Mormon Beliefs

August 16, 2011  
Filed under Mormon Beliefs

In 1842, Chicago Democrat editor, John Wentworth, wrote a letter to Joseph Smith, who had organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, through authority from and under the direction of Jesus Christ, on April 6, 1830. Wentworth asked Joseph Smith what the new church, already referred to then as the Mormon Church, as it still often is today, believed. Joseph Smith responded with a concise list of basic Mormon doctrine. These thirteen beliefs have come to be called the Articles of Faith, and were later canonized as scripture. These articles are listed below, along with a brief explanation of how each doctrine differs from other Christian interpretations of similar principles.

1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

mormon-beliefs-godheadMormon doctrine differs greatly from the rest of the Christian world’s understanding of the Trinity. Mormons call this organization the Godhead and believe that three different and distinct beings comprise it: God, the Father; Jesus Christ, God’s son; and the Holy Ghost (also called the Holy Spirit). Mormons believe that God and Jesus Christ each have bodies of flesh and bone, but their bodies are immortal. The Holy Ghost is just that; a spirit. He does not have a body, because this allows him to speak to our hearts and our souls, to cleanse us, and (when we are worthy) to dwell with us.

2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

Mormons believe that Adam and Eve transgressed the law of God when they partook of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. For this transgression, they were cast out of the presence of God (spiritual death) and were made mortal (physical death). Both of these effects extend to all of humanity; we will each suffer physical death, and we suffer spiritual death because we as mortals, we sin and are thus unworthy to enter the presence of God again. However, both of these consequences are resolved through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He suffered for our sins so that we might repent and be cleansed. He also conquered death that we may be resurrected and have our spirits eternally reunited with our bodies. Thus, we will be judged for our own choices and actions and will suffer no eternal consequences for Adam and Eve’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.

Because Jesus Christ was a perfect being, with a mortal mother but an immortal father, he had power over death. Jesus Christ was the only being capable of taking upon himself the consequences of someone else’s sin and paying the price of that sin on his or her behalf. He was able to do this not only because he was sinless, but also because he had power over death and could not be killed unless it was willingly. His body was able to take upon itself the consequences of all the sorrows, sufferings, and sins of this world. No other being could have borne what he bore.

Jesus Christ took upon himself the price of mortality while in the Garden of Gethsemane. While the apostles slept, he suffered and struggled. Then he was taken prisoner and crucified. He took upon himself all the consequences of both spiritual and physical death, and he overcame them all. Because he gained power over both deaths, he has won the right to set the stipulations by which we gain access to the power of his Atonement. He has laid forth the law of heaven, that if we keep the commandments of God, Jesus Christ will apply the cleansing and healing power of the Atonement in our lives and we will benefit from these blessings. However, we only qualify if we keep the commandments.

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.

The first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ is faith that Jesus Christ is actually the Son of God. Once we obtain that faith, we must exercise that faith to repent of our sins in the manner that he has shown us. When we repent of our sins by making amends the best we can and striving to never commit that sin again, we can be cleansed by the power of the Atonement through the power of two ordinances. The first ordinance of the gospel is that of baptism by immersion. Jesus Christ was baptized by immersion in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. This ordinance symbolizes a cleansing of our spirit. It also symbolized the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Once a person has been baptized, he or she is given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands of those who hold the power of the priesthood. This is the baptism by fire spoken of in the New Testament.

Once a person has been given the gift of the Holy Ghost, he or she can call upon the Spirit for guidance as long as the individual remains worthy by doing his or her best to keep the commandments of God. The Holy Ghost can cleanse our spirit of sins and iniquities when we truly repent and seek forgiveness.

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.

The priesthood is the power and authority to act in God’s name. This power was given to the first apostles by Jesus Christ. However, this power was lost from the earth when the apostles were killed and the early church fell into darkness and lost many truths. This power was restored to the earth in 1830 by those who held it last: Peter, James, John, and John the Baptist. The priesthood was given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and God has promised this power will not be lost again from the earth before Jesus Christ comes again.

The priesthood makes it possible for God to reveal His will to men on the earth today. All the ordinances of the gospel are performed by those who worthily hold the priesthood. Only a man called of God can receive this power, and only those who maintain righteous living may continue to exercise this power.

6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

Mormons believe that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was lost from the earth after the death of the apostles. However, since it was Jesus Christ who restored His church in our day (1830), the structure is the same. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the same structure as the Primitive Church did when Jesus Christ organized it after His resurrection.

7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

One of the many things the Primitive Church lost with the loss of the priesthood authority was the gifts of the spirit. These were both widespread and desired in the early church, and when they were lost, people missed these gifts greatly. Because the priesthood power has been restored, so too have the gifts of the spirit. The LDS Church has the priesthood, and this means that the gift of tongues, the gift of healing, the gift of revelation—all of these and more have also been restored to the earth. These gifts are available to all faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

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.

Mormons are often criticized for rejecting the Bible and putting their own Bible in its place. This is not true. Mormons accept the Bible as the word of God, but they recognize that many plain and precious truths have been lost from its pages. Some of these truths were lost in translation, some through the transmission of text over time, and some by evil designs of men who had no authority but changed the doctrine to suit themselves. Mormon doctrine teaches that continuing revelation is an essential element of the gospel of Jesus Christs. God continues to speak to His children on the earth today through a prophet. The first latter-day prophet was Joseph Smith, and he was guided to an ancient record of the inhabitants of the American continent and God’s dealings with them. This record, translated by Joseph Smith through the power of God, was published as the Book of Mormon, and it is a second witness that Jesus is the Christ. It is meant to be a companion book of scripture to the Bible, not a replacement for it.

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.

In addition to the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Mormons believe that God continues to speak to His children on the earth today through modern and continuing revelation. This is not because God changes, but because man changes and needs guidance in his own day. Other scriptures of the Mormon faith include the Doctrine and Covenants (modern revelations given to prophets and church leaders), the Pearl of Great Price (modern revelation about ancient scripture as well as a translation of an ancient text of the Book of Abraham), and the words of our modern prophet. The Mormon canon remains open because God has not ceased to speak to us.

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.

Mormons are very literal in their understanding of the scriptures. While they also believe that many scriptures are also figurative, Mormons take things far more literally than most other Christian denominations. Included in this literal interpretation is that the lost ten tribes of Israel will be gathered before Jesus Christ returns to the earth. Latter-day Saints also believe that the New Jerusalem will be built on the American continent, while the old Jerusalem will also be strengthened. Most importantly, Jesus Christ will literally return to the earth in His resurrected body, because He really did rise from the dead and He is the Son of God.

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.

Early Mormon history is full of persecution and intolerance by the world. Joseph Smith was very sensitive to this issue, because Mormons were persecuted heavily for their religious beliefs, despite the freedom supposedly accorded to the in the U.S. Constitution. Joseph Smith never ceased appealing to the law for its protection, but was continually turned down. Tolerance of others’ beliefs has always been the official doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While Mormon doctrine does not believe in many of the practices of the world, the freedom which others have to choose for themselves has always been respected, as long as that same freedom and respect is accorded to the Church and its rights are not trampled on.

12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Mormon doctrine has always promoted law and order. Joseph Smith had a great respect for government and the peace and structure it was intended to give society. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have always been told to follow and respect the laws of whatever country they reside in. The only exception is when the Law of God is violated by the law of the land; the Law of God always takes precedence, but usually both coincide with each other.

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.

In addition to being law-abiding citizens, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to be good citizens and people, active in their communities and seeking for the good and betterment of everyone around them.

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