Origin of Mormonism
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls itself the restored church of Jesus Christ. What does that mean, and why do Mormons talk so much about it?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) is a restorational, rather than reformational, Christian church. Mormons believe that the world was in apostasy, missing both priesthood authority and vital components of religious truth, until both were restored by God through Joseph Smith in 1830.
The LDS church was organized in 1830 by a man named Joseph Smith, Jr. in New York. Smith said that he had received divine visitations, through which he learned that the complete gospel as established by Jesus Christ was no longer on the earth and that God was calling him as a prophet to restore lost truths.
Worldwide Christian Apostasy Made Restoration Necessary
Christianity as Smith knew it in 1830 was fragmented into many different sects and denominations. But when Jesus Christ walked the earth, He established one true church. He ordained apostles (see Mark 3:14), prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. (see Ephesians 4:11)
Mormon doctrine holds that there was always meant to be only one Christian church, but after the death of Jesus and His disciples, the fullness of the truth was lost. This is known as the Great Apostasy. Without a prophet to guide the church and correct errors, parts of the gospel were changed or forgotten. Eventually different denominations began to appear as individuals interpreted the scriptures differently.
The Priesthood – The Authority to Act in God’s Name
Priesthood authority is also believed to have died along with Christ’s disciples. Former LDS Church president Gordon B. Hinckley explained that the priesthood is “a delegation of divine authority” to act in God’s name, performing baptisms and so on. It is “the only power on the earth that reaches beyond the veil of death… Without it there could be a church in name only, [a church] lacking authority to administer in the things of God.”
Mormons don’t believe that valid priesthood power can come from religious education or from a sense of inner calling alone. They believe it can only be conferred to a worthy person by the laying on of hands by someone who has priesthood authority himself (see Numbers 27:18-23.) Mormons believe that the priesthood, once lost, was restored to the earth in 1829 when John the Baptist and later Peter, James, and John appeared to confer the priesthood to Joseph Smith.
Church official Jeffrey R. Holland says the priesthood is “indispensable to the true Church of God,” and former church president David O. McKay called it the “most distinguishing feature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Led by a Mormon Prophet Today
Mormons believe that God has always and will always lead His true church with a prophet to act as His mouthpiece, similar to Moses or Noah in the Old Testament. Since the restoration of the church in 1830, there has always been an LDS prophet who receives revelation from God and guides the church. Continuing revelation has given the church:
- Additional scriptures like the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants;
- The power to seal families together for eternity (not just until death do they part);
- Correction of incorrect doctrines like the Trinity, infant baptism, and baptism by sprinkling rather than immersion, and;
- Additional knowledge about the pre-existence, the afterlife, and humankind’s relationship to God.
Only One True Church
All denominations have pieces of religious truth, and the world is full of good and faithful people that belong to many different churches. But Mormons believe that only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the full and complete truth, in addition to valid priesthood power and a living prophet.
Many people wonder why Mormon missionaries approach other Christians with the news of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It is because priesthood power is believed to reside in (and only in) the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. People of all faiths are invited to be baptized into the LDS church by the proper priesthood authority and build upon the religious truths they already know with the ones restored by modern revelation.