Religion is falling out of vogue. We’ve all heard it. Though people may identify with Christianity on a census form, in reality they are not particularly interested in religion anymore. People don’t attend church with regularity. But, what about Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)? They still attend Church services on a regular basis.
Why? And how does The Church of Jesus Christ manage to grow and stay strong in a world that continually diminishes the importance and role of religion? The answer is simple: Mormons keep the message of the gospel at the forefront of their lives.
Doctrine Never Changes
The message of The Church of Jesus Christ is simple: Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and when we commit ourselves to Him, we find lasting peace, qualify for saving ordinances, and will eventually live with God and our families forever. The core doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ remain constant, and if there is a change in church operations or policy, it comes directly from general church leadership.
Curriculum is streamlined throughout the world so that no matter where you go to church, the lessons are what you would have heard in your home congregation. Members all around the globe are being taught the same doctrines and principles. This results in millions of members who have similar understandings of Christ’s teachings, thus making The Church of Jesus Christ consistent and secure. This worldwide curriculum is also evidence of the universality of the Church’s doctrines. The Church of Jesus Christ really is for everyone. The member demographics are broad and inclusive. No one is exempt from embracing the message The Church of Jesus Christ has to offer.
Some people argue that The Church of Jesus Christ discriminates against gays and lesbians. This is untrue. The Church does oppose same-sex marriage because it contradicts the eternal doctrine of the family, which is that marriage is ordained of God and is designed to be between a man and a woman. The Church does recognize that many people struggle with same-sex attraction and offers support for those who choose to live a lifestyle in harmony with the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ maintains a website, “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction,” to help explain and discuss its official stance on this sensitive issue. The Church of Jesus Christ in no way condones violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Many churches struggle to retain membership in the wake of technological advancements. The Church of Jesus Christ has capitalized on the technological wave and uses the new brands of communicating to make doctrine more widely available. The Church’s website, LDS.org, was updated a few years ago to be more user-friendly. It’s easy to search and find material, plus there are landing pages for members to find local congregational (called ward) directories and ward calendars, in addition to online notebooks to help members make the most of their online study.
The Church of Jesus Christ has also developed extensive and comprehensive apps for smart devices. These apps consolidate dozens of scriptural and teaching resources, including footnoted canonized scripture, decades of General Conference messages, and every official lesson manual. The apps also offer personal note-taking software that allows users to do their regular scripture study online.
Church leadership has made new curriculum for the youth aged 12 – 18 available for immediate use. This curriculum relies on online media and incorporates the use of interactive PDFs. Videos are part of the core material for the new curriculum, and lesson outlines are more fluid and adaptable to the specific needs of the class. Regular adult curriculum is expected to follow suit in 2014.
Mormon leadership also started a YouTube channel several years ago, where it publishes produced videos about a variety of topics. These videos include the I’m a Mormon series, the Bible Videos series, introductory videos, and Mormon Messages. These videos can be shared via social media and help make great strides towards exposure and understanding of church doctrine.
With The Church of Jesus Christ incorporating the technological trends into the way it spreads its message, it makes the doctrines of Jesus Christ more accessible to rising generations. The new media outlets also make doctrines and principles easier to understand. Mormons from all backgrounds have started embracing the new ways to access church material – from teenagers to young parents to retirees. Technology doesn’t alienate members, but rather serves to include them in a much broader and accessible way.
Church Leadership Avoids Politics
Another way The Church of Jesus Christ stays focused on the message of the gospel is by eliminating politics from its leadership decisions. Mormons operate under a lay clergy, meaning that no one gets paid for the service he or she provides. Everyone — from local bishops (congregational leaders) to Sunday School teachers to the president of the Church himself — is called by God, not by popular vote.
The leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ operates under a clear and specific system of succession. This system allows the general Church leadership to steer clear of divisive politics. The prophet of the Church is sustained unanimously by his fellow members in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This sustaining is not a vote to decide, but rather a vote of support. Church members all around the world are given the opportunity to declare their support as well through sustaining. Sustaining church leadership is a declaration of support by church members rather than a majority-rules vote. (To read more about prophetic succession in The Church of Jesus Christ, read here.)
Simple Sunday Worship
When you walk into a Mormon chapel on Sunday, you’ll see men in ties, women in skirts, and children wearing Sunday best as they find a pew to sit in. You won’t see jumbo-trons or a rock band playing prelude music. You’ll see people saying hellos and the organist or pianist softly playing hymns. A handful of young men will be up front preparing the sacrament table.
When the meeting begins, the bishop or one of his counselors (a bishop is a leader of a local congregation) will welcome the congregants and outline the meeting. Sermons are often given by men and women who also serve in other capacities; no one is called as a public speaker or “official talk giver.” Sunday school lessons may involve a PowerPoint presentation or a YouTube video, but the message is never pumped up with light shows or displayed in flashing colors with overwhelming sound. Doctrine is taught by teachers who aren’t paid for what they do and involves plenty of participation and discussion to maximize learning and understanding.
Sunday worship in The Church of Jesus Christ is simple. It’s free from bells and whistles and allows the focus to be on doctrine. The message of The Church of Jesus Christ doesn’t rely on rock-concert elements to be taken seriously; it rests on the power of the truth it brings.
When you attend a Mormon Sunday meeting, you won’t be bombarded with marketing strategies and recruitment gimmicks. You will be surrounded by people who have a shared love of the Savior and who want to share that message with anyone who wants to listen. Mormons rely on the power of the message to persuade and affect people, not on lights and sounds to pump up what they have to share.
Mormons Support Religious Liberty
Just because Mormons believe that The Church of Jesus Christ is the only church with the full truth doesn’t mean that they think everyone else is going to hell. In fact, Mormons strongly support religious freedom. The eleventh Article of Faith states that “we claim the privilege of worshipping 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.”
When it comes to heaven, hell, and the judgment day, Mormons’ beliefs are more intricate and rely entirely on the Savior’s mercy. They know they are in no place to judge and that Heavenly Father is in the perfect place to make those eternal calls. The Church of Jesus Christ allows each member to develop his or her own relationship with the Savior and encourages members to act in accordance with their conscience. Religious liberty is important; without it, The Church of Jesus Christ wouldn’t operate and thrive the way it does.
The Church of Jesus Christ is thriving and growing because its core message is true and unchanging. Throughout its almost-200-year presence in the world, the essential doctrines making up the Church have remained the same. If you want to know more about Mormons and what they have to share, you can talk to missionaries right here.