I have been a lot of things in my life.
I've been called a saint,
and have been spit on for being American.
I've been slapped for being white,
and kissed for being a girl.
I've been seated beside an ambassador,
and stood in line for food stamps.
I've been admired as a physics major,
and ignored because I was "just a homemaker."
I've been too afraid to speak up,
and won prizes for my writing.
I've been a lot of things.
And for my whole life, I've been a Mormon.
I was sitting in a lounge recently, reading a book while CNN played on the TV nearby. I wasn't too surprised when they started discussing Mormons. We come up a lot in the news lately, thanks to Broadway and Mitt Romney.
I know a lot of people have questions about who Mormons are and what we believe. I thought I'd answer a few of the most frequent ones I'm asked, and open up comments for any questions you might have. I'll do my best to answer. =)
Here are the most common questions I get asked:
Are you a saint?
Umm... really? Do you see a halo?
Then I realize they are trying to ask if I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And yes. I am a member. And no, I don't have a halo. But thank you for asking.
Members of the church usually call themselves... well, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! =) Or LDS, or Mormon.
Are you Christian?
Yes. Absolutely. I believe Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the only way people can get back to heaven.
Do you believe the Bible?
A few years ago my son, Joshua, and I went to Rome for his birthday. He's a huge history buff and this was his dream trip. While there, we were privileged to be escorted by a Catholic nun-- Sister Esther, a former PhD student of my dad's who was getting a second (or maybe third?) PhD- this time in Church History at the Vatican. She was wonderful! In every church, at every monument, she could tell us, in detail, the story of the saints and battles and people involved in making history. She brought ancient Rome to life. Standing in front of the sculpture of Moses by Michelangelo, Sister Esther asked if we knew why Michelangelo had depicted Moses with horns. When we couldn't come up with any answer, she explained that the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible Michelangelo had read, contained a mistranslation in Exodus. "And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tablets of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord." This was corrected in a later translation, but Michelangelo was doing the best he could with what he had.
I told her our church has 13 Articles of Faith, and that one of them states in part that "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." She pointed to the marble Moses and said, "Here you can see-- carved in marble by Michelangelo-- why you need to beware of translation mistakes."
So yes. I believe the Bible as far as it is translated correctly.
What's up with the Book of Mormon?
It's a companion to the Bible. It's a record of a band of Christians who left Jerusalem about 600 BC, just before it was destroyed (Daniel's time), and settled in what is now America. They kept records about God's dealings with them, and the book reaffirms everything the Bible teaches. Jesus Christ visited them in America after he was resurrected (remember: "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold") and taught them the same things he taught his followers in Jerusalem. About 400 years after His visit, the people killed each other off in a war, but one man buried the records so God could bring them out when people were ready to receive them. You can get a free copy, or read or listen to it online, no strings attached, here.
The rest of that Article of Faith I quoted above states, "We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God."
So- who's Joseph Smith?
He's a modern-day prophet. We believe God still talks to the world today the same way He did in the Biblical times- through prophets. (And also personally, to individuals, through His Spirit) Joseph Smith lived in the 1800's and like many people, was confused about which church was true. After reading in James 1:5, he decided to do as James suggests and ask God. When he did, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to him personally. Joseph spent the rest of his life, until his martyrdom, doing the work God asked him to do. He founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, nick-named the Mormon church (after the Book of Mormon, which he translated) and like many prophets throughout history, was killed for living what he believed.
Do you practice polygamy?
No way!!! The church does not allow polygamy.
What do you eat, what don't you eat, and why?
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe in taking care of our bodies. (As do most people) A revelation to Joseph Smith gives a few specific points on how to best do this. In it, the Lord asks people to eat fruits and vegetables, especially when they are in season, to not eat too much meat, to eat whole grains, and to avoid tobacco, alcohol, coffee and tea. We are also advised to avoid anything that is addictive, which would include illegal drugs and pornography. Contrary to some popular beliefs, there is no church directive- nor has there ever been- not to drink cola drinks or caffeine. Some members chose to avoid them because they see them as falling under the "addictive" category, and some don't. We don't have any problem with pork. That would be our friends of Muslim and Jewish faiths. =)
Do you wear dresses all the time?
Nope. I usually wear jeans and a t-shirt or hoodie. I do wear a dress to church on Sunday, but I don't have to. You might be thinking of Amish people. We are asked to dress modestly, meaning no short shorts, halter tops or bikinis. But no one's going to throw you out if you chose to wear these things.
What do you do in the temples?
We have two different types of church buildings: chapels and temples.
We have Sunday worship services in the chapels, along with Sunday school and other meetings, including youth groups, scouts, and children's worship. Most members are in the chapel a couple of times a week. There are thousands of chapels around the world and anyone can attend services or visit a chapel anytime.
A few other interesting facts about the church:
There are more than 14 million members of the church, and less than half of them live in the United States.
Women lead church services and hold positions of authority in the church.
Members of the church are found in every level of society, and in the US are politically active in both Republican and Democrat positions.
Mormon missionaries are volunteers, pay their own way, and serve where ever they are called by their church leaders.
The church has sent humanitarian aide to 179 different countries since 1985, and assists people of all faiths. Funding is provided by donations from church members.
I hope I've been able to answer some questions you may have had. If there is anything you wonder, don't be shy! Please ask! You can also visit Mormon.org to find out more.