August 3, 2012

Editorial

What do Mormons believe?

With Mitt Romney running for president, some people are concerned about his religious faith. He is a Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

We believe that that is irrelevant when it comes to deciding whether or not to vote for him. One should not vote for or against a person just because he is a Mormon any more than one should vote for or against a person just because he is a Catholic.

During the primary elections, though, some evangelical Protestant leaders urged their followers to vote against Romney because, they said, Mormonism isn’t a Christian religion. Is that true?

The Mormon Church’s website says plainly, “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God. He is our Redeemer.”

It continues, “Jesus suffered and was crucified for the sins of the world, giving each of God’s children the gift of repentance and forgiveness. Only by his mercy and grace can anyone be saved.”

Anyone who truly believes this should be called a Christian.

That having been said, it should be noted that, in response to a question put to them in 2001, members of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that Mormon baptism is considered invalid because they deny the doctrine of original sin and because their understanding of the Trinity is fundamentally different from the Catholic Church’s teaching on this essential part of the faith.

Therefore, Mormons who seek to become Catholic need to be baptized, unlike members of most Protestant congregations, whose baptism the Church sees as valid.

Catholics and Mormons also diverge in their beliefs in what Mormons believe happened after Christ’s resurrection. They believe that the followers of Christ, and the Church that was established, were not faithful to his teachings.

The Mormons call this period the Great Apostasy, when there was a “falling away” from the Gospel that Christ organized. They say that the apostolic authority to bestow priesthood and to receive revelation for the Church was lost along with many precious teachings. Errors about his teachings crept into the Church.

However, they believe, all was not lost because, after his resurrection, Christ appeared to the Nephites, a branch of the House of Israel that supposedly inhabited the American continent at that time. They had been led to America after the Jews were defeated by the Babylonians.

Then, they believe, in September of 1827, a heavenly messenger named Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith, and gave him golden metallic plates on which was engraved a book that told the story of the Nephites. Moroni had been a Nephite prophet, the son of another prophet named Mormon, who had compiled the record.

This was the Book of Mormon, published at Palmyra, N.Y., in March of 1830.

According to this book, America is the “Land of Zion,” where the New Jerusalem will be built by a gathering of scattered Israel before the second coming of the Messiah. The labors of such men as Columbus, the Pilgrim Fathers and the patriots of the Revolution are pointed out as preparatory to that consummation.

The Mormons are known for their emphasis on family life. Their website says, “God organizes us into families so that we can grow up in happiness and safety, and so that we can learn to love others selflessly—the key to true joy. Within the family is the best place to learn to love others the way [the] Heavenly Father loves each one of us.”

Mormons are encouraged to have a “family night,” usually Monday, when the family enjoys activities together. Divorce rates among Mormons are lower than among those of other religions in this country.

It is partly because of their devotion to family life that they began to explore genealogies. Today, at the Mormon headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, a building is dedicated to helping people discover who their ancestors were.

There was a time when Mormons practiced plural marriage, a form of polygamy. It was considered a religious duty and such marriages reached a peak about 1860. In 1890, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Mormons, the Mormon president disavowed plural marriages. In 1904, another Mormon president ordered them to cease. Today, Mormons who practice plural marriages are excommunicated.

Mormons are known for their missionary efforts. Many young men spend two years as missionaries, spreading Mormonism throughout the world.

Mormon politicians range in their political views from those of Mitt Romney to those of Sen. Harry Reid.

—John F. Fink

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