In studying cross-cultural issues, as I do, it is virtually impossible to ignore the influence of faith on human identity and relationships. I’m not a spokesperson for my Church, and I’m not interested in imposing my personal beliefs on anyone else. At the same time I think it is good to have thoughtful conversations about things like faith.

Salt Lake Temple

Although academicians are usually mute on issues of faith, I have created this entry for two reasons: (1) I have recently received more questions than usual about being a Mormon, and (2) I have been surprised by how much confusion and misrepresentation there is about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (both on the Internet and in mainstream media) – sometimes by those with malicious intent, but usually (I believe) by well-meaning yet misinformed individuals.

One thing that makes these discussions tricky is that faith is usually not anything that can be proven with the tools of “reason” and “logic” traditionally used in Western society (e.g. scientific method, etc.). I don’t want to get hung up on this, for fear of making the entry too long, but I have put three initial responses to this issue in the first comment (on this post), for anyone interested.

I also think people of any denomination might be hesitant to speak about their faith because they recognize it is a sensitive issue (and a source of far too much conflict). Often, people of faith seem to have an automatic defensive response – waiting for someone to attack (usually on the basis of some obscure part of history or scripture that isn’t really central to who they are or what they believe). My feeling is that although I can not know every minute detail of history, or perhaps even speak very accurately for what happened in the past (because obviously I wasn’t there), I can simply speak briefly about my personal experience growing up and living as a Mormon, what I have seen in the mainstream beliefs/teachings of my faith, and what I have respected so much in the leaders and teachers that I have had.

I have personalized some thoughts into four categories that were originally suggested by a leader of the Church.


  • First, “Mormon” is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members are often referred to as “Mormons,” “Latter-day Saints,” or “LDS.” The term “Saint” means “member.” (Why that nick name? What “Mormon” means – which quite honestly would sound strange to me if I was not a member – is explained in the last point about faith.)
  • Second, the Church was restored in 1830 in rural New York – we believe it is a restoration of the church structure taught by Jesus. Today the formal Church headquarters are in Salt Lake City, Utah, with President Gordon B. Hinckley as the current prophet.
  • Third, there are now over 13 million members in 176 countries and territories. [Source] I have attended Churchglobe meetings in over a dozen countries and consistently am amazed by the strength and faith of the local leadership and local members, the instant warmth and welcome that I feel, and how much I have learned about what it is to live like a Christian from people with vastly different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
  • Fourth, about 6 million members live in the United States, making us the fourth or fifth largest Christian denomination there. As one of the fastest growing Christian faiths in the world, the LDS Church completes a new chapel somewhere in the world every working day. Members voluntarily pay a tithe, which is 10 percent of their income, making this, as well as many welfare and humanitarian programs possible.
  • Fifth, local congregations are led by volunteer, unpaid members. Both men and women serve in assigned leadership positions.
  • And sixth, Mormons are not told what political party to vote for but they are encouraged to serve in the communities which they live according to their conscience and talents. As a result, they are increasingly represented in politics and government (in the United States, for example, there are currently 16 Mormons in Congress, from both political parties). Members also serve in high and trusted positions throughout the world in business, medicine, law, education, media, sports, and entertainment. Approximately one third of all Boy Scouts are Mormon, which is not always particularly “cool” to tell your friends when you are a kid (that you are a Boy Scout), but it was fun going camping and scouting with most of your friends in church, and you appreciate it all more when you are older.


  • If I was going to summarize the purpose of our faith, I would say it is to help each individual develop a personalwashington DC temple relationship with God, so much that you can feel His presence, His love, and His guidance in your life. All aspects of the religion (prayer, baptism, scripture reading, church attendance, service, education, code of health, etc) assist with getting people to that point, and/or come as a result of feeling His love.
  • We believe in the eternity of the soul, that God is the Father of our spirits, and that we can return to Him after death.
  • We believe that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior, and we try to model our lives after Him and His teachings. We commemorate Christ’s atoning sacrifice in our Sunday worship services, similar to taking communion in other churches. We accept as fellow Christians all who believe Jesus Christ to be the Savior of mankind. Many Christians do not understand that we have much common ground with them. Joseph Smith taught that Jesus Christ is the core of our belief, and everything else is an appendage to it (see Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 44). The name of the Church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.
  • We believe that shortly after the death of Jesus and his original apostles, the original church structure that Jesus established was lost (and many beliefs such as baptism, priesthood, nature of God, etc were altered) and that these have been restored again in our day. The priesthood, the authority given to man to act in behalf of Christ’s Church, with apostles and a prophet, has been restored as have all necessary principles by which man can draw near to Heavenly Father and accomplish our unique purposes in life.
  • We believe in and we use the Holy Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.
  • And we believe in the Book of Mormon and other books of scripture which support and authenticate the Bible and testify of the ministry and divinity of Christ and of God’s ongoing revelation to man. Mormon was the name of the man living around 400AD who compiled the record of his people, known as The Book of Mormon. As it is a record of God’s dealings with them and their faith in Christ, the subtitle of the Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”


Most people already know how family-centered our theology and our lifestyles are, but here are a few facts:

  • Mormons place particularly strong emphasis on family as the basic unit of the Church and of society. We have a deepSome of my family commitment to marriage (defined as a union between one man and one woman), and believe it need not be “till death do you part” – but can continue for eternity. Polygamy, a limited practice in the early pioneer days of the Church, was discontinued in 1890, a long 117 years ago.
  • Families and individuals, whether members of our faith or not, can attend Sunday meetings in our chapels, where we share and learn about living a Christ-like life.
  • Latter-day Saint families are encouraged to hold family home evenings weekly, usually on Monday nights. Although in my home (with 8 kids) they were a little chaotic at times, they were great times for my family to learn together and just have fun. Even many people not of our faith are beginning to adopt this practice with their own families.
  • The Church has special organizations for men, women, youth, and children. These programs provide such things as religious instruction, opportunities for Christian service, sports, drama, music, and Scouting.
  • And there is also much focus on extended family, genealogy, and personal family history, providing young and old with a stronger sense of roots, identity, and belonging. The highest and most sacred practices of our faith relate to our families, both living and dead, and some of these ordinances take place in our temples.


It was Jesus who said “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20; emphasis added). A church, or any way of life, should be judged by the fruits or the results that it generates. Here are a few examples based on United States statistics. But these would be similar throughout the world among practicing Mormons:New Era cover - LDS magazine for youth

  • A $4 million dollar study conducted at UNC – Chapel Hill studied youth and religion – and found that of all the religious groups surveyed, Mormon teenagers fared best at avoiding risky behaviors, doing well in school and having a positive attitude about the future. [Source]
  • One of the fruits is a longer life. Studies show that practicing Mormons are healthier and therefore live longer than the national average. [Source] In 1833 Mormons believe the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the Word of Wisdom, as a way to live in order to enjoy a long and healthy life.
  • Those who are married in and attend the temple regularly have a divorce rate far below the national and world average. [Source]
  • Members of the LDS Church achieve an educational level that is higher than the national average. In fact, there is research evidence that as Latter-day Saints become more educated, they are more likely to be active Church participants, a trend opposite what seems to be found elsewhere. [Source]
  • Self magazine has repeatedly ranked Provo and Orem, Utah as the number 1 or 2 healthiest city in the country for women. The article said that the Mormon influence is the reason women in Provo experience such low incidents of cancer, smoking, drinking, violence, depression, etc. [Source]
  • Over 70,000 members volunteer each year at their own expense to serve for 18 to 24 months in humanitarian efforts, Church service assignments, and full-time missionary service throughout the world. [Source]
  • There is strong emphasis on self-reliance and a solid work ethic. We encourage active involvement in our communities and in providing service to others. The Church continues to donate substantial money, goods, and services to humanitarian causes around the globe [Source], including untold hours of labor donated by members to assist in disaster cleanup [e.g. Source about hurricane Katrina] and relief [e.g. Source about working with Muslims in the Middle East crisis relief].Humanitarian services
  • In March 2001, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the creation of the Perpetual Education Fund to provide members in developing countries with opportunities to gain education and training which lead to employment opportunities in their own countries. Within months of being announced members had donated millions to fund this effort. [Source]
  • I have found so much to respect in most (all though not all) of the Mormon’s that I have met. I am amazed by the time and interest that so many of my teachers and leaders have spent in service to me and others. [Link to listen to recent talks given by leaders of the Church]

Hawaii temple
Well, I hope this entry came across as I intended. It represents some of my personal observations and experiences. I have spent some time studying many religions, and I am fascinated by the topic. For anyone interested in a safe, non-confrontational discussion about any religion, I am open to it.


Some additional links for anyone who is interested: