A Mormon is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Although members say they prefer that the entire name be used to refer to them, or the shortened “Latter Day Saint,” the nickname is also acceptable. For many non-members, Mormons are a mysterious group of people, and misconceptions regarding their beliefs abound. It is a relatively new church, although members believe that the church is, in actuality, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. In the year 1820, a young Joseph Smith began the restoration of the gospel, which today has over 12 million members worldwide.
The basic beliefs of the religion are quite similar to many Christian denominations. They believe that God is humanity’s Heavenly Father and that He is the creator. His son, Jesus Christ, is their Savior and atoned for the sins of mankind. Through repentance and adherence to God’s commandments, people can return to live with God for eternity. Mormons also believe in the Holy Ghost, which guides them and gives them knowledge of the truth of the gospel. Although they believe in the Godhead, they do not believe in the Holy Trinity version that claims that all three are one unified being.
Mormons believe in a living prophet, not unlike the prophets of the Old and New Testament. Its headquarters are located in Salt Lake City, Utah, a state where approximately 14% of its membership resides. According to their beliefs, members receive timely instructions from God through the prophet as to how they should live their lives and how the business of the church should be conducted.
Some people associate the Mormon lifestyle with strong family values, clean living and extensive church attendance and involvement. This is due to the fact that one of the foundational commandments of the religion is to strengthen the family emotionally and spiritually so that, as a unit, the family can live together forever with the Heavenly Father. The Word of Wisdom, which believers say came from God through Joseph Smith, outlines a strict anti-tobacco, anti-drug, and anti-alcohol code. Basically, members are anti-addiction, which makes drinks such as coffee and tea forbidden. Instead, the church stresses moderation.
Many members report spending a lot of time involved in church activities and services. The Sunday service is three hours long, and members are expected to serve in a “calling.” All its clergymen are unpaid, as is nearly every role in the church, including Sunday school teachers and missionaries, except for a few full-time positions at the church’s headquarters. A full 10% tithing is required of members, which supports the expenses of the church. Tithing is used to support the church’s infrastructure as well as missionary work and humanitarian services worldwide.
Missionaries are probably the most visible and well known members of the church, and approximately 60,000 serve worldwide. Young men in particular, but more and more young women of the church, are expected to serve 18 to 24 month missions to proselytize and perform service. Above all, a Mormon is expected to endure daily trials, repent of sins, achieve his or her full spiritual and earthly potential, build a strong family, join in fellowship with both members and non-members, and attempt to determine their life's purpose.