When asked by a reporter from a Chicago Newspaper what the basic tenets of the Mormon faith were,
This is one of the key differences between Mormons and the rest of the Christian world. We are Christian, there is no doubt about that. But we believe God the Father (Heavenly Father) and Jesus Christ to have two distinct and separate perfected physical bodies. Why do we believe that? Well first, Joseph Smith, Jr. saw them in the spring of 1820.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Joseph Smith History 1:17, Pearl of Great Price)
But also, in the New Testament, it is written by the Apostles of old that they touched the scars in Jesus Christ’s hands, feet and side. It is written that He broke bread with them. (Luke 24:15-40) And so we believe Jesus Christ, and God the Father to have two distinct, separate, physical bodies.
Why do we believe them to be two separate beings, because, again, Joseph Smith saw them. But also, when the Savior was baptized, those around heard a voice, “This is my Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17) A Father speaking about His Son.
In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed to His Father, our Heavenly Father, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36) and again on the cross He beseeched God the Father, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) A suffering Son pleading with His Father.
Beyond the logic these two incidents clearly indicate, there is a knowing deep within my heart that this is true. God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Ghost, who is a spirit rather than a physical and perfected being, make up the Godhead. They are one in purpose, heart and mind . . . but not body.
Second: We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
What a beautiful doctrine this is. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden with two commandments. They sacrificed so that we were able to come to earth and live out our second estate. We earned it and Heavenly Father placed them in the position to further the plan of salvation which allowed this to occur.
Common to the Christian world is the false notion that we are born into this life in sin. This is not true. Every sweet child which comes into this world is born innocent, there is no sin attributed to that child. We believe we are responsible for our own sins and we do not abdicate that responsibility to Adam and Eve.
All men physically die because of Adam’s transgression. There is no escape from this consequence. Likewise, all men will be resurrected because of Christ. There is no exception to this remedy. Physical death, however, is not the only universal consequence of the Fall. As another consequence of Adam’s transgression, all men are born in a setting outside God’s physical presence. This separation is known in the scriptures as the first spiritual death. (Helaman 14:16-18; D&C 29:41). It is an estrangement from God caused by Adam.
There is also a second spiritual death. It is a separation from God caused by our individual sins. (The Infinite Atonement, Tad R. Callister, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book 2000 45)
Plain and simply, we’re responsible for our own actions.
Third: We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
Jesus Christ, as Jehovah, tells us in Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. It cannot be put more simply than that.
In Alma 34:8 we read, “And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it. (D&C 138:2,4; Romans 5:11)
And, to quote myself: “You cannot descend below where the Son of God descended on that night in Gethsemane. There is no sin, save sinning against the Holy Ghost, that Jesus Christ will not forgive. You may wallow in sin for a time, eschewing all you have been taught, and still Jesus Christ descended below even that so every man, woman and child, from the expulsion from the Garden of Eden forward, could, if they so chose, step on that path, once again, which leads us back to our heavenly home and the presence of our Father in Heaven and Savior, Jesus Christ. (At-one-ment: Mormon Understanding of the Atonement, Candace E. Salima, LDSBlogs.com 2007)
Fourth: We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Mormons believe that the path back to the Savior is through these basic principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I already wrote on these principles in Harold B. Lee: First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel. But to put it succinctly, there is no other way by which we may be saved: faith, repentance, baptism by immersion and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Harold B. Lee, a prophet of God, said, “To become pure and holy in life and character is the desire of all faithful Latter-day Saints. President Harold B. Lee taught that the way to purity and holiness is accepting the first four principles and ordinances of the gospel—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost—and then enduring to the end in keeping all the commandments of God.
“The laws of God given to mankind are embodied in the gospel plan, and the Church of Jesus Christ is made responsible for teaching these laws to the world. They are given by our Heavenly Father for only one purpose, that you who are governed by law might also be preserved by law and perfected and sanctified, or made holy by the same (see D&C 88:34). The greatest of all gifts of God to us is the gift of salvation in His kingdom. (“Chapter 4: The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 27)”
Fifth: We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
We do not believe that any Tom, Harry or Jane can decide to be prophet, bishop, teacher, or any other calling within the Gospel of Jesus Christ without being called to it by one in authority. (D&C 11:15)
Mormons do not have a “seminary” where men and women go to school and receive a certificate at the completion of their reli