Thank you for taking the time to learn about my religion. It shows great respect that you seek to understand another person’s faith. We are a very misunderstood people, so as you read this post, please set aside any preconceived notions of what others have said about us, and focus on what we actually believe.
As you first read our beliefs, you are sure to find many things that may be aligned with your views as well. You’ll also find some that are different. You can pray to know what is true–even if you had thought differently before.
I wrote this post in a bullet-point format for quick reference, but know that each one of these bullet points represents something deeply meaningful to latter-day saints, so more study may be required to really understand.
11 Quick Beliefs to Understand Latter-Day Saints Generally
- There is no such thing as the “Mormon Church.” That nickname got attached to us at some point, but the real name of the church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” We care about the difference because we want to emphasize our belief in Christ. Members of the church are properly called “latter-day saints.”
- We believe in God, the eternal father, and in his son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that only through the grace of Jesus Christ can we be saved. Christ is our Savior and none of us could be saved without Him. No one can earn their own salvation. We all rely completely on Christ.
- We believe that families can be sealed together forever through God’s power. The family is ordained of God and is central to his plan for us on earth and in the eternities. Perhaps that’s why the divorce rate in our church is so low. Divorces among actively-attending latter-day saints is just 25%.
- We constantly study God’s word in the Bible. It is quoted in every church service, and members of the church are encouraged to read and study it regularly.
- We believe that, in addition to the Bible, God gave us many witnesses of Christ. The Book of Mormon is a record of the people in the Americas during the same time period of the Bible, and it also teaches of Christ. We study both the Bible and the Book of Mormon and believe both to be the word of God. Read my summary of the Book of Mormon here.
- We believe that, just as there were prophets and apostles in ancient times, there is a prophet leading our church today. Watch this video to see our current prophet teaching about Christ.
- We believe that God created our spirits long before we were born mortally on this earth. As such, he is our Heavenly Father. One of the purposes of life is to learn to become like him and develop his characteristics and attributes in tiny ways while we are on this earth.
- We believe that Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for all sin, pain, sickness, and evil. He filled the requirements of the law so that we can be forgiven of sin, raised again after our mortal bodies die, and live in eternal peace.
- We have holy temples all around the world (in addition to our regular churches). These temples are places where we make additional promises to follow God after baptism. Read more about what our temples are for. Members of the church can be married in temples, as well as visiting regularly to learn about the creation of the world and our journey here on earth. All are welcome to visit the temple after first being prepared through baptism, but anyone can visit our churches each Sunday as they are open to the public.
- We focus on trying to be better people by learning from Christ’s teachings. We’re taught to be honest, to be kind and respectful to others, to serve in our communities, to educate ourselves, to follow the 10 commandments, and to be kind to everyone around us.
The Rules of Being a Latter-Day Saint
I kind of laugh inside writing about the “rules.” Just like you, we can do anything we want! But we choose to do the following things to help us to be happier, to avoid sin, and to lead the best lives we can.
This is a brief look at some of the “rules” we follow, but I wrote a more complete post of the “rules” of being a latter-day saint here.
- We follow all of the 10 commandments as best as we can, as well as other commandments from God as revealed by the prophets.
- We keep the Sabbath day holy by spending our Sundays focused on God. We don’t shop or work on Sundays, but spend the day at church, with our families, reading scripture, and resting from worldly cares.
- We don’t smoke, or drink alcohol. We have something called The Word of Wisdom that counsels us against things that could be harmful to our bodies, which we believe includes coffee and tea.
- We give 10% of our earnings to the church, plus a generous donation each month to the poor. All local church leadership is unpaid. Everyone is a volunteer, so our tithing does not go to make anyone rich. The proceeds are used for building churches and temples, giving humanitarian aid to those in need, etc.
- We believe that sexual relations should only exist between husband and wife in marriage. We don’t view pornography either. All sexual desire is to be between a man and a woman in marriage.
- We don’t get tattoos (though we certainly welcome any who have them).
- Adult members of our church who have been through the temple wear sacred garments underneath their clothing for the rest of their lives. It is a physical, daily reminder of the promises we make to follow Christ. Read more about our sacred garments here. (Note: This is for experienced members of the church who attend the temple. All our churches are open to the public, but more preparation is required to go to a temple).
- Young members of the church serve for about 2 years as full-time missionaries. They pay their own way and don’t choose where they serve. The prophet and apostles of our church assign them to go to a specific mission area and it can be anywhere in the world.
- When we drive, we only take right turns–never left. This can be very inconvenient for us because it means we often have to take three right turns to loop around the block to get to some places. Haha. Totally kidding. I had you going there for a minute 🙂
Commonly Misunderstood Beliefs About Latter-Day Saints
- We don’t practice polygamy. My wife would be super ticked if we did. There was a subset of early members of our church (including some key leaders) who practiced polygamy 132 years ago, but no member of the church has practiced polygamy ever since.
- We do not worship Joseph Smith in any way. We believe Joseph Smith was called by God in the 1830s to restore God’s church on the earth. We respect his willingness to serve God just like the prophets in the Bible, but he is a mortal person with flaws. We only worship God.
- Latter-Day Saints do not believe that we can earn our own salvation. This is the #1 myth that I hear people say about us. We believe that only through Christ’s grace can we be saved. Period. The Book of Mormon teaches “there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah…” (2 Nephi 2:8)
- Latter-Day Saints are Christian. The definition of a Christian is “one who strives to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.” After all, the name of the church is The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints. We study Christ’s life constantly, we worship Christ, we do everything we can to follow his teachings.
- Latter-Day Saints can use technology. After all, I’m writing to you from my laptop, while listening to some quiet music in my Airpods. Some people confuse us with Amish.
- We don’t believe in “magical underwear.” Read my post about the sacred temple garments to understand more.
- We don’t believe we’re better than people of other religions. I’m sure when we get to heaven, there will be many Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and people of other religions who will be way ahead of me. God judges on the heart–and I’m sure many of them have better hearts than me. We do believe Christ’s words when he said, “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven,” but we believe everyone will have the opportunity to accept baptism.
Beliefs About God’s Plan for Us
- To us, the “plan of salvation” is God’s plan for our development. Our creation as spirits, our life on earth, death, and life in heaven.
- We believe God is our loving Heavenly Father. He created all our spirits, which makes us all brothers and sisters in God’s family.
- God put us here on earth as part of His plan. The purpose of earth life is to learn to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). God placed a veil over our memory of life before birth. This makes us not remember our eternal life before this mortal journey, so that we may choose who we become without any external influences.
- The purpose of life is to train our hearts to be good and kind– even with the mortal temptations of the body, the distractions of mortal life, and in a place where God is not physically present. We are to improve ourselves no matter the conditions of our birth, and to become gentle, kind, generous, and charitable to others. In short, to try and develop Christ’s characteristics.
- Another purpose of life on earth is to have families with our physical bodies, and to raise our children.
- Our mortal bodies will die, but after death, our spirits will live on. Because Jesus Christ overcame death, he will resurrect all people. All people will be raised from the dead.
- We believe Christ’s repeated teachings in the Bible that we will be judged by our works here on earth. We all must be accountable before God for our righteous and evil acts. Jesus Christ has paid the price for our sins, and we can be made clean through his grace.
Beliefs About How We Worship God
- Sunday services are reverent and reflective. We have no drums, rock bands, or speaking in tongues during our church services. I personally like Christian rock music, but we enjoy that at other times and focus our Sunday worship time in a more reflective and less distracting way.
- Families are encouraged to study the Bible and Book of Mormon together every day. We have a program called “Come, Follow Me” where all members of the church study the same gospel topic on the same schedule. As an example, at the time of writing, we’re studying Genesis 6-11 in the Old Testament.
- We have robust youth programs for children and teens. Children participate in the “primary” where they are taught the gospel at a basic level. Youth in the church have regular activities, adult leaders who spend time with them, and dedicated Sunday meetings to focus on their individual needs.