Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going after I die? Virtually every person who has lived on the earth has asked these questions at one time or another. Many people have sought the answers to these questions through sacred scripture, prophetic utterance, prayer to God, and organized religion. Many people have found the answers to life’s questions through varied systems of religious belief, or churches. In addition, they have benefitted by associating with like-minded people who are seeking or have found answers to their questions.
What Is a Church?
A church is both a specific organization of belief and the building where meetings or worship services are held.
The specific organization of belief typically includes belief in a creator, higher power, or governing being. Most call this being God. To many, God is all-knowing (omniscient), present at all times (omnipresent), and all-powerful (omnipotent). Many religious organizations believe that God reveals His will through prophets or messengers. Included in each church organization are patterns, practices, or behaviors to live by.
Church buildings are known by other names, such as mosques, synagogues, temples, chapels, and cathedrals.
Predominant Religious Beliefs of the World
Some of the main religions of the world are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Judaism. Most believe in God. Most Christians believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Religion may spring up in one area of the world, but many things can spread religion, like missionary efforts, word of mouth, or the relocation of followers. Wherever like-minded people live, a religious belief has the potential to flourish.
Why Are There So Many Christian Churches?
Christians believe that their religion had its beginning with the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church traces its beginnings to Christ’s apostle Peter. The Protestant Reformation occurred as a rejection of the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther and others dissented and protested against the practices and doctrine of the Catholic Church. They severed their affiliation with it (though Luther had not meant to).
Some Christian churches were formed when someone responded to a perceived need or when a group of people rejected doctrine and practices of other Christian churches. A person responding to a perceived call to minister may gather a congregation through his or her teachings.
Churches are not spared a financial motivation. Possible wealth may be a driving force behind the creation of some churches.
What Do Mormons Believe?
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, believe that an apostasy took place during the early years of the Christian Church following Jesus Christ’s death.
Latter-day Saints believe that apostasy occurs whenever an individual or community rejects the revelations and ordinances of God, changes the gospel of Jesus Christ, or rebels against the commandments of God, thereby losing the blessings of the Holy Ghost and of divine authority.1
They believe the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. When he was a 14-year-old boy, he noticed the “unusual excitement on the subject of religion” where his family lived in New York. He also noticed the “confusion and strife among the different denominations.” He felt unable to “come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong” (Joseph Smith—History 1:5, 8). In his search for truth, he read James 1:5, which reads, “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.” Following this counsel, he secluded himself in a nearby grove of trees to ask God to tell him which church to join.
When Joseph Smith emerged from the grove in 1820, he had learned first hand from Jesus Christ himself that the Christian churches of his day were all wrong and that he was forbidden to join any of them. “Their creeds were an abomination in his sight,” their “professors were all corrupt,” and they were teaching “for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness,” but denying “the power thereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19).2
Christian churches do not always accept each other as Christian if their doctrinal beliefs are different. It is common for many Christians to reject members of The Church of Jesus Christ as Christians. However, members of The Church of Jesus Christ consider themselves devout Christians and call themselves Latter-day Saints.
Mormons believe that their church is the restored Church of Jesus Christ, complete with doctrine, ordinances, and priesthood authority to act in God’s name. They invite people of other faiths to come and learn about The Church of Jesus Christ.
Confusion Will End at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ
Mormons believe that all faithful people who ever lived on the earth will recognize Jesus Christ in the last days. They will feel the truth of His gospel when He comes to earth in glory at the end of the world. “Every knee should bow . . . and . . . every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). At that time, religious confusion will end and there will be “one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). The fold symbolizes all the children of God, and the shepherd represents the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Early Christians in Disarray (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2005), 1.