Question Box: Divine Visitations

Question:  Do Mormon’s believe that non-eartly beings, divine or otherwised, have visited the Earth?   Thank you.

Yes, we believe that both God and angels have visited the earth.  All Christians, if they stopped to think about it, believe the same thing.   Some of the most well-known examples are

1) When God visited Moses in the burning bush (Exodus ch. 3),

2) When an angel told Mary that she would be the mother of Christ (Luke ch. 1), and

3) Angels visiting shephards in the fields announcing that Christ had been born (Luke ch. 2).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique in that we believe that God still speaks to men today.  In the early 1800’s, a young boy named Joseph Smith was concerned about which church he should join.  After much study, he finally realized that there was no way he could figure it out.  One night he read a verse in the book of James, which stood out to him (James 1:5).  He realized that the only way he could find out what to do would be to pray and ask God for direction.  In response to his sincere prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ visited him and told him that none of the churches were true.  They told him that they were calling him as the next prophet to restore the true church to the earth again. (To see a short video representation of this story, click here.)

We believe that God has called prophets and apostles again to the earth.  Just as God visited Moses and gave him directions on how to lead His people, He has a prophet on the earth today who can receive guidance on what we should be doing now – President Thomas S. Monson.  Just earlier this month, we had the opportunity to listen to the prophet and apostles in a General Conference of the Church.  I love watching conference.  As I watch and listen, things stick out to me and I write them down, so I can work on them.  I know that God speaks to prophets today, because I receive help and guidance with my life as I listen to their messages.

How Can A Belief in Jesus Christ Help Me?

Faith, or a belief, in Jesus Christ gives purpose to our lives: “Our purpose in this life is to have joy and prepare to return to God’s presence.” (A Guide to Missionary Service – Preach My Gospel, pg. 50)  We do this by following Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is our great Exemplar.  His words and actions teach us how to have happy, productive lives.  As we learn and keep His commandments, we become more like Him and prepare to return to God’s presence and enjoy eternal happiness.  “One cannot study about Jesus Christ and His teachings without being affected and changed for good.  As you develop a testimony of the Savior, you want to become like Him and to follow Him.” (Ronald T. Halverson, Ensign, Nov. ’04, 33)

Other Related Articles:
The Living Christ
The Sons and Daughters of God
What Do Mormons Believe about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
Jesus the Christ
What do Mormons Believe? — Faith
Is Jesus the only son of God?
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
How Do You Pray?

Queston Box: Definition of Scripture

Question:  How many divine writings are there for Mormons? Which are the most authoritative? Do the Scriptures for Mormons evolve or are they set never to change?

True to the Faith, a book published by the Church, defines Scriptures as follows:

“When holy men of God write or speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, their words “shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:4). The official, canonized scriptures of the Church, often called the standard works, are the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.”

In addition to the four standard works above, we listen to the words of living prophets and apostles every six months in a general conference of the Church.  They give us the counsel and words of Christ we need for the specific problems we are facing today – for example there just wasn’t the internet or video games or a TV to deal with when the Bible and Book of Mormon were written.  We consider this modern counsel to be scripture as well.

We are told that our purpose in life and our Heavenly Father’s  “work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).  We gain eternal life by exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins to become like Christ, and by making covenants (two-way promises between us and God) through ordinances such as baptism.  These principles taught to us in the scriptures have always existed and will never change.

On the other hand, specific commandments can be revoked.  Two well-known examples include:  1) After Abraham demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, the command was revoked and a ram was used instead,  2) After Christ came, the law of Moses was fulfilled and the sacrament was introduced instead to remind us of the atonement.  If a commandment for the Church needs to be revoked or changed or even added today, it will be presented in general conference – most likely by the prophet President Monson.

The standard works (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) and the words of modern apostles and prophets all complement and support each other as the Lord’s scripture.  As far as what we consider to be the most “authoritative”, that question would only be an issue as far as specific commandments are given (like what I talked about above).  Then the Lord’s most recent word would be what we would follow.  For instance, after Christ fulfilled and did away with the law of Moses, we don’t follow that law of Moses in the Old Testament anymore.  However, we still read and study the Old Testament as scripture for the eternal laws and principles taught there that teach us how to be like Christ – like the ten commandments.  If President Monson were to give us a new specific commandment, we would consider it to now be the Lord’s will on the matter.

What is the purpose of the Book of Mormon?

“[The Book of Mormon] is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas
and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon)

The purpose of the Book of Mormon is two-fold:

1) The full title of the Book of Mormon is “The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ”.  The Book of Mormon contains the account of Christ’s visitation to the people on the American continent shortly after His resurrection.  It stands as another witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ with the Bible and was written “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Title Page of the Book of Mormon).

2) It provides spiritual evidence of the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The Introduction to the Book of Mormon ends with an invitation and a promise: “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true (Moroni 10:3-5)…Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in the last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.”

Other related articles:
The Restoration
What Do Mormons Believe? – The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon Made Simple
Book of Mormon Christians
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon – An Apostle’s Testimony
The Book of Mormon: The Mormons’ Bible?
Book of Mormon Evidence

What Do Mormons Believe: Thoughts on Service

Jesus Raising Jarius' DaughterThis last week a question was received asking about service, a pretty broad topic to be sure.  As I’ve pondered what to write in response, I kept thinking about how important the principle of service is in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In Mathew 25:31-46, Christ teaches us a little about the final judgement.  He makes it clear how much our standing will depend on the service we give others.  In verses 34-40, He addresses those who have filled their lives with service,

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.”

What strikes me most in these words is the attitude of these righteous people.  They served without thought of what they would get out of it.  They even seemed surprised that they were being rewarded for their acts of kindness.  Christ spent His life this way – compassionately serving those around Him – and has commanded us to follow His example (3 Nephi 12:48, Mathew 5:48).

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the first sacred promise we make is at baptism.  This promise is to follow our Savior’s example of service and act as He would.  In return, we are promised forgiveness for our sins and help through the gift of the Holy Ghost as we repent.  Alma, a great missionary and prophet in the Book of Mormon, describes this promise and our commitment to follow Christ (Mosiah 18:8-10),

“And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they my be light:

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life-

Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

Serving others as selflessly as Christ did takes practice for me.  However, as I keep trying I can feel the Savior’s love for those I’m helping, and I develop a more Christ-like love for them too.  I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that His atonement is the greatest act of service and love anyone could do for us.  He truly is the perfect Examplar.