By Alison Satterwhite
Mark Twain, on his visit to Salt Lake City:
“There was fascination in surreptitiously staring at every creature we took to be a Mormon. This was fairyland to us, to all intents and purposes — a land of enchantment, and goblins, and awful mystery. We felt a curiosity to ask every child how many mothers it had, and if it could tell them apart; and we experienced a thrill every time a dwelling-house door opened and shut as we passed, disclosing a glimpse of human heads and backs and shoulders — for we so longed to have a good satisfying look at a Mormon family in all its comprehensive ampleness, disposed in the customary concentric rings of its home circle.”
For a glimpse into the “mysterious” and oft misunderstood world of Mormonism, here are 9 myths about Mormons addressed head on.
1. Mormons don’t drink Coke.
The truth is, some Mormons don’t drink Coke. Although not specifically mandated by the church, Mormons believe in a code of conduct called “The Word of Wisdom” which specifically advises against taking potentially harmful substances into the body (read the revelation given to Joseph Smith here). Some Mormons chose to include Coke or caffeine in that advice. Mormons believe that great blessings can come from regarding the body as a sacred gift that houses their spirit (see above link for promises associated with keeping this commandment).
2. Mormon men have more than one wife.
The truth is, Mormons do not practice polygamy and have not since it was officially denounced in 1890. While the church does not practice polygamy today, it does not deny that past practice of the principle was wrong. As is written throughout scripture, and for God’s specific purposes, Mormons believe the practice is “commanded by God, and forbidden by God” as directed by a living prophet (read the official declaration ending polygamy here). In 1998 another statement concerning the practice of polygamy was made by then prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley:
“I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter. If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, ‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law’ (Articles of Faith 1:12). One cannot obey the law and disobey the law at the same time. There is no such thing as a ‘Mormon Fundamentalist.’ It is a contradiction to use the two words together.”
3. Mormons are supposed to have large families.
The truth is, many Mormons have small-average sized families. While Mormons believe in the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth (see Moses 2:28), there isn’t a specific mandate to have a “large” family. However, some choose to have a lot of children because of their belief in the overarching Plan of Salvation–the importance of bringing of spirit children into the world to gain mortal experience so they can return successfully to a loving Heavenly Father. As Joseph Smith once said, “I teach [the people] correct principles and they govern themselves.” In fact, the current president of the church and over half of the 12 apostles have 3 children or less.
4. Mormons are required to serve missions.
The truth is, Mormons are not “required” to serve missions. It is true that boys who are age 19 are asked to serve self-paid missions and many do if they meet the lengthy and stringent requirements that allow them to qualify. The same is not asked of girls, although they can go if they so choose at the age of 21. Many couples serve missions together after they are retired and if they can afford to do so. There are currently over 60,000 missionaries serving all over the world.
5. The Book of Mormon is the Mormon Bible.
The truth is, Mormons believe both the Book of Mormon and the Holy Bible to be the word of God. The Book of Mormon is a companion to the Holy Bible and serves to confirm the truthfulness and reality of Christ. The Book of Mormon is a record of the ancient inhabitants on the American Continent (beginning around 600 BC) and their personal witnesses of Christ after He appeared to them. To read it, click here.
6. Mormon women are oppressed.
The truth is, Mormon women are the antithesis of oppressed. While some may view Mormon doctrine as oppressive, those who understand it spiritually find it liberating. Mormon women take pride in living benevolent and virtuous lives. They believe in protecting themselves and their families from the imprisoning evils of the world and they are counseled to avoid things that lead to addictions, adultery, the disintegration of the family unit and other more grievous acts. Boundaries provide protection, sanctuary and peace of mind. Men and women’s roles are considered separate in some ways but ultimately equal in importance and influence. Mormons believe a man or woman cannot reach their ultimate goal of exaltation without the other by their side (see The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
7. Mormons worship Joseph Smith.
The truth is, Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith, but acknowledge his great contribution and sacrifice in restoring the gospel as established by Jesus Christ back to the earth. As the first prophet of the last dispensation, we honor his name but look only to the living Christ for redemption and remission of our sins.
8. Mormons are secretive about temple worship.
The truth is Mormons aren’t secretive about temple worship; they hold it sacred to their hearts and promise not to exploit the solemn covenants made within its walls. The temple is the place where covenants are made with the Lord and promised blessings for obedience are received. The temple is considered by Mormons to be the house of the Lord. In reality, all of the covenants or promises made in the temple are found in the scriptures. Families are bound together eternally and one can feel closer to God there over any other place on earth.
9. Mormons aren’t Christian.
The truth is, Mormons are Christian. They believe in Christ, look to Christ for a remission of sin, worship Christ, and strive to emulate Christ as admonished in the Holy Bible and The Book of Mormon. They are in name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. The main point of doctrinal difference in Mormon beliefs versus other Christians is that through modern revelation they believe the Godhead is made up of 3 distinct beings, namely Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and God himself. They are not 3 people wrapped into one –as other Christians profess –although they are one in purpose.