What do Mormons Really Believe?

While not an actual question someone left in the question box, it is a top entry in Google’s autocomplete for “What do Mormons…”

Mormons really believe in God, our Eternal, Heavenly Father, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior and Redeemer, and in the Holy Ghost, who testifies of both the Father and the Son.

We really believe in the power of the Atonement of Christ in daily life.

We really believe that God still communicates His will to people on earth directly and prophets exist in the same way they did in biblical times to teach God’s will to the people generally.

Besides revelation and prophecy, we really believe in miracles and in the power of God on earth, and that the priesthood, the authority to act in God’s name, has been restored to the earth.

We really believe the true gospel that has been taught since the days of Adam.

We really believe the Bible and the Book of Mormon to be the word of God and that further words from God will be given to us as He deems necessary.

We really believe in being good people and serving our fellow man.

We really believe that by following the commandments, we can live fuller, better lives because they are given by a loving God who has our best interests first.

How do I become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an individual choice.  We become members by being taught fundamental doctrines and principles and then by being baptized.  Two missionaries share short lessons covering 1) How our church came about – called the Restoration; 2) Our purpose in life – called the Plan of Salvation; 3) Basic principles – Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and the Holy Ghost; and 4) Basic Commandments: The Ten Commandments, Law of Chastity, Word of Wisdom, and Tithes and Fast Offerings.  The missionaries will also give them a copy of the Book of Mormon to read and study along with the Bible on their own.  At some point during the missionaries’ lessons, they will ask everyone to take the time to pray about what they’ve learned and ask God whether it is truly from Him.

After a person receives an answer to their prayers that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s church, they are invited to be baptized.  They’ll meet with another missionary to have a ‘baptismal interview’, which just means the missionary will talk to them, make sure they’ve been taught everything in the lessons (listed above), and that they understand what they’ve been taught and are ready to be baptized.

Related Articles:

The Restoration
Fundamentals of the Gospel
How Do You Pray?
Missionaries Knock On Your Door: What to Expect
Repentance Before Baptism
What Do Mormons Believe? – Baptism
Mormons Missionaries
Health and the Word of Wisdom
“Except a man be born of water…”
Mormon.org – Restoration
What does baptism entail?

Question Box: Do Mormons believe in Jesus?


Sometimes people hear about “Mormons” but don’t realize that the actual name of the religion is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.  Jesus Christ is our Savior, Lord and Redeemer. We believe that He was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem as described in the New Testament. As the Son of God, He came to save all mankind through his suffering in Gethsemane, death on the cross and resurrection on the third day.

Related Articles and Links:

mormon.org – Jesus Christ
lds.org – Jesus Christ, Son of God
What Do Mormons Believe about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
Jesus the Christ
Do Mormons Believe in the Trinity?
Is Jesus the only son of God?
The Living Christ
Why I am a Mormon
Are Mormons Christians
The Bible: A Testimony of Jesus Christ
mormon.org – Christ

How can we enjoy fasting?

Q: How can we enjoy fasting?

Short answer: If fasting is fun for you, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Long answer:

Ok, but seriously.  Fasting is going without something that you want.  Usually food.  Often water also.  (In the Mormon tradition we generally fast from both, usually for 24ish hours).   If you don’t get hungry and thirsty, you’re not fasting.  And chances are you won’t find it enjoyable (enjoying starving yourself is what you might call evolutionarily disfavored).

But just because it’s not fun doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.  Look at how many people throughout the ages have fasted.  Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus: every major world religion has some sort of religious/cultural/ historical aspect that includes purposely starving yourself.  Ramadan.  Lent.  Yom Kippur.  People do it, like so many uncomfortable things (giving birth, watching Eat, Pray, Love) not because they find it enjoyable, but because they find it meaningful.  In the scriptures, fasting is even talked of as a source of joy.

So, how do you find meaning in fasting?  Usually it’s tied to having a purpose.  Gandhi fasted for peace.  Jesus fasted before he started his ministry.  Alma of the Book of Mormon fasted and prayed “many days” to know that God was real.  The discomfort of fasting serves as a link.  A reminder.  A personal communication between you and God and a powerful inner symbol of how much you want what you are fasting for. You should have the reason before you fast, not decide to fast and then be frantically casting about for a reason.

The exception to that last statement, for Mormons at least, is Fast Sunday.  Like the Jewish Yom Kippur or the Muslim Ramadan, Mormons have a special designated time to fast as a group, which is once a month, usually on the first Sabbath.  The day is called Fast Sunday, and during church services, instead of prepared sermons, anyone in the congregation is invited to come to the front and share why they believe.   My guess is that the root of the question “how can we enjoy fasting?” is “how can we find meaning in fasting when our fasting is on a regular schedule?”

Most Mormons I know have some sort of personal reason to fast even on Fast Sunday.  But that’s not required, and in my opinion, it’s not really the point of the day.  Fast Sunday was set up during the early days of the church as a way to take care of the poor.  Everyone went fasted for two meals, and then donated those two meals to the church, which distributed it to the needy.  In our days, though, most of us aren’t living from meal to meal.  We could probably just donate that money to the poor without needing to go without ourselves.  Yet we still fast.  The fast now becomes a symbolic sacrifice and a reminder of our duty to those who are needy

Another source of meaning, like the aforementioned Jewish and Muslim observances, is communal.  There is power and togetherness and beauty in fasting as a faith community, to be part of a whole even if you don’t have a personal reason.  Sometimes I don’t have a reason, but I still fast.  I fast because I’m Mormon and it’s Fast Sunday, and that’s what we’re all doing on Fast Sunday.

I want to open this one up to my fellow Mormons, because finding meaning is pretty personal: any other perspectives on fasting?

The Testimonies of Witnesses

If you take a close look at the Book of Mormon (and I hope you will), you will inevitably uncover a controversy:  its origin.

It was published in 1829 by Joseph Smith, but he did not claim authorship; his claims were a bit more extraordinary.  He said an angel led him to the buried book, written on metal sheets the color of gold.  The text was a form of hieroglyphics, and he was able to translate it into English over the course of a few months using “the gift and power of God” residing in a pair of special interpretive stones, the Urim and Thummim.  When the translation was finished, the angel came and collected the gold plates and then the manuscript was taken to the printer.

Joseph kept the gold plates hidden from the public at the Lord’s command; many find the story that the angel Moroni took them back to be suspiciously convenient.  Since the plates are not available today for examination, skeptics have contended that there were no plates to begin with.

Does his story hold water?

Some dismiss the question too easily before examining any evidence.  The story’s supernatural elements (an angel and a pair of interpreting stones) provide convenient rationale to attribute it to fiction.  Even those who believe in the power of God may feel more comfortable disregarding the story because it doesn’t jive with their current conception of God or simply because it is something of which they’ve never heard.  In essence they say, “Surely something so powerful and interesting, if true, would have been brought to my attention already.”

Joseph’s story is, admittedly, somewhat fantastical.  It stretches one’s worldview.  Fortunately, the Lord provided aid to the incredulous:  eyewitnesses.

Were there actual gold plates?

In the summer of 1829 in Manchester, New York, just after completing the translation, Joseph met with eight close associates and (with the Lord’s permission) showed them the gold plates.  They were permitted to see, feel, and hold the record and examine closely the inscriptions on each leaf.  They each signed the following testimonial, published with the Book of Mormon ever since (my emphasis):

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer
Jacob Whitmer
Peter Whitmer, Jun
John Whitmer
Hiram Page
Joseph Smith, Sen
Hyrum Smith
Samuel H. Smith

This was not some idle piece of writing for them.  It implicated them.  They were interviewed, accused, and mocked.  From that day on, they each stood firm in their eyewitness testimony of these plates.  Five of the eight remained in good standing with the Church, enduring mobs, extermination orders, and repeated forced expulsion from their homes.  Jacob Whitmer and Hiram Page stopped practicing, but still believed; and John Whitmer was excommunicated in a later Church incident, but not one of them (not even John who had ample reason and opportunity to expose the prophet) rescinded his testimony.  If there were no plates, the reason for their steadfastness becomes a mystery.

Others had experiences that confirm the existence of the plates.  For instance, Joseph’s wife Emma described the following concerning the period of translation:

The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.

These testimonies, among others, corroborate the young prophet’s story of the gold plates.  It is strong evidence that they existed.

Was there an actual angel?

A few days prior to the eight witnesses’ encounter with the plates, three of Joseph’s closest friends were given a more miraculous manifestation.  The gold plates were revealed at the hands of the angel Moroni and the voice of the Lord declared the record to be true.  Their testimony accompanies each copy of the Book of Mormon as well:

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery
David Whitmer
Martin Harris

As you can see, these witnesses had a different type of encounter with the gold plates.  They saw an angel and heard the voice of God.  They were commanded to “bear record of it,” or tell people about it.


Now, just the testimony of these three alone would be solid ground for a case in a court of law, but there is another even juicier part of this tale.  Several years later, all three of these men struggled with Joseph Smith’s leadership and were excommunicated from the Church.  For some time they were among Joseph’s strongest critics, yet every time they were interviewed (and there were hundreds of interviews, usually with very skeptical interrogators), they would each enthusiastically stand by their commitment to bear record of the plates and the angel who revealed them.

Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris eventually made amends with the Church leadership and returned to full fellowship.  David Whitmer remained separate from the Church, but committed to believing in the Book of Mormon and the angel Moroni.  Every one of them testified of the plates on their death beds.

Is Joseph’s story true?

That is a question you must decide for yourself.  Eight eyewitnesses claimed to have seen and hefted the plates and committed their testimony to writing.  Emma felt them through a cloth on the table.  Three eyewitnesses had them presented by an angel and lived up to the command to testify.  Even when they most wanted to see the prophet fail and could have recanted and exposed him, they didn’t.  Even at death’s door, with nothing left to gain, they stood by their words.  And these are just a few examples among many more.

These things may be enough to convince you or not; I don’t know.  I only hope to illustrate that there are good, rational reasons to believe Joseph Smith’s story.

The witnesses weren’t what made me believe it, but learning about them helped solidify my belief.  Really what convinced me was reading the book that came from these gold plates.  Near the end of the book, Moroni (the angel) writes, “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”  Read it yourself and take the chance to ask God in prayer if it is true.

The power of God is not a fairy tale.  When He brings forth scripture, He provides witnesses; when He calls a prophet, He gives reason to believe.  His actions make tangible marks on the world.  When you pray to Him, He will give distinct answers to your heart and mind.