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Religious Tolerance logo

Beliefs of the LDS Church.
Social, historical and scientific beliefs.

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LDS Church teachings on social matters, history and science:

bullet Marriage:
bullet General: According to a 2000-NOV issue of US News and World Report, LDS teaching has been emphasizing the church's commitment to conservative and family values. They are downplaying LDS past beliefs in polygyny (plural marriages involving one man and multiple wives) and racism.

bullet Status of marriage at death: Couples who could have been sealed (married in a Mormon temple), but did not take advantage of that opportunity will be forcibly divorced at death and start eternity as single individuals. Fortunately, temple ordinances which will seal a couple can still be done after a person's death. Many Mormons feel a heavy pressure to have a Temple marriage to a fellow Mormon. If they do so, the latter will be automatically sealed. Many Mormons believe that If they marry a non-Mormon, they may face a future of loneliness in heaven, and can never be accepted into the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom.

bullet Divorce while on Earth: During the LDS' biannual conference in 2007-APR, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve discussed divorce. He said:
"This is a sensitive subject because it evokes such strong emotions from persons it has touched in different ways. ... I speak out of concern, but with hope.

He noted that many divorcees are innocent victims:

 "... whose former spouses persistently betrayed sacred covenants or abandoned or refused to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period. ... [They] have firsthand knowledge of circumstances worse than divorce. ...

"When a marriage is dead and beyond hope of resuscitation, it is needful to have a means to end it. ... Often the cause is not incompatibility but selfishness. [Those with] ... serious marriage problems should see their bishop. As the Lord's judge, he will give counsel and perhaps even discipline that will lead toward healing. Bishops do not counsel members to divorce, but they can help members with the consequences of their decisions. ... Even those who think their spouse is entirely to blame should not act hastily. ...

The best way to avoid divorce from an unfaithful, abusive or unsupportive spouse is to avoid marriage to such a person. If you wish to marry, inquire well. ... [A good marriage] does not require a perfect man or a perfect woman. It only requires a man and a woman committed to strive together toward perfection." 1,2

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bullet Creation of the universe: The creation of mankind, the earth, and the rest of the universe is accurately recorded in Genesis. But the seven days of creation were not necessarily 24 hours days; they may have involved billions of years. Many Mormons believe in an old earth. An 1973 opinion poll of Mormon students at Brigham Young University found that only 27% (vs 5% in 1935) believed that "The world’s creation did not take millions of years." 

According to the Book of Moses, which the church teaches was written by the Moses of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), creation is a continuous process involving many worlds:

"And worlds without number have I created. ...for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten...And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works" 3

bullet Evolution: The same 1973 opinion poll found that most students denied that humanity evolved from lower species. 81% of BYU students (vs 36% in 1935) agreed that: "Man’s creation did not involve biological evolution." However, the church does teach a belief commonly found among evangelicals: "micro-evolution." That is, that change is possible within a species.
 
bullet History of North American people: The church teaches that:

bullet The Jaredite people were one of many groups scattered from the Tower of Babel circa 2250 BCE. They settled on the East coast of Central America. They were totally destroyed because of their corruption.
bullet Some Israelites departed from the Middle East about 600 BCE, before the time of the Babylonian captivity and arrived in America. A patriarch Lehi had two sons: Nephi (from whom the Nephites descended) and Laman (from whom the Lamanites descended). The two tribes lived in a state of continuous feuding and warfare. The earthen mounds throughout the Palmyra, NY area are believed to be attempts at defensive fortification. Eventually, the Lamanites exterminated most of the Nephites circa 385 CE. The former became the ancestors of present day Native Americans. God gave to Native Americans their "red skins" in order to visually separate them from those who had followed God's commandments and teachings.
bullet Jesus came to America after his resurrection where he performed miracles, delivered a sermon similar to the Beatitudes and selected twelve disciples from the Nephite tribe.

bullet Slavery: The early Mormon church had no official teaching about the owning of slaves. Their beliefs and practices concerning slavery were mixed:

bullet The abolitionist beliefs of some Mormons, as expressed in articles in their newspapers, resulted in the expulsion of Mormons from Jackson County, MO in the late 1830's. 4

bullet

In 1836 Joseph Smith declared that slaves should be treated decently by their owners, and that slaves were to obey their masters. 5

Smith sent a letter to Oliver Cowdery who was next in authority to Smith in the Church. He said:

"I do not believe that the people of the North have any more right to say that the South shall not hold slaves, than the South have to say the North shall. ... when I see persons in the free states signing documents against slavery, it is no less, in my mind, than an array of influence, and a declaration of hostilities against the people of the South! What can divide our Union sooner, God only knows!"

"... the first mention we have of slavery is found in the holy bible, pronounced by [Noah,] a man who was perfect in his generation and walked with God. And so far from that prediction's being averse from the mind of God it remains as a lasting monument of the decree of Jehovah, to the shame and confusion of all who have cried out against the South, in consequence of their holding the sons of Him in servitude!

'And he said cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem and Canaan shall be his servant.' Gen. 8:25, 26, 27. ..."

"... we have no right to interfere with slaves contrary to the mind and will of their masters. In fact, it would be much better and more prudent, not to preach at all to slaves, until after their masters are converted: and then, teach the master to use them with kindness, remembering that they are accountable to God, and that servants are bound to serve their master, with singleness of heart, without murmuring. I do, most sincerely hope, that no one who is authorized from this church to preach the gospel, will so far depart from the scripture as to be found stirring up strife and sedition against our brethren of the South. Having spoken frankly and freely, I leave all in the hands of God, who will direct all things for his glory and the accomplishments of his work. 8

bullet In 1844, during his presidential campaign, Smith favored abolition.

bullet In the late 1840's, "Brigham Young tacitly supported slaveholding, declaring that although Utah was not suited for slavery the practice was ordained by God." 5

bullet "In 1851 Apostle Orson Hyde said the church would not interfere in relations between master and slave." 5

bullet In 1852, Brigham Young, then Governor of Utah, asked the legislature to pass an act that allowed "suitable" whites to bind a Native person to a period of indenture not exceeding 20 years.

bullet In 1853, Governor Young expelled all slave traders from Utah.

bullet Under pressure from Mormons in the late 1850's, the local practice of enslaving Natives from the Southern Paiute tribe ceased. 6

bullet Racism: The Church originally taught that male persons with any black ancestry could not be ordained into the priesthood. This was because blacks were believed to have been cursed by God with the "Mark of Ham," and were to be perpetual slaves. This was a very common belief shared by both Mormons and many other Christians during the 19th century. It was derived from a biblical passage: Genesis 9:20-27. A second revelation from God to the LDS church in 1978-JUN terminated this limitation . Male African-Americans are now regarded as full members of the LDS and are eligible for consideration for ordination. 7 More details.

bullet Social conflicts: The LDS beliefs on abortion and homosexuality match those of most conservative Christian churches. They teach that abortion is murder; they oppose abortion access for women except for unusual cases. They teach that homosexual behavior is a very serious sin; they oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians, including the right to marry. The church invested major human and financial resources to help pass Proposition 8 (a.k.a. "Prop. Hate") in California. It was narrowly passed during the 2008-NOV election, and banned new gay marriages in the state. Without their support, Prop 8 would probably have been defeated.

Although their beliefs differ significantly from that of historical Christianity, Mormons believe that the their doctrines were those held by the very early Christian church. Although their doctrines are based on modern revelation, they do not feel that any of them conflict with the Bible, except those specifically changed due to new revelations from God. Depending on one's interpretation they feel that all of the doctrines mentioned can be found described, clearly mentioned, or alluded to in the Bible (at least in part).

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Church president defends Mormon faith, validity of Book of Mormon," Deseretnews.com, 2007-APR-02, at: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/
  2. Lynn Arave, "Forgiveness is extolled," Deseret Morning News, 2007-APR-02, at: http://www.deseretnews.com/
  3. F.K. Mielsen, "Creation accounts" at: http://www.mormons.org/
  4. "Extermination Order," at: http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/
  5. Jeffrey Nichols, "Slavery in Utah," History Blazer, 1995-APR. Online at: http://www.utahhistorytogo.org/
  6. Terri McBridem, "This was Nevada: Slavery in Nevada," at: http://dmla.clan.lib.nv.us/
  7. Newell Bringhurst, " Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The changing place of Black people within Mormonism," Greenwood Press, (1981).
  8. "Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 2/Number 7/Letter to Oliver Cowdery from Joseph Smith, Jr. (Apr. 1836)," Wikisource, 2012-APR-17, at: https://en.wikisource.org/

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Copyright © 1995 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-AUG-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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