Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we answer the question, “What sets The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apart from other Christian churches?”
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This question can be a little bit sensitive because as followers of Jesus Christ, but more importantly, as children of God, our unity and love for one another grow most when we remember how similar we are without focusing on our differences.
We do believe we have some good to bring to the world. President Gordon B. Hinckley, during his time as president of the Church, said, “We recognize the good in all people. We recognize the good in all churches, in their efforts to improve mankind and to teach principles that lead to good, stable, productive living. To people everywhere, we simply say, ‘You bring with you all the good that you have, and let us add to it. That is the principle on which we work.’”
We wouldn’t be sending missionaries throughout the world if we didn’t think we had something valuable to offer our brothers and sisters, but we strive to love, honor, respect, and serve our fellow man throughout the world no matter our differences.
Still, in keeping with President Hinckley’s assertion that we may be able to add something of value to our brothers and sisters, here are three principles and truths The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has to offer.
We believe that we belong to the church of Jesus Christ—the church He founded when He was on the earth. The fullness of His truth, however, was lost for a time. After His Crucifixion, the priesthood authority with which the apostles had been ordained was lost to the earth. This brought about an apostasy—a falling away from the truth Jesus taught. We believe it was prophesied that there would be an apostasy between the time of Christ’s first coming and His second coming (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). This priesthood authority is needed to lead the Lord’s church, but it was no longer found on the earth.
The way to receive this priesthood authority has not changed since biblical times. Priesthood is conferred from one priesthood holder to another through the laying on of hands. If there were no priesthood holders after the martyrdom of the apostles, then where can modern-day priesthood come from?
Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had this same question. He and Oliver Cowdery had read about the need for baptism but didn’t know who would have the authority to baptize in Christ’s name. Christ Himself went to one with authority (John) to be baptized in the proper manner. John had this authority because his father, Zacharias, was a priest within the temple. He held the priesthood and conferred it on to his son. When Joseph and Oliver prayed to know about baptism and the authority to baptize, John the Baptist descended from heaven to confer that same priesthood (known as the Aaronic priesthood, or the lesser priesthood) upon Joseph and Oliver. Once they had this sacred authority, they were authorized to baptize in Christ’s name, just as John the Baptist had been. John told them, “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (D&C 13:1).
Later, Peter, James, and John also came to confer the higher priesthood, or the Melchizedek priesthood to increase Joseph’s and Oliver’s priesthood authority.
If you know someone who holds this priesthood, you might ask them to share with you their priesthood line of authority. For example, my husband would say he received the Melchizedek priesthood under the hands of his father, Mark who received it under the hand of his, father, John, etc., etc., who received it under the hand of Joseph Smith, who received it under the hands of Peter, James, and John, who received it under the hands of Jesus Christ. The line is clear and direct. Having the genuine authority to act in Christ’s stead brings about a great many blessings, including our next point.
Covenants and Ordinances
Jesus Christ taught that receiving baptism and the Holy Ghost (being born of the Spirit) are both necessary to join Him in the kingdom of God.
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
Baptism is required, but as described above, it needs to be done under proper authority. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has this authority. Baptism is the first ordinance and symbolizes the first covenants we make with Heavenly Father.
We also partake of the sacrament as described by the Lord in the Last Supper (whether communion or sacrament, this is common in Christian denominations).
In addition, however, we worship and receive ordinances in the temple. These ordinances are sacred and are not specifically discussed outside of the temple, even among spouses in their own homes, but they include the ability to seal families together forever. While many Christian faiths believe that marriage is “until death do you part,” the Church of Jesus Christ believes that marriage is ordained of God and He honors marriages performed under proper authority—such as in the temple. These ceremonies are called “sealings” because they bind or seal families together. Children are also sealed to their parents (though if the parents were sealed in the temple prior to the children’s birth, they are automatically sealed to their families). Many of us innately believe in forever families. Sealings in the temple under proper priesthood authority make that possible.
A Living Prophet
Since Adam, there have been periods of time when the believers were led by a prophet. These periods are called, “dispensations.”
“A dispensation of the gospel is a period of time in which the Lord has at least one authorized servant on the earth who bears the holy priesthood and the keys, and who has a divine commission to dispense the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth.” (Bible Dictionary)
The first dispensation began with Adam, but others followed including those led by Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, and later with Jesus and his apostles. Ephesians 1:10 promises that “in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.” This dispensation began when Joseph Smith was called by God to be a prophet. “All things,” and all truth revealed in these prior dispensations were restored and continue to be restored to the Lord’s prophet on the earth. Today that man is Russell M. Nelson.
We are Peculiar
While I maintain that as people of faith or simply as children of God, we have more in common than we have differences, there certainly are some things that make practicing members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unique. We seek to share what we feel are our blessings with others, but we honor all people’s right to live and believe differently. One of the core tenets of our belief states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
If any of these “differences” appeal to you, we invite you as Jesus did to “come and see.” Check out our website for more teachings, or better yet, meet with the missionaries whom can ask your unique questions in real-time. Find some missionaries here: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/comeuntochrist/requests/missionary-visit
Or come and meet with us next Sunday. Go here to find a meeting near you.
If you’re in the neighborhood, I’m happy to save a seat for you.
Disclaimer: While all of my answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t believe any of my answers are comprehensive. I’m just one person using the gospel I have been blessed with to bring hope, peace, and answers to other seekers of truth.