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In return for following Jesus Christ's way, He promises us many things, two of which are answers to our prayers and rest to our souls. We can all use a little rest. We all struggle with something. To all of us He says: Lay down your burdens. Let me carry your load. Turn away from the darkness and into the light. He also promises peace. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
The roadmap to our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ is outlined in the restored gospel and taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It starts with being baptized into Christ’s fold and participating in His sacred ordinances and the fellowship of His Church. The journey continues with a loving congregation whose purpose is to lift and be lifted—and ultimately be saved in the Kingdom of God.
It’s hard to imagine, considering the Church was established in 1830 with a tiny congregation of just a few members. Despite what many think, today only about 14 percent of its members live in Utah and over half live outside the United States. The Church has nearly 30,000 congregations more than 130 temples worldwide. It prints monthly magazines in 50 languages, and has published more than 100 million copies of the Book of Mormon in over 93 languages. With more than 50,000 missionaries in 162 countries, membership continues to grow. We meet in local congregations called wards or branches each Sunday to worship and learn. A bishop or branch president volunteers many hours each week leading his congregation for which he receives no pay.
Let’s say our neighbor gets very sick. She prays fervently that God will help her get better, give her peace, and help her care for her children. God hears her prayers and sends one of us to help. If we listen to His promptings, we will know she needs a visit, help with her children, and possibly a hot meal. When we serve each other, we’re serving God. We also serve voluntarily within our congregation, doing things like teaching Sunday school, working with the youth, organizing service projects, and taking care of the church building.
What greater peace could you have than knowing you can live with your family after you die? The central purpose of our more than 130 holy temples is to unite families for eternity. When a man and woman are married in a temple their marriage will not end at death but can last forever. Also in the temple members can perform important ordinances for family members who have died before having the opportunity to be baptized into the Church. This means they can still accept God’s Plan of Salvation even after they die. All are welcome to visit the beautifully landscaped grounds at any of our temples. They can also attend open houses prior to a temple’s dedication for its holy work, after which only worthy Mormons can enter.
A covenant is a solemn agreement between God and His children. By making sacred promises to keep God’s commandments we become a covenant people. The Lord taught, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). He loves us by helping us return to Him. To make covenants valid, we participate in a sacred ceremony called an ordinance conducted by someone who has authority from God.
The first of which is baptism. Baptism opens the gate, beginning the road that will take us back to His presence. This covenant is a commitment we make to follow Jesus Christ throughout our lives. It symbolizes the end of our old life and the beginning of a new life as a disciple of Christ. As we continue along the road back to God, there are other covenants we accept and other ordinances we receive. Worthy men can be ordained to the priesthood. In our temples, one of the most important covenants we make is in the marriage ordinance that unites a man and a woman together for eternity. Their children can then be a part of their eternal family.
It’s hard to imagine that something written more than a thousand years ago could help us now. But since God's wisdom is timeless, we can read the scriptures and apply their lessons today. They are guides that help us meet the challenges of this life. They’re also the best motivational literature of all time, offering hope and comfort in every situation. God asks us to study His scriptures so we’ll know His will. We recognize the following books as scripture: King James Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
Anyone can do it, anywhere and at any time. Whether we're kneeling, sitting or standing, praying out loud or silently, praying in groups or by ourselves, God will hear and answer us. Prayer is so easy and so simple we might not appreciate what a privilege it is. It is a direct line of communication with our Heavenly Father who wants to help us with all of our problems and questions. Though He may not always answer right away or in a way we expect, we believe the scriptures when they say, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7).
Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are committed to honor and follow God’s will, which comes through His Prophet and Apostles. This means we prayerfully listen to their words, support them, and pray for their well-being. Women, as well as men, serve missions, hold leadership positions, sit in leadership councils, and regularly teach and pray in congregational worship services. Women direct several worldwide organizations within the Church, including the Relief Society, the largest women’s organization in the world; the Young Women organization, serving young women 12 to 18 years of age; and the Primary organization, teaching children from 18 months to age 12. Opportunities for service are almost endless and, working together, the women and men of the Church strive to answer the call of the Savior, who asked His disciples to feed His sheep (John 21:16-17).
Almost weekly it seems, we learn of a new disaster occurring somewhere in the world. But disasters can also happen privately within the walls of our homes. Calamities such as the loss of a job, an overwhelming debt, a serious injury, a home mortgage we can no longer afford to pay, and so forth. We believe in being as prepared as possible for such challenges. For example, we are advised to have an adequate supply of food, drinking water and financial reserves.
When earthquakes and floods wreak havoc throughout the world, the Church is almost always there offering assistance contributed by its members. We don’t discriminate based on religious affiliation, ethnicity or nationality. Assistance reaches 147 countries and is valued at tens of millions of dollars annually. It’s all part of God’s plan that we bear each other’s burdens and be His hands on earth. The Church’s welfare program also helps people in need in your own neighborhood by offering temporary assistance in the form of food, clothing and in the search for employment. Recipients are given the opportunity to work, if possible, in exchange for this assistance.
The Lord has counseled us to pay a tenth of our income as a tithing to be used for His Church here on earth. There is no paid ministry in the Church. To those who pay tithing, God has promised great blessings. Paying tithing is also a way for us to show that material goods and the accumulation of wealth aren’t the uppermost goals of our existence. Tithing isn’t a new thing. It’s been around since Old Testament time before Christ was born (see Malachi 3:8-10). Once a month we also forgo food and drink for two consecutive meals and contribute a fast offering at least equal to the value of the two meals. Bishops may use this donation to care for those in need in their local area.
That’s what our more than 50,000 full-time missionaries are doing. You’ve probably seen them on the streets of your city. They are distinctive since they travel in pairs, wear dark suits or dresses, and wear identifying name tags. Most are young people under the age of 25 but many are retired seniors who choose to serve, as well. Their commitment and devotion are impressive when you consider that most serve between 18 to 24 months and completely fund their own missions except for transportation to and from their field of labor. "Those were the best two years of my life!" is a common refrain heard from returning missionaries.
We also spread and teach Christ’s word at home, in our neighborhoods, and in our congregations. All Mormons, including children and teens, give gospel talks over the pulpit in our Church. We teach gospel lessons in Primary (the children’s organization), Young Men and Young Women (our youth).
We teach gospel lessons in Primary (the children’s organization), Young Men and Young Women (our youth organizations), Relief Society (for adult women) and Priesthood (for men). We teach weekday religious education classes to teens and to college-age members. Spreading God’s message by our words and actions is an integral part of our lives.
We proclaim God’s word when we do His works. This means broadening our reach outside the borders of our congregations. It means such things as community service and assisting the poor and needy. Christ said,
"Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).
Early Mormons endured a lot of persecution because of the perceived commercial, political and religious threat to their neighbors. Even today some enjoy poking fun at us because of some of our less-than-mainstream beliefs like abstaining from alcohol, remaining chaste before marriage, and wearing modest clothes. Our Church leaders always encourage us to bring others into the fold, respect and admire the world’s religions, and caution us against acting self-righteous.
"Why the intense interest with family history?" we’re often asked. It’s because we believe that the crowning blessings of our temples are the ceremonies that unite men, women and children in eternal family relationships. We want everyone to have a chance to enjoy them—even our ancestors who have already died—so we perform these temple rites and others for them by proxy. Those who have died then have the chance to accept or reject them in the spirit world. Consequently, genealogical or family history research is the essential forerunner of temple work for the deceased.
Recognizing that millions of people throughout the world have their own reasons to be interested in family history, we make our collections of microfilmed and digitized records freely available to all. In fact, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the largest genealogical library in the world and provides access to many collections of records, with more than two billion names of deceased people. We also operate one of the most popular genealogical services online free of charge at www.familysearch.org. The site contains a billion names from over 110 countries and territories and includes, among other records, the 1880 United States Census, the 1881 Canadian Census, the 1881 British Census, the Ellis Island database and the Freedman’s Bank Records.