Between the Book of Mormon Musical and the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, Mormons have been in the news a lot lately. I find this very interesting because, well, I’m a Mormon. With all this publicity, I thought it might be a good idea to post an introductory FAQ page on my church, just in case anyone I know who isn’t LDS is interested in hearing about the church from an actual Mormon. I emphasize the word “introductory” because there are a ton of different issues I could address, and frankly, I don’t want to take the time to write about all of them if only five people are going to read this post. If you read through this and do have additional questions, say, about the LDS view on the doctrine of Faith vs. Works, or why people in Utah can’t drive for crap, feel free to comment, and we can either hash it out there, or I can put together Mormon FAQ Volume II.
That being said, I want to stress that while I am a fully active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this blog doesn’t officially represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you want a more canonical set of answers to your questions, visit http://www.lds.org/
, or better yet, read the official Articles of Faith
. This is merely my attempt to put a practical voice to some commonly asked questions.
1. Are Mormons Christians?
The short answer is yes. That’s why the church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The reason I think this comes into dispute is because we don’t subscribe to the concept of the Trinity, IE, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the same guy. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father, and the Savior and Redeemer of the World, but that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are separate and distinct beings (See the baptism of Christ
for a Biblical example).
2. Are Mormons a cult?
When someone gets in trouble for calling some group a cult, they usually hide behind some clinical definition that refers to a group of people who are dedicated to a peculiar set of beliefs, or in our case, a group that doesn’t subscribe to their own definition of “historical Christianity.” But let’s be honest, that’s not why people call Mormons a cult. They’re doing it because when most people hear the word cult, they think of deception, human sacrifice, and Ozzy Ozbourne albums. In short, they’re trying to associate a group they dislike with something that will make that group as unappealing as possible. So in that sense, the answer is no: Mormons are not a cult. And frankly, Ozzy’s stuff was a lot better before he left Black Sabbath.
3. Why can’t I go inside the temple?
Because you’re not a Mormon. The key issue here is the difference between the words “sacred” and “secret.” The temple is a sacred place for Mormons, and even we have to be living a high level of devotion to go inside. But whenever you tell someone you can’t go someplace, or tell them what goes on inside, people assume the worst. Think of the “Unnecessary Censorship” bit Jimmy Kimmel used to do. We don’t talk about what goes on in the temple because what goes on is between you and God. But rest assured, no one is sacrificing virgins or juggling squirrels behind the recommend desk.
4. How come you guys have so many wives?
We don’t. Mormons discontinued the practice of polygamy back in the 1890’s, which means people who make jokes about it are hitting material that hasn’t been fresh in nearly 125 years. The people who practice polygamy today are spin-off sects that broke off around that time.
5. What’s with the magic underwear?
A married man wears a wedding band to remind him of the promise he’s made to his wife. Presumably, it helps to keep him out of harm’s way. Faithful Mormons wear the temple garment to remind them of the promise they’ve made with the Lord to be faithful to him. Therefore, presumably it helps to keep us out of harm’s way. It’s kind of His way of saying, “if you remember Me, I’ve got your back.”
6. Why do you all have to be Republicans?
We don’t, unless we want to get elected to public office in Utah. Mormons just tend to gravitate towards a more conservative ideology, because our moral compass tends to gravitate towards a more conservative ideology. But you can be a Democrat and be a Mormon.
7. How come you don’t like the Bible?
Mormons like the Bible just fine. But we also like the Book of Mormon. The central idea here is our understanding of the nature of scripture. The Bible wasn’t gift-wrapped and air mailed from Heaven with an autographed “See y’all in 2012!” dedication on the inside cover*. It’s a collection of inspired manuscripts that were assembled into a single volume around 325AD. Mormons believe the Word of God is the Word of God, whether it comes through the Gospel of Luke, a prophet who lived in the ancient Americas (IE, the Book of Mormon), or through modern day prophets like the ones that spoke to us in our semi-annual General Conference earlier this month. In short, if God has something to say, it’s not up to us to put limitations on when or where He says it.
8. So do you really believe that story about John Smith and the gold plates, then?
Yes, I do. If you described a jet airliner to a European serf in the Middle Ages, would it sound kind of implausible? You can make any story sound ridiculous if you twist it the right way. But if you take the time to understand the big picture, suddenly it doesn’t sound so crazy.
The thing you need to understand here is that God gets the Big Picture (He wouldn’t be God if He didn’t, right?). He knew that years after the time of Christ, there would be all sorts of different churches disputing the meaning of the same book (The Bible). Therefore, he directed his children in the Americas to write down the tenets of the Gospel as well, and they carved them onto golden plates, so they wouldn’t wear out over time. These plates were hidden in upstate New York, and that’s what JOSEPH Smith translated into the Book of Mormon. Now, there’s still all the stuff about angelic visitation, but let’s be honest: if you believe that kind of thing was possible in Biblical times, why wouldn’t it be possible in the 1800’s? And if you don’t believe that kind of thing was possible in Biblical times, then why are you asking?
9. Why do you guys keep insisting that you are the only true church?
This one always confuses me. If you think about it logically, shouldn’t everyone believe their church is the only true church? But that’s beside the point. The unstated assumption here is that if Mormons say we’re the only true church, then we must believe that all other churches suck and are only good for a one-way ticket to the Bowels of Hell, and that’s completely ridiculous and untrue. Mormons believe that our church is the modern restoration of the original church Christ established when he lived on Earth. But there are tons of good people doing tons of good things in other churches, and I’m not even referring exclusively to Christian churches, either. I also know a lot of non-religious people who are great people, too. What Mormons are offering is a transition from good to better, not from bad to good. Unless your church tells you drink poison Kool-aid and hop on spaceships. Then maybe your church really does suck.
10. Do you really think you’re all going to become gods?
Mormons believe they are going to become gods in the same way a five-year-old believes that he will grow up to be just like his dad. We believe that all mankind are spiritual children of our Father in Heaven. Thus, when we “grow up,” we will be like our dad, and do the kind of stuff He does. But He will always be our Dad, just like my dad will always be my dad.
* * *
Again, I don’t mean for this to be any kind of official declaration of Mormon beliefs. There are much more authoritative sources out there. Heck, I don’t even mean for this to be an endorsement of Mitt Romney, in spite of his impressive hair. I just know that people hear a lot of crazy things about my church, and I’d rather they get their answers from a real Mormon. Hopefully, if any of you had any questions, this helped. If not, make a comment or something.
*For the record, Mormons don’t believe the world is going to end in 2012. This was a joke.