What makes Mormonism unique? #ldsconf
This post has been edited from the original to include links to the #ldsconf General Conference Odyssey posts from last week and this week.
I’m just realizing that in my behind-ness on the General Conference Odyssey that I read the talks from the wrong session. I read the October 1972 Friday afternoon session talks rather than Saturday morning’s talks.
Ah, well. Count this as catching up for last week.
Here are the posts from my General Conference Odyssey friends from last week.
And you can find last week’s posts here:
- A Grand Fundamental Principle by Nathaniel Givens
- Making Ourselves Perfect by G.
- God Will Let You Know by Daniel Ortner
- Tough Love by Ralph Hancock
- I’ll Be There For You by Walker Wright
- A Friend to Hate by SilverRain
- Rise Above “Normal” by Jan Tolman
The thing that struck me in my reading is the messages that specifically share what is unique about Mormonism. In my personal spiritual journey the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize how expansive God’s love and reach is. I see God and His love at work in so many different people’s lives, regardless of religious background, current alignment (or lack thereof) with the Ten Commandments, etc. I have come to know a God who truly is “no respecter of persons,” and who truly loves His children and earnestly does all He can to bless and help them.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I also know that the Church is true, and that it has a mission and role that no other organization can fulfill.
It sometimes is difficult for me to assimilate these two realities — that God is, as Joseph Smith said, “more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive….”
In nearly the same breath, Joseph Smith also said “The Lord Almighty has…so firmly established the dispensation of the fullness of the priesthood in the last days, that all the powers of earth and hell can never prevail against it.”
I was trying to find a quote that basically suggested that when trying to understand Mormonism, it is important to know what the Church is and what it isn’t. In my experience, I’m coming to see that the Church isn’t the only way for people to find God or His love. It is not the only way for people to connect with God and find answers and divine inspiration. I am so deeply inspired by people who are inspired by God to serve others, to create art or music or other creative works, and to teach true principles. (e.g., I recently found distinct temple truths in a beautiful book by someone who knows nothing of temple ordinances, and my favorite quote from an apostle at General Conference was reiterating something I’d found in a Christian pastor’s book!) I was inspired to see Jews who have converted to Christianity teaching other Jews about Isaiah 53 (a chapter apparently removed from the scriptures in Jewish synagogues), helping them see that the chapter and other Old Testament scriptures were prophesying of the Messiah, who was and is Jesus Christ.
Even with all of this good that is out there, good that is impacting my life, often in very personal ways, especially when reading General Conference talks, I’m reminded of all the uniqueness of the restored Church of Jesus Christ.
This session of conference that I read this week (which was actually last week’s reading), outlined some of the things that are unique and important to our Church.
- The doctrine of eternal life, as described by Elder Brockbank. “Eternal life in the kingdom of God is far beyond his universal gift of immortality and is God’s greatest gift to all mankind; it can only be brought about through obedience to the doctrines and commandments taught by Jesus Christ….Contrary to what many think, just believing in God and being virtuous and pure are not sufficient to qualify a person for entrance into the kingdom of heaven….It is important to know that all of the requirements for entrance into the kingdom of God were personally given by Jesus Christ and are recorded in his holy scriptures. There will be many good people turned away from entrance into the kingdom of heaven because they failed to know and follow the Lord’s plan of life.”
- Doctrinal teaching about what happens after death. I was thinking about what it would be like to not know about what happens after death. “After mortal death the spirit goes to paradise and remains there until the appointed time for its resurrection into immortality and eternal life. Heaven, which is the kingdom of God, is where those who have been obedient to God’s plan of life and salvation go after judgment and the resurrection.”
- How do we know what happens after death? One way we know is because of the record of what the Savior did after He died. We also have modern-day revelation about this.
- We are unique in the claim that God and Jesus Christ appeared, in person, to a young man named Joseph Smith when he was only 14 years old. He was a farm boy, a person of no consequence in social or educational or professional circles. And yet he was called to be a prophet and to restore the true Church, translate ancient scripture, receive restored priesthood keys and authority from ancient Church leaders who walked and talked with Christ during His ministry. Elder Joseph Anderson said, “To Joseph Smith was given the commission and the authorization from heaven to restore to earth the doctrine, organization, and authority of Christ’s church to a people who had lost the fundamentals of true religion. Joseph Smith’s successors have built and are building upon the foundation that Joseph laid through revelation from God in proclaiming its truth to all the world and in preparing a people to meet the Savior when he shall come to reign upon the earth a thousand years in peace and righteousness.”
Also from Elder Anderson: “God the Father and his beloved Son have manifested themselves in this dispensation. Heavenly messengers have personally restored the priesthood of God, the power to act in his name. The Spirit of God is operating upon the minds of men and women everywhere. Light and knowledge are being poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth. Marvelous scientific developments are being used to make possible and speed up the preaching of the restored gospel to mankind.
“Temples are being built and ordinances performed therein in accordance with the plan of life and salvation which pertains to all mankind, both the living and the dead. Yes, a great and a marvelous work has come forth among the children of men, and God is pouring out his Spirit upon all flesh.”
- We have commandments. From Elder ElRay Christiansen, “Some may wonder why the Lord gives commandments and requires us to enter into covenants with him. Or, as one person asked: ‘If the Lord loves us, why does he give us commandments? If he loves us, why does he say “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not”?’
“A simple answer to these questions is, he commands us because he loves us. He knows perfectly well what will bring us peace and success in our individual lives and in the world and what will bring the opposite.
“Just as any father would direct (or even restrict) his children if it would be a blessing to the children, so our Father in heaven gives us commandments, laws, and covenants, not for the sole purpose of restricting us or burdening us, but rather that we may, through obedience to correct principles, find peace and success.”
- We have opportunities to make covenants through priesthood ordinances. No other Church on earth is authorized to perform ordinances with priesthood authority. These covenants are sacred, even critical to our eternal destiny. “Each one of us has made covenants with the Lord and has agreed before God in sacred places that we will observe his laws, which, after all, are the principles by which we must learn to live in order to qualify ourselves for the greatest of all the gifts of God, which he says is eternal life, our life in the ‘family kingdom.'”
(I always love the feeling particularly in temples where people speak with one voice in simple ways to affirm their desire to be in a covenant relationship with God.)
- Family history or genealogy work is not just a hobby for Latter-day Saints. It becomes part of our covenant responsibility, because we believe in helping those who have died to receive ordinances in temples, whereby they have the opportunity to accept or reject the covenants that are made by proxy on their behalf. I liked how Theodore Burton called it priesthood genealogy. “Priesthood genealogy is an exciting, living, vital program involving the whole family. Elijah came to turn the hearts of children to their parents and parents to their children, so priesthood genealogy and temple work is a family affair, a total family program involving children, youth, and parents. We ought to change our attitudes toward priesthood genealogy and realize that the real impact of this program converges on each individual member of the Church.”
- Temples are an essential part of the family history work, the culminating purpose of genealogy. The intent is to bring ordinances to individuals and sealing ordinances (eternal marriages) to a husband and wife, who can have their children then sealed to them. Priesthood keys and authority make this work possible, a work that binds what is done on earth to heaven. “The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the keys of the revelation, ordinances, oracles, powers, and endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth: and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto their fathers, even those who are in heaven.” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 251. Italics added.)….
“Elijah brought the keys to perform all the sacred ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God. All these most sacred ordinances necessary for man’s exaltation in the life to come, even eternal life, are accepted by God only when they are performed in his sacred house, a temple of God.
“For this reason, the children of Israel constructed an “ark of the covenant,” which was portable, so they might have the blessings of the kingdom of God.
“To receive the fullness of the blessings of exaltation, even eternal life, man must receive all the law and the ordinances of God’s kingdom.”
- And here we come full circle to the doctrine of eternal life. Mormonism concerns itself greatly with the greatest of all the gifts of God — that of eternal life.
- We also believe that prophets are called of God to help communicate these important doctrines and administer in these saving ordinances. Ezra Taft Benson issued an invitation with regard to these truths.
“Now this marvelous message—that God has spoken to prophets in our day and reestablished his church—is for all the world. When Nathanael questioned Philip, telling him that he had found Jesus, Philip responded by saying, “Come and see.” (John 1:46.)
“So do we respond, “Come and see.” Men can deceive you, but God will not. If you sincerely desire to know of the truthfulness of this message, then make it a matter of fervent prayer, study it out, test it out, and God will let you know.
“Would you like to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and if the Book of Mormon is scripture sent from God? Then put it to the test. Read the Book of Mormon, and near its close you will find a promise that is given to everyone who reads that volume; and this is the promise: that if you will ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, if this book is true, and if you will ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, then our Heavenly Father will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moro. 10:4.)”
There are other facets of Mormonism that make it unique, but the leaders who spoke in the 1972 October Conference on Friday afternoon spoke clearly of some of the most important pieces of our unique doctrine and practices. For those unfamiliar with our faith (or even those who are in our Church), these talks would be worth reading. It is uplifting to be reminded of the miraculous roots of our Church’s restoration, and the reality that Jesus Christ is at the head of the Church, under the direction of His and our Father in Heaven.
I know this Church is what it claims it is. It is not the vehicle for all the good that God has to offer His children, but it is the authorized vehicle for the ordinances, doctrines, authority, and covenants necessary to follow Christ in a complete way (with authorized ordinances and teachings) and to prepare for eternal life.
My friends who are actually on schedule for the General Conference Odyssey wrote about the Saturday morning session of the 1972 General Conference. You can read their posts in the links below.
– Home is Heaven’s Construction Site by Nathaniel Givens
– Family–Isn’t it about Time, and Eternity? by G
– Preach in Season and Out of Season by Daniel Ortner