While Jesus was walking with His twelve apostles on the coasts of Caesarea, Philippi, the Lord asked them, “Whom say ye that I am?” Without any trace of doubt or hesitation, Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15–16). His confession was genuine. That inspired declaration of faith and conviction by Christ’s chief apostle has, for hundreds of years, defined the faith of millions of Christians around the world. After the Lord’s ascension, Peter testified to the people that Jesus “was foreordained from the foundation of the world.”
“Whom say ye that I am?” That same question has generated various responses from different organizations who profess faith in the Savior. A person’s response to this soul-searching question does not only reveal how much he knows about Jesus Christ, but more importantly, it also manifests his personal testimony of the divinity of Savior and His role in the salvation of mankind.
Today, religious organizations hold different views regarding the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ. Like some people in Peter’s day, many today see Jesus merely as one of the prophets, an influential leader or philosopher. He was a carpenter, the son of Joseph and Mary, so they say. He was a great teacher. Yet, because of His teachings, many considered him the greatest offender, as both Peter and Paul later testified referring to the prophesy of the prophet Isaiah, how the Christ—“the stone which the builders disallowed”—was “made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient” (See 1 Peter 2:7–8; Romans 9:33; Isaiah 8:14–15).
John’s own testimony of the Lord shows the impact on one’s salvation of having a correct understanding of the Lord’s character: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declares in unison with Peter and other apostles of old that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He was with God from the beginning. He was the Supreme Creator, and all things were created by Him under the direction of the Father. In the great council of the Gods, he presented the Plan of Salvation whereby all of the Father’s children would have the opportunity to come to the earth, be tested, and return to their heavenly home in God’s presence.
As the only begotten of the Father, Jesus Christ was chosen from the beginning to atone for the sins of all people. He possessed all the attributes which were necessary for Him to accomplish this mission. He was a God from the beginning, yet His personal development was gradual. The scriptures testify that He grew from grace to grace until He received the fulness of His Father.
Jesus Christ was the God of Israel, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Great I AM. He appeared to Abraham, Moses, and other ancient prophets before His mortal birth. When the Lord commanded Moses to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, He told him what he should say to the people: “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14). During his ministry among the Jews, He declared to the arrogant Pharisees: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).
When Paul delivered his discourse among the Jews, he declared that Jesus Christ was the God who accompanied them on their journey out of Egypt. Paul reminded them of how their fathers “did all eat the same spiritual meat and drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ“(1 Corinthians 10:1–4).
Latter-day Saints maintain that Jesus Christ offered His life to atone for the sins of mankind. Nobody could take His life against His will. The Lord said, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17–18). He laid down His life out of love for His Father and for all mankind. But having power over death, He rose triumphantly the third day and ministered to the saints of the early Church. After His ascension, He appeared to His people in the Americas and ministered to them for three days as a resurrected, glorified being.
In this glorified and resurrected state, He, together with God the Father, appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820, in answer to the young boy’s prayer to know which church to join. Several years later, the Savior appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery inside the Kirtland Temple to accept the holy edifice. To this day, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declares that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and that He continues to communicate His will to God’s children through a living prophet.
What is often called the “Mormon Religion” is actually the organization and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members are sometimes called “Mormons” because of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, a companion scripture to the Bible.
The LDS Church is not a protestant church. The protestant churches began to be founded during the Reformation in Europe in an attempt to reform the abuses of orthodoxy. When the Reformation began, only the orthodox clergy was in possession of the Holy Bible, and people were dependent upon the church for interpretation of the Bible. With the invention of the printing press and the valiant dedication of religious reformists, the Bible was translated into European languages, printed, and distributed to the common man. Reformers encouraged people to make their own spiritual connection with God through pondering the holy scriptures.
The protestant churches refuted many tenets of orthodoxy, including any reliance on the saving value of works. But protestants did, in general, keep the doctrine of the trinity — three beings of one substance, and that Christ was God incarnate, with God being a spirit — gradually devised by succeeding orthodox councils, beginning a few hundred years after the crucifixion.
That there are now so many Christian sects, most of which are reformist of old orthodoxy, shows that relying on the Bible alone is not enough to determine the fullness of truth. As it was in the ancient church, the apostles received revelation from Christ through the Holy Ghost in order to lead His Church. They received their power and authority directly from Christ in order to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and to perform miracles. These things ceased upon the death of the apostles.
“Mormons” believe that reformation was not enough, once orthodoxy fell into apostasy. A complete restoration was necessary, and that this occurred in the 1830’s, was not by accident. The Lord was ushering in the “last dispensation of time” before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, a time for the “restitution of things,” when the fullness of the gospel would be restored and taken to every nation, tongue, and kindred.
Some might question how the Lord could leave the earth in darkness for many hundreds of years, but this is a short time to the Lord, and during the Dark Ages, He was moving the pieces to lead toward the restoration of His ancient church. Men had to progress in freedom of thought, charity toward their fellow men, and freedom in government in order for a restoration to succeed. Remember that the early reformers in Europe were often burned at the stake.
Joseph Smith was just a boy of fourteen when he went into the woods to pray. His family lived in upstate New York in 1820, when many Christian sects were vying for converts. All of these sects claimed the truth, and based their doctrines on the Bible, yet they disagreed. Joseph determined to ask God which church he should join. But in the woods, when he had asked his question, two personages, glorious beyond description, appeared to Him. One introduced the other as His Only Begotten Son. Jesus told Joseph not to join any of the churches. He criticized the creeds that all Christian churches relied upon at the time. He said He was about to restore the fullness of His gospel, with all its power and authority, and that Joseph would participate in this restoration.
Persecution against Joseph Smith began the second he told his pastor about his vision. His pastor reviled him, told him the heavens were closed, and that the vision must be from the devil, not God, since Joseph had seen both God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ as two separate beings with perfected, glorious, physical bodies.
The Lord restored His church by sending those who previously held keys and authority while they were on the earth. John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood, and the higher (Melchizedek) priesthood was restored by Peter, James, and John. Elijah restored the sealing power, and Moses the keys for the regathering of Israel. Thus, the power and authority lost through general apostasy have been restored in preparation for the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. All the charismatic gifts found in the ancient church are found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On one occasion the Prophet Joseph Smith was asked the question, “What are the fundamental principles of your religion?” The Prophet’s answer to the question was:
“…the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and the Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it …” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121).
The LDS Church was organized on April 6, 1830, with only 6 members. Now there are over 14 million members worldwide. The “Mormon Church” has a vast missionary program with over 53,000 full-time missionaries serving at any given time, all over the world. Latter-day Saints also benefit from a very advanced welfare system, and victims of disaster in far-flung places benefit from the generosity of the Church’s humanitarian aid.
First prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith, drew up thirteen Articles of Faith which describe the basic tenets of the religion, but the first principles of the gospel are 1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; 2) Repentance; 3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and 4) Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
Mormon weddings, if performed outside a Mormon temple, do not actually differ from regular weddings at all. A civil wedding ends at death; that’s really all there is to that. No matter what words are said, that is when a marriage ends if it does not take place in a Mormon temple. This is because those who perform sealings in Mormon Temples have the authority to bind a couple together for time and all eternity. Those who perform civil marriages only have the authority to marry a couple for their time on this earth.
When a couple chooses to be married in a Mormon Temple, however, it is a marriage which will last beyond this life. It requires sacrifice on the part of the couple, because in order to be worthy to enter a Mormon Temple, one has to be living very high moral standards. Complete abstinence before marriage is a requirement. In addition, many who choose to be married in a Mormon Temple have friends and family members who are unable to attend the wedding. This can be a huge sacrifice for some people. However, those who truly understand the significance of the sealing covenant know that it is worth any sacrifice.
Mormon Temple weddings are quite simple and quite short. The bride does not walk down the aisle, and she is not given away by her husband. The officiator tells them the simple words and conditions of the covenant which they are entering into, along with the blessings that are promised to them if they keep their part of the covenant.
Mormon weddings take place in the sealing room of the Mormon Temple. Here the couple getting married kneel across an altar from one another. There are always two large mirrors hanging parallel to one another in the sealing room. These cast infinite reflections, symbolizing to the couple the nature of the covenant they are making. Mormon weddings or sealings are taken very seriously, and, though it is possible to dissolve these, it can be difficult to obtain permission to get sealed to someone else after a previous sealing has been broken. While there are conditions and situations which do require divorce, Mormon doctrine teaches that all means should be tried to work out a marriage before divorce is resorted to.
Exchanging rings is not officially part of the Mormon wedding temple ceremony, if a bride and groom live in a culture where rings are typically exchanged, they are encouraged to do so immediately following the ceremony.
Mormon weddings in the temple are wonderfully happy and joyous occasions, when a couple starts a relationship which will last for eternity.