What do mormons really believe?

by Rusty Lindquist on January 25, 2011 · 19 comments

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

I’ve decided that over the next several days, I’m going to elaborate a bit on what Mormons believe, using the Articles of Faith as my guide.  This series of posts is meant to both assist in setting the record straight about Mormonism (if you’re not LDS, and have seen the plethora of false information online), and to helping those of us that are LDS appreciate the simple beauty behind our most basic beliefs.

(For context, the Articles of Faith were written by Joseph Smith and published in March of 1842 in an effort to provide a brief view of Mormon teachings… see here).

The first article of faith states: 

 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Yes, that means we’re Christian.  We believe in Jesus Christ.  We believe that He lives, that He was resurrected after having been crucified on the cross.  We believe that He is our savior, and that through His atoning sacrifice, our sins might be forgiven that we might be made clean through His mercy. 

We believe that he is the literal Son of God, and that God is a real being of flesh and bone, who created the earth, and that we are all His children (see we are of royal birth).  Mormons believe that God is not some vague, cosmic energy, but is a real person that we can see, feel, and speak to.

What a beautiful thing that is, to know that we are made in the image of God.  Knowledge of such a divine heritage should fill us with hope, fortify our confidence, and alter the perspective we have on ourselves, and others.

And how wonderful it is to know that God is a literal, tangible being.  Somehow that makes him approachable, being able to see him as a kind and gentle Father who is concerned at all times for our eternal welfare (see God is Omnicaring).

We also believe in the Holy Ghost, that He is a personage of spirit, and as such, is able to dwell within us.  Think upon that for a moment.  Through living a righteous life, we are able to have the Holy Ghost actually dwell within us.  What a marvelous gift.  A measure of divinity placed within each of us providing a direct conduit straight to our Father in Heaven.

While it’s so easy to take the first article of faith for granted, being so basic, I find it to be of remarkable substance and encouragement.  I am a child of God, who sent His Son to atone for my sins, and provided me the Holy Ghost as a companion to show the way during dark times.  Armed with such knowledge, we should all feel a little bolder, a little more confident, and a little more determined.

Rusty

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ponderingpastor April 30, 2008 at 4:15 AM

“Yes, that means we’re Christian. We believe in Jesus Christ.” Sorry, that does not mean you are Christian. Belief in Jesus Christ is not enough. Isalm believes in Jesus Christ. That does not make them Christian. Unfortunately, just because the LDS believe that they are Christians does not make them so. The Apostles and Nicene Creed are more determinative. There is one God, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit … one being … not 3. And God is not flesh and bone until the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, you and many other LDS followers have been misled by your leadership to believe that LDS is either compatible with, or is a “purer” form of Christianity. It is simply not true. LDS have made Jesus something he is not.

From Rusty

I appreciate your comment, and the respectful manner in which you’ve shared your views. Looking at your comment, it seems what we’re talking about two primary things here. The first is the notion of what it means to be Christian, and the second is the nature of the Godhead.

Regarding the first – the term “Christian” is highly open to semantic arguments. Each of us perhaps has a different view of what it means to be Christian. From your comment, you suggest that to be Christian we must all agree on certain points of doctrine. One who believes in Christ, is generally said to be “Christian”, at least in the most simple sense of the word. But I think that being Christian is far more than that. Being Christian is portrayed by our actions, our thoughts, our words our deeds, it means we’re a true follower of Christ.

I’ve seen individuals of all religions who believe in Christ, but who certainly don’t seem “Christian” to me, in that their actions are a poor representation of their determination to follow Christ. To say that I’m not Christian, because we disagree on doctrine, would be the same as me saying that you aren’t Christian for the same reason.

In terms of the Nature of the Godhead, we do indeed (as this post suggests), believe they are three distinct people. I’ll do a separate blog post with the scriptural background behind this belief, and why it plays such an important role in Mormon culture.

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2 lilliemcduffie46 April 30, 2008 at 4:19 AM

I think this massages is so true, and He’s the father we are the children we should always lift up his name with praise.

From Rusty – Amen!

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3 Kwamboka April 30, 2008 at 4:50 AM

Yes, you do believe in god the father, and his son Jesus, but the things you don’t say is that you also believe that god father and god mother (also omitted in your article) produced all of the offspring of this earth. That Jesus and lucifer were brothers, god father was a mortal and good enough at his judgment to get a planet of his own with his wife(s).
So the Jesus you have is NOT the Jesus of mainstream Christianity. But keep writing, so we can continue to tell the truth.

From Rusty

The nature of a Blog is that that you create a large composition of works over time, through numerous small contributions. I didn’t mention those things not because they’re not important, nor because they’re some “secret”, for they’re not.

We do indeed believe that we are all the spiritual sons and daughters of God, our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother. Before time began we stood in their presence and were raised by them. We grew to know and love them, and developed relationships with them (and with each other). And that there was a time when God presented a plan for us to come to earth, gain a physical body, and have opportunity to expand our experiences.

But this plan contained certain risks, for there would be free agency, a notion of choice, and some would choose not to follow God’s will. But that those who would, could return again to live with our Father, with our Families, and become like him. But Lucifer, who was also present, was in opposition to this plan, rebelled, and in so doing, was cast out of our Fathers presence, where he would abide on earth as the adversary of righteousness.

None of this is secret, but it certainly isn’t traditional. Yet Chris, in his tenure on earth, was himself mocked and scorned for his teachings, and why… because they were not traditional. How often Satan uses our past to blind us to the future. How often progress is held back by tradition, for tradition sake.

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4 betme April 30, 2008 at 5:13 AM

You are a brave man to put your beliefs out in the open for others to attack at will. I admire and appreciate your post.

Those who chose to attack you, I can only assume, have never attended a Mormon service… with pure intent of heart, asking God for the Spirit to know whether or not the truth is being spoken.

I have attended many different churches around the world. Some have left me feeling uncomfortable, some have given me strength.

It is easy to feel the spirit and a love of God in the Mormon people as is true for many religions.

I feel that if one opens their heart to God, prays, and lives a good life… They will be able to feel the spirit of and know the truth that is given to them.

I wish people would concentrate their energies into seeking God rather than tearing down other religions.

Thanks again for sharing your beliefs. I look forward to reading more.

From Rusty… Thank you. I once read that there’s one thing that we’ve all been given. One thing that we all have in common. We all have 24 hours in a day, and it’s what we choose to do with those 24 hours, that matters most.

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5 megshoeman April 30, 2008 at 5:46 AM

You are a brave man, Rusty, for even keeping such a blog. But like some of your other commenters and with all due respect, I too am disappointed by your unwillingness to tell the whole truth about the Mormon program. The boys who call themseves “elders,” unfortunately, do the same thing. That’s how they get so many (if many temporary) converts. If you (and the young men on bicycles) would tell folks upfront about your denial of the trinity, essential denial of the incarnation, refusal to use wine (you use water) in the Mormon version of the Lord’s Supper, your converts would be fewer. While that might hurt your numbers, isn’t telling the truth about what you believe just the right thing to do?
In any case, I pray Christ’s peace for you, Rusty.

From Rusty

Thank you, peace is far from a commodity today.

Don’t be disappointed, for I’m not unwilling to talk about the whole truth, but as I remarked in the comment above, the nature of a blog is to do so over many posts, over time.

I’m not sure that we’d have more converts by such a simple thing as switching from water to wine, nor changing our view on the nature of the trinity (for we too believe in the Godhead). To be converted is not about the points of doctrine wherein we differ. Rather, and as the young missionaries riding the streets on bicycles will attest, one becomes converted through a manifestation of the spirit that what they’ve heard is right.

In James 1:5, we find out that “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally…” Those who are converted to the church should be converted because they too, have asked God, and have received an answer. Our stalwart young men and women who sacrifice so much are the first and most regular to challenge the world to pray about these things.

Peace to you Meg

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6 Kwamboka April 30, 2008 at 11:23 AM

betme, some of us have been mormons for years, and finally got truth and left. The temple is a form of masonry, even my die-hard brother had to admit that, and my aunt who was in eastern star. Missionaries do not tell the whole story, they never mention mother god. And Jesus said that he had no secrets. So how com the Mormons do?

From Rusty

How sad it is that you should think so. Ask any missionary any question, and they’ll give you the answer to the best of their abilities. There aren’t any secrets of doctrine like this; it’s all there for your taking. If you left because you disagreed with the doctrine, then you joined for the wrong reason in the first place. The doctrine didn’t change.

Those who join the church should do so because they’ve prayed, asked God, and received a manifestation of the spirit that the work is true. But if you joined because you had such a manifestation, I’m sorry that you were so quick to abandon such divine communication when something arose that you found difficult to accept. But if you joined without such a manifestation, then you joined for the wrong reason.

It’s all so simple. Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you. We can comment back and forth over different points of doctrine for a very long time, but all we’re doing is tossing about the ideas of men. The only thing that matters, is what you receive from God.

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7 Margaret Dansie April 30, 2008 at 11:36 AM

I thought you should have a comment from a member. I was raised as an American Baptist. The people in that Church were wonderful (and still are), but I was always so confused by their teachings. I investigated many churches, and while the people were good people, their teachings were equally confusing. While I read the Book of Mormon, I had aha! moment after aha! moment. No one can understand the Gospel all at once, but little by little over the past 40+ years I have been able to accept everything I have learned so far. Some things I have struggled with a little, but with study and prayer the answer always has come. The important thing is to be open to what the Holy Ghost is trying to teacn.

I admire what you are doing and will continue to read with interest.

Margaret

From Rusty. Both insightful and touching, thank you for your contribution.

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8 bethanyr32 April 30, 2008 at 12:48 PM

I also think you’re brave for what you’re trying to do – I think it’s sad when people are so convinced that they already know everything about our faith that they can’t listen to someone trying to explain, in a respectful manner, what we truly do believe. All I can say is, I love my Savior and my Heavenly Father with all my heart.

From Rusty – It’s my pleasure, thanks for your contribution.

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9 Rusty Lindquist April 30, 2008 at 3:53 PM

With so many replies, I decided to add my replies to each quote above, to better address each comment in it’s turn. Thanks. I’d love to hear from more of you.

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10 Shawn Dowler May 1, 2008 at 3:42 PM

Kwamboka said:
“And Jesus said that he had no secrets. So how com the Mormons do?”

Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. (Matthew 16:20)

There is a time and a place for all things. Secrecy isn’t bad. Secret things are open to all who would learn them, but only when they are ready to learn.

http://lehislibrary.wordpress.com/2008/04/27/list-secrecy-in-the-new-testament/

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11 birdwing7 May 11, 2008 at 6:43 PM

ponderingpastor notes that “Islam believes in Jesus Christ.” I know little of Islam. But I do not believe its adherents accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. They do not accept the atonement or the resurrection. Mormons do.

As a lawyer, I’ve often thought the question about whether “Mormons are Christians” is just a trademark dispute. Some traditional Christians claim the right to exclusive use of the name Christian. They want to exclude others who fail to meet a doctrinal test. Some of them say Catholics are not Christians for example.

Mormons claim the right to use the name Christian because they believe Christ is their Savior, without whom there would be no resurrection and no salvation.

As a legal matter, of course, anyone can call themselves a Christian. But are they truly? This presents a purely definitional question.

As a practicing Mormon, this used to bother me. I remember when I was in college, a member of CARE told me I wasn’t Christian. I thought it was awfully presumptuous of her to tell me what I believed. Now, I’ve come to believe that labels don’t matter much. I know Christ died for me. I know He took upon Himself my sins. I have felt His comfort. I would like traditional Christians to accept me as a fellow Christian. I think it makes Mormons and traditional Christians to emphasize what unites us rather than what divides us. But, in the end, if someone wants to tell me I don’t believe in their Christ, so be it.

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12 Margaret May 24, 2008 at 2:56 PM

To megshoeman; while I was investigating the Church, I was told of the Godhead and how they are 3 separate and distinct beings. God the Father and God the Son each have a body of flesh and bones, but the Holy Ghost does not. He is the testifier. I also attended a sacrament meeting, as most investigators do. I learned about the bread and water. I learned many things after my baptism, and am still learning. I don’t feel like things were kept from me. I could only learn so much at a time. I can pray about each thing as I learn it and get an answer.

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13 Kathy February 23, 2009 at 1:20 AM

I joined the LDS church about 8 years ago. I traveled the world, attended services in every denomination, but always felt like I was empty, missing something. When I attended the LDS church I felt at peace, completely whole. Sometimes it’s hard for me, hearing things that aren’t traditional, but I keep an open mind. I ask God to show me the truth. I have always felt that I am where I am now because God lead me here. God is showing me the truth everyday. I don’t understand how other Christian’s who pray to God and who believe that they are being guided by their Heavenly Father, think that we aren’t praying to the same God. Does God only choose to guide those of a certain denomination and ignore the rest?? That must be what some people are thinking when they believe that the LDS church is false. Thank you for putting yourself out here to help others understand. You are so very respectful, while others are plain rude. God is not rude or boastful and neither should his people be. May peace be with you always.

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14 Margaret February 24, 2009 at 9:27 PM

Amen! You said it so well.

Does anyone else miss Rusty? I hope he’ll be back soon…

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15 Jana May 3, 2009 at 7:52 PM

I am not a mormon and I have one question I wish for someone here to answer for me. I have read the Bible for many years and have never heard Joeseph Smith ever mentioned. The Bible states not to “add or Subtract” anything from the word. (The word meaning the Bible). Therefore, How can you justify, or even explain that this Joeseph Smith, (whom as I understand it, is the whole basis for the “BOOK Of Mormon and the religion), actually is the truth from God?
I do hope someone can answer this for me.
This is out of love, concern and curiousity as well.
Thank you.
Janna

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16 Rusty Lindquist May 4, 2009 at 8:41 AM

Kathy and Janna

Kathy, I’m so glad you took a moment to share (I apologize I’m just now getting back to you), and you’re so very welcome.

I think often we become jealous and lazy. It’s easier to dismiss another’s belief if we can dismiss the foundation for their belief (God, in this instance). If we can convince ourselves that the foundation for their belief is fundamentally flawed, then it alleviates the pressure to try to understand each other, to understand the differences, and to seek the truth. It takes strength to acknowledge that the God we believe in is the same, but that our definitions and understanding of him varies, because it challenges our own belief.

But in truth, there is only one God. And though our perspective on Him differs due to centuries of opinions and philosophical debates, we pray to the same Being, we are loved by the same Father, and He seeks to guide all of us, no matter what denomination we belong to.

To Janna’s question, it makes me all the more grateful for the role of the Prophet Joseph Smith in our Father’s divine plan. After centuries in the absence of a prophet, which led to so many varied perspectives about many things, not the least of which is the very understanding of our Father in Heaven, He restored the tradition of prophetic guidance, to clear up all these misperceptions.

Janna,

Your question is particularly valuable for many people, and I appreciate your asking it. It’s a very important topic.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that the Bible wasn’t written as a single book. In fact, the Bible is a compilation of many books, written over a broad period of time by a wide array of authors.

In this instance, the scripture to which you refer is Rev. 22:18-19

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

It says clearly that this book should not be added upon. Now the question becomes, what is “this book”?

Did you know that while Revelation is the final book in the collection of texts we call the bible, it was not, actually, the last one written. Revelation was written as early as A.D. 68 or 69. But there are other portions of the bible that were written subsequent to the writing of Revelation. The Gospel of John, for instance, is generally dated as A.D. 95-100. But yet the Gospel of John is also accepted as scripture, and is included in the Bible.

From this alone we can see that the reference made above did not infer that no other words should be accepted as scripture, but rather that no man should add to or take away from his book – the Book of Revelation.

Additionally, at the time of the writing of the book of Revelation, the Bible didn’t even yet exist as a book, and wouldn’t for quite a while longer. Coincidentally, the Book of Revelation was chosen to be placed where it was, because it was deemed a category all its own. The New Testament is made up first, of the four Gospels, and second, of the epistles of the apostles. But as the Book of Revelation was neither, it was placed at the end as its own category.

So John could not have intended the last few sentences of Revelation to apply to the entire Bible, since he wasn’t authoring the final chapter of the New Testament, and since the Bible wouldn’t be canonized and completed for centuries later.

Indeed, other scriptures such as Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, and Proverbs 30:6 likewise forbid additions. But if these too were to mean there could be no other words of scripture after they were written, then we’d be forced to discard everything in the New Testament, and much of the Old.

So we find, that these verses to not indicate there shall be no other words given as scripture.

More importantly though (and here’s where we get back to Joseph Smith), the reference is that man should not add to or take away from His words. But certainly, we wouldn’t suppose that to mean that God Himself couldn’t still speak to man, nor command that those words be recorded.

In fact, in the New Testament we find the Savior himself saying “Other sheep I have, that are not of this fold; them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

Clearly Christ taught that there were others, besides those in Jerusalem, that He intended to visit and to teach. We know also that God is unchanging, so would we expect anything else, but that he would have records kept of his visits to those people as well, records that indeed, would be qualified as scripture?

If the records of His dealings with His people in Jerusalem were considered scripture, so too would be the records of His dealings with these “other sheep”. Additionally, with His unchanging nature, wouldn’t we suspect that as he taught in the Bible to build upon a foundation of Prophets and apostles, that he’d then call prophets and apostles and establish His church amongst these other people.

The Book of Mormon is simply the record of Christ’s dealings (visitation, teaching, and establishing of his Church) on the American continent.

Finally, just as I mentioned earlier, that Christ taught that we should build our foundation upon Prophets and apostles, and established the tradition (throughout the old and New testament) of leading His church through Prophets (indeed, it was core to the structure of the church that He organized), it makes sense that he would seek to restore this doctrine, just as in times of old, by calling a new prophet today.

After all, why would he teach us the importance of living prophets, and demonstrate that tradition throughout all time (even going back to Adam), but then suddenly decide that they were no longer necessary? But His doctrine is eternal, and the restoration of prophets was crucial to providing clarity amidst so much confusion. Joseph Smith was called to be that prophet, was instructed on where to find the Gold Plates (which he would then translate by the power of God into the Book of Mormon), and through whom he then established his restored gospel… built upon the foundation of prophets.

For more information about Joseph Smith, you can visit http://www.josephsmith.com.

Again, thanks for asking. I’d be happy to discuss it further if you’d like.

Rusty

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17 mike dansie August 4, 2011 at 11:51 AM

this is absurd, one kind of christian thinks the other kind is going to hell because of some misinterpretation or technicality. wat if you get to heaven and god turns out to be a hindu or buddist or muslim, and sends you to hell because you happened to,in good faith, accidentally pick the wrong religion. do you really think it could be like that or that other faiths are automatically going to hell because they dont believe the same thing you do. you are mentally ill to believe something like this. a caring loving god will reach out to all his creations with compation not make you have to guess which religion will keep you out of hell.

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18 mike dansie August 4, 2011 at 12:09 PM

mormons, do you really think you have something in common with many other types of “so called christians” who believe you and your wonderful family are going to burn in eternal hell because you have slightly different beliefs than them! and yes, i have spoken to many christians who hold this opinion, or do you think you have more in common with a guy like me who is open minded towards all religions and thier merits. when you cast others out for having different beliefs than you ,you invite the same. jesus is described in the bible as befriending prostitutes and other sinners as well as people of different views. he was also accepting and compassionate. we dont see much of this with modern. i understand this blog is more of a doctrinal discussion. so i will now stop trying to expand minds which are happier living within certain confines of belief, as i am sure i have strayed far outside the normal perimeters of discussion, god bless, good bye

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19 Robert September 2, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Scripture is clear that we should test all spirits. Telling people to pray that God will give them a warm feeling about what they believe is very dangerous, and it opens the door for satan to lie to their evil hearts. We have no hope apart from Christ, but the false teaching of Mormonism says that Christ “atonement” paid for all men’s sins regardless of their denial of Him. Then the false teaching goes on to say that we must earn our way into the Fathers presence. It is taught that Adam and Eve did us all a favor by sinning against God’s commands. That is pure blasphemy! As well as calling the Father flesh and bone and saying that he had sex with a woman. It is also blasphemous to say that Jesus is the brother of Satan. And that we could ever become a god. Also the entire book of Mormon is a lie. Study research there is no truth in it. It was made up and the parts of it that hold resemblance to truth are plagiarized! No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. No one come to Jesus unless the Father draws Him. Please I do not hate or even dislike you, but your teachings are heresy so if you are going to call yourself Christian please realize that YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN in the since that you believe in the ONE AND ONLY SON OF GOD(Spiritual and physical) AS YOUR ETERNAL LORD. And yes(John 3:17-18) to the guy who asked if God will send people to hell for not trusting in the true Christ as reveled in the Bible. And while you all are playing so nice with each other’s eternity JosephSmith said that god told him that all other “Christian” denominations were wrong. So stop acting like we should agree with you! According to the Bible you are presenting another gospel it is not the same. We are to reject it according to the Bible!

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