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Definitions of basic terms:
God: A god is a person who is exalted, that is, a person who has reached his full potential (there are goddesses, too). We all have the potential to become gods/goddesses. There is no qualitative (different in kind) between us and God, it is all a matter of quantity (or degree). There are potentially an innumerable number of gods in existence.
Godhead: The Godhead in Mormonism refers to three particular gods, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. These are separate, exalted beings who act as one in their intentions. The Father became a god first, helping the Son and Holy Ghost achieve their godhood.
Christ: Christ is the Son in the flesh who was literally crucified and risen from the dead in three days. Without him Mormons do not believe it is possible to achieve salvation. He doesn’t have a dual nature as in trinitarianism, he has only the divine (as defined above under ‘God’). It is also a traditional belief in Mormonism, going out of style, that Christ was conceived by Mary through intercourse with the Father.
Ordinance: rituals which require the LDS priesthood to be considered binding in Mormon theology. Some which are essential to go to the CelestialKingdom are: baptism, confirmation and reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands, the temple endowment, eternal marriage/sealing/temple marriage. Some which are not essential for salvation include: blessings for healing or comfort through anointing with oil and laying on of hands.
Callings: since the LDS church is run on the local level by unpaid lay members, every lay member is giving a ‘calling’ or job within the church.
Word of Wisdom: the dietary law set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants prohibiting the intake of alcohol, tobacco, coffee or tea.
Ward/Stake: parallels parish/diocese in the Catholic setting. A ward is presided over by a bishop, and a stake by a stake president.
Celestial, Terrestial, Telestial Kingdom: the 3 kingdoms of heaven in which almost every single person will go to. The Celestial kingdom is reserved for those who have participated in LDS ordinances and upheld the covenants they made.
Pre-mortal realm: before humans came to earth they lived as spirits in the presence of Heavenly Father. This is referred to as the pre-mortal realm or life.
Spirit world: the place where spirits of the dead await the resurrection.
Exaltation: Deification, being made a god or goddess. This is the divine potential of every human.
Temple: unlike chapels, only Mormons may enter these. In them, ordinance work such as baptisms for the dead is done, as well as endowments and sealing of spouses and families for eternity.
Eternal marriage/temple marriage: marriages which are performed in an LDS temple and considered binding throughout eternity. This is a requirement for exaltation.
Temple endowment: a series of blessings and covenant making made within an LDS temple.
Garments: the infamous underwear. These are received in the process of the temple endowment, and are worn throughout life under clothing. They are white, and resemble long underpants and a t-shirt, meant to remind one of covenants made within the temple.
The timeline of the life of an individual in Mormon theology:
1. Begin as a disembodied intelligence. This intelligence refers to the core of being, if body and spirit were to be stripped away.
2. God embodies individuals with a spirit body. God here refers to Heavenly Father, with the help of a Heavenly Mother.
3. The spirit children of Heavenly Father grow and progress as much as they can in his presence and without a physical body. He calls together a council and informs his children that in order to become more like him, they will have to leave his presence, and receive physical bodies. Both his eldest son, Jesus, and Lucifer present plans for how this is to be accomplished. Jesus wants to give free choice and promises to atone for the sins that the children will inevitably commit. Lucifer wants to force everybody to be saved, so that the glory of the project can go to him. By this time Jesus is exalted, or deified.
4. A third of the spirit children side with Lucifer, and a battle ensues. Lucifer is tossed out of heaven, becomes Satan, and the spirits that followed him demons. Those that follow Jesus wait as Heavenly Father through Jesus create the earth.
5. Adam and Eve are created when the spirits of two of the spirit children are physically embodied. They disobey a directive of Heavenly Father and are ordered out of the Garden of Eden, and leave their initial innocent state and are made mortal. Through their sin, humans are given a true choice between good and evil, thus fulfilling the plan of Jesus.
6. Jesus atones for the sins of humans, and through his atonement all are born into the world clean and innocent. Humans are challenged to obey the dictates of heaven, to prepare themselves to reenter into the presence of God. They learn to master their physical bodies and their passions in order to learn how to have true joy through facing adversity.
7. After a person dies, his or her spirit leaves the mortal physical body and enters into a realm called the spirit world. In the spirit world those who did not hear the gospel of Jesus and were not baptized by the proper authority (through the LDS priesthood), will hear the gospel preached and can make a choice to accept it. Because of the by-proxy ordinance work done by LDS members today in temples, those spirits can then choose to accept the work done on their behalf.
8. At some point Jesus will return to earth in glory and the wicked will be destroyed. The wicked will suffer during the thousand year millennial reign of Christ on the earth.
9. After the millennial reign, all will be resurrected. Those who were tortured during this time will be released, and with all others inherit perfected, immortal physical bodies. There will be a judgment and humans will be assigned one of four possible destinations:
a. Outer Darkness. Reserved for Satan, demons and a handful of humans known as the Sons of Perdition. These are those who knew the truth of the gospel with absolute certainty, but later rejected it and sought to destroy the work of Christ on the earth.
b. Telestial Kingdom: For murderers, rapists, and otherwise bad people. This is a kindgom of heaven which enjoys the least amount of glory.
c. Terrestial Kingdom: For those who were righteous but rejected the gospel (i.e. were not baptized under Mormon authority) and those who accepted the gospel but were not particularly valiant in living it.
d. Celestial Kingdom: The kingdom of heaven with the greatest glory. Those who inherit this glory enjoy the direct presence of God. Those who have been sealed with their spouses in a temple will have the opportunity to eventually become exalted, or deified, as Jesus was.
1. 1805: Joseph Smith born in Vermont
2. 1820: Joseph receives his first vision of the Father and Son.
3. 1830: the Book of Mormon is published, and the Church is officially formed in New York.
4. 1831: Kirtland, Ohio is the gathering place of the Saints. Missouri is identified as the place of the Second Coming and a community begins to assemble there.
5. 1838: The disintegration of the Kirtland community. Joseph moves headquarters to suffering Missouri Saints. Governer Boggs issues the famous ‘extermination order’ stating that Mormons must leave the state or be destroyed leading to the Haun’s Mill Massacre in which 17 Mormons were murdered. Joseph Smith and other church leaders are imprisoned.
6. 1839: Joseph is allowed to escape and establishes a new gathering place in Illinois.
7. 1840: Nauvoo, the new gathering site, is given a substantial city charter and the total LDS membership exceeds 30,000. By the time of the death of Joseph, Nauvoo will be the largest city in Illinois.
8. 1842: The practice of polygamy, eternal marriages and the introduction of the endowment ceremony.
9. 1844: Joseph and Hyrum Smith are murdered while being held at Carthage jail in Illinois over the destruction of a press.
10. 1846: Under pressure to leave, the first Mormon pioneers leave for the West. The Nauvoo temple is completed.
11. 1847: the first company of Mormons reaches the Salt Lake valley.
12. 1850: Due to a large influx of foreign converts, particularly in England, the Mormon population reaches 60,000.
13. 1857: the tragic murder of an Arkansas wagon train by local Native Americans and Mormons, known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
14. 1890: The LDS church officially gives up the practice of plural marriages or polygamy.
15. 1896: Utah becomes a state. The economic, political empire of the LDS church is curtailed. Utah can no longer vote as a bloc and a 2 party system enforced and the suffrage it had granted to women is removed.
16. 1978: The LDS church grants the right of blacks, along with all other worthy males, to be given the priesthood. Previously, since the Utah period, the LDS church had prohibited blacks from receiving the priesthood though they could join the church.
17. 2004: The Mormon population rises to 12 million. About half of those members are outside of the US, including an expanding mission in Africa.
The canonized writings of Mormonism are:
1. Protestant Bible (KJV)
2. Book of Mormon: Purported to be the writings of prophets on the American continents between 600 BC- 421 AD, recorded on metal plates and buried. Joseph Smith reported that an angel revealed the location of these plates to him, and that he translated them by the power of God.
3. Doctrine and Covenants: Primarily the purported revelations given through Joseph Smith, written down and canonized. It also includes Official Declarations concerning the ending of polygamy (Official Declaration 1) and the priesthood ban against black men (Official Declaration 2).
4. Pearl of Great Price: Includes a portion of the Bible which Joseph Smith rewrote claiming inspiration (the Book of Moses and a portion of Matthew), translation word of Egyptian scrolls he claimed to translate under inspiration (the Book of Abraham), excerpts from his history and the Articles of Faith.