What Do Mormons Believe?
Answers to your frequently asked questions about the Latter-day Saints
BY: Terryl Givens
Mormons believe that Peter’s reference to “partaking of the divine nature” and Paul’s reference to “being joint heirs with Christ” reflect the intent that humans should strive to emulate God in every way. The goal is not to equal God and Jesus, or to achieve parity with them, but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love, and other divine attributes. The eventual culmination of this process, Mormons believe, will entail the blessing of an eternal posterity of their own. (back to top)
Do they believe in baptism for the dead?
Yes, Mormons believe that baptism is necessary for salvation and must be performed on earth. Mormons believe that members may be baptized on behalf of those who have passed on, with the understanding that if those individuals accept the gospel in the spirit world, the commandment to be baptized has been complied with. In the case they do not, the ordinance is null and void. The practice has, in their eyes, the added virtue that it makes the living mindful of their ancestors and these proxy baptisms become a form of service that the living perform for the deceased.
This has been a controversial practice in the Jewish community, where many objected to the posthumous baptism of Jews, especially Holocaust victims. In response to those objections, in 1995 the church agreed to stop posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims and Jews, unless they were direct ancestors of current church members or there was written permission from all living members of the deceased's family.
Mormons generally hold that Joseph was a prophet “like Moses or Isaiah or Jeremiah or other Old Testament prophets.” As the prophet of the Restoration, Mormons believe that Joseph did more than speak God’s word and reveal his will to others. Specifically, they believe Joseph Smith was the man God elected to be the vehicle for the restoration of priesthood authority and the truth of the gospel that was more fully present in the Church which Christ organized during his mortal ministry. Also unlike the Old Testament model, a prophet in the Mormon faith is an ordained office from which the person presides. Mormons, in other words, continue to look to a modern prophet (Gordon B. Hinckley) as the chief administrator and spiritual authority of the church organization, with Jesus Christ as the actual head. (back to top)
In the 1850s, Brigham Young initiated a policy of excluding Mormons of African ancestry from ordination to the priesthood. Consistent with common 19th century mythologies, Young apparently based his decision on the biblical curse of Cain and of Noah's son Ham. The policy was officially reversed in 1978, from which time the privilege of holding the priesthood has been open to all worthy males. (back to top)
Mormons believe in the Trinity, insofar as they believe in God the Father, in his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. They differ from most Christians, however, in not being “Trinitarian” as defined by the historic Christian creeds. They believe the three members of the “godhead” (which term they prefer to Trinity) are separate and distinct beings. They worship one God, in the sense that they worship the Father in the name of the Son, and consider the three members of the godhead are one in purpose, unity, and power.
Mormons do not believe in original sin, in the sense that the human race bears any responsibility or guilt for the actions of Adam and Eve. In fact, Mormons believe that their transgression made possible the coming of the human race into the world, with the consequent opportunities to grow through the full range of mortal experience. It was, in that sense, a “fortunate fall,” and Eve especially a heroine rather than villain in the human story. At the same time, Mormons recognize that it is not possible to live a life free of sin.
Mormons who have been to the temple, and made solemn covenants with God, wear special garments to remind them of their sacred obligations. By wearing them as undergarments rather than outer garments, Mormons emphasize the personal nature of those covenants, hoping others will be respectful of their reticence to discuss them. (back to top)
Mormons believe the U.S. constitution is an inspired document, and that all citizens should be actively engaged in the political process. The church endorses no party or candidate. Like other religious institutions, the church believes it has the right and responsibility to make statements occasionally about issues it considers to be of great moral significance, whether or not they have a political dimension to them. (back to top)