By Alison Satterwhite
Although most people ask the question, “What do Mormon’s believe?”, often what they really want to know is “Why?” Aside from receiving a personal confirmation of the doctrine, I realized that these questions work together harmoniously to solidify the answers in my heart. In other words, the reason ‘why’ I believe is because of ‘what’ I believe. Here are the top 5 reasons ‘why’ I believe…along with a small synopsis of the parallel and necessary ‘what’. To read more about why other Mormon’s believe, click here.
1. Families Can Be Together Forever.
The doctrine of eternal families makes perfect sense when we understand the nature of God as our literal Heavenly Father. If our goal is to be like Him, we need the opportunity to form families and parent with an “in utero” eternal outlook. In the beginning, God sealed Adam and Eve together in marriage–the forever type of marriage that is eternal in nature (see Moses 5:59). Shortly after, Jesus gave authority to his disciples to bind on heaven that which is bound on Earth (see Matthew 16:19). Though that power to “seal” families together was lost after the death of Christ and his apostles, the authority was restored when Elijah the prophet stood before Joseph Smith, and said: “Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—… The keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands” (see D&C 110:13–14, 16). Through sacred ordinances performed in temples, families near and distant can be sealed together forever if they live worthily (see D&C 132:19).
2. A Restoration of the Gospel was Necessary.
After the death of Christ, the people fell away and the original apostles were killed one by one. With their deaths, the keys to the Priesthood were lost. Over time, correct principles were abandoned and authority corrupted until eventually only human wisdom was relied upon in maintaining and teaching the gospel. Much of the original understanding of the nature of Christ was fabricated, lost or forgotten. Eventually the authority to perform ordinances was taken from the earth entirely. The world fell into a state of apostasy and many people built churches according to their own dictates. After thousand of years in spiritual darkness, many people rebelled against the formally established religious practices of the day, seeking truth and light elsewhere. This led to the Reformation and organization of many Protestant churches, which opened the door to continued religious freedom and eventually the final “Restoration”. The great Apostasy and final Restoration of the gospel was foretold by the Savior’s apostles as found throughout the scriptures, including Thessalonians 2: 1-2; Timothy 4:3-4; 1 Nephi 13, etc. Without a Restoration, authority from Christ himself to administer and perform the ordinances of the gospel would be lost forever, thus would mankind be also.
3. Each is Entitled to Personal Revelation.
Just as the 14-year-old boy Joseph Smith sought divine counsel, so can we. In James 1: 5, it 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.” It was through this passage, that Joseph Smith was inspired to kneel in prayer and ask God which church he should join. Through this experience, and many thereafter, he would receive much personal revelation concerning the matter (see Introduction of the Book of Mormon). We are all entitled to receive our own personal witness of truth through the Holy Ghost, who manifests the truthfulness of all things unto the children of men (see D&C 124: 97). All we have to do is ask.
4. There is a Plan for Each of Us.
The “Plan of Salvation” gives a much more comprehensive understanding of Heaven. Through modern revelation, we are able to understand more fully this loving and merciful plan including a broader view of life before and after death and our mortal probation. The Plan of Salvation is as follows:
a) We are literal spirit children of a loving God and lived with Him as such before we were born. We were not like Him nor could we ever be like him without experiencing mortality and a physical body. Because God’s purpose is to bless us with what He has, He sent us here to Earth to gain mortal experience and be tested, thus accomplishing His work and His Glory. Without Christ however, the Plan would be in vain because of sin which would prohibit us from returning to His presence. In His infinite wisdom, He provided a Savior and granted us the agency to choose, knowing that our eternal progression would hinge on how we used it. This Plan would allow us to prove ourselves over time, imperfect as we are, and return to live with Him if we are obedient.
b) God created the earth as a place for His children to gain mortal experience and be tested as we progress and become like Him. In His wisdom, God veiled our pre-earth life memories, so that we could learn to walk by faith.
c) Made in God’s image, He placed our first parents, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden where they lived in innocence while being provided for. Having their agency, God commanded them not to eat the fruit of ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’. “Obeying this commandment meant that they could remain in the garden, but they could not progress by experiencing opposition in mortality. They could not know joy because they could not experience sorrow and pain.” (Preach My Gospel, page 49). They were tempted, fell, and were left to experience a mortal existence that was foreseen and planned for by a loving Father. It was in this new mortal setting that they would ultimately progress and become like the Father. Additionally, they could have children and progress the work of God in bringing His spirit children into the world to be tested and proved.
d) Mortal life provides us with an opportunity to progress and grow spiritually if we desire. Unlike God’s immortal body of flesh and bones, we have imperfect mortal bodies, and must eventually die. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can gain experience and return to live with our perfect Father in Heaven. Similar to physical death, sin is an obstacle in becoming like Him and being worthy to be in His presence. Although our mistakes allow us room for growth, we must seek true repentance and forgiveness for our errors if we are to truly become as He is and return to Him. We cannot do it without the atonement of Jesus Christ.
e) God, in His wisdom, recognized the need for an infinite atonement for His children if we were to return to His presence. Thus, He provided a Savior, Jesus Christ, to overcome the effects of the Fall. Because Jesus died and was resurrected on the third day, we are all the promised gift of the resurrection–a reuniting of our bodies and spirits–regardless of our course in life. “The resurrection makes it possible to return to God’s presence to be judged but does not guarantee that we will be able to live in His presence. To receive that blessing, we must also be cleansed from sin.” (Preach My Gospel, page 51). We can be cleansed from sin by repenting, being baptized, receiving the Holy Ghost and keeping the commandments faithfully to the end. Submitting completely to the will of the Father, Christ alone was capable of paying the penalty for our sins because He was perfect, obedient, prepared and willing. His gift to us is the relief of the burden of our sins as we strive to do what is right.
f) Each of us must die as we transition from mortality to immortality. When we die, we go to the ‘spirit world’ and remain in the state of mind we were in at the time we died, whether it be good or evil. While those who chose to obey God live in a state of peace and rest, those who did not, live in a state of unhappiness. Those who did not have the opportunity to hear or live the gospel while on earth have the opportunity to hear and accept it while they await the resurrection.
g) Eventually, our bodies and spirits will be reunited through the resurrection. At this time, we will be brought into God’s presence to be judged of our works and desires, whether they be good or bad. Although every person will receive the gift of immortality, only those who have lived worthily will receive the gift of eternal life. Eternal life is a state reserved for those who have obeyed His gospel and have applied the atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives. It means living with God forever in eternal families while knowing the Father and Son and experiencing the life they enjoy.
h) After we have met God and been judged according to our works and desires, we will be assigned a ‘kingdom of glory’. Because we will be judged based on our mortal deeds, there are different kingdoms in accordance with our works. The highest kingdom attainable is the Celestial kingdom. Compared in the scriptures to the glory of the sun, it is for those who have obeyed God’s commandments, repented of their sins, and received the ordinances of the gospel and made and kept covenants. It is after all of this, that they will be cleansed by the atoning blood of Christ and receive exaltation or eternal life with members of their family who also qualify. The lesser kingdom which is compared to the glory of the moon, or the Terrestrial kingdom, is reserved for people who live honorable lives, but do not accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. The lowest kingdom as compared to the glory of the stars is the Telestial kingdom for those who sin and do not repent. Lastly, there is an outer darkness prepared only for those who have a testimony of Christ, have seen him face to face, and deny Him.
5. There is a Living Prophet.
One of the greatest things about the gospel is the continual revelation we receive through a living prophet that is applicable to our day and immediate needs. Revelation did not end with the Bible. Because the gospel was restored, a living prophet and apostles once again hold the keys to the Priesthood as established by Christ. “A prophet is called and chosen by God and is a righteous man with great faith. The Lord reveals truth to him through the Holy Ghost. He commands His prophet to teach truth to all people. Christ’s church is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, who direct the church by revelation.” (Preach My Gospel, page 75).