An open letter to those who want to know more about the LDS faith:
I have made it through fifty years without ever having to learn calculus. I took some algebra in college, but that was the end of my math-life. Now, when one of my teenagers calls me over to the kitchen table for some help, I have to remind them that I don’t “get” calculus.
As an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have been curiously watching how the media is handling the trending interest in Mormonism. Some even refer to it as the “Mormon Moment”.
New articles about Mormonism show up almost daily on the websites of major media. Many are written by journalists trying to be objective, some by critics with no intention of being objective, and some by Mormon bloggers. Rarely do I see a piece from any of these sources that is factually accurate regarding the doctrines and beliefs of our church. Even the stories written by Mormons often descend into soapbox speeches about reform or some other hot button issue that the writer is trying to advocate. Espousing dedication, with an extra-helping of agenda. (They know who they are, and it is no accident.)
It seems that whenever anyone wants to discuss Mormonism, they jump right to the topics of polygamy, temples, tithing, sacred underclothing, gay marriage, etc. The problem is that these are the “calculus” level concepts in the theology, and if you don’t understand the basic principles, you are never going to “get” the advanced principles - especially if you are basing your search on the current media portrayal of the LDS church.
So, if you are seriously trying to understand Mormon theology, there are three core concepts that you will need to wrestle with, or the rest isn’t going to make any sense at all.
1) We believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God, and our Redeemer. We believe he died on the cross, and atoned for our sins. We also believe that such a description barely scratches the surface of what there is to know about Him.
Although born-again pastors might call us non-Christian, and our doctrine does not line up nicely with the Nicene Creed, we believe that we are absolutely Christian. We don’t worry about how men define us. We are more concerned about how God defines us. And I am quite confident in my Christianity by that definition.
2) We believe that God loves His children yesterday, today, and forever, and that He is no respecter of persons. Because of this, we accept that God has spoken to more people than those that inhabited the tiny area of the Holy Land. It is a big world. Why would God limit Himself to such a tiny sampling of the world’s population?
Also, if God spoke to prophets and revealed truth to the world from the beginning of time to the death of Jesus’ apostles, why would he stop after that? Did he give up on us? Did He reveal all we needed? It is obvious from the tens of thousands of Christian churches that disagree with each other that there has got to be more - and better - information and guidance that He can give us.
We believe that God continues to reveal his truths to prophets today, as he always has. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He still loves us, and still communicates with us. He has not logged off.
--- If you choke on this concept, the next one will make even less sense.
3) What we do is based on what we believe. Our end goal is to follow what we believe God wants us to do. It is not to have the healthiest population, to have the lowest divorce rate, to be the most scripturally literate church, to have tens of thousands of young men and women serving as missionaries all over the world, to have the highest rate of tithe payers of any church – these things are not Mormon goals in and of themselves. They are the results of dedicated individuals and families, trying their best to follow what they believe God wants them to do. Yes, the results are remarkable, which only serves to strengthen our faith.
Three basic concepts – yet none of them are simple. All of them are heresy in many circles. Yet each of these principles must be understood if you truly want to understand what makes us tick, and the finer points of our theology.
I am not speaking for the LDS Church. I am just a normal Mormon member, and there are a lot of us quietly doing our best to live our religion. I do know that the foundation of my life is my core belief, and there are many other deeper and more complex theological points in our faith.
And remember, most things that you read about Mormonism are written by people who don’t understand Mormonism. And much of what you read that is written by Mormons is really an attempt to further an agenda that is not in line with the LDS Church.
If you truly want to understand the Mormons, grasp these three concepts, and then talk to a normal Mormon.
(One great way to find us is visit www.Mormon.org.)