The Church of Jesus Christ was restored as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830, with only six baptized members (though several others were present at the organizational meeting). By the end of 1830, 280 were members of The Church of Jesus Christ, and by the end of 1832, membership exceeded 2,600. When the Church completed its first decade, membership numbers were at 16,865. In 1873, Mormons numbered 100,000, and 75 years later, in 1947, the Church reached one million members. As of October 2013, Church membership topped 15 million. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Smith’
Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book on the earth. This has been a major topic of conversation for many people who are not Mormon and do not understand what this statement means.
The purpose of scripture is to teach the word of God. Mormons (a nickname sometimes applied to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) use four books of scripture: The Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Each came to the world in different ways. To understand the impact and meaning of Joseph Smith’s statement, we need to look at how both the Bible and the Book of Mormon came to be.
How We Got the Bible
The Bible was written in ancient times by a variety of people. In fact, we don’t always know who actually wrote each section. It was not written as a single book, but was compiled from a large number of manuscripts by committee. There has never been just one canon for the Bible and various groups include different combinations of ancient books in their own canon. These canons were all compiled long after Jesus and the apostles were gone (approximately 200 A.D)—the Bible didn’t exist during the time the Bible events were happening and so no one with authority from Christ selected the books, although Mormons believe God did help to guide those making these choices.
Over the centuries, the original texts of the Bible were copied again and again by scribes, since no printing press existed. As they were copied, mistakes were made, as is natural. But sometimes changes came about intentionally as things were added or dropped to suit political or religious desires. For this reason, scholars today debate many of the books and passages in the Bible as being later additions. We do not have the original copy of even one book of Bible scripture and must rely entirely on copies of copies. Despite these errors, man-made decisions, and complications, Mormons revere the Bible as the word of God. They teach that as it was first written, it was perfect. Any mistakes and changes are the mistakes of mortals.
How We Got the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon came about a little differently. The first writer was a man named Lehi, who was a prophet. His son Nephi then added his own words, including copying over many of his father’s writings. Lehi’s records were lost, but we still have the ones Nephi copied. When Nephi died, the records were passed on to another person. This continued throughout the entire span of time the Book of Mormon was being written. Each new writer received the complete record that had come before.
When the records reached Mormon, for whom the book is named, God commanded him to go through the records and pull out just the most important parts to make a more manageable record. He died before this was completed, so his son Moroni finished the task, recording it on golden plates so they would last longer. Of course, this took a great deal of time and material, so he wrote them in what he referred to as reformed Egyptian, which was apparently more compact, but which was not his native language.
Both books, then, were written by mortals, and mortals are imperfect. In the Book of Mormon, Mormon himself noted:
And if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire (Mormon 8:17).
Is the Book of Mormon Perfect?
In other words, Mormon also agreed that man is imperfect. However, these imperfections in either the Bible or the Book of Mormon do not take away from the sacredness of the scriptures themselves and should not be used to judge the original intent of the books.
A recent in-depth study of the changes made to the Book of Mormon found that there were many changes, but none altered doctrine. They were largely errors in punctuation and spelling. Some were the result of the scribe mis-hearing what Joseph said. He did not do the writing himself. He translated orally and scribes wrote his words. Many of these mistakes were found by Joseph himself and corrected. Some were, however, inserted by printers. The few doctrinal types of errors, when corrected, restored the teachings the church offers today, rather than altering them. Joseph taught the doctrines correctly, even when very small word changes would seem to have altered them.
Saying that it is the most correct book, then, is not saying is it a perfect book. It is not saying there are not man-made errors, inevitable in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. What does it mean, then?
It means that the purpose of the Book has been fulfilled more completely than it has in any other book. Translation problems are minimal, since there is only one translation per language. The initial translation was carried about by a prophet and today’s translations into other languages are carefully monitored to be certain political or manipulative changes are not introduced.
The Book of Mormon was translated by a prophet. While there may be some limitations due to the imperfectness of our language, God guided the translation to make certain no important doctrine was changed in any way. The book was written and abridged by prophets. It outlines many essential saving doctrines more completely and more clearly than the Bible, with verses tending to be longer and sermons more completely recorded.
The purpose of the Book of Mormon was to bring people to Jesus Christ and its perfectness must be measured against its ability to do just that. It is the purpose that matters, not minor spelling or punctuation errors. (The original dictation did not even contain punctuation.) The book contains more references to Christ and his gospel than does even the Bible. It is estimated that this is mentioned on average in every 1.7 verses.
In 1984, Monte Nyman, who was an associate dean of religious education at Brigham Young University addressed this bold statement concerning the correctness of the Book of Mormon. He wrote:
“The most important principle, of course, is acceptance of Jesus Christ as the literal Son of God and the Savior of the world. To this principle, the Book of Mormon bears a second witness in dozens of instances. Its primary objective is to convince Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God. This correct second witness has become more and more valuable as the world has increasingly entertained various alternate opinions of Jesus. The Book of Mormon proclaims him to be more than a great teacher, or a great philosopher, or a great moral and ethical proclaimer. These opinions have replaced Isaiah’s prophetic designation of the Christ as “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6.) In making a substitution, splintered Christianity has assimilated fragments of philosophies and rituals that took the place of original Christian unity and the plan of salvation. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the Book of Mormon corrects the false doctrine and affirms the true….Man’s recognition of these teachings and his step-by-step growth and development are highlighted by the third part of the Prophet’s statement that “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (See Monte Nyman, The Most Correct Book, Ensign, June 1984)
Jesus Christ’s Church Carries His Name
Brian is a BYU student and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes known as the “Mormon Church” by the media). He is currently taking a religion course at Brigham Young. Below is a paper that he wrote after being inspired concerning the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the ushering in of that Gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
What does the name of the Mormon Church, better known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really mean? Well, lets’ take a few minutes, and analyze it. We will come to see after reading a few New Testament passages, especially those contained in Matthew chapter 24, that this name is much more significant than most people think.
To the well-read lector of the New Testament, it is common knowledge that the people who followed Jesus Christ were referred to as saints. In his epistle or writings to the Romans, chapter 15, Paul writes, “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.”
Now the true question is, was there a defined organization of saints? How were they governed? Again, we can turn to the writings of Paul and read that Jesus Christ actually organized a church. “And he gave some, apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints,” (Ephesians 4:11-12). (more…)
The Mormon Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland spoke on March 20, 2012 to students of the Harvard University Law School as part of the school’s annual “Mormonism 101″ series. Elder Holland (Mormon leaders are traditionally addressed by the title, “Elder”) explained about the history and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often called “Mormons.” He then engaged in a question-and-answer session with members of the audience. Elder Holland’s remarks helped shed some light on the Church, which has received a lot of media attention lately due to the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney.
Elder Holland began his remarks by congratulating the students on their openness to discussions of religious belief. ”In the western world religion has historically been the basis of civil society as we have known it, and if I am not mistaken, men and women of the law are committed to the best—that is, the most just—civil society possible,” Elder Holland pointed out. “So thank you for taking religion seriously. You will not only be better attorneys but you will be closer to the truth in your own personal lives.”
Mormonism: The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ
The origins of Mormonism were the first topic addresses by Elder Holland. Mormonism is a restoration of the original gospel established by Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry. Following Christ’s ascension into heaven and the deaths of the original twelve apostles, the primitive Christian Church entered a long period of confusion:
So what ensued was a millennium and a half of destroying Paul’s hope that there would be a “unity of the faith, and [a] knowledge of the Son of God, . . . that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” It is commonplace to note that in the Christian world we now see anything but “a unity of faith” or any real Christian cohesiveness that could remotely be called “the building fitly framed together”that would reaffirm “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
By the time of Joseph Smith, who was a young man during the time of religious contention and revival during the early 1800s in the United States known as the second “Great Awakening,” huge divides of doctrine separated the different Christian sects from one another. According to Elder Holland,
This young boy-prophet lamented that his region was “a scene of great confusion and bad feeling . . . priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that [any] good feelings . . . were entirely lost in a . . . war of words and tumult of opinions.” “A war of words and tumult of opinions.” That says so much about post-New Testament Christianity.
- Every man, woman, and child who has ever lived, now lives, or will yet live so long as the earth shall last is a son or daughter of a loving and divine Heavenly Father.
- In order to gain a mortal body and experience moral growth available in no other way, a real Adam and a real Eve chose to leave a paradisiacal setting—Eden, if you will—to learn all that was necessary for children of God to learn.
- Because mistakes would be made in the course of that mortal education—sometimes horrible mistakes, wrenching mistakes, global mistakes—a Savior was provided in such a plan, one who would atone not only for Adam and Eve’s initial transgression…but also for every individual transgression made by all…the sins and sorrows, the disappointments and despair, the tears and tragedies of every man, woman, and child who would ever live from Adam to the end of the world.
- Such a plan was necessary and such a Savior was required in it because life is eternal. Our hopes and dreams mattered before we came to this earth, and they will most certainly matter after we leave it.
- Lastly, this plan, this divine course outlined for us—including the fortunate Fall in Eden and the redemption of Gethsemane and Calvary—is universally inclusive. All are children of the same God, and all are included in His love and His grace.
We are not fourth-century Christians, we are not Nicene Christians, we are not creedal Christians of the brand that arose hundreds of years after Christ. No, when we speak of “restored Christianity” we speak of the Church as it was in its New Testament purity, not as it became when great councils were called to debate and anguish over what it was they really believed. So if one means Greek-influenced, council-convening, philosophy-flavored Christianity of post-apostolic times, we are not that kind of Christian. Peter we know, and Paul we know, but Constantine and Athanasius, Athens and Alexandria we do not know. (Actually, we know them, we just don’t follow them.)
A few doctrinal differences between Mormon doctrines and post-fourth-century traditions were pointed out:
- God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are separate and distinct beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bone. As such, we stand with the historical position 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].”…However, having affirmed the point of Their separate and distinct physical nature, we declare unequivocally that [God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ] were indeed “one” in every other conceivable way—in mind and deed, in will and wish and hope, in faith and purpose and intent and love. They are most assuredly much more alike than They are different in all the ways I have just said, but They are separate and distinct beings as all fathers and sons are. In this matter we differ from traditional creedal Christianity but agree with the New Testament.
- We also differ with fourth and fifth century Christianity by declaring that the scriptural canon is not closed, that the heavens are open with revelatory experience, and that God meant what He said when He promised Moses, “My works are without end, and . . . my words . . . never cease.” We believe that God loves all His children and that He would never leave them for long without the instrumentality of prophets and apostles, authorized agents of His guidance and direction.
- …we are unique in the modern Christian world regarding one matter which a prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called our “most distinguishing feature.” That is, divine priesthood authority to provide the saving sacraments—the ordinances—of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The holy priesthood, which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently, signals the return of divine authorization. It is different from all other man-made powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Without it there could be a church in name only, and it would be a church lacking in authority to administer in the things of God. This restoration of priesthood authority eases centuries of anguish among those who knew certain ordinances and sacraments were essential but lived with the doubt as to who had the right to administer them. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we can answer the question of “who laid hands on him” all the way back to Christ Himself. The return of such authority is truly “the most distinguishing feature” of our faith.
William Tapscott Gillman was named after the ship upon which he was born, the S.S. William Tapscott. Alice Wickham, William’s mother, was crossing the Atlantic from land to America as a newly baptized Mormon. It was 1860. Over seven hundred new members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the “Mormon Church” by the media) were crowded into tiny berths on the refitted cargo ship. They were travelling to join the body of the Church in Zion, which is what they called the newly settled Utah territory where the rest of the Saints had gone to escape religious persecution. The crossing was long, thirty-five days, and the passengers were plagued by seasickness, measles, and smallpox. Four babies were born onboard, and five weddings were performed. Alice, who was unmarried, arrived in the Salt Lake with her new baby in the fall of that year, after months of travel by ship, steamboat, rail, and wagon. She married James Henry Gillman, who adopted the infant, in December of 1860.
The young couple eventually went to pioneer in the high desert country near Vernal, Utah, a place where the only thing green was the town’s name and the name of the Green River flowing nearby. The land was so remote that it became notorious as a location along the infamous “Outlaw Trail,” where various wild west outlaws could roam and hide freely during the late 1800s. Despite of, or perhaps because of, the heat and the cold, the dryness and the rough company, William Tapscott Gillman grew to be a strong, faithful Mormon man, and a successful farmer. He married Catherine McKowen in 1887 in Vernal, Utah. Together they raised ten healthy children, all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Catherine McKowen’s father, Philip, married her mother in Manchester, England. They, too, joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and travelled over sea and land to Vernal, bringing Philip’s Irish parents, Patrick and Mary Katherine, along. Patrick and Mary McKowen’s parents never saw their children again. Once, a distant relative of mine dreamed about Patrick’s father, watching the cold sea as the ship carrying his family away disappeared into the distance. As faithful Catholics, Patrick’s parents were persecuted in Ireland for their beliefs, and the state was forbidden to record their births, deaths, and marriages. What little information remained about them was burned in a fire. Even their names and birthdates have been lost. But their legacy came to America with their children and grandchildren.
William Tapscott and Catherine McKowen Gillman are the parents of my grandmother, Nora Gillman Moore. My name is Nora, too. I have grown up in physical prosperity and spiritual wealth, the beneficiary of the sacrifices and faithfulness of those who came before me. Although they have passed away, I often feel surrounded by their faith and concern.
On March 18, 2012, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang the following revivalist hymn on its weekly broadcast, “Music and the Spoken Word.” The words and music brought the memory of my ancestors’ sacrifices back to me:
I have some friends before me gone
Who love to sing hosanna,
And I’m resolved to travel on,
For I love to sing hosanna,
For we have but the one more river to cross,
And then we’ll sing hosanna,
For we have but the one more river to cross,
And then we’ll sing hosanna.
Mormon Beliefs About Death: Eternal Spirits, Eternal Families
Mormons believe that death is just one more event along the way of our eternal lives. Every human being possesses an immortal spirit, which lived with God before being born here on earth. When we die, we retain our individuality, our loves, our skills, and our faith. Amulek, an ancient prophet who lived in the Americas prior to the time of Christ, taught that “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” ( Alma 34:34). Amulek’s teachings are recorded in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the religious history of his people.
The Prophet and Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints possesses the ancient “sealing” power given to Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:18. This power, restored to the founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, in a visit from the ancient prophet Elijah to the Mormon temple in Kirtland, Ohio in the 1830s, allows those with proper priesthood authority to bind families together for eternity in ordinances performed in Mormon temples. My grandmother’s parents were sealed in the temple to each other and to their children, as were my grandparents and my parents. I have been sealed in the temple to my husband and children. The sealing power that has made its way through the generations to me gives my ancestors the right and responsibility to watch over me forever. Along with others of my progenitors who sacrificed their wealth, land, and health for the gospel of Jesus Christ, they form an army of faithful men and women, strengthening me. My children, in their turn, are beginning to form an army of my descendants, whom I am responsible watch over and teach, hoping that the gospel of Jesus Christ will make all the difference in their lives, as it has in mine:
One army of the living God,
We love to sing hosanna,
Part of the host have crossed the flood
Who love to sing hosanna.
For we have but the one more river to cross,
And then we’ll sing hosanna,
For we have but the one more river to cross,
And then we’ll sing hosanna.
I sing with a choir every Sunday morning; I have always loved to sing. Singing, for me, is my truest way to worship God, and to testify of Him. Sometimes, when we sing the old Mormon pioneer hymn, “Come, Come Ye Saints,” I think I can hear an Irish or English brogue, singing the words alongside me. I imagine it is Alice Wickham, or one of the Katie McKowens, singing along. I sense that they, along with my Grandma Nora, are aware of me in my joys and trials of life. Someday I, too, will “cross the river,” and meet them in the world of spirits. There we will continue together to fight for God and for right, as we have spent our lives doing here. I look forward to seeing them there.
Amen, amen, my soul replies,
I love to sing hosanna,
I’m bound to meet you in the skies
Where we will sing hosanna.
And then we’ll sing hosanna,
For we have but the one more river to cross,
And then we’ll sing hosanna.
By Keith Lionel Brown
Church services in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church” in the media) are divided into three segments. The first and most important segment is Sacrament meeting, where members meet together to partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper and hear talks given by various members of the congregation. The second segment is Sunday School. During the third segment, members split into various groups and attend separate meetings: Priesthood Meeting for the men, Relief Society for the women, and Young Men/Young Women meetings for the youth. “Primary”activities and classes are provided for children 18 months to 12 years of age during both the second and third segments.
Women are equal participants as teachers and leaders in every one of these church programs except for Priesthood Meeting. Along with the men, they pray and speak in Sacrament Meetings, conduct music, provide piano and organ prelude and accompaniment, and participate in choir and music programs. Similarly, both women and men teach and lead Sunday school classes. Women alone preside over the Primary program, although both men and women teach Primary classes. Women are the teachers and leaders of the Young Women, while men teach and lead the young men. Most importantly, however, the women of the church lead, teach, and comprise the Relief Society – their exclusive domain.
What is the Relief Society?
The Prophet Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormonism, organized the Relief Society on March 17, 1842. A group of women had met together, desiring to assist the poor and suffering in the community, and had come to the prophet so that they might be organized under priesthood authority. Joseph Smith taught that the Relief Society was organized for “the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 452). In addition, he taught that the Relief Society was “not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 453). Thus the Relief Society, which is by now one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the world, was born.
The Work of the Relief Society
In the Handbook of Instructions (Book 2) for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it states that the purpose of the Relief Society today is to prepare women for “the blessings of eternal life by helping them increase their faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need.” These purposes are accomplished in various ways. Mormon women teach and learn the gospel from one another in Sunday Relief Society meetings and other Relief Society meetings and activities. Weekday activities focus on additional ways to strengthen families. Humanitarian projects are regularly organized. And Visiting Teachers make sure that the Relief Society is aware of any special needs in the congregation, and that those needs are met.
Visiting Teaching is a Relief Society program where each woman in the Mormon congregation is watched over and visited regularly by a pair of Relief Society members. Visiting Teachers care for, remember, strengthen, and teach the women to whom they are assigned. The women of Relief Society refer to one another as “sisters,” and try to fulfill that role for one another. Visiting Teachers are aware of any special needs the sisters and families they visit might have from time to time, and call upon the resources of the Relief Society as needed. Each woman in Relief Society has a pair of Visiting Teachers, and most are also Visiting Teachers themselves. In this way, each sister’s physical needs are met, as well as providing the opportunity for friendship, support, and spiritual instruction.
Welfare and compassionate service are central to the work of the Mormon Relief Society. In addition to caring for one another, Mormon women are heavily involved in organizing and producing goods for the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The motto of the Relief Society is ” never faileth.” It comes from the scripture found in 1 Corinthians 13:8, which reads:
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
gThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an effective welfare system in place to provide for the needs of members who are experiencing financial difficulties. Mormons throughout the world also contribute goods and services to the humanitarian efforts of the church, which provide for people throughout the world who are suffering from poverty, illness, or natural disaster. Mormon women, members of the Relief Society, are key in organizing and producing whatever is needed.
Becoming a Member of the Relief Society
All adult women in the Church are members of the Relief Society. Normally a young woman advances into Relief Society sometime during the year following her 18th birthday. By age 19, most young woman are fully participating in Relief Society. The leaders of Young Women and Relief Society work closely together to ensure that a young woman’s transition into Relief Society is successful.
Adult women who serve in other auxiliaries of the Church such as Primary, Young Women, or other callings that prevent them from attending Sunday Relief Society meetings continue to participate in Relief Society. They are assigned Visiting Teachers, and they themselves serve as Visiting Teachers. In addition, they may be given assignments to serve others and to teach classes at other Relief Society meetings, provided that such assignments do not pose any undue burdens on them.
As Sisters in Zion
As Sisters in Zion, Mormon women join hearts and hands to minister not only to members of the Church, but also to non-members whom they have contact with. Membersof the Relief Society serve, following Paul’s admonition:
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees (Hebrews 12:12).
Women of other faiths and denominations who visit and attend Mormon Relief Society are welcomed with open arms and are encouraged to be active participants. Come and join in as Sisters in Zion!
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.
Joseph Smith received very little formal education as a child and young man. He was largely educated by his parents, due to a lack of schools available. In all, he attended formal schooling only about three years. In addition, he was tutored by an angel named Moroni in spiritual things for several years prior to beginning his work. Despite this, by the time of his early death, he had become well-educated in many fields, including Hebrew. (more…)
Catholics have mass to show adoration to the Savior. They teach Jesus offered Mass at the Last Supper and that the bread and wine offered during mass are literally transformed into the Savior’s blood and body.
Mormons have a similar celebration, called the Sacrament. It is offered during a weekly Sacrament Meeting, which is the primary worship service. There are differences between the Catholic and Mormon service, however.
Mormons use bread and water in the Sacrament. Although wine was used when Christ held the first Sacrament, Mormons teach that the bread and water only represent the blood and body of the Savior, rather than being transformed into the actual blood and body, and therefore, it is not important that water is used instead.
Joseph Smith received the following revelation from God:
2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory-remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.
3 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies; (Doctrine and Covenants 27)
Mormons do not drink alcohol. They follow a health code that prohibits it. In addition, water is easily obtained and requires no special purchase. Because Mormons consider the sacrament to be in remembrance of the Savior, they are focused on the meaning, rather than the specific items taken. However, the Sacrament does follow a carefully prescribed format and has one of the few specific prayers used in the church. In most cases, Mormon prayers are personalized by the giver, but the Sacrament prayers must be given exactly.
The Sacrament is prepared by priesthood holders. Boys who are at least sixteen may serve as priests, which is not the same as a priest in the Catholic Church. It is merely one office in the priesthood. The priests tear the bread into small pieces and then bless it (say a prayer.) They give the trays to the deacons, who go out among the congregation, distributing it. Boys ages twelve and thirteen may serve as deacons. The congregation remains seated throughout the Sacrament.
The bread is broken into small pieces by two priests, representing the way Christ’s body was broken on the cross.
The water represents the blood that was shed for us. It is placed in small disposable cups and is prayed over by the second priest.
The prayers are given to us in modern revelation, and outlines both the purpose of the Sacrament and how the church members are to approach it. Note that the prayers were outlined prior to the change from wine to water.
75 It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus;
77 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
79 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (Doctrine and Covenants 20)
Mormons are taught to prepare carefully for the Sacrament. During the week, they evaluate their lives and repent of any sins they may have committed. They try to arrive at the meeting feeling spiritual. As the bread and water are being passed, the room is silent (except for babies and small children) and members are encouraged to read scriptures or think about the Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s a time to reflect on Him and on the wonders of the Atonement in our lives.
Although Mormons and Catholics might approach the Sacrament a bit differently, the purpose is the same: To show love and honor to the Savior.
This is a common misconception about religion. Mormons teach that each person is given agency to choose for himself how to live. Mormon beliefs begin the story of life prior to birth, when God created each of us as a spirit. We lived with Him, learning, developing our character and personality, and practicing making choices, until the time came to come to earth. At that time, we were, as always, given our agency. We could choose to come to earth with Jesus as our Savior. If we made this choice, we would continue to have agency and some would use it unwisely and be unable to return. God would send a Savior to do that part we couldn’t do for ourselves. This Savior, Jesus Christ, would take on the sins of the world and die for them.
The other choice was to follow Lucifer. Lucifer wanted to take away our agency and send us to earth as puppets, with himself as the puppet master. He would control our every thought and action, and we’d live perfect lives, but for no purpose. Some were uncomfortable with the idea of continued agency, and rejected it. They preferred to stay with Satan and allow him to do their thinking for them. Those who followed Lucifer elected to give up their agency and were denied a chance to come to earth. They could not live here without agency.
The Mormon religion allows us to maintain control over our lives. Mormons teach that each person is required to find out for himself if the Mormon religion is true. While a very young child might believe simply because his parents believe, the child is taught, before he is eight years old, to begin deciding for himself. At age eight, he can be baptized, and before this happens, he is to learn his religion and to pray to know if it’s true.
This process is often repeated several times, as the child grows up and gains a stronger ability to recognize the promptings of faith. The pattern was set for us by Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet of modern times. He wanted to know which church to join, and after reading in the Bible that God would tell him, he went into the woods to ask God. Both God and Jesus Christ came to him to answer His question.
Most of us won’t get that type of answer, but we can receive an answer to our prayers, just as Joseph Smith did.
Does joining a church force you to give up your right to think for yourself? Of course not. Because each member of the church is taught to find out for themselves if the church is true, they are making an informed decision. Even after making this overall choice, if they learn something they’re not sure about, they can pray about that specific doctrine as well.
If your mother taught you not to touch a hot stove, and you obey, have you given up your right to think for yourself? No, because you are still free to touch the stove, as long as you’re willing to accept the consequences. You’re simply choosing to do what you know is best for you. Mormons, and other who believe in God, are doing the same.
One example often given is that of the sonnet. The sonnet is a poem with a very strict structure. Within the strict structure, however, a great deal of originality is possible. There are millions of sonnets, all following the rules, but all unique.
Believing in God is comforting. It’s a safe and healthy comfort, unlike the artificial comfort brought about by alcohol, drugs, or other immoralities many people turn to when they are stressed or worried. People who believe in God know there is someone who loves them and knows them, who always has their best interests at heart, and who, while not taking away our personal agency, will help us if we ask for help.
A true religion asks a great deal of its members. The Mormon religion isn’t a passive one. Because it’s a lay church, each member works hard to help it function, serving as leaders, teachers, and givers of service. They are held to a high standard of behavior.
Giving up your right to think for yourself is seemingly easy (although in reality it isn’t.) People looking for an easy way through life aren’t interested in being Mormon. The moral standards are very high and, since Mormons live in the everyday world, not in a sheltered community, this means making sacrifices and fighting those who want them to lower their standards. They raise families, have jobs, do volunteer work, and are also taught to make the most of the talents they have been given. They must figure out how to do this on their own, given their unique circumstances.
Religion never promises to be easy. The Mormons expect people to work hard for their own happiness and well-being, using the gospel as a guideline, but making choices within those guidelines.
Angels are messengers from God and serve as ministering spirits. They’re spoken of often in both the Bible and Mormon scripture. There are two types of angels. The most common are resurrected beings—those who lived on earth, and then, after their deaths or translations (going to Heaven without dying), became angels. Some were those who lived exemplary lives on earth and will live with God. These often minister to those on earth, participating in critical events in the Earth’s spiritual history. Others are those who lived on earth, but did not keep the commandments well enough to return to God. These are spoken of in Matthew 22:29-30:
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
In these verses, Jesus explains that angels-not the exalted beings, but the unworthy beings-will not be allowed to have eternal families because they will not be exalted.
The Bible also mentions some who were angels without having been mortal previously.
No angels have wings. Clearly, those who lived on earth aren’t going to sprout wings, since they are, as we are, in the image of their Father in Heaven. Wings are merely an earthly attempt to explain how angels are able to move around in the sky, but have no bearing in fact. With God’s power behind them, wings are unnecessary.
Those who minister to those on earth are of particular interest to us today. We find them in nearly every important event in our spiritual history.
One important example of the work angels do is shown in the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. It was an angel, Gabriel, who came to Elisabeth to tell her she would have a son named John, and then to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of Jesus. An angel-possibly also Gabriel-came to Joseph to reassure him that Mary’s child really was the promised Savior.
Angels also came to earth to announce the birth of the Savior:
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Angels remained a presence from time to time during the life of the Savior, for instance, ministering to Him as He suffered the extraordinary pain of taking on our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In modern times, angels were the messengers who brought the restored gospel back to the earth. In the Book of Mormon, we read of Moroni, a prophet who was the last remaining righteous person in his personal world. He was a Nephite, as his people were known, and when his prophet father Mormon and the others of his people were killed, he inherited the records of his civilization. These records were sacred and would play a critical role in the restoration. They included details of the visit of Jesus Christ to the Americas after his crucifixion. Moroni abridged the records and buried them for safekeeping.
After his death, he became an angel. When it was time to restore the Savior’s full gospel to the earth, it was Moroni, fittingly, who came to earth as an angel to tutor Joseph Smith. When he felt Joseph was sufficiently matured and educated, he allowed Joseph to take the records from the hill where they’d been kept for safekeeping all these years.
Later, as Joseph and his friend Oliver Cowdery were working on the translation of these records, which would become known as the Book of Mormon, they read about baptism. They had questions about this ordinance and went to the banks of the Susquehanna River to pray. At this time, John the Baptist came to earth as an angel. He had baptized Jesus, and still held the keys (the authority) of the Aaronic Priesthood, which is mentioned in the Old Testament. This priesthood is required in order to perform a baptism. He bestowed those keys on Joseph and Oliver, who were then able to baptize each other.
There is an additional, higher priesthood called the Melchizedek Priesthood, which also needed to be restored in order for the church to function as it did in the days of the Savior’s ministry. These keys had also been taken from the earth after the death of the apostles, and again, angels came to deliver them to Joseph. The keys are not literal, physical keys, but are the authority to act for God. Peter, James, and John, who had been Jesus’ apostles during his mortal ministries, had received the keys to the Melchizedek priesthood from Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. They continued to hold them, since the world had been in apostasy, and so they came to bestow them on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. With all the keys now restored, the church itself could be restored.
The work of angels is critical to God’s plan. They are frequently present when the most important events occur and are an important part of our lives on earth.