> The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints
The temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located in Salt Lake City, Utah is the largest attraction in the city's Temple Square
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the "Mormon Church," or "LDS Church," is the largest denomination within the Latter Day Saint movement (Mormonism), a type of Christian Restorationism. The Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the United States.
Joseph Smith, Jr. and five associates established the Church April 6, 1830 in Fayette, New York. After the Church's persecution and expulsion from the state of Missouri, and the assassination of Joseph Smith by a mob in Illinois, Brigham Young led the Mormon pioneers to settle the Great Basin area in what is now Utah. The Church has grown to a worldwide membership of more than 12 million  (http://www.lds.org/newsroom/page/0,15606,4034-1---10-168,00.html) (with reports of at least one-third (http://www.cumorah.com/report.html#activity) "active" - regularly attending members) and is the fourth largest religious denomination in the United States  (http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html#bodies).
The Church has been a subject of controversy because some of its doctrines and practices are unique within modern Christianity. Despite being a Jesus-centered religion, the Church often is not considered by traditional Christians to be Christian due to its nontrinitarianism. It is for this reason that the Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church USA, and United Methodist Church practice rebaptism of converts. See Mormonism and Christianity and Articles of Faith
Main article: History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Church members — known as "Latter-day Saints" — hold that their faith is the divinely appointed restoration of the Church established by Jesus as depicted in the New Testament, as established by prophets in earlier dispensations. They believe that the authority to perform baptism and other necessary ordinances was lost from the Earth with the death of Jesus' original apostles, resulting in a Great Apostasy.
The Church is considered part of the Latter Day Saint movement, involving those religions that claim derivation from the work begun by Joseph Smith, Jr. Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the restored Church, told of an appearance of God the Father and his son Jesus Christ, and of later visitations by angels who directed him in restoring the Church. In the process, he and his friend Oliver Cowdery said they received the authority to perform baptism and other ordinances from these resurrected beings. Smith introduced new scripture to complement and clarify the Biblical canon. Chief among these is The Book of Mormon, which Smith said is a record kept by ancient prophets in the Americas, engraved on gold plates, that he translated by the power of God and the Urim and Thummim. Smith showed these "golden plates" to eleven witnesses whose signatures and testimony now preface The Book of Mormon. Smith also recorded a number of revelations given to guide the Church, a large group of which have since been canonized as "The Doctrine and Covenants".
After Smiths martyrdom by a mob, most of his followers accepted Brigham Young, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as the next Prophet and President of the Church. Faced with further persecution, Brigham Young eventually led the Church to the Salt Lake Valley, where it is headquartered today. The Church is currently headed by President Gordon B. Hinckley, the latest in a long succession of prophets since Brigham Young. He is assisted by two counselors and twelve Apostles, each of whom are also sustained by members as "prophets, seers, and revelators".
The Church puts notable emphasis on the family, temples, worldwide missionary efforts, humanitarian services, and vast family history resources.
Name of the Church
Originally the Church was called the "Church of Christ" due to the belief that it is the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Four years later, in April 1834, it was also referred to as the "Church of Latter Day Saints" to differentiate the Church of this era from that of the New Testament. Then in April 1838, the full name was stated as the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" to "fully reflect the Church's identity" (see Doctrine and Covenants 115:3-4 (http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/115/3-4)). In 1851, when the Church was incorporated in the United States, the official name changed slightly, picking up the additional corporate first article, "The", and the British hyphenation of "Latter-day".
The Church is also commonly referred to as the "LDS Church", and sometimes the "Mormon Church", although these designations can be confusing because groups outside the Church are sometimes also referred to as "Latter Day Saints" and "Mormons" and because there never was, strictly speaking, a "Mormon Church". The nickname "Mormon" arose soon after the publication of The Book of Mormon in 1830. Although originally used pejoratively to refer to the Church or its members, the term came to be used widely within the Church.
In a style guide (http://www.lds.org/newsroom/page/0,15606,3899-1---15-168,00.html) issued in 2001, the Church requests that the official name, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", be used where possible, stating: "This full name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith in 1838." It also encourages the use of "the Church" or "The Church of Jesus Christ" as a shortened reference although the "LDS Church" is commonly used within the Church's publications. When referring to members of the Church, it suggests "Latter-day Saints" as preferred, although "Mormons" is acceptable. Despite the Church's efforts to encourage use of the official name, the Associated Press has continued to recommend "Mormon Church" as a proper second reference in its Style Guide for journalists. Additionally, some scholars feel the term "Mormon" is useful to collectively describe all those groups which claim to descend from Joseph Smith despite the Associated Press Stylebook's guidelines to apply the term only to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A new movement is underway to refer to the unique culture, social workings and doctrines of the sects that claim succession from Smith as Mormonism and historical underpinnings as the Latter Day Saint movement .
Within the Church, members call each other "sister" and "brother" followed by their last name, and all are referred to as "saints" which reflects the belief that anyone who covenants by baptism to follow Christ is a saint. The term "Saint" is not solely reserved for an exemplary Christian as in other churches.
First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel
The fourth Article of Faith states that Latter-day Saints "believe that 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, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Latter-day Saints believe that faith in Jesus is a fundamental requisite to salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ means the acceptance that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah. This includes two parts: 1. the belief that all who live on Earth are granted salvation from death (physical resurrection) through the death of Jesus Christ and 2. that salvation from sin (or spiritual death) is obtained by obtaining forgiveness for sin through his grace and by following the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints are encouraged by Church leaders and the LDS culture to develop their faith through study, prayer and obedience. Latter-day Saints often refer to their personal faith as their "testimony" and refer to telling others about their faith as "bearing testimony".
Latter-day Saints believe in the principle of repentance, which for them includes a sincere regret, or "Godly sorrow", as well as restitution when possible and abstinence from the sin. Key to the repentance process is a person's personal, prayerful confession to God, which includes asking for forgiveness and resolving not to repeat the mistake. It is important to confess serious sins to a Bishop, who can offer advice and encouragement. Consistent with the meaning of the Greek word from which it is translated, repentance denotes "a change of mind", "a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined." Thus, a return to sin shows that the repentance process is not truly completed. Repentance is for small and large sins and a lifetime process.
The Church of Jesus Christ practices baptism by immersion. Baptism is symbolic of burial and rebirth as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Like many other Christians, Latter-day Saints believe that a person who repents and is baptized has all prior sins remitted.
Baptism is never performed before the eighth birthday. The age of eight was given in revelation as the age of "accountability" when children become accountable for their sins. The Book of Mormon and modern revelation specifically forbids the practice of infant baptism. (See Doctrine and Covenants 68:27 (http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/68/27) and Moroni 8:4-23 (http://scriptures.lds.org/moro/8/4-23).) Baptism is only recognized when performed by one holding the office of a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood.
See Baptisms for the Dead.
Gift of the Holy Ghost
Following baptism by immersion, individuals are confirmed members of the Church and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by Priesthood bearers worthy to do so. Latter-day Saints believe that this blessing entitles the newly confirmed recipient to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as a guide and guardian so long as the recipient lives worthy of the gift. Moreover, members believe that those who have not been confirmed may receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost but are not entitled to constant companionship available through the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Church Leadership and the Priesthood
The Church is headed by its president whom the members sustain and revere as the Prophet, seer, and revelator, entitled to receive revelation from God to guide the Church and the world as his mouthpiece on the earth. Other general, area, and local authorities of the Church include Apostles, Seventies, Stake Presidents, Bishops, and other quorum presidents. The president of the Church serves until his death, after which the Council of the Twelve Apostles will meet, pray, and under the leadership of the Senior Apostle will receive revelation as to whom the next Prophet should be. Although not specified by revelation, the senior Apostle has historically become the new President of the Church.
Although General Authorities work full time for the Church, area and local authorities are unpaid, lay clergy who continue in their normal occupation while serving in leadership positions. Some positions are limited to priesthood holders, with qualifications usually related to the particular calling (e.g., women for the Relief Society, men for the priesthood quorums.) In 1978, in an official declaration by the First Presidency, given in revelation to Spencer W. Kimball, the Church stated that all worthy men were allowed to receive the priesthood. Previously, men of African descent were not permitted to receive the priesthood although they could become members and serve in within the Church. (Persons not of African descent, such as the Maori, could receive the priesthood prior to this time.)
See Priesthood (Mormonism) and Priesthood (Latter-day Saint); First Presidency; Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; General Authority
Under the Church's doctrine of continuing revelation (see Articles of Faith number 9), the Church has an open scriptural canon which currently includes the Bible, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price, including The Articles of Faith. These scriptures form the Standard Works of the Church.
Many of the pronouncements of general authorities, particularly the President of the Church, are also often viewed as uncanonized scripture—particularly official written pronouncements signed by the First Presidency and/or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, such as "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (1995), which defined the Church's vision of the ideal family (which resembles the typical nuclear family), and "The Living Christ" (2000), which commemorated the birth of Jesus. Latter-day Saints are also encouraged to accept the most recent statements from prophets and general authorities as modern-day scripture. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to pray to know the truthfulness of the doctrine contained in their various scriptures, especially if they have trouble living a certain principle.
English-speaking members typically use the King James Version of the Bible; Joseph Smith also translated a version of the bible, known as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible although this bible translation is not generally used by members of the Church (owing to the fact that the copyright is owned by The Community of Christ, previously called Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), the Bible issued by the Church contains cross references to the Joseph Smith Translation (JST). Though part of the canon, members believe that the books of the Bible contain some error regarding basic principles of the gospel necessary for salvation due to numerous translations and omissions over the thousands of years since they were authored. Thus, Latter-day Saints consider the Book of Mormon to be more doctrinally correct.
The introduction of The Book of Mormon describes the book as follows:
- The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel. The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C.E., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.
- The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of Jesus Christ among Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.
The Doctrine and Covenants is a book of revelations, policies, letters and statments given to Church presidents, starting with Joseph Smith. This record contains Church doctrine as well as direction on Church government.
The Pearl of Great Price contains: (1) excerpts from Joseph Smith’s translation of Genesis, called the book of Moses, and of Matthew 24, called Joseph Smith—Matthew; (2) Joseph Smith’s translation of some Egyptian papyrus (of which pages still exist rediscovered in 1967) that he acquired in 1835, called the "Book of Abraham"; (3) an excerpt from The Documentary History of the Church containing a letter written by Joseph Smith in 1838, called Joseph Smith—History; and (4) an excerpt of another of Joseph Smith's letters called the Articles of Faith, thirteen statements of belief and doctrine.
See also: Controversies regarding Mormonism.
The Godhead: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost
LDS theology states that God the Father (Heavenly Father), Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct personages that together form the Godhead (as distinct from the Trinity decreed by the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, in response to disagreement in the form of Arianism within the early church). All three members of the Godhead are eternal and equal in divinity, but they play somewhat different roles. While the Holy Ghost is a spirit without a physical body, God and Christ are embodied spirits; that is, the spirits (or spiritual bodies) of both God and Christ are clothed in separate, distinct, perfected, glorified, physical bodies of flesh and bone. Although Mormon theology sees the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as separate beings, they are considered to be "one" in most every other possible sense.
Mormonism posits most of the same attributes to the members of the Godhead as Christianity posits of the Trinity: omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, eternal, immutable, immortal and immanent in the universe but not transcendent of it. However, the meaning of some of these attributes differs significantly. For example, Mormonism holds that: as creator God is the organizer of the universe since in Mormonism all matter (including sentient beings) in the universe has always existed and will exist eternally; God's omnipotence does not transcend the laws of physics or logic; and God's immutability concerns primarily His creations and His future status and not with His status prior to that time. The eternal and uncreated nature of God, matter and the spirits of mankind is referred to in the Church hymn, If you could hie to Kolob (Hymn number 284). It should be noted that the Church publishes its own hymnals in various languages, and exercises editorial control over hymn selection and content.
Although it is not directly stated in the canonical scriptures, Joseph Smith and other Church leaders have taught that God the Father is an exalted man who once lived on an earth similar to this one. Joseph Smith reportedly said:
- These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-46.)
It is implied that God may have lived a mortal life passing through death and resurrection and eventually progressing to godhood. The creation story in Genesis would begin sometime after this point.
Latter-day Saints generally also believe, although it is not canonical, that God is eternally married to a Heavenly Mother. Heavenly Mother is believed to be entirely equal in status to Heavenly Father, a celestial Goddess and God respectively, forever married to one another and preserving differing yet complementary roles of deity, although she is not explicitly or extensively referred to in doctrine, scripture, or other Church canons. Her existence is referred to briefly in the Church hymn titled O My Father (Hymn number 292), and it is presumed from Church teachings that proclaim that each person is a "spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents" (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Thus, Her existence is simply acknowledged by Church members and leadership, but She is not worshipped nor is made the object of prayer. It is commonly surmised that she is deliberately and safely protected in anonymity by Heavenly Father, whereby no human knows Her name.
While some refer to the Church's doctrine of the godhead as polytheistic, Latter-day Saints would be more accurately portrayed as henotheistic or monolatristic. In contrast to this, Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Christians insist that their religion is monotheistic; that is, God is One in Being (ousia) and simultaneously Three, namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in Persons (hypostases). Though the existence of other gods or divine beings is acknowledged by the Church and its members, this fact is considered almost irrelevant to salvation: the other gods—which Latter-day Saints would refer to as exalted beings or angels— have no impact on this sphere of existence, nor is their Eternal role defined.
Despite the Church's name, its focus on Jesus as sole savior of humankind, its "family values" and many of its Gospel teachings in common with Christianity, many theologians and members of other Christian denominations consider the difference between the LDS practices and doctrines—such as the contrast between the Church's doctrine of the Godhead and the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity—so fundamental that they do not regard Latter-day Saints as Christians. (See Mormonism and Christianity.) Latter-day Saints counter that it is mainstream Christianity that misunderstands the nature of God. They hold that the mainstream concept of God was corrupted by the introduction of Platonic realism, Neoplatonism, and extreme Asceticism into the early Christian church and that these influences continued through the Great Apostasy.
Latter-day Saints do not use the Christian cross or crucifix as a symbol of their faith. Most modern Latter-day Saints choose to focus upon Jesus' life and resurrection, not his death. Currently, one of the most commonly used visual symbols of the Church is the trumpeting angel Moroni, proclaiming the restoration of the true gospel to the Earth (usually identified as the angel mentioned in Revelation 14:6–7); and a statue depicting the angel often tops the tallest spire of LDS temples. Another common symbol members use is the acronym CTR, meaning "Choose the Right", taken from the name and motto of a children's Primary class. "CTR" is most often displayed on a shield, and worn as a ring.
See also: Godhead (Mormonism); King Follett Discourse
Salvation, Exaltation, Damnation and Eternal Progression
Latter-day Saints believe that "through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved [from sin (spiritual death) and physical death], by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." (See Articles of Faith number 3.) This Plan of Salvation is God's plan for the return of mankind to live with him as glorified, eternal beings. Salvation occurs through Jesus, whom they view as the redeemer of mankind. The gift of immortality is believed to come to all through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and his subsequent Resurrection. (See 1 Corinthians 15:22 (http://scriptures.lds.org/1_cor/15/22).) Although it is believed that immortality is a free gift to all people, entrance to the highest Heavenly Kingdom (referred to as the "Celestial Kingdom") (See 1 Corinthians 15:40 (http://scriptures.lds.org/1_cor/15/40).) comes only to those who accept Jesus through baptism by priesthood authority into the Church, follow Church doctrine, and who live righteous lives. Faith alone, i.e. dead faith, or faith without works, is not considered sufficient to attain exaltation. (See James 2:26 (http://scriptures.lds.org/james/2/26).)
Exaltation is the reward which the Church believes is given to righteous members—including those who accept the Gospel in the afterlife. Through the process of exaltation, a person can eventually become a god and creator, or as expressed in LDS scripture, a joint-heir with Jesus Christ.
It is believed that people who do not have the opportunity to hear the Gospel while on Earth will have the opportunity in the afterlife.
The Celestial Kingdom (commonly metaphorically compared to the sun, as all light is contained within the Celestial Kingdom, just as almost all of Earth's light comes from the sun) is the place where righteous Saints live with God and with their families. Those who have been married in Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may receive exaltation if they have kept the covenants they make with God, primarily obedience to his laws. The minimum stated requirement to enter the Celestial Kingdom for accountable individuals is baptism and repentance; Latter-day Saints profess that all children who die before accountability automatically inherit a celestial glory.
Those good people who choose not to be valiant in following Jesus or who do not accept the Gospel do not qualify for exaltation and will be consigned to the Terrestrial Kingdom (metaphorically compared to the moon's brightness). This place is believed to be one of great glory, but without the presence of God the Father. The minimum requirement for entrance is keeping the "law of carnal commandments" (the Ten Commandments).
Murderers, other criminals and those who do not accept the Atonement of Jesus Christ spend eternity with people of like intent in the Telestial Kingdom (likened to the light received on Earth from stars excluding the Sun). This also is considered a kingdom of glory and has been described as being much better than mortal life. The minimum requirement for entrance is not denying the Holy Ghost, a sin very few people are capable of committing.
These three kingdoms—the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial—are comparable to the concept of heaven as found in most other Christian denominations in that they are places of eternal happiness. For church members the kingdoms are congruent with heaven and in accord with Christ's New Testament words "In my house there are many mansions...". These kingdoms also form a vital part of the Plan of Salvation.
Those who deny the Holy Ghost, a small number of people who have a full knowledge of the Gospel and willingly reject and battle against what they know to be the truth, are believed to inherit no glory (incorrectly but usually referred to as Outer Darkness by the general membership) at the final judgement—a place of no light or glory. An individual so banished is called a Son of Perdition. Conventional forgiveness is not possible for these people. They are still believed to be resurrected beings, although they have very limited or no use of their bodies.
Within greater Christianity, the LDS view of salvation is most like Arminianism, a commonly held view which emphasizes the individual's free-will acceptance of the grace of God throughout life.
Weekly worship services, including Sacrament Meetings, are held in meetinghouses (http://www.mormon.org/question/worship/1,8578,797-1,00.html), also referred to as "chapels". All people, regardless of belief or standing in the church are welcome to attend. The Sacrament, similar to Communion or the Eucharist in other churches, is offered weekly. Typical meetings include the singing of hymns (accompanied by piano or organ) and two or three discourses by congregational members. Although it is not required, women usually attend wearing skirts or dresses, while men wear suits or dress shirts and ties. People in different attire are also welcome.
Members of the LDS Church generally come together in meetinghouses throughout the week (except Mondays which is reserved as family time) for different activities.
Sunday services consist of a three hour block of time divided into three segments. The primary service is Sunday Sacrament Meeting, which is slightly over an hour in length, and attended by the combined congregation. Attendance in the other two segments varies by age and sex. The church publishes manuals for each type of class, usually including both a teacher's manual and a student booklet.
Sunday school classes are grouped by age. The most common adult sunday school class is "Gospel Doctrine", which meets each week and consists of a teacher presenting a gospel message with participation from class members. A second adult class that meets most weeks is "Gospel Essentials", designed for new members and non-members who are interested in learning more about the church (often referred to as investigators). Additional adult classes are held at various times, depending on the needs of the congregation. These classes include topics such as "Family Relations", "Family History", "Teacher Preparation", and "Temple Preparation". Youth Sunday School classes are broken down by age (12-13, 14-16, 17-18). These classes are sometimes combined if the class sizes are small.
In addition to Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School, a third meeting is held where attendance is based on age and sex. Men and boys attend priesthood classes, while women attend Relief Society, and girls ages 12-18 attend Young Women. Young women classes are Beehive (12-13), Mia Maids (14-15), and Laurels (16-18). Although all men and boys meet together briefly for a prayer, hymn, and announcements, they then divide into classes. The men separate into Elders Quorum or High Priests, the latter usually being older men and/or those who have held leadership positions. Youth are divided into priesthood classes: Deacons (12-13), Teachers (14-15), and Priests (16-18). Classes may be combined if the class sizes are small.
Children younger than 12 attend Primary, which spans the two time blocks described above. Primary is divided into senior primary (9-12) and junior primary (4-8), along with nursery (2-3). Primary classes generally consist of all the children who were born in the same year. Usually one half of Primary are in class, while the other half are meet together in sharing and singing time, and then the two are reversed.
In addition to Sunday meetings, a number of meetings may take place during the week. High school students may attend Early Morning Seminary, which is scheduled so that students can leave for school when the class is over. In some areas with large LDS populations, provisions are made by the high school which allow students to attend Seminary (off-campus) during the school day. The provision, however, is considered Release Time, not a school-recognized class. No credit is awarded by the school, nor is any grade or achievement listed on the school's official transcript.
Young Men and Young Women often have a weekly meeting (sometimes referred to as "Mutual") which can involve an activity, service project, or instruction. Classes may meet separately or combined on different weeks. Once a month the women attend Enrichment Night, where they may choose between various classes being offered, participate in a service project, or some sort of social event.
In addition to these regularly scheduled meetings, additional meetings are frequently held at the chapel. Popular activities are basketball, luncheons, and various personal improvement classes. Church members may also reserve the building for personal use, such as wedding receptions, funerals, etc.
See: Temple (Mormonism)
Practices more or less distinctive to Latter-day Saints include following the Word of Wisdom (eating healthy, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee and eating meat sparingly), tithing (giving 10 percent of one's income to the church), chastity, modesty in dress, lay leadership, Family Home Evenings (families are encouraged to meet weekly for prayer and other activities - typically on Monday), and home and visiting teaching (members regularly visit one another in their homes for prayer and study). Tattoos and body piercings (except for one pair of earrings for women) are discouraged. Church members are encouraged to marry and have children, and as a result, Mormon families tend to be larger than average. Because of the importance of the family, sexual (including homosexual) activity outside marriage is strictly forbidden.
Latter-day Saint fathers who hold the priesthood typically bless their babies shortly after birth to formally give the child a name and a a blessing and generate a church record for them. Various blessings may be pronounced, as the father feels inspired.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint do not practice polygamy, and members found in multiple marriage relationships are excommunicated. The Church did at one time endorse a form of polygamy, which was called "plural marriage", but that is no longer the case. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early members of the Church were married to more than one wife, until the commandment was officially withdrawn as stated in a declaration called "The Manifesto" given by President Wilford Woodruff in 1890 (see Official Declaration 1 (http://scriptures.lds.org/od/1)), which told Church members to obey the marriage laws of their land. After the Manifesto, some Church members living in Mexico and Canada continued the practice as it was legal in these countries. The Church's position reiterated and clarified in 1910, requesting that church members not enter into any form of plural marriage, regardless of location, local customs and legality. Converts from areas where polygamy is accepted typically must end such relationships. Today, while plural marriage is not practiced, a widower qualified to enter the temple may receive permission to have his subsequent marriage(s) sealed if the woman has not been previously sealed to another man, allowing for the continuation of that relationship beyond death. A widow can be remarried in the temple, but can only be sealed to one husband.
Formal public and personal prayers are addressed to "Heavenly Father" and offered in the name of Jesus Christ, followed by amen. It is customary when a prayer is given in public that all present say amen in reply. English-speaking members generally use "thee", "thou", "thy", and "thine" when addressing God, as a form of both familiarity and respect. Members who speak other languages use similar formal syntax in prayer. Most prayers are extemporaneous and may be said while kneeling, standing, sitting, or any other position. Certain prayers, however are defined and must be said verbatim, while others must follow a certain pattern. For example, the Sacrament prayer is a set prayer that is said the same every week and while kneeling. If the person deviates from the text, they are instructed to repeat the prayer until correct. The baptism prayer must be said verbatim while standing in the water with the person being baptized and the right arm is raised. Ordinations and blessings have a defined pattern and some include certain fixed phrases that are to be included in the prayer. For example, the confirmation ordinance is to begin by addressing the individual, stating the priesthood authority being used to confirm the person, confirming that person as a member of the church and saying to them "receive the Holy Ghost", followed by a blessing as led by the Spirit.
The LDS church has perhaps the most active missionary program of any world church. There are approximately 55,000 full-time missionaries serving around the world at any given time. See missionaries for more information.
The Church strongly emphasizes education and subsidizes Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University-Idaho (formerly Ricks College), and Brigham Young University-Hawaii. The Church also has a seminary program for high school students and an institute program for college students.
Official websites of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Primary sites:
- LDS.org (http://lds.org) - the official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — with links to Gospel Library, Church History, Family Home Evening programs, and more
- Mormon.org (http://mormon.org) - information on basic beliefs, a meetinghouse locator, and a place to email questions
- Secondary sites:
- familysearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org) - Family History and Genealogical Research
- providentliving.org (http://www.providentliving.org) - Provident Living (spiritual and temporal welfare)
- ldsces.org (http://www.ldsces.org) - Church Educational System
- besmart.com (http://www.besmart.com) - Education Advocacy
- musicandthespokenword.com (http://www.musicandthespokenword.com) - Music and the Spoken Word
- mormontabernaclechoir.org (http://www.mormontabernaclechoir.org) - Mormon Tabernacle Choir
- scriptures.lds.org - Online Scriptures, Bible Dictionary, Topical Guide, and more
- Gospel Library (http://lds.org/gospellibrary/0,5082,4-1,00.html) - contains official publications and texts
- ldscatalog.com (http://www.ldscatalog.com) - Church Distribution
- itsaboutlove.org (http://www.itsaboutlove.org) - Adoption support
- family.mormon.org - "Family, isn't it about time" - Family support media campaign
- Related sites, owned by organizations affiliated with the Church:
- byu.edu (http://www.byu.edu) - Brigham Young University
- byui.edu (http://www.byui.edu) - BYU Idaho (formerly Ricks College)
- ldsbc.edu (http://www.ldsbc.edu) - LDS Business College
- byuh.edu (http://www.byuh.edu) - BYU-Hawaii
- byucougars.com (http://www.byucougars.com) - BYU Cougar Sports
- deseretnews.com (http://www.deseretnews.com) - Deseret Morning News]
- bonneville.com (http://www.bonneville.com) - Bonneville Communications]
- ksl.com (http://www.ksl.com) - KSL TV and Radio
- byubroadcasting.org (http://www.byubroadcasting.org) - BYU Broadcasting
- byutv.org (http://www.byutv.org) - BYU Television
- byuradio.org (http://www.byuradio.org) - BYU Radio
- kbyutv.org (http://www.kbyutv.org) - KBYU Television
- kbyufm.org (http://www.kbyufm.org) - KBYU FM Radio
- BYU Speeches";