January 12, 2012

Mormons in America - Certain in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society

Glossary

The following reference list includes a brief description of terms, concepts and core beliefs of the Mormon faith that are included in the report and topline. Some of the descriptions have been adapted from the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://lds.org.

Term Definition
Book of Mormon Mormons regard the Book of Mormon as a volume of holy scripture comparable with the Bible. They believe it was engraved on metal plates by prophets living in the Americas from roughly 600 B.C. to A.D. 421. It is named for one of the last of these ancient prophets, Mormon. According to church teachings, the plates were buried in the ground until the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith in 1823 and “subsequently delivered the engraved plates to him.” Mormons believe Joseph Smith translated the writing on the plates into English through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Family Home Evening Church leaders encourage Mormons to set aside Monday night as “family home evening,” a time for families to study their faith and spend time together doing activities such as playing games, making arts and crafts, playing music or engaging in other activities to strengthen family relationships.
Food Storage Mormons have embraced a strong ethic of economic self-reliance since the Great Depression. To this end, church leaders counsel members to prepare to care for themselves and their families in times of need. This includes, to the extent possible, building up and storing at least a three-month supply of food.
Godhead Mormon doctrine teaches that God the Father and his son Jesus Christ are separate, physical beings with “tangible bodies of flesh and bones.” Together with the Holy Ghost, a “personage of spirit,” they make up the Godhead, the Latter-day Saints’ name for the Trinity. According to LDS teachings, God the Father, his son Jesus and the Holy Ghost are separate beings with distinct roles yet are one in mind and purpose.
Missionary Work The LDS Church teaches that missionary work is the responsibility of all followers of Jesus Christ. In addition to sharing the gospel with friends and family members, all able young men in the church are expected to serve a period of full-time missionary work, which Mormons refer to as a proselyting mission. Women and older married couples also are welcome to serve. Young men typically serve two-year missions from ages 19-21; women generally serve for 18 months beginning at age 21; and couples may serve missions of varying lengths after their children have left home.
Priesthood Mormon doctrine teaches that priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name and that it is necessary to govern the church and to perform ordinances, such as baptisms, blessings of healing and administration of Communion, which Mormons call the sacrament. All worthy male members of the church may begin their priesthood service when they reach age 12, and they may hold various offices in the priesthood, such as deacon, teacher, priest, elder or high priest, at different stages in their lives. Women are not ordained to the priesthood.
Prophets Mormons traditionally believe that, through the ages, God has called inspired men – such as Moses, Isaiah and Paul – to speak for the Lord and that God continues in modern times to call prophets to make his will known and to preside over the church. Mormons generally regard the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other members of the LDS Church’s top leadership body, known as the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as modern-day prophets.
Temples In addition to chapels where regular Sunday church services take place, Mormons also build temples as holy places of worship. Inside temples, church members perform sacred ordinances, such as celestial marriages in which families are sealed, or united, for all eternity.
Temple Recommend In order to enter a temple, members of the church must obtain a temple recommend. In interviews with local church leaders, members affirm their acceptance of basic church principles. Those who self-certify their worthiness in this way receive a credit-card sized “recommend” to show upon arrival at a temple. Temple recommends are renewed every other year.
Word of Wisdom The Word of Wisdom is a code of health that Mormons believe God revealed to Joseph Smith in 1833. It lists healthy foods as well as substances that are harmful to the human body, including tobacco and “hot drinks.” Today, it is interpreted to include a prohibition on alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee and illegal drugs.

Photo Credit: © Walter Bibikow/JAI/Corbis