I had a dream wherein my wife and I were attending another church at the request of a friend. The first recollection I have of the dream is hearing the pastor teaching this small group that we were in that Mormons are not Christians. I looked at my wife with the “did he just say that?!” look. Then, without any further thought, I raised my hand to speak.
“I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” I said. Immediately, the pastor and everyone else in the room had an indescribable look on their faces. My statement created a bit of tension in the room, and I soon stood up in front of everyone to resolve the matter.
For some, my dream is reality. I’m sure many other Christian churches and people who practice Christianity may feel similar feelings towards the Latter-day Saint community as did those in my dream. I personally, am not offended by it. My perspective on the matter is that it’s purely a lack of understanding. The message I wish to convey here is one for the world, especially the Christian world. If I ever had the chance to give the following as a sermon to an enormous group of Christian believers, I would consider it the sermon of a lifetime.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often referred to as “Mormons,” are Christian people. We believe in Jesus Christ. It is His church, hence the name. We believe in the same Jesus found in Bibles the world over. His birth, life, and death were the fulfillment of prophecy. Through Him we are cleansed of all of our sins and wrongdoings. As we strive to live His gospel teachings, we prepare ourselves for the life to come hereafter.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” -2 Nephi 25:26 (Book of Mormon)
There is no doubt that Jesus had organized a church during his mortal ministry. There was order among his followers. He chose and ordained common men to be Apostles, they chose another seventy (Luke 10:1) to assist with the ministry. Their following Jesus had eternal significance and purpose.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” -Ephesians 4:11-13
The commission of the Apostles was to take the gospel to all the world (Matthew 28:19-20). They were ordained personally by the Savior with his divine authority. After the Savior’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection and ascension, it was the Apostles who were left in charge of the Church, hence Paul’s letters to Rome, Corinth, the Hebrews, etc. Eventually, these men were sought after, persecuted, and killed, discontinuing the divine authority granted to them by the Savior. This lack of authority created a need for restoration.
For nearly two thousand years the people of the world worshipped God according to the dictates of their own conscience. Beliefs changed. Doctrines and ordinances forgotten and lost. This is where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had it’s beginnings.
As a young boy, Joseph Smith was living in a time of early American history. He was born in 1805, only about 30 years after America declared independence. People were free, and began using that freedom, particularly their religious freedom to share and spread their interpretations of the word of God. Joseph described it like this:
“…there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion…Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people.
“…but so great were the confusion and strife among the difference denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.
“In the midst of this war of words and…opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” -Joseph Smith History 1:5, 8, 10
The spark of Joseph’s desire soon became enflamed when he discovered the advice of James in the Bible.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” -James 1:5
“Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did: for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.” -Joseph Smith – History 1:12
This passage of scripture led Joseph to a grove of trees near his home, where he offered the desires of his heart of God in prayer.
A pivotal part of this story that is often left unmentioned is worth consideration. Joseph described it in these words:
“After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.” -Joseph Smith – History 1:15
When the work of God moves forward, it is never left without opposition. Since the beginning, there has been an adversary working to thwart the Father’s plan, and this moment in history brought no exception. However, light always trumps darkness.
“But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me…I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other–This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
This moment marked the beginnings of a new era. Over the next twenty years, Joseph would, in the words of John Taylor, “…[do] more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought for the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth…revelations and commandments…and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood.” -Doctrine and Covenants 135:3
“For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength while the testator liveth.” -Hebrews 9:16-17
The history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is my history. It’s message is my message. It lives within me. It has shaped my life and the life of my family for generations to come. As Brigham Young once said,
“ ‘Mormonism’ has made me all I am, and the grace, the power and the wisdom of God will make me all that I ever will be.”
As a member of the Church, I believe in Jesus. My King James Bible tells me the stories of my Savior and Redeemer. The Book of Mormon increases my faith in Christ, and solidifies my choice to continue my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of hope. It’s a message of happiness. It’s a message that is meant not to cause contention, but unity. May we all as Christians and followers of Christ remember that, and seek to strengthen one another, rather than to condemn or attempt to falsify. Let us live our lives as Jesus taught us to live them.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” -John 13:34-35
To read my story, and learn how I joined the Church, click here.