We Believe (take 2!)

I know I have been working on this post for a very long time but if you scroll down and see the length, you'll understand why. I asked for questions about Mormons here when Tanner went in to the MTC and I am excited to answer them! I love doing these posts, it gives me a chance to take a step back and examine what I believe from a different angle, to really scrutinize and see how I feel about things. I appreciate the questions I got and I have enjoyed pondering and researching the best ways to explain my answers, I don't however, want you to think our Church is confined to the three topics people happened to ask me about this time. So start with this video, it is a great overview of the beliefs and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints and the perfect little intro to my blog post.

Those are the main focuses of our church, Jesus Christ, families, helping others, and missionary work. I love being a part of it. The questions I got this week, though, were on polygamy, the Word of Wisdom (our "health code" if you will), and on the "afterlife". So let's dive a little deeper into those topics.


Ah the "P" word. Touchy, touchy. Something members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are notorious for, yet no one ever wants to talk about it. Well, is it true? Do Mormons practice polygamy? Nope, sure don't. Did our ancestors who shared our faith? Yep. And guess what, so did yours. Well, if you believe in the Bible that is. So I'm ready to talk about that testy little "P" word, but if you want the truth instead of the rumors, you'll have to follow my answer through another "P" word: Prophets.
You see, we believe that we (meaning all humans) are sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father (God). Just like you have a father here on earth who helped create your body, you also have a father in heaven (again, God) who created your spirit. We believe that God loves all of us (his spirit children) very much and that he wants to communicate with us and help us return to heaven to live with him again. That's why God gave us prophets. Have you ever heard of Adam, Noah, Moses, or Isaiah? These men were prophets. Children of God who lived on this earth, like you and I, but whom God called to be his mouthpiece to the human race, the person who would communicate to all His children His teachings and commandments so that they could be guided during this sometimes difficult and confusing life. That's where the Bible came from, it is the writings of the prophets of God. In our Church we are taught that not only did God call prophets in ancient times, but that he continues to call them today. We believe that God loves his children who live on the earth now just as much as he loved those who were here during Bible times. In an ever changing world, how could we know His will for us and how to return to Him if we didn't have a prophet who could help guide us and communicate to us God's will? We believe that Joseph Smith was one of these prophets. We believe that Thomas S. Monson is that prophet today. So now that you understand the concept of prophets lets get back to that plural marriage business.
When was the last time you checked out the Book of Genesis? You will find in that book that prophets of God did have multiple wives at one point in time. One of them was named Abraham, and another named Jacob (later referred to as Israel). These men were very righteous, God fearing, obedient servants of the Lord and worshipers of Jehovah (Christ).... who also had more than one wife? Yes. Was this acceptable before God at that time? Well... yes. And I'll let you read the Old Testament for yourself if you think I'm pulling your leg (start in Genesis 16). So, because it was okay for Abraham and Jacob to have multiple wives, does that mean its okay for men to practice plural marriage now? Absolutely not. In The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (get a free copy here) there is a verse of scripture that says:

"Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none...
For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. "
 Jacob 2:27, 30

Here we see that God forbids the practice of plural marriage unless he specifically instructs his people to participate in it for his own purposes, one of which stated here is to "raise up seed." One of those times where God commanded this to happen was during the lives of Abraham and Jacob in the Old Testament. We also believe that one of those times was during the lives of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Now, I realize that the culture during Old Testament times was different than it was during Joseph Smith's time and also different than is is today. Plural marriage was not a horrifying and shocking thing to the rest of the world when Abraham or Jacob participated in it. However, that does not mean God would have been okay with it just because it was "culturally acceptable". Hello? I can think of about 17 things right this very minute that are "culturally acceptable" today that God is not okay with. And I won't list them because then I'll get lots of hate mail, but I bet you can think of some too. It was acceptable for Abraham and Jacob to have plural wives not because everyone else was doing it, but because God commanded it to be so at that time for His own purposes, possibly to raise up seed. Possibly for other reasons, none of which I pretend to know or to understand.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord."
Isaiah 55:8

So, how did this practice come to be a part of the history of the LDS church? The following is an excerpt from the LDS Newsroom's official statement on polygamy. (Read the full thing here)

"In 1831, Church founder Joseph Smith made a prayerful inquiry about the ancient Old Testament practice of plural marriage. This resulted in the divine instruction to reinstitute the practice as a religious principle.
Latter-day Saint converts in the 19th century had been raised in traditional, monogamous homes and struggled with the idea of a man having more than one wife. It was as foreign to them as it would be to most families today in the western world, and even Brigham Young, who was later to have many wives and children, confessed to his initial dread of the principle of plural marriage."

As you can see here, this wasn't something the members of the church at the time, including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, were chomping at the bit to participate in, it was something specific saints did out of obedience to God. Remember the principle we talked about earlier, that we believe in prophets who communicate God's will to His children. Joseph Smith received divine instruction that polygamy was something the some of the early members of the Mormon church needed to participate in. It was not something the church was required to do as a whole, many members never practiced polygamy. Members who were asked to participate in it were encouraged to pray on their own and receive a confirmation from God to know if Joseph Smith was really a prophet, and if what he was teaching was the truth. When they received the answer that he was indeed a prophet of God teaching God's true will, they would have been obedient to those commandments. A later prophet, Wilford Woodruff, received a revelation from God that it was time for the practice of polygamy to end and it was abandoned immediately thereafter (in the year 1890).

So if you still think polygamy during the 1840's was barbaric, that's fine, but realize things that happen on a daily basis in our society today, like abortion or even "twerking," would seem just as barbaric to them. Here are some other things you may want to take into consideration: First of all the practice of polygamy was instituted as a "religious principle" and functioned nothing like you see on "Sister Wives". If a man took a second wife it wasn't because he was out dating/courting women other than his wife and "fell in love" with her and wanted to have another spouse. It had nothing to do with lust either, it was simply because the church came and asked him to take a specific woman as a second wife as a commandment from God. Secondly, these people lived out on the frontier in the early 1800s. Women did not have the same kind of rights and opportunities they have today, and there were also incredible risks and dangers that women, as well as men, faced daily that we can't even imagine. If a man took a second wife it was most often because her husband had died and she needed someone to help take care of her family, she couldn't just go out and get a job. She and her children also needed protection from anti-Mormon mobs, native American tribes during the pioneer trek across the western half of the United States, wild animals, so on and so forth. It was an incredibly different world than you and I know. Judging a church from the 1840's on the values and practices of the 21st century is frankly absurd. If you're interested in more information because you by some miracle made it through the entire book I just wrote and legitimately want more, go to FairLDS.org.

Word of Wisdom

You may have heard that Mormons don't drink alcohol, tea, or coffee and that is true. We have a "health code" if you will that we refer to as the Word of Wisdom. It is a revelation received by Joseph Smith which puts forth commandments from God to help us take care of our bodies. We believe that our bodies are temples ( 1 Corinthians 6:19) and gifts from God. Just like the temples where we go to worship, we want to keep our bodies clean, healthy, and as holy as possible. The Word of Wisdom helps us do that by instructing us on things that are not good for the body as well as advising us on things that are good. It is prefaced by saying it is given "in consequence of evils and designs of conspiring men in the last days" and includes the following:

1. Wine and strong drink is not good for the body {Hence we do not drink alcohol in any form or under any circumstances}
2. Tobacco is not good for the body {We do not smoke, use chew, or any other type of tobacco products or illegal drugs}
3. Hot drinks are not good for the body {These have been defined as coffee and tea which we also avoid completely}
4. Herbs and "fruits of the ground and of the vine in their seasons" are good for the body {Eat lots of fruits and vegetables}
5. Meat is good for the body but should be used sparingly
6. Grain (wheat, oats, etc) is good for the body and is the "staff of life"

By living in obedience with these instructions, we are promised health, wisdom, and the "ability to run and not be weary, and walk and not faint," among other blessings. You can read the full Word of Wisdom here, its pretty short, just a page. This was given in 1833, long before many of the health risks were known about things like tobacco use. Latter Day Saints have followed these instructions from that time forward and in my personal life as well as for the church as a whole it has dramatically reduced health risks that we could have suffered from had we not been instructed to live this way. For some things, it is obvious why we have been asked to avoid them, such as tobacco and drugs. The harmful effects of these substances are well known. Other things are less clear, such as coffee and tea. We know one of the reasons we have been asked to avoid them is because of the caffeine in them which is not only harmful for the body but also addicting. Addiction is also a reason we are instructed to avoid alcohol. Addiction is something we strive as a people to avoid completely. Something we consider very sacred and important is "agency" or the ability to choose. When you are addicted to something, as in you cannot function properly without it, you have lost your ability to choose. You are a slave to that substance, whether is is alcohol or energy drinks or chocolate, serious addiction is not good. Another reason we avoid things like drugs and alcohol is because they dull the senses. We want to be in control of our bodies and minds at all times so that we can feel the spirit of Christ. We do not want to be under the influence of a substance that would cause us make choices we otherwise wouldn't have. You may have heard other add-ons to this list like Mormons can't drink Coke or a whole laundry list of other crazy things, but those are not true. As you can see though we are instructed to eat healthily, to eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and meat but sparingly. I know there is always some kind of fad diet going on, but these are solid principles that will lead to a healthy life no matter what time period or geographic location you live in.

But wait a minute...

Jesus drank wine.

Yes you are right. Jesus drank wine. Jesus turned water into wine. He also gave wine to his disciples at the last supper as part of the Sacrament. So if Jesus drank wine, why shouldn't we? Well first of all these commandments were given in 1833, long after Christ lived on the earth. Jesus didn't have the Word of Wisdom. Jesus also lived the Law of Moses but we don't do that either do we? Timing changes things, like the appropriateness of observing the Law of Moses, of the appropriateness of drinking wine. And speaking of the law of Moses, it strictly prohibited drinking "strong drink,"clearly Christ was not disobeying that law. Wine was much different during Christ's time that what we have today, about 1/10th the strength in comparison. They didn't have clean safe water available at the turn of a faucet like we do. Wine was added to their water to make it safe, it was used to purify it. That was the "wine" they drank. They also didn't have to worry about the problems alcohol causes for us today, such as drunk driving. Okay so what about just on Sunday? Would it be so bad if we just drank a tablespoon of wine with with the sacrament each Sabbath? Probably not. Even if it is 10x the strength that Christ used, I doubt a tablespoon is going to turn anyone into an alcoholic. But the sacredness of the sacrament is in the symbolism of the liquid, that is represents Christ's blood which was shed for our sins, not in whether or not it contains alcohol. For these reasons we acknowledge that Christ drank wine, but continue to abstain as it is not appropriate for us at this time. It goes back to our testimony of living prophets, we have been instructed to avoid it and be believe and follow that counsel.

The Plan of Salvation
Have you ever wondered where you came from before you lived on this earth? Did your life begin at birth? At conception? We believe (as I mentioned before) that before we came to this earth we lived as spirits with our Heavenly Father (God) in heaven. God created a plan for us to come to earth so that we could learn right from wrong, so that we could prove to him that we would obey his law and live righteously while we were out of his presence. God knew that we would make mistakes, that we could not be perfect. Because God himself is perfect, no unclean thing can be in his presence. God wanted all of us to come back to him, this is why God created a Savior for us, his son Jesus Christ. Jesus volunteered to come down to this earth and live a perfect life, and then take upon himself all of our sins, weaknesses, pains, and mistakes. Christ paid for our imperfections with his own life by suffering and dying on the cross that through his grace we could be made clean again and be allowed to return to our Heavenly Father in heaven after our life on this earth is over. We believe that God loves all of his children and that he has a place for each of us in his kingdom, but it is up to us to accept the grace of Christ so we can be made pure. Some people say Mormons are trying to "work their way to heaven". This is completely false. We understand that we are 100% saved by the grace of Christ. That he is the way, the only way, back to our Father in heaven. We are not perfect, we don't pretend to be, and we need our Savior every minute of every day. But because we are so thankful to Christ for what he has done for us, and because we love Him so much for doing it, we strive to live as righteously as possible, to follow all of God's commandments and live as He lived.We are honoring his grace, not earning it. We believe that by serving others and observing all of God's laws we are showing Christ our appreciation for what He has done for us.

Well if you made it this far in the post you should probably leave a comment with your address so I can send you cookies. Thanks for reading! Hopefully you learned something about Mormons that you didn't know before. If you are still interested in learning more, click the button in the left sidebar of my blog and visit our website.


  1. Yes I read the whole thing. And yes I loved every minute of it. So...you make me cookies, and I will even come to you to eat them (save on postage, and I get to hang out with you at the same time. It a win win situation). :)

  2. Very well answered! (And fun to read too!) Loved it.

  3. I read it all too. But you don't have to send me cookies. ;) It was so good. Thank you! I loved the line, "We are honoring his grace, not earning it." You are awesome! Miss you!


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