Mormonism Defined - Why We Believe

If someone were to ask you to define your Mormon beliefs, would you find it difficult?  Where would you even begin?  I think this is a really good question to ponder.  After all, Jon Huntsman, who one would presume to have the ability to express himself articulately on just about any subject, seemed to stumble when he was basically asked this very question in a recent interview.   He responded by suggesting that Mormonism is difficult to explain.  Really?

For just a minute, lets put ourselves in his position and ask the same question.  How would we have responded?  I'm not here to necessarily be critical of Brother Huntsman, but more I'm using this scenario to help us clarify our own response.  Actually, he was asked if he was still a Mormon and he responded by saying "That's tough to define".

Again, really?

Perhaps we can help him out...

If you live the gospel in a way that others outside of our faith would notice, you've probably been asked the question -- What do Mormons believe about... ?  It could be Word of Wisdom related, modesty, Sabbath Day observance, etc...  When this happens, you immediately have a teaching opportunity.  We should always be prepared to confidently share our beliefs with others who sincerely want to understand what makes us different.

Perhaps the better question to ask ourselves is - WHY we believe?  Why we don't smoke and drink?  Why we don't wear immodest clothing? Why do we go to Church for three hours every Sunday?  Why do we go to the temple? Why do we wear funny underwear?  I could go on and on, but hopefully you get where I'm going...

As we begin to consider some of these questions, this should bring us closer to an understanding of how we can better share the gospel.  We don't want to begin our explanation (sharing our testimony) by inferring that how we act has to do with just being Mormon -- following a religious list of rules.   That's not enough and it teaches nothing.  "I don't _______ or I do ________ because I'm Mormon" is a convenient and polite response -- leaving the one who inquires flat broke.

Most people who know a Mormon can easily tell you what we do and don't do -- but few could explain the WHY.   LDS members need to be better at recognizing and taking opportunities to teach.  I realize that not every person who asks a Mormon a question about our religion is looking for a detailed explanation.  However, when we do sense a genuine interest in our beliefs, we should be prepared to share that which will allow the Spirit to confirm.

The Spirit confirms truth -- and here it is...   The reason that we, who call ourselves Mormon, have chosen to follow living prophets is because (and here's the why) we believe and accept that the original Church that Jesus Christ organized when He was upon the earth has been restored!   We boldly proclaim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the re-established original Christian Church!  And yes, this is bold.

It is upon this foundational understanding that Mormonism exists.  The Book of Mormon was given to us, through the prophet Joseph Smith Jr., as a testimony that this is the work of the Lord.  The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion -- as firmly witnessed by many living prophets!  We can talk about forever families, modesty, the Word of Wisdom, temples, etc...  and it's all wonderful, but if these conversations lack the foundation for why we do what we do -- then our power to convert others is diminished.

Our Mormon missionaries, when given the opportunity to teach, present as the foundation upon which they will continue to build, the lesson on The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This lesson is presented upon the greatest foundation of all -- that God loves His children and has continually striven to be heard, by those who would listen to His messengers.

We can learn by this pattern, how to most effectively share the message of Mormonism.  If we are not comfortable discussing the apostasy and the need for a complete restoration, then we could study the lesson in Preach My Gospel.  It's an excellent resource for all members who want to study the basic doctrines and teachings of the LDS Church.   You might also appreciate a more simplified version found in the Gospel Principles Manual.

I'm not suggesting that it is necessary for you to be prepared to teach the entire lesson on the apostasy and restoration.  I am suggesting that you become familiar enough to present an understanding of this basis for the Mormon religion, as a starting point for gospel discussions.  With this introduction it is much easier to lead people to the importance and significance of the Book of Mormon.

So the next time someone asks you why you don't drink or why you don't see R-rated movies, etc...  try to avoid blaming Mormonism.  Instead, you might consider asking them if they really want to know?   And chances are they will respond in the affirmative -- opening the door to a truly informative conversation where they will go away having learned something very important about the Mormon Church!


Mormonism is The Re-established Original Christian Church

Introduction to Mormon Beliefs


  1. I'm not sure it's really fair to act as if there's only one answer to this sort of question, and mock someone for struggling with his identity as a Mormon.

    The reason that we, who call ourselves Mormon, have chosen to follow living prophets is because (and here's the why) we believe and accept that the original Church that Jesus Christ organized when He was upon the earth has been restored!

    The thing is, this isn't the only reason people claim a Mormon identity. It may be foundational for some, but not for all. Certain aspects of the faith resonate differently with different people, and not everyone's faith really does center on the fact of the restoration.

    Growing up Catholic, it always hurt me deeply when I heard others say that I wasn't a Christian. I certainly thought I was a Christian, and I didn't think they had any right to tell me who or what I was, and I'm sure as a Mormon you've had your fair share of the "not really Christian" rhetoric. I think that it's the same here. You can only decide for yourself what being Mormon is for you; no one else has a right to tell you what being a Mormon is or isn't.

    I think Huntsman was probably side-stepping an attempt to focus on an issue he didn't think was relevant and which he may have seen as intending to mock something he holds dear. At the same time, I think what he said was a profound statement on Mormonism, that is, it's complex and diverse and challenging. It can't be reduced to a 5-second sound byte that's easily inserted into a 60-second news story. He was honest, and honesty happens to also be a core belief of the LDS church.

  2. @Macha -

    My apologies if I've offended you, in the way I presented this post.

    It was not my intention to infer by sharing the teaching of Mormonism that it proclaims to be the restoration of the original Christian Church as the "only reason people claim a Mormon identity".

    However, I do believe -- along with the missionary department, that this foundational understanding of Mormonism is a very good place to begin to understand the LDS faith and what makes us different.

    Some are critical of the LDS Church for seemingly wanting to be "like" other Christians -- meaning we share the same morals and values. When in fact, the reality is -- we are very different. (many are happy to point this out as you have noted)

    It is good to have so much in common with other Christians because of those things we do have in common -- most importantly our faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Redeemer. However, it is very significant that Mormons consider themselves members of a Church that claims to be a complete restoration of early Christianity. It is hard for me to feel the need to couch this proclamation with an "in general" or "some of us believe" or even "in my opinion".

    To be quite honest, I struggle when finding out some have difficulty in this foundational understanding of the faith. I'm not saying it's not possible to be a faithful member who does not accept every teaching and doctrine of the Church, but again, I confess a lack of understanding of how this is accomplished -- when Mormonism claims to follow living prophets, believe in modern revelation and accept the Book of Mormon to have been brought forth by the hand of God, through the prophet Joseph Smith.

    Specifically we are discussing the restoration of the Church. Upon the principle of accepting living prophets, who have declared this to be so, I find it difficult that this would be considered debatable when suggesting this a good place to begin a discussion of the beliefs of Mormonism. The need for a complete restoration of the original Christian Church was the entire premise of the mission of Joseph Smith jr. -- the founding prophet of the LDS Church. Personally, I would find it extremely difficult to discount this part of our Mormon "history" from the teachings of Mormonism -- as a foundational understanding. I also have no problem suggesting this as a beginning place to discuss Mormon beliefs.

    I agree that Mormonism can be described as "complex, diverse and challenging" as it should be. I cannot agree that this is a good answer for sincere inquiring minds.

  3. I think, Macha, that Kathryn's point was that we all need to be prepared to answer questions about our core beliefs. You are right, that very often that doesn't fit into a sound bite. I also don't think there is a single member of the church who hasn't wished that they would have said something differently on occasion. Sometimes we just plain get caught off guard.

    I also agree that testimonies are built differently in different people. My mother's testimony, for instance, (I believe) was not based on anything scriptural at all, but rather on the geological findings of Jack West in the mid 1960's. Had she had an opportunity, I'm sure her testimony would have grown into something much more meaningful.

    We are all on different levels with our testimony, which makes it difficult sometimes to give a "pat" answer. I think what Kathryn was trying to say, however, was that we all need to think about these things in advance so that when we are approached with a question, we can give the best possible answer. A missed teaching opportunity of today, may be a missed opportunity for a lifetime.

  4. @LaurieBee -

    Thank you. Yes, my intentions were exactly that. Preparation to share the gospel with others is so important. The better we understand why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe the more effective our teaching opportunities will be.

    As with the missionaries, they are given guidelines by which to teach the gospel and yet they are counseled to let the Spirit ultimately determine where their conversations should go and how they should teach individuals.


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