Night photo of the Mormon temple in Oakland, California at night, overlooking the city.

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 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. Sometimes that requires making three right turns and looping around the block in order to get where we want to go. Haha. Totally kidding. I had you going there for a minute 🙂 Seriously, though, there are many more things I could put on this list, but hopefully, this gives an idea.

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.

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.
  • God put us here on earth as part of His plan. Because we are to learn to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) he 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 act completely for ourselves without external influences.
  • The purpose of life is to learn to follow God’s ways 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 to be good people and to follow God.
  • 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 reverant 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.

7 Comments

  1. I appreciate you post. I\’m an evangelical interested in learning about LDS beliefs and having civil dialog. One thing that surprised me was you comment that you don\’t worship Joseph Smith in any way. While I realize you don\’t worship him to the extent as, say, the Heavenly Father, I recall visiting a meeting house many years ago and one of the hymns that was sung was Praise to the Man. My wife and I were a little alarmed. It wasn\’t praise \”for\” the man but rather praise \”to\” the man. We have a well-known hymn (at least well-known to us boomers!) called \”Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.\” When we sing \”praise to the Lord,\” we certainly consider that worship. How do you see \”praise to the man\”? Thanks.

    I have a question for you. In a recent online dialog, a Latter Day Saint said that evangelicals will someday have a chance to enter the Celestial Kingdom (or spend eternity with the Heavenly Father, which I take to mean the same thing) because in the Millenium the Saints will be doing proxy baptisms for All those in the world who have ever lived who died without be baptized, or were not baptized by the proper authority, so that they will have the opportunity to accept that on their behalf. I

    1. That’s a fair comment, David. Thank you for posting it.

      We believe Joseph Smith was a mortal man. He was a very good man and God was able to use him to do God’s work on earth, but he was a flawed, mortal man. There is only one God who we worship.

      I could see how you would feel uncomfortable with a song “Praise to the man.” Without understanding how we feel about Joseph Smith being merely a man, I can see how that might seem odd. But I’ve also been at events where someone “toasts” another person, or says “hail the conquering hero” when someone returns from war, or even a mayor of a city “hails” a person as a hero who saved another person.

      Yes, Joseph Smith deserves praise for being God’s servant. So too does Moses, Abraham, and a the 15 year-old kid I saw today who was kind to a woman with special needs. We can praise each other for the good things we do, but we only worship God.

      I wouldn’t say at all that evangelicals, as you asked, are destined to the terrestrial kingdom in our doctrine. We don’t believe that. In fact, I think many Catholics, evangelicals, protestants, and even atheists, may be WAY ahead of me in heaven. We don’t have a monopoly on good people in our church. We do believe that eventually, we will all have to be baptized by one having the proper authority of God, but ALL PEOPLE will be given that chance, and if they were their best here on earth, they will be welcomed into the celestial kingdom.

  2. Sorry about the unfinished second paragraph. I really didn’t mean to send it. But since I started it, here’s the end: Another person said that the doctrine is clearly taught. I’ve been looking into LDS doctrine for about three years now and have never come across that teaching. In fact, I’ve been told that people such as I will probably end up in the Terrestrial Kingdom. What are your thoughts on the doctrine? Thanks again.

  3. Hi Jim, years ago I too was part of LDS in search of “belonging” and the “purpose” questions. I loved the members who were just as ‘human’ as I am. A misconception of society is that Christians don’t struggle with temptations. Any newbee in any church has a growth need where immaturity and lack of knowledge must result in a more Christ-like character…it’s a daily thing we all need. Anyway, I left LDS feeling it was too focused on Joseph Smith. I wasn’t so much as challenging his calling, it was the status the church seemed to have of him above Jesus Christ. Little of Christ was discussed in pamphlets or teachings in the St. Louis locations I was member at. I love the input you have which gives a better perspective than what I had back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s before I left. It seemed like a man-made religion back then. I am not stating heresies taught at all, please don’t misunderstand.

    Anyway, I do have a question about the ‘family’ and ‘marriages’ you mentioned. Jesus puts a lot of emphasis on who his family is, i.e. his mother, brother, sister being those who obey his Father in heaven (Matthew 12:48-50; Luke 8:21; Hebrews 2:11-12; Romans 8:29). Scripture says there are no marriages or relationships as we know them in the earth (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35). How does LDS align with that where husband & wives believe they will be together they way they are here? Or, am I reading too much into the LDS belief on this subject. And thank you for clarifying so much. Be blessed.

  4. Mr Harmer – Excellent writing and I sincerely mean that. Although I am Roman Catholic (and part of a subset that follows the Extraordinary Rite (aka Latin Mass which is pre-1962 Vatin II variety)) I totally appreciate the underlying similarities we share in our respective religeons. In the last year two neighbors have move in and flank me and these families are under 40, 3 kids each and amongst the nicest and most “stable” people I have known in my life, Jim (no exagerration). They show by their actions what a true Christian should be. They are calm, helpful, not overly “pushy” and the type of people that I would trust with my key. Thanks for allowing me to vent in a positive way. Many of us Roman Catholics need to live the Word by this example and not just pontificate on Sundays.

    1. Thank you for such a kind comment, William. I went to a catholic law school and really enjoyed my association with the people there. Helped me to grow an appreciation for your religion.

Leave a Reply to Jim Harmer Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.