When people first find out that I'm Mormon I usually get one of two reactions. The first is, "Oh," followed by raised eyebrows and a quick change of subject. I usually get this response from people who don't really know any Mormons. The second is "Oh. I knew a Mormon once. He . . . " followed by something generally pretty nice.
Here a just a few of the questions (and answers) people ask me when they find out that I'm Mormon:
Q: My pastor said that Mormons aren't Christian. Is that true?
A: I consider myself a Christian. Here's why: I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal redeemer and savior. I believe he is the son of God and that he suffered on the Cross for me. I study his gospel and learn about him. I try and do Christ-like things like help my neighbor, volunteer when I can, and donate money to charity. I have faith in him and in his atonement.
Q: But you can't be a Christian. You don't believe in the Bible.
A: I believe that the Bible is the word of God. Reading it has brought me closer to God and taught me about Jesus Christ. So, yes. I do believe in the Bible. I also believe that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and another testament of Jesus Christ. Just as the Bible talks about Jesus teaching his gospel to the people in Israel, the Book of Mormon talks about Jesus visiting and teaching the people of the ancient Americas after his resurrection. In my view, they both have strengthened my belief in Jesus.
Q: Okay. But if you're Christian, why don't any of your churches have crosses on them?
A: This is a great question and can be a bit confusing for other Christian religions since the cross is so ubiquitous a sign of Christian belief. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mormons remember Christ's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and as He hung from the cross. But, we also celebrate His resurrection three days later. Christ's resurrection is what makes Easter such an important holiday for Mormons. It is His resurrection that we want to remember. Our church may not be adorned with crosses, but you will find many beautiful paintings of the Savior in them.
Q: What's all this about golden plates and Joseph Smith? It all sounds a little weird.
A: Most religions have founding stories that seem a little strange, but the story of Joseph Smith and the golden plates is no less strange than Moses talking to a burning bush or Abraham sacrificing his son, nor is it any less true. When Joseph Smith was 14 he was eager to join a church. Confused by the different congregations in up-state New York at the time, Joseph turned to the Bible. There he learned that one can ask God in prayer for answers to life's tough questions and God will answer. Mormons believe that God really did answer.
God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and in time he was guided to a record of the ancestors of ancient Native Americans. With God's help Joseph Smith translated these golden plates, which is now called the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is all about how inhabitants of the ancient Americas also believed in the Messiah and looked to his coming just as the ancient Israelites. It testifies of Christ as our Savior and for Mormons is scripture.
Q: You call yourselves Christian, but you didn't let black people hold the priesthood in your church and still won't let women hold it.
A: This is true. Up until 1978 people of African descent could not hold church leadership positions nor could they hold the priesthood. I don't know why at one time all were not allowed full participation in the church. I do know, however, that God loves all of his children equally, regardless of race. Women cannot hold the priesthood, but hold other leadership roles in our church. In fact, what Mormons call "Relief Society" is the largest women's organization in the world and is dedicated to supporting women and providing needed help worldwide.
Q: So, with Governor Romney running for president is your church telling you who to vote for?
A: No. Not at all. I know of a few Mormons, in fact, who are voting for Obama because they are Democrats. You'll find that most Mormons are republican, however, because they try and align themselves with conservative values such as tradional marriage and limited government. That said, the LDS church is politically neutral and at church you won't hear much political talk at all. Mormons are eager to study the issues and choose for themselves who they will vote for, but the church does not encourage us to vote for any specific candidate.
These are just a few of the questions that I get on a regular basis. I hope my answers have provided some explanation about what Mormons believe. If they haven't feel free to comment and ask another. If you see a Mormon missionary on the street, don't be afraid to ask them a question either.
They will probably give you a Book of Mormon and invite you to church, but you don't need to be afraid of them. If you know a Mormon in your neighborhood or at work, get to know them and ask them a question, too. They're really nice. I promise.