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What Are Latter-Day Saints? The Basics of the LDS Church in 10 Questions, 10 Definitions, and 10 Quotes

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Daniel McCoy

Daniel is happily married to Susanna, and they have 3 daughters and 2 sons. He is the editorial director for as well as a part-time professor of philosophy for Ozark Christian College. He has a bachelor’s in theology (Ozark Christian College), master of arts in apologetics (Veritas International University), and PhD in theology (North-West University, South Africa). Among his books are the Popular Handbook of World Religions (general editor), Real Life Theology Handbook (with Andrew Jit), Mirage: 5 Things People Want From God That Don't Exist, and The Atheist's Fatal Flaw (co-authored with Norman Geisler).

What Are Latter-Day Saints? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was founded by Joseph Smith in the US in the 1830s. Smith tells of receiving visitations from heavenly persons telling him not to join any established churches and bestowing on him and his companions two priesthoods said to have been lost to the modern church. One of these heavenly beings was an angel who delivered to Smith the Book of Mormon, which explains why the LDS church has sometimes been called “Mormonism.” The LDS church prioritizes moral living and strong family identity. In its worldview, the LDS church blends Christian elements with a polytheistic universe.

What are Latter-Day Saints? 10 Questions

  1. Who visited a 14-year-old Joseph Smith in New York in the early 1800s with instructions not to join any of the churches since their creeds were an “abomination”? God the Father and Jesus Christ
  2. Who visited Smith and his friend Oliver Cowdery to bestow on them the Aaronic priesthood? John the Baptist
  3. Who visited Smith and Cowdery to bestow on them the Melchizedek priesthood? Peter, James, and John
  4. The angel Moroni revealed to Smith the location of a set of golden plates which gave the record of the inhabitants of ancient America. Smith translated the tablets, and the result was what book? the Book of Mormon
  5. After moving from New York to Ohio and then Missouri, the growing community of Mormons built what city in Illinois? Nauvoo
  6. Smith’s polygamy and other questionable practices led him to be imprisoned where he was killed by a mob. After Smith’s death, what successor led the group to the state of Utah? Brigham Young
  7. Although everybody existed as God the Father’s spirit children before being born on earth, God the Father wanted each person to advance toward exaltation through being born in the physical world. Two of God the Father’s spirit children offered themselves as the Savior on earth who would lead these children back to him: Lucifer and Jesus. When Lucifer made it contingent on himself receiving the glory, Jesus was chosen, Lucifer rebelled, and Lucifer became who? Satan
  8. At the final judgment, each person will be assigned to one of three levels of heaven: the Telestial Kingdom (for the worst of humanity and everyone who rejected the LDS gospel), the Terrestrial Kingdom (for honorable people who either were blinded from receiving the LDS gospel or were not valiant in living it), and the Celestial Kingdom (for people who keep the commandments and fulfill the LDS ordinances). Within the Celestial Kingdom, those who attain the highest level can become what? gods
  9. At the top of the church’s hierarchy are the “General Authorities” (including the “First Presidency” as well as other top administration). An “area” consists of a group of “stakes,” and a “stake” consists of 5-12 local congregations. Each of these local congregations is led by a bishop and is called a what? ward
  10. Latter-day Saints tend to put heavy emphasis on strong family life, including conservative views of gender roles and extensive records of family history. In fact, LDS teaches that the ultimate goal is exaltation in which one creates an eternal what, just as God the Father has done? family

What are Latter-Day Saints? 10 Definitions

  1. Book of Mormon – a record of the early Americas, as revealed on golden tablets by the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith
  2. Doctrine and Covenants – a collection of revelations (mostly to Joseph Smith) and official declarations of the LDS church; this work contains a number of LDS teachings not found in the Book of Mormon, such as eternal marriage, the three levels of heaven, polygamy, salvation for the dead, and the LDS priesthood
  3. Pearl of Great Price – a collection of additional works including newly discovered ancient writings such as the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham, as well as the Articles of Faith
  4. Preexistence – the spiritual state of all of the Heavenly Father’s spirit children before they were given physical bodies in the mortal world
  5. Gaining a Testimony – the conversion experience all Latter-day Saints are urged to seek which comes with divinely inspired certainty of the central LDS claims
  6. Exaltation – the eventual development of all the qualities of divinity; the highest form of salvation in LDS teaching
  7. Word of Wisdom – a unique health code that forbids alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea
  8. Worthiness – personal righteousness defined as living up to the church’s standards; this is the strongest motive driving the daily life of active Latter-day Saints
  9. Temple – a building for the performing of LDS rites such as marriage, the “endowment” (a ritual providing special instruction, covenants, and blessings), and proxy baptism for people in spirit prison waiting for ordinances to be done on their behalf
  10. Mission – Candidates who meet a high standard of worthiness are chosen to serve one of these somewhere in the world in order to spread the LDS gospel; young men are expected to serve and young women are invited to serve

What are Latter-Day Saints? 10 Quotes

LDS and Christianity

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight.”

Pearl of Great Price: Joseph Smith – History


“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”

Articles of Faith, #8

What are Latter-Day Saints? “We believe the Bible to be the word of God…we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”

“Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile….Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.”

– Introduction to the Book of Mormon


“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”

Doctrine and Covenants, #130

“First, God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heaven, is a man like one of you. That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today and you were to see the great God who holds this world in its orbit and upholds all things by his power, you would see him in the image and very form of a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion and image of God. He received instruction from and walked, talked, and conversed with him as one man talks and communes with another.”

– Joseph Smith, from the “King Follett Discourse

“Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.”

– Brigham Young, Sermon on “Self-Government – Mysteries – Recreation and Amusements, Not in Themselves Sinful – Tithing – Adam, Our Father and Our God”

Human Preexistence and Exaltation

“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: ‘These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.’”

Pearl of Great Price: Book of Abraham, Chapter 3

“Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God. And you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves—to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done—by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.”

– Joseph Smith, from the “King Follett Discourse


“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23

What are Latter-Day Saints? “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

“All sins shall be forgiven except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against him…to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

– Joseph Smith, from the “King Follett Discourse

2 Questions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for Christians to Consider

  1. What are some of the most attractive features of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?
  2. What are the most serious disagreements between Christianity and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?