Month: April 2011

Mormons and Easter Part 2

I noticed that a number of visitors to this blog came here after searching “Mormons and Easter”, and found my article “Mormons and Easter” from last year.  Since Easter is almost upon us, I would like to briefly expand on some of my thoughts from that article.

As Christians, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints firmly accept as Truth the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary, atoned for our sins through His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and crucifixion at Calvary, and after the third day, He was resurrected.  “Easter” is the common name in the Christian West for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (in the East, it is commonly called “Pascha”), and is part of the liturgical year of liturgical churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, etc.

The Church of Jesus Christ does not really follow a liturgical calendar as Catholics and Eastern Orthodox do, however Mormons join with the rest of the Christian world (including other churches that also do not follow a liturgical calendar yet celebrate days such as Easter and Christmas) in acknowledging and celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ at Christmas, and the resurrection of the Lord at Easter.  On Easter, our church buildings may be specially decorated, resurrection-themed hymns may be sung, and we all reflect on the importance on joy surrounding the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As mentioned in my previous post on this subject, if our General Conference falls on the same day as Easter, while we will not have church services, the General Conference program will feature talks (sermons) from our apostles and prophets on the Resurrection, and resurrection-themed hymns will also be sung.  Also, families typically join together in their own celebrations of the Resurrection in their homes.

Having said all of this, we must remember that celebrating the birth and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ should not be limited to one day out of the year.  As we covenant through baptism and through the Sacrament (the Lord’s Supper) to always remember Jesus Christ and to follow Him, we should always remember and celebrate the importance of His birth and His resurrection.  It is only through the atonement of Jesus Christ that we can receive eternal life.  While we may join with other Christians in celebrating His resurrection on Easter Sunday, we should also celebrate His resurrection daily, and not forget what Jesus Christ did for us all.

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Are Mormons Christians?

One of the most fundamental questions that can be asked of Mormons is whether or not we are Christians.  Unfortunately, many Protestants and Catholics deny that Latter-day Saints are Christians for a number of reasons (and even then, many Protestants deny that Catholics are Christians as well).  However, when we look at the plain and simple beliefs of Mormons, it is clear that we are a Christian Church.

Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We do not believe that this is the Church of Joseph Smith, or the Church of Brigham Young.  Our Church is not named after a mere man (no matter how prophetic he may be).  Instead, we believe that the Church belongs to Jesus Christ, and that He is at the head of this Church.

And this brings us to the central Person of our faith, and why we are rightly classified as Christians.  Latter-day Saints believe in Jesus Christ as our only Savior, the divine Son of God, the Only Begotten.  We strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ, taking upon ourselves His sacred Name through baptism.  The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which began in the Garden of Gethsemane and culminated on the cross of Calvary, is central to our faith.  It is only through the atonement that we can be forgiven of our sins and receive eternal life.

So why then do other Christians deny us even this basic claim?  Generally, it is because we differ from “traditional Christians” (i.e. Trinitarian Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox) on our view of the nature of God.  Latter-day Saints believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Persons, that they are considered “one” in that they are one in purpose, and that both the Father and the Son are both spirit and embodied.  In contrast, Trinitarian Christians believe that only the Son has a body, and believe that while the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three distinct Persons, they are one Being/Substance/Essence.  So, it is correct to state that Mormons are not “traditional/Trinitarian Christians”, in that we reject the doctrine of the Trinity (instead believing that our doctrine reflects what is found in the Bible as well as what the earliest Christians believed, pre-Council of Nicaea, 325 AD), however we are indeed Christians in that we do accept Jesus Christ as our divine Savior, the divine Son of God, through whose atoning sacrifice eternal life can be received.  We do not worship Joseph Smith, nor do we pray to him.  We pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, who is our divine Mediator.

To find out more about what Mormons believe about Jesus Christ, please visit these websites:

Jesus Christ, our Savior

Jesus Christ, the Son of God

First Time in the Temple

So yesterday evening I attended the Manhattan New York Temple for our Ward Temple Night.  It really was a great, spiritual experience.

The Manhattan Temple is somewhat different from most other temples in The Church of  Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in that, firstly, it is right in the middle of the city, instead of off in a more suburban setting.  You can just step out of the subway and the temple is right there.  Also, the temple is actually only part of the building, with the rest of it including a meetinghouse, small Distribution Center, Public Relations Office, and I believe a Family History center.  When you walk into the building, there is a separate ornate door to enter the temple.

As soon as we stepped through that door, I was pretty surprised.  Everything was bright, with white and gold colors everywhere, and paintings of Jesus and scriptural events on the walls.  Everyone was dressed in white, and the sisters were in these flowing white gowns.  It really felt like if we were in a special sacred space (which we were).  Everyone kept telling me “welcome to the temple”, which was nice.

We were doing baptisms and confirmations for the dead that night, which offers the opportunity for the deceased to hear the gospel and choose to accept or reject it, if they did not have that opportunity in this life.  This concept is one that makes a lot of sense to me, not only because of its scriptural and historical basis, but because many other churches simply do not know what happens to the unbaptized (leaving it at hoping in the mercy of God who may save them anyway if they would have received baptism if they knew about, which seems to deny that baptism is really necessary for eternal life for those that need it), or say that they will go to Hell.  Instead, the restored Church of Jesus Christ teaches that, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we are able to receive these ordinances for and in behalf of deceased persons, who will then have the opportunity to accept or reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Spirit World.  God has provided a clear way for people to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ if they were unable to do so in this life.  Proxy work has always been a part of Judaism and Christianity, whether it was animal sacrifice in the ancient temples, or the ultimate atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

So after we walked in, we received a white baptismal suit to change into.  After that, we sat in front of the baptismal font.  It is HUGE.  It is set on the backs of 12 oxen, similar to the brazen sea of Solomon’s Temple in the Old Testament.  A few other people from another ward were also there, and were already doing confirmations for the dead.  We joined them in doing that first.  After that, we started to do the baptisms for the dead.  It was a great experience, and you could really feel the Spirit in the Lord’s House.

I can’t wait for the next time I’m able to go to the temple.  It’s great to be able to step off the busy streets of Manhattan and be in such a peaceful, sacred space, where you can’t hear the hustle and bustle of the city.  Going to the temple was definitely a testimony building experience, and I am grateful for having a temple so close to home.

So What’s Been Happening? And General Conference Tomorrow!

So it’s been over a month since my baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ, and it has definitely been a wonderful experience thus far.

The people in my ward (what Latter-day Saints call a regular “congregation”) are all great, and I must say, it’s awesome to be around so many young people that are not only just like “regular” people (who have jobs, go to school, like to have fun, go to parties, etc), but also have a fervent faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It really is refreshing to be around people like this, especially here in New York City.

I received the Priesthood of Aaron a few weeks ago.  That experience was of course different for me, coming from the Catholic Church, where people that are ordained to the three priesthood offices must go through extensive collegiate study before ordination.  I find that the LDS practice mirrors the Biblical precedent, and while there certainly are benefits to the Catholic method, I personally find the LDS/Biblical view simple and wonderful.  I have been exercising the priesthood by blessing the bread and water we use in our Sacrament (also known as the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist in other Christian churches).

I have also received a limited-use Temple Recommend from my bishop (the presider in a local LDS church).  Mormons have chapels or meetinghouses, where we have our Sunday Sacrament service, Sunday school, and various other meetings and activities throughout the week.  We also have temples.  Temples are sacred houses of the Lord, where special ceremonies take place where we can learn more about God’s Plan of Salvation and enter into sacred covenants with Him, as well as sealing spouses and families together for eternity.  Finally, temples are a place where we can offer the blessings of baptism and other ordinances to our deceased ancestors who did not have an opportunity to hear the Gospel in this life.  One of these ordinances, as I have mentioned in a previous post , is “baptism for the dead“.  In baptism for the dead, a living person, such as myself, is baptized for and in behalf of someone who is deceased.  We believe that this gives that person (who is in the spirit world) the opportunity to accept or reject the baptism.  I must emphasize that such a ritual does not “make” someone Mormon, nor does it add them to the “member rolls”, as some critics like to claim.  Instead, Latter-day Saints believe that it gives them the opportunity to accept or reject the restored Gospel if they did not have an opportunity to do so in this life.

Anyway, by receiving a limited-use temple recommend, I am able to enter the temple (since only LDS with a recommend from their bishop are able to enter the temple after its dedication.  Before dedication, non-Mormons and Mormons alike are given tours of the building during an open house season), and perform baptisms for the dead.  I am excited to do so, since I will be able to feel the Spirit of the Lord in a special way in His House, and I am also excited about being able to offer the blessings of the Gospel to our ancestors, made possible by the atonement of Jesus Christ.  I am also excited about participating in a sacred ordinance that no other Christian church practices today, though it was anciently according to many historical sources, as well as brief mention in the Bible (1 Corinthians 15:29).

Finally, the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is tomorrow and Sunday.  Every April and October, we are able to hear the inspired words of the Lord’s modern-day apostles and prophets, as well as other Church leaders.  The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as well as other choirs, sing beautiful hymns.  While I have watched parts of Conference before, this will be my first one since baptism, and it will carry a renewed meaning to me.  It is always wonderful to read the words of ancient prophets and apostles in the scriptures, and now, I can hear and read the words of modern prophets and apostles, found in the Lord’s Church.

Going forward, this blog will not only discuss certain aspects of my faith journey in the Church of Jesus Christ, but I would also like to continue discussing various unique beliefs of the LDS Church, showing not only the Biblical basis for those beliefs, but also ancient Judeo-Christian precedents for those beliefs, countering the claim made by many critics that LDS beliefs are not found anciently, and were invented in the mind of Joseph Smith.  Quite the contrary, there are many evidences for unique LDS beliefs in ancient Judaism and Christianity, confirming to me that these really are restored beliefs, and that Jesus Christ really is at the head of this Church, with prophets and apostles just like in His ancient Church.