I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, when I was sixteen. I had been experiencing a huge emptiness inside and was church-hopping, looking to fill it. Although I enjoyed all the churches I visited, I had an undeniable spiritual experience the second I stepped into a Mormon meetinghouse, witnessing to me that this was the place.
Finding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I was attending a great high school, lived in a nice area, and wanted for nothing, except that my family was very unhappy—wretchedly so, actually. There was no religion in our house, so I didn’t know how to turn to God for help, until I found the Mormons.
Now that I’ve been a part of The Church of Jesus Christ for many years, and have raised a happy family of my own, I sometimes wonder why I couldn’t be born into Mormonism. Mormons believe we lived in a heavenly spirit realm with our Father in Heaven before we were born with mortal bodies. He knew what kind of family I would be born into, and knowing what I now know, I realize He may have placed me there on purpose. I watch children born to Mormon parents and see how they are nurtured spiritually. They grow up learning the gospel, yes, but they also grow up knowing they have infinite worth and eternal potential.
Sure, I did not grow up orphaned and malnourished in the wilds of Africa. I was born after World War II, the first of the Baby Boomers. We moved to L.A. when I was eight, and that was the center of the universe, with great schools, fine weather (OK, the smog devoured my lungs), the beach, the Beach Boys, Hollywood. They say that if you were a white child in America during the 50’s, you got the best start of any child through all of history and in any location. That’s what I got.
But I had a Jewish mother (although she hid her Jewishness, I should have known), and she had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I couldn’t do or say anything right. Anyone close to my mother felt battered. She was a dutiful, smart, talented person, but confiding in her was impossible. I used to envy kids with compassionate mothers. A Mormon mother would have been amazing. The Mormon girls I knew loved being with their moms; they told their moms everything.
Learning to Forgive and Being Healed
My husband and I moved our family abroad after about 15 years of marriage, and we enjoyed being far away from our families. I know that sounds strange. We were abroad for about 14 years and didn’t visit home often. The first time my mother met my two youngest girls, the youngest was seven, and her sister, nine. That was OK with me.
I did my best over time to forgive and to understand. A name for her disorder, and the descriptions that came with it, were helpful. When I was sixty, I was healed from the effects of her mothering through the power of the priesthood of The Church of Jesus Christ. Several spiritual experiences enabled my mother to reach me from the afterlife and convey her love.
Now that I’m OK, do I wish I had had a Mormon mom? Yes and no.
The Blessings From Not Having Mormon Parents
Had I had Mormon parents, I would have been in the Church from the beginning, learned the gospel and the children’s songs. (There are eight year old Mormon children with a remarkable grasp on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.) I would have known how to pray and enjoyed the comfort of the tender mercies of God. I would have been viewed as something even greater than what cumulative education could make of me. I could have made spiritual decisions as well as logical ones. I would have had an example I could rely on in my own mothering. Perhaps I might have been praised, too.
But I have a great heritage and amazing ancestors. My father was a rocket scientist, and I have his love for learning how the earth works, and the cosmos. I have my mother’s artistic eye and way with words. I have learned from my mother’s mistakes and value my marriage so highly, that I have been a “mother bear” towards protecting it. I also have a point of view of the gospel one can only get as a convert. I know what life without it is like. How grateful I am for it. These things are so valuable to me, that I now see the wisdom in placing me in the family I got. It was the only way for me to be what I am now.
Filed under: Gospel & Doctrine, News, News of the Church, The Church of Jesus Christ
The Mormons have released 2010 statistics for the Mormon church. A quick look at these statistics can be helpful in learning to understand what the Mormons are all about and how they are impacting the world around them.
Total church membership in 2010 was 14,131,467. A recent study showed this is one of the few churches still increasing in membership. Unlike many churches, a Mormon will be counted only once, making the count more accurate. When a person becomes a Mormon, a file is created for him that shows his important information—contact information, age, gender, and standing in the church. This record travels with him wherever he goes. In many churches, if a person changes congregations, he is counted as a new member and might easily be listed as a member of his church many times, rather than only once. This means the Mormon numbers each represent a distinct person. It includes anyone who does not formally remove himself from church membership, but each person is counted only once. Read more
Filed under: Basic Beliefs of Mormons, Basic LDS Beliefs, Bible, Blessings, Church Organization, Discipleship: Following in the Savior's Footsteps, Jesus Christ, The Prophet
In 1 Corinthians 12:10, we learn that one spiritual gift God gives to some people is the gift of prophecy. A spiritual gift is given to people in order to do God’s work and to bless others, and must not be used for personal gain. The gift comes through the Holy Ghost to those who are worthy and obedient to God’s commandments.
Although the Mormon church is headed by a prophet, the gift of prophecy referred to here is not referring to that prophet. The office of the prophet is held by the president of the Mormons. Only one person holds that office, but many people can have the gift of prophecy. Read more
Have you ever wondered what the inside of a Mormon church building looks like? You are invited to a virtual tour on an official Mormon website. Open it in another window so you can look around while reading my more detailed information here.
Each Mormon meetinghouse contains a large number of classrooms in various sizes. You’ve already seen the Relief Society and Primary. Today, we’ll visit a smaller classroom. On the map below the video, you’ll see a foyer. To the right of the foyer is an unlabeled silver dot inside a small room. Click the dot. This takes you to a classroom.
The classroom is very simple and undecorated, so it can be used by more than one class if needed. Teachers generally bring their own decorations each week, normally pictures or items related to the lesson, so nothing distracts from the topic. The room includes little more than a magnetized chalkboard, chairs suited to the ages of the students, a teacher’s chair, and a small table where the teacher can place her materials.
The teacher begins and ends class with a prayer. He or she teaches from a lesson manual prepared by the church, generally following a schedule. In most classes, you could show up in any church building and find the class exactly where your own class left off. This allows for continuity for travelers.
The teacher is always a volunteer. The Mormons have a lay church and there is enough work in their complex programs to keep everyone busy who wants a calling, as unpaid church jobs are known.
Read the lesson manuals taught by Mormons. The lesson manuals are available on the church website for anyone to read. This can be a good way to find out what Mormons teach members each week.
Let’s look at a sample lesson to see how a typical class might operate. We’ll use the following lesson:
This lesson was written for girls ages twelve to seventeen. They are usually taught in classes containing two age groups (12-13, 14-15, 16-17) and the lessons are adapted to the ages of the students. Each manual is taught twice, the second time at a more adult level, since the girls are now older. Two adult teachers, a member of the presidency and the class advisor, are present in each class. In the Young Women’s classes, all teachers and leaders are women. In the Young Men’s classes, all leaders and teachers are men. Sunday School is taught in mixed gender classes and the teacher may be either gender.
As you can see, the manual is designed so even an experienced teacher will be able to present an interesting and age-appropriate lesson. The teacher is encouraged to pray to determine the individual needs of her specific students as she prepares.
Each lesson offers an objective. This helps the teacher remain focused as she teaches. For this lesson, the objective is to help each young woman become a friend of Jesus Christ.
The lesson uses standard methods for quality teaching. To focus the girls’ attention on the topic, the teacher tells a story that helps them to understand knowing about Jesus is not the same as knowing Him. She then gives them a moment to contemplate where they stand in this story and then guides them through a discussion. A picture of Jesus knocking at a door is shown to end the discussion and return them to the topic. If you examine the picture carefully, you discover there is no doorknob. The message is that Jesus cannot enter your life unless you let Him in.
The girls are led through a variety of scriptures to help them learn more, which teaches them to turn to the Bible and other scriptures for gospel knowledge. They are also taught stories from the lives of church leaders and read the counsel of leaders to them, including this counsel, originally given to adult men:
“He wants us to come to him as we are. We do not have to be perfect to go to him. While Jesus was on the earth he associated with publicans and sinners and his disciples asked him why he associated with them, to which question Jesus gave a beautiful and simple answer: ‘They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick.’ (Mark 2:17.) The Lord does not ask us to heal ourselves of our imperfections before we approach him, but to come to him with those imperfections and he will assist us in overcoming them. The Lord loves us and wants us to overcome our sins and he will help us as we exercise our free agency. We must initiate the process of repentance and strive with all of our might to overcome our weaknesses” (Gospel Doctrine [A Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, 1970–71], p. 57).
The teacher then guides the girls through the process of reflecting on what they’ve learned so far to create a list of things they can do to draw closer to Jesus Christ. By developing this list themselves from the materials, they learn how to apply the lessons they learn to their personal lives, a skill which will help them throughout their lives.
The lesson concludes with testimonies from the teacher and classmates about the topic of the lesson, allowing the girls to learn from each other.
This lesson is typical of those taught at any age. Naturally, lessons for children include flannel board stories, puppets, and games, and adults might read more scriptures, but generally, students are taught basic principles of truth and then guided to apply them to their lives.
Teenagers probably receive more instruction than any other group. They have two Sunday classes. In addition, they have a weekday religion class taught during the school year. Most students attend this class, called Seminary, early in the morning. It involves an in-depth study of the scriptures for four years. Two of these years focus on the Bible. Once a week, they meet in the evening for a youth group meeting, which usually involves putting the gospel into action through service projects, learning practical skills, or educational but fun activities. The boys do Boy Scouts of America some weeks, while the girls have a similar program called Personal Progress.
In addition to all of these, they have an annual youth conference over two or three days and a summer camp. The teenage years are perilous, and Mormon youth are given a great deal of support to get through them.
In an earlier article, we learned the women spent the last class session in Relief Society. The men, during the same time, are attending their priesthood quorums, learning most of the same lessons, but focused on their roles as husband, fathers, and priesthood holders. Between the basic service and these gender-specific meetings is Sunday School, held in mixed gender classes for everyone ages twelve and older. Teenagers have their own classes. People who are visiting the church and are not members, or who are new members have a class of their own called Gospel Principles. This teaches them the essential aspects of the gospel at a beginner’s level, so they are prepared to understand the regular class after one year.
The adult Sunday School class is called Gospel Doctrine. A different book of scripture is studied each year in a four year rotation, on the same schedule as the teenagers and older children. Two years are devoted to a study of the Bible. One year is given to the Book of Mormon. The final year is spent on the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of modern revelation, and is combined with church history.
As you can see, Mormon churches are a busy place on Sunday. Of course, gospel study is not just for church meetings. Each member continues to study at home as well, because Mormonism is not a Sunday-only religion.
by Karen R. Trifiletti
(This is Part I of a reproduction of a fireside presentation to Mormon Youth on October 21, 2001.)
We lifted my eight-year old daughter, Talia and held her up over the retaining wall in the back yard where she glimpsed the world from a few feet higher than her usual vantage point, observing a creamsicle-colored full moon and the twinkling of many lights of a nearby development. In retelling her experience, she remarked, “Wow, Mom! I gasped! I didn’t know it could look like that. I just wanted to stay there for an hour—! I felt her spirit capture the joy of “things as they really are” from a loftier perspective.
Perspective gives us patience, purpose, and a place for our emotions—even transforming them. Let’s increase ours together–look up, step back a few feet. What might life events look like from God’s view?
Take a peek with me into the divine geometry of nature. All things, say Nephi and Alma, typify (that is, teach or denote) something about God. Now here is a stunning reality.
This image is called a fractal; it’s part of what is known as the Mandelbrot series—Mandelbrot is the name of the scientist who discovered it. It’s a design that has been generated on the computer through an equation. We won’t get into mathematical technicalities here, but for now, observe what happens as we magnify just the small rectangular portion marked on the image. Read more