We Mormons believe in Figure 1. While certainly the artist took some creative license in recreating this scene (who ever said Noah had a giant staff?), the basic idea that it conveys is real. There was a man named Noah who gathered up a bunch of animals, put them on an ark, and then weathered one crazy storm with the miraculous help of God.
We also believe in science. For years I was a TA for physics classes at my university where I would teach everything from F=ma to quantum mechanics. I am currently working on a project for NASA that requires using more science than any grown man should ever have to use. With this background I know that there are equations and models that we’ve derived from our objective view of the universe that work. That is, we have discovered laws and theories that, as far as we know, accurately predict how our universe functions.
Sometimes science seems to butt heads with religion. Noah and the Flood is one of times. Many geologists discount the Biblical narrative of Noah as being improbable and not scientifically sound. This is fine by me. I do not need science to prove my belief in the Bible. There are many things I believe in that science can’t prove. How can people be resurrected after they have died? How can heavenly messengers such as angels defy Newton and his apple? How do miracles occur? I have chosen to place my ultimate confidence in God, not in the models and equations of science, which, in just the last couple hundred years alone, have been shown to change time and again as new experiments are performed.
The argument that geologists give that the Flood never really occurred is based on a few underlying assumptions that are important to understand. First, the concept of uniformitarianism which assumes that the natural processes that we observe occurring in our world today are the same as those operating in the past. That is, the geologic processes scientists have tracked over the last few hundred years are sufficient to predict what has happened to the earth over the past millions of years.
Another bold assumption is that God doesn’t exist. This assumption conveniently gets rid of Moses parting the Red Sea and the earth ever being modified in any unnatural way. I refute this assumption, believing Christ’s words, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).
I love the Bible. I know it to be the word of God. Its teachings (especially those of Christ) lead us to God and to a happier, fuller life. Science can’t always promise that.
Answer: NO. From the Book of Mormon, “[The Lord] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).
Racism in all its forms is disgusting. It is an evil wholly at odds with the gospel of Jesus Christ and has a pernicious effect on society. Those members of the LDS Church and other faiths that have race-superiority issues (which they often try to base on scripture or statements of church leaders) are in sin.
However, such people in the Church are few and far between. My personal experience in the Church has been a wholly positive one. I have attended church services in Brazil, China, Mongolia, Germany, and in various congregations in the United States and have witnessed firsthand the unity that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings as people of varying ethnicity worship together. Growing up I had a black foster sister. Admittedly, Mikayla was in the minority attending church with my family in the predominantly white state of Utah. Naturally, Mikayla would ask questions about it. But not once in the years I sat beside her in the chapel pews did I witness any form of racism against her. I love that. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a multicultural church (more members live outside the U.S. than within) welcoming sons and daughters of God of all ethnicities.
I am willing to admit there are problems. Racism is a resilient poison that people in the U.S. and elsewhere have had difficulty purging. Just because overt acts of racism don’t occur publicly often doesn’t mean it isn’t present beneath the surface. And yet I think the Church is doing well. Plus, we can hardly point a finger at others; are any of us truly free of hurtful prejudice of any sort? Let’s pray we all continue to do better. Do better together.
Next topic:Why was priesthood denied to black male members of the church prior to 1978?
Our age of click-and-publish internet ramblings has brought with it a barrage of ill-supported commentaries which force the modern reader to be a skeptic of everything he or she reads. In light of this, I have tried hard to cut through the haze and get an accurate answer to this controversial and sensitive question. The answer I found: there is no satisfactory answer.
Some clamor that the priesthood ban was a product of traditional racism in early America; that it was a church policy based on unrighteous social norms. They have their evidences. Some insist that it was a divinely inspired command from God. They have their evidences. Still others claim it was a policy implemented by the Church based on correct doctrinal principles. Likewise, they have their evidences. The Church itself hasn’t said anything official and definitive on the subject. A paucity of facts invites a diversity of opinion. As far as I am concerned, it also makes any opinion on the subject mere speculation.
What I do know is that a prophet of God received a revelation on Thursday, June 1st, 1978 that enabled all worthy male members of the Church to receive the priesthood. History shows that it was a day of rejoicing. And it wasn’t the first of its kind. It was reminiscent of the New Testament scene where Peter told the new members of the Church that God had revealed to him that the gospel of Christ was now to be preached to the Gentiles. It was a policy change in the church: a policy change God gave (as He often does) without explanation. Acts 11:18 gives their reaction to Peter’s news, “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God.”
In closing I say to white members of the church: Be careful in how you explain the priesthood ban to yourself and others. Perhaps Alma Allred in his essay “The Traditions of Their Fathers: Myth versus Reality in LDS Scriptural Writings” (found in the book Black and Mormon cited below) was near the truth when he urged white members to, instead of looking for what blacks did to receive the ban, look at themselves to make sure they were not the cause.
And to all members of the Church and other curious truth seekers: if it really bothers you, do the research. Come to your own conclusions. But remember that there aren’t always definitive answers. God moves in mysterious ways. Our Old Testament friend Naaman was confused when he was commanded to go wash in Jordan seven times to be made clean (2 Kings 5:10). God didn’t explain but he had faith and did it anyway. There are plenty of things I don’t understand, yet I can get by with the limited light I have. I do try to learn all that I can-I am not satisfied with ignorance. But I recognize that the ignorance and incomplete understanding that remain with me are mine and not God’s.
This takes you to an official church site touching on the subject.
Suggested further reading:
Bringhurst, Newell G. and Smith, Darron T. Black and Mormon. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004.
Bringhurst, Newell G. Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism. Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981.
Embry, Jessie L. Black Saints in a White Church: Contemporary African American Mormons. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993.
Lund, John Lewis. The Church and the Negro: A Discussion of Mormons, Negroes and the Priesthood. Salt Lake City: Paramount Publishers, 1967.
Taggart, Stephen G. Mormonism’s Negro Policy: Social and Historical Origin. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1970.
Great question. And you can be sure it’s one I asked myself many a time as a 15-year-old buck surrounded by a veritable plethora of charming young ladies.
This Mormon standard is spelled out in “For the Strength of Youth,” which is a booklet of principles and morals that the youth of the church are expected to live by. In the section on dating it says, “Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Dating before then can lead to immorality, limit the number of other young people you meet, and deprive you of experiences that will help you choose an eternal partner.”
A former prophet of the church, President Gordon B. Hinckley, also remarked on this topic when he said, “The Lord has made us attractive one to another for a great purpose. But this very attraction becomes as a powder keg unless it is kept under control. . . . It is for this reason that the Church counsels against early dating” (read the amazing talk in its entirety here).
So there you have it. It’s the age that the leaders of the Church have set under inspiration from God. Their reasons for doing this are given in the above two statements. I see the whole thing as similar to the age requirement to be baptized. You have to be at least 8-years-old to be baptized and, while there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about the age of 8, Heavenly Father knew that setting that age as the standard would be in our best interest.
Plus, how are you going to pick up a date anyway before you have your drivers license? Take it from me, two people on one bike is painful. But then again, it might be a nice sneaky way to get close (uncomfortably close) to that special someone… At any rate, just wait to date and, believe me, it’ll work out great.
A question was input into the illustrious question box (that rectangular thing on the right there) as to what the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenantsare. Well, A) they’re books and B) having perused both of them multiple times I feel qualified to explain the following:
Firstly and foremostly, in order to understand these books it must be understood that we believe that God still speaks to man. There is a prophet on the earth today (Thomas S. Monson by name, as seen in the lovely picture) who receives revelation directly from God for the people of our day and age.
Ok. The Pearl of Great Price is a sort of hodgepodge of articles and publications that concern our faith and doctrine. It contains, among other things, Joseph Smith’s account of his First Vision when God and Jesus Christ appeared to him in the spring of 1820. It also contains the Book of Abraham: a translation of some ancient Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith acquired, which contain writings of the ancient patriarch Abraham. This book sheds fascinating new light on pre-earth life and the creation (click here). Way cool times three. It’s also got some nifty facsimiles like this one on the left.
The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of revelations from God to the Prophet Joseph Smith as well as to some of his successors. It also contains inspired declarations made by these same men. We regard it is as a book of scripture like the Bible because it is the writings of prophets inspired by God. It’s a truly remarkable book in that we can hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ speaking to man in our modern day. Some of my favorite passages from the book include this, Joseph Smith’s testimony of Jesus Christ and this here, a trio of verses that keep me motivated.
But, as Reading Rainbow would remind us, you don’t have to take my word for it—be your own judge, read from the Pearl of Great Price here, the Doctrine and Covenants here.
Question: Yes, of course. What makes the Mormon Church any different from any other church; why are you Mormons always trying to share your beliefs with me?
Answer: Great question. Let me answer it for myself: the Church is special to me and I love to share its teachings with others because I know it to be the true Church. I believe that other religions and faiths have teachings that are true and I am forever grateful for the work that they do to make people better but I also believe that they are missing important truths. To use a familiar phrase, I believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church that can honestly claim to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
With this, I believe that this Church is the only Church with authority from God to perform saving ordinances such as baptism.
Authority given to man by God to act in His name is called the priesthood. Throughout time, God has called special individuals to be prophets. Prophets are given the priesthood authority by God and are instructed to teach the people about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus men like Noah, Abraham, and Moses had this authority to act in God’s name. But, because we men are silly, these prophets were consistently rejected. When a prophet was rejected, this priesthood authority was lost from the Earth for a time (known as a time of apostasy) until God saw fit to once again call a new prophet to restore what was lost.
This cycle of “have a prophet, kill the prophet, don’t have a prophet, eventually have a new prophet” continued up until Christ was sent to the earth. While here, Christ acted as the prophet and organized His Church, which organization included the calling of twelve Apostles. But (silly humans) even Christ was rejected and killed. When Christ was killed Peter, having the proper authority, assumed the role as head of the Church. And yet the persecution didn’t stop. Christian heads were rolling left and right and the Apostles were killed off until, yet again, a new era of apostasy began. Authority was yet again lost from the earth because of the wickedness of men.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that that authority was never lost.The Protestant reformers (a la Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, etc), pointing to the widespread corruption in the church of their times, heartily disagreed and broke off in attempts toorganize churches that were more like the original Church that Christ had established.But most of these reformers realized that they didn’t have authority from God—they didn’t claim themselves to be prophets called by God. Roger Williams, co-founder of Rhode Island and the Baptist church in America, recognized this lack of authority in his church and soon left saying,
“There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking. (Picturesque America, p. 502.)
So mankind needed to wait until God saw fit to call a new prophet. The wait lasted until 1820. In spring of that year God and Jesus Christ personally appeared to Joseph Smith to call him as a new prophet – a prophet to restore what had been lost, a prophet specifically given the priesthood authority necessary to once again establish Christ’s Church here on the earth.
And thus it is that Christ’s Church was restored (not reformed) and is now on the earth again with a prophet, with apostles, and with the priesthood authority necessary to perform baptisms. The Heavens are still open, God talks to His children in our day.