10 Reasons You Should Be Mormon-A Response

So I was reading an LDS-related forum, and saw a thread about this blog post.  At the outset, I should say that I certainly appreciate the zeal and love that the poster has for her faith, which motivates her to want to share the things that she loves about it (coupled of course with the instruction from church leaders to be “member missionaries”, as well as utilizing technology to share the LDS view of the Gospel).  I thought I’d comment on a few of the points from my perspective (and of course I’ll shortly share a 10 Reasons You Should Be Catholic!):

1) ” Jesus Christ is the center of our faith. A lot of people believe we don’t worship Jesus Christ…but we do! (Just check out the church’s full name.) We believe in the same Jesus Christ that other Christian faiths believe in. He is the Son of God and died for our sins.”

My response: I do agree that Mormons love Jesus Christ, believe that He is the Son of God, and suffered and died for our sins.  Mormons believe that we are to follow His example.  However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that they “believe in the same Jesus Christ that other Christian faiths believe in”.  Primarily, the Divine origins of Jesus Christ are fundamentally different.  Latter-day Saints believe that we are all sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents-God the Father and His spouse, Heavenly Mother.  Jesus Christ, known as “Jehovah” in the pre-mortal existence, was the literal firstborn spirit son of our Heavenly Parents (the Holy Ghost is also a spirit son of our Parents).  In contrast, Catholics and other traditional Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God the Son, but is also the eternal Son of God.  The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are believed to be in an eternal relationship, and the Son did not have to be spiritually born.  He is eternally the Son of the Father.  There never was a time when God did not exist as God, and there never was a time when Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost were not members of the eternal Trinity.   Also, God the Father is not married to a Heavenly Mother, therefore there is no reference to “Heavenly Parents” (an idea found nowhere in the writings of the earliest Christians, including the New Testament).  Latter-day Saints therefore see a “beginning” of sorts with Jesus in the pre-mortal existence, just like with all of us (noting of course their belief in an eternal, uncreated “intelligence” that we all have), while Catholics believe that Jesus has eternally existed as the Son, and did not have to be spiritually begotten at some point (He is said to be “eternally begotten”).

Another interesting difference is that traditional Christians are generally okay with praying directly to Jesus Christ.  Since Jesus Christ is God, is Divine, we can worship and pray to Him.  In contrast, Latter-day Saints believe that you can only pray to the Father, in the name of the Son.
2. “God still speaks to the world through a prophet. Remember in the Bible when God called prophets? Well guess what?? He still does! There is a living prophet today named Thomas S. Monson, and there are also 12 apostles. Joseph Smith was the first modern-day prophet who was called by God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth after years of people creating their own faiths. The only way you can know there’s a prophet is through listening to what he has to say and praying to know for yourself.”

My response: Catholics agree that God still speaks to prophets.  Catholics don’t believe that God has ever stopped talking to His children, contrary to LDS beliefs about the Heavens being closed until they were reopened in the 1800s.  Catholic history is filled with wondrous and miraculous visions, Heavenly visitations, miracles, etc.  Indeed, these have happened, and still do, and are talked about, much more frequently in Catholicism than Mormonism!  Walk into any Catholic church, and you’ll most likely see a statue or painting/icon of Mary, the mother of Christ, depicting one of her many miraculous visitations around the world, throughout Catholic history.  There are many examples of Catholic visionaries and prophets.  Catholics believe that we can all receive inspiration and guidance from God, and also that the Church itself has Jesus Christ at its Head, and is protected by the Holy Spirit from ever failing, being corrupted, and its leaders are guided in Council, and the Pope individually, by the Spirit when they formally expound on Divine truths.  I find that the Catholic Church regards the guidance of God to His children in His Kingdom on earth much more highly than Latter-day Saints; so much more highly that an apostasy of the Church is an impossibility to Catholics, since God is a merciful God, despite our sins and human failures (the Church being a Divine institution, not a man-made one).

As mentioned in other posts, I also am troubled by  the 15 men sustained as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators in the LDS Church.  I know others have expressed similar views.  They simply don’t function as prophets!  In my view, they don’t do or say anything different from the leaders of various Protestant churches.  Gone are the days of talking about Heavenly visitations for LDS (indeed, when asked if the leaders have actually seen Christ, we are often told that it is too sacred to talk about, which contradicts how the early leaders, including Joseph Smith, viewed such things).  Gone are the days of discovering ancient texts and translating them.  The last time the D&C was updated, in 1978, it was to open the priesthood to all worthy males, when blacks were restricted from holding the priesthood until then (they were also restricted from entering temples).  And even in that case, it is not an actual revelation that is found in the D&C; it’s only an official declaration that a revelation was received.  Where is the canonized text of the revelation, just like we can read in the rest of the D&C?  For that matter, where is the text of the revelation ending plural marriage?  In my view, the LDS prophets, seers, and revelators today do not function like the Biblical ones, let alone like Joseph Smith.   See these posts for more:

Is The Prophet a Prophet-Two Interesting Articles

The Heavens Are Closed?-LDS Misunderstanding of Orthodox Views on Revelation

6. Death does NOT separate families. God put us on this earth in families so we can learn and grow together. We all have a need for a family unit where we can learn how to avoid the evils of this world and become strong. Satan is constantly attacking the family today because it is the most important thing in our lives. But would God put us here in families just to break them apart at death?? Of course not! That’s why when we are married it is not til death, but for all time and eternity. This is done in the 141 temples around the world, where families are being united every day.”

My response: This is something that I thought about a lot.  Generally, we love our families, and want to be with them forever.  LDS claim to be able to seal families together for eternity, and that traditional Christians believe that families end at death.  Fortunately, as a Catholic, I can say that the LDS criticism does not hold water, and also that you have nothing to worry about.

I like beginning discussing this issue with a brief thought exercise:  the LDS view on sealing ends up with exactly how traditional Christians view life in Heaven.  When you hear about eternal families, it’s often explained and imagined as you being with your spouse and children forever.  However, here is how I see it ending up: I am sealed to my wife.  We are also sealed to our children.  I am sealed to my parents, and my wife is sealed to  her parents.  Our parents are sealed to their own parents.  Our children become sealed to their spouses (and remain sealed to us), and their spouses are already sealed to their own parents, who are sealed to their own parents.  So, how does this eternal families concept really work?  What ends up happening is that everyone is sealed to everyone else.  There is no eternal nuclear family unit, since we’re all sealed to others outside of our nuclear family (and our children will start their own nuclear families).  This is similar to the Catholic view on life in Heaven.  For Catholics, God does not break up families in Heaven.  Rather, He expands them!  In Heaven, we are all one Family, members of the family of God, united in Christ.  In Heaven, we love the way God loves, and He loves all of us.  If our spouses and children are in Heaven, we can be with them.  We’ll have all of our earthly memories.  There won’t be some sort of amnesia where we forget who our wife was, or who our children were.  So, while the LDS claim of eternal families is certainly attractive, it doesn’t end up working out how it is imagined, and the Catholic view of Heaven is much more expansive and demonstrative of God’s universal love for all His children.

7. Temples!!!!!!!!! You’ve probably seen a temple in a picture or real life, but they aren’t just pretend castles. In ancient times, God commanded His people to build temples to perform sacred ordinances, like marriage which I mentioned above. With the restoration of His church through the prophet Joseph Smith, temples became a commandment once again. They are beautiful and the House of the Lord on earth. You can feel the peace there even just walking around the grounds.

My response: As I’m sure you know, I love the temple and the temple concept.  The temple was probably my favorite thing about being a Latter-day Saint.  I loved going, and at one point, I went once a week.  Coming from a Catholic background, the temple was something I needed, especially when compared with the more bare and noisy meetinghouses.  So, I’ve read a lot about temples, ancient and the modern LDS ones, and have extensively read the LDS-related apologetics on the matter (I actually just bought the book “Ascending the Mountain of the Lord-Temple, Praise, and Worship“, composed of articles from the upcoming BYU Sperry Symposium).

Yes, in ancient times God commanded His people to build a tabernacle and temples.  However, no, marriage was not performed in those sacred edifices.  Nor were proxy baptisms and confirmations.  The primary ritual that occurred there was sacrifice.  Interestingly, as I’ve read about the temple and ancient rites (Margaret Barker especially), I have been strengthened in my belief in the authenticity of Catholic liturgical practices, finding them to be in direct continuity with ancient Israelite practices, including those related to temples.  Indeed, Catholic churches, basilicas, chapels, and cathedrals are all regarded as temples, being the literal House of God, where His presence dwells (i.e. the Real Presence).  Sacred rituals are performed there, including sacrifice (the Eucharist is regarded as a real propitiatory sacrifice offered by the priesthood), washings, anointings, the singing of psalms, sacred feasts and festivals, sacred vestments, blessings, incense, bread and wine offering, the presence of angels, altars, a division of the building into three major parts, etc.  As much as I loved the LDS temple, I found the Catholic equivalent to be more temple-like, and more in continuity with the ancient Israelite tabernacle and temples.  And as mentioned, the ancient Biblical temples did not involve the performance of marriages.

8. Authority from God. No one can just stand up and decide they have authority from God to start a church. That’s what people thought in the days after the death of Christ and His apostles. Many churches were formed and people had this idea that they could start a church however they wanted. Some had good intentions as well. But that authority that was given by God to baptize, preach the gospel, basically run His church on earth, was brought back! Now it lies in our church, because God restored it through a prophet just as He always has.-

My response: Catholics agree.  Catholics believe that authority comes from God, from those in authority from Him.  While there were people in the days after Christ that thought they could just decide for themselves that they have authority and start a church, the Catholic Church maintained the true authority from God to baptize, preach the Gospel, and run God’s Church.  That authority remained after Christ gave it, and it did not disappear (since Christ maintains His own Body, His own Kingdom).  A restoration was not necessary, since the authority was never gone.

10. HAPPINESS FOREVER! I am in no way going to say that being a Mormon means no trials. FALSE. Sometimes our trials are even greater because we have the whole truth. But, we can handle our hard times and our struggles so much easier with the knowledge we do have. Happiness is so much more abundant when we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and try to be better everyday. People often ask me how I can be so happy all the time, and it’s because I know where I came from, why I’m here, and where I’m going.-

My response:  Happiness isn’t limited to those in the LDS faith.  Indeed, since leaving the LDS faith and returning to my Catholic faith, I have literally never felt happier, including when I was LDS.  I do agree that happiness is much more abundant when we follow the teachings of Christ and try to be better everyday.  Indeed, by following His teachings, we can have eternal happiness.  However, people of many faiths would claim the same thing, including the Catholic faith.  What I find that is most important is what is eternally saving, and while LDS believe that is found in their faith, I believe that it is found in the Catholic one.  As a Catholic, I also know where I came from, why I’m here, and where I’m going (God willing).

Is The Prophet a Prophet?-Two Interesting Articles

Recently, I participated in a discussion on a message board about whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is really led by “living prophets” that function in the same way that the Biblical prophets, that Latter-day Saints tend to compare them to, did.  This topic is always interesting to me, especially because the concept of having “living prophets”, prophets just like Moses, Abraham, Noah, Isaiah, Paul, etc, sounds attractive, and implies a continuity  with the prophetic calling of the various Biblical prophets.  I particularly loved reading the phrase “living oracles”, as the word “oracle” particularly implies that these men are more than just everyday men that receive inspiration from God just like everyone else is able to.

When I would embrace my duties as a “member missionary“, I would almost always bring up the subject of having prophets and apostles, and how these were found in the Bible, and then disappeared, but now, through the Restoration, we have living prophets and apostles that guide God’s people, receiving Divine revelation, just like they did anciently.   I remember one conversation when the person I was talking to asked what the latest revelation was.  I wasn’t sure if I should bring up the issue of the priesthood restriction and how in 1978, the Prophet receive revelation from God to allow all worthy males to be ordained to the priesthood, when previously, blacks were restricted from ordination.  Somehow, being an African American, talking to another African American, it seemed as if bringing that up wouldn’t be conducive to my member missionary work (and indeed, another friend at a later time did his own research, found out about the priesthood restriction, read the various negative and racist statements various leaders made during that time, and was turned off).  So, I thought, and thought, and thought, and wasn’t sure what I should bring up as the latest revelation the Prophet received, that demonstrated his prophetic calling as distinct from the [non-prophet] leaders of other Christian Churches.  I could bring up building more, smaller temples, or the lowering of the missionary ages, or the Family: A Proclamation to the World, yet none of those had a recorded revelation in the same way that we have in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the latter day revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants (and even with the priesthood restriction, there is no recorded revelation of the Lord speaking to His prophet, in the same way that we read in the rest of the D&C; there’s only an Official Declaration that says that a revelation was received), and didn’t really seem on par with the Biblical revelations and guidance received by the prophets, nor even on par with the experiences of Joseph Smith, recorded in the D&C.

It was this conversation that really got me thinking about the 15 men we sustained as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, and whether they really functioned as prophets, seers, and revelators, and were on par with Abraham, Moses, Noah, Malachi, Paul, etc, or whether they were no different than the leaders of other Christian Churches.

Rewinding back to the discussion I was having recently online, I happened upon two articles written at Zomarah’s blog, and found them very well written and expressed the viewpoint I came to hold, and a viewpoint that probably many Latter-day Saints have on their living prophets.  Here are links to them:

Thomas S. Monson: A Seer, A Revelator, a Translator, and a Prophet

Silent Revelations

So, I’m sure that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are well meaning men, who believe they are inspired in their duties, just like how most Christians believe they can receive inspiration from God to guide them.  I don’t ascribe any ill-will to them, however I really wonder how the “living prophets” claim is really something that provides something different than what can be found in other Churches, something different that resulted from the Restoration.  I believe I have my answer, hence why I reverted back to the Catholic Church, which believes that, although the Pope and the College/Council of Bishops are certainly guided by the Holy Spirit in guiding the Church, preventing doctrinal error and innovation, teaching God’s children by the Spirit, etc, that the Holy Spirit guides the unfolding understanding of the Deposit of Faith given anciently, and that when they gather in Council, the proceedings and conclusions are Spirit-inspired, we don’t necessarily believe that they are prophets, though God has called various men and women throughout Catholic history to be prophets, and prophetesses, who have received visions and visitations from Heaven, some including warnings and prophecies about the future, including the various popular visitations of Mary, and that many of these prophetic events have resulted in miracles, such as Lourdes Water from a spring in France.  These people had and have demonstrable prophetic encounters and abilities, and really are fascinating to me, especially in comparison to the leaders sustained by Latter-day Saints as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, 15 of them.

Mormons? Who Are They?

So before we start on our journey of comparing and contrasting Mormonism and Catholicism, it would be helpful for Catholic posters to understand just what exactly Mormonism is.  This post will be adapted from another post I had written elsewhere.  This will be a very long post, so please feel free to read it in pieces and come back to it!

Overview

The “Mormon Church” is more properly known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It was officially organized on April 6, 1830 in upstate New York.  The LDS Church claims a worldwide membership of over 13 million members, over half of which reside outside of the United States.

The founding prophet of the LDS Church was Joseph Smith.  He was born in 1805 in Vermont.  About 10 years later, Smith moved with his family to Palmyra, New York (western upstate New York).  A number of years later, in 1820, Joseph Smith became concerned with his soul and religious matters.  He was reading the Bible when he happened upon James 1:5-“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”  Joseph then went to the forest near his home, and prayed to God.  Suddenly, he had what the LDS Church believes to be a pivotal vision in the history of the world.  At that moment, Smith saw a pillar of light come down from the sky.  He saw two “personages”: God the Father, and Jesus Christ.  God the Father pointed at Jesus Christ, and said “This is my Beloved Son: Here Him!”.  Joseph Smith asked which church he should belong to.  Jesus Christ then gave a very important answer: none of them.  He said that all creeds were an abomination, and that the “professors” of the creeds are corrupt.

Three years later, Smith had another important vision in Mormonism.  One night before bed, Smith beheld a pillar of light.  In it, another Heavenly being visited.  This was the angel Moroni.  Moroni informed Smith that God had something for him to do: there was a book of gold plates in existence that documented the activities of peoples that lived on the North American continent.  This account contained “the fulness of the everlasting Gospel…as it was delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants”.  Four years later, in 1827, Smith was finally allowed access to the gold plates.  These plates were purportedly written in a language called “reformed Egyptian”. These plates, once translated into English, would become what is now known as the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon tells the story of groups of peoples in “the Americas” (the locations are disputed within the LDS Church itself) that originated from the Middle East.  According to the Book, there was a prophet named Lehi that lived in Jerusalem somewhere near 600 BC.  He was informed by God that the city was about to be destroyed.  Because of this, he sailed with a group of people to North America.  When Lehi died, these Hebrews in America split into two groups, named after two of Lehi’s sons: the Nephites, generally the good guys, and the Lamanites, generally the bad guys.  There were many similarities between this new civilization and that of the Middle East, with prophets, temples, wars, etc.  Each of these prophets wrote their accounts of events, many of which are found in the Book of Mormon.  They all prophesied of Jesus Christ.  Somewhere about 34 AD, after Christ ascended to Heaven according to the Bible, the prophet Nephi wrote that Jesus came to America, and ministered to the people there.  Jesus then ascended again, after which war began again in America.  The Nephites were then killed off by the Lamanites in a great battle, and the Lamanites are seen as among the ancestors of the Native Americans.  The prophet Mormon put together the works of the other prophets, inscribing them on the gold plates found by Joseph Smith.  His son Moroni, the same angel that visited Smith, then buried these gold plates.

Throughout the subsequent years, Smith set about to forming the “restored” Church of Jesus Christ, with the “restored Gospel”.  According to Mormon theology, when Jesus established his Church in ancient times, various heresies crept in.  In the end, it resulted in something called the “Great Apostasy”, a falling away from the true Faith of Jesus Christ.  The “keys” were no longer on the earth with the death of the last Apostle.  The true Church of Jesus Christ was no longer present on earth, and God’s priesthood was not present to offer the saving ordinances necessary for salvation.  Therefore, it had to be restored, and this occurred 1800 years later, when the Father and the Son appeared to the latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith.  Other scriptures besides the Book of Mormon were also revealed, including the Doctrine and Covenants  (latter day revelations documenting the restoration and other events) and the Pearl of Great Price (including the Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses, Joseph Smith-History, Joseph Smith-Matthew, and the Articles of Faith).

Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery were visited in the following years by John the Baptist, who restored and ordained them to the “Aaronic Priesthood”.  Afterward, Peter, James, and John also appeared to them, and who restored and ordained them to the “Melchizedek Priesthood”.  Smith continued to receive various revelations from God (indeed, the LDS Church claims that its President, or Prophet, can receive direct revelations from God to guide the church and doctrine) to formulate new doctrine.  These revelations are found in another book of Mormon scripture, Doctrine and Covenants (along with other revelations by subsequent Prophets).  The Pearl of Great Price is another book of scripture, and these four books (the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price) are regarded as the “standard works” of Mormon scripture.  Smith was killed in 1844 by a group of people that came to the jail where he was being held.  He was 38 years old.

Throughout the years, the LDS Church has encountered persecution.  It has also believed in and practice various doctrines that I will discuss in this blog, such as polygamy and a ban of black males from the priesthood.  As the LDS Church sees itself as the true Church of Jesus Christ restored on earth, and that there was an apostasy, there are various differences between “traditional Christianity” and the LDS faith.  Some of them include:

  • the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate Persons that are one in purpose
  • Jesus Christ not only has a glorified body (as Trinitarians believe), but God the Father also has a glorified body of flesh and bones (some LDS prophets have taught that God the Father was once a man that progressed to Godhood)
  • God the Father is married to the Heavenly Mother
  • continued public revelation with more scriptures
  • proxy ordinances for the deceased.  Those that were not baptized by the authority of the LDS Church int his life may receive baptism, as well as the other “saving ordinances” (baptism, confirmation, Melchizedek priesthood ordination for men, Endowment, Sealing/Eternal Marriage)
  • Temples, open only to those that have a “recommend”, where they perform baptism for the dead, other proxy ordinances for the dead, the endowment, and sealing (eternal marriage).  Temples are distinct from meetinghouses, where they have Sunday worship services and other activities
  • Three degrees of Heaven: Celestial (highest), Terrestrial, Telestial
  • the pre-mortal existence.  We existed before we were born as literal spirit children of the Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.
  • exaltation, or the belief that we can become gods (various differences between exaltation and the tradition deification or theosis)
  • the Word of Wisdom, a health code that includes a prohibition against the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea

LDS Priesthood and Church Structure

The LDS Church therefore sees itself as “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30), the restoration of Christ’s Church, possessing God’s priesthood, and that it is only through participating in the ordinances offered by that priesthood that we may receive eternal life, return to live in God’s presence, in eternal families, becoming gods.

The LDS priest, as mentioned, is divided into two: the Melchizedek, or higher, Priesthood, and the Aaronic, or lesser, Priesthood.  The priesthood is conferred, by laying on of hands by one in authority, on LDS males beginning with deacons at age 12, teachers age 14, priests age 16, and elder age 18.  The offices of the priesthood are:

Aaronic Priesthood

  • Deacon
  • Teacher
  • Priest
  • Bishop (who is also a high priest)

Melchizedek Priesthood

  • Elder
  • High Priest
  • Patriarch
  • Seventy
  • Apostle

Organizationally, at the top is the First Presidency.  comprised of the President of the Church, and two Counselors.  The President is frequently referred to as “the Prophet”, and receives revelation for the entire Church.  Below them is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  The fifteen men that comprise the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are sustained as “Prophets, Seers, and Revelators” by members of the faith.  Below them are various Quorums of the Seventy (currently 8, each able to hold up to 70 members, though none have that many).  Below the Seventy is the Presiding Bishopric, comprised of the Presiding Bishop and two Counselors, who are the presidency of the worldwide Aaronic Priesthood.  The First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, First and Second Quorums of the Seventy, and Presiding Bishopric together are referred to as “General Authorities”.

Local Organization

At the local level, members are organized into “wards” (equivalent to a Catholic parish).  Each ward is presided over by a Bishop (similar to a Catholic priest) and two counselors.  Males also participate in “quorums” based on their priesthood ordination.  Adult males are part of the Elders Quorum or High Priests group.  Adult women participate in Relief Society.  Each group has a President and Counselors over it (I was Elders Quorum President).

A group of wards in an area are organized into a “stake” (like a Catholic diocese), presided over by a Stake President (like a Catholic Bishop) and two Counselors.

Sunday Worship

The worship in an LDS chapel on Sundays is similar in style to more “low church” Protestant churches.  There is “Sacrament Meeting”, equivalent to Catholic Mass.  Sacrament Meeting begins with announcements, followed by a hymn.  Then there is an opening prayer, followed by any ward business (such as announcing a person being called to serve in a position, someone being released from a calling, a confirmation, etc).  Then there is a Sacrament hymn (LDS refer to Communion as “the Sacrament”), and the administration of the Sacrament.  A white table cloth covers the bread and cups of water (LDS use water inside of wine or grape juice), and is uncovered.  Aaronic priests or higher then say the LDS Sacrament prayers over the bread and water (noting that this does not include the use of Christ’s words at the Lord’s Supper, and LDS do not accept a belief in the Real Presence), and it is then distributed to members at their seats, as they pass it to each other.  Following this, members of the congregation that have been previously assigned give “talks” or sermons on specific topics.  There may be a hymn in between talks.  The meeting then concludes with a closing hymn and a closing prayer.

On the first Sunday of each month, LDS have “Fast and Testimony Meeting”.  This meeting follows the same format as above, except instead of the talks, members go up and share their testimonies as they are moved to.  This follows fasting for two meals prior.

After the Sacrament Meeting, members go to Sunday School.  Various classes are typically taught at the same time, though most will attend the Gospel Doctrine class.  In this class, members study out of one of the LDS scriptures, based on a yearly rotating schedule.  Other classes may include marriage preparation, temple preparation, mission preparation, Gospel Principles for new members and investigators, family history, etc.

Following Sunday School, members divide based on gender, and go to their respective quorum or group meetings (i.e. Elders Quorum for men and Relief Society for women).  In total, Mormons meet for 3 hours each Sunday.

Temples

When people think of Mormonism, quite frequently they picture the Salt Lake Temple.  Temples are a very important part of the LDS faith.  As mentioned, LDS go to their meetinghouses for Sunday worship.  They also have over 100 temples throughout the world where they go for special ordinances, or rituals.  Temples are regarded as very sacred houses of God.  Therefore, only LDS members with a special “temple recommend”, given after interviewing with local church leaders (basically asking if they believe the teachings of the Church and are living the standards of the faith), are able to enter after a temple is dedicated.  Temples are not on large spacious interior, but are divided into different rooms for different functions.  There is a baptistry where baptisms for the dead are performed, believed to offer those that died without valid (i.e. LDS) baptism the opportunity  to accept or reject the restored gospel.  There is another room where confirmations for the dead are performed.  LDS also go there for the Endowment.  Basically, this is a presentation of the Plan of Salvation, beginning with the Creation and the Fall.  Members make various covenants, don sacred clothing, etc.  The Endowment culminates in the Celestial Room, which symbolizes God’s presence.  There, members sit and pray, meditate, read scripture, etc.  There are also sealing rooms, where members are married for eternity.  The temple symbolizes the pinnacle of the faith for Mormons.  It symbolizes returning back to God’s presence, as an eternal family.  They look forward to the day when they can go to the temple and receive the Endowment and Sealing for themselves (necessary for eternal life), as well as offer all the saving ordinances to their deceased ancestors.

General Conference

Mormons gather together twice a year (in April and October) to listen to their leaders speak.  This is a two day weekend conference, where LDS believe they hear the inspired words of their prophets, apostles, and other leaders and authorities.  Hymns are also sung throughout, and information is given, such as the membership numbers of the Church, new temples, etc.  Although the Conference takes place at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, it is broadcast to church buildings around the world, and is also available to view live on the internet and on TV.  Members do not go to regular church services during that weekend.

Conclusion

Wow, that was long!  I hope you stayed with it, or came back to finish reading it, and that it gave you an overview of what the LDS Church is about.  This blog will talk more about specific components of LDS belief and practice, critique them (or praise things that are great!), and compare them to Catholicism.