Mormon temple for themselves think there must be shameful things going on inside if people won’t talk about it.
The truth is that the things which happen in Mormon temples are sacred. So sacred that God does not want them to be mocked. However, it is not even mockery which has caused God to set the standard so high for those who wish to enter Mormon temples; rather, it is to protect the individuals themselves who are unprepared to be held to a higher law.
Mormon temple rites, or ordinances, are sacred in nature. Individuals who participate in Mormon temple ordinances covenant with God to keep commandments which are even stricter in nature than the Ten Commandments. If a person covenants to live this higher law and then breaks that covenant, the eternal consequences are quite severe. In contrast, the blessings for keeping those covenants and living a higher law are also eternal in nature and are as great in nature as the punishments are severe.
I have been blessed to go through a Mormon temple and receive these ordinances spoken about above for myself. I have also been greatly blessed to return often to Mormon temples and do perform these ordinances by proxy, or in behalf of, those who died without the opportunity to receive these ordinances for themselves. Mormon doctrine teaches that doing this work in behalf of the dead is a sacred duty. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to do their family history so that they can take the names of their deceased ancestors to Mormon temples and do this work on their behalf. Some people have too many names to take themselves, so they submit these names to the temple and other Latter-day Saints can do the work for them. It is important to understand that when these ordinances are done by proxy, the person for whom the ordinance is being done is not forced to accept anything. Each individual still has the right and option to accept or reject this work. However, Latter-day Saints firmly believe that the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, temple endowment, and temple sealing (to one’s spouse and family) are essential to the individual’s eternal salvation.
God would be very unjust if He required these ordinances to be done, and then damned all those who did not even have an opportunity in their lives to receive these ordinances. This is the way that God has provided for all His children to receive or reject His commandments and blessings.
I can testify from personal experience that there is no work on this earth which brings me closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ, than Mormon temple work. I am not yet a mother, but I think motherhood will be the only thing that will be comparable in my life. When I go to the temple I am reminded of the covenants that I have made and the blessings that are promised to me if I faithfully keep those covenants. I am taught more about my relationship to God and about His plan for me, which reminds me of the eternal perspective I should keep throughout my life. It is easy to get caught up in the mundane things of this world and to be confused about what is really important in our lives. As I go to the temple often, I am reminded of the atoning sacrifice of my Savior and the freedom and peace that brings me. Then I get to share this with other people who have been waiting a very long time to be blessed with the things I have in my life. It is very humbling to be a servant of the Lord in this way. It is very empowering at the same time, because I know that when I am focused on doing the Lord’s work and put my own desires aside, He gives me strength beyond my own. I am grateful for Mormon temples and for my Savior.
Article Written By Doris
Mormon women have the “drive to strive”
I am convinced that women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is often mistakenly referred to as the “Mormon Church”) want to make the world a better place—even if it means doing so by helping one person at a time. As a youngster, I remember going to the store with my mother to buy groceries for a family in need. I watched her prepare meals, take people to the doctor ,and spend hours sympathetically listening to the problems of others. Her service was tireless and constant. She didn’t say much about it and never complained or criticized others. I thought it was what women were supposed to do.
Since that time, I have learned not everyone in the world is as generous or charitable as my mother. But I find that many Latter-day Saint women (“Mormon women”) try to be. We come in all varieties—married, single, widowed, serious, jubilant, retro, trendy, working, stay-at-home moms, quirky, gregarious, or shy. But we share a common sense of purpose and direction. Jesus Christ and His teachings are at the center of our beliefs, providing a pattern that leads to peace and contentment.
This heartfelt love of the Savior leads Mormon women to worship Him by being doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22). I am often impressed with the genuine goodness and purity of so many sisters as they strive to develop the characteristics in our 13th Article of Faith:
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.
Early Mormon women set the standard
Latter-day Saint women today benefit from the example of pioneer women at the time the “Mormon Church” took root. Their sacrifice and devotion established a pattern of strength that Mormon women continue to follow today.
There was nothing easy about being a Mormon in the beginning. Members were often persecuted for believing that the gospel organized by Jesus Christ had been restored. Despite unrelenting hardship, the Mormon women offered willing hands and sympathetic hearts to ease the suffering of the ever-growing group. Driven away by disapproval, they peacefully moved from place to place. The women worked alongside the men to build homes and new communities, only to have them overrun by mobs. Still, they remained steadfast in their beliefs to follow Jesus.
When men were in short supply because of missionary work or military duties dictated by the U.S. government, the women plowed the fields, tended to the crops, ran the finances, and acted as both father and mother as best they could.
Finally, when the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred in 1844, mobsters drove Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois, a thriving city along the Mississippi River that they had built from a desolate swamp. Leaving their homes and most of their belongings, they hurriedly left to go west. But they were not defeated. Sarah De Armon Pea Rich explained:
“To start out…in the winter as it were and in our state of poverty, it would seem like walking into the jaws of death. But we had faith in our Heavenly Father, and we put our trust in Him feeling that we were His chosen people and had embraced His gospel, and instead of sorrow, we felt to rejoice that the day of our deliverance had come” (Daughters of the Kingdom, “Autobiography, 1885–93,” Church History Library, 66).
Once the Mormons arrived in their desert destination, they endured several years of scarcity, but led by strong leaders, mothers and fathers, communities thrived. Mormon women were treated as equals. They were even given the right to vote until Utah became a state and it was unlawful by the standards of the U.S. government.
The Relief Society was organized to do something extraordinary
In 1842, Joseph Smith organized the Mormon women’s group called Relief Society by divine inspiration. He told the sisters that they were to “encourage the brethren to good works in looking to the wants of the poor—searching after objects of charity, and in administering to their wants” (Relief Society Meeting Book, Nauvoo, Illinois, March 17, 1842, Church History Library, 7). His wife, Emma, was named as the first president of the group and stated, “We are going to do something extraordinary…We expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls” (Relief Society Meeting Book, Nauvoo, Illinois, March 17, 1842, 12). Today, the organization has more than 5.5 million women in over 170 countries.
The Relief Society motto, “Charity Never Faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8), has always encouraged Mormon women to minister to those within their spheres of influence. In following Christ, Mormon women seek opportunities to provide compassionate service as soon as a need arises. My feelings are especially tender towards those sisters who simply took over the daily work of our household at the unexpected death of our adult daughter. Within minutes of returning home from the hospital, help was there. We were numb, but their tender concern surrounded us, allowing us to make hard decisions without worrying about the daily routine. How blessed we were to have that kind of love.
Such charity is a way of life for Mormon women. In my own ward (congregation), at various times we have made leper bandages, hygiene kits, quilts for victims of disasters such as the Columbine shootings, and burial clothing for infants; we have gathered blankets, food, clothing, and school supplies; and have provided classes for women at a battered women’s shelter. Similar service can be seen in almost every ward throughout the world.
On Sunday, Relief Society holds a one-hour meeting as a part of the Latter-day Saint Sunday services. The meeting provides instruction that helps us as Mormon women understand how to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Education is highly valued in Mormon doctrine. Mormon women are encouraged to attain the highest level of education possible and to prepare for a successful future—whether in the workplace or at home. We focus on provident living and homemaking skills during additional monthly meetings. I’m certain my five children had much better lives because of Mother Education classes I was able to attend. Being with other sisters lightened my load as we compared techniques and discussed daily disasters. We studied parenting practices, laughed a lot, and developed close bonds. Those women are still my best friends.
Perhaps one of greatest benefits of Relief Society is the visiting teaching program. Mormon women are assigned to visit several ladies monthly to give a spiritual lesson and to provide support and friendship. Similarly, men visit families as home teachers. This highly organized system creates loving relationships and fulfills needs, but also creates an instant contact network in case of an emergency. Members can account for the entire congregation within minutes. It has been my pleasure to become close friends with those I have visited, but I have also been the recipient of many acts of kindness, including meals or child care when I was ill, or having a crew of women clean our home when we moved.
Mormon women work with their husbands to raise strong families
While sexual purity is becoming rare in today’s society, Mormons believe in abstinence before marriage and absolute fidelity between spouses. If we are pure, we are able to marry in holy Mormon temples for time and eternity. I was fortunate to have Mormon parents who included God in their relationship with each other and with each child. This environment provided security and confidence—I knew home was the safest place and that I could accomplish anything I wanted to.
Husbands and wives are equal but have different roles. The men are given the Holy Priesthood, which is the authority to act in God’s name, and women are born with the sacred right to bear and nurture children.
President Spencer Kimball explained: “Men and women are complementary…And in his wisdom and mercy, our Father made men and women dependent on each other for the full flowering of their potential. Because their natures are somewhat different, they can complement each other; because they are in many ways alike, they can understand each other. Let neither envy the other for their differences; let both discern what is superficial and what is beautifully basic in those differences, and act accordingly. And may the brotherhood of the priesthood and the sisterhood of the Relief Society be a blessing in the lives of all the members of this great Church, as we help each other” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 315).
Jan Mayer is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). A “Mormon woman,” Jan is a graduate of BYU and mother of five children. She has written for numerous publications, including The Denver Post, The Villager, and NorthStar.
by Keith Lionel Brown
Many Christian faiths believe and teach that the three Divine personages that comprise the Godhead—God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—are one and the same. Expressed in theological ideology, they are three co-equal persons of one nature, otherwise known as the “Blessed Trinity” or “Triune God.” Christians who teach and practice this doctrine are known as Trinitarians. In common with Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also believe in a Godhead which consists of God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. However, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is frequently misnamed the “Mormon Church”) also believe and testify that these are three separate, distinct beings, and that they are one, but one in purpose. Members of the Church further testify that God the Father is not just a spirit, but is a glorified person with a tangible body of bone and flesh, as is His resurrected Son, Jesus Christ; however, the Holy Spirit, which may dwell within a person, predicated on that person’s faithfulness and obedience, does not have a tangible body of bone and flesh.
The belief and teaching that the members of the Godhead are separate, distinct beings is in direct harmony with the words of the Savior Himself in His Great Intercessory Prayer when He said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). This is further evidenced in the account of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist where the record states, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16–17).
Further clarification of the members of the Godhead’s individual physical characteristics can be found in modern-day scripture as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 130:22, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” The fact that the Son does indeed have a tangible body of bone and flesh was further witnessed by His disciples when He appeared to them after His resurrection in the upper room. The record states in John 20:19–21:
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
Thomas, who was also one of the twelve, was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared unto them. So when the other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, Thomas refused to believe them and replied, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Eight days later, Christ appeared to His disciples again in the upper room, and this time Thomas was with them. Then Jesus said to Thomas, “reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). After physically touching the resurrected Lord and feeling of the nail prints in His hands and the wounds in His side, Thomas proclaims, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Some Christians will argue that Latter-day Saints are not Christian because they believe in a Godhead that consists of three separate, distinct beings. These Christians read verses in the Bible such as John 10:30, “I and my Father are one,” to defend their stance that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are one and the same personage. However, a careful study of the text will show that Jesus is not saying, “I and the Father are numerically one,” but He uses a term meaning “we are together.” That same term is used again in John 10:38, “the Father is in me, and I in him.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley, the 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offered a declaration of belief wherein he reaffirmed the teachings of the LDS Church regarding the distinct individuality and perfect unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In His First Presidency message which appeared in the July 2006 edition of the Liahona Magazine titled “In These Three I Believe,” he affirmed:
And so I believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
I was baptized in the name of these three. I was married in the name of these three. I have no question concerning Their reality and Their individuality. That individuality was made apparent when Jesus was baptized by John in Jordan. There in the water stood the Son of God. His Father’s voice was heard declaring His divine sonship, and the Holy Ghost was manifest in the form of a dove (see Matt. 3:16–17).
I am aware that Jesus said they who had seen Him had seen the Father. Could not the same be said by many a son who resembles his parent?
When Jesus prayed to the Father, certainly He was not praying to Himself!
They are distinct beings, but They are one in purpose and effort. They are united as one in bringing to pass the grand, divine plan for the salvation and exaltation of the children of God.
In His great, moving prayer in the garden before His betrayal, Christ pleaded with His Father concerning the Apostles, whom He loved, saying:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:20–21).
President Hinckley concluded his message by stating that, “It is that perfect unity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that binds these three into the oneness of the divine Godhead.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a modern-day Apostle of the Lord, in his October 2007 General Conference address titled “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” perhaps summarized this subject best when he said:
Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true.
Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].”
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and serves as the Ward Mission Leader in the Annapolis, Maryland Ward.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known by many people as the Mormon Church) believes that families can be together forever and that marriage between a man and a woman is essential in the Lord’s Plan of Salvation. The General Authorities of the LDS Church, by inspiration, have set a standard statement regarding the beliefs of the “Mormon Church” about marriage and the family: “We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”; this proclamation was read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah).
Marriage is the one of the first commandments God gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God declared that in their marriage, they should “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). As mentioned earlier, the characteristics of different genders are essential to a successful marriage and family. That is why marriage is reserved only for a man and a woman. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that each of us lived with God before we were born to this earth. One of the purposes of marriage and families is to help God in bringing His spirit children into mortality so that they can further progress and develop faith in God and keep His commandments.
In the world today, there are various types of weddings. Many people might have asked about the LDS Church’s standard wedding, how it is done, and it traditionally takes place.
Most Mormon weddings are performed in Mormon temples. A temple is literally the house of the Lord on earth. It is a holy place of worship where the Lord may visit or where His Spirit can be strongly felt. The Mormon temple is the most sacred structure of the LDS Church. Its beauty and holiness is like a piece of heaven, and it signifies the kind of life that all the faithful might experience in the presence of God.
Weddings performed in the temple are done in a simple, dignified manner. Both men and women who wish to marry in the temple must thoroughly prepare for the blessings the Lord provides for worthy individuals in the temple. If a man and a woman are both found worthy to enter the temple, they may choose to be married there.
Wedding clothing in Mormon temples is a simple and modest. A woman may wear a wedding gown with a jacket, because the fabric must cover the arms, chest, and back. If a wedding dress has short sleeves, a jacket must be worn in the temple. During the wedding ceremony, the families of the pair, as well as immediate friends who are worthy to enter the holy temple are invited to witness the marriage. A representative of the Lord, called a sealer, performs the marriage in a room specially designed for the temple marriage. This is called the sealing room. There is an altar at which the couple kneels across from each other and makes sacred vows, or covenants, to God and to each other. The difference between a temple marriage and a civil ceremony is that a temple marriage is sealed for time and eternity, whereas a civil marriage ends with the death of one of the spouses.
After the ceremony, guests are welcome to join the couple in taking pictures on the beautiful temple grounds. Wedding receptions after the temple marriage may be held by the couple and their family to celebrate with those who could not attend the temple ceremony and as an extension of celebration for the newly wedded couple.
The Lord has set very specific standards for those who wish to qualify for temple marriage and blessings. However, the LDS Church strongly opposes the practice of same-sex marriage and homosexual relationships because such practices are in contrast to the commandments of God. Likewise, the Lord now forbids members of His Church to practice polygamy. Those members who violate this commandment are subject to the Church’s disciplinary action, which is excommunication for polygamy.
The Lord has declared, “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). God knows the beginning of things as well as the end, and He can help us avoid confusion that will bring much sorrow and disappointment later in life. God wants His children to obey His commandments exactly so that they will experience a long-lasting and complete happiness as they strive to live righteously here on earth, as well as in the life to come.
Have you ever wondered how the gospel (or the word of God) is brought unto each nation, kindred, and tongue? How does this divine work happen? And who are the instruments by which it continues?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly referred to as the Mormon Church) is known to be a church of preaching. One mission of the Church is to preach the gospel to everyone. That is why there is a need for the service of those that are called of God to be missionaries.
Since its earliest days, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a proselyting church, sending out missionaries to all parts of the world. Missionary work is constantly talked about in Mormon congregations, and Latter-day Saints are encouraged to share the gospel with their friends and neighbors.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has perhaps the most-active missionary program of any world church. As of December 31, 2004, there were in excess of 51,000 full-time missionaries serving around the world at any given time without pay. In fact, most of them fund their own missions.
Who are Mormon missionaries?
In the Mormon religion, worthy and able members are encouraged to serve as Mormon missionaries at different junctions in their lives. The most common groups of people who serve as Mormon missionaries are:
• 19–25 year-old single young men (with most serving soon after high school graduation)
• 21–30 year-old single young women
• Senior couples who have retired
What missionaries do
Most of the Church’s missionaries are around twenty years old, though many members also volunteer to serve after they’ve retired. All prospective missionaries turn in applications to Church headquarters and they receive a call to a specific mission around the world. They spend a few weeks in a training center, where some of them learn a new language and all of them rigorously study and practice teaching the gospel. Then they set off to their assigned locations and begin their service. Missionaries’ lives are completely dedicated to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. They pay their own way and put off school, dating, and work for two years in order to focus entirely on doing the Lord’s work.
A common morning for a missionary might consist of waking up at 6:30 a.m., studying the scriptures, and meeting new people to share the gospel with. The afternoon might include discussing gospel lessons with people they meet and volunteering for service in the community. A good night has them teaching the gospel to interested individuals and helping them learn and keep God’s commandments or attending a baptismal service for someone who’s decided to join the Church. They return home around 9:30 p.m. and fall into bed, usually exhausted and happy.
1. LDS Missionaries Teach the Truth
One of the most important things Mormon missionaries do is to teach others about the gospel of Jesus Christ. They work to spread the “good news” to all those who will hear. The “good news” is that Christ’s gospel has been restored to the earth. This restoration includes the return of the priesthood—God’s authority to act in His name—and modern revelation which comes through living prophets.
Missionaries teach about the importance of the family and how it is possible for us to live together with our families for all eternity. They also teach basic Latter-day Saint beliefs, including God’s plan of salvation and the principles of the gospel .
2. LDS Missionaries Obey Rules
For their safety, and to prevent possible problems, missionaries have a strict set of rules they must obey. One of the biggest rules is that they always work in pairs, called companionships. Men, called elders, work two-by-two, as do women, called sisters: two elders or two sisters per companionship. Older married couples work together, but are not under all the same rules as the younger missionaries.
Additional rules include dress code, travel, viewing media, and other forms of conduct. Each mission’s rules may be slightly different as the mission president adjusts rules to fit the mission.
3. LDS Missionaries Proselytize
With tens of thousands of missionaries throughout the world, you have most likely seen a pair of them at some point in your life; they may even have knocked on your door. That’s because part of the life of an LDS missionary is to seek out those who are ready and willing to hear their important message. Missionaries proselytize by knocking on doors; handing out pamphlets, flyers, or pass-along cards; and speaking to just about everyone they meet.
Missionaries find people to teach by working with local members who have friends or family members that want to know more. They sometimes receive referrals from the media (commercials, Internet, radio, etc.), visitor centers, historic sites, and pageants, when people hear or see something about The Church of Jesus Christ and are interested in knowing more.
4. LDS Missionaries Study
A large part of a missionary’s life is to study the gospel, including the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, missionary guide books, and their language (if they are learning a second language). LDS Missionaries study on their own, with their companion, and at meetings with other missionaries.
Learning to more effectively study the scriptures helps missionaries in their efforts to teach the truth to investigators and those they meet.
5. LDS Missionaries Invite Others to Act
A missionary’s purpose is to share the gospel with others and to invite them to follow Jesus Christ. Missionaries will invite investigators to do any of the following:
- Listen to their message
- Read sections of the Book of Mormon
- Attend church
- Obey specific commandments
- Invite others to be taught
- Be baptized.
6. LDS Missionaries Baptize Converts
Investigators who gain a testimony of the truth for themselves and desire to be baptized are prepared for baptism by meeting with the proper priesthood authority. When a person is ready, he or she is baptized by one of the missionaries who taught them or by any other worthy member who holds the priesthood. Investigators make the choice of whom they would like to baptize them.
7. LDS Missionaries Work under a Mission President
Each mission has a mission president who presides over the mission and its missionaries. A mission president and his wife usually serve in this capacity for three years. Missionaries work under the mission president in a specific line of authority as follows:
- Assistant to the President
- Zone Leader
- District Leader
- Senior Companion
- Junior Companion
8. LDS Missionaries Receive Transfers
Very few missionaries are assigned to the same area for the entire duration of their mission. Most missionaries will work in one area for a few (or sometimes several) months until the mission president has them transferred to a new area. Each mission covers a very large geographic area, and the mission president is responsible for placing missionaries where they work.
9. LDS Missionary Daily Schedule
The missionaries follow a certain daily schedule modified to make it flexible for their appointments. The daily missionary schedule includes:
- Get up, pray, exercise (30 minutes), and prepare for the day.
- Eat breakfast.
- Have personal study: the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, doctrines of the missionary lessons, other chapters from Preach My Gospel, the Missionary Handbook, and the Missionary Health Guide (books that they are provided for more learning and guidelines for their work).
- Have companionship study: share what you have learned during personal study, prepare to teach, practice teaching, study chapters from Preach My Gospel, confirm plans for the day.
- Begin proselyting. Missionaries learning a language study that language for an additional 30 to 60 minutes, including planning language-learning activities to use during the day.
- Missionaries may take an hour for lunch and additional study, and an hour for dinner at times during the day that fit best with their proselyting. Normally dinner should be finished no later than 6:00 p.m.
- Return to living quarters (unless teaching a lesson; then return by 9:30) and plan the next day’s activities (30 minutes). Write in journal, prepare for bed, pray.
Mormon missionaries sacrifice a lot to do the Lord’s work, and they help in the saving of souls and of bringing them back to Heavenly Father’s presence.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly misnamed the Mormon Church, is centered on Jesus Christ and authority. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church on the earth which has the authority to act in God’s name, because it was organized and is headed by the Savior Himself.
Mormon doctrine teaches that the period of falling away which Jesus and His apostles prophesied of in the New Testament came when the apostles were killed. Latter-day Saints (often nicknamed Mormons) call this period the Great Apostasy. Because the apostles were killed, the authority they had died with them when the priesthood power was lost with them. With their deaths, there was no one definitively in charge in the church anymore, and the result was men coming together to reason things out (take for example the Councils at Nicaea and Constantinople, among others). There was no revelation, because God’s servants had been murdered under the direction of evil men.
With the loss of a clear authority, men came together to council and to decide what it was the church believed, rather than preaching the doctrine revealed from Jesus Christ and His apostles. Over centuries, many doctrines were made quite complicated.
This loss of authority resulted in the creation of several churches over two thousand years, each claiming to be the only one with the truth. It was clear that no church could be purged and cleansed to be the true church again; a restoration was needed, but this restoration had to be authorized.
In 1820, a young farm boy named Joseph Smith prayed to know which church among all the sects was true so he knew which to join. He received a remarkable vision of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They revealed to him that no church had the fulness of the truth, nor the authority to act in God’s name. Over the next ten years, Joseph was trained and taught by heavenly messengers to be the one through whom the full restoration would take place.
About a year before the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by those who last held the keys of the priesthood on the earth: John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John. John the Baptist conferred the keys of the Aaronic (or lesser) Priesthood on them, and later, Peter, James, and John conferred the keys of the Melchizedek (or higher) Priesthood on them.
The Aaronic Priesthood is the priesthood that was conferred upon Aaron, brother of Moses, when he and the Levites were called to serve in the Tabernacle. Mormon doctrine teaches that the Israelites were called to live a higher law after leaving Egypt, but they were not ready, so God took mercy upon them and gave them a lesser, or preparatory, law. This was the Mosaic Law. Every commandment in it pointed towards the coming of the Messiah, and when Jesus Christ came and fulfilled the Law of Moses, the higher law was restored.
The Melchizedek Priesthood contains all the keys of the power of God. It was named after the patriarch Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes. First called the Holy Priesthood, after the order of the Son of God, it was later called after Melchizedek to avoid the too frequent repetition of the Lord’s name.
These two priesthoods had to be restored to the earth in order for the church to have the authority to act in God’s name and to administer the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the first of which is baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.
The Aaronic Priesthood is for outward ordinances and the ministering of angels. It holds the keys of blessing and passing the Sacrament (or the Eucharist), collecting fast offerings from ward (congregation) members, and baptism, among others. Offices in the Aaronic Priesthood include deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop. Young men of age 12 who are found worthy by their bishop are ordained to the office of a deacon. Worthiness includes living the commandments and being chaste and honest. Young men ages 14 to 16 typically hold the office of teacher, while young men ages 16 to 18 hold the office of priest. These offices do not necessarily directly correlate with age. An older man may hold an office in the Aaronic Priesthood, particularly if he was baptized later in life, but for worthy young men, they typically advance at the above ages.
Only one ward member at a time acts as bishop of a ward, but if a man is ordained to be a bishop, he will hold that office as long as he is worthy of his priesthood. A bishop leads his ward in many temporal matters, which is why the office of bishop is of the Aaronic Priesthood, even though a bishop must hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.
The Melchizedek Priesthood is for spiritual ordinances, which is everything beyond baptism and the Sacrament. Offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood include Elder, Seventy, High Priest, Patriarch, Apostle, and President. Men in these offices are responsible for the running of the church and performing all ordinances for its members, but always under direction of the president of the church. There is a clear hierarchy and line of authority for priesthood power.
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “The priesthood is greater than the office, and all offices in the priesthood, we are taught, are appendages to the priesthood [see Doctrine and Covenants 107:5]. . . The priesthood with its keys existed before the Church organization, but not the offices in the Church, which belong to the Church and are held by the consent of the same” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:96, 99).
One of the most wonderful things about the priesthood is that its power can only be used to bless others. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is sometimes criticized for not allowing women to hold the priesthood power. While the rest of the world is changing and “progressing,” the Latter-day Saints are accused of being sexist. This is simply untrue. Ask any woman in the Mormon Church her feelings about the priesthood, and you will find an overwhelming response that they are grateful for the priesthood power in their lives, but they have no desire to have more power in the church. If a man tries to exercise his priesthood power in anything other than the spirit of God, and he loses that power.
In addition, no blessing can be performed on oneself; thus, all blessings benefit others. The priesthood is not only the manner by which Jesus Christ governs His church and manifests His will, it is also an order based entirely on service, as was the Savior’s ministry. The priesthood is used to give blessings to the sick, to give blessing of comfort and guidance, to ordain men and women to callings to serve in the church, and many more things. It blesses Latter-day Saints’ lives every day.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called Mormons by those of other faiths) do not openly discuss what goes on inside Mormon temples. This is because the ordinances, or religious rites, which are performed in Mormon temples are considered sacred. If they were discussed openly, they would be open to the world, which would not understand them, and would be subject to mockery. The things of God should not be mocked; thus, these sacred things are discussed only in the temple, by those who are found worthy to participate in them.
In order to enter a Mormon temple, a person must hold a temple recommend. Anyone who holds a temple recommend must be a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church) and must be living high moral standards. Mormon doctrine teaches that any Mormon temple is set apart as the house of the Lord; thus, all who enter therein must be worthy to enter His presence.
Before a Mormon temple is dedicated, a period of a few weeks is set aside for members of the community to go through the temple and to see what it is like. Tours take visitors through all the major rooms of the temple, where visitors can see that there is nothing secret about anything going on. Volunteers and Mormon missionaries are present to answer questions visitors may have as well. However, once a temple is dedicated, only those who hold recommends may enter.
If you were to attend a temple open house, here are some of the rooms you would see:
Each Mormon temple has a baptistry. This is where worthy members of the Mormon Church, age 12 and above, may come to do baptisms for the dead. The Mormon doctrine of baptism for the dead stems from New Testament doctrine that has been lost over time. Mormons believe that all those who have ever lived upon the earth must have the opportunity to hear of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are billions of people who have died without this opportunity. Mormons do family history work to find their personal ancestors who have not had ordinances performed for them. They may then take these names to the temple to have these ordinances done by proxy. This means that a living person will stand in place of the deceased person and perform the ordinance (whether of baptism, confirmation, endowment, sealing, etc.) in their stead. Mormon doctrine teaches that those for whom this work is being done then have the choice in the Spirit World to accept or reject this work. Thus, no one is forced to become a member of the Mormon Church. However, without the work being done by proxy, they would have no opportunity at all, because all ordinances must be performed on this earth.
Each temple baptistry has a font which rests on the back of twelve oxen. These twelve oxen represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Mormons believe that when a person is baptized, he or she is adopted into one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and, through obedience, qualify for the many blessings promised to Israel.
The temple fonts are always located underground. This adds to the symbolism already inherent in the ordinance of baptism by immersion of death, burial, and resurrection, as well as a cleansing. Once a person has been baptized, the next ordinance, which goes hand in hand with baptism, is confirmation (or the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost).
The ordinance room is where a person receives his or her endowment. The first time a person goes through the temple, he or she receives the ordinance of the endowment for him- or herself. Each successive time, the ordinance is performed by proxy for a deceased person, just as baptism for the dead is.
In the endowment ordinance, participants learn more about their true relationship to God. They are taught about the creation and the Plan of Salvation, which is God’s plan for His children to return to Him and to progress eternally. In the endowment ordinance, a series of covenants is made, where the person vows to live a strict and high moral law. With the series of covenants comes a series of blessings, which are conditional upon the faithfulness of the person who made the covenants.
After completing the endowment ordinance, participants end in the celestial room. Mormons believe this like unto entering into the presence of God. While no ordinances are performed in the celestial room, it is the most beautiful room in the temple. It is a place where people can pray, ponder, read their scriptures, and visit quietly and reverently.
When a man and a woman who are both temple worthy choose to get married, they may do so in the temple. A temple marriage is called a sealing. A sealing can only take place in the temple, and may only be performed by a man who has been given the authority to bind families for eternity. This is a wonderful gift. In a sealing, a man and a woman may be married for eternity, rather than just for the time they will spend together on this earth. In addition, if they are faithful, any children born to them after their sealing will also be bound to them for eternity. If a couple chooses to go to the temple after they have been married civilly, they may have their children sealed to them as well.
Each sealing room has an altar, where those being sealed together kneel. There are two mirrors hanging parallel to each other, casting infinite reflections. This is symbolic of the nature of the relationship: it is eternally binding, having no beginning or end.
All temples are sacred places and have the spirit of the Lord dwelling in them at all times. They are place of happiness, peace, and joy. The things which happen in temples are kept sacred because the responsibility of living with the knowledge of those things is so great. The things a person learns in the temple come under the condition that, that person will use the knowledge to better their own lives, as well as the world around them. There is nothing selfish or evil about Mormon temples. They are places where the purest kind of service is done and where people exercise selflessness to make the world around them a better place.