The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the real name of the Mormon Church) is one of the fastest growing churches worldwide. Find out some of the facts that construct its true culture for yourself.
1. The Church has more than 16 million members
The Church was organized in a small farm town of upstate New York in the year 1830, with just six original members. Despite that, the sweeping winds of the Church have blown over the earth and into the hearts of many, making it one of the fastest growing churches in America. In fact, it is one of the few churches that is still growing. However, this does not make it an American church. There are actually more members outside the United States than within it. There are more non-English speakers than English speakers, and the Book of Mormon is actually translated into 110 languages, including Maori, Armenian, Rarotongan and several African-based languages. It is truly spreading like wildfire, refining everything that catches its flame.
2. The Church has a vibrant missionary program
As of April 2018 there were over 67,000 full-time missionaries serving and teaching the gospel of Christ, worldwide. After the Church was established in 1830, it took 117 years (1947) for it to reach 1 million members. Sixteen years later, there were 2 million members, and eight years later, there were three million.
In Daniel 2:34-35 we read
“Thou safest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.
“Then there was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”
This was a dream that King Nebuchadnezzar had during his reign. It also revealed the Lord’s plan for His kingdom in the Latter-days. Think of a stone rolling down a mountain. If it’s carved from the mountain by erosion, then it will gather speed, and collect other parts of the mountain with it. These large particles will continue to roll faster, and faster, picking up dust as they go, and clouding all their surroundings. Before long, a full-blown avalanche happens, transforming the mountain into something much different than it was before. It’s how spectacular, grand canyons such as Zion’s National Park and Arches have formed.
Now, picture the establishment of the Lord’s true Church in the year 1830. Like the stone, it started small. Then it grew and grew, gaining speed and collecting people and knowledge as it went. Until pretty soon, right in the middle of the roll, it gathered 16 million members.
The reason why this is possible is missionary work! And the strangest part of all, is that most Mormon missionaries are young people. Young men typically depart for two years of service when they turn 18, and young women can depart for 18 months of service around age 19. These missionaries leave schooling, loved ones, jobs, hobbies, sports and sometimes even stardom behind, when they serve. During their missions, they only do the work of the Lord, forsaking all worldly things, including dating. They are held to a higher standard and plane of thought than the rest of the world. Often, they must master a foreign language very quickly and share the gospel in a different cultural environment, far away from home. And to top it all off, they are the ones who pay to do it!
Members are also encouraged to do what they can to share the gospel with their friends and loved ones. The more they do so, and work closely with the missionaries, the quicker and larger that stone becomes as it carves the Kingdom of God.
3. The Church has an unpaid ministry
Except for a modest salary for its general authorities whose church duties prevent them from working, the Church does not pay anyone who serves in callings. Instead, the Church has a lay clergy. Virtually everyone in the Church has a “calling”, or a temporary assignment to perform a specific service in the Church. For example, bishops are men who are called as the heads of congregations, and they have as much responsibility as any pastor, priest or rabbi. Bishops receive no pay, serve for an average of five years, and continue in their regular vocations and family activities.
The women in the Church serve as well. Some head the women’s organization, known as Relief Society, by performing acts of service, teaching and supporting others through friendship. Others serve as young women leaders, aiding young girls through their teenage years. They provide lessons on Sunday and activities during the week. This is to help provide a loving support group for the girls, which teaches them they can withstand their challenges and meet them head-on with the gospel of Jesus Christ to bear them up.
These are just a few examples of the many different callings members of the Church receive. And all of it is service done without a bit of pay.
4. Although it is a Christian church, it differs from other Christian faiths
For one thing, the Church doesn’t use a cross symbol like other Christian churches. This is, perhaps, where many people get confused and figure that Mormons are not Christians. Mormons, however, do regard Christ’s suffering on the cross as one of high importance, and as part of salvation, just as other Christians do. We believe Christ did, in fact, die for us, there. However, rather than focus on that act, alone, Mormons choose to emphasize that Christ lived again, and still lives today. And that because of that, we will too.
Also, even though the Church was founded in 1830, it is not a Protestant faith. Protestant faiths are reformist faiths that attempt to correct perceived errors in the Orthodox faith. The problem was, Christ’s church shattered like a mirror after the apostles were killed off and these Orthodox and even Protestant churches only picked up bits and pieces of it. Mormonism is the complete restoration of Jesus Christ’s ancient Church. The organization is the same as in the ancient church, and Christ is the head of the Church. That’s why its proper name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Christ leads through direct revelation to a living prophet, who presides over the entire Church. The prophet also serves with twelve apostles, and quorums of seventy, just like in biblical times. They function through priesthood power, which has also been properly restored.
With the restoration of the priesthood power has come the ability to seal in heaven that which has been sealed on earth. The ordinances of baptism by immersion, the laying on of hands to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, and temple ordinances that seal families together forever are just a few of the blessings “Latter-day Saints” enjoy.
5. The Church is NOT a cult
There are some things the Church is NOT. It is not a cult. The modern definition of a cult insinuates that a sect uses coercion to brainwash its followers, in order to promote a powerful personality that is not their own. Agency, or free choice, is a basic tenet of God’s plan for us. Coercion has no place in the gospel or in the Church. Christ never brainwashed His followers into following Him. If He had, the Plan of God would’ve been frustrated, as He would have never suffered for us on the cross. And as this is Christ’s church, even today, no one would be forced into it.
Latter-day Saints rely heavily on the power of prayer and the promptings of the Holy Ghost to help them discern what is true. Even the counsel the prophet gives us is meant to be validated by the Lord through personal revelation to each person.
6. Mormons worship Jesus Christ, not Joseph Smith
Mormons revere Joseph Smith. He suffered greatly, was martyred for truth and revealed many lost and forgotten truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was the first prophet of the Latter-days and because of that, his shoulders bore an unimaginable weight that perhaps outweighs that of any other modern-day prophet.
However, he does not replace Jesus Christ as that whom we worship. Christ is the keystone, the center of the Church and, as the first commandment teaches us, we should not have any gods before Him.
Joseph Smith was a great man and prophet, but he was not God, nor was he infallible or omniscient. Thus, Mormons only worship God.
7. Jesus Christ directly leads the Church
Perhaps Christ does not walk the earth today, as He did anciently, the streets of Jerusalem. He won’t be there tonight to wash the feet of His apostles, just as He did before. And He won’t personally bless and pass the bread and water. However, He still leads His church through the same power as He did in the New Testament.
When Christ chose His apostles, He put His hands on each and every one of their heads and stated, “Ye have not chosen me. But I have chosen you. And do ordain you.” He then conferred upon them His priesthood power, or the power to act in God’s name for the benefit of others. This includes healing power and revelation.
After He and His apostles were killed off, the Church fell into apostasy. That priesthood authority left the earth for a great deal of time. It wasn’t until Peter, James and John appeared to the prophet, Joseph Smith and conferred it upon him, did it recommence. And it has been passed down by righteous men ever since. Every man who holds the priesthood can trace it back to Jesus Christ.
It is through that priesthood, which manifests itself through a living prophet, that Jesus Christ guides and directs His church today.
8. Mormons did not replace the Bible with the Book of Mormon
Mormons are Bible-believing Christians, and use the King James Version just the way it was published, in English-speaking countries. The Book of Mormon echoes many teachings of the Bible, including the words of the Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Moses and Abraham. It also includes the birth of Jesus Christ, as prophesied by ancient prophets and from the perspective of those in the Ancient Americas, who witnessed the new star and night without darkness, but didn’t actually get to see the babe in Bethlehem for themselves.
The Book of Mormon isn’t meant to replace the Bible, but rather is there to act as a second witness of Jesus Christ, told from another corner of the earth.
9. Mormons do not have a monopoly on truth, but they do have the fullness of the gospel
When Joseph Smith was was just a teenager, the Angel Moroni appeared to him in his room and told him about a sacred ancient record buried under the Hill Cumorah. Its story was that of those who lived in the ancient Americas; who had revelations about God just like Biblical prophets did. He showed him where it was, then told him to return to the spot at the age of 21 and obtain the record.
When Joseph’s elder brother Alvin passed away, Joseph was completely devastated. Alvin was, as Joseph’s mother put it, “a hero in Joseph’s eyes.” Joseph was just a teenager when Alvin passed and Alvin’s last words to him were, “Do whatever you can to obtain the record.”
Alvin, Joseph and many others understood the importance and value of that record, also known as the Golden Plates. When Joseph translated it by the power of God, it became the Book of Mormon, or another Testament of Jesus Christ. It echoed the truths of the Bible and made some things even more plain and simple so that anyone could understand them. All one has to do is read just a few chapters to realize it truly is from God.
Joseph and every prophet since then have testified that the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel. However, as some have pointed out, other revelations from God have reached us since then, that aren’t in the Book of Mormon. For example, the Word of Wisdom is not part of the Book of Mormon. Yet, it’s a commandment because it came from a prophet of God.
Since we have the Book of Mormon, we are able to understand how revelation between God and His prophets work. We also have the complete gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Bible and Book of Mormon, Christ teaches us to have faith in Him. He says that we must have faith before miracles are performed and before we receive a stronger conviction. He taught, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible unto thee.” He taught us that He is the way, the truth and the life. In other words, in order to make it back to our heavenly home, we must first rely on Him.
The way we rely on Him is by keeping the commandments and repenting when we fall short, following His example by being baptized by proper authority, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost by that same authority and continuously trying. That’s, in essence, what the Bible taught, and what the Book of Mormon reiterates. It’s the complete gospel of Jesus Christ.
These are things we need to know. The rest comes little by little. President Gordon B. Hinckley, the fifteenth Latter-day prophet of the Church, told nonmembers to come and bring whatever truths they had, then to see if we could not add to them. Other truths have been revealed gradually, over time.
God is omnipotent, omniscient and eternal. We don’t know everything there is to know about Him because we can’t handle it. However, every day we can learn more through the gift of the Holy Ghost, study and experience.
10. Families can be together forever through the sealing power, exercised by righteous authority given from God
No one likes endings and everyone, especially, hates goodbyes. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that as humans, endings make us feel uncomfortable and despondent because we are eternal beings.
The center of God’s plan is families. Have you ever wondered why they are so central to society and such a lofty goal? Well, it’s because God’s teachings are fulfilled in the home and within the family. He has given us the sealing power again to bind on Earth as we do in Heaven. Christ gave this power to Peter in Matthew 16. The Old Testament prophet, Elijah also had this sealing power. In fact, it was he who visited Joseph Smith to give him the power the same way he received it and the same way Peter received it from Jesus Christ. Overtime that power has been passed down through men of the Church to today.
Thanks to the sealing power, men and women can be sealed to each other for time and all eternity in the temple. Their children are also sealed to them. And once that sealing takes place, nothing can break it.
That power only exists in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And all are welcome to find out for themselves whether or not that’s true. It is open to any and everyone willing to keep the commandments of God.
11. The Mormon prophet is not infallible. Nor does he know everything.
Much controversy exists in and outside the Church because a lot of people have a hard time understanding the line between perfection and human. The prophet is a good man. He tries his best to keep the commandments and maintain a good connection with the Lord. He communicates with God and reveals things that are applicable to the entire church for that day. However, he does not know everything. And he is not perfect.
His goal is to serve the Church, just as the Savior would. He travels all over the world, meeting with those that are poor and those that lead. He does so much good that just to be in his presence, is similar to that of being in the presence of the Lord. You just feel good.
However, he is not God. Everything he is, is made possible through God and his own good choices along the way.
12. Mormons are commanded to baptize children from eight years old, not as infants, and they do so by immersion
The prophet Mormon, the Book of Mormon prophet that Mormons got their nickname from, in fact, revealed to us that baptizing little children is a sin. He said that little children are alive in Christ. To quote Moroni 8:8
“Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them;”
In other words, to baptize a child before the age of accountability, which the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith as eight, is an abomination before the Lord. It’s saying that His atonement does not cover little children who can’t discern between right and wrong quite yet.
Mormons do, however, have a traditional practice of blessing infants in front of a congregation. It’s not a commandment but most do it anyway. The blessing includes promises from God for the baby as it grows up and ages to maturity. The man giving the blessing listens to the Spirit to know which blessings the Lord wants him to promise.
But Mormons don’t baptize infants or little children. When children reach the age of eight they can be baptized by full immersion, just the way Christ was baptized, if they so choose. They then show their commitment to following Jesus Christ and promise to always remember Him, now that they are at an age where they can do so knowingly.
13. Joining the Church does not mean all your problems will just disappear
Christ taught that He came to Earth to bear up the brokenhearted. His plan makes it possible for all to repent and come unto Him. He also instructed us to place our burdens on Him and He will give us rest. One of the ways this is possible is through baptismal covenants, or promises with God, that we will always remember Him.
This does not mean that if we keep the commandments, bad things won’t happen to us. If anything, we may even be tested more. What it does mean is that God will give us the tools and the strength to get through our trials. He never told us it was going to be easy. He never promised that every day we would see our successes soar and our families lovingly get along. All He promised was that it would be worth it someday.
14. Mormons no longer practice polygamy
For a period of time, the Lord commanded the Church to practice polygamy. Joseph Smith was very uncomfortable with this commandment, as was Brigham Young. Reasons hint that the Lord commanded it so the Saints could practice obedience, raise up seed unto Him, and be tested. The only reason why it was okay was that the Lord commanded it.
However, in September 1890 the Lord revealed to Wilford Woodruff that it was no longer necessary. After that, the Church discontinued polygamy. In fact, anyone who did, after that time, was excommunicated from the Church, which is the most serious penalty of the Church.
So, why would God make something a commandment, and then later make it a great sin? Seems a bit backwards and counterproductive.
Well, as we learned before, God is omnipotent and omniscient. If we study these questions with an open mind then He will answer them through study and the power of the Holy Ghost.
15. Mormons are grateful for the commandments but that doesn’t mean Mormons are perfect
Think about it. If we were perfect, what would be the point of living? This life is meant to try and test us. If we figured it out perfectly, well, then, we may as well just go live with God again. In fact, the Bible teaches us that’s exactly what happened to Enoch. He was so good at keeping the commandments, and repenting when he fell short, that God just took him back up to live with Him.
So, if nobody but Christ is even close to being perfect, what are we doing expecting perfection from Mormons? And what are Mormons doing expecting from themselves and each other? They aren’t perfect, either! In fact, in point eight, we learned that they don’t know anything close to everything!
We fall short all the time. But does that mean we still don’t try our hardest? Think about the last time you had a burning motivation to go to the gym. How many days in a row did you go? Two? One? Three? Then what happened? Well, what most likely happened was that you lost that kickstart drive, and went back to who you were. Then, a few months later you got on the scale and it was rekindled.
That’s how managing our weaknesses can sometimes go. It happens to Mormons, too. There are some sins that invoke more serious consequences, but those are typically dealt with privately and with proper authority. Otherwise, repentance is a real thing. God wouldn’t make it possible if it wasn’t.
16. Despite its doctrine, Church members are encouraged to be kind and loving to the LGBTQ community
Though Church doctrine teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, Mormons actively support the LGBTQ community. They provide programs for its members, and a website where people can go to learn more about the compassion of Christ’s atonement. They also encourage members of the Church to be loving and understanding of the LGBTQ community. God is the ultimate judge and sometimes we forget that. He never intended for life to be easy and for some people, their sexual orientation can be a trial. Mormons are encouraged to have unconditional love for everyone, including those in whose lifestyle they may not totally agree with.
17. Not all Church members like admitting their imperfection
Some people take Christ’s words very literally when He said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father, which is in Heaven, is perfect.” The problem is, I don’t think He meant “be perfect today,” but rather, “be ye therefore perfect, eventually.” Nevertheless, people still hold themselves to a higher standard than what’s possible.
The problem with doing that, is it often leads to pride and self-righteousness. And with that, can come improper judgement. Only God is perfect and He is the only one authorized to judge.
If you have been hurt in the past by a Mormon who was only “trying to exercise good judgment,” I apologize on their behalf. As Paul put it, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” People just don’t like to admit that . . .