Ever since Mitt Romney, a practising Mormon, began showing up at Republican presidential debates with his immaculately quaffed hair and robotic pseudo-personality, the general public has been paying a lot more attention to the LDS Church, a faith that until recently was easily dismissed as yet another creepy cult from the Western United States.
In my humble opinion as the lowest-ranking writer at the New Statesman, Mormonism is still largely misunderstood. Keeping that in mind, I’ve tried to provide in this blog entry a brief explanation of the our most basic beliefs. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor space to give much more than a rough sketch, though anyone interested in digging up material to either support or refute my claims should take comfort in knowing that such information is only a Google search away.
As the somewhat longish official name might suggest, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is an organization dedicated first and foremost to the worship of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of all mankind. We, like most Christian denominations, believe he was born of the Virgin Mary in order to redeem humanity from its lost and fallen state. As Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Also, like most Christian denominations, we consider the Bible to be the word of God. We believe it was written by inspired men and women for use in their days as well as ours, and that all can grow closer to God by reading and adhering to its teachings.
We also believe in the Book of Mormon, from whence our nickname is derived. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is a record of God’s dealings with ancient prophets, and was written for the benefit of Christians both past and present. It serves as another testament of Jesus Christ, complementing and clarifying the eternal truths found in the Bible. Mormons also hold as sacred a book called Doctrine and Covenants, which is a compilation of commandments given to contemporary church leaders since its organization in 1830.
Speaking of new commandments, one of the main differences between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity is the fact that Mormons believe in continual revelation via modern-day prophets. Much like the form of Christianity found in the New Testament, we believe God has called a prophet and 12 apostles to facilitate communication between heaven and Earth. With our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, Mormonism is able to adapt to changing circumstances by merely shifting theological gears. In other words, the church can turn on a dime.
The existence of a living prophet, however, does not prevent the average, run-of-the-mill Mormon from establishing a personal relationship with God. We believe that everyone is entitled to such a relationship, and all members—in theory—are encouraged to pray to Him regarding the veracity of any point of doctrine before jumping on the metaphorical bandwagon.
Unfortunately, many Mormons forget the importance of acquiring one’s own personal conviction, and are instead coerced onto said bandwagon via intense social pressure or threats of eternal damnation. In that sense, I understand why the the LDS Church can appear cult-like to those outside the tradition. This behaviour, however, has its roots not in Mormon doctrine, but in Mormon culture, two entirely different—and often opposing—belief systems. Sadly, even some members have a hard time distinguishing between the two. Believe me, I could fill volumes with tales of negative experiences I’ve had with well-meaning but ill-informed Mormons. Of course, if I addressed that today, what would I write about tomorrow?