Sunday, August 10, 2008

What's This All About, Anyway?

It occurs to me that I jumped into this whole blogging thing without taking the time to set the context for this blog. I know I explained what inspired me to start the blog, but I never really explained, in basic terms, what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is (other than the church to which I belong).

I want to step back for a moment and just give a basic overview - a kind of "layman's" description for those who know NOTHING about the Church. Admittedly, most people have heard of the Church (many call us "Mormons," though that is not our actual name), but many people's understanding doesn't go much beyond, "no smoking, no drinking, and pairs of clean-cut missionaries knocking on doors."

So, here are the basics (just typing from memory here):
  • In 1820, at the age of 14, Joseph Smith received the First Vision, in which he was visited by God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
  • An angel (Moroni) delivered golden plates (like a book of metal pages) to Joseph Smith and from the plates he translated the Book of Mormon.
  • In 1830, Joseph Smith organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS for short). Members of the Church are called "Saints."
  • The members suffered much persecution in the early days.
  • On June 27, 1844, a mob murdered Joseph and his brother Hyrum. Joseph was only 38.
  • Starting in 1847, the Saints migrated west under the leadership of Brigham Young, 2nd prophet of the Church, and settled in Utah.
  • Nearly two centuries later, the Church has grown to more than 13 million members in hundreds of countries around the world. (By comparison, there are currently about 13 million Jews in the world). About 6 million members of the Church reside in the United States. (By comparison, about 5.3 million Jews live in the United States). I only mention the Jewish population as a reference point, since numbers in the millions can be hard to comprehend.
  • In Utah, 72% of the population is LDS.
  • The 16th President and prophet of the Church is Thomas S. Monson.
  • There are currently about 53,000 missionaries serving in the Church, all around the world.
  • The Church's official scriptural cannon includes The Bible (Old Testament & New Testament) - we use the King James Version, the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Book of Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. We also consider the words of the prophets, from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson, to be scripture.
  • The Articles of Faith provide a basic summary of our beliefs.
  • We are very family-centered. The recent Proclamation on the Family (1995) provides the Church's official perspective on the importance of the family.
  • The Church is set apart from typical Christian churches by our belief in a Godhead comprised of three distinct individuals: God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ (both of whom have glorified bodies of flesh and bone) and the Holy Ghost (who does not have a body); and our belief in ongoing revelation from God (he did not stop talking to us 2,000 years ago). Additionally, we believe that a Great Apostasy occurred after the deaths of the original apostles, and that the true priesthood authority has been restored (in 1829). We also believe that good works must accompany faith, we must endure to the end to be saved, and that families can be forever.
  • But most importantly of all, we believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the world. Jesus is my personal Savior - he suffered and died for me, to pay the price of my sins, and he was resurrected on the third day. The Church has issued an excellent brief on our belief in Christ.
  • We believe in healthy living and trying to live a morally clean, honest life.
  • Members of the Church can be found in politics, the entertainment industry, the sciences, education, arts, literature, and many other areas of life.

So, those are the real basics. I will talk more about some of these things later, but I just wanted to give a brief overview to put all this in context. Now that you have some idea about the Church, I must go to sleep, as it is after midnight!

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