by Kay Cahoon
The “Mormon Church” is actually officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The term “Mormon Church” is a nickname and its use is discouraged by the Church because it leads people to believe that the Church’s members worship Mormon rather than Jesus Christ.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the same church as laid out by Jesus Christ when He was on the earth, as found in the New Testament. Over the centuries since Jesus has walked on the earth, the fulness of the gospel was lost from the earth as a result of widespread apostasy. Apostasy means the abandonment of one’s religious and moral beliefs and commitments, or a turning away from the truth. This apostasy is evidenced in the history of the church after the death of the Apostles. Men came together disagreeing about certain doctrines, throwing some things out, modifying others, and keeping what they liked. This meant some precious truths were lost, along with the authority to lead God’s church.
Joseph Smith was 14 years old when he wanted to know which of the many churches surrounding him in upstate New York was true, and which he should join. In the spring of 1820, in Palmyra, New York, while in a grove of trees praying, Joseph had two personages—God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ—visit him. He was told to not join any of the churches because none contained the fulness of the gospel.
In 1823, the angel Moroni (a prophet from ancient America) visited Joseph Smith and led him to the Hill Cumorah where the ancient records of the Americas were buried. This record contained the dealings of Jesus Christ with some of the inhabitants of the ancient Americas and was a second testament (along with the Bible) that Jesus is the Christ.
There were three witnesses to seeing these golden plates: David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris. In 1829, the three men signed a declaration that they had seen the plates, and they testified of the plates’ divine origin, having been shown the plates by an angel of God, the same angel Moroni who had first appeared to Joseph Smith. There were also eight additional witnesses that signed a separate declaration saying they had seen the plates as well, on a separate date, and the plates were shown to them by Joseph Smith.
Heavenly Father gave Joseph Smith the ability to translate the record which was written on gold plates. This sacred record is today called the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The book is named after Mormon, a prophet from the ancient Americas, father of the angel Mormoni, and abridger of the original records. This is the origin of the misnomer “Mormon Church.” People over the years have confused the name; it is not the “Mormon Church,” but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as its foundation.
In 1829, the priesthood (or power and authority to act in God’s name) was restored to the earth through a visit from John the Baptist to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith. The same men were later visited by Peter, James, and John, who restored the higher (or Melchizedek) priesthood. In 1830, Joseph Smith organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the direction and authority of Heavenly Father.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the Bible as far as it has been translated correctly. Through many centuries, the Bible has been translated from one language to another. When this happens, often the meaning behind the words doesn’t translate correctly. Latter-day Saints also believe in the Book of Mormon as another testament of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is the history of some of the people of the ancient Americas as written originally by ancient prophets. Now the true gospel of Jesus Christ, with all of its priesthood authority—including a living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson—stands once again on the earth. Latter-day Saints have the blessing of having modern-day revelation to strengthen and to guide and direct us here on the earth today.
Latter-day Saints believe in baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. They believe in being law-abiding, honest, hardworking, and charitable people. Church humanitarian efforts are widely known and renowned worldwide. Often The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is amongst the first to respond to disasters with food, clean water, clothes, or whatever is needed, to people around the world, regardless of their religious affiliation.
Through the prophet Joseph Smith, Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ, restored the gospel in its fulness. Joseph Smith was beaten, tarred and feathered, falsely imprisoned, and ultimately martyred because he would not deny the truth. Thousands of members of the Church also saw their homes and businesses burned, family members murdered, and mobs chase them out towns and states, all because they would not renounce Joseph Smith as a prophet or deny the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. In spite of persecution, these Saints believed; they persevered, and their faith never wavered. Now all the ordinances necessary for eternal progression and salvation are available to those who choose to participate in them and receive them. The true church has been restored to the earth. The gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth again in its fulness and glory.
Kay Cahoon is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), a wife, a mother of six, a grandma of many, a traveler and a genealogist.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to by friends of other faiths as the “Mormon” Church) was organized on April 6, 1830, in New York, U.S.A., by a prophet named Joseph Smith. Joseph was a young man of 14 when he prayed to know which church of all the many denominations was true. He received a vision of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They told Joseph that none of the churches retained the fulness of the gospel which Christ established on the earth during His life. Over the next ten years, Joseph received more visions and instruction to prepare him to restore the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Joseph and other Mormons, as they soon became called (after a book of scripture which Joseph translated from ancient records, called the Book of Mormon), were heavily persecuted. Throughout Mormon history, they were driven from place to place, often violently. They were thrown out of Missouri by Governor Boggs’ famous Extermination Order. They were later kicked out of Kirtland, Ohio, as well. They finally chose a swamp in Illinois to settle in. After much work in draining the swamp, with many Saints suffering malaria and other diseases, Nauvoo, Illinois, emerged as a gem out the formerly inhospitable landscape. Here the Saints built what they thought would be a permanent home. However, tensions continued to rise, and on June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith, Jr., and his brother, Hyrum Smith, were martyred at Carthage Jail.
Joseph had been in and out of jail on false charges myriad times, but this time he knew he was going “as a lamb to the slaughter.” He faced his death bravely, and he and Hyrum were both greatly mourned. Brigham Young became the next prophet and president of the Mormon Church. The direction of Mormon history was still governed by Jesus Christ through his prophet, and Brigham Young, following revelations which Joseph had been given before his death, led the Saints out of Illinois and out of the United States, to what later became the Utah Territory. They fled civilization and a beautiful home to seek refuge in a bleak, barren wasteland of desert so that they could be free to practice their religion. Persecution continued to follow them, though, and in some ways, that persecution still exists today. However, the Saints were able to build the Salt Lake Temple, as well as two other temples in Utah. They lived up to the high standards of their religion and were blessed for it. The Mormon Church continued to grow, and missionaries continued to bring people to Utah from all over the world. Utah began to explode with growth, and Brigham Young sent people all over the Great Basin to colonize the area. Finally, the Church had grown so much in Utah, that Church leaders told new converts to stay in their home states and home countries and to help build up the Church where they were. In consequence, Mormonism is now a worldwide religion, with about 14 million members and more members outside of the United States than in.
The Mormon Church has developed amazing welfare and humanitarian aid programs, it continues to build temples all over the world, and its missionary program is unsurpassed. The success of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lies in its doctrine and foundation on principles which were given (and continue to be given) directly to modern-day prophets who have the authority of the priesthood directly from Jesus Christ.
For more information on Mormon history, visit historyofmormonism.com
A Word about Polygamy
The media has done a lot lately about polygamy and the Mormon Church. This is not surprising, since Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) has been arrested for bigamy. In addition, two popular TV shows, “Big Love” on HBO and “Sister Wives” on TLC, have brought the issue to the front.
The fact is, however, none of these things is associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FLDS broke off from the Mormon Church more than 100 years ago, when leaders of the Mormon Church were instructed, by God, to discontinue the practice of polygamy. After this declaration, the Church stated it would excommunicate any members who continued to perform new polygamous marriages. “Big Love” claims to be about Mormons, but no faithful Mormons today are involved in the practice of polygamy. Members of the TV show “Sister Wives” are part of a sect that is also not a part of the Mormon Church. It is interesting to note that those who do continue the practice of polygamy are small and reclusive. They separate themselves from mainstream society. Faithful, practicing Mormons, however, are everywhere and are a large part of society today.
The practice of polygamy in Mormon history began with the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. He was commanded by God to practice polygamy and to give the principle to the members of the Church. Joseph and other leaders struggled mightily with this principle. Not a single one of them wanted to live it. They were commanded by God, however, so those who were called (which was a very small percentage of faithful members of the Church—the commandment was never given generally to the members) agreed to live this law. Some members of the Church actually became disaffected and left the Church over the practice of polygamy.
Though Joseph Smith did have more than one wife, his were mostly spiritual. The understanding was that they would be sealed to him in heaven, but he only had children with his first wife, Emma Smith. Brigham Young and other Church leaders did have children by more than one wife, and this practice continued for several decades. Persecution was great, and the Saints were stripped of many of their rights. Some of them had to go into hiding. After several years of this, the Lord revealed to then-prophet Wilford Woodruff that if the Saints continued to practice, the government would invade their temples and they would no longer be able to worship how they chose. The order to stop practicing polygamy did not come from President Woodruff because of worldly pressure. God revealed to President Woodruff when the time came that He no longer required it of His people.
Some members defied this revelation and believed that President Woodruff had succumbed to worldly pressure. They left the Church and began to practice polygamy on their own. From the time they chose to not follow the prophet any more, they cut themselves off from the Church.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, fifteenth president of the Mormon Church, made the following statement at a General Conference of the Church in October of 1998:
“I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.
“If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, ‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law’ (Articles of Faith 1:12). One cannot obey the law and disobey the law at the same time.
“There is no such thing as a ‘Mormon Fundamentalist.’ It is a contradiction to use the two words together.”
For more information on Mormon polygamy, see mormon-polygamy.org.
As part of the Mormon Church’s welfare program, their humanitarian aid program is internationally recognized. Over the past 25 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as it is officially known), has helped in 201 major disaster relief efforts, including the following: Haitian earthquake, 2010; Chilean earthquake, 2010; Pakistani flood, 2010; Samoan tsunami, 2009; Filipino typhoon, 2009; Indonesian earthquake, 2009; Ethiopian famine, 2008; and the Peruvian earthquake, 2007–2009.
Since 1985, the Mormon Church has donated $1.3 billion in humanitarian assistance efforts. These efforts are for more than natural disasters. They also include programs which strengthen the self-reliance of individuals, families, and communities. These programs are made possible by hundreds of full-time volunteers with skills and experience in such diverse areas as education, agriculture, social work, business, and medicine. More than 178 countries and territories have benefited from the service of relief or improvement efforts. Food (63,377 tons), medical supplies (14,345 tons), and clothing (93,196 tons) have all been donated, as well as 11.1 million hygiene, newborn, and school kits. These are truly staggering numbers. In fact, the Mormon Church’s humanitarian aid program is so well organized that it is often one of the first groups allowed in to help in natural disasters.
Some of the other programs the Mormon humanitarian aid effort includes are: clean water, neonatal resuscitation training, vision care, wheelchairs, food production, and immunizations.
The clean water program helps communities with no access to clean water build wells or other water systems to ensure they all have clean drinking water.
The neonatal resuscitation program trains individuals in countries with limited medical resources to help newborns revive. Since 2002, more than 193,000 health care workers have been trained in these life-saving techniques.
The vision care program has helped more than 550,000 people worldwide get vision treatment since 2003. The Church has provided training, equipment, and supplies to assist local eye care professionals and programs.
The wheelchair program provides wheelchairs for rough terrain, hospital wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, and canes. Since 2002, more than 415,000 people have received one of these devices.
The food production program provides training and tools for home food production, food storage, nutrition training, and preparation techniques to help families become more self-reliant. Since 2002, nearly 40,000 people have been helped through this program.
Through the vaccination program, the Mormon Church has contributed financially to, and 59,000 of its members have volunteered in, 35 countries since 2003 for a combined effort with other worldwide programs of a 92 percent reduction in measles deaths in Africa and a 78 percent reduction of measles worldwide. An estimated 4.3 million lives have been saved.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to contribute on an international level to humanitarian aid efforts because Mormon doctrine teaches that each person is a child of God and has divine worth and potential.
Why is an education important?
There are a variety of reasons why Mormons believe so strongly in obtaining a good education. One of our most important callings as parents is to teach our children. Teaching children goes beyond helping them to speak, read, write, do math, etc., though all of those things are very important. The Mormon Church (officially The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) tells parents that they are chiefly responsible for the spiritual teaching of their children. Thus, gaining an education encompasses both temporal and spiritual learning.
People who are ignorant, who have never learned because they were never taught, can be easily led astray. This is most often because they lack the skills to assess complex situations. We need to be able to think for ourselves, because we will be held accountable for our actions and our choices. If we make sure that we gain an education, and do all we can to ensure that education is available to everyone around us, the world will continue to grow and people will be freed from their ignorance. Mormons believe strongly in educating everybody.
Latter-day Saints also believe there are more basic, practical reasons one should gain an education. While money is not everything, it is important to provide for our families the best we can and to make sure they have the basic necessities of life. While one does not have to have a college education to make money, and while it is also true that having a college education does not guarantee one a good living, it is generally true that a solid education and college degree will allow one to obtain and maintain a good job to support a family.
Mormon doctrine teaches that it is a father’s primary responsibility to provide for the needs of his family financially, temporally, emotionally, and spiritually. Mothers have unique skills which make them the ideal figure to stay home and raise children in a loving environment. However, circumstances may arise where both parents need to work or single mothers need to enter the work field. If these women have gained good educations, they will be more likely to find jobs which will require a minimum physical contribution, hopefully allowing them to spend as much time at home as possible.
Since mothers tend to spend the most time raising children, any education they have gained will likely enable them to be better teachers to their children in all areas. Mormon Church leaders encourage all individuals to continue learning, even after they have graduated from whatever school they attended. By keeping informed and continuing to expand one’s knowledge, men and women can increase self-respect and self-worth, while also increasing their ability to help those around them.
Mormon doctrine teaches that knowledge is one of the only things we can bring with us to the next life after we leave this earth. Whatever wisdom we gain here, we will have with us there (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18).
The Mormon Church considers education so important that it funds many schools and programs. The Church owns and operates three universities, including: Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah; BYU–Hawaii in Laie, Hawaii; and BYU–Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho. In addition, the Church has a two-year college, LDS Business College, in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Mormon Church also places a high priority on religious education and has seminary and institute programs all across the world, all free, for those who wish to attend. A four-year seminary program, focusing on the scriptures, is held for youth ages 14–18 (high school age), while institute programs continue on different subjects for any who wish to attend.
Perpetual Education Fund
In 2001, Mormon Church leaders founded the Perpetual Education Fund (modelled after the Perpetual Emigration Fund from the 1800s) to help those who cannot afford an education still get one. The intent of the program is to assist Church members and their families to rise out of poverty through education and hard work. The student can borrow necessary funds with the understanding that they will pay that money back when they can, to ensure the fund continues to help others.
Education is very important to Latter-day Saints. We should all continue striving to increase our own knowledge and understanding.
Music plays a large role in Mormon worship services. Most meetings, including all Sunday worship services, open with a hymn. All hymns contain elements of Mormon doctrine, and many are taught to children at a young age because music is so powerful in conveying feeling and meaning and is so easy to learn and remember. Music is considered so important that a modern revelation was given to Mormon prophet Joseph Smith regarding its role in worship just months after the Mormon Church was officially organized in 1830. Doctrine and Covenants Section 25 was directed to Emma Smith, the prophet’s wife, instructing her to compile a book of sacred hymns for Church use. Over many years, new hymns have been written and old traditional Christian hymns are still cherished in the current edition of the Latter-day Saint hymnal. Below are links to some of the hymns where you can listen to the music and the lyrics.
- Beautiful Savior
- I Know that My Redeemer Lives
- My Shepherd Will Supply my Need (Spanish)
- Be Still my Soul
- As Now We Take the Sacrament
- An Angel from On High
- Abide with Me, ‘Tis Eventide
- A Mighty Fortress is our God
- A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
- Come Follow Me
- Come, Come, Ye Saints
- Come Unto Jesus
- Christ the Lord is Risen Today
- Behold the Great Redeemer Die
- Battle Hymn of the Republic
- Father in Heaven, We Do Believe
- Families Can Be Together Forever
- Dearest Children, God is Near You
- God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand
- God Be With You Till We Meet Again
- I Am a Child of God
- Hark, The Herald Angels Sing
- Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King
- In Memory of the Crucified
- I Believe in Christ
- Love at Home
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, called America’s choir by former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, is the only connection many people have with Mormons and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This choir was officially formed in 1869 and has grown in talent and fame ever since. There are currently 360 members of the choir, all of them volunteers, who sing every Sunday in a radio and TV broadcast called Music and the Spoken Word. They have released more than 130 compilations since forming and are enjoyed by millions of people all over the world.
In addition to singing hymns in worship, Mormons are encouraged to be selective in the popular music they listen to, because music can be powerful in both positive and negative ways. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to be selective in their music by making sure lyrics and subject matter are clean and promote a good message.
There have been many successful Mormons in the music industry. Donny Osmond is one of the most well-known Mormon artists. Current pop artist David Archuleta is another who has recently risen to fame. Gladys Knight is another. There are many Mormons who rise to fame in the classical music industry as well, like the 5 Browns.
Music will continue to be a key part of worship service in the Mormon Church because it is so effective in bringing the Holy Spirit and in touching people’s hearts.
You may have come across a few Mormons in your life. Sometimes they seem to stick out because of their lifestyle choices. Mormons (also called Latter-day Saints) do not drink alcohol. Nor do they do drugs (including tobacco). They do not have sex before marriage. They are also modest in dress, speech, and actions. At least, these are all things that Mormon doctrine teaches, but individuals are, of course, free to make their own decisions.
The Mormon Church has very high standards, according to the world’s opinion. Most of the things which Mormons refrain from doing are now acceptable and even expected in the rest of the world’s societies. This can make it difficult to be strong at times and to hold oneself to a higher standard. You may wonder why anyone would choose to live such a seemingly restricted life. However, Mormons who understand the doctrines underlying these principles of lifestyle and behavior can see that it is not even a sacrifice to live a higher standard. It in fact gives them more freedom in their lives.
When a person refrains from taking harmful substances into the body, he or she will never run the risk of becoming addicted to those substances and will never be bound by those cravings. A person who chooses abstinence before marriage and fidelity inside of marriage never runs the risk of contracting STDs or birthing a child out of wedlock. A person who chooses to dress modestly is less likely to attract the wrong kind of attention from the wrong kind of people and can protect him- or herself more fully from falling into this kind of danger.
Many people notice something different about Mormons apart from their lifestyles. Often people comment that these people seem genuinely happy and at peace, often even despite large trials in their lives. When Latter-day Saints live the gospel of Jesus Christ fully, they do have happiness and peace. This joy enters the lives of all who chooses to follow the commandments of our Savior. This is because the whole point of the Plan of Salvation is joy and happiness. We, as God’s children, are meant to be happy. Everyone will have trials; that is part of life. The difference between those who are unhappy and those who are happy is their relationship with their Savior and their perspective on this life.
Though the lifestyle of Mormons tends to set them apart, it is also a joyful lifestyle. Mormon doctrine teaches that true joy, happiness, and fun all come when we treat ourselves and those around us with respect and kindness.
Mormon temples (temples belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are sacred places of worship. Once a Mormon temple has been dedicated (set apart for the practicing of ordinances), only worthy Latter-day Saints (members of the Mormon Church) are permitted to enter. However, before a temple is dedicated, a period of a few weeks is generally set aside for members of the community to walk through the temple on short tours.
Open house tours require reservations and free tickets, simply to manage the number of people going through at any given time. Even though temples are not yet dedicated at the time people are going through, they are still special buildings which command respect and reverence. Those going through should be nicely dressed. The Mormon standard of “Sunday dress” is generally understood to mean white shirt, tie, and slacks for men and modest dresses or skirts and blouses for women. If an individual does not have this clothing available, he or she should still be nicely groomed and wearing the best that he or she has available. They should treat the building and others with respect while going through and should speak in quiet, respectful voices.
During an open house tour, guests are able to see all major rooms where Mormon ordinances are performed. These include the baptistry, the sealing room(s), the endowment room(s), etc. This allows members of the public to see that there are no suspicious, cultish rites performed. They can see that the rooms are beautiful and are made of fine materials, because temples are houses of the Lord, and He deserves the best.
The Boston Temple open house was held from August 29–September 23, 2000. It was dedicated on October 1, 2000, by then-Mormon prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. The only time an already dedicated temple would have a second open house is if it went under major renovations. Then it would have a second open house, prior to its re-dedication.
For up-to-date LDS News regarding Mormon temple construction, open houses, and groundbreakings visit the newsroom.
Mormon doctrine teaches that the family can be, and should be, forever. This gives the Mormon family a unique perspective on relationships. While one would always hope that parents would be loving to each other and to their children, and that siblings would be loving towards each other, this is sadly not always the case.
The family seems to be under attack in society as being old-fashioned and outdated. The world is telling us that parents don’t need to be married and that if things don’t work out, then it is better and easier to just give up and start over again with someone else. Mormon doctrine teaches that a marriage should be eternal when performed in the temple. When a couple is married in a Mormon temple, they are married for “time and eternity,” not just “until death do you part.” Though many people seem to believe that they will be with their spouses after they die, no other church actually teaches this doctrine, other than the Mormon Church.
Temples are so important because it is only in them that a Mormon family can be sealed together for eternity. When a couple’s marriage begins in the temple, under the sealing power of the priesthood, all children born to them are sealed to them automatically through the covenants they have already made. If a couple gets sealed after they have children, or if they adopt children later, the children can still be sealed to them, but have to be present in the temple ceremony.
With an eternal perspective, parenting and Mormon family relationships become much more important than anything else in our lives. We should nurture and strengthen each other, make sure our spiritual needs are met as well as our physical and emotional needs.
Though there are certainly Mormon families who do have problems, who do struggle with such things as abuse, abandonment, and worse, these things are always due to individuals’ choices. Mormon doctrine is very clear on how serious the sins are which tear a family apart.
Mormons believe that men and women have unique, but complementary, attributes and characteristics which are both essential for raising a family in the best possible environment (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World“). This is why mothers are encouraged to stay home with their children when possible, rather than pursue a career. Children need this love and guidance as a foundation in their lives, and mothers can give a type of love and understanding that men are incapable of. The opposite is also true, however. Men have their own contributions which no mother can give. This is why the Mormon Church is opposed to same-sex marriage.
Families are units of eternity and should be treated and protected as such. We should cherish our families and do all we can to build them up and to strengthen them.
Mormon doctrine teaches that all members should pay a tithe to the Lord. A tithe is defined as 10 percent of one’s increase. This was an ancient law, which is referenced in the Old Testament when Abraham went to pay his tithing to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18–20). The law of tithing was restored when the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 119).
The law of tithing is a serious enough commandment that it is a requirement for one to be worthy to enter the temple of God. The funds from tithing do not go to the clergy of the Church. All Mormon clergy serve on a volunteer-type basis. All time and services are donated, and no funds are received in compensation. Tithing funds are used to help build and maintain church meetinghouses, temples, and other facilities. Tithing is also used in part for missionary support and for the educational and welfare programs of the Mormon Church.
There is no type of audit to make sure one is a full tithe payer. At the end of each year, one has the opportunity to meet with the bishop of the congregation. If you declare yourself a full tithe payer, the bishop simply notes that and that goes on Church records.
Fast offerings go hand-in-hand with tithes, yet they are separate. While funds from tithing go directly to Mormon Church headquarters, fast offerings stay within one’s congregation (unless there is no need for the money; then excess will also be sent to Church headquarters). The first Sunday of every month is set aside as a fast Sunday. All members whose health permits are invited to fast from food and drink for two consecutive meals. They are then invited to donate the funds they would have spent on those two meals to the ward (or congregation). All tithing and fast offering funds go through the bishop. He will then assess the need of ward members and allocate fast offering funds as necessary. If a ward is doing well enough they do not need these funds, the excess are sent to Church headquarters to be redistributed as necessary.
Observing both the law of tithing and the fast bring enormous blessings to Latter-day Saints. When one donates money to the fast offering, he or she does not know to whom that money will go. It is a pure form of charity and love. By paying an honest (or full) tithe, one is showing gratitude to God for all he or she has received and is willing to share those blessings with others.
Many people think it is very weird when they hear that Mormons have “special underwear,” which is far different than “normal people’s” underwear.
Members of the Mormon Church who have gone through the Mormon temple ceremony, or endowment, make a promise to God to wear particular undergarments. The Mormon garments (or Mormon underwear) are an outward expression of an inward commitment, a physical reminder of spiritual promises (or covenants) a person made when he or she went through the temple for the first time. In this way, Mormon undergarments, or just “garments,” are very similar to religious clothing priests wear. They are reminders to those who wear them of the covenants made in the temple of God.
“It [the garment] is given to remind wearers of the continuing need for repentance, the need to honor binding covenants made in the house of the Lord, and the need to cherish and share virtue in our daily living so that promised blessings may be claimed” (Carlos E. Asay, “The Temple Garment: “An Outward Expression of an Inward Commitment””, Ensign, Aug. 1997, 19).
Modesty is a principle of Mormon doctrine, and Mormon underwear (or the Mormon garment) helps wearers to keep this principle. Garments generally come down to the knee. They also cover the shoulders, chest, and back, for women — following the bra line. Clothing should always cover the midriff section, as well. There are obviously some occasions when wearing the garment would be impractical, like when swimming. The underlying principle to when one should and should not wear the garment is as follows:
The fundamental principle ought to be to wear the garment and not to find occasions to remove it. Thus, members should not remove either all or part of the garment to work in the yard or to lounge around the home in swimwear or immodest clothing. Nor should they remove it to participate in recreational activities that can reasonably be done with the garment worn properly beneath regular clothing. When the garment must be removed, such as for swimming, it should be restored as soon as possible.
The principles of modesty and keeping the body appropriately covered are implicit in the covenant and should govern the nature of all clothing worn. Endowed members of the Church wear the garment as a reminder of the sacred covenants they have made with the Lord and also as a protection against temptation and evil. How it is worn is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior (Carlos E. Asay).
Separate garments are made for men and women and are designed to be close fitting to the body. The clothing which is worn over them should not be so tight it shows the outlines of the garment, nor should it be sheer enough to see the garment through the fabric. However, the garments are designed so modest fashionable clothing can be worn over it with no problems. They are sold individually as tops and bottoms in different fabrics and styles to suit different preferences, but all are modest and follow the same basic design. There are also garments designed especially for military personnel, which are fashioned to look like regulation military underwear.
Those who truly understand what the garment represents will never treat it lightly. It is not only a reminder of covenants made, but also of the wonderful blessings which are promised if one is faithful to those covenants. Protection from the power of Satan is one of these promises. Mormon underwear can be likened to the armor of God which Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:11–17. It is the only physical reminder one can take from the temple and always have with him to remember the great spiritual truths learned in the temple.
The Mormon garment is a sacred part of the temple ceremony, and thus is not worn openly, nor should it be treated flippantly. Only endowed members of the Mormon Church are able to purchase garments. This is because they are sacred and should be treated with respect. One who has not been through the temple does not understand what the garment represents, and thus is unlikely to treat it with proper respect.
Those Mormons who have participated in the endowment ceremony know how special the garment is and wear it properly, with the right attitude.