What is a Practicing Mormon
Faith, family, facts and fruits
Brothers and sisters, since our 150th anniversary in 1997, we have seen a tremendous increase in questions about the Church around the world. This growing interest is generated by our rapid growth, events like the Winter Olympics here in Salt Lake City, and the level of awareness that many members have achieved in their profession.
I am sure that these questions will be directed not only to the Church but also to you, the individual members. It is not easy to explain something as complex as the Church or something as wonderful as the restored gospel to someone who knows little or nothing about us. It can even be difficult to answer questions on a particular point, as each question appears to be linked to other questions. The plea we hear most often is pretty simple; it goes something like this, “Tell me a little about your church.” The key word here is “little”. The request is Not: "Tell me everything you know and then send someone to tell me everything else."
Of course we are happy about the interest of the people, and many would like to learn more about our teachings and our beliefs. That is why we have over 53,000 full-time missionaries serving at their own expense around the world.
But we have to remember that there is a difference between interest and mere curiosity. Sometimes someone just wants to know what the church is. Anyone who wants to satisfy their thirst for knowledge in such a general way deserves clear and precise information directly from us members so that they do not have to rely on incomplete answers, half-truths or false statements that one might receive through the media or from other outsiders. The many misunderstandings and misinformation about the church are partly self-inflicted because we do not clearly state who we are and what we believe.
The public relations committee of which I am a member has determined that there is a great need for clear, simple statements that will help those who are curious about the fundamentals of the Church as it is today. I would like to explain a few things to you that have been found to be helpful. You can create your own list of bullet points that you can use to describe to your non-believing friends and acquaintances what we believe. You may find it helpful to have a few facts about the Church as it is today, as much as it helps me. This can then be given to others along with the Articles of Faith.
Here are four topics that will help people get a basic idea about the Church in this day and age. Under each of the four headings there are a few simple statements that have worked for me. Try to imagine that someone is reading or listening to it who knows next to nothing about us. The four main themes are about Facts, beliefs, family and fruit of the restored gospel.
To the Facts belongs for example:
First, "Mormons" is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members are often referred to as "Mormons," "Latter-day Saints," or "Saints." The term "saint" means "member".
Second, the Church was restored in upstate New York in 1830. Joseph Smith was the first prophet and president. Today, Church headquarters is in Salt Lake City, and President Gordon B. Hinckley is the current prophet.
Third, the Church currently has over 13 million members in 176 countries and territories. About six million live in the United States, making us the fourth largest Christian community in America. As one of the fastest growing Christian denominations in the world, we complete a new meeting house every weekday. Members pay tithing, 10 percent of their income, making this and other programs possible.
Fourth, the local churches are run on a voluntary basis by members who do not receive any money. Both men and women are appointed to management positions.
And fifth, Mormons are well represented in politics and the state (in the United States, for example, there are 16 members from both political camps in Congress). In addition, members all over the world hold high and responsible positions in business, in the fields of medicine, law, education, media, sports or in the entertainment industry.
Next, people need something about ours Believe experienced as committed Christians with solid, traditional values. In relation to the Articles of Faith, we must emphasize:
We believe that the soul is eternal, that God is the Father of our spirits, and that we can return to him after death.
We believe that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior, and we strive to live our lives according to him and his teachings. We commemorate the Atonement of Christ in our Sunday service, similar to communion in other churches. We accept as fellow Christians anyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of all humanity. Many Christians do not realize that we have much in common with them. Joseph Smith said that Jesus Christ is the center of our faith and everything else is just a bonus (see Elders' Journal, July 1838, page 44). The name of the church is Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
We believe that the original church that Jesus founded was lost and has been restored in our time. The priesthood - the authority given to man to act in the name of God - with apostles and a prophet to lead us, has been restored with all the ordinances necessary for salvation.
We believe in the Bible and we use it, both the Old and the New Testament.
And we believe in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures that support and validate the Bible and testify to the ministry and divinity of Christ and the continuing revelation of God to mankind. The Book of Mormon is truly “another witness of Jesus Christ”.
The next important piece of information for people is that the family plays an important role in teaching and in our lives. Here, too, simple statements make it clear to someone who doesn't know much and only asks out of interest how important the family is to us.
Mormons place particular emphasis on the family being the basic unit of the Church and society. We strongly advocate marriage (defined as the bond between a man and a woman). Polygamy, which used to be practiced to a limited extent in the pioneering days of the Church, was abolished in 1890, 117 years ago.
Families and individuals, whether they are members of our church or not, can attend meetings in our meetinghouses on Sundays. Here we worship God together and teach one another from the scriptures.
Church families are encouraged to hold family home evening on a weekly basis, usually on Monday evenings. This means that there is a regular, fixed date on which the parents convey values to their children and can be with them in a cheerful atmosphere. We invite those who do not believe in us to introduce this custom in their families.
The church runs aid organizations for women, young people and children to support the family. These organizations provide religious guidance, opportunities for Christian service, sports, theater, music, and scouting activities.
Much importance is also attached to the extended family circle, genealogy and one's own family history. This gives young and old a stronger sense of their roots, identity and belonging. The most important and sacred rites of our faith involve families, both living and dead, and some of these ordinances are performed in the temple.
Now, while someone can learn a few facts about us and get a clearer picture of who we are from what we believe and the importance we attach to families, the Savior said, “Theirs Fruits You will know them ”(Matthew 7:20; emphasis added). Every church or way of life must be judged by the fruits or results it produces. Here are a few examples from statistics from the United States. They would arguably be similar among practicing Mormons around the world (by practicing I mean those who attend church and temple regularly).
One of those fruits is a longer life. Studies show that practicing Mormons are healthier and therefore live longer than the national average. In 1833 the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith the “word of wisdom” that describes the lifestyle that one must follow to live long and healthy lives.
Second, those who have married and regularly attend the temple have a divorce rate well below the national and world average.
Thirdly, we achieve a level of education that is above the national average.
Fourth, there are over 70,000 members who volunteer at their own expense for 18 to 24 months in humanitarian aid, church service, or full-time missionaries anywhere in the world.
And fifth, we attach great importance to independence and a high work ethic. We encourage members to actively participate in society and serve others. The Church continues to donate significant funds, goods, and services to humanitarian missions around the globe, including countless hours of work dedicated to members cleaning up or helping after a disaster.
Brothers and sisters, I've found that most people in today's fast-paced world only concern themselves with a few important facts at a time. Whatever you choose to teach your friends and acquaintances about the Church, write it down, double-check, and keep it simple and short.
The increasing awareness of the Church and the increasing frequency of questions provide us with excellent opportunities to build bridges, make friends, and pass on correct information. However, this also creates a greater risk of misunderstanding, and sometimes even prejudice, when we let others explain who we are and what we believe instead of doing it ourselves.
In general, there are no problems with this for those who are personally acquainted with our members. But there are millions and millions who do not know any member of our church. I wish that those who know very little about the Church would like to learn more about us. I would like them to get to know our members instead of judging us on the basis of misinformation given by the ignorant and in some cases even by people who intentionally misinformation or defamation.
You, as a member, can help make this happen by reaching out to others and learning basic information from the Articles of Faith and about Facts,Faith,family and fruit to share the gospel with them.
We should also remember that the best way to meet other people's interests is often how we live, how we radiate the joy of the gospel in our lives, how we treat others, and how carefully we follow the teachings of Christ.
If anyone wants to know more than the basics I have mentioned, the missionaries can be brought in. These can be found in Chapter 3 in the instructions Proclaim my gospel! explain the teaching. Missionaries know how to answer other questions and guide them to conversion and baptism.
Now is the time for all of us to reach out to others and tell them who we are. Put together a few simple facts like the ones I talked about today. Teach a little about the Church to those who are inquisitive, and then create a desire in them to learn about the Restoration of the gospel.
Brothers and sisters, never hesitate to share your testimony with sincerity and love. The power of personal testimony cannot be denied. Often it kindles the desire in others to learn more. I know that it is, and I give you my perfect testimony that I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I bear this testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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