What’s a Mormon?
The people sometimes called Mormons are really members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are often called Latter-day Saints or LDS for short, and they prefer those nicknames to being called “Mormons,” because these names refer better to their sincere belief in and followership of Jesus Christ.
The nickname, “Mormon,” is derived from a book of scripture called “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” The Book of Mormon is a record consisting of the compiled writings of many prophets, just like the Bible. These were prophets mostly descended from Judah and Joseph, who migrated to the Americas for safety. There were three groups: one led away after the Tower of Babel, and two led away from Jerusalem just prior to the Babylonian captivity around 600 B.C. These groups sometimes prospered, and were sometimes righteous, but in the end, around 400 A.D., they became so wicked that they destroyed themselves. Thus, the Book of Mormon is the record of a fallen people, with many profound messages for us in our time. In fact, the record was compiled with that goal in mind. Said one Book of Mormon prophet:
Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts (Mormon 8:34-36).
The highlight of the Book of Mormon record is that Christ visited these peoples after His resurrection. He taught them and called twelve disciples to lead His church among them. Soon, all the people were converted, and they enjoyed two hundred years of peace and prosperity such as has probably never existed any time or anywhere else in this world. While some scholars question whether Christ existed at all, and others question whether He was indeed the Son of God, the Book of Mormon adds a second witness that He lived and lives, and is indeed our Creator and Redeemer. (Click here to read about Christ’s visit to the Americas.)
Some people think Latter-day Saints are not Christian, because they have an “open canon.” They have more scriptures than the Bible (though they have not added to nor altered the Bible itself, and honor and study it as the word of God). Another Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi, addressed this:
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews (2 Nephi 29:7-13).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique in that it is the re-establishment of Christ’s original church with the authority and power to act in His name. Thus, it is not a Protestant Church, nor is it a new doctrine, nor is it an “American church,” though the restoration of the gospel occurred in New York in 1820 and onward. Latter-day Saints know that after His death, Christ’s original doctrines were mingled with the philosophies of men and that His authority and revelatory help dwindled after the death of the apostles. Christ has always been involved with His children and interested in the salvation of all. These many hundreds of years, He has inspired mankind with new ideas that have led from the darkness of the Middle Ages to enlightenment, reformation, and free societies, wherein His gospel could be re-established. With Christ’s leadership through modern prophets, and the authority to act in his name, come correct doctrines, the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, and constant guidance for these times. “These times” constitute the last days before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, a time of great confusion, wickedness, and a disaster-prone earth, a time when people need the comfort, guidance, safety, and spirituality of the Church guided by Christ Himself through living prophets.