Understanding Mormonism

 

Understanding Mormonism is an area which Christians and other non-Mormons have trouble with. Mormons can sound very orthodox. They say they believe Jesus died on the cross for the sins of mankind. They teach a belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They speak of salvation and will even go so far as stating they are saved. They subscribe to the Ten Commandments and carry Bibles to church along with scriptures unique to Mormonism, such as the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. They have high moral standards and a code of dietary rules that are intended to honor their bodies as “temples.” A casual observer might be inclined to ask, “Okay, they may be a little odd in some ways, but so what? They seem to profess Christian beliefs so what is the big deal?”

This is where some confusion comes in with those not familiar with LDS terminology. The words are “Christian” and Biblical-sounding, but they mean completely different things than what is commonly understood by Bible-believing Christians. It would be beneficial to look at the Mormon Church’s “Thirteen Articles of Faith.”.

Mormonism’s 13 Articles of Faith (LDS creed)

1. We believe in God the eternal Father, and in His son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

What this means in Mormon-speak: God the Father, known as “Elohim,” was once a human man who earned his right to become a god through good works and adherence to the Mormon gospel on another planet. He now has a glorified body of flesh and resides with his many wives on a planet “nigh unto Kolob,” fathering spirit children that will someday be born as mortal humans on this earth or another.

Because we are made in his image, we know that God has a body that looks like ours. His eternal spirit is housed in a tangible body of flesh and bones. (Gospel Principles manual, 1997 edition, page 9)

In spite of the opposition of the sects, in the face of direct charges of blasphemy, the Church proclaims the eternal truth: ‘As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become. (A Study of the Articles of Faith, by James E. Talmage, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1971)

All men and women are…literally the sons and daughters of Deity. Man, as a spirit, was begotten of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal (physical) body. (Gospel Principles manual, 1997, page 11)

Jesus (also known as “Jehovah”) is our older spirit brother and the brother of Satan. He volunteered to pay for our sins. He was conceived through sexual relations between God the Father and Mary.

We needed a Savior to pay for our sins and teach us how to return to our Heavenly Father…Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, ‘Here I am, send me.’ Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came saying, ‘Behold, here I am, send me. I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost…”

Because our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior, Satan became angry and rebelled (Gospel Principles manual, 1997, page 19).

Thus, God the Father became the literal father of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal father. From his mother he inherited mortality and was subject to hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, and death. He inherited divine powers from his father.” (Gospel Principles manual, 1997, p. 64)

I want the little folks to hear what I am going to tell you. I am going to tell you a simple truth, yet it is one of the greatest truths and one of the most simple facts ever revealed to the children of men.

You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers…Now, we are told in the scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, now for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father. The difference between Jesus Christ and other men is this: our fathers in the flesh are mortal men, who are subject unto death: but the Father of Jesus Christ in the flesh is the God of Heaven…We must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot His Son Jesus Christ…Now, my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you talk to your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father, is literally the father of Jesus Christ.

(This is followed by an illustrated drawing of a man and a woman with the caption; “Daddy + Mommy [=] You. Our Heavenly Father + Mary [=} Jesus”) (Family Home Evening manual, 1972, “A Modern Prophet’s Answer,” pp. 125-126)

The Holy Ghost is the third personage in the Godhead. He has a body of spirit, but cannot be in more than one place at a time, although his influence may be felt everywhere. The Father is a god; Jesus is a god; and the Holy Spirit/Ghost is a god.

The Holy Ghost as a personage of Spirit can no more be omnipresent than can the Father and the Son (with their bodies of flesh). (Gospel Doctrine Sermons and Writings, President Joseph F. Smith, 1919, p. 61).

Later it was also revealed (to Joseph Smith) that the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, separate and distinct from the personalities of the Father and the Son (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 1988, p. 4).

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

Mormon-speak: The fall of Adam was a “fall upward.” Adam’s “transgression” of eating the forbidden fruit was actually part of God’s plan for mankind. According to LDS doctrine, Adam and Eve could not bear children until they partook of the forbidden fruit and became mortal (subject to death).

Some people believe Adam and Eve committed a serious sin when they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, latter-day scriptures (Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) help us understand that their fall was a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us. Because of the Fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life (living in God’s presence in eternity). None of those privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden (Gospel Principles manual, 1997, p. 33).

The privilege of mortality granted to the rest of us is the principle gift given by the fall of Adam and Eve (LDS Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, SLC: Deseret Book Co., 1997, p. 204).

I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of sin…This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin…for it was something Adam and Eve had to do! (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Bookcraft 1954, vol. 1, pp. 114-115)

3. We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

Mormon-speak: Because of Christ’s atonement, which primarily took place in the garden of Gethsemane, mankind has the privilege of enjoying salvation by obeying the commandments and ordinances of the Mormon gospel. Besides keeping the Ten Commandments, this would include baptism by immersion by an authorized LDS priesthood holder, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by an authorized priesthood holder, and eventually going through the temple for oneself and in behalf of the dead. To become worthy enough to go through the temple, members must keep the “Word of Wisdom;” a set of dietary codes requiring the abstention from tea, coffee, tobacco, and alcohol, as well as eating meat sparingly and making use of certain grains. They must pay a full tithe to the church (ten percent of income), sustain church leaders by word and deed, believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and lead sexually pure lives; no premarital sex, faithfulness in marriage, no masturbation, and refraining from impure and unholy practices such as oral sex with one’s spouse (that used to be a firm teaching. Church leaders now teach it is a private matter between husband and wife).

While the atonement of Jesus Christ is necessary, it is only the door that opens the way to salvation. The rest must be worked out by individuals.

The Savior atoned for our sins by suffering in Gethsemane and by giving his life on the cross….In the Garden of Gethsemane, the weight of our sins caused him to feel such agony and heartbreak that he bled from every pore (Gospel Principles manual, 1997, page 73).

We accept Christ’s atonement by placing our faith in him. Through this faitf, we repent of our sins, are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and obey his commandments…Christ did his part to atone for our sins. To make his atonement fully effective in our lives, we must strive to obey him and repent of our sins.

Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the twelve gave the following illustration to show how Christ’s atonement makes it possible to be saved from sin if we do our part (the manual then continues with a story of a debtor, creditor, and mediator) (ibid p. 75)

In summary, according to an LDS teaching manual; We accept Christ’s atonement by (1) repenting of our sins, (2) being baptized, (3) receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and (4) obeying all of the commandments. In this way we are cleansed from sin and become worthy to return and live forever with our heavenly Father…”Christ’s atonement makes it possible to be saved from sin if we do our part.”

Regarding salvation, Mormonism teaches there are two kinds; general and specific. General salvation was provided to everyone by Christ’s atonement. That means that everyone who has been born will receive a resurrected body. Exaltation though, the privilege of dwelling with God in the highest degree of glory and becoming gods ourselves—the Celestial Kingdom (one of Mormonism’s three heavens) comes by personal works of righteousness.

The resurrection is unconditional and applies to all who have ever lived and ever will live. It is a free gift.” (James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, November 2001. Accessible on LDS.org )

Mormons believe there are two types of salvation made available through the atonement of Jesus Christ—universal and individual. All who receive a physical body—whether they are good or bad, evil or righteous—will be resurrected. This universal salvation is a universal gift (Robert L. Millet and Noel B. Reynolds, Latter-day Christianity: 10 Basic Issues, Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998, pp. 32-33, chapter 6).

After all we can do to pay to the uttermost farthing and make right our wrongs, the Savior’s grace is activated in our lives through the atonement, which purifies us and can perfect us.

Many people think they need only confess that Jesus is the Christ and then they are saved by grace alone. We cannot be saved by grace alone, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”(James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope”)

The mere fact of resurrection is called salvation by grace alone. Salvation in the celestial kingdom of God [what Christians would call heaven], however, is not salvation by grace alone. Rather, it is salvation by grace coupled with obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel…This Nephi wrote, ‘Be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do (2 Nephi 10:24) (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, p. 671)

This full salvation is obtained in and through the continuation of the family unit in eternity, and those who obtain it are gods. Full salvation is attained by virtue of knowledge, truth, righteousness, and all true principles. Many conditions must exist in order to make such salvation available to men. Without the atonement, the gospel, the priesthood, and the sealing power [LDS priesthood authority to bind things on earth and in heaven], there would be no salvation. Without continuous revelation, the ministering of angels, the working of miracles, the prevalence of gifts of the spirit, there would be no salvation. If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration (of the alleged lost gospel), there would be no salvation. There is no salvation outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, p. 670).

 4. We believe the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are; first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Mormon-speak: God requires belief in and obedience to the first principles and ordinances of the Mormon gospel from faithful church members. Faith must be in the Mormon Jesus, who atoned for mankinds’ sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, repentance in Mormonism requires seven steps. Forgiveness is conditional upon not committing the same sin again; if so, the former sins return. Baptism must be performed by a Mormon priesthood holder. If you were baptized in another church it does not count; you must be re-baptized as a Mormon. The Holy Ghost doesn’t indwell believers, but rather is a companion who comes and goes according to the worthiness of the individual. In Mormonism, thhe Holy Ghost can bear witness to non-Mormons that the Book of mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, but only worthy members of the Church are entitled to the companionship of the Holy Ghost on an on-going basis.

5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Mormon-speak: Pastors and other Christian leaders have no real authority to “preach the gospel.” People who feel called of God in their hearts to a particular ministry are not truly authorized to act in ministry. Only those who are members in good standing of the LDS Church and who are worthy, and are called to certain positions of leadership by priesthood holders in higher authority, are able to legally (in God’s eyes) administer the gospel to others.

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

Mormon-speak: When Jesus was on the earth, he organized his church into ecclesiastical units with prophets, apostles, and pastors at their head. He gave them special priesthood authority (the “keys of the kingdom”) to lead in his church. According to Mormon belief, Christ’s church was set up as an organization with ranks of authority and a hierarchy of leadership.

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

Mormon-speak: When Mormon missionaries go to the MTC ( Missionary Training Center) to learn how to proselyte, they are put through intense language immersion courses in the language of the country they are being sent to. When they arrive at their destination; be it South America, Japan, Germany, or wherever, and pick up on the native tongue quickly, they are said to have been blessed with the gift of tongues. Likewise, when they begin to understand what is being spoken by those talking in the language the missionary has been immersed with, they are believed to have been give the interpretation of tongues. This is not to imply Mormons do not believe in the miraculous manifestation of the gift of tongues [spontaneously speaking another language without any prior knowledge of it]; only that the most common teaching about the gift of tongues is that the gift is developed through practice and persistence.

Missionaries learn through the gift of tongues to speak Spanish, Aymara, Quechua, and many other Indian dialects (Gene R. Cook, “Miracles among the Lamanites,” Ensign, Nov 1980, 67)

What gave the disciples the ability to speak in tongues and be understood by people who spoke other languages? (Acts 2:4). How does this spiritual gift of the Holy Ghost help the Church’s missionary effort today? By helping many of the missionaries learn foreign languages. The gift of tongues can also help contacts understand the gospel message even when a missionary does not speak the language well. (Lesson 36: The Day of Pentecost,” Primary 7: New Testament, 123)

In the process, he [Joseph F. Smith] also found himself drawing closer to the Hawaiian people. He earnestly sought the gift of tongues and learned their language in a hundred days. (Jill Mulvay Derr and Heidi S. Swinton, “Joseph F. Smith: Following the Prince of Peace,” Liahona, Feb 2000, 31)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve explained:

In their more dramatic manifestations [the gift of tongues and their interpretation] consist in speaking or interpreting, by the power of the Spirit, a tongue which is completely unknown to the speaker or interpreter.” More frequently, “these gifts are manifest where the ordinary languages of the day are concerned in that the Lord’s missionaries learn to speak and interpret foreign languages with ease, thus furthering the spread of the message of the restoration” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 800). “Communicating by the Power of the Spirit,” Ensign, Oct 1997, 71)

Prophecy is considered valid if it comes from church leaders. Prophecy outside of the Mormon Church is generally considered suspect, unless it relates to the “truthfulness” of Mormonism. LDS believe in revelation for the church as a whole through their prophet and apostles. They also believe in personal revelation (the Holy Ghost giving them guidance for their own lives); but if the revelation is contrary to Mormon Church doctrine, it is considered false by mainstream members.

Mormons believe in the healing of a sick or injured person by a male (preferably two) church member holding the proper priesthood authority. One of the priesthood holders anoints the sick person on the head with a few drops of “consecrated oil.” He then states the person’s full name and says, “by the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood which I hold, and in the name of Jesus Christ, I anoint your head with this oil which has been dedicated and set apart for healing in the household of faith….” (or something similar). The second male lays his hands on the person’s head and in the name of his priesthood authority and the name of Jesus Christ, then proceeds to pronounce a blessing of healing on the person if he “feels the Spirit prompting” (inspiring) him to heal; or he may “feel the Spirit” telling him that the person will NOT be healed, so he offers a prayer of comfort instead.

8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

Mormon-speak: The Bible is God’s word as long as it does not conflict with Mormon doctrine. Anything in the Bible that conflicts with LDS teachings has either been added, deleted, or changed by corrupt scribes, or is interpreted wrongly by non-Mormons. Mormon scripture consists of The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Bible. They also believe that the words of LDS prophets and apostles given during semi-annual General Conferences, and in the First Presidency Message included in the monthly Ensign Magazine are the words of the Lord.

Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1976 Deseret Book, p. 327)

By sundry revelations which had been received (by Smith), it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of men had been taken from the Bible (Ibid. p 10).

[Question:] “Do you believe the Bible?” If we do, we are the only people under heaven that does, for there are none of the religious sects of the day that do. [We differ from other sects] in that we believe the Bible, and all the other sects profess to believe their interpretation of the Bible….”

[Question:] “Will everybody be damned but the Mormons?” Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent and work righteousness. (Ibid. p 119)

One of the great heresies of modern Christendom is the unfounded assumption that the Bible contains all of the inspired teachings now extant among men (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, p. 83).

9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Mormon-speak: God spoke through revelation during Bible times. He now reveals his will and purposes pertaining to his kingdom through LDS prophets. He will give many more revelations in the future regarding kingdom business to LDS prophets.

As the policies and procedures of the Church are refined by continuing revelation and inspiration, there are those who become disturbed by any changes. Some literally hunt for situations where earlier Church leaders or members made statements which are not in complete harmony with our understanding and practices today. The mind-set of some is that anything coming from an earlier time must be more correct.

I would offer the following thoughts on such matters: (1) Some of the procedures of the Church were not completely developed early in this dispensation and have been amplified and clarified by subsequent prophets. (2) Our protection from erroneous doctrine lies in an overriding belief in continuing revelation to the current prophet.(Merrill C. Oaks, “The Living Prophet: Our Source of Pure Doctrine,” Ensign, Nov 1998, 82)

In other words, revelation in Mormonism can be best explained as the principle of abrogation, meaning that later revelations supersede earlier ones. Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth president of the LDS Church, gave a speech outlining fourteen fundamentals in following modern-day prophets (referring to Mormon prophets, as no others are recognized as having authority to speak for God). In the following excerpts from Benson’s speech, he said;

First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything…

Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works… [meaning that official statements made by the current prophet, First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles overrides written scripture].

President Wilford Woodruff tells of an interesting incident that occurred in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living prophets and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: ‘You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.’

“When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham I want you to go to the podium and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation; ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.’ ” (Conference Report, October 1897, pp. 18–19.)

Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore the most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each month in our Church Magazines. Our instructions about what we should do for each six months are found in the General Conference addresses which are printed in the Church magazine.

Beware of those who would set up the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence.

(Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” BYU Devotional Assembly, February 26, 1980)

10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the ten tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaical glory.

Mormon-speak: Israel is not limited to the Jews. Israel includes all those who are Mormons or become Mormons. When a person is baptized and confirmed a member of the LDS Church, an actual change takes place in his/her blood, making him a literal descendent of Abraham.

Mormon scriptures state that although the “house of Judah” will be established in Palestine, the bulk of Israel (those accepting the LDS gospel, as well as the “Lost Ten Tribes”) will come to and be established in America. (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, p. 306; Doctrine & Covenants 133)

Mormon doctrine also teaches that the New Jerusalem will be built in the Midwest—in Independence, Missouri to be exact! Mormon doctrine recognizes “the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation 3:12), but interprets this to mean that it comes down a SECOND time, after this earth has been made a celestial planet after the millennial reign of Christ. Celestial planet meaning where the most worthy Mormons will dwell as they become gods and goddesses themselves (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, p. 533)

The gathering of Israel is first spiritual and second temporal. It is spiritual in that the lost sheep of Israel are first “restored to the true church and fold of God,” meaning that they come to a true knowledge of the God of Israel, accept the gospel which he has restored in the latter days, and join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, p. 305-306).

The effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1976, pp. 149-150)

This New Jerusalem is to be built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Jackson County, Missouri is the spot designated by revelation for its construction.

But to an otherwise gloomy picture there is a bright side—the coming of our Lord in all His glory. His coming will be both glorious and terrible, depending on the spiritual condition of those who remain. One appearance will be to the righteous Saints who have gathered to the New Jerusalem here in America. In this place of refuge they will be safe from the wrath of the Lord which will be poured out without measure on all nations (Ezra Taft Benson, “Prepare Yourself for the Great Day of the Lord,” New Era, May 1982, 44).

But more than a refuge against calamity, Zion was to become headquarters for the millennial government of Christ, wrote Phelps. He identified it as “the mountain of the Lord’s house” prophesied by Isaiah, from which “shall go forth the law” (Evening and Morning Star, Jan. 1833, p. 1; Isa. 2:2–3). He printed Joseph Smith’s revelations of Enoch (see Moses 6–8) including the prophecy that Enoch’s righteous people would return and mingle with the Saints in Jackson County. Furthermore, the Ten Tribes of Israel would return with “their rich treasures” to the New Jerusalem where they would be “crowned with glory” (D&C 133:30, 32). Thus, the Saints gathering in Jackson County could rightfully feel the worth of their labors and the immense importance of that location. (Max H Parkin, “Missouri’s Impact on the Church,” Ensign, Apr 1979, 57)

The most sacred of places, then, will always be those locations which God has designated for holy and eternal purposes, locations where he is the “doer of the deed.” These places are revered forever by his faithful children wherever they may be.

America is such a place, but of course it wasn’t always called America nor has it always been identified by a distinctive continental shape. Originally it was simply a portion of that large, single land mass which God in his creative process called “Earth” and which, when completed, was pronounced “good.” (Gen. 1:10.) Whatever its name and geographical configuration, however, it was from the beginning a land of divinity as well as a land of destiny.

The choicest part of this earthly creation was a garden “eastward in Eden” where God placed our first parents, Adam and Eve. This resplendent place filled with paradisiacal glory was located on that part of the land mass where the city Zion, or the New Jerusalem of the earth’s last days, would eventually be built. (See D&C 57:1–3, D&C 84:1–3; and Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:74.) After Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden, they dwelt at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman, located in what is now Daviess County, Missouri. In that region this first family lived out their days, tilling the soil, tending the flocks, offering sacrifices, and learning the gospel of Jesus Christ from on high (Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Promised Land,” Ensign, Jun 1976, 23).

11. We claim the privilege of worshiping God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Mormon-speak: People everywhere have the “free agency” (free will) to worship whatever they want in any manner they want, UNLESS they happen to be Mormons with doubts who decide to leave the LDS Church. In that case, most former members of the Church  are treated with disdain or contempt, and are often shunned. Many people leaving Mormonism suffer persecution. They lose their “friends,” the respect (and sometimes love) of family members, and in some extremes they lose their marriages, children, or employment. While most Mormons would never admit to treating former church members badly, the fact is that the person leaving Mormonism is labeled an “apostate” and will generally be excommunicated if they speak out against the Church, unless they first write a formal letter requesting their names be removed from membership. Even then, a former Mormon’s name is not actually removed completely; it is just moved to a different file.

Ironically, there is a double standard held by the Mormon Church. It can require that only the most worthy of Mormons enter LDS Temples, that membership in the Church and holding a temple recommend is a prerequisite to entrance to the Celestial Kingdom, and that Church members should not participate in interfaith activities that could compromise LDS doctrine or principles in any way. However, if non-Mormons (particularly evangelical Christians) set guidelines and standards that limit the participation of Mormons, it seems they are quickly labeled as intolerant bigots, guilty of persecuting the Latter-day Saints.

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

Mormon-speak: The majority of present-day Mormons are law-abiding citizens of their respective countries. But for the first century or more of LDS Church history, much of the church leadership was practicing polygamy privately while denying it publicly, after it was made illegal. Some even committed perjury (lying under oath, bearing false witness) in courts of law by stating that the church did not, does not, and would certainly never teach that polygamy was a doctrine to be practiced on earth, in this life. Joseph Smith was arrested for destroying a printing press because a newspaper was being printed with articles revealing his secret practice of polygamy. This final act of violence ultimately led to his murder in Carthage Jail. Mormons were also involved in plunder, violence, and burning the homes of some Missouri citizens prior to the extermination order by Governor Lilburn Boggs. While there was wrong-doing on both sides–Mormons and non-Mormons alike–the whitewashed history presented by the LDS Church of their people being as pure as driven snow, and persecuted only because they were Mormons, is false and misleading. An excellent book documenting the actual historical events of early Mormonism is “One Nation Under Gods” by Richard Abanes. Another reliable source is found in the works of Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministries.

13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—we believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

And devout Mormons do indeed.