What do Mormons Believe?

In the early spring of 1820, a fourteen year old boy named Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees near his home in upstate New York to pray to his Heavenly Father for guidance. In those days, there was a large religious movement in America, and Joseph's family became acquainted with some of the more popular sects of that day. In his own words:

"During this time of great (religious) excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know...

 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God... 

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (Joseph Smith History 1:8-17).

The Savior taught the boy, Joseph Smith, that many plain and precious things had been lost from His Gospel over the generations since his ministry on Earth. After His apostles were killed, some of the simple truths of the Lord's Church were disregarded and forgotten. And through the process of many translations, and sometimes by the intentional deception of evil men, some important truths had been removed from the Bible. 

Because God loves all His children the same, prophets all over His earth have learned and testified of Him and of His son, Jesus Christ. Remember that Christ declared, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Just like Isaiah, Abraham, Moses, Peter, Paul, John and many others, prophets from other continents and lands have learned of, and been visited by, the Savior. 

One of those prophets, Moroni, who lived on the American continent about 400 A.D., visited the young man Joseph Smith as an angel, and gave him an untranslated record of the history of his people from about 600 B.C. to about 400 A.D. The record contained prophesies regarding a Savior who would be born of a virgin, and also included a detailed account of a visitation from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, after his Resurrection. 

The name given to this ancient record was "The Book of Mormon", because the records had been abridged by Moroni's father, a prophet whose name was Mormon. Mormon took the most important information from the hundreds of written records of his people and combined them into one record, carved into thin sheets of gold, which Moroni gave to Joseph Smith. Moroni also delivered tools for Joseph Smith to use to translate the ancient writing, which he accomplished through the gift and power of God (Joseph Smith only had an eighth grade education) in about 65 days. When the translation was completed, the angel Moroni returned to Joseph Smith and collected the record, returning it to the safety in which it had been preserved for almost 1,400 years.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church restored to the earth as He established it during His mortal ministry. People nicknamed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "Mormons" after the ancient American prophet, Mormon, who abridged the records. The simple truths that were lost from Christianity during the Great Apostasy (called the Dark Ages) are contained in The Book of Mormon, which is a companion to the Holy Bible. Jesus Christ continues to lead His church through a modern-day prophet, just as He called Peter to lead His church after His mortal death.

To learn more about what Mormons believe, visit Mormon.org