What is Mormonism? It is a Christian belief set that centers on the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Mormonism is an unofficial name people sometimes use when referring to the religious beliefs held by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This very long name is the official name of the Church and the ones Mormons would like others to use, rather than Mormon Church. The Book of Mormon, which Mormons use with the Bible, teaches that the Savior told a group of people that a church belongs to the person for whom it is named. Since Mormon was a real person, it is important not to leave the incorrect impression that the church belongs to him. It belongs to Jesus Christ, and therefore, must have His name in it. Calling the members of the church Mormons is acceptable, even though it is a nickname.
Mormonism is Christianity
Mormonism is Christianity that is centered on the atonement of Jesus Christ. Contrary to popular gossip, Mormons do believe in Jesus Christ and do believe that the atonement is essential to a person’s salvation. The Book of Mormon says:
And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also (Alma 42:15)
Mormonism is founded on what is commonly called the Plan of Salvation or the Great Plan of Happiness. This is the foundational story upon which all other teachings of Mormonism rest. It begins even before birth, when our spirits were created by God, making us His literal children. We stayed with Him for a while in the manner of childhood, learning what is true, deciding whether or not we cared what was true, and choosing what sort of person we were going to be. We had agency and could choose for ourselves, but not without consequences. There is no such thing as a consequence-free life.
Mormonism and the Purpose of Life
When we’d learned all we could there, Jesus Christ, under the direction of God, created the earth for us. Then we had to make the most important choice we’d ever make. God had created a beautiful plan for us. He would send us to Earth to live. We would be born into a family, take with us our agency, and forget our lovely beginnings. It would be our responsibility to find and accept the truth when God wasn’t standing right there with us. Could we develop faith, which is an extraordinary talent? When we found what was true, would we care enough to act on that knowledge?
God knew we’d need help and so He planned for helpers. We could access the Holy Ghost, who would testify of truth to our hearts if we were willing to listen. That way we would have the opportunity to make the right choice without guessing. God also knew we’d need a Savior. Justice required a perfect life, but none of us, in mortal form, could be perfect. Mercy allowed for a Savior to come to earth entirely voluntarily and to be the child of a mortal mother (Mary) and a divine Father (God). Jesus volunteered for this task and was the only one who could carry it out. For that reason, we owe our entire eternity to Him. He did not need to come to earth at all, being God’s only begotten Son, but He was willing to do so. He didn’t need to suffer for sins, since He would be perfect, but He was willing to do this also. He would suffer for our sins. He didn’t even need to die, but He knew that if He did not, we could not be resurrected, and so He was willing to die for us.
God also knew we’d need Heavenly guidance. He planned a way for us to remain in communication with God through prayer and He promised to answer our prayers in the way that was best for us, if we asked in faith.
Mormonism and Life on Earth
With all that in place, we were ready to come to earth. Lucifer tried to convince us the plan was too risky and we should reject it and let him take charge. He’d control our lives and make sure no one failed the test, but we’d have to worship him instead of God. Oddly, a third of the spirits in Heaven chose Lucifer, but Lucifer’s proposal was not an option. Those who rejected God’s plan simply didn’t get to come to Earth and were destined to follow Satan forever, unable to partake of the atonement they had rejected.
The rest of us came here. If you are here, you chose wisely. You are here on Earth and have the Holy Spirit to help you find the truth, the ability to prayer to know what is true, and the blessings of the atonement to help you get safely back home to God.
This is the foundation on which everything else in Mormonism is built. Mormons accept both the Bible and the Book of Mormon as scripture and believe in an open canon. We believe that God loves us too much to give us the silent treatment about truth and so He continues to provide prophets to show us what He wants us to know and to do as we prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is based on New Testament Christianity and rejects the non-scriptural canons that emerged in later centuries.