I used to believe most of what I read in the paper. Journalists, I had always assumed, were a responsible lot, bound by covenant to be as unbiased as possible, unless they were overtly editorializing. That was until the “Mormon Moment” occurred, a period of time during the U.S. presidential race and culminating election of 2012. Mormons were everywhere in the press, and had also hit Broadway in the grossly irreverent Book of Mormon–The Musical. Mormons already were putting up with the lies of Sister Wives and Big Love on TV (there is no polygamy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly called the Mormon Church).
I was required to peruse a number of press releases because of my work with More Good Foundation. Our effort goes to presenting Mormons and Mormonism as they really are, so people can get a clear picture of how we live and what we believe. In several years of reading, I only saw one article by a person outside the LDS Church that was completely true. It was about the remarkable welfare system of the Church of Jesus Christ. Maybe it was written by a Mormon, after all, and I just wasn’t aware of it.
Even with all of the misinformation, however, some important things were gotten across about Mormons themselves. This was made easier by the number of Mormons who have been a light on the hill, so to speak. Mormons with impeccable character and great talent who have shown the public the fruits of Mormonism.
Here are some basic truths about the Church of Jesus Christ that might not seem apparent from news articles.
1. Mormon religion is centered upon the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We believe that Christ’s invitation to repent and have faith on Him is extended to all who live on earth.
2. Mormons do not believe in the trinity — that God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three manifestations of one essence. We don’t follow the creeds of early Christianity, but believe that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are both separate and corporeal, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving. This does not keep us from being Christians. We are devoted to Christ.
3. Mormons believe the heavens are open and always have been, whenever there have been men and women ready and desirous of receiving God’s word. We believe in prophets and personal revelation. Many prophets who have received revelation have written down what they have received. Some of these writings are being withheld from us by God until we are worthy to receive them. Others are being gradually revealed in preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. God has revealed His Plan of Salvation to modern prophets. We existed spiritually before we were born on earth, and we are the spiritual sons and daughters of God. Thus, we have an innate yearning for Him, to which we can pay greater or lesser heed. He sent us to earth for experience, to exercise our free agency, and to establish relationships with others and find faith. If we seek after Him, we can become like Him. We will live forever as perfect, resurrected beings after this life. Those who desire and who keep the commandments of God, can be together with their families, sealed into the family of God, forever.
5. We believe all must hear the gospel of Christ. Those who don’t have the opportunity here will hear it in the spirit world, before resurrection, but after death. People can repent in the spirit world. Man cannot sin without knowledge. Those who never heard the gospel in this life cannot be held accountable for that.
6. Even those who reject Christ on earth and refuse to believe in Him after death can inherit a kingdom of heaven. Thus, in the Book of Mormon it says, “salvation is free” (2 Nephi 2:4). “Exaltation” being saved into God’s actual presence in the highest kingdom of heaven, however, is not free, but requires righteousness and repentance and ordinances. Thus, Mormons don’t imagine anyone going to “hell” except the Sons of Perdition, who have seen the Christ face to face and then denied Him.
7. Mormons believe the purpose of God is to make us more and more like Him. This doctrine is not new but was part of Christ’s original church. Called “Theosis,” it does not diminish God, but exalts His purposes for His children. Mormons do not believe they will “get their own planet when they die.” But the Lord promises His righteous followers that they will increase eternally. Exactly how that is done is still to be learned. We strive every day to become more like Jesus, our Exemplar.
8. Nothing untoward or creepy goes on in Mormon temples. They are the most pure and holy places on earth. Because they are dedicated Houses of God, they must be pure enough for Him to visit, at least with His Holy Spirit, if not in person (which has happened, by the way). Thus, they cannot be opened to the general public after they are dedicated. Imagine the difference between a House of God and a football stadium. Each has its own standards and atmosphere; they need to be kept separate in order to honor God and invite His presence. Clothing worn inside Mormon temples is similar to that worn by Aaron and his sons when they participated in tabernacle rituals honoring and worshiping God. It’s not modern, but that shouldn’t invite ridicule.
9. Mormons are happy and fun-loving. Living Mormonism is meant to make people happier, not straight-jacketed. When practiced correctly, the Mormon lifestyle is absolutely wonderful. Heaven on earth.
10. Mormons are not sheep. Nor are they coerced. Free agency is central to everything we do. We are not baptized unless we receive confirmation of the truth directly from God through personal revelation. We pray for confirmation of the things our prophets tell us. However, living Mormonism takes dedication and sacrifice. Because we seek our own certain testimonies to enable dedication and sacrifice, there are few Mormons who are just socially involved. Since we have lay clergy, we all serve, we all strive for personal revelation. It’s almost impossible for a Mormon to be a blind follower.