Ben Hawks, left, listens to Elder Smith, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' stake in Craig, during an appointment. Elder Smith is a missionary stationed in Colorado and currently serving the stake at Craig. Young men of the faith are encouraged to go on missions, lasting two years, in service to their faith.

Photo by Darian Warden

Ben Hawks, left, listens to Elder Smith, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' stake in Craig, during an appointment. Elder Smith is a missionary stationed in Colorado and currently serving the stake at Craig. Young men of the faith are encouraged to go on missions, lasting two years, in service to their faith.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Truths and misconceptions about the Mormon faith

Moffat County LDS members, officials from other churches debunk misconceptions about Mormon faith

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Nancy Vallem, far left, listens with boyfriend Ben Hawks as Elder Smith, far right and Elder Campbell, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talk with them about things to work on during the week. Elders Smith and Campbell, missionaries stationed in Colorado, were at an appointment Wednesday at Vallem's apartment, and discussed topics such as fasting and tithing.

The scene Tuesday night at the home of Ron and Kim Schnackenberg consisted of people gathered to share food, stories and laughter.

Members of one of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' three wards in Craig, the Schnackenbergs hosted an open house for members of the community to come and ask questions about their religion.

They acknowledged there is plenty of speculation surrounding their faith, and with presidential candidate Mitt Romney being a member of the LDS church questions have been raised as to the misconceptions and truths regarding the faith better known as Mormonism.

The Schnackenbergs, along with Bishop Forrest Luke, missionaries Elder Smith and Elder Campbell, and other members of the church, fielded questions and explained their beliefs over the course of the evening.

Ron Schnackenberg said he believes the biggest misconception about his faith is that LDS members are not Christian.

“We are a Christian church, we believe Jesus Christ is the savior of the world and that he died for our sins,” Schnackenberg said.

Pastor Loren Pankratz, of the non-denominational Bridge Community Church in Centerville, Utah, said he believes it depends on the definition of Christian being used.

“If you mean Christ follower then yeah, but no traditional Christian would say they’re Christian under that definition,” Pankratz said. “It’s more than you follow Jesus.”

Pankratz earned a master's of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and did his dissertation on differences between the LDS understanding of grace and the understanding taught by other Christian denominations.

He lives in an area where about 85 percent of the residents are members of the LDS church. And although they may differ in their beliefs, Pankratz praised LDS members for their commitment to community and family.

Pankratz said when strong winds wrought destruction in Utah last year, LDS church members were some of the first to respond.

“Mormonism is more of a culture than a simple faith, and they do community really well,” Pankratz said. “When the winds came last year, the LDS church responded amazingly. They organized a clean up drive and cancelled church and told everyone to go help.”

Living a good life is a major cornerstone of the faith, but Elder Robbie Smith, a missionary working in Colorado and currently based in Craig, said another misconception people have is thinking Mormons believe you must work your way into heaven.

Although important to the religion, works are not the way to gain entrance into heaven, he said.

“No matter how much you work, you’re not going to do it alone,” Smith said.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about the LDS church involves the practice of polygamy.

“That they’re OK with it or practice, it isn’t true,” Pankratz said. “They distanced themselves from that in 1890. They stepped away from it.”

Pankratz said if the church found one of their members practicing, they would probably disavow them, or throw them out. He also said mainstream media, through shows like Big Love and Sister Wives, perpetuate the misconception, and said although groups like the ones portrayed in the TV shows might consider themselves Mormon, they are not LDS.

Overall, Ron Schnackenberg said the church believes in constant progression and that Jesus set the perfect example for which members should strive. He also said God is the ultimate judge, and will base his judgment on the way one tried to live.

The 13 Articles of Faith, passed down from the prophet Joseph Smith, founder of the religion, all relate to living a life pleasing to God.

Article 13 states that LDS members believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous and in doing good to all men. It also says church members are interested in anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.

The head of the church is president and prophet Thomas Monson. Along with two counselors, the three apostles make up the First Presidency.

Monson is considered by church members to be the current authorized prophet of God.

Underneath the First Presidency are 12 apostles, then quorums of 70 throughout the world. At a more local level are stakes, which house wards and branches.

Wards and branches are decided by geographic distribution of church members. There are three wards in Craig, each led by a Bishop. All three are part of the Meeker stake.

Bishop Luke said he has about 400 members in his ward.

Other unique parts of the faith include the way it functions solely on volunteers — not a single position is paid and all clergy members are lay— and that LDS members believe in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon as the word of God.

Ron Schnackenberg, a convert to the religion later in life, said the openness and quality of life promoted by the religion is what drew him to it.

“The thing that impressed me was that they taught the principles, then told you to pray about it,” Schnackenberg said. “There was no coercion.”

Pastor Len Browning, of the Journey at First Baptist in Craig, said he believed the average Mormon to be really tolerant and accepting of Christianity in many forms, and said he thinks “Mormonism has been good and wholesome and healthy and very good for creating a wholesome family.”

However, Browning doesn’t view Mormonism as another denomination of Christianity.

“I’ve asked members of the LDS church, ‘Why don’t you come over to my church Sunday morning then?’" Browning said. "There are obviously some core differences.”

Despite those differences, LDS members are taught to respect other religions, with one of the 13 articles allowing for all men to worship how, where and what they want to.

“We don’t believe in forcing people, rather offering an opportunity,” Schnackenberg said.

“Someone won’t go to hell if they don’t believe it.”

Darian can be reached at dwarden@craigdailyprss.com or 875-1793

Comments

Bot 2 years, 3 months ago

If there had been no Nicene Creed or Emperor Constantine, Catholic and Protestant theology would be quite similar to Mitt Romney’s In fact, there would likely be no need for the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) to restore Jesus Christ’s church. Mormons’ theology is based on New Testament Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ are closer to Early Christianity than any other denomination. And Mormon teenagers have been judged to “top the charts” in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study. Read about it here:

http://MormonsAreChristian.blogspot.com/

According to a 2012 Pew Forum poll of members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) 98 percent said they believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and 97 percent say their church is a Christian religion. They volunteer 7 times as many hours as does the general population, according to a 2012 University of Pennsylvania study. Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll:

http://www.pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx

11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (including several presidents) were non-Trinitarian Christians, as is Mitt Romney, who is as faithful as the most devout Founder.

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taxslave 2 years, 3 months ago

i ask any Mormom, is it true you believe Jesus and Luci are brothers? ...spiritual bros?

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ConnorCarpenter 2 years, 3 months ago

@ taxslave We believe Jesus is the perfect Son of God. We believe we are all sons and daughters of God as well. Thus, we believe that Jesus is our brother.

We also believe all intelligent beings created by God, such as angels, are sons and daughters of God. The Bible says Satan was an angel. Thus, he too was a son of God. Following this logic, Jesus and Satan could be considered brothers.

Do they have any of the same characteristics? No, they are as polar opposites as could exist. Jesus died for us in love to save us. Satan hates us and wants to destroy us.

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RachelFealty 2 years, 3 months ago

Mormonism doesn't seem to disclose the truth about itself until really pressed.

  1. Mormons can claim they are Christian all they want, but their meaning of "grace" is FAR different from other faiths. Unless you pay a 10% income tax to the church you can't enter the temple or enter the highest level of Heaven. That is NOT Christian.

  2. Mormons do indeed still believe in polygamy. They may not practice it right now, but it is still doctrinal for them and is still practiced, according to them, in the afterlife.

  3. What goes on in Mormon temples is cult-like. I know. I did it. Secret hand-shakes, hands held high overhead while chanting as a group. That is NOT Christian.

  4. The notion that people "won't go to Hell if they don't believe it" is misleading. Only temple-tax paying Mormons get into the "highest level" of Heaven. Period.

  5. Joseph Smith was a con man. Brigham Young was a racist. Those men were not prophets.

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RachelFealty 2 years, 3 months ago

Oh, and as for Mormons "volunteering seven times the number of hours as the general population"? Far and away most of those volunteer hours are spent administering things in their organization. They count as "volunteering" attending meetings on how to bring more people into Mormonism. They also count as "volunteering" counting the money that is collected each week and taking it to the bank.

The same study that was quoted above found that when all those internal tasks were backed out, Mormons volunteer no more than other Americans.

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tspenc 2 years, 3 months ago

People curious about Mormonism should learn about it from Mormons, not atheists, evangelicals, or the media. As for those who don't believe Mormons are Christians.....all they need to do is read a little of the Book of Mormon to KNOW that Mormons are Christian. That book is all about salvation through faith in Christ.

The doctrine of “Trinity” was propigated by the Catholic Church, at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., almost 300 years after the death of Christ! It’s easy to argue whether or not the Early Christian Church, in the early centuries after Christ, believed or taught “Trinity” doctrine. The Apostle Paul always spoke of Christ as the Son of God... not as the same person as God the Father. The word “trinity” appears no where in the Bible.
Also, the Bible supports all the controversial doctrines that Mormons are berated for. Among them: 1. baptism for the dead(1st Corinthians 15:29), 2. The three kingdoms of Heaven (1st Corinthians 15:35, 40-42, 2nd Corinthians 12:2) 3. Man may become like God. The Bible is full of scriptures infering that “man may become like God, “Ye are Gods (Psalms 82:6)” Ye are the children of God,” “Ye are the sons (and daughters) of God,” The Apostle Paul said, “We are the offspring of God.” See…(Psalms 82:6, Galations 4:4-7, 2 Peter 1:4, John 1:12, John 10:33-34, Romans 8:14,16,17, among the many). Do not sons and daughters grow up to become as their parents? The doctrine that “man may become like God,” is not unique to the Mormon Church. Many Early Church Fathers in the first centuries after Christ also believed that man could become like God. The doctrine was called "Theosis."..look it up on the internet. The following quotations are from early Church Fathers, theologians, and apologists from the first centuries after Christ, before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

Irenaeus- · "We were not made gods at our beginning, but first we were made men, then, in the end, gods." · "Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, of his boundless love, became what we are that he might make us what he himself is." · But of what gods [does he speak]? [Of those] to whom He says, 'I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High.' To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the 'adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father.'" ·
Clement of Alexandria · "Yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god."

Justin Martyr · "[By Psalm 82] it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming "gods," and even of having power to become sons of the Highest." Athanasius · "The Word was made flesh in order that we might be enabled to be made gods.... just as the Lord, putting on the body, became a man, so also we men are both deified through His flesh, and henceforth inherit everlasting life...[we are] sons and gods by reason of the word in us." For more information go to www.truthfind.net

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RachelFealty 2 years, 3 months ago

This comment (above) is interesting: "People curious about Mormonism should learn about it from Mormons, not atheists, evangelicals, or the media."

I think Scientologists would say the same thing, as would any group wanting only their side of the story told.

I think people wanting to learn about Mormonism should definitely learn about it from Mormons. But they should also look to any possible source they can find for fair minded information.

I wouldn't rely on only Ford brochures for information on Fords. I would look to Consumer Reports too.

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Mahanna 2 years, 3 months ago

I find this article very soft on Mormonisim, yes they are fantastic people, great Americans and neighbors. I can truly say that I love the Mormon people since I was a member of the church for nearly fifty years of my life. Most of my family, friends and life still involves Mormons and always will. I will go along with what the Church says about being Christians, they do worship Christ. Ok - here is the difference, the Christ that the Mormons worship is not the Biblical Christ, he is the Christ that was contrived in the mind of Joseph Smith. He is an exalted man that was a created being just like you and I. The Mormon Christ is not God made flesh, he is a man that did all those things nessasary to recieve his Godhood. I am not an anti mormon out to get the mormons. My life was completely messed up when I found out the truth's that I had been taught for my whole life were a lie, a fabrication. I loved being a Mormon and would have given anything to have what I had always known be true. I have lost family, friends and job opportunities because of my being an apostate. But, I wouldn't trade my new found belief in the Biblical Christ for anything. He is my King and Savior, I now have the peace and security of knowing that I will be with Christ in the Eternities because of his grace and love. I never had that assurance as a Mormon, no Mormon can say that they know they will be with God. The blinderes have been lifted. I am a member of the Church that Pastor Loren has planted here in Utah, we need more Christians to come to Utah. We are a very religous State but we don't know the Christ of the Bible.

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TheBaronGray 2 years, 3 months ago

I get really confused and somewhat irritated by people who tell me that I am not a Christian because I do not subscribe to their beliefs about Christianity. The fact that I do not agree with them is obviously why I am not a member of their church. I personally support a football team on the basis of where I was born. My sons were born in a city 14 miles from my home town and support the team from the city they were born in. We both think that our team is the best. This does not change the fact that football is a game of which we are both fans. It seems to me that those who insist I am not a Christian are of the same mindset as those who argue their football team is the only real football team and the best based on nothing but their own interpretation of the facts. Both comments are inherently ridiculous.

Arguing that Christians have always believed in saving by grace only without good works is in error. Check the history of Christianity and you will find that it was Martin Luther who first insisted that this is the correct principle. Therefore, all those before Luther who disagreed with him - all Catholics of any variation included are not Christian. Almost all of the church Fathers of the second century disagree with the concept. As Jesus never said that it was by grace alone and showed and taught that good works were necessary, then surely we must be arguing for Him not being Christian.

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Mahanna 2 years, 3 months ago

Hey Baron Guy, the problem is that Mormons teach and say that THEY are the only true Church. This goes against your football team theory. Joseph Smith was told to join none of the Christian sect's, he was told that they were all an abomination to God. As a Mormon missionary I taught that there are two churches. One was the Church of the Lamb of God and the other was the Church of the Devil. As a Mormon I knew which one I belonged to.

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ConnorCarpenter 2 years, 2 months ago

@ Mahanna - Sorry for the long post, but please read. :)

Every Christian church preaches it's own interpretation of Christianity and believes it to be the truest of interpretations. If they didn't think their's was the truest, why would they attend that Church? I don't believe it's a negative thing to believe your beliefs are truer than others'.

How did Joseph Smith feel about other Christian churches? He once said “I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination”

On another occasion he declared: “If I esteem mankind to be in error shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. Do you believe in Jesus Christ and the Gospel of salvation which he revealed? So do I. Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other, and cultivate the principles of union and friendship in their midst.”

On the same note, Brigham Young once said, "Have [the Saints] enjoyed the light of the Spirit of revelation? Yes; and so, more or less, has every being that has been born upon this earth. I never passed John Wesley's church in London without stopping to look at it. Was he a good man? Yes; I suppose him to have been, by all accounts, as good as ever walked on this earth, according to his knowledge. Has he obtained a rest? Yes, and greater than ever entered his mind to expect; and so have thousands of others of the various religious denominations. "

Regarding the Church of the Devil, Bruce McConkie has this to say, "The titles church of the devil and great and abominable church are used to identify all churches or organizations of whatever name or nature ... which are designed to take men on a course that leads away from God and his laws and thus from salvation in the kingdom of God."

As an active Mormon, I love and treasure my Christian brothers who preach love, faith, and repentance, and bring people worldwide closer to Christ. Taken as a whole, I believe they have been able to accomplish more for the good of Man than my own Church has. They preach 99% of the truth, and I believe deserve 99% of the praise I give my own Church.

As in all faiths, Mormons do not all have the same beliefs. The LDS Church's doctrines are not black and white. There is a large range of possible interpretations to every scripture. And I believe we should pick the most tolerant, accepting, and inclusive interpretations. It's there if you look for it.

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