A religious ordinance is an outward performance of a covenant between a person and the Lord. The ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called the “Mormon Church”) were dictated directly from the Lord through scriptures and prophets, and they can only be performed by those who have authority from God to bind in heaven what is bound on earth. This authority was had in Jesus Christ’s primitive church and continued by His original apostles, who acted in Christ’s name. That authority was lost over time after the death of the apostles, and it has only recently been restored through God’s heavenly messengers to modern prophets. No other church on earth has received this authority.
As in ancient days, when a baby is born in the Church of Jesus Christ, it is given a “name and a blessing.” The name given is that by which the child will be known during his or her earthly life. The blessing is prophetic and individual. The Elder pronouncing the blessing through the laying on of hands receives it by revelation.
There is no infant baptism in the LDS Church, since little children are innocent and cannot differentiate between right and wrong; nor can they understand the process of repentance. The atonement of Jesus Christ covers the sin of Adam, so babies are born sinless. The second Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ says the following:
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
When a child turns eight years old, he or she has reached what Mormons call “the age of accountability.” At that time, the child may choose to be baptized. Converts aged 8 and over can be baptized in adulthood, too. Mormons follow the example and commandment of Christ by baptizing by full immersion in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. At baptism, the person promises to take upon him- or herself the name of Christ, to always remember Him, and to stand as a witness of Christ at all times. In return, the Lord confers the permanent companionship of the Holy Ghost in an ordinance called “confirmation.”
Confirmation is performed soon after baptism. A man holding the higher, or Melchizedek, Priesthood confers the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands and pronounces a revelatory blessing. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit as long as the person continues in worthiness. The Holy Ghost cannot dwell in an unclean tabernacle.
Every Sabbath, Latter-day Saints partake of the sacrament, consisting of bread and water, in remembrance of the body and blood of Christ, which were shed for them. The sacrament renews those covenants made at baptism. Continual repentance enables the Latter-day Saint to be worthy to partake.
Higher ordinances are offered in Mormon temples and are for those who truly wish to consecrate their lives as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptisms and confirmations are performed there, but only as work for the dead. Mormons search out their ancestors and perform this work for them. Since the dead live on and still are able to make choices, they can accept or reject this work done for them.
The Endowment is the central higher ordinance performed in the temple, and everyone who is worthy to enter the Mormon temple, receives the endowment ordinance. The endowment is an empowering ordinance that comes with instruction on the Plan of Salvation, including the creation, the fall of Adam and Eve, the saving power of the atonement, and the hope of exaltation. In the temple, Mormons covenant to live morally and righteously and commit to progress in their discipleship of Jesus Christ.
After the endowment, one may participate in “sealing,” the formation of an eternal family. A bride and groom may enter into an eternally-binding marriage covenant in the Mormon temple. Any children born to them after their marriage are automatically sealed to the couple. This is called “being born in the covenant.” If a husband and wife have already been married civilly and have already had children, then the entire family can be sealed together in the Mormon temple. Mormon families sometimes save money for years to be able to travel to a temple to perform these ordinances and establish eternal families.
Ordinances have been given us of God as milestones in our journey into His presence. They are outward manifestations of our inward covenants and are always symbolic of Christ. Once Mormons make covenants it is up to them to keep them for the remainder of mortality. Temple marriage (eternal marriage), for instance, brings the promise of eternal union, only if the husband and wife “endure to the end in righteousness.”
Having entered into all of these covenants myself, I can testify of their transforming power in my life. I am a much different person than I would be, had I not entered into these important and empowering commitments. I have traveled a much more adventurous road than I would have, being led by the spirit of God, and I have done so with the guidance and protection of God. I have enjoyed strength far beyond my own, with the gift of power from on high. I have learned a bit about God and the transcendent nature of the atonement; the spiritual realm has become very real to me. I testify to the spiritual power of these covenants and invite all to come and partake.
“Who is Jesus Christ? Why is it that He is considered Lord of the heavens and of the earth?” This question is asked by many people, especially by non-Christians. The question is meant as a challenge to the faithful by those who are agnostic or atheist. Some of these people are honest seekers of the truth and therefore, some are receptive to hear the message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. ”
For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true. (Book of Mormon, Alma 29:8).
Sometimes because of the traditions of their forefathers and their society, they are kept from understanding the truth of the gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called the “Mormon Church” by some) sends thousands of missionaries across the world to preach the gospel to all people and sound it in every ear, so that no one is left out without the knowledge of the gospel and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are also many who have shown interest in seeking to know the doctrines and beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church declares that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that He is the Savior, Lord, and Redeemer of the World. Mormon scripture says that God has created worlds without number, and that they all were created through “the Word,” even the Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, the Apostle John testified that,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (New Testament, John 1:1-5,14).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah or the Savior prophesied to come to the earth twice. The people of Israel, now called the Jews, awaited Him so long ago. They said that this Messiah would protect them against the advancements of neighboring nations that desired to conquer them and put them into bondage. Eventually the Lord did come as to fulfill the prophecies concerning His coming. But during His ministry, many people doubted whether He was the Messiah because He did not redeem Judah from its political bondage. Jesus said to the unbelievers,
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (Old Testament, John 8:56-59).
Nevertheless, the Lord Jesus Christ ministered unto them. Healing their sick, raising their dead and comforting those with faith. He promised eternal life to all those who would believe in Him and follow His commandments. He also promised the gift of the Holy Ghost to the believers. He said,
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning (New Testament, John 15:26-27).
Wicked people did not believe in the teachings of Lord which led to His crucifixion and death. But the Church believes that He rose from the dead, the Firstfruits of the resurrection, and that He lives! He went to the believers for them to witness the fulfillment of His words concerning His resurrection from the dead. He also went to His “other sheep” in the ancient Americas to declare the good tidings of great joy. Appearing to a group of people called the Nephites, who were Israelite by descent, and who had kept the Law of Moses looking forth to His coming, He declared:
Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 11:10-12).
A paramount belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that after the early Christian Church had gradually fallen away, the Risen Lord and God the Father appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and commenced the new era of the gospel dispensation, which gospel is now had in its fullness in preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet Joseph Smith in his own words said,
And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76:22-24).
1) Book of Mormon, Alma 29:8
2) New Testament, John 1:1-5,14
3) Old Testament, John 8:56-59
4) New Testament, John 15:26-27
5) Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 11:10-12
6) Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76:22-24
Written by Ashley Bell, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as a “Mormon”). Ashley and her husband are expecting parents, for the first time, and are very excited for the life that is ahead.
Temples Bring Latter-day Saints/Mormons Closer to the Lord Jesus Christ
The leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is frequently misnamed the “Mormon Church”) are given the charge to apply a principle that was taught by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—he said, “The temple is the house of the Lord. The basis for every temple ordinance and covenant—the heart of the plan of salvation—is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Every activity, every lesson, all we do in the Church, point to the Lord and His holy house” (“Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” Ensign, May 2001).
I remember when I was a young child, every Sunday, I would sing in the children’s program of the Church which is called the Primary organization. One of the songs we would sing was “I Love to See the Temple.” A feeling of peace and happiness came when we sang this. I was then impressed when I turned twelve and entered into the Young Women’s program of the Church that we did Personal Progress (a girls’ achievement program with the aim to help them become virtuous young women), and it has a booklet with a picture of an LDS temple on the front cover, and inside the first page! It is interesting to note that the picture of the temple inside the cover of the Personal Progress booklet is made of a translucent kind of paper, and behind that page is a beautiful picture of the Savior–representing that the temple leads us to the Lord Jesus Christ. Read more
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, referred to inadvertently as the “Mormon Church” by some in the media, believes in the traditional Christian principles of chastity, fidelity, and heterosexual marriage. “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God,” says the Church, and “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (from The Family: A Proclamation to the World, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). How, then, does the Church regard homosexuality? What do you do if you are a gay Mormon?
Eternal Families are Central To God’s Plan
Mormons have a unique view of the family. Many people throughout the world hope for their family ties to last beyond mortal life. Yet only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that families can exist eternally, and only in Mormon temples can couples and families be “sealed,” or bound together, for eternity rather than for this life only. The founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, received the priesthood authority to perform such sealings from Peter, James, and John, who visited him as angelic messengers in 1829 and bestowed it upon him by the laying on of hands. Peter received the sealing authority from Jesus Christ himself, as is recorded in Matthew 18:18:
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall abind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Not only is an eternal family important to our happiness in this life and in the life to come: Mormon doctrine teaches that it is essential. Mormon men and women believe that their greatest work lies within the walls of their own homes. The eternal relationship between a man and a woman, sealed together in the temple, is required for exaltation and progression in the eternities.
Gay Mormons, then, are faced with a dilemma. Why would God send them to earth with a body that seems to prevent them from achieving the greatest blessings He has in store for them? Some gay Mormons try to “cure” themselves through strenuous efforts at spiritual growth and Church activity; others become depressed, or stop believing in God altogether. When their efforts at changing their sexual orientation fail, many are unsure how to reconcile the doctrines they so firmly believe, and the spiritual experiences they have previously had, with their sexual orientation.
God Loveth His Children
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are keenly aware of the conflicts faced by Mormons who are experiencing same-gender attraction. The Church regularly publishes material reaching out to those who feel they are barred from full acceptance because of their sexual orientation. On the Church’s website, the following can be found under the title, “God Loveth His Children:”
You are a son or daughter of God, and our hearts reach out to you in warmth and affection. Notwithstanding your present same-gender attractions, you can be happy during this life, lead a morally clean life, perform meaningful service in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with your fellow Saints, and ultimately receive all the blessings of eternal life.
The article goes on to explain about the importance of families to God’s plan, and reassures those who struggle in this life that God loves them, and His choicest blessings will, in due time, be available to all:
Heaven is organized by families, which require a man and a woman who together exercise their creative powers within the bounds the Lord has set. Same-gender relationships are inconsistent with this plan. Without both a husband and a wife there would be no eternal family and no opportunity to become like Heavenly Father.
In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite gender. While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life. However, the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children.
Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father’s children desire to love and be loved, including many adults who, for a variety of reasons, remain single. God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing.
Because Mormons believe in complete chastity before marriage and fidelity afterwards, gay Mormons are not asked to live any differently than other single members of the Church who may not yet be enjoying the blessings of marriage and family life for various reasons. Those who engage in sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage can repent and have their sins washed clean through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The healing power of the Savior can bring peace to the hearts of those who suffer. Jesus’s atonement can provide additional strength to those who are struggling to keep His commandments. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) who keep God’s commandments and choose to abide by Church standards with regard to their sexual behavior participate in the Church in full fellowship. Gay Mormons can teach, preach, and pray in meetings, perform various leadership roles within the lay clergy of the Church, and attend the temple. Other members accept and support them.
A recent video produced by a former professor at Brigham Young University, the largest university sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, highlights the spiritual journeys of several gay Mormon students. Entitled “It Gets Better at BYU,” the video is a message of hope to young Mormons who are struggling to understand their same-gender attraction.
God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He loves His children. He wants them to be happy, so He prepared a plan for them. Central to that plan is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement is the price the Savior paid as a remission for the sins of mankind—for all men from Adam to the last person who will live on the earth. Through the atonement, all families of the earth will be blessed with the opportunity to go back to the presence of God.
Since the beginning, God has revealed His plan through prophets. Prophets are men called by God who are given the authority to receive revelations and to preach the gospel. Amos declared that the Lord always reveals His secrets unto His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). The first prophet was Adam. God spoke and revealed to him the Plan of Salvation, and gave him the promise of the Messiah. Adam then taught his children the gospel of Jesus Christ. While many believed, some of his sons and daughters rejected his teachings.
When Adam died, God showed great love for His posterity by calling other prophets. These prophets warned the people about their sins and exhorted them to repent and return to God. When people hardened their hearts and rejected God’s prophets, they fell away from the truth. This is called apostasy. Whenever there is an apostasy, God withdraws His prophet from the people and calls another to preach the gospel anew. Among those who were called to preach repentance to the people were Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, and many others. These prophets prophesied of the coming of Jesus Christ. However, because many did not believe them, the people again fell into apostasy.
The Earthly Ministry of Jesus Christ
When the time was right, God sent His Only Begotten Son to accomplish His divine mission to atone for the sins of the world. For God loved the world so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son, that those who believe in Him might be saved (See John 3:16).
When Jesus Christ was upon the earth, He preached the gospel, ordained His apostles, established His church, and fulfilled prophecy. Remarkably, many people did not believe His teachings. Instead, they reviled, scourged, and crucified Him. However, through His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and His death upon the cross, the Savior made an infinite atoning sacrifice, promising eternal life to those who repent and follow His commandments.
After the Lord’s resurrection, the apostles, having received the keys of the priesthood, continued to lead the church through revelation. However, not many years after, those wicked people who killed Jesus Christ killed the apostles one by one until no one was left to lead the Church. Because of the death of the apostles, the authority which they once held was also gone.
The Great Apostasy
With all the apostles killed except John the Beloved who was banished because of His testimony of Jesus Christ, the church was left without authorized leadership. Without authority, revelation stopped and saving ordinances could not be performed. Eventually, the gospel taught by the Savior and His apostles was altered by unauthorized people and many plain and precious truths were lost. Without a prophet to lead them, the people were left in a state of chaos and spiritual darkness. This period of time was known in history as the Dark Ages or the Great Apostasy.
The Great Apostasy was universal and lasted for more than 1,700 years. Its rapid development following the death of the apostles had been foreseen and predicted by ancient prophets. Isaiah spoke of a gross darkness which would cover the earth and the people (Isaiah 60:2). Paul, speaking to early Christian converts, warned of grievous wolves or false teachers who would speak perverse things and draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29–30). The Savior also warned of false prophets and false Christs who would deceive many (Matthew 24:4–12). But despite this, God, in His great love for the people, promised to restore the gospel and rebuild His church through another prophet who had been ordained from the foundation of the world.
Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
After several centuries of darkness, Heavenly Father once again stretched forth His hands to reach out to His children. He called another prophet, a 14-year old boy, through whom the gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood authority was restored.
When Joseph Smith was just a young boy, he became concerned about the welfare of his soul and desired to know which church to join. He attended different congregations to find answers to his questions, but the more he did, the more confused he got. One day as he was studying the scriptures, he came across the writings of James, an apostle of Jesus Christ, which read, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). After much reflection, young Joseph realized that he could actually know the truth for himself by asking God in prayer.
One morning, he went to a nearby grove and poured out his heart to God, desiring to know the truth. In answer to his prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him that there was no true church on the earth at that time. The Savior told Joseph Smith that he was chosen as a prophet to restore the true church He had established during His mortal ministry.
To accomplish this mission, the Lord sent heavenly messengers to Joseph Smith to restore all the keys of the priesthood necessary to administer the ordinances of the gospel. The church was officially organized on April 6th, 1830, as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often nicknamed the Mormon Church. Today, the Church is being led by a living prophet named Thomas S. Monson who receives continuing revelation from God.
Fourteen year old Joseph Smith wondered what church he should join. In the spring of 1820 during a religious revival in the community of Palmyra, New York, Joseph was confused about conflicting messages from different religious leaders. He went into the woods, knelt in prayer and asked God which of the churches he should align himself with. Miraculously, God the Father appeared to Joseph along with his son, Jesus Christ, and told Joseph that he should join none of the churches, for the true church of Christ had been lost from the earth. Joseph was chosen by God to restore the true church to the world.
Throughout the course of the next ten years, Joseph gradually restored the fullness of the gospel to the earth, starting with the translation of the Book of Mormon, a record of Jesus Christ’s visit to the American continent after his resurrection. The record was written on golden plates and hidden in a hillside, which God directed Joseph to find. Joseph also restored the organization of Jesus Christ’s original church, just as Christ himself established it in Jerusalem with a prophet at the head of the church and a quorum of twelve apostles. Along with that, God restored through Joseph the true priesthood power that had been lost after Christ’s death. Joseph and his followers built temples, beautiful structures dedicated to performing saving ordinances through God’s true priesthood power.
The early Latter-day Saints experienced much persecution in their settlements in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. Shortly after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Saints moved westward under the direction of their new prophet, Brigham Young. After great trials in crossing the plains in handcart companies, the Saints settled in the Salt Lake Valley. Today, Salt Lake City, Utah remains the headquarters of the church, but it now spans the world. The expansive missionary program run by the church has spread the complete gospel of Jesus Christ to people on every continent seeking for truth and light.