The basic definition of a Mormon is that it is a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course, that definition isn’t very helpful if you don’t actually know anything about the religion, so let’s take a look at what it really means to say you’re a Mormon.
Why are They Called Mormons?
You might be wondering how we got the name Mormon. Mormons believe in and love the Bible, but they also consider the Book of Mormon to be scripture. The Book of Mormon is a companion book to the Bible and it’s a second witness of Jesus Christ. If you read the Book of Mormon, you’ll quickly realize it is impossible to believe the Book of Mormon without believing in both the Bible and in Jesus.
The book is a record of a people who lived somewhere on the American continent in Biblical times. There were several groups whose records ended up being recorded in the book, but they were not the only people on the American continent. Population studies done by Mormon-owned Brigham Young University show they had to have intermarried with and converted outsiders who were already here—the ancestors of some of today’s Native Americans.
Mormon was a real person. He lived near the end of the time covered by the book, around 400 A.D. At just ten years of age, the prophet of his people told him that the records of their people were going to be hidden, because the prophet was getting old and there was no one to replace him yet. When Mormon was a young adult, he was to retrieve the records from their hiding place, record the rest of the history of the people, and keep the engraved metal plates safe for a future time. You can imagine how impressive Mormon must have been as a child for both the prophet and God to know he could be trusted to still be valiant in adulthood. His people were becoming increasingly wicked, but God knew Mormon wouldn’t fall away from his faith.
Mormon kept the faith in a wicked world and did what he was instructed to do. Sadly, he was killed before he finished the record, but his son Moroni took over. If you’ve ever seen a Mormon temple, you may have noticed an angel with a trumpet up at the very top. That’s a statue of Moroni, in his later role as a ministering angel. The book was named after Mormon, who did most of the editing and updating. Our enemies started calling us Mormons, a term Joseph Smith (the first modern prophet) didn’t like and wouldn’t use, but Mormons are good sports, and eventually we accepted it as a nickname for the people, but not for the religion.
So what are Mormons All About?
It would be impossible to explain Mormons in one article, but I’ll give you a list of ten things, some serious and some just for fun, that will get you started. As you explore LDSBlogs, which is written by a variety of diverse and ordinary Mormons, you’ll get a better view of what we’re all about.
1. Mormons are Christians. You may have heard we aren’t, but we are. There is no way to read the Book of Mormon or make it through a session of church without discovering that.
2. Mormons are not Catholics, Jews, or Protestants. Our religion is a restoration of the New Testament faith taught by Jesus Christ.
3. Mormons believe we (and everyone) can be saved through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and that we demonstrate our love for, and commitment to, God and Jesus Christ by living as they taught us to live.
4. Mormons are family-oriented. We believe families can last for eternity, because who wants to live forever without those we love most?
5. Mormons operate 4,689 free and open-to-the-public family history centers. They also have a huge—also free to the public—family history website. We believe the eternal family I mentioned earlier includes our ancestors. (See FamilySearch.org.)
6. Mormons believe God loves us too much to stay silent and distant as we come closer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. For that reason, He restored prophets to help us safely navigate a world that is very different from the ancient one.
7. Mormons love to give service. A study done by a Pennsylvania university showed Mormons perform more service than any other segment of the nation. They do this to model themselves after Christ.
8. Ronald Reagan called the Mormon Tabernacle Choir “America’s Choir.” True to Mormonism’s volunteer tradition, the singers are all volunteers.
9. There are 15,000,000 Mormons worldwide. There are more Mormons outside the United States than in it.
10. American Mormons eat a lot of Jell-O—or at least, Utahans do. I’m not sure why that is. It is not a commandment.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.