THE MORMONS, or Latter Day Saints

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This is an extract of the article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: West Mountain - Part 2

In the travel series View America, West Mountain - Part 2 covers Idaho, Nevada and Utah. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.

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The Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a worldwide Christian religion with some eleven million members. It was founded in 1830 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the members are called Mormons. Since its creation, the membership has grown continuously, through a high birth rate and very active missionary work. Approximately 60,000 Mormons are continuously active in more than 330 missions all over the world. This entails an ever expanding number of conversions.

The Mormon conviction

The origin of the Mormon doctrine, not unlike Luther's Protestant doctrine, is based on the finding that the Christian doctrine has become corrupted. Therefore there was a need for a new and true Christian religion. A new revelation from God was necessary to retrieve the sacramental authority of the apostles, and to describe God's teachings in a pure form.

The Mormons support religious freedom, and state that every religion contains elements of the truth and performs good works. However, they see only their own doctrine as "the true one", since it has been specifically acknowledged by God. This explains their intense commitment to carry their message across, even to other Christians.

the Temple in Temple squareTheir doctrine is derived from four texts: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants (containing 135 revelations and truths, stemming mostly from Joseph Smith and written in 1835), and The Pearl of Great Price (a compilation of shorter work, written in 1842). These truths are interpreted and further developed by the church leaders, who receive additional revelations for this.

Some of the Mormon beliefs differ quite a bit from Christian convictions, such as a belief in the unborn soul, and a definition of the Trinity as three distinct entities, of which the Father and Christ are physical persons. Another conviction is that people eventually can become Divine themselves, if they fully comply with the divine commandments.

The Mormons have their own prophets, and their opponents reproach them to pay too little attention to Christ. But they state that Christ's followers always have been misunderstood and persecuted. Just like the Protestants, they state that even a profession of faith such as that of Nicea in 325 AD, is an impairment of the purity of the original Christian doctrine, even though it solved the contentious issues surrounding the Holy Trinity. The Mormons therefore do not take part in organizations such as the World Council of Churches.

The Mormon Church

The Mormon church is secular, hierarchical and authoritarian. The duties are perceived by members that relieve each other, and the bishop of each congregation serves for five years. Since there are some 200 tasks to fulfill per congregation, the active participation of the members is very high.

The hierarchy is also highly organized in ranks, over which the Council of Twelve Apostles presides. At the top is the president, usually called the Prophet. The oldest Apostle becomes the new president, after the death of the previous. The Mormon rites are quite uncomplicated, and mainly consist of hymns and prayers, the sacrament of the Supper, and sermons. Affiliated organizations provide additional activities for women and children.

Religious services are performed in their 95 Temples, including the rather exceptional fact that worthy believers may act as a substitute for deceased ancestors. Weddings are considered to be perpetual.

Besides their strong missionary policy, Mormons are also known for their worldwide humanitarian actions and their "Word of Wisdom", a health doctrine which bans tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco.

** Read more about the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah **