The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Template:Infobox Christian denomination The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church, often colloquially referred to as the Mormon Church) is the largest denomination originating from the Latter Day Saint movement founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., on April 6, 1830. The Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has established congregations (called wards or branches) worldwide. As of 2007, the Church reported just over 13 million members worldwide, with about 6 million in the United States,<ref name=autogenerated2>Statistical Report 2008</ref><ref name = SLT13>"LDS Church says membership now 13 million worldwide", Salt Lake Tribune, June 25, 2007.</ref><ref name = LDS13>Press Release, LDS Church, "One Million Missionaries, Thirteen Million Members", June 25, 2007.</ref> thus making it the fourth largest Christian denomination in the United States.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref><ref>Yearbook of Canadian and American Churches 2007, Edited by Lindner, see also http://www.ncccusa.org/news/080215yearbook1.html. Also 2009 http://www.ncccusa.org/news/090130yearbook1.html</ref>

Adherents—usually referred to as Latter-day Saints, LDS, or Mormons—are restorationist Christians and are not a part of the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican or Protestant traditions. Like other Restorationist organizations, the LDS Church teaches that after the events described in the New Testament, there was a Great Apostasy, or "falling away" from the true Christian faith and priesthood. The Church teaches that this true faith and priesthood were restored to Joseph Smith, Jr. through Smith's prophecy and the visitation of angels in the early 1800s. Thus, the Church teaches that it is the only organization on the Earth with authority to conduct valid Christian sacraments (ordinances) such as baptism or the Eucharist (called by LDS the Sacrament). The Church also practices other sacraments, said to have been restored or instituted by Joseph Smith, such as Celestial marriage.

The LDS Church is organized in a hierarchical structure, with Jesus viewed as the head, who provides revelation to the President of the Church, his counsellors in the First Presidency, and a Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, all of whom are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." Along with additional quorums of men, these men make up the General Authorities of the Church. The Church is further structured in a way that provides a direct chain of authority down to the local congregational level. At the local level, these members of the priesthood are drawn from the laity and work on a purely volunteer basis without stipend. Members, including clergy, are asked to donate a full tithe (10%) of their income to the Church.

The Church has a canon of four scriptural texts:<ref>Articles of Faith 1:8</ref> the Bible (both Old and New Testament), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Other than the Bible, the majority of the LDS canon constitutes revelation dictated by Joseph Smith, and includes commentary and exegesis about the Bible, texts described as lost parts of the Bible, and books said to be written by non-Biblical prophets.

LDS theology has many similarities with traditional Christianity. Similarities include teachings that Jesus is the divine son of God the Father, delivered to the earth by the Virgin Mary,<ref>Citation/core, Available in Google Books</ref> that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, that he suffered, was crucified and resurrected, that his sacrifice was an atonement for the sins of all humanity, and that Jesus ascended to sit on the right hand of his Father, and will return again.<ref name="pamphlet">pamphlet #3691000 The Gospel of Jesus Christ, pg. 18, published by the church. English approval 11/05</ref> However, there are distinct differences associated with LDS theology. First, is their non-trinitarian doctrine, teaching that while Jesus and the Father are united in purpose, will, and attributes, they are not literally the same person and have distinct physical bodies. Church doctrine also distinguishes itself from other Christian denominations by its practice of temple ordinances and teaching that Jesus visited and preached in the Americas after his resurrection, as recounted in the Book of Mormon. Template:TOCleft

Contents

History

History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The history of the LDS Church is typically divided into three broad time periods: (1) the early history during the lifetime of Joseph Smith, Jr. which is in common with all Latter Day Saint movement churches, (2) a "pioneer era" under the leadership of Brigham Young and his 19th Century successors, and (3) a modern era beginning around the turn of the 20th century as the practice of polygamy was discontinued.

Joseph Smith era

The early history of the LDS Church is shared with other denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, who all regard Joseph Smith, Jr. as the founder of their religious tradition. Smith gained a small following in the late 1820s as he was dictating the Book of Mormon, which he said was a translation of words found on a set of golden plates that had been buried near his home in western New York by an indigenous American prophet. Smith said he had been in contact with an angel Moroni, who showed him the plates' location and had been grooming him for a role as a religious leader.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}: "On September 22, 1827, an angel named Moroni—the last Book of Mormon prophet—delivered these records to the Prophet Joseph Smith." {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}.</ref>

On April 6 1830, in western New York,<ref>The Church of Christ was organized in the log cabin of Joseph Smith, Sr. in the Manchester area, near Rochester, followed by a meeting the next Sunday in nearby Fayette at the house of Peter Whitmer, Sr. Nevertheless, one of Smith's histories and an 1887 reminiscence by David Whitmer say the church was organized at the Whitmer house in Fayette. (Whitmer, however, had already told a reporter in 1875 that the church was organized in Manchester. http://www.bible.net.au.) See Church of Christ (Latter Day Saints). The LDS Church refers to Fayette as the place of organization in all its official publications.</ref> Smith organized the religion's first legal church entity, the Church of Christ. The church rapidly gained a following, who viewed Smith as their prophet. In late 1830, Smith envisioned a "city of Zion", a Utopian city in Native American lands near Independence, Missouri. In October 1830, he sent his Assistant President, Oliver Cowdery, and others on a mission to the area.<ref>Template:Lds</ref> Passing through Kirtland, Ohio, the missionaries converted a congregation of Disciples of Christ led by Sidney Rigdon, and in 1831, Smith decided to temporarily move his followers to Kirtland until lands in the Missouri area could be purchased. In the meantime, the church's headquarters remained in Kirtland from 1831 to 1838; and there the church built its first temple and continued to grow in membership from 680 to 17,881.<ref>The Desert Morning News 2008 Church Almanac pg.655</ref>

While the main church body was in Kirtland, many of Smith's followers had attempted to establish settlements in Missouri, but had met with resistance from other Missourians who believed Mormons were abolitionists, or who distrusted their political ambitions. After Smith and other Mormons in Kirtland emigrated to Missouri in 1838, hostilities escalated into the 1838 Mormon War, culminating in adherents being expelled from the state under an Extermination Order signed by the governor of Missouri.

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Joseph Smith, Jr. (pictured), founder of the church, and his brother Hyrum were assassinated in Carthage, Illinois, by a mob on June 27, 1844

After Missouri, Smith built the city of Nauvoo, Illinois as the new church headquarters, and served as the city's mayor and leader of the militia. As church leader, Smith also instated the then-secret practice of plural marriage, and taught a form of Millennialism which he called "theodemocracy", to be led by a Council of Fifty which had secretly and symbolically anointed him as king of this Millennial theodemocracy.<ref>http://www.bible.net.au.</ref> Partly in response to these trends, on June 7, 1844, a newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor, edited by dissident Mormon William Law, issued a scathing criticism of polygamy and Nauvoo theocratic government, including a call for church reform based on earlier Mormon principles.<ref>Nauvoo Expositor, p. 1, col. E to p. 2, col. E. The paper also contained editorials and letters to the editor that were highly critical of Joseph Smith's political actions and his 1844 candidacy for President of the United States.</ref> Considering the paper to be libellous, Smith and the Nauvoo city council voted to shut down the paper as a public nuisance. Relations between Mormons and residents of surrounding communities had been strained, and some of them instituted criminal charges against Smith for treason. Smith surrendered to police in the nearby Carthage, Illinois, and while in state custody, he and his brother Hyrum Smith, who was second in line to the church presidency,<ref>Regarding Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young later stated: "Did Joseph Smith ordain any man to take his place. He did. Who was it? It was Hyrum, but Hyrum fell a martyr before Joseph did. If Hyrum had lived he would have acted for Joseph" (Times and Seasons, 5 [Oct. 15, 1844]: 683).</ref> were assassinated on June 27 1844 by an angry mob.<ref>Encyclopedia of Latter-Day Saint History pg. 824.</ref>

After Smith's death, a succession crisis ensued. In this crisis a number of church leaders campaigned to lead the church. The majority of adherents voted on August 8 1844 to accept the argument of Brigham Young, senior apostle of the Quorum of the Twelve, that the Church membership could not elect a successor to Joseph Smith, but that the Twelve had all the required authority to lead the church. Later, adherents bolstered their succession claims by referring to a March 1844 meeting in which Joseph committed the "keys of the kingdom" to a group of members within the Council of Fifty that included the Quorum of the Twelve.<ref>http://www.bible.net.au, republished as http://www.bible.net.au.</ref> In addition, by the end of the 1800s, several of Young's followers had published reminiscences recalling that during Young's August 8 speech, he looked or sounded similar to Joseph Smith, which they attributed to the power of God.<ref>Template:Harvnb; Lynne Watkins Jorgensen, "The Mantle of the Prophet Joseph Smith Passes to Brother Brigham: One Hundred Twenty-one Testimonies of a Collective Spiritual Witness" in John W. Welch (ed.), 2005. Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844, Provo, Utah: BYU Press, pp. 374-480; Eugene English, "George Laub Nauvoo Diary," BYU Studies, 18 [Winter 1978]: 167 ("Now when President Young arose to address the congregation his voice was the voice of Bro[ther] Joseph and his face appeared as Joseph's face & should I have not seen his face but heard his voice I should have declared that it was Joseph"); William Burton Diary, May 1845. LDS Church Archives ("But their [Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith's] places were filed by others much better than I once supposed they could have been, the spirit of Joseph appeared to rest upon Brigham"); Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review [Independence, 1928], p. 103-104 ("But as soon as he spoke I jumped upon my feet, for in every possible degree it was Joseph's voice, and his person, in look, attitude, dress and appearance; [it] was Joseph himself, personified and I knew in a moment the spirit and mantle of Joseph was upon him"); Life Story of Mosiah Hancock, p. 23, BYU Library ("Although only a boy, I saw the mantle of the Prophet Joseph rest upon Brigham Young; and he arose lion-like to the occasion and led the people forth"); Wilford Woodruff, Deseret News, 15 Mar. 1892 ("If I had not seen him with my own eyes, there is no one that could have convinced me that it was not Joseph Smith"); George Q. Cannon, Juvenile Instructor, 22 [29 Oct. 1870]: 174-175 ("When Brigham Young spoke it was with the voice of Joseph himself; and not only was it the voice of Joseph which was heard, but it seemed in the eyes of the people as though it was the every person of Joseph which stood before them").</ref>

Pioneer era

After continued difficulties and persecution in Illinois, Young left Nauvoo in 1846 and led his followers, the Mormon pioneers, to the Great Salt Lake Valley (then part of Mexico but by 1848 part of the United States) in search of religious freedom.<ref name="emigration-religious-freedom">"Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail: History & Culture", U.S. National Park Service. "The great Mormon migration of 1846–1847 was but one step in the LDS' quest for religious freedom and growth."</ref> The group branched out in an effort to pioneer a large state to be called the Deseret, eventually establishing colonies from Canada to present-day Mexico.

In 1850 the U.S. Congress dismissed the State of Deseret plan and instead established a much smaller territory around the Great Salt Lake named the Utah Territory. Young incorporated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a legal entity under the laws of the territory. He initially governed his followers as a theocratic leader serving in both political and religious positions. He also publicized the previously-secret practice of plural marriage, a form of polygamy. By 1857, tensions had again escalated between Mormons and other Americans, largely as a result of church teachings on polygamy and theocracy. The Utah Mormon War ensued from 1857 to 1858, which resulted in the relatively peaceful<ref>The most notable instance of violence during this war was the tragic Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which leaders of a local Mormon militia ordered the massacre of a civilian emigrant party who had the misfortune of traveling through Utah during the escalating military tensions.</ref> invasion of Utah by the United States Army, after which Young agreed to step down from power and be replaced by a non-Mormon territorial governor, Alfred Cumming. Nevertheless, the LDS Church still wielded significant political power in the Utah Territory as part of a shadow government.<ref>http://www.bible.net.au</ref>

At Young's death in 1877, he was followed by other powerful members, who followed the dictates of their faith in the face of U.S. efforts to outlaw Mormon polygamous marriages. As the political power of the U.S. moved west, the political and legal wrangling over the polygamy issue escalated. In 1890, after the United States Congress disincorporated the LDS Church and seized all its assets, church president Wilford Woodruff issued a Manifesto that officially suspended the practice.<ref>Template:Lds</ref> Although this Manifesto did not yet dissolve existing plural marriages, and did not entirely stop the practice of polygamy, relations with the United States markedly improved after 1890, and especially after 1904, when church President Joseph F. Smith disavowed polygamy before the United States Congress and issued a "Second Manifesto" calling for all plural marriages in the church to cease. Eventually, the church adopted a policy of excommunicating its members found practicing polygamy and today seeks to actively distance itself from “fundamentalist” groups still practicing polygamy.<ref>In 1998 President Gordon B. Hinckley stated,

“If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church.” Gordon B. Hinckley, "What Are People Asking About Us?" Ensign, November 1998, 70</ref>

Modern era

During the twentieth century, the church grew substantially and became an international organization. Distancing itself from polygamy, the church began engaging, first with mainstream American culture, and then with international cultures, particularly those of Latin America, by sending out thousands of missionaries across the globe. In the year 2000 the church reported 60,784 missionaries,<ref name=Stats2000>“Statistical Report, 2000,” Ensign, May 2001, 22</ref> and global church membership stood at 11,068,861.<ref name=Stats2000/> As of 2007, membership had reached 13,193,999.<ref>Deseret Morning News 2008 Church Almanac pg. 655</ref>

Breaking with its history of polygamy, the church became a strong and public champion of monogamy and the nuclear family, and at times played a prominent role in political matters, including opposition to MX Peacekeeper missile bases in Utah and Nevada,<ref>“First Presidency Statement on Basing of MX Missile”, Ensign, June 1981, 76.</ref> opposing the Equal Rights Amendment,<ref>“The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: A Moral Issue”, Ensign, March 1980, insert.</ref> opposing legalized gambling,<ref>“Church’s Stand against Gambling”, Ensign, March 1992, 74.</ref> support of bans on same-sex marriage,<ref>Template:Cite press release</ref> and opposition to legalized physician-assisted death.<ref>Template:Cite press release</ref> Apart from issues that it considers to be ones of morality, however, the church usually maintains a position of political neutrality.<ref>Template:Cite press release; see also Newsroom.lds.org, "No Thumbs Up or Down To Legislature", Retrieved May 2007.</ref>

Among the official changes to the organization during the modern area include the ordination of black men to the priesthood in 1978, reversing a policy originally instituted by Brigham Young. There are also periodic changes in the structure and organization of the church, mainly to accommodate the organization's growth and increasing international presence. For example, since the early 1900s, the church has instituted a Priesthood Correlation Program to centralize church operations and bring them under a hierarchy of priesthood leaders. During the Great Depression, the church also began operating a church welfare system, and it has conducted numerous humanitarian efforts in cooperation with other religious organizations.

Teachings and practices

Beliefs and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mormonism and Christianity

Because it accepts the New Testament as one of its sacred texts, the LDS Church shares much of its theology with Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and Protestantism. For example, the church teaches that Jesus is the divine son of God the Father, that he was born to the Virgin Mary.<ref name="Talmage">Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pg. 90, 1981 edition</ref>, that he lived a sinless life, that his suffering and crucifixion constituted an atonement for the sins of humanity, that he was resurrected,<ref name="pamphlet"/>, that he ascended to heaven and sits there at the right hand of God the Father, and that there will be a Second Coming and Last Judgment. In addition, like many Christian faiths, the church teaches that faith, repentance, and baptism are requirements for salvation.<ref>Template:Lds</ref> Other of the church's core teachings, circa 1842, are discussed in Articles of Faith (Latter Day Saints).

However, LDS theology also contains many significant differences from other Christian faiths. As a result of these differences, some Christian commentators question whether LDS theology is still Christianity, or whether it has evolved into something else, The LDS Church itself, however, downplays the differences and vigorously defends itself as a Christian faith. See Mormonism and Christianity. Some differences with mainstream modern Christianity include its nontrinitarian view of Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, its belief that modern prophecy can produce works such as the Book of Mormon that are on par with the Bible, its temple ceremonies, its belief that a "Celestial marriage" may continue in force in the afterlife, its belief in baptism for the dead, and its unusual cosmology. The LDS Church is also distinctive in some of its institutional practices, such as widespread missionary work, vigorous attention to genealogy, and its moral and health codes.

God

Godhead (Latter Day Saints)

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Latter-day Saints believe in the resurrection of Jesus, as depicted in this replica of Bertel Thorvaldsen's Christus statue located in the North Visitors' Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City

In LDS belief, God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are referred to as the "Godhead".<ref>This usage differs from usage in the Authorized King James Version (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; and Colossians 2:9), where the term Godhead (godhood) was the word translators used for Greek words meaning deity or divinity. See Godhead (Christianity).</ref> According to LDS Scripture and widespread belief, the Godhead has the following attributes:

  • They are three separate and distinct beings.<ref>Template:Lds.</ref> Thus, the church's view of the Godhead breaks with Nicene Creed tradition.<ref name="Jeffrey R. Holland 2007, pg. 40">Jeffrey R. Holland, The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent, Ensign Magazine, November 2007, pg. 40 (arguing that the LDS view is self-evident in the Bible that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings as illustrated in the Savior’s great Intercessory Prayer, his baptism at the hands of John, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the martyrdom of Stephen.</ref>
  • They are "one God" collectively,<ref>Template:Lds).</ref> meaning that they are united in spirit, mind and purpose.<ref>Joseph Fielding Smith, "Teachings", p. 311,372</ref> According to LDS theology, Jesus is "one" with the Father in the same way as he asked his disciples to be "one" with him and each other in John 17:11.
  • Jesus and the Father have physical "bodies of flesh and bone", while the Holy Spirit does not, though the Holy Spirit has a "spirit body".<ref>James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 159 published 1977 ("The Holy Ghost is a personage, though he does not yet have a physical body as do Jesus Christ and God the Father. He is regarded as "a being endowed with the attributes and powers of Deity and not a mere force or essence.")</ref>
  • God the Father is understood to be the literal father of the spirits of humanity,<ref>Hebrews 12:9. Template:Lds, Template:Lds</ref>, as well as both the spirit and physical body of Jesus.

Jesus is the focus of LDS scripture, particularly the Book of Mormon. According to that book, Jesus Christ is considered the "the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary."<ref>Mosiah 3:8, The Book of Mormon p. 152, 1981 ed.</ref> As the Creator, he is at times referred to as the father of heaven and earth. This is one sense in which he shares the title "Father" with God the Father. The church also teaches that those who accept Christ and are baptized are symbolically born again and become the children of Christ.<ref>Doctrine and Covenants 39:4-6</ref> The church teaches that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.<ref>Articles of Faith 1:3</ref> Christ's divinity<ref>Alma 34:10,14</ref> enabled him to take upon himself the penalty for sin and to endure the consequential suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross that paid for the sins of humanity since the Fall of Adam.<ref>Alma 42</ref> Thus, having satisfied the demands of justice,<ref>Alma 34:16</ref> Christ offers mercy to mankind in two general forms: unconditional (all will be resurrected),<ref>Alma 11:44; 42:23</ref> and conditional (those who believe in Christ, repent of sin,<ref>Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-20</ref> and are baptized, “the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God")<ref>3 Nephi 11:33</ref> This Atonement however is also believed to cover not only sin, but all pain, suffering, heart ache, or hardship experienced in this life.<ref>Template:Lds</ref> Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus' status as the son of a mortal woman (Mary) gave him the ability to suffer temptation (yet he did not succumb to it)<ref>Doctrine and Covenants 45:4</ref> and experience physical death; while his status as the Son of God gave him the power to lay down and take up his life again at will. The church also believes in the physical resurrection of Jesus' body.<ref>3 Nephi 11:14, Doctrine and Covenants 45:52</ref> Because of its emphasis on Jesus' resurrection and his status as the living head of the church, the church does not use the symbol of the Christian cross except on the uniforms of military chaplains. Instead, the church tends to focus on the belief that Jesus overcame suffering and death and that he lives today.

The church follows what it understands to be the teachings of Jesus, both in the Bible and in other scriptures, such as the Book of Mormon. The church also teaches that Jesus is the LORD Jehovah of the Old Testament, and the Holy One of Israel. Because he has the "Divine Investiture of Authority" from the Father, the church teaches that Jesus Christ often speaks in the scriptures as though he were God the Father, because in so doing he is representing the Father.<ref>Template:Lds</ref><ref>Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 471</ref>

In addition to the Godhead, LDS theology recognizes at least the possibility of other divine entities; however, these other "gods" and "godesses" are not considered to be objects or worship, and have no direct relevance to salvation. LDS Church President Lorenzo Snow expressed the nature of the Father in his couplet, "As man is, God once was—and as God is, man may become"—differing somewhat from the traditional Christian idea of theosis. Exaltation is a belief among members of the LDS Church that mankind, as spirit children of their Father in heaven, can become like Him.

Official church materials refer to "Heavenly Parents," implying to some the existence of a Heavenly Mother.<ref>The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Chapter 2: Our Heavenly Family", Gospel Principles, 11 (1997).</ref> Belief in such a figure is common among members, and she has been mentioned in meetings by church officials<ref>See, e.g., Spencer W. Kimball, "The True Way of Life and Salvation", Ensign, May 1978, 4.</ref><ref>cite book</ref> and alluded to in two of the hymns of the church.<ref>See, e.g., Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, #292 "O My Father"; #286 Oh, What Songs of the Heart.</ref> However, very little on the subject of a Heavenly Mother has been taught by the church. See also

Apostasy and restoration

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Joseph Smith, Jr. saw two "personages" in the spring of 1820, one of which pointed to the other and said, "This is my beloved son. Hear him!" The LDS Church teaches this was an actual visitation by God the Father and Jesus in the flesh.

Restoration (Latter Day Saints) In common with other Restorationist churches, the church believes in a Great Apostasy. It teaches that after the death of Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, the priesthood authority was lost and some important doctrinal teachings, including the text of the Bible, were changed from their original form, thus necessitating a Restoration prior to the Second Coming. That restoration, according to church doctrine, began during the life of Joseph Smith, Jr.

According to church theology, the restoration began through a series of visions and revelations, including Smith's First Vision in 1820, in which he was visited by God and Jesus Christ, followed by visits by various angelic messengers including Moroni from whom he received "the everlasting gospel."<ref>The Holy Bible,Revelation of St. John the Divine 14:6</ref> It is also taught that he was visited by John the Baptist, Moses, Elijah, and the apostles Peter, James and John. Both Smith and Oliver Cowdery testified that these last messengers came to them while they were together and conferred upon them the priesthood authority with its various "keys", so that mankind again possessed the "fullness of the Gospel" with authority to administer in the ordinances thereof.<ref>See The Pearl of Great Price, Salt Lake City, 1981 footnote pg. 58-59</ref> The restoration also included the re-establishment of the original Church of Christ on April 6, 1830. The LDS Church teaches that it is the successor of this Church of Christ, that Smith was the successor to Peter, and that the current President of the Church is Smith's modern successor.

Ordinances

Covenant (Latter Day Saints)|Temple (LDS Church)

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Baptismal font in the Salt Lake Temple, circa 1912, where baptisms for the dead are performed by proxy. The font rests on the backs of twelve oxen representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel

Latter-day Saint sacraments are called ordinances, of which there are two types: saving ordinances and non-saving ordinances. All ordinances, whether saving or non-saving, must be performed by a man ordained to the appropriate priesthood office, with the exception of certain parts of the temple Endowment and the initiatory or washings and anointings, in which men and women are separated, and women administer the ordinances for women, and men administer the ordinances for men. However, both men and women must be "set apart", or authorized and "blessed by the laying on of hands" by those who have proper authority before serving as temple ordinance workers.

Saving ordinances are those that are required for salvation or exaltation, and include baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost (confirmation of membership in the church of Jesus Christ), with the "sacrament" of the Lord's supper, taken each Sunday, to keep in remembrance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and to renew the covenants made at baptism, ordination to an office of the priesthood (for males), the initiatory or washings and anointings, the Endowment, celestial marriage, and family sealings. Each saving ordinance is associated with one or more covenant that the person receiving the ordinance makes with God, and one or more blessing that God promises to the recipient.<ref>Doctrine & Covenants 130:20-21</ref><ref>LDS Church, "Gospel Topics: Ordinances".</ref>

Three primary covenants are administered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the heading “new and everlasting covenant,” called “new” because they have been restored again and “everlasting” because they are eternal with God. <ref>D&C 22:1; 131:2; 132:4,6,19,26-27,19-42</ref> Specifically, they are the gospel, or baptismal covenant; the priesthood covenant; and the marriage covenant. The latter two are administered in the temple. Each covenant, or “contract,” between God and Man has one or more pre-requisites, offers one or more rewards, and specifies punishment for breaking it.

The first, the gospel covenant, is entered into after the sincere communicant fulfills the pre-requisite of exercising faith in Christ, repents of his sins, is baptized by proper authority, receives the gift of the Holy Ghost, and promises to endure to the end of his mortal life continuing to exercise faith in Christ and repentance from his sins. He also agrees to stand as a witness for Christ at all times and in all places, and bear the burdens of his fellow servants. (Mosiah 18:9) The scriptures are replete with references to all these gospel elements. (3 Nephi 27:13-22) The covenant maker receives the reward of the gift of the Holy Ghost, receives membership in the Church of Jesus Christ, receives forgiveness of sins, peace of conscience, a rebirth of the Spirit ( Mosiah 4:1-13; Alma 5:49; 7:14), grace, a hope in Christ, salvation or eternal life, and the joy of the saints. <ref>1 Nephi 11:21-23; Enos 1:3; Alma 4:14; 19:6,14; 26:11-35; 28:8</ref> The punishment for breaking the covenant is perdition.(Heb. 10:25-31,39) The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or partaking of bread and wine instituted by Jesus, is in remembrance of this covenant, in remembrance of His blood, or atonement for sins, and His resurrection, or body. <ref>Matt. 26:28; John 6:54; Heb. 9:14-22; 13:12; 3 Nephi 18:1-16; Moroni 4 and 5</ref> The “milk” of the kingdom of God has to do with learning of and keeping this gospel covenant. The “meat” is “going on unto perfection,” or entering into subsequent covenants, to obtain a fullness of the life God leads. (Heb. 5:11-14; 6:1-4; John 17:3)

Latter-Day Saints believe the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a God of covenants.<ref>Gen. 12:1-3; 17:7,9,19; Deut. 4:25-31; 1 Chron. 5:1-2; Jeremiah 31:9,18-19,31-34; Heb. 7:11-14; Abraham 2:8-11; D&C 86:8-11</ref> In return for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s faith and obedience, God promised them (1) a numberless posterity, (2) a chosen land, and (3) the blessing of all nations through their posterity and the priesthood of their posterity, the “blessings of heaven.”<ref>Gen. 14:19; 22:17; 26:4; 49:25</ref> God promised Jacob’s son, Joseph, additional blessings, a special land and a righteous branch to be separated from the rest of the house of Israel. (Gen. 48; 49:22-26) Even later, promises and assurances were given through Moses and other prophets that, even though all Israel should be scattered and many persecuted, the earlier promises would not be forgotten, and a day of restoration and gathering would come in which all the tribes of Israel would be united in peace under the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Book of Mormon is a witness to the truth of these promises, and it is an assurance that more of them will not be left unfulfilled. <ref>Title Page, Book of Mormon; 1 Nephi 15:12-18; 2 Nephi 3: 6:10-15; 9:1-3; Building Faith with the Book of Mormon by Glenn L. Pearson, SLC: Bookcraft, 1986, p. 25</ref>

The church teaches there are three rewards or degrees of glory in the heavenly world (1 Cor. 15:29,40-42; D&C 76:12+; 131:1-4), and that to obtain the highest degree of salvation (referred to as "exaltation" in the celestial kingdom), all people who have lived to the age of eight must participate in each of the saving ordinances. However, the church teaches that they may be performed for a person either during their lifetime or by proxy after the person has died.<ref>LDS Church, “Chapter 40: Temple Work and Family History”, Gospel Principles, 255.</ref> Therefore, church members participate in the saving ordinances on behalf of dead relatives and others whose names have been extracted from historical records. The performance of these proxy ordinances are one of the functions of the church's temples.

All the saving ordinances are currently open to all worthy church members of the appropriate age. Prior to 1978, black members were restricted from some of the priesthood ordinances, but this policy was changed in 1978.<ref>See Blacks and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.</ref> Celestial marriage is open to one man and one woman at a time, but a widower may enter a second celestial marriage.

Apart from sealings to parents, the church does not perform saving ordinances for those younger than age eight or for those who have died before the age of eight (when children reach the "age of accountability"), because young children are deemed "alive in Christ" and not responsible for sin.<ref>lds; lds; LDS Church, “Chapter 20: Baptism”, Gospel Principles, 129.</ref> Likewise, the church teaches that the saving ordinances are not required for persons age eight or older who are "mentally incapable of knowing right and wrong".<ref>LDS Church, “Chapter 20: Baptism”, Gospel Principles, 129.</ref> They are saved by the grace and mercy of Christ without baptism and will inherit the Celestial Kingdom of God.<ref>Moroni 8:22-23</ref>

Non-saving ordinances include the dedication of graves, the dedication of buildings, the prayer circle, the Hosanna shout, shaking the dust from the feet, and various kinds of blessings, including the patriarchal blessing.

Plan of Salvation

Plan of salvation Mormon cosmology

The plan of salvation or gospel of Christ is a series of steps, a continuum, or means to come to God through the mediation of the Messiah. It comprises those teachings of Christ which enable a mortal man or woman to overcome the fall of Adam in his or her life, and ultimately return to the presence of God, to enjoy the life of the Great Eternal God, or, more succinctily, eternal life. The specific teachings include the fact that Adam fell, becoming subject to the temptations of the devil, bringing upon himself and his posterity both physical death and spiritual death, separating himself and them from God. As a remedy for Adam's predicament, consistent with His own nature and objective to produce Divine heirs, God gave Adam and his posterity the moral agency to (1) follow and serve Christ, or (2) follow and serve the devil (Mosiah 16). To overcome the lasting effects of the fall, Christ offered Himself an infinite sacrifice for the sins of all those willing to repent and enter into a covenant with Him, trusting in His righteousness or merits for salvation (Alma 22:14; Moroni 6:4), while all the rest must depend on their own good works for salvation, or answer the ends of the law themselves, falling short of the glory of God.(2 Nephi 2:1+; Rom. 10:4) Furthermore, Christ brought about the universal resurrection of all men and women, as they were not responsible for the fall, leaving them to account only for their own deeds in the flesh. ("Articles of Faith," No. 2; Alma 11:41-46)

Also, as the Agent of the Father and Judge of all, Christ is able to be both merciful and just (John 5:22; Romans 2:16). To obtain His mercy, or be saved from His wrath, or indigation, on the day of judgment, men and women must (1) have faith in Christ, (2) repent of their sins, (3) be baptized by one of His authorized agents in water in the likeness of His burial, to come forth born again of the Spirit, (4) receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, again by an authorized servant of God bearing His priesthood, and (5) endure in faith in Christ and repentance from sins to the end of their mortal lives. This is the only gospel ever taught by Jesus, and is imparted in the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, and most plainly in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, whose purpose is to "convince Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ," as stated on the Title Page. (see also 2 Nephi 25:24-30; "Articles of Faith," 1-13)

Multiple scriptural names for this limited and oft-repeated body of teachings are: gospel of Jesus Christ (3 Nephi 27:13-22), doctrine of Christ (3 Nephi 11:31-41), plan of salvation, plan of redemption (Alma 11:40-41), words of eternal life (John 6:68), gospel of repentance, gospel of baptism, gospel of salvation, good tidings (Isa.52:7), our report (Isa. 53:1), gospel of the kingdom (Matt.24:14), good tidings of great joy (Luke 2:10), gospel of the grace of God (Acts 2:24), gospel of peace (Rom. 10:15), "good news," and other equivalent names. Once a man or woman has obeyed the first principles of the gospel, the milk of the kingdom, he or she must press forward, feasting on the words of Christ, going on unto perfection, or seeking the meat of the kingdom, much of which has to do with the temple and a comprehensive understanding of the life God leads.(Hebrews 5:12-4; 6:1-3)[1]

The plan of salvation, or "The Great Plan of Happiness," as taught by the church, describes humanity's place in the universe and the purpose of life. The church teaches that there was a pre-mortal existence, a place which existed prior to mortality in which all people and all life were created in spirit form.<ref>lds; lds</ref><ref>Smith, Joseph Fielding. Bruce R. McConkie, ed. Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954 [1972 reprint]) Vol. 1, p. 62</ref> Central to this is the notion that humans existed as spirits before birth, were raised by Heavenly Parents and had essential human characteristics such as gender.<ref>First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles. "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" 1995</ref> This general idea is also stated as "We lived in the presence of God."<ref>Smith. Doctrines of Salvation. vol. 1, p. 56</ref><ref>general idea also expressed in Smith, Joseph F. Gospel Doctrine: Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1969) p. 93</ref>

During the pre-earth life, Heavenly Father presented a plan to have a Savior make it possible for mankind to be saved. The purpose of an earth life was to give men the opportunity to demonstrate obedience to the commandments of God while outside of His presence. This is the central test of the evolution or eternal progression of man to godhood. Jesus Christ stepped forward as the chosen Savior. However, Lucifer, one of the spirits, proposed a rival plan whereby every soul would be saved, he would receive God's glory, and human agency would be eliminated.<ref>See lds</ref><ref>Abraham 3:24-28 describes this as well</ref> When God rejected that plan, the War in Heaven ensued, resulting in Lucifer and one third part of the spirits being cast out and denied ever receiving physical bodies. Lucifer became the devil.<ref>lds, 2 Nephi 2:17 briefly mentions the fall of Satan (Book of Mormon, p. 58 [1982 English edition (Salt Lake City)]).</ref>

The earth, according to church teachings, was created by Jehovah, which the church identifies as the pre-mortal Jesus, and Michael the archangel, who is identified as the pre-mortal Adam. The earth was "organized" from pre-existing matter,<ref>See lds</ref> as were other planets with their inhabitants.<ref>lds</ref> Michael's spirit was placed into his body which was created by God the Father and Jehovah, and became a living soul known as Adam.

The church teaches that at birth, a pre-existing spirit enters a mortal body. Upon death, the spirit goes to a "spirit world" to await the resurrection of the dead. Those who are righteous "are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow" [1] A place called spirit prison is reserved for "those who [have] died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets" [2]. Those in "prison" will be visited by spirits from paradise and given the chance to learn of the teachings of Jesus Christ and to accept the accompanying saving ordinances.<ref>LDS Church, “Chapter 45: The Postmortal Spirit World”, Gospel Principles, 289.</ref> The church teaches that all persons, wicked or righteous, will be resurrected and receive an immortal, physical body.<ref>See lds.</ref> The nature of that body, however, will depend on the result of the Last Judgment, at which Jesus will assign each soul to one of three degrees of glory (heavenly kingdoms): the celestial kingdom in the presence of the Father and the Son for those who accept Jesus Christ and receive all LDS saving ordinances, either as a mortal or by proxy; the terrestrial kingdom, a place of glory in the presence of Christ for righteous persons who refuse to receive the saving ordinances and for those who do not keep the covenants they commit to; and the telestial kingdom for the wicked. A further destination, called outer darkness, is reserved for Satan, his devils, and those mortals who commit the unpardonable sin and thereby become the sons of perdition.<ref name="Gospel Principles">LDS Church. “Chapter 46: The Last Judgment”, Gospel Principles, 294.</ref> Those who are ultimately destined for the telestial kingdom will be those who suffer for their sins in hell; however, these persons remain in hell only the 1000 years during the millennial reign of Christ, after which they will exit hell and be resurrected with an immortal body into a state of peace.<ref name="Gospel Principles" />

Those in the Celestial Kingdom will be allowed to continue to progress and become joint heirs with Jesus Christ;<ref>Romans 8:17.</ref> but only individuals that are in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom will eventually be enabled in eternity to become gods and goddesses and participate in the eternal creative process of having spirit children.<ref>LDS Church, “Chapter 47: Exaltation”, Gospel Principles, 301.</ref>

History and eschatology

The church's view of history is informed by the faith's scriptures. LDS history begins with the creation according to Genesis, but has never endorsed any particular form of creationism. Though it does not officially oppose any particular findings of natural history, the church regards Adam as the first "primal parent of the [human] race".<ref>LDS Church (1909), First Presidency Statement: The Origin of Man.</ref>

According to teachings in the Book of Mormon, the Americas are a special location reserved by God for those who love freedom and freedom of religion. According to Joseph Smith, what is now Jackson County, Missouri was the location of the Garden of Eden and will be the location of the future New Jerusalem, and God has led numerous groups to the western hemisphere in search of freedom,<ref>See lds</ref> including several groups of ancestors to the Native Americans whose stories are told in the Book of Mormon.

The church also teaches an expansive view of God's covenant with Abraham, which Joseph Smith taught extends not just to Jews, but to the ancient Christian church, and Latter-day Saints as well, who in most cases are declared by their patriarchal blessings to be either literal descendants of Abraham, or adopted into the family of Abraham through one of the tribes of Israel, often the Tribe of Ephraim. Native Americans are sometimes declared to be descended from the Tribe of Manasseh based on the teachings of the Book of Mormon that some descendants of this tribe, the family of Lehi, left Jerusalem and crossed the ocean in a ship about 600 B.C. and landed in what today is called the Americas.<ref>Alma 10:3; Joseph Smith History 1:34</ref>

The church teaches that in the future, the Second Coming of Jesus will occur, followed by a thousand years of peace. Distinctive within Latter-day millennialism, however, is the idea that Jesus will reign "personally upon the earth" from two locations: one that is presently within the United States,<ref>lds</ref> and Jerusalem in Old Canaan to direct the worship and government or governments that will exist.<ref>Berrett, William E, Teachings of the Doctrine and Covenants, 1956, Ch. 42, p.280</ref><ref>McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 1985, p. 587</ref> As the earth transitions into the Millennial period, only those good and honorable people who stand to inherit the celestial kingdom or the terrestrial kingdom will continue on the earth. During the millennium the Latter-day Saints will continue to proselytize among the living and perform ordinances for the dead. After the millennium will come a final great confrontation of good versus evil, and then the Last Judgment.<ref>Revelation 20:1-3 KJV</ref>

Genealogical or family history research is an important aspect of Latter-day Saint tradition, stemming from a doctrinal mandate for church members to research their family tree and perform vicarious ordinances for their ancestors. LDS believe that these ordinances "seal" or link families together, with the goal being an unbroken chain back to Adam. Church members are able to do genealogical work in various Family History Centers located throughout the world usually in Latter-day Saint chapels. The advent of personal computers prompted the church to create a specialized file format known as GEDCOM for storing and exchanging these records. Since then, GEDCOM has become a de facto standard that almost all genealogy programs support.

Theology of family and gender

Women and Mormonism

Image:Phil and Marlene.jpg
A couple following their marriage in the Manti Utah Temple

Family

The LDS Church has been characterized as a family-centered religion. The church teaches that every being that lived upon the earth initially had a spirit body and that all were born to Heavenly Parents in a pre-mortal existence.<ref name=family>LDS Church, The Family: A Proclamation to the World.</ref> The church teaches that on earth, families may be "sealed"—meaning that they are eternally bound as husbandwife, parents–child—and that these bonds will continue after death.<ref>LDS Church, “Chapter 38: Eternal Marriage”, Gospel Principles, 241.</ref> Sealings can also include deceased ancestors, providing much of the church's rationale for its extensive family history activities. Members tend more often to be married, and have families with more children, than members of other Christian traditions.<ref>Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, [3] [4] [5]</ref>

Exaltation and Marriage

Exaltation (LDS Church) In consequence of the atonement of Jesus Christ, a son or daughter of God the Father may overcome physical and spiritual death and return to live with God forever. Those individuals who receive this—which is described as the "greatest gift of God"<ref>Doctrine and Covenants 14:7.</ref>—are said to enter into a state of "exaltation" after they are resurrected.<ref name = chapterfortyseven>LDS Church (1997). “Chapter 47: Exaltation,” Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church).</ref> Exaltation is also called "salvation" or "eternal life".<ref>Moses 1:39.</ref>

Exaltation is "the kind of life God lives".<ref name = chapterfortyseven/> In other words, exalted beings will live in great glory, be perfect, and possess all knowledge and wisdom.<ref name = chapterfortyseven/> Exalted beings will live forever with God the Father and Jesus Christ, will become gods and goddesses, will live with their righteous earthly family members, and will receive the fulness of joy enjoyed by God and Christ.<ref name = chapterfortyseven/> One of the key qualifications for exaltation is being united in a celestial marriage to an opposite-sex partner.<ref>Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–3.</ref><ref name = chapterthirtyeight>LDS Church (1997). “Chapter 38: Eternal Marriage,” Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church).</ref> Such a union can be created during mortality, or it can be created after death by proxy marriages performed in temples.<ref name = chapterforty>LDS Church (1997). “Chapter 40: Temple Work and Family History,” Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church).</ref>

Humans who fall short of exaltation still receive an immortal physical body. Most will be awarded one of three kingdoms of glory, whether it be the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial kingdoms.<ref name = chapterfortysix>LDS Church (1997). “Chapter 46: The Last Judgment,” Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church).</ref> Those who are exalted are said to inhabit the "highest degree" of the celestial kingdom.<ref>Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4.</ref> Satan, his spirit followers, and a select number of people who lived on the earth will receive no glory and will be called the sons of perdition.<ref name = chapterfortysix/>

Gender

The church also teaches that each person's gender is eternal and that each gender has roles and duties in the family that are ordained by God. The church teaches that "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."<ref name=family /> Some have characterized this view of the man-woman relationship as "equal but different".<ref>Sonja Farnsworth (1992), "Mormonism's Odd Couple: The Motherhood-Priesthood Connection", in Maxine Hanks, ed., Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism, Salt Lake City: Signature Books.</ref> Nevertheless, LDS women in the United States work outside the home in about the same percentage as other American women.<ref>Helen Witney & Jane Barnes (2007), The Mormons, Part 2 (PBS presentation) ("Mormon women work outside the home in about the same proportions as other American women").</ref> The church teaches that gender is inherently linked to sex, but the church has no official policy on the status of intersex persons. Transgender persons are accepted in the church and may be baptized, but may not receive the priesthood or enter the temple if they are considering or have undergone elective sex reassignment surgery.<ref>Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1, Stake Presidents and Bishoprics (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006) at 41, 78.</ref>

Women

The status of women in church leadership has remained largely unchanged since the early 1900s. Although they are not ordained to the priesthood, preaching and instruction by women is an integral part of weekly Latter-day Saint worship. Certain leadership positions are filled only by women, and in some of the church's auxiliary organizations women may preside over men, such as in the Primary, in welfare programs, on activities committees, and at a Family History Library. Since the 1840s, women have officiated in certain ordinances that take place inside temples.<ref>cite web</ref>

Law of chastity

Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints The church teaches what it calls the law of chastity, a moral code that its members must follow to be in good standing with the church. At its core, the law of chastity prohibits pre-marital sex and adultery,<ref>LDS Church (1997), Gospel Principles, p. 249.</ref> which includes gay and lesbian sex. The law also prohibits other sexual behavior, such as masturbation and bestiality, as well as mental behavior such as lust, sexual fantasy, and viewing of pornography.<ref>Spencer W. Kimball (1969), The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, pp. 25, 77–89.</ref> Emphasis on the law of chastity appears to lead to a lower rate of pre-marital sex among LDS youth in the US.<ref>Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton,"Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers", 2005 ISBN 978-0195180954, [6] esp. Charts of outcomes</ref>

The church encourages members to enter a celestial marriage, the only form of marriage recognized by the church as a sacrament and "the only due and proper way of joining husband and wife".<ref>Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay (October 1942), "Parenthood: First Presidency Message", Conference Report, pp. 12–13.</ref> For purposes of the law of chastity, however, the church presently recognizes only civil unions that are considered "legal and lawful" by the government where it takes place, with certain exceptions including same-sex marriage, polygamous marriage, common law marriage, and other types of non-ceremonial marriages in non-common law countries.<ref>In the 19th century, the church performed illegal polygamous marriages, but that practice has been discontinued. The church is sensitive about its historical relationship with polygamy and entry into a polygamous marriage, even where legal, may result in excommunication: Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics (2006), p. 110.</ref>

In countries where celestial marriage is not recognized by the government, it must be preceded by a civil marriage. The church's teachings are ambiguous about the scope of allowable sexual behavior between legally married couples. Some church leaders have taught that oral sex and anal sex are sinful, even as part of a marriage relationship,<ref>"The First Presidency has interpreted oral sex as constituting an unnatural, impure, or unholy practice." - letter from the First Presidency to local church leaders, 5 Jan, 1982, Copy located in BYU Library Special Collections, as quoted at [7]</ref><ref>"By the close of the nineteenth century, the church had developed a comprehensive, if not systematic and exhaustive set of beliefs and teachings relevant to the subject of fertility control...there was clearly no place within the Kingdom for such "hellish" practices" - Bush, Lester E., Jr.; Birth Control Among the Mormons - Introduction to an Insistent Question; Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Volume 10, Number 2, Autumn 1976; pg 18</ref> but there are no policies on these issues that are enforced in the church. Sexual activity outside of marriage may result in church discipline, including a possible excommunication, in which a member loses his or her church membership and privileges but may continue to attend meetings.<ref>LDS Church, Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics, 2006, pp. 109–111.</ref> In most instances, the church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control among married couples.<ref>LDS Church, Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics, 2006, p. 188.</ref>

LGBT members of the church are expected to keep the law of chastity.<ref name = Asking>Gordon B. Hinckley, "What Are People Asking about Us?", Ensign, November 1998, 71.</ref><ref>The church characterizes its church discipline policy as neutral regarding sexual orientation Lattin, Don (1997) Musings of the Main Mormon (Pres. Gordon Hinckley: “Now we have gays in the Church. Good people. We take no action against such people—provided they don’t become involved in transgression, sexual transgression. If they do, we do with them exactly what we’d do with heterosexuals who transgress.”) Nevertheless, according to the Church Handbook, repeated homosexual activities by adults, unlike repeated heterosexual extramarital sex, will result in an automatic annotation to a person's permanent membership record, which will follow them if they move to a new local congregation. See Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics (2006), p. 147. Also, homosexual activity committed after the age of 16 will normally permanently bar a person from serving a mission for the church. Id., p. 94.</ref> If they do, they can “go forward as do all other members of the Church.”<ref name = Asking/> If they desire to enter into a heterosexual marriage, they should first learn to deal with their homosexual feelings; otherwise, they must remain celibate.<ref>Interview with Elder Oaks and Wickman.</ref> Gay or lesbian sex, in any form, whether the participants are married or not, may be grounds for excommunication. In 2007, the church produced God Loveth His Children, a pamphlet to help LGB members of the church.<ref>God Lvoeth His Childre]</ref>

The church has supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and polygamous marriage in the United States and has stated that it "favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship."<ref name=Statement>First Presidency Statement on Same-Gender Marriage</ref> The church's position is that government recognition of such rights will "undermine the divinely created institution of the family".<ref name=Statement /><ref>cite news </ref>

Worship

Worship services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints The church provides several kinds of services and gatherings for participation by members and non-members, including weekly services on Sunday, periodic conferences such as the semi-annual general conference, and ritual services at the church's temples (for members only). All persons, regardless of their beliefs or standing in or out of the church, are welcome to attend normal church services and conferences.<ref>Open invitation to attend Church, on church-maintained website</ref> Women usually attend worship services wearing skirts or dresses, while men typically wear suits or dress shirts and ties. Children are also typically in their "Sunday best."<ref>Mormon.org. cite web</ref>

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Interior of the Conference Center where the church holds its semi-annual and annual General Conferences

The church holds its normal worship services on Sunday<ref>Services may be held on a different day when Sunday worship is prohibited by law.</ref> during a three-hour block composed of three meetings: sacrament meeting, which features the church's weekly sacrament (Eucharist) ritual and sermons by various selected members; Sunday School, featuring a lesson on various scriptural topics; and finally, each participant is assigned a meeting based on their age and sex, which could include a meeting of priesthood holders for males aged 12 and up separated into age-specific quorums, Relief Society for adult women, and a meeting of the Young Women Organization for adolescent females. During the second and third hours, children participate in activities of the Primary. Periodically, members participate in local, regional, and general church-wide conferences in lieu of Sunday services. The general conference is broadcast semi-annually (April and October) from Salt Lake City. The 2008 general conference was broadcast live through the Internet April 5 and 6 on lds.org and was of particular significance in that a new president of the church was presented for a sustaining vote, in what is called a Solemn assembly.<ref>LDS.org</ref>

The church also provides ritual services at its temples, which are open only to members of the appropriate age who meet standards of orthodoxy and worthiness. Members are encouraged to attend the temples regularly, where they usually participate in the Endowment, sealing, washing and anointing, and other ordinances, most often by proxy for the dead.

Church member activities

Law of consecration

For members of the church, the greatest commandment is to love God with all their heart and the second is to love others as they love themselves. All other commandments are considered appendages to these great commandments.(lds) In addition, they have a high degree of participation in religious activities outside of worship services. Members are expected or encouraged to pray frequently (several times a day), perform good works, and read scriptures daily.

Members are expected to donate their time, money, and talents to the church, as necessity and responsibility dictates. To be in good standing with the church, and to enter the church's temples, church members are asked to tithe their income to the church, which is usually interpreted as 10% of income. In addition, members are asked to go without food and drink for two consecutive meals one Sunday per month, and to donate charitable "fast offerings" (at least the equivalent cost of those two meals), which are used to help the needy, regardless of whether or not they are church members. They are also encouraged to make other humanitarian donations when necessary, as in the case of an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, etc., and to assist in relief efforts as they are able. This is considered a primary mission of the church, as described by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, when he said "So long as this church has any resources, those resources will be made available to those in need, anywhere in the world."

In addition to attending the weekly three-hour church services, members are usually given "callings" or assignments in the church, and often attend various other meetings or activities throughout the week relating to that calling. Members in good standing are assigned to visit the homes of other members monthly as "home teachers" (men) or "visiting teachers" (women). Members are also encouraged to engage in missionary work, family history research, to conduct a Family Home Evening weekly with their family, and to attend the temple regularly. Church members are encouraged to live self-sufficiently and avoid unnecessary debt.<ref>lds; Benson, Ezra Taft. "Pay Thy Debt, and Live." Ensign. June 1987: p. 3. cite web</ref> All male members are encouraged to serve a two-year mission at the age of 19, though there are high standards of worthiness and physical and mental health that prohibit many men from serving. Women may optionally serve a mission if they are over the age of 21 and not married, as may older married couples. Women serve a mission for a period of only eighteen months compared to two years for men. Many members also choose to participate in ward or stake choir, with a select group also participating in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which received a Grammy for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," an Emmy award for the television program "Christmas Sampler," and the Peabody Award for its CBS production "Let Freedom Ring". The Choir has also been recognized for producing five gold and two platinum records.<ref>cite web</ref><ref>cite web</ref>

Good standing in the church requires that members follow the "Word of Wisdom"<ref>Doctrine and Covenants section 89, originally a strong recommendation.</ref> (a health code given by Joseph Smith which the church interprets as requiring abstinence from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, coffee, tea, and the use of drugs), though exceptions for any of the above are made if taken on the advice of a competent medical professional. Members must also obey the law of chastity (the church's code for modesty and allowable forms of sexuality), and are counseled against choosing an elective abortion, except in the cases of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, a pregnancy that seriously jeopardizes the life or health of the mother, or a pregnancy where a physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.<ref>Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1:Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics, 2006, p. 185.</ref> In general, members must obey the law of the country in which they live and visit, although there have been notable exceptions.<ref>For example, until 1890, the church advocated civil disobedience to U.S. anti-polygamy laws.</ref> The church discourages gambling in all forms, including lotteries.<ref>Gambling. Gordon B. Hinckley, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.</ref>

Church members who commit what are considered serious violations of the standards of the church (defined as, without limitation, "attempted murder, rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, and false swearing"<ref>Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics (2006), p. 110.</ref>) may be subject to Church disciplinary action, including disfellowshipment or even excommunication, although excommunication is generally reserved for the more extreme of the above transgressions. Such individuals are encouraged to continue attending church services, but are not permitted to hold church responsibilities or offer public prayer at any church meeting (although personal prayer is encouraged); excommunicated members are also prohibited from paying tithing or fast offerings. Other members are frequently unaware of the status of such individuals.<ref></ref> Everyone is welcome to attend the public meetings of the church, whether or not they adhere to the church's lifestyle code.

Sacred texts

Image:Latter-day Saint Scripture Quadruple Combination.jpg
The Standard Works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints printed in the Quadruple Combination format, often referred to simply as a "Quad"

Standard Works

The church's canon of sacred texts consists of the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. These are more commonly referred to as the church's Standard Works. Though not canonical, many members of the church also accept the teachings and pronouncements of the church's general authorities—and in particular those of the President of the Church—as doctrine, and complementing the Standard Works.

The church accepts the Holy Bible as the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.<ref>See lds ("We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.")</ref> Joseph Smith wrote, "I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers".<ref>Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 327</ref> The LDS Church uses the King James Version (KJV) or translation for its English speaking members and other translations to accommodate alternative languages. Joseph Smith did work on his own translation, but it is only used in conjunction with the KJV. Two extracts of his translation can be found in the Pearl of Great Price, called the Book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew.<ref>Citation.</ref><ref>cite web</ref> The church regards parts of the Apocrypha,<ref>See lds.</ref> the writings of some Protestant Reformers and non-Christian religious leaders, and the non-religious writings of some philosophers to be inspired, though not canonical.<ref>FAQ about the church</ref>

The church's most distinctive scripture, the Book of Mormon, was published by founder Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830. It is believed to be "another testament of Jesus Christ" and bears that subtitle as of 1982.<ref>see the title page of the Book of Mormon</ref> Smith stated that he translated the Book of Mormon from metal plates that had "the appearance of gold" that he found buried near his home. His history records:

At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the 22nd day of September 1827, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected.<ref>Joseph Smith—History 1:59</ref>

As of September 2007, the full text of the Book of Mormon had been translated and published in 77 languages, and selections in an additional 28 for a total of 105 languages.<ref>2008 Church Almanac, Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City pg.656</ref> The introduction printed with the book says that it is a history of the principal ancestors of the "American Indian" peoples.<ref>However, this introduction is not officially recognized by the church as being part of the divinely inspired canon of scripture.</ref> Much debate has taken place on the subject of whether archeology supports or denies the Book of Mormon's authenticity.<ref>Does Archeology Support the Book of Mormon?:A Brief Survey of the Evidence Institute for Religious Research. 1992</ref><ref>cite book.</ref> The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies at BYU regularly publishes the observations of dozens of scholars trained in biblical studies, archeology, classics, history, law, linguistics, anthropology, political science, philosophy, Near Eastern studies, literature, and other fields relating to parallels with the Book of Mormon and the ancient world.<ref>Parry, Peterson, and Welch, Echos and Evidences of the Book of Mormonpg. xi-xii</ref>

The church's Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of modern revelations, declarations, and teachings, primarily written by Joseph Smith. The Pearl of Great Price consists of five separate books, including two portions of Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible. These five books are Selections from the Book of Moses (corresponding to a portion of the Old Testament), the Book of Abraham (Smith's translation of an Egyptian papyrus, which includes an account of the creation), Joseph Smith—Matthew (corresponding to a section of the New Testament), Joseph Smith—History (an excerpt from Smith's 1838 autobiographical writings), and the Articles of Faith (an excerpt of one of Smith's 1842 letters describing church beliefs).

For more on this subject, see below: Revelation under Church hierarchy.

Church organization and structure

Name and legal entities

Mergefrom The church teaches that it is a continuation of the Church of Christ established in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. This original church underwent several name changes during the 1830s, being called the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church of God,<ref>Citation.</ref> and then in 1834, the name was officially changed to the Church of the Latter Day Saints<ref> Citation.</ref> to differentiate it from the 1st century Christian church. In April 1838, the name again was officially changed by revelation to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.<ref> Citation.</ref><ref>Manuscript History of the Church, LDS Church Archives, book A-1, p. 37; reproduced in Dean C. Jessee (comp.) (1989). The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) 1:302–303.</ref><ref>H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters (1994). Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books) p. 160.</ref> There were several alternate spellings of this name in use during Smith's lifetime, however, including a hyphenated "Latter-Day". After Smith died, Brigham Young and the largest body of Smith's followers incorporated the LDS Church in 1851 by legislation of the State of Deseret,<ref>The initial incorporation by the non-existent State of Deseret[8] was not legally valid, but was soon ratified by the Territory of Utah in 1851[9] and 1855. See Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Romney, 136 U.S. 44–45 (1890).</ref> under the name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which included a hyphenated "Latter-day" and a lower-case "d".<ref>State of Deseret: An Ordinance, incorporating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, February 4, 1851.</ref> In 1887, the LDS Church was legally dissolved in the United States by the Edmunds–Tucker Act because of the church's practice (now abandoned) of polygamy. Thereafter, the church has continued to operate as an "unincorporated religious association", under the name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which remains its formal name. Accepted informal names include the LDS Church, the Latter-day Saints, and the Mormons. The term Mormon Church is in common use, but the church began discouraging its use in the late 20th century. The Church requests that the official name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, be used when possible, or if necessary shortened to "the Church" or "the Church of Jesus Christ".<ref>cite press release</ref> However, the Church uses Mormon as a descriptive term in the name of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and its own public-face website, mormon.org. The Associated Press continues to recommend "Mormon Church" as a proper second reference in its Style Guide for journalists. The AP Style Guide also points out that the term "Mormon" is only appropriately used when referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Use of the term "Mormon" would not be appropriate for describing break away sects which are no longer associated with the LDS church.

The church has organized several tax-exempt corporations to assist with the transfer of money and capital. These include the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized in 1916 under the laws of the state of Utah to acquire, hold, and dispose of real property. In 1923, the church incorporated the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah to receive and manage money and church donations. In 1997, the church incorporated Intellectual Reserve, Inc. to hold all the church's copyrights, trademarks, and other intellectual property. The church also holds several non-tax-exempt corporations. See Finances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Current membership

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints membership statistics Membership history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The church reports a worldwide membership of 13 million<ref name = SLT13/><ref name = LDS13/> with approximately 6.7 million residing outside the United States. According to these statistics it is the fourth largest religious body in the United States.<ref>2005 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, National Council of Churches. See article by Information Please Database, Pearson Education, Inc.</ref> The church membership report includes all baptized members and also "children of record"—unbaptized children under the age of eight. (Children are not baptized before the age of eight.) Although the church does not release attendance figures to the public, researchers estimate that actual attendance at weekly LDS worship services globally is around 4 million.<ref>Fletcher, Peggy. "Keeping Members a Challenge for LDS Church". Salt Lake Tribune, June 22, 2006.</ref> Members living in the U.S. and Canada constitute 46% of membership, Latin America 38%, and members in the rest of the world 16%.<ref name="currentmembership">Statistical Information, Retrieved December 1, 2007</ref> A Survey by the City College of New York in 2001 extrapolated that there were 2,787,000 self-identified LDS adults in the United States in 2001, 1.3% of the US population, making the LDS Church the 10th-largest religious body in their phone survey of over 50,000 households.<ref>cite web</ref> One source cites it is the second fastest growing religion in the United States with a 1.63 percent annual growth rate.<ref>cite news</ref>

2007 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Survey Mormons (U.S.) U.S. Avg.
Married 71% 54%
Divorced or separated 9% 12%
3 or more children at home 21% 9%
Weekly (or more) Attendance at Religious Services 75% 39%

In 2007, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life published a survey of 35,556 Adults living in the United States on religious beliefs.<ref>[10]</ref> Of those, 1.7% claimed they were Mormon. In comparison, the LDS Church reported having 5,873,408 members or 1.9% of the overall U.S. population at year-end 2007. Responses from this survey estimates that 3.9 Million Mormons in the United States alone (1.3% of US Population) attend services on either once a week or more than once a week.

Geographic structure

Church congregations are generally organized geographically, unlike other mainstream Christian denominations. For Sunday services, the church is grouped into either larger (~200 to ~400 people) congregations known as wards, or smaller congregations known as branches. These neighborhood congregations meet in meetinghouses, also referred to as "chapels" or "stake centers" or just ward buildings, located on property most often owned by the church. In some geographic areas, rental property may be used as a meetinghouse. Although the building may sometimes be referred to as a "chapel", the room used as a chapel for religious services is actually only one component of the standard meetinghouse.<ref>A church-maintained virtual tour of a typical meetinghouse</ref> The church's online "Meetinghouse Locator" can be used to find locations of church buildings and meeting times.<ref>Worship With Us</ref>

Regional church organizations larger than single congregations include stakes, missions, districts, areas, and regions.

Church leadership

[[File:Thomas S Monson.jpg|right|thumb|175px|Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]] The leader of the church is termed President, and church members revere him as a prophet, seer, and revelator. The prophet is believed to hold the same divine calling as biblical prophets, and his responsibility is primarily over the church as a whole. His stewardship extends over the whole human family on earth as the Lord's mouthpiece. He is entitled to guide the church through revelation, acting as God's spokesman. The President of the Church serves as such until death. The current president is Thomas S. Monson.

The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presiding Bishopric and the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy are all referred to as general authorities because they direct the work of the entire church throughout the world. The members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are accepted by the church as prophets, seers, and revelators.

Other church authorities are referred to as area authorities and local authorities and include all other Quorums of the Seventy, mission presidents, stake presidents, bishops, and other priesthood quorum presidents.

The church has no paid local clergy; however, general authorities who demonstrate need receive stipends from the church, using income from church-owned investments.<ref>Ludlow, Daniel H., Latter-day Prophets Speak: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Church Presidents, 1948/1993, Ch. 32</ref> All area and local authorities are unpaid and continue in their normal occupations while serving in leadership positions.

Although the church had a paid local clergy in the 1800s,<ref>D. Michael Quinn (1997), Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, ch. 6.</ref> local and regional priesthood leaders currently serve in a voluntary capacity. Non-clerical church employees, general authorities (who serve life or five-year terms), and mission presidents are paid a stipend from church funds and provided other benefits. A general missionary fund covers the basic living expenses of single LDS missionaries who are unable to pay their own way. Missionaries and their families are asked to contribute to this fund, and in the United States the missionary's congregation of origin is ultimately responsible to satisfy the monthly obligation to the general fund. Members volunteer general custodial work for local church facilities.

Church hierarchy

Priesthood (LDS Church)

The church has a hierarchical structure, with clearly defined stewardships or realms of responsibility for the various offices. Those who hold such offices do not elect to do so but are "called" by someone of a higher authority in the church; lower positions are not paid for their service. General Authorities, The Quorum of the Twelve, and the First Presidency are paid for their administrative duties, but not as religious ministers.

Priesthood

The priesthood is offered to all male members ages 12 and older who follow the church's code of morality. The priesthood is received by ordination, which consists of other priesthood holders laying their hands on the one ordained. Ordination to the priesthood is a prerequisite to preside in the church.

The priesthood in the LDS Church is divided into two levels, the lower priesthood or Aaronic Priesthood, and the higher priesthood or Melchizedek Priesthood. Within each level are various offices. The Aaronic Priesthood offices include deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop. The Melchizedek priesthood offices include elder, high priest, patriarch, seventy, and apostle.

From the end of the nineteenth century until 1978, The church did not allow black men of African descent to be ordained to the priesthood or allow black men or women of African descent to participate in temple ordinances such as the Endowment and sealing that the church teaches are necessary for the highest degree of salvation. In the early church, at least two black people were ordained during Joseph Smith's lifetime, but they were not permitted by later presidents of the church to participate in temple ordinances. Now, they have full and equal rights.

Revelation

The church teaches that revelation from God continues today. Accordingly, revelation to direct the entire church comes to the president; revelation to direct a stake comes to the stake president; for a ward, to the bishop; and so forth. Latter-day Saints also believe that individuals can receive divine guidance in their personal affairs. Because of their belief in modern revelation, Latter-day Saints give significant weight to the teachings of their church leaders. They revere the words their prophets and general authorities speak when "moved upon by the Holy Ghost"<ref>lds. Members are encouraged to listen carefully to general conference but also feel they can rely on personal revelation in order to appreciate validity of such statements. (see Joseph F. Smith, in Conference Report, April 1902, and Howard W. Hunter in Conference Report, October 1981.)</ref> as modern-day scripture, and members are encouraged to ponder and pray for revelation regarding the truthfulness of such statements.

Lest someone falsely claim to have received a revelation from God, only those declarations, publications, and teachings received by common consent in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are binding upon its members. Specifically, when a member is accepted by baptism and confirmation into the church, he or she covenants to accept as binding upon him or her the Standard Works, the pronouncements of the living prophet (President of the Church), and all revelation accepted by common consent. Any other teachings or publications are compared for accuracy against those criteria and are not necessarily binding upon the members. <ref>D&C 20:63-66; 26:2; 46:9; 104:21,64,71-72; Standard Works of the Church</ref>

Latter-day Saints believe no one can be saved unless he or she receives the gift of the Holy Ghost (John 3:5; D&C 16), a being who is a revelator, by definition, so that every interaction of the Holy Ghost with Man is a revelation from God.<ref>John 14:15-26; 15:26-27; 16:7-17</ref> Latter-day Saints also believe that anyone receiving an answer to prayer has received a manifestation of the will of God, hence a revelation from Him.

Members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are frequently condemned for accepting revelations extraneous to the Bible, on grounds quoted from the Book of Revelation (Rev. 22:18-21). In answer, Latter-day Saints respond that the "taking away" and "adding to" mentioned in that passage have to do only with the Book of Revelation, not the entirety of Holy Writ, arguing that at the time of Jesus and the apostles, the New Testament did not yet exist as a single compilation, but as separated manuscripts. A similar limiting statement is recorded in Deuteronomy 4:1-2, which would seem to disqualify subsequent writings of the prophets and the entire New Testament. Furthermore, most Latter-day Saint scholars would be in agreement with the view of Isaac Newton<ref>Observations on the Book of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John by Isaac Newton</ref> and others that several books of the New Testament were written after the Book of Revelation (including the Gospel of John, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the First, Second, and Third Epistles of Peter).

Latter-day Saints believe there is no end to the works and words of the Living God (Moroni 7:36). Other statements in scripture allude to this idea (John 21:25; 3 Nephi 26:6). God may command and revoke as seems good to Him at any time (D&C 56:4-6).<ref>D&C 20:32-36; 58:32; 3 Nephi 11:40; Deut. 4:1-2</ref> The Book of Mormon purports to be a body of scripture from another nation visited by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (2 Nephi 28 and 29).

Auxiliary organizations

Auxiliary organization

Under the leadership of the priesthood hierarchy are five auxiliary organizations that fill various roles in the church: Relief Society, Young Men Organization, Young Women Organization, Primary, and Sunday School.

The Relief Society is the church's women's organization. Founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, and with the motto "Charity Never Faileth", the organization today includes more than 5 million women in more than 165 countries.<ref>cite web</ref> Every Latter-day Saint woman age 18 or older is a member of the Relief Society.

The Young Men and Young Women organizations are composed of adolescents aged 12 to 17. Members often have an additional meeting during the week (referred to as Mutual), which can involve an activity, game, service project, or instruction. The young men and women may meet separately or take part in combined activities. In the United States and Canada, the young men participate in Scouting, including efforts to earn the Boy Scouts religious award for church members, "On my Honor." Young men throughout the church also work toward earning the church's "Duty to God" award. Young women participate in a comparable program called Personal Progress. Both the young men and the young women are encouraged to live by the standards outlined in the church's "For the Strength of Youth" booklet.

The Primary is an organization for children up to age 12, founded in 1878. It provides classes, music, and activities for children during two hours of the three-hour Sunday meeting schedule.

The LDS Sunday School organization provides classes for adolescents and adults during the one hour of the Sunday meeting schedule. It provides a variety of classes, including introductory classes for new members and nonmembers, and gospel doctrine classes for more experienced members. Adolescents are grouped into classes by age.

Programs

thumb|right|160px|Two missionaries

Missionary

Missionary (LDS Church) Mission (LDS Church) Some members of the church are encouraged to serve as missionaries, either full-time, part-time or as "service" missionaries. All missionaries serve on a volunteer basis, and none are paid for their service. While members are encouraged to serve as missionaries, there is no requirement to do so.

Unmarried young men between the ages of 19 and 25 who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and meet standards of worthiness and preparation are especially encouraged to serve a two-year, full-time proselytizing mission. These are the backbone of the worldwide missionary effort. Women who desire to serve a mission must be at least 21 and unmarried, and are generally called to serve 18-month missions. A would-be missionary must request that he or she be considered for service, then must go through interviews with church authorities to determine worthiness and ability to perform the duties. Once this is done, they "put in their papers," then wait to see where they will be called to serve. Full-time missionaries may be called to serve anywhere in the world, and often know nothing about the mission area that they will be assigned to. If necessary, they will be taught the language they must use.

Missionaries are expected to pay their own expenses (though some are partially supported by other church members, especially if they come from less-affluent areas). With few exceptions, a missionary will serve the entire period of his or her calling in one mission, but will be moved around within the mission boundaries. Exceptions may include missionaries who develop health problems while on their missions and wish to continue to serve by being transferred to a mission close to home, or those in areas that impose length-of-stay limits on foreign "workers." Also, sister missionaries called to the Salt Lake Temple Square Mission spend approximately three months "in the field" somewhere else in the United States.

Retired married couples and other older people are allowed to serve missions as well, and their length of service varies from three to 36 months.<ref>cite web</ref> Many of these older missionaries are on "service missions," rather than proselyting, but many also serve at church historical sites throughout the world or where there is a special need.

There are approximately 350 missions worldwide with approximately 53,000 full-time proselytizing missionaries. <ref name="currentmembership"/> At any given time, there are also over 3,000 service missionaries, serving as health care specialists, doctors, craftsmen, artisans, construction supervisors, agricultural experts and educators for developing countries, and educators, historians, family history researchers, and leadership trainers.<ref name="currentmembership"/>

Missions often overlap in their geographical areas of authority, when necessary to serve portions of the resident population. For instance, within the bounds of one mission might also be special missions serving a foreign-speaking immigrant community, inner-city areas, historical sites, Welfare Program resources such as storehouses and farms, etc., and even missions specifically created for a unique project, such as temple construction or making films for the church. These special missions are generally in addition to the approximately 350 missions mentioned above, and number in the hundreds.

Every full-time and service missionary is the responsibility of a Mission President and his wife, who are generally called for several years at a time (and, like the missionaries they lead, they pay their own way). They provide administration of day-to-day operations, as well as spiritual guidance of the missionaries. The exceptions are part-time missionaries who are serving in their own neighborhoods under the direction of their Bishop or Branch President.

In June 2007, the church marked the induction of its one millionth full-time missionary since 1830.<ref name = LDS13/> There is no recorded total of part-time missionaries.

Education

Church Educational System

Image:BYUclarillon.jpg
The carillon tower at Brigham Young University, one of several educational institutions sponsored by the church.

Latter-day Saints believe in the value of education. Joseph Smith taught that "the glory of God is intelligence."<ref>lds</ref> Accordingly, the church maintains Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University–Idaho (formerly Ricks College), Brigham Young University Hawaii, and LDS Business College.

The church also has religious education programs. The Seminary and Institute programs are part of the Church Educational System: Seminary is a program for secondary school students held daily in conjunction with the school year. The Institute of Religion and the LDS Student Association programs serve young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 and those enrolled in post-secondary education institutions with church-owned buildings near university and college campuses designated for the purpose of religious education and cultural socialization.

In addition, the church sponsors a low-interest educational loan program known as the Perpetual Education Fund. This fund is designed to benefit young men and women from less developed parts of the world who need further education to become productive citizens in their respective countries. As they finish their educations and enter the work force and become able, they pay back the funds provided so that other individuals can attend vocational technical schools or university.

Welfare

Bishop's storehouse

Members of the church donate fast offerings on Fast Sunday and at other times for the purpose of helping those who are poor or financially struggling. The bishop will meet with a family, or the head(s) of a family to determine whether and how much help they need from the church. The church strongly encourages its members to be self-reliant, so these meetings will usually include a plan on how to get the family back on its own feet. This welfare program is available not only to members of the church, but to needy members of the community as well. In fact, the church has a very broad humanitarian effort, which helps not only those who are going through financial struggles, but also victims of natural disasters or other devastating events. All of these services are paid for by charitable donations and are run by volunteer workers. $104.9 million of aid was given in 2007. Welfare service missionaries numbering 6,470 are currently serving in the church.<ref>cite web</ref>

Priesthood correlation

Priesthood Correlation Program The Priesthood Correlation Program is a program designed to provide a systematic approach to maintain consistency in its ordinances, doctrines, organizations, meetings, materials, and other programs and activities. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized according to priesthood function, and correlation provides support to the priesthood quorums, thereby improving communication and leadership, and keeping unorthodox information, doctrines and other undesired concepts from being introduced.

Finances

Finances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The church has not released church-wide financial statements since 1959, but in 1997 Time Magazine called it one of the world's wealthiest churches per capita.<ref>Biema, David Van. Kingdom Come. Time Magazine, Vol. 150 No. 5, August 4, 1997 (estimating the church's value at over $30 billion).</ref> Its for-profit, non-profit, and educational subsidiary entities are audited by an independent accounting firm: As of, Deloitte & Touche.<ref>Belo Corp Form 8-K. Accessed May 16, 2007.</ref><ref>"Financial Planning". finserve.byu.edu. Accessed May 16, 2007.</ref> In addition, the church employs an independent audit department that provides its certification at each annual general conference that church contributions are collected and spent in accordance with church policy.<ref></ref>

The church receives most of its money from tithes (ten percent of a member's income) and fast offerings (money given to the church to assist individuals in need.) According to the church, tithing and fast offering moneys collected are devoted to ecclesiastical purposes and not used for-profit ventures. About ten percent of its funding also comes from income on investments and real estate holdings.Fact

The church uses its tithing funds to construct and maintain buildings and other facilities; to print the Scriptures for missionary work; to provide social welfare and relief; and to support missionary, educational, and other church-sponsored programs.<ref>cite web</ref>

The church has also invested in for-profit business and real estate ventures such as Bonneville International, Deseret Book Company, and cattle ranches in Utah, Florida, and Canada. But these ranches are split between Church Welfare Work (Bishop's Storehouse and Welfare Square) for which funds are used from tithing and are not for profit.Clarifyme For-profit ranching operations are partially self-sustained but never use tithed money.Fact

Culture

Culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Due to the differences in lifestyle promoted by church doctrine and history, a distinct culture has grown up around members of the church. It is primarily concentrated in the Intermountain West, but as membership of the church spreads around the world, many of its more distinctive practices follow, such as following the Word of Wisdom, a revealed health law or code (D&C 89), similar to Leviticus chapter 11 in the Bible, prohibiting the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, coffee and tea, and other addictive substances.<ref>See Doctrine & Covenants, Section 89.</ref> Because of such prohibitions, the culture in areas of the world with a high concentration of LDS tends to reflect these restrictions.<ref>Salt Lake Tribune Editorial, Liquor stores: Banning phone listings, stores won't stop abuse.</ref>

Meetings and outreach programs are held regularly and have become part of the Latter-day Saint culture.

Home and family

Four times a year, the adult women (members of the church's Relief Society) attend a Home, Family and Personal Enrichment Meeting. The meeting may consist of a service project, or of attending a social event, or of various classes being offered. Additional Enrichment activities are offered for women with similar needs and interests.

Social events and gatherings

Image:LSD stake center.jpg
A typical meetinghouse of the church

In addition to these regularly scheduled meetings, additional meetings are frequently held at the meetinghouse. Auxiliary officers may conduct leadership meetings or host training sessions and classes. The ward or branch community may schedule social activities at the meetinghouse, including dances, dinners, holiday parties and musical presentations. The church's Young Men's and Young Women's organizations (formerly known as the Mutual Improvement Organization, or simply "Mutual") meet at the meetinghouse once a week, where the youth participate in activities and work on Duty to God, scouting, or Personal Progress. Other popular activities are basketball, family history conferences, youth and singles conferences, dances and various personal improvement classes. Church members may also reserve the building for weddings and receptions, or funerals.

Media and arts

The culture has created substantial business opportunities for independent LDS media. The largest of these communities are LDS cinema, LDS fiction, LDS websites, and LDS graphical art like photography and paintings. The church owns a chain of bookstores called Deseret Book, which provide a channel through which publications are sold. This culture also resides outside of heavily Mormon populations, and many LDS-related bookstores exist near temples. Some of the titles that have become popular outside of the LDS community are The Work and the Glory novels and the movie The Other Side of Heaven.Or A number of works have been successful only within the LDS community. These works generally elaborate on LDS culture or are of historical interest or are historical fiction. BYU TV, the church-sponsored television station, also airs on several networks.

Criticism and Controversies

Criticism of the Latter Day Saint movement

Image:Prop8templeProtest.jpg
Protesters in front of the Newport Beach California Temple voicing their opposition to the church's support of Prop 8

The church has been subject to both praise and criticism by outsiders since its early years in New York and Pennsylvania. Criticism at first stemmed from a perception that Joseph Smith, Jr., a former "treasure seer", was a con artist, and that his apparent supernatural powers could not have plausibly been turned to the heavenly purposes he claimed.<ref>See.,e.g, *Citation (see Mormonism Unvailed). Howe was an important early critic of Mormonism. </ref>

During the 1830s, the first main source of criticism had to do with Smith's handling of financial matters in Kirtland, Ohio. Then in Missouri, local newspapers criticized Mormon settlers for their political power and apparent abolitionism. This criticism stirred up anger culminating in the 1838 Mormon War. After the church relocated to Illinois, criticism of the LDS Church related mainly to the church's political aspirations and its clandestine practice of plural marriage. Most prominently, the Nauvoo Expositor directly criticized the Smith administration and called for reform within Mormonism. The fallout of this criticism led to Smith's 1844 assassination.

As the church began openly practicing plural marriage under Brigham Young during the second half of the 19th century, the church became the target of nation-wide criticism for that practice, as well as for the church's theocratic aspirations in the Utah Territory. After the Civil War, the church also came under nation-wide criticism for the Mountain Meadows massacre. On the other hand, the church was also occasionally the subject of journalistic praise during this era. After spending a summer with the LDS in the early 1870s, historian John Codman concluded that the LDS in Utah did a better job of ridding their communities of gambling, drunkenness, and prostitution than the rest of the country.<ref>cite book</ref>

After the 1890 and 1904 manifestos and church president Joseph F. Smith's testimony before the U.S. Senate, the most severe national criticism of the church eased. However, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, academic critics have questioned the legitimacy of Smith as a prophet and the historicity of the Book of Mormon and other works such as the Book of Abraham. In modern times, criticism focuses on claims of historical revisionism, homophobia, racism,<ref> "Skin Color in Mormon Scripture and Theology" http://irr.org/mit/pdfs/Skin-Color-&-LDS-Church.pdf</ref> sexist policies, and inadequate financial disclosure. Notable 20th century critics include Jerald and Sandra Tanner and Fawn Brodie.

In recent years, the Internet has provided a new forum for critics,<ref> cite news </ref> and the church's recent support of California's Proposition 8 sparked heated debate and protesting by gay-rights organizations.<ref>cite web</ref><ref>cite web</ref> In the 21st century, the Sierra Club praised the church for being "good stewards" in its City Creek Center development.<ref>cite web</ref>

See also

Christianityportal portal portal

Mormon denomination tree

References

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External links

commonscat Spoken Wikipedia

Official websites of the Church

Church-related websites

Educational institutions

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Academic forums

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