FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - MORMONISM
Select from the menu of different types of FAQs about different religions and different belief systems. These are Mormon FAQs. Since the issue with the fundamentalist mormon 'prophet', Warren Jeffs, was convicted of crimes against minors, questions about what Mormons believe has come under scrutiny. Hopefully, this will answer some of your questions.
MORMON FAQs by Rev. Chrissy Graham
MORMON FAQs 1. What are the fundamental tenants of the Mormon Faith?
a. The Mormons believe very strongly in the notion that Families are Forever. Everything that is done in the Mormon church is to achieve a “forever family”.
b. To be a Forever Family you must be “born under the covenant” (meaning born to parents that have been married in the Mormon Temple – see “Temple Rituals”) or sealed to parents in the temple if the child was adopted, or if the family has converted to the Mormon faith.
2. How did the Mormon church start? a. In the 1800’s, a young teenage man named Joseph Smith, wanted to join a church, but could not determine which church to join, so he decided to kneel in prayer and ask God what church to join. During this prayer in “The Sacred Grove”, he was visited by God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost and was told not to join any of the churches as they were not God’s true church on earth. Over the next few years, Joseph was visited more times by the angel Moroni. During one of these visits, the angel Moroni conferred the Melchezdeck priesthood on Joseph. Another time, Joseph was led by Moroni to a location (the Hill Cumorah) where Moroni’s father, Mormon, consolidated the histories of the Children of the New World onto plates of gold. He entrused those golden plates to his son, Moroni, who was the last of his tribe, and had hidden “The Golden Plates” and the Urim and Thumin. The Golden Plates were plates of gold that God’s children in the America’s transcribed their lives. It’s considered another testament to Jesus Christ. The Urim and Thumin are the spectacles and breastplate used by Joseph Smith to translate The Golden Plates into what we now know is The Book Of Mormon. As time went by, Joseph built what we now know as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka The Mormon Church).
3. I have heard the phrase "Temple Mormon". What does that mean?
a. The Mormon Temple is a very important and sacred place to all members in good standing. Actually – within the faith there is no term ‘Temple Mormon’ – the term that is used within the Mormon faith is “Temple Recommend Holder” or “Temple Worthy”. To obtain entry to a Mormon Temple – a member must be interviewed by their local clergy (bishop), then by a regional member of the clergy (a stake president). If, by answering a number of questions, they are deemed worthy, they are given a small slip of paper with their name on it and the signatures of both members of the clergy, the member also signes the paper. This signed paper is called a Temple Recommend. This is presented to the Temple Workers when the member walks into the temple and gains them admittance to the interior of the temple.
4. What goes on in a Mormon Temple?
a. The rites and rituals performed in the Mormon are among the most sacred of the Mormon faith. Since the ULC respects the sanctity of all religions – we will not go into great details on them. However – there are many aspects of these rituals which are common knowledge and may be conveyed within this FAQ.
a) The Mormon Temple Marriage Ceremony: All Mormon members in good standing strive at an early age to have a Celestial Marriage (eg. married “for time and all eternity”) within the walls of a Mormon temple. Only those marriages performed within the walls of a Mormon Temple are considered “eternal marriages” (meaning they extend past death). All civil ceremonies are deemed to be “till death do us part”. A marriage solemnized within a Mormon Temple is considered a Celestial Marriage (we will talk about the term “Celestial” a little later in this FAQ). This is a marriage that Mormons believe lasts beyond death. The actual performance of the temple marriage is very similar to the civil marriage ceremony, except (of course) it’s performed in a Mormon Temple by a patriarch of the church, and instead of saying “I Do” to the statement of till death do us part, the bride and groom say, “I Do” to the statement of For time and all eternity. If the couple are converts to the Mormon church, or were previously married in a civil ceremony, they can still obtain a celestial marriage. Once they are found worthy to attend the temple and receive their Temple recommends, they will need to be Sealed in the temple “for time and all eternity”. This is similar to the temple marriage ceremony, however, if the couple has children, the children are part of that sealing ceremony, thus making the family an “Eternal Family”. The challenging thing to family members not in good standing or not members of the church is that they cannot attend the marriage ceremony itself, but must wait outside, hence most Mormon couples have a large reception following the Temple wedding to ensure their families are part of the festivities.
b) The Endowment: The Endowment Ceremony is a very sacred ritual to the Mormons. It’s purpose is to provide the member with everything that they need to successfully pass from this life into the next. The Endowment ceremony is required by each member in order to gain entrance to the Celestial Kingdom.
c) Ordinances by Proxy (Baptism for the dead, etc.): Mormons believe strongly that all humans should have the chance to achieve the highest level of exaltation – that being living as a “forever family” in the Celestial Kingdom. Because baptism, the temple endowments, and a celestial marriage is required to enter the Celestial Kingdom – the Mormons perform exhaustive genealogy research. The sole purpose of the genealogy is to identify departed family members and relations to submit their names to the church to have temple ordinances performed for and in behalf of the departed family members. When a Mormon first receives their Temple recommend, all temple ordinances they receive are performed for themselves. Once their ordinances are performed, the member returns (typically once a month) to act as a proxy for those that have passed away and who’s names have been submitted to the temple to have ordinances performed for and in their behalf. The Mormons believe that once the ordinances have been performed for and in behalf of the deceased, the deceased may or may not accept the ordinances. They have their own free choice to accept the ordinances to gain access to the Celestial Kingdom or not. It is completely up to their decision.
5) What do Mormons believe about birth and spirit life before birth? Mormons believe that we were all spirit children of a loving Heavenly Father (aka God) and Heavenly Mother. Eons ago, there was a war in heaven, Lucifer wanted all of the spirit children to be forced to follow God’s will when they arrived for their turn on earth, Jesus felt that God’s children should have the freedom of choice to choose whether they follow God’s will or not. This caused the war in heaven wherein 2/3’s of all of the hosts of heaven chose to follow Lucifer and were banished to outer darkness. Only 1/3 of the hosts of heaven chose to follow Jesus. The 1/3 of the hosts that followed Jesus were provided the chance to be born here on earth to earthly parents in to a mortal body, and live our lives as a test to validate our worthiness for final exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. The 2/3’s of the hosts that were exiled to Outer Darkness are responsible for tempting us to do the wrong things and haunting/ violent paranormal activities.
6) What do Mormons believe happen after someone dies? Mormons fundamentally believe that “as man now is, God once was”. This means that the being that they see as God was a man at one time living an earthly life, just as we are now. This is important as you will see further, as each Mormon believes that he or she can become as God is once they achieve Celestial exaltation (arrive in the celestial kingdom). Not everyone, however, will arrive in the Celestial Kingdom. The Mormons believe in three separate and distinct degrees of glory in the afterlife; the Terrestial Kingdom, the Telestial Kingdom, and the Celestial Kingdom. There is also one additional place a departed soul can go after the final judgement, but it is not talked of often, that being Outer Darkness. Mormons believe that once we die, we are all held together in one place until the 2 nd coming of Christ. Once Christ has returned to earth, he will rule earth for 1000 years. At the completion of the 1000 years all souls (those alive and already passed on) shall face final judgement and shall be sent to the kingdom that their actions on earth have qualified them for. The Terrestial Kingdom is the lowest of the degrees of glory one can achieve (aside from outer darkness which we will discuss later). The Terrestial Kingdom is said to be so much better than earth itself, and may be equated to the Garden of Eden, however, in the Terrestial Kingdom, there are no families. Men and women are separated and all souls in this kingdom are servants to those in the Celestial Kingdom. The Telestial Kingdom is the mid-level kingdom of the degrees of glory one can receive. This is better than the Terrestial Kingdom, however, as with the Terrestial Kingdom, men and women are separated and are servants to those in the Celestial Kingdom. The Celestial Kingdom is the highest degree of glory that one can receive. This is the kingdom where God himself resides with his wife (our Heavenly Mother) and all of his worthy spirit children. In this kingdom, it is believe that family members who have lived valiant lives and adhered to the Mormon doctrine can live together as families. These families will be able to procreate spirit children and will be Gods and Goddesses of their own worlds. Their spirit children will be sent to those worlds. Once a spirit is designated to a “degree of glory”, they are relegated to that degree for eternity. There is no way to move from one kingdom up to another. Not often spoke of is Outer Darkness. This is what Christianity would classify as hell. Murderers, Adulterers, those denying there is a God, those incapable of Love, etc. (mainly those committing unforgivable sins) are sent to Outer Darkness.
7) What is the story of the 1847 pilgrimage to Utah?
The Mormons had not only the large pilgrimage to Utah, but also a few other pilgrimages.
The Mormons were driven from Joseph Smith’s home town of Palmyra, NY due to persecution of Joseph and his followers. From Palmyra, NY, Joseph and his followers moved to Kirkland, OH. In Kirkland, OH is where Joseph Smith received the revelation of Temple Ordinances and where the church built their first temple. Again, due to persecution, Joseph and his followers moved to Liberty, Mo then to Navoo, IL.
Once in Nauvoo, Illinois – Joseph and his followers flourished, building a temple, and their own militia. Nauvoo is also where Joseph received the revelation regarding plural marriage (aka polygamy, which we will discuss later). The non-Mormons became nervous and scared of the Mormon settlers and their Militia, The Legion of Nauvoo, as well as their practice of polygamy. The Governor of Illinois eventually had Joseph, Hyrum Smith his brother and two others arrested and placed in Carthage Jail. Shortly thereafter, a riot broke out and Joseph Smith and his Brother Hyrum were shot and killed. Upon Joseph Smith’s death, leadership of the Mormon church was passed to Brigham Young, who decided to move the Mormons to a safe place our west.
The journey itself involved a lot of pain and death, as it is difficult to walk hundreds of miles over the Rocky Mountains without the benefit of paved roads and only one pair of shoes, using wagons and handcarts (a kind of small, human- powered wagon).
Pioneers set out in different groups at different times and each group encountered their own hazards. Many of the pioneers succumbed to exposure and exhaustion. Brigham Young led a group of pioneers and upon arrival at what is now the Salt Lake valley, said, "This is the right place". I hope that helps.
8) Why did the Mormons practice Polygamy? What are their current views on Polygamy? The official reasons for the Mormons practicing polygamy is based on a revelation to Joseph Smith in Navoo, IL. The main reason God revealed to Joseph Smith plural marriage was simple; the only way one could gain entrance to the highest degree of glory is by achieving a temple marriage. At that time, there were many more women members of the church than there were men, so to ensure that all women who were worthy could gain entrance to the Celestial Kingdom, God revealed to Joseph that men should marry multiple wives within the walls of the temple so that all worthy women would have the opportunity to enter the Celestial Kingdom one day. Additionally, back in the 1800’s, women were not allowed to own property, etc. so in the cases where a woman’s husband passed away or was murdered by a mob, etc. she could marry another and the property would pass to the new husband, thus securing the widowed woman her home, property, etc. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints do not practice polygamy and haven’t since 1890.
9) What is the relationship between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Utah-based sect) and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Navoo-based sect)? The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now known as The Community of Christ) was organized shortly after Joseph Smith was murdered in Carthage Jail in Nauvoo, IL. Following Joseph’s murder, his wife Emma Smith, felt that the mantle of leadership of the church should fall to Joseph’s son, Joseph Smith, Jr. However, the existing leadership of the church didn’t agree, and, after a time, elected Brigham Young as the new Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Mormon church. Emma and the followers that believed that Joseph Smith, Jr. should be the next leader of the church then broke ranks with the original church and started the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). It must also be noted that Emma abhorred the practice of plural marriage, and one of the first acts of the RLDS church in 1860 was to abolish plural marriage. The original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints didn’t abolish plural marriage until 1890, and this was because they wanted statehood for Utah and would not be able to gain such statehood until plural marriage was no longer an accepted practice. Additionally, there are other “fundamental” sects of the Mormon Church who are in no way affiliated to the original church that do practice plural marriage today. These sects are frowned upon by the original Mormon church.
10) Are there clothing or undergarments that are specific to Mormons? Do they have to cover their hair or head (women)?
Yes. Laugh, no, women do not have to cover their head or hair. If you ever see the female missionaries with the black name tags you'll see this.
The temple garments, as they are called, represent promises made to God in the temple upon ones first visit to the temple. These garments are worn next to the naked body itself to remind the wearer of the promises and covenants that they have made in the temple, additionally because of the style and design of the garments themselves, they ensure that strict adherence to modesty is observed.
11) Will Mormons be ex-communicated from the church if they are homosexual?
If they are "practicing", generally yes.
Sometimes there are those who are figuring out, so to speak, what their sexuality is. If they confess this to a bishop and discuss it with him, he will not excommunicate them, but will talk with them about it and work with them.
Sometimes despite the thoughts they go on to live a typical heterosexual life.
Others believe the struggle is too great, or perhaps that they were made that way and what have you and may start to date, make out, and of course have sex. That would, of course, be grounds for excommunication. It should also be noted that even having sex outside of marriage, whether heterosexual sex or not, is grounds for excommunication.
12) I have seen and heard of instances of usage of the inverted pentagram and beehives in and about Mormon practice. What meanings do these symbols hold in the Mormon tradition? Brigham Young, one of the early presidents of the church, used beehives to illustrate the way their communities should function. Well organized, each person helping out, using their time effectively just as bees in the beehive work together. On the Salt Lake City temple, there are a series of stars on some of the columns. There are rows with stars pointing downward, representing the fall of man. Other rows feature stars pointing upward, symbolizing the priesthood building back up the church. The other designs eg. the triangular shapes, etc. are the “level” and the “square” (similar to the square and level in the Masonic Lodge). When placed together, they may look like a pentagram, however, they are not. These are significant symbols to the Mormons who have been to the temple.
13) What do Mormons believe about God?
God is perfect, all-wise, and all-powerful—the ruler of the universe. He is also merciful, kind, and just. He is our Father in Heaven. We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). He has a body that looks like ours, but God’s body is immortal, perfected, and has a glory that words can't describe. Because we are His children, He knows and loves each of us individually. He has a plan to help His children find joy in this life and return to live with Him when this life is over, however because of our free agency to make our own decisions, it is up to each of us as to whether we maintain our worthiness to return to our Heavenly Father.
14) Are Mormons Christians?
Yes. Mormons believe in God the Eternal Father, in his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
FAQs from a Mormon Website:
1. I have heard the phrase "Temple Mormon". What does that mean?
I assume a "Temple Mormon" is a Mormon that actually goes to the temple. See, as with any religion, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) can be either more or less devout. Those that are on the stick will go to the nearest temple regularly - usually at least once each month.
Quick interjection, a temple is different than a chapel. You'll see chapels all over the place. They're much, much smaller than temples. You'll know a temple if you see one. They're big and they're pretty impressive.
To enter the temple, Mormons must be "worthy". The temple is considered to be a very sacred place. Basically church members must be obeying the commandments to go to the temple.
So - I believe that a "Temple Mormon" is probably a devout Mormon.
The temple is something apart and considered significantly more sacred. After open house, it is dedicated to God and open only to members who have met certain religious requirements, such as baptism covenant. Not even all of our members can go to the temple once its dedicated"2. Why do Mormons abstain from all drinks with caffeine in them?
Well, it's not really a hard and fast *rule* that Mormons aren't supposed to drink caffeinated beverages. There are the "black and white" guidelines that we've all come to know and love about Mormons, who consider these rules to be commandments. These include things like "no smoking", "no alcohol", "no premarital sex". You know, all the good stuff.
There are also the "gray areas". These are things that have been strongly suggested - but according to my knowledge aren't going to get you in serious trouble. You're just supposed to avoid them. These include things like drinking Coke or Pepsi, or perhaps watching rated "R" movies.
Why no Coke? Well, it has to do with another Mormon belief about always being in control of oneself. Things that can cause addictions are generally bad. Since we all know that caffeine can be addicting - that's bad.
3. If Mormons can't drink coffee or Coke because of the caffeine, can they eat chocolate which also contains caffeine?
They are not actually officially told not to drink caffeinated drinks, as seen by another question, but strangely enough, some choose not to drink beverages with caffeine but will still eat chocolate.
The health principles are found in the "Word of Wisdom" on the official church web site.
It's from the book of Doctrine and Covenants. "Hot drinks" means tea and coffee, as it was 1831 and those were the only drinks that were hot back then. So yes, hot chocolate is okay (I've been asked that before).
The essential thing is exercise, have a good diet, don't be enslaved to any substance, whether it's alcohol, marijuana, coffee, Pepsi, chocolate, cereal, or french fries, or whatever... and some don't use at all, period. Because coffee has a lot of caffeine some people, in the spirit of the law, point out examples of people who MUST have their six-pack of Pepsi each day or who truly are addicted to Coke or Mountain Dew or whatever. That in itself is against the Word of Wisdom, but the occasional soda is not specifically stated against. It's a fuzzy, occasionally lightly debated subject among church members. A person can hold a temple recommend while still having drunk a Coke or Pepsi. If they've had an alcoholic drink and not repented yet, then they can't. 4. What is "sealing"?
Sealing is referred to in more than one way in the church, but 95% of the time it's referring to an eternal temple marriage.
Ex: "The people at our sealing were mostly from her side of the family."
5. Is it true that Mormons need to present a card (verifying that they are Mormons) in order to enter the temple?
Yes. It's called a temple recommend. It is issued by the ecclesiastical leader of the members’ congregation [called a Bishop].
6. What is the story of the 1847 pilgrimage to Utah?
That is a fairly epic event, so let me sum up. The Mormons were driven from their settlements in Nauvoo, Illinois, and Liberty, Missouri, and other places, due to persecution including an extermination order from Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri, which allowed for the killing of all Mormons that were not out of the state by a certain date. As a bit of trivia, the extermination order remained on Missouri state law books until about 1978 or so, although it was obviously not enforced. I served a mission for the church in Independence, Missouri and I never experienced any hostility. Missourians are good people.
The journey itself involved a lot of pain and death, as it is difficult to walk hundreds of miles over the Rocky Mountains without the benefit of paved roads and only one pair of shoes, using wagons and handcarts (a kind of small, human-powered wagon). Pioneers set out in different groups at different times and each group encountered their own hazards. Many of the pioneers succumbed to exposure and exhaustion. Brigham Young led a group of pioneers and upon arrival at what is now the Salt Lake valley, said, "This is the right place". I hope that helps.
7. Are there clothing or undergarments that are specific to Mormons? Do they have to cover their hair or head (women)?
Yes. Laugh, no, women do not have to cover their head or hair. If you ever see the female missionaries with the black name tags you'll see this.
The temple garments, as they are called, represent promises made to God in the temple. Not all members engage in this, and they must have a serious commitment and a basic understanding of what the church is all about. A new convert must be a member one year before being going through this ceremony and then they wear garments for the rest of their lives.
8. Will Mormons be ex-communicated from the church if they are homosexual?
If they are "practicing", generally yes.
Sometimes there are those who are figuring out, so to speak, what their sexuality is. If they confess this to a bishop and discuss it with him, he will not excommunicate them, but will talk with them about it and work with them. Sometimes despite the thoughts they go on to live a typical heterosexual life. Others believe the struggle is too great, or perhaps that they were made that way and what have you and may start to date, make out, and of course have sex. That would, of course, be grounds for excommunication.
9. I have seen and heard of instances of usage of the inverted pentagram and beehives in and about Mormon practice. What meanings do these symbols hold in the Mormon tradition?Brigham Young, one of the early presidents of the church, used beehives to illustrate the way their communities should function. Well organized, each person helping out, using their time effectively.
On the Salt Lake City temple, there are a series of stars on some of the columns. There are rows with stars pointing downward, representing the fall of man. Other rows feature stars pointing upward, symbolizing the priesthood building back up the church. This could possibly be what is referred to as pentagrams... I'm not entirely sure though.
10. Is it true that Mormons hold the belief that there are goddesses inhabiting and sharing domain with deceased, after-life Mormons on their own planets?
Mormons believe that they will attain the status of gods and goddesses if they fulfill the Temple works required of them. They are taught that God Himself became a god through such works.
11. What do you believe about God?
God is perfect, all-wise, and all-powerful—the ruler of the universe. He is also merciful, kind, and just. He is our Father in Heaven. We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). He has a body that looks like ours, but God’s body is immortal, perfected, and has a glory that words can't describe. Because we are His children, He knows and loves each of us individually. He has a plan to help His children find joy in this life and return to live with Him when this life is over.
12. What is the name of your Church?
In 1838, Joseph Smith was told in a revelation that the Church should be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Doctrine and Covenants 115:4). The Church has been known by that name since that time. Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has emphasized the Church's correct name, saying:
"We believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and He is the central figure in all of our worship.
"The Church carries the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. It is His name by which this Church is officially called.
"As for the term Latter-day Saints, members of the Christian Church anciently were called Saints. They were former-day Saints. We are the Latter-day Saints. It is that simple.
"We are frequently called Mormons. It is a nickname given us because we believe in the Book of Mormon as the word of God, a book which goes hand in hand with the Bible, becoming a second witness for Jesus Christ."