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Synopsis of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

David W. Allan
4 Oct.'90; updated 4 Aug. '03


I wish to share two dimensions regarding the Church...

1) Its origin and growth.

2) Highlights of its Plan of Salvation and teachings.

A perspective can be gained from the following interview, which occurred in 1892: Dr. Andrew D. White former president of Cornell was at the time serving as U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Dr. White -- a frequent visitor with Count Leo Tolstoi -- related the following conversation.

"Dr. White," said Count Tolstoi, "I wish you would tell me about your American religion."

"We have no state church in America." replied Dr. White,

"I know that, but what about your American religion?"

Patiently then Dr. White explained to the Count that in America there are many religions, and that each person is free to belong to the particular church in which he or she is interested.

To this Tolstoi impatiently replied: "I know all of this, but I want to know about the American religion, Catholicism originated in Rome; the Episcopal Church originated in England; the Lutheran Church in Germany, but the Church to which I refer originated in America, and is commonly known as the Mormon Church. What can you tell me of the teachings of the Mormons?"

"Well," Said Dr. White, "I know very little concerning them..."

Then Count Leo Tolstoi, in his honest and stern, but lovable manner, rebuked the ambassador, "Dr. White, I am greatly surprised and disappointed that a man of your great learning and position should be so ignorant on this important subject. The Mormon people teach the American religion; their principles teach the people not only of heaven and its attendant glories, but how to live so that their social and economic relations with each other are placed on a sound basis. If the people follow the teaching of this Church, nothing can stop their progress -- it will be limitless. There have been great movements started in the past but they have died or been modified before they reached maturity. If mormonism is able to endure, unmodified, until it reaches the third and fourth generation, it is destined to become the greatest power the world has ever known." End of quote. Upon his return to the states, Dr. White purchased a set of the Church works and placed them in the Cornell University Library

Ironically, the Church had its beginning only some 60 miles north and west of Cornell and 72 years before this Tolstoi conversation, near the little town of Palmyra. In this vicinity in 1820 there was significant religious activity. Joseph Smith, then in his 15th year was seeking to know which Church to join. In answer to humble supplication he was given a marvelous vision in which Heavenly Father and his beloved son Jesus Christ visited him. In answer to his question he was given an answer he did not expect -- to join none of them -- and that he would be used as an instrument in the hands of the Lord to restore to the earth the Church of Jesus Christ -- as it was anciently with 12 Apostles and Prophets and with the same teachings. We believe that the original church and its teachings and ordinances -- as established by the Savior in the meridian of time -- had been altered by man as the ancient apostles were killed and the divine priesthood was lost from the earth. Since the visit of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith, the heavens were opened again and there followed a series of angelic ministrations as truths were revealed and the church with its teachings and ordinances were restored again to the earth in their purity.

The word "Mormon" is the name of a prophet, who was born about 311 AD in ancient America. He was commanded by the Lord to make an abridgement of his people's religious history covering the previous one thousand years. His prophet-son Moroni added significant contributions to the record, then closed and buried it in the earth; then, as an angelic minister, Moroni brought it to light through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The record Joseph Smith translated is called the Book of Mormon after its abridger and contains as its main message a witness of the mission of Christ. After the Savior's crucifixion in the old world, the resurrected Messiah came to these ancient American peoples and gave them the same gospel, church, ordinances and teachings. We believe the Bible and the Book of Mormon stand as two witnesses of the divinity of Christ's mission.

These people about which the Book of Mormon tells came out from Jerusalem in 600 BC and are a part of scattered Israel of the tribe of Joseph. We believe that we are part of a great work in which the Lord is setting his hand a second time to gather scattered Israel from among all nations. Interestingly, one of our Apostles, a Jewish convert, went to the holy land and on the Mt. of Olives dedicated that land for the return of the Jews in 1841. The Book of Mormon and the Bible prophesy of the current gathering and rebuilding in the old world and in the new.

The teachings of the Book of Mormon and the Bible are totally consistent and state that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are first faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second repentance, third baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and fourth laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

We believe that all mankind are the literal spirit offspring of a loving Heavenly Father and that we lived with him in a pre-mortal existence even before the earth was created, that he laid out a plan of progression and eternal happiness for each of us whereby we could come to earth and gain a physical body to house our spirit body, that here we would gain earthly experience and would be given an opportunity during this probationary period on earth to prove ourselves; a veil was placed over our memory regarding our previous experience so that faith could be operative. As we heard the plan, we shouted for joy as we anticipated this growth opportunity -- fully knowing that the trials, the pains, the sufferings would be for a short moment and would provide additional growth experiences when viewed in the context of faith and from an eternal perspective, and that love, peace and a fullness of joy were achievable goals. God’s love is the prime mover for this plan of happiness, and it is our greatest opportunity here to learn to love as He loves.

We further believe that those who die without hearing the fullness of the gospel in this life will have a chance to hear it in the spirit world which is the place all of us will go upon death. We believe that through the atonement of Christ all man-kind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The final judgement and resurrection will not come until everyone has had a fair opportunity to accept the gospel.

As part of this great restoration of light and truth, which the Lord has brought forth through the Prophet Joseph Smith, there came the understanding of priesthood powers and the purpose of ancient temples. With that came the focus on the family. In contrast to the typical civil ceremony “until death do you part,” marriages are performed in the temples by priesthood power for time and eternity. We believe that family love transcends the grave, and that the greatest happiness in the eternities will be with loved ones in the mansions prepared by Christ where we can be together forever.

For us free-agency is fundamental to the plan; the Lord respects our desires. We are accountable for our own sins and not for Adam's transgression. Because of the atonement of Christ, we are freed from the bands of death and all mankind will be resurrected. His atonement also provided that through faith in Him we can overcome spiritual death, and that according to our faith and obedience we will be rewarded one of three degrees of glory likened unto the sun (Celestial), the moon and the stars. As one star differs from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead. Celestial glory with Heavenly Father and with our loved ones is our goal. This we are assured through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance from all our sins, participation in sacred gospel ordinances including the temple, and enduring to the end. Choosing to follow Christ makes all the difference, as we are perfected in Him. We believe in sharing the joy and peace the gospel brings. A large percentage of members – especially our young men and young women – voluntarily go forth to serve throughout the world – many of them at their own expense. My wife and I recently (1997-1999) had a wonderful experience serving a mission in West Africa (Ivory Coast).

In addition to all of the above far-reaching religious principles, in 1833 the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith a most remarkable health code – known as the Word of Wisdom. The Lord promised both physical and spiritual blessings to those who would follow it. A UCLA study of 10,000 Mormon High Priests and their spouses showed them to be the healthiest sub-group they had ever studied; the results were astounding.

The prophetic nature of Tolstoi’s comments is seen in the graph of the growth of the Church from the time it was organized in 1830. Indeed, Count Tolstoi was right, and the truths shared by the Church of Jesus Christ are helping ever more people find purpose, peace, and answers to life’s questions.

In summary, we see that the gospel plan as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith is designed to bring the abundant life here, and a fulness of joy in the world to come. We see that the gospel message is indeed a message of gladness and is not just for America, but for the whole world. In its design, it has the potential to provide the ultimate society – as well as the greatest of all the gifts of God – the gift of Eternal Life. Fundamentally, we believe that this society and gift are obtainable as we build our foundation on the rock of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ – where upon if we are built, we have the sure promise that we shall not fall. He can and will bring each of us totally out of “Babylon,” wherein, we become “new creatures” in Christ. As we seek to follow His perfect pattern to do the will of the Father in each of our personal missions in mortality, He will be our advocate – presenting us to the Father – clean and without spot – filled with joy unspeakable.

click here for index of Spiritual Writings by D.W.A.

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