THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST
PART 10: The Church of Jesus Christ Today
◼︎ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also referred to as the LDS Church or the Mormon Church) was organized in 1830 by the Prophet Joseph Smith with six members. The membership today is over 15 million, with more than 29,000 congregations in 170 countries. With more than six million U.S. members, it ranks as the fourth largest Christian church in the nation.
◼︎ On average, 23,000 new converts join the Church each month. This is done in the same way as it was in New Testament times as described by the apostle Paul in the second chapter of Acts. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
◼︎ The worldwide growth rate is about 3% per annum. This growth requires the construction of some 400 new houses of worship each year, more than one each day. Currently, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 12,000 houses of worship around the world, with about 1,400 others under construction or renovation at any given time. All are free and clear of debt before being put into use.
◼︎ Additionally, there are 144 Latter-day Saint Temples in operation with 30 more under construction or on the drawing board. These buildings are separate and distinct from LDS chapels in the purposes they serve and are located in or near the major metropolitan areas of the world.
◼︎ Since first published in 1830, The Book of Mormon has been translated, in whole or part, into 110 languages. Total copies of the Book of Mormon distributed to date is over 150 million.
◼︎ The full-time missionary ranks of the Church include some 85,000 young men and women who voluntarily devote 18 months or two years of their life to proclaiming the restored gospel to the world. They receive no compensation of any kind and pay for all their own expenses.
◼︎ The Church maintains 406 proselytizing missions throughout the world with missionaries teaching the gospel in 175 different languages. There is an average of about 200 missionaries serving in each of the missions.
◼︎ Over 29,000 husbands and fathers with full-time jobs spend as many as 25 additional hours a week as bishops or branch presidents, attending to the needs of their congregations without pay.
◼︎ Latter-day Saints contribute 10 percent of their annual income as tithing, then contribute time and energy each week as volunteer teachers, youth leaders, clerks and administrators, or in dozens of other assignments.
◼︎ Members of the Church know they live in a day when Jesus Christ has literally restored His Church. This is a thrilling thing to them and they feel an urgency about the work of the Church throughout the world. Members believe that God guides and directs Church members through modern-day prophets and apostles.
◼︎ Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who marry in one of the Church's temples are the least likely of all couples get a divorce.
◼︎ Marriages solemnized in one of the sacred temples are considered “sealed” permanently – that is, blessed to last for eternity. All children born under this covenant are also sealed to the mother and father forever.
◼︎ “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” declares the divine nature of the family unit and provides direction on how to nurture good family relationships.
◼︎ Family members get together in their home once a week, usually on Monday night, to participate in “family home evening” which may consist of prayer, singing, lessons, events, activities and family council meetings.
◼︎ The Church's health code is called “the word of wisdom.” Studies have found that Church members who obeyed the health code enjoyed a life expectancy eight to 11 years longer than the general population and showed the lowest death rates from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
◼︎ Latter-day Saints view current Church President Russell M. Nelson, as well as other latter-day prophets, in the same way they revere prophets of the Holy Bible.
◼︎ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that direct revelation from God also extends to individual members and their families to guide them on a daily basis and especially in times of need.
◼︎ Members of the Church worship Jesus Christ, but they are not classified as either Catholic or Protestant. Neither are they a splinter group that broke away from some other Christian denomination. Rather, the Church is a restoration of the original Church and gospel which Jesus established in the Holy Land during His ministry on the earth.
◼︎ To be recognized as His true Church, Jesus gave it His name, with an added extension to distinguish today’s members from the Biblical “saints”, as the members were called in New Testament times; hence the name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
◼︎ The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is central to the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church members use the Bible and Book of Mormon as companion scriptures in their preaching and personal study.
◼︎ Latter-day Saints believe that guidance for the Church as a whole, in doctrinal and practical matters, comes by revelation from God to senior Church leaders. Church members view these leaders as modern-day prophets in the same way they view Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and the twelve apostles in the day of Jesus Christ.
◼︎ Open to the public, Latter-day Saint Sunday worship services take place in some 29,000 congregations around the world. The simple yet contemporary chapels are usually part of meetinghouses that include classrooms, recreation areas and offices. The friendly meetings create an inviting, informal atmosphere for those who come to worship or find out more about the Church.
◼︎ Since 1985, LDS members have contributed approximately $US 1.5 billion in humanitarian and charitable assistance to 175 countries, including cash donations, food, medical equipment, clothing educational supplies.
◼︎ Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that life did not begin at birth and does not end at death. The Church teaches that all people who have ever lived on the earth are the children of God and lived with Him before birth. According to a divine plan, mortal life is a time of testing, experience and progression; a time to learn to choose between good and evil and to demonstrate a willingness to obey God.
◼︎ Members also believe that marriage and family can continue beyond death. This is made possible when parents and children make special promises with God in sacred temples dedicated for that purpose. These covenants may unite families, including departed ancestors, through eternity.
◼︎ To help members discover who their ancestors are, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints maintains the largest genealogical archives in the world. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah maintains records of more than two billion deceased people in 100 countries worldwide. These records are open to anyone who may be interested, regardless of faith, through 4800 Family History centers in 133 countries.
◼︎ The basis for the Church’s family history program and salvation for the dead is a system whereby those who would have accepted the gospel in this life, had they been permitted to hear it, will have the chance to accept it in the spirit world, and will then be entitled to all the blessings that passed them by during mortality.
◼︎ Latter-day Saints believe that god’s purpose and society are best served when individuals are well-rounded in education, physical health and emotional and spiritual strength. The Church maintains 4 universities and colleges; 16 elementary/secondary schools; 8,000 seminary and institute programs; 700,000 enrollment.
◼︎ The Church maintains its own welfare system which provides temporary assistance to members and many others in crisis. The welfare program supports humanitarian efforts throughout the world, frequently collaborating with local governments and civic organizations to provide relief to victims of natural disaster or civil unrest.
◼︎ The Church receives no money from any government for its welfare program. All members are encouraged to fast for two meals one Sunday each month and pass on the savings to the Church so that others may eat.
◼︎ As with other Christian denominations, the central doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Latter-day Saints believe that Christ lived, died, was resurrected and will return in glory.
◼︎ Latter-day Saints are taught to obey all of God’s commandments including the Ten Command-ments. Church followers pattern their lives after Jesus’ example of love, tolerance, mercy and charity. Latter-day Saints share the belief that The Bible is holy scripture. They also believe The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ to be holy scripture. Other Church scripture includes The Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.
◼︎ The Church is often mistakenly viewed simply as an American phenomenon; however, since early 1996, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had more members outside the U.S. than within its borders.
◼︎ While the Church is headquartered in Utah, less than 16 percent of its entire membership actually resides in the state. Many factors contribute to the rapid rise in Church membership, but none is more important than the work of the Church’s missionaries.
◼︎ Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught to observe that family units are the most vital organizations in society and believe that families can continue throughout eternity. To that end, the Church has always taught that sexual morality includes complete chastity for both sexes before marriage and fidelity to one’s spouse after marriage.
◼︎ During the early years in Utah, some members of the Church practiced polygamy, patterned after similar Old Testament practices, which they considered to be a religious principle revealed by God to the Church founder, Joseph Smith. In 1890, Church President Wilford Woodruff announced the end of the Church’s practice of polygamy. No one practicing polygamy today can be a member of the Church.
SO, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN TO YOU?
And there you have it. The history of the Church of Jesus Christ from its beginning in 30 A.D. to the present time. At the end of Part 1, I promised that a whole new world would be opened to you if you prayerfully read to this point. Has the Holy Spirit testified to you that what you have read is divine truth? If so, what are you going to do about it?
Let me make a suggestion. Go to www.mormon.org. There you will have the opportunity to learn more, request a free Book of Mormon, have a live chat with a member, find a Mormon meetinghouse near you, or submit a request to have the missionaries visit your home.